White Publishing Company

Chris & Allyson vs. Oregon (2018)

Day Two: Portland Saturday Market. Powell's Books. Newberg: Hoover-Minthorn House and Rex Hill Winery. Multnomah Falls. Belmont Fermentorium.

I'm a history guy, but the "hot" Portland attractions (i.e. what shows up on a Trip Advisor top 10 list) don't have much to do with history. That's the problem when you visit the West Coast. Those jerks haven't existed long enough. Instead, lots of Portland attractions have to do with food or shopping. Or both! Case in point: The Portland Saturday Market, which also happens on Sunday. When it's still called the Saturday Market. Hey, keep Portland weird.

The Saturday Market is based in Old Town, and it puts the outdoor markets of Washington DC to shame. Not necessarily in concept -- it has the mandatory booths of people selling lightswitch covers, slightly-above-average local art and novelty t-shirts. But it's much, much larger, and the vendors are just a little bit weirder. The market covers the Willamette waterfront for several blocks, and takes a right turn to jut a few blocks inland. Our time was spent mostly browsing, but I did pick up some artist-designed playing cards -- of Washington D.C. scenes, nonetheless -- and Allyson met the designer of the t-shirt she was wearing. In a gift shop the night before, we found quirky t-shirts with mash-up animals: a half-kitten half-fish (purrmaid), a pug with a horn and wings (pugasus), and so forth. The artist had a booth at the markets, which was a pleasant surprise. We also enjoyed the stall selling novelties in the genre of "item that appears to be embedded in my skull." Some things never get old.

Powell's Books was less than a mile away, in the Pearl District. It's another Portland attraction that everyone tells you to see, even though it seems lame on paper. Everyone is right, in this instance. Powell's is one of the most remarkable bookstores you can visit. It occupies a full city block, and new books are shelved alongside used books, making browsing a down-the-rabbit-hole experience for anyone who reads. Allyson doesn't, and even she was impressed; we got a laugh by browsing the demonology shelves, finding a dictionary of demons, and deciding which one inhabits Allyson's stomach when she's feeling off. We made the necessary purchase -- a used history book about the Lewis and Clark expedition that I'll get around to eventually -- and also checked out the "rare book" room. The most expensive book in the store, at least when we visited, was a $12,000 copy of "The Jewish War." They also had a copy of the hardcover commemorative inauguration book for Richard Nixon, signed by Nixon. The price point was just a tad too high (a few hundred bucks), so we instead opted to get the rental car and have some more-affordable presidential fun. Well, I opted. Allyson was totally cool about it, though.

What's Newberg?

Born in Iowa, Herbert Hoover was orphaned before reaching his teen years. The consensus in his Quaker community was that he should stay with family.

Henry John Minthorn, the brother of Hoover's mother, had taken his family to Oregon. They settled in Newberg in 1885, where Henry served as superintendent of the Friends Pacific Academy and put his medical training to use as the town doctor. The Minthorns had lost their own son, leaving them only daughters. When they heard that Herbert had been orphaned, they asked to take him in. The Iowa Quakers put Bert on a train to the Pacific Northwest, whisking him away from his siblings and toward a lifetime of adventure.

Hoover lived in Newberg for three years, attending his uncle's school, doing the required farm chores and settling into his role as a replacement son. When the family moved down the road to Salem, he went with them. From there he transitioned to the first ever class at Stanford, a globe-trotting career as a mining engineer, world-renowned humanitarian work, government service, and the presidency.

Hoover's years in the White House apparently didn't sell the American public on the concept of another president from the Pacific Northwest. So to this day, the "Hoover-Minthorn House" is the only presidential site in the top-left corner of our nation. It's currently run by the National Society of Colonial Dames, and they're doing a bang-up job. Newberg has transformed into a distant suburb of Portland, and Friends Pacific Academy developed into George Fox University. But the home more or less retains its 1880s appearance. The lot is a little smaller and the surroundings are a lot more developed, but it's clearly a modest Quaker dwelling. Some of the furniture on display was actually the Minthorn's from that era, and Hoover's bedroom has even been restored to its old look. Hoover himself was there for the dedication in 1955 -- he lived forever, and still had a lot of gas in the tank at 81.

Allyson has been escorted to presidential sites before, but this was the most obscure site on her personal ledger. (It's not even top 10 for me.) But she says she enjoyed it! The 20-minute tour was pleasant enough, and not interrupted by any other serious visitors. (Like I said, obscure.) Our guide was a graduate of George Fox University, and her intern / assistant was a current student there. The guide's big project was a history of Oregon's wine industry, so we had the added bonus of picking her brain about the dozen or so wineries we passed on our way to Newberg.

And so we decided to reward our learning with a stop at the nearby Rex Hill Winery. The Willamette Valley is festooned with wineries and vineyards, and that one seemed as nice as any. Details are hazy, but here's what we know for sure: 1) They make a good pinot noir. 2) The operation is partially owned by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. 3) The women the next table over on the patio were trying to slam two bottles of wine in the 30 minutes before the tasting room closed. No matter where you are in the country, wineries draw classy people.

On to Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is the definition of a roadside attraction. The universe put a towering cascade not too far from a large river. Humans, in their lazy human way, put a major road roughly along the path of the river. One particular human had the bright idea to build a lodge of some sort along the road. And ever since, every other human on the road has felt compelled to stop there, admire the falls, and purchase beef jerky.

There's not much more to tell. The falls are more about height than volume. A spring-fed stream plunges off the top of a rock wall and falls 620 feet over two separate drops. The lodge is at the very bottom, but there's a short hike to a viewing bridge that spans the lower falls. That provides a great view straight up the nose of the 542-foot upper falls.

You see it for the sake of seeing it. Then you get a souvenir magnet (if you don't eat beef jerky), return to your car and take I-84 back toward Portland. Sometimes vacations don't have to be hard.

Nonetheless, we did reward ourselves by stopping for dinner at the Belmont Fermentorium, across the river from our hotel in a supposedly hip area. It's run by Modern Times, one of the region's many craft brewers. They have a ton on tap, plus a dynamite menu of vegan bar food. Their burger, which featured some kind of meat substitute and coconut-based "cheese," was one of the best vegan dishes I've ever tasted. They also get high marks for decor, most notably the 25-foot Randy "Macho Man" Savage piƱata hanging over the bar. Keep Portland weird!

On to Oregon Day Three

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