This is the sixth in a series of posts that will document Architizer blogger Lindsay Rule aka “Archispotter”as she makes her way across the country without cash or any planned means of transport. Find out more about the Architizer-Audi Urban Future Initiative collaborative project here. See the previous post here.
That isn’t hard to do… @ Voodoo Doughnut
10:30 PM. Just got to Portland. First impression? Fun! And lots and lots of bikes. I’ll explore tomorrow, but already I know I can’t stay too long. I have a little over two days till I have to be in San Francisco, and while that may sound like enough time, I’ve learned that a little planning doesn’t hurt. At least when it comes to finding a place to sleep. Continue.
Abe and Buddy @ Deerlodge National Forest – Grassy Point
10 PM. After we left Sturgis we set out in the direction of Oregon, passing through the vastness of Wyoming and Montana–both of which turned out to be quite beautiful. Five hundred miles later, Abe and I pulled into Bozeman (MT) a cranky, tired pair, mostly because we were without a place to stay. My phone battery had died along the way so I was unable to search online for a place to crash. We eventually spotted a roadside hotel, and after much deliberation, the two of us very begrudgingly slapped down $40 each (that makes $65 out of my initial $100 fund) for a skeezy basement room. A bump in the road–excuse the metaphor–for sure, but we decided not to let it dampen our collective adventurous spirit. We went out on the town, and all I can tell you is that I sang karaoke for the first time!
And sometimes, when couch surfing fails, you have to sleep in a creepy underground mote @ ranch house motel
The basement humidity woke us early the next day. Abe and I decided to take it slow, thinking it would be better to rest our weary bodies (and souls) after our time in the underground. We took a scenic route through the mountains, enjoyed some time by a lake, and made it to Missoula with the later part of the afternoon still intact. The next step was to find a CouchSurfing host for the both of us. And that is how we came to know a place called Orange Acres…
@ Ewam Buddhist Center
While searching for a place, I came across a listing described as a “couch surfing community center” located on 8 acres of property 13 miles outside of Missoula. Included was a phone number and a note saying that the house was open to surfers with at least 3 positive references. As of right now, I have two positive references and two more pending, but I didn’t think it would be enough to convince the host. Abe volunteered to contact the host since he has 162 (!) positive references from all over the world.
One phone call and 15 minutes later, we were pulling onto a gravel road next to a used car lot with a sign that read ‘Orange Acres’. We parked by two buildings in the back, one a regular house and one that looked like a very large shed. We were greeted by a rather large dog named Griz and a wild man named Zachary. The friendly pair of them gave us a tour of the property, which was dotted with a number of miniature goats, chickens, and other dogs. Where were we?
9 PM. We came to learn that Orange Acres was started a few years ago by Jeff, the owner and groundskeeper with a rogue sensibility. He built a community building next to his house with a kitchen, bathroom, living area, and beds upstairs and has had up to 30 guests staying there at the same time. Unfortunately, the county had a problem with him opening up his home for free, so there are now zoning issues involved; Jeff’s charity is now limited to seven visitors at a time, by law, who may sleep in the main house and not in the communal building.
Jeff was asleep when we arrived, so Zach took us into the other building. Sitting in front of the TV was a seasoned-looking gentleman named Smitty, a Vietnam War vet who travels across the country. Zach had just finished making a delicious looking cobbler and was in the process of making chicken patties. Abe pitched in with the food prep and made his famous Indian style rice and beans. I went to the garden and picked lettuce for a salad. When the food was ready and the table set, Zach rang the dinner bell outside and, together with Smitty, Abe, Zach, and now Jeff, we sat down to eat.
So much free cheese… @ Mission General Store
The next day Abe and I explored the surrounding areas, which included a spontaneous free cheese tasting at an Amish grocery store, a trip to the wind mill cafe for a legendary huckleberry fritter, and a walk around the “Garden of 1000 Buddhas”, a Buddist retreat dotted with clay and stone Buddhas that are sculpted on the premises.
After we returned from the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, Jeff offered to take Abe, Zach, and I to the lake. We ventured around an island picking cherries, talking about various things. It was getting late, and the sun was waning. We decided to head back, when Jeff let me drive the boat back to the marina!
Bored Buggy @ Mission General Store
11 AM. The next morning we said our goodbyes to the OA and resumed our trek west again. After four very boring hours in eastern Washington and Oregon–nothing but very flat land–we finally entered the beautiful mountain terrain. I luckily found a CouchSurfing host in the Portland area that morning using my smartphone. His name was Justin, and he lived “with 10 people in this three story house which you can hardly tell there’s 10, however we all host. Sometimes we will have 10 couch surfers staying here.” Sounded like a plan!
Couch surfing meal in the making
Justin’s description did not do the place justice. I don’t think I met everyone who actually lived in the house; there were a LOT of people. Some coming, some going, some domestic, some international, some with jobs, or in school, some who had moved to Portland to retire at age 28. I spent the evening retelling my own story 12 times, why I was there, what was Audi’s part in it, and was met with great enthusiasm by everyone. Half of the people in the house travel to work by bike, the others by car, with everyone acknowledging how part social mobility fits in their lives.
On Monday, I ventured out into Portland. I have to say that I was a little disappointed. First, no bike (the one I was going to borrow broke). Second, I didn’t know where any of the “cool” stuff was located. And third, I didn’t find anyone to join me on my adventure. I spent the day walking instead, then spent $2.10 (that makes $67.10) to take the TriMet train up to the Northeast side, where I had heard about a couple of interesting shops. The shops happened to be closed because Mondays are to Portland what Sundays are to everywhere else–everything is closed and everyone is lazing around.
Lodekka Double Decker Dress Shop, just one of the many shops closed on my first day in town
That evening, after a trip to the farmers market, the roommates and I cooked a delicious dinner of rice noodles, spaghetti sauce, and tofu. Despite all the fun I was having, I wanted to make sure I would get out of Portland on Tuesday. Five minutes on ride share produced a solution. There were two girls traveling back from Portland to LA and had never used ride share before.
8:30 AM. The next morning I bid goodbye and good luck to my friend Abe, and set off to meet my ride. Two hours after they said they would arrive, I climbed into the back of a 93 Audi Quattro (!), tan, driven by Valeri, 21, and her friend Arlene, 23. The girls had been visiting a friend in the Portland area and, as a way of saving some money, wanted to try sharing a ride. I negotiated $30 ($97.10) for the 634-mile ride, which seemed close enough to free.
We headed off down the west coast, and then the most horrible thing that could have happened happened. My phone died. And my solar charger failed. And their car charger didnt work either. So I was stuck on the road for 10 hours without a phone. Unable to take photos or tweet. And then the next worst thing happened. I was dropped off in Oakland, near dark, with no phone, and no where to stay. Needless to say I was a bit concerned.
I walked up and down streets looking for an outlet and finally went into a Taco Bell and asked them to charge it. They complied for about five minutes, while I sat there begrudgingly eating tacos I had to purchase (out of my personal fund) in exchange for the charge. Back on the street, I had just enough battery to text Abe back in Portland to see if he knew anyone in the Oakland area (nope), see where the BART stations were for public transportation to San Fran (closed), and search for hostels (all booked).
I wasn’t about to get another motel room, so I decided to quit panicking and use the most reliable form of social networking: people skills. There were a couple of decent looking guys in front of a lounge called the Uptown Night Club. Apparently, they are usually closed on Tuesdays, but were trying out a $1 tamale night to boost business. I took this as a good omen, went inside, and ordered a beer in exchange for an outlet for my phone. It wasn’t more than 20 minutes talking to the bar tenders and the people around me before I found a place to sleep for the night.
2 AM. Tomorrow is it. I’m not even 15 miles from San Francisco. I’m too excited to even sleep. Not.