Shamrock Tour® - Portland, Oregon

Text: Robert Smith • Photography: Robert Smith, Christian Neuhauser

As we dismount in the parking lot of Mount Hood's Timberline Lodge and gaze at the still snow-draped peak that towers above us, Christian proclaims, "I'm blown away. It's like God created the world in six days, and then on the seventh, He took the best parts and built Oregon." Something of an overstatement perhaps, but nonetheless, the northwest corner of Oregon does indeed include some heavenly natural features: ocean beaches, the imposing Cascade Range, the mighty Columbia River, and the gloriously fertile Willamette Valley. All of this - and gourmet coffee too!

Portland, Oregon
A Village in the Forest

As Christian and I cross the first of two rivers on our way into Portland, it's impossible not to be impressed. The huge bridges spanning the Columbia lead toward a compact downtown nestled in lush green hills to the west of the city, while Mount Hood's gleaming peak hovers in the distance to the east. To get downtown on I-5, we still have to cross the Willamette by yet another huge steel bridge. I feel completely dwarfed by these massive structures, and even the semi-trucks look like Tonka toys against the mighty girders of the Marquam Bridge.

The City of Roses is also known as the City of Bridges for very good reason. In all, Portland has 10 road bridges crossing the Willamette River as well as two that span the Columbia. Following the signs for downtown, and after doubling back a few times in the one-way system, we eventually light on Broadway and find the Hotel Vintage Plaza. We're met on the sidewalk by Jeri Riggs, the hotel manager, who gives us the rundown on her Harley Fat Boy parked by the entrance. The suspension has been lowered, and the bike is fully tricked out in custom accessories. Jeri has only been riding just over a year, yet she has clocked over 17,000 miles.

Portland's downtown is impressive. Generous sidewalks line broad streets, most of the buildings are either new or tastefully restored, and coffee houses abound. Bicycles are big in Portland, and downtown traffic includes many mountain bikers as well as motorcyclists. Both are obviously used for working commutes as well as for pleasure. Not only are there bikes on the street, but the city also has its own track, The Portland International Raceway, which hosts many motorcycle racing events, including the vintage "Sounds of the Past" and the "Battle of the Twins" series.

Portland History
The first settlers in the Willamette Valley, on the site that is now Portland, were probably former trappers working for the Hudson's Bay Company out of Fort Vancouver, on the north shore of the Columbia. The city got its real start in 1843, when Boston lawyer Asa Lovejoy loaned Tennessee drifter William Overton a quarter in order to file a joint claim for a 640-acre land parcel. Overton sold his half of the claim to Portland, Maine, native Francis Pettygrove. Since Lovejoy and Pettygrove wanted to name the growing township after their hometowns, they agreed to settle it with coin tosses. Pettygrove won the best of three, and Portland it was.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2004 back issue.