MyStoryYourStory: It’s never too late to learn

While visiting my little sister this summer, I learned a new thing or two. She lives in Vancouver, Washington, just a few minutes from the City of Portland, population nearly 600,000.

Portland appears quaint for its size with a blend of antiquated and modern architecture. There are so many trees downtown it looks like it was cut out of a forest.

Boasting an expansive waterfront and advanced mass transit system with nostalgic-looking trolleys, a bus system and over-ground trains, what's not to like. Portland is considered the second most bicycle friendly city in the country. The downside, my sister tells me, is that with all the bicyclists, there are many more car-bicycle accidents each year.

During my visit, Portland's garbage receptacles on street corners and behind restaurants were full to overflowing. I later learned that the city has implemented a "social engineering" measure by abolishing weekly garbage pickup to save money and to encourage composting. While this may be green, the unsightly waste was atrociously odorous.

Portland, known as The City of Roses, is the home of the International Rose Test Garden with more than 500 varieties of roses, cultivated continuously since 1917. During World War I, rose growers from all over the world sent roses to the garden for safekeeping.

On a hilltop some 1,000 feet overlooking downtown Portland and the Columbia River is the Pittock Mansion. This 44-room palatial setting was home to Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Burton Pittock. Built in the early 1900s, the mansion had modern features for the time, including a morning air after-flow design to keep the house cool in the summer, central phones and vacuum systems, a three-car garage and a greenhouse all situated on 46-treed acres dotted with pristine rose gardens.

More interesting facts about Portland…

…Portland has the smallest park in the world, Mill Ends Park, measuring in at a whopping 452 square inches, created in the 1970s as a home for leprechauns.

…When you pull into a gas station, let the attendant fill your tank, it's illegal to pump your own.

…Portland has no sales tax; neither does the entire State of Oregon.

…The Port of Portland exports more wheat than any other port in the U.S.

…Portland's Voodoo Doughnuts offers legal marriage ceremonies and humongous donuts, but the line of customers can be a block long.

Traveling beyond the city is the Columbia River Gorge, considered to be the best place in the world for windsurfing. No windsurfing for me, as I gladly toured the breathtaking river canyon by car.

Located in the gorge, Multnomah Falls plummets 620 feet from its origins on Larch Mountain. Multnomah is the second tallest waterfall in the continental U.S. that does not freeze.

Because the lava rock wall of the falls faces north, it retains moisture much of the year creating an ecosystem with rare species of lush vegetation.

Nearly 100 miles east of Portland, Mount Hood, a dormant volcano, towers at 11,239 feet, the tallest peak in Oregon. On a clear day, my sister can see Mount Hood from one side of her house and Mount St. Helens, another volcano nearly 70 miles northeast of Portland, from the other side. I have pictures of both as my sister pointed them out, but unfortunately they were covered with clouds.

The Portland area is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe geographic region where approximately 90 percent of the world's earthquakes occur. The Ring of Fire begins in New Guinea and goes north to the Asia Pacific Rim, across the southern coast of Alaska to the west coasts of the U.S. and South America.

What I learned on my trip to the Portland area I won't soon forget.

Next stop, Salt Lake City. [To be continued]

2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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