Adventure Guide 2013: Portland, Oregon


“Portlandia” might lead you to believe that Portland is home only to tattooed baristas with the occasional mustache, but it’s also an epicenter for outdoor activity; every Portlander has his or her activity of choice, and with so many outdoor activities easily accessible, it isn’t difficult to get a taste of the attitude that keeps this city alive. Nearby Sauvie Island is popular with cyclists who like long rides through rolling farmland. The hikers and trail runners flock to Forest Park, home to over 70 miles of trail and the 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail. Water enthusiasts head to Hood River and the White Salmon area out in the Columbia Gorge, but there is also plenty of kayaking to be had in and around the city center.

Portland is always abuzz with new activities, new bike tours and an outdoor event to attend. Mount Hood Skibowl recently opened up the ski area’s new 500-foot zipline, and you can even ride it in the winter. Mountain bike enthusiasts will want to check out the new Lumberyard Bike Park, an indoor bike park with plenty of technical riding trails fit for all skill levels. If you’re more into road riding, Velo Cult is the current stomping grounds for cyclists that like a good night out – it’s a bike shop, bar and venue, and there is quite frequently an event of interest being held. And of course if you’re hell-bent on combining one of Portland’s other favorite pastimes – beer drinking – with your adventures, Brewvana offers the occasional “Boards and Beer” tour, which features a day on the mountain followed by a sampling of local brews.

Whatever your activity of choice is, Portland probably has it. Just make sure to do it with an Americano in hand.

Hotels

Inn at Northrup Station: Located in Northwest Portland, you’re within easy reach of the trails of Forest Park. All of the suites feature fully equipped kitchens, which means that even though you’re paying more than you would at some of the city’s budget hotels, it’s easy to prep your own breakfast and lunches to go before you head off for a day outside. From $139. 2025 NW Northrup Street, www.northrupstreetstation.com

Jupiter Hotel: A converted motor inn, the Jupiter Hotel is a funky boutique hotel that caters to those truly looking to take part in the Portland vibe. The adjacent Doug Fir Lounge, where you can get a $8 plate of eggs, hash browns and bacon for breakfast and then move onto the all day cocktail menu, feels like a space age log cabin, and is a popular hangout because it also houses a live music venue that attracts big names. They also have onsite bike rental as well as ZipCars, so you can either spin around town on two wheels or get out for the day to more adventurous spots like the coast or Mount Hood. From $79/night. 800 East Burnside, www.jupiterhotel.com

Oregon State Park Yurts: Yes, it rains in the Pacific Northwest, but that certainly doesn’t stop people in Portland from getting out of town and into the outdoors on weekends. Many of Oregon’s State Parks have yurts available for rent, even pet-friendly ones. If you’re headed to Portland for an extended stay, this is a fun and budget-friendly option that lets you explore Oregon’s outdoor spaces with the comfort of a warm bed. Cabins from $24/night, yurts from $35/night. Oregon State Park Yurst and Rustic Cabins.

Eat and Drink

Food Carts: Here’s the thing about Portland: you don’t have to look far to find a food cart. Local favorites include The Cultured Caveman (think hipsters on paleo diets) and The Honey Pot (sweet and savory hand pies, yes, please!). Note, however, that the Portland food cart scene is constantly changing and a good resource for keeping up on it is Food Carts Portland. If you’re in need of some food cart encouragement, you can also download the Portland food cart board game that the local newspaper, the Oregonian, put together. One word of advice: before you do any food cart scouting check out the detailed map – there are often over 475 food carts in operation at one time, you will want to plan ahead.

Base Camp Brewing: It would only make sense that in a city like Portland, adventure and beer would come together. Opened with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, Base Camp Brewing in Southeast Portland makes beer, as they call it “for the adventure-minded palate.” The interior looks just like the name would have you believe, and you’ll even find a canoe hanging from the ceiling. High-octane beers after a day outside? How Portland of you. 930 SE Oak Street, www.basecampbrewingco.com

Luc Lac: In between a morning of hiking in Forest Park and an afternoon on a Portland bridge tour by bike, hit up Luc Lac for lunch. A Vietnamese phrase that means “in movement,” it’s the perfect lunch or happy hour spot for the traveler that wants a delicious yet budget-friendly meal in a good Portland atmosphere. The vermicelli bowls are an excellent deal because of the amount of food to price ratio, and at happy hour you can sample a variety of $2 small plates. 835 SW 2nd Ave, http://luclackitchen.com/


Get outside

Kayak: Make your way to the Kayak School at Next Adventure Paddle Sports Center, which offers a variety of kayaking trips, as well as introduction, whitewater and sea kayaking classes. If you want a more urban trip, try the Ross Island tour, which will get you a good view of downtown Portland from the water. To escape the sounds of the city, check out the trip to Sauvie Island, an island just north of town and predominantly filled with farmland and wildlife refuge.

Hut Trip: In the summer at nearby Mt. Hood National Forest, Cascade Huts offers self-guided, multi-day mountain biking trips. They maintain a system of huts, which means you bike single-track and arrive at your backcountry abode, fully stocked with supplies. In the winter they do the same for snowshoers and cross-country skiers. For a multi-day trip in the cold of winter, you can’t go wrong with a warm mountain hut. http://www.cascadehuts.com/

Bike: You can’t visit Portland and not get on a bicycle. If you’re visiting in June be sure to check out Pedalpalooza, a three week long extravaganza of bike events, including the popular Naked Bike Ride and lots of organized rides themed around popular Portland pastimes like whiskey drinking. The city is currently working on getting a bike share program up and running, but until that happens there are a handful of good rental options around town. Portland Bike Tours (which can get you on a single speed so you can feel like a real Portlander) and Pedal Bike Tours can set you up as well as recommend preferred routes and tour options, like the Lava Tour, which takes you to Portland’s extinct volcano, Mt. Tabor. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has a collection of helpful maps when it comes to bike routes.

Get Around

If biking isn’t up your alley, the extensive network of public transportation will serve you well. Getting from the airport into Portland is easy thanks to the MAX light rail system, which gets you downtown in about half an hour – a $2.50 ticket is valid for two hours. Buy books of tickets in advance on Trimet’s website or at the Portland Visitor Information Center located in Pioneer Square downtown. Google Transit will help in planning your route (its recommended bike routes are also good) or you can also use the Trimet website or the Trimet smartphone app. ZipCar is also a great option if you want to get out of town for a few hours.

Adventure Tip

Any Portlander will tell you that an active afternoon should always be followed up with a beer. With over 70 brewpubs and microbrews, it would be inexcusable to not drink a locally made craft beer. Recently published “Hop in the Saddle” is an excellent resource for the beer and bike lover, offering up maps to bikeable craft beer routes, well suited to anyone that wants a taste of true Portland culture. Rent a bike and go. http://www.hopinthesaddle.com/


[Photo credit: Flickr user samgrover (top) and p medved]

Plane Answers: Can passengers survive an explosive depressurization?

Welcome to Gadling’s feature, Plane Answers, where our resident airline pilot, Kent Wien, answers your questions about everything from takeoff to touchdown and beyond. Have a question of your own? Ask away!

Josh asks:

We’ve all heard the standard spiel about oxygen masks and flotation devices. Likewise, we’ve all seen the cartoonish drawings of proper positioning of one’s body in the event of an emergency (the “brace for impact” pose), etc… Two things I’ve heard people say are that:

a) the air temperature outside the cabin at most cruising altitudes on jet engine planes is sufficient to instantly freeze all bodies on board solid within literally seconds;

b) the change in air pressure is likely to be so disruptive to one’s ear drum, putting on oxygen masks and taking the fetal position is difficult to impossible due to disorientation.
As to the first one, I’ve flown many a Delta flight where on screen displays indicate the temperature outside the cabin to be extremely low (far far below zero). Likewise, I recall reading an article about a jet crash in Greece (I think) where the plane was supposedly depressurized in flight and crashed into a mountain. The report indicated that rescue workers arrived in a relatively short time, but everybody on board was in fact frozen solid. The report indicated this happened in the air, and w/in seconds of depressurization, not on the ground. So there seems to be some credence to this one.

As for the second one, about air pressure and disorientation, I’m of the understanding that though the need arises very rarely, passengers have been able to take action to put on oxygen masks when necessary. Of course, I don’t know how many times (if ever) that need has arisen when at any significant altitude.

So are these frequent flyer myths, exaggerations, based in some fact or accurate descriptions of the reality of jet travel?

The most common cause of depressurization on an airplane is from the loss of both of the air conditioning and pressurization “packs.” There are two of these units that pressurize the cabin on all airliners and one of them is allowed to be inoperative, although it’s not a common occurrence. Should the airplane lose the remaining pack, the cabin altitude, which normally allows for a comfortable 6,000 feet when the airplane is flying above FL 300 (30,000 feet), will slowly climb to the same altitude the airplane is flying.

So it’s imperative that the pilots descend below 14,000 feet, the altitude that the masks will deploy, as soon as possible and to level off at 10,000 feet or lower.

This situation recently happened to my brother. He was able to descend to a lower altitude and the cabin altitude never exceeded 10,000 feet, so no passenger masks dropped from the ceiling.

In the case of an explosive depressurization, like that of Aloha flight 243, these masks will be extremely important. Those passengers as well as the people aboard a United 747 that lost a cargo door, were able to don the masks and remain warm enough to survive until the airplane reached a lower altitude. Both those cases were near Hawaii, however. So it could be a rather cold descent anywhere else. But the initial explosive depressurization didn’t result in so much disorientation that they couldn’t put their masks on.

And you’re right, it’s common to see minus 40 to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 to -50 Celsius) when at altitude. At temperatures of minus 40 (C or F), skin freezes almost instantly, although the temperature warms quickly as you descend.

Finally, the Greek Helios 737 flight that you mention was never pressurized after takeoff, because of a mistake that was especially tragic. The pilots inadvertently departed without noticing the pressurization controller was in the manual position. They missed the ear-popping cues, the temperature cues, the warning lights on the overhead, and they misdiagnosed a cabin altitude warning horn for the horn that notifies pilots that the airplane is unsafe for takeoff because of incorrectly configured flaps, trim or speedbrakes. Interestingly, the sound of the horn is identical in both situations.

On a side-note, I’ve talked to the Boeing engineers who worked on an early version of a ‘text message’ system called CPDLC that air traffic controllers can use to provide instructions to pilots. I asked these engineers what sound they would be choosing to alert the pilots of an incoming message.

As I suspected, they explained that they would be using the same sound that flight attendants use to call the pilots. And that chime is used for FMC wind and route uplink notifications among other things. They claimed that studies have shown that people have difficulty differentiating between more than five types of sounds.

The Helios pilots failed to understand this warning horn and subsequently failed to don their masks, resulting in the masks dropping in the back of the airplane while the pilots were trying to simply silence the warning horn.

Oxygen is vital for a pilot to be able to troubleshoot an abnormal situation as this amazing recording between a cargo flight that lost pressurization and air traffic control demonstrates. Note the altitude warning horn in the background of this ATC tape with the flight:

On a similar, but far less morbid topic, Steve asks:

What is the average temperature inside commercial airliners? I was told 82 degrees F by a pilot who was seated next to me in first class. This is to put everyone to sleep. At 35,000 ft. the temperature outside is -60 F, correct?

Yes, it’s often nearly that cold, as I mentioned above. According to our indications on the Boeing, we shoot for around 70 to 72 degrees. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for that indicator to be perfectly calibrated. And when the flight is nearly full, pumping 70 degree air into the cabin can be too warm. Fewer passengers on board means we need to increase the selected temperature.

But by far the biggest driver of the temperature is the flight attendant. Typically they like it a bit cooler while they’re working hard to get a meal service accomplished, and afterwards, when they’re not as active, they’ll need it to be warmer.

So on your next flight, see if the first part of the flight, during the meal service, is cooler than the latter part.

If it were up to the pilots, the controls for the cabin temperature would be in the back, with the flight attendants. The 777 has some control over the temperature provided to the flight attendants, resulting in far fewer calls to the pilots asking for warmer or cooler temperatures.

And contrary to the belief by some cynics out there, we’re definitely NOT keeping the cabin cooler to sell more blankets.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for the next Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work. Twitter @veryjr

Pay for windows – Cruise tip

Living on ship is a completely different experience than living at home, so why not have the best experience possible? I suggest splurging on a room with windows.

Although cabins in the center of the boat may have a more attractive price tag (read: cheaper), the beauty doesn’t extend much further. Waking up to total blackness in the middle of the day can be confusing and not very pleasant.

Rooms with windows allow natural light to shine through and wake you gently from your slumber — a big factor if you choose to cruise for an extended period.

The most over-the-top first class cabins

While most coach flyers would kill for a little extra leg room and a free bag of peanuts, first class passengers are often living the good life with free-flowing drinks and fully-reclining seats. But there are some first class cabins that go beyond simply luxury and begin to cross into the land of excess.

For example, according to a post on Divine Caroline, Singapore Airlines offers its first class passengers Givenchy sleepwear, Ferragamo toiletry kits and personalized turndown service. Jet Airways welcomes passengers into their own private room with a door that shuts for privacy, while on Emirates, they get their very own suite, complete with personal lounge and shower.

On Lufthansa, the VIP service starts before you even board, as a Mercedes Benz chauffeurs you to the plane. Qatar Airways’ first class lounge has a Jacuzzi and full-service spa.

Some airlines turn your seat into a cinema or a four-star restaurant. Qantas Airlines’ first class seats offer a 400-channel entertainment center and an eight-course meal with wine pairings. Seats on Cathay Pacific have built massagers and flight attendants cook each passenger’s breakfast to order.

And here I was just hoping for a good in-flight movie and a few free drinks. . .

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United plans for new image overhaul

After coming in last among large airlines in customer satisfaction surveys for two out of the last three years, United Airlines has been overhauling its operations in an effort to increase on-time performance and win back customers. Now the airline is working on the physical appearance of its planes and crew.

Every single one of the airplanes in United’s fleet will be getting a make-over. The grey with black and red stripes interiors (knows within the company as the “tequila sunrise” scheme) will be replaced with blue leather. The 1980′s-era overhead bins will be updated as well. The airline also announced that fashion designer Cynthia Rowley will be creating more stylish, updated crew uniforms.

With a reputation for poor customer service, delays, cancellations, broken guitars, safety violations, and lost luggage, can United really overhaul its image with a few aesthetic updates? Probably not, but airline officials hopes they can continue to address the issues that have led to its poor satisfaction survey rankings and eventually turn things around. Apparently, they just want the airline to look good while they do it.