Over the last month blog posts have been slow and will probably continue to be slow for another couple of weeks. We have decided to sell our house and for the last month or so my weekends have been filled with projects. We finally list our house on Thursday the 5th. I can’t wait for the process to be over. If you are looking for a nice craftsman starter home in Portland let me know, I know just the house for you.by
This weekend my wife and I had a rare opportunity to actually go out to dinner without kids! In North Portland there is a Japanese restaurant that has been on my to do list for a long time. I had a gut feeling it was not a place I would want to take the boys so when we had a couple of hours of freedom we jumped on it and headed over to Miho Izakaya.
Before I get to the food, let me start with the bad. It is not a real Izakaya restaurant. A traditional Izakaya is a japanese drinking establishment centered around a grill. The chef skweres various meats and grills the meat over the charcoal. Food is served small plate style like a tapas bar. By invoking the name Izakaya, Miho is conveying that it is a essentially a Japanese tapas bar. Now, on to the food (which was spectacular). And sorry for the poor pictures the lighting was not great.
We started dinner with cocktails and a couple of starter plates. My wife had the seaweed salad and I had miso soup. My wife says the seaweed salad was delicious. The Miso soup was good, but tasted like miso so nothing extraordinary.
Next up, we ordered a Mussels, and Calamari Salad. Both were phenomenal. The mussels tasted fresh so I was surprised to hear they were from New Zealand. I’m not sure what the sauce was but it was very good and complimented the ocean flavor of the mussels.
As for the calamari salad, I’m not sure what to say other than it was the highlight of my dinner. It was honest to goodness the best salad I have ever had. I understand how silly that sounds since I am talking about a salad, but it was damn good.
Next up was the main course, a huge bowl of Pork Ramen. We debated between this and the Ahi Poke, but my wife really wanted the ramen. She had it for the first time in Hawaii and I think she has been craving some since our return.
The broth I believe was a pork broth to go along with the thin slices of pork in the bowl. The noodles soaked in all that flavor and were excellent. I’ve been trying various Ramen places in Portland and I would put this bowl of ramen up against the popular Ramen joints in town.
Everything was so delicious we decided to stay for dessert and ordered a chocolate cake.
The cake looks amazing and tastes even better. Just like everything we ate at Miho Izakaya it was spectacular.
The cocktails were also very good. I had a gin cocktail and a bourbon cocktail. My wife had a couple of tequila cocktails. Again, spectacular (I feel like a broken record). Our meal at Miho Izakaya was one of the more satisfying meals we have had a in long time. Every bite was amazing and best of all no kids! I highly recommend you check this place out.by
If you have not been following along with the details of Uber trying to break into the Portland market let me give you a recap.
- Portland said no to Uber
- Uber responded by expanding into the suburbs.
- Portland said no to Uber
- Uber responded by saying F-U and started operating in Portland
- Portland city officials freaked out and fined the company a bunch of money.
- Uber and Portland come to an agreement. Portland will work on the regs to allow Uber to operate, Uber agreed to back off.
I’m not sure who the winner is in this situation. Probably Uber because they will likely be able to operate in Portland. I have a feeling though that consumers are going to be the loser. The whole point of Uber is that it is supposed to be cheaper than a taxi. I have this feeling they will be charging the same rates as the taxis once this is all figured out. Although, perhaps the greatest thing about Uber is the convenience of using the app, which allows you to order and pay for the cab through their app.
On that front, the cab companies have caught up. Enter Curb. Curb is an app that works just like Uber in that you can order a taxi via an app on your phone. The app also stores your credit card so when your ride is over the app bills the card. No need to give the cabbie cash or a debit/credit card. It is all handled through the app.
My wife and I used Curb last night. It really is a very smooth system. Once we were ready to go, I launch the app and click the button to hail a taxi. The app finds the nearest available taxi and the taxi is dispatched to your location. Having used the app three times now I really like it.
Right now there are a couple of promo codes that you can use for $10 off your ride.
- The first is my promo code, 84T48W, download the app and first time riders will get $10 off their ride.
- The second is the promo code DINELA. This code is good for both first time and existing customers. It is also good for $10 off your ride.
I’m not sure if these codes are stackable, but the DINELA code is good on multiple accounts. I created three accounts (three different emails and phone numbers) and used the code on each one.
I’m curious to see what happens with Portland and Uber. In the mean time Curb is a very useful alternative.by
There are certain travel philosophies that I try to follow. The biggest one is when visiting a place I try to become a temporary local. This doesn’t mean I try not to look like a tourist, but it does mean that I try to experience a place like a local. I try to follow the old proverb “when in Rome. do as Romans do.”
On that note, here are 5 things you can do to experience Portland like a local. You’ll notice that this list is entirely geared towards food. That’s because Portland is a foodie town. Within the city we do not have a lot of tourist attractions. Instead we have a character and a way of life that in my opinion revolves around food and food culture.
1. Learn to like beer
It is no secret that Portland likes it beer. We have more breweries than any other city in the world. Not only do new ones open every year, I can only think of one that has gone out of business in the last 7 or 8 years. Just when you think Portland has reached its brewery capacity another one opens and it does well. So if you are visiting Portland, learn to like beer. There is a beer for everyone.
2. Skip Breakfast, Eat Brunch
This epiphany struck me one day when I went to Pine State Biscuit late morning on a Thursday. I was on a staycation so I felt like I had an excuse to be out and assumed it would not be crowded. Boy was I wrong. Portlandia was not far off the mark when they said Portland is where 30 year olds go to retire. What do retired people do? Eat brunch of course.
3. Eat Trendy
Portland is not without it’s chain restaurants, but I swear restaurant openings by well known chefs are treated like a red carpet event. Well known chefs? Yep, cooks get famous in this town. Restaurants come and go in Portland. Find the next wave and check it out. Where to find these restaurants? That leads me to number 4.
4. Get out of Downtown!
Seriously, locals only go downtown to work and shop. There is nothing downtown. Everything that is “happening” in Portland exists outside of downtown. If you want to find the trendy places look east across the river. If you want to be cutting edge the the central east side neighborhood is getting a lot of attention these days. North Williams is also booming.
5. Go Artisanal
Of all things Portland this might be the most parodied, but it’s true. To fully appreciate this aspect of Portland, I thought I would make a list, off the top of my head, all things artisan, not named beer, in Portland.
- Charcuterie: Olympic Provisions
- Coffee: Stumptown
- Chai: Pip’s Original
- Bagel: Bowry
- Salt: The Meadow
- Donuts: Blue Star
- Butchery: Laurelhurst Market
- Bread: Pearl Bakery
- Pasta: Pastaworks
- Ice Cream: Salt & Straw
Next time you visit Portland try to incorporate some of these things, if not all, into your visit. I think it will improve how you experience Portland and you’ll start to get all the inside jokes on Portlandia!by
In 2013 the Portland Police Athletic Association sold its building on SE 6th and Alder to a developer. At the time no one was sure what would become of it, would it stay a gym? Oh wait…did I say gym? I meant bar. In fact I meant seedy dive bar in the Central Eastside neighborhood, but I digress.
The Oregonian reports this week that the former PPAA building will become the Portland beer hall to end all Portland beer halls. Let’s go through our checklist of must haves for a epic beer hall. Craft beer? Check. Lots of it? 99 taps in fact, so check. Oregon only craft beer? Yep, check. High quality olympic provisions sausage? Check. Sweet close-in location? Check. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the Loyal Legion.
To say I am excited about this would be an understatement. It is also going into a neighborhood that is receiving a lot of attention recently from developers and will just add to what is a growing list of new and exciting restaurants/watering holes in the area. The Loyal Legion will be 100% dedicated to Oregon craft beer. No out of state beer will be served. I predict this place is going to go high on the list of must visits for Portland beer tourists. The Loyal Legion is set to open in April.
H/T Oregonian, read the full article here.
For my ongoing Portland Geography series, a reader suggested a post about navigating downtown. Seeing how that was a great idea, here you go.
I often times forget how confusing downtown can be for out of towners. For us locals especially those of us who work downtown, driving around is second nature. You can do it without thinking. For others, downtown must feel like a maze, because it sort of is. Nearly every road is a one way street, which wouldn’t be too bad but some of them only allow left turns, other streets are two way streets but only allow right turns. Make the wrong turn and suddenly you find yourself going over a bridge and you are on the other side of the river.
Technically, downtown is the area shaded below. The boundaries are defined by the Willamette River to the east, I-405 to the west, Burnside St to the north, and Market St. to the south.
However, for purposes of this post when I talk about downtown I am including the Pearl, and Old Town. Basically, the three main areas between I-405 and the river.
One Way Streets
The most difficult/annoying/confusing thing about driving around downtown are all the damn one way streets. The one way streets are actually relatively easy to deal with if you remember a few things. First, generally speaking all odd numbered streets are one ways going south and all even numbered streets go north. Second, you only need to remember a few main streets to get to where you want to go.
For north/south travel:
- Naito Parkway: Naito Parkway is the road that runs parallel to Waterfront Park. Naito parkway is handy for accessing neighborhoods south of downtown. Naito will also take you into the NW industrial area going north.
- 3rd and 4th Avenues: I like to use 3rd and 4th avenues for getting around downtown proper and and Old Town. 3rd runs south and 4th runs north.
- Broadway: Broadway runs north/south through the middle of downtown. Broadway is the equivalent of 7th avenue. North of Burnside it is a two way street. South of Burnside it is a one way street heading south. It is another useful road for getting around downtown and Old Town. Broadway is also useful for accessing the SW neighborhoods that are on the hill around OHSU. Careful with Broadway when it is a two way street, if traveling north it eventually turns into the Broadway Bridge and will force you across the river.
- 10th and 11th: I like to use 10th and 11th to access the Pearl.
For east/west travel: Almost any road running east/west will do. Some roads will put you on a bridge if you are not careful which I will discuss below. I generally avoid Burnside because I don’t like the traffic and you can’t take a left turn.
Crossing the river
I’ve heard more than one person complain about driving around downtown, lost, and ending up on a bridge before they know it. So here are the steets that turn into bridges:
- Madison Street: Hawthorne Bridge
- Alder Street: Morrison Street Bridge
- Burnside: Burnside Bridge
- Everett: Steel Bridge
- Broadway: Broadway Bridge
Getting to I-5
I-5 North: If you are anywhere in the downtown core, the easiest way to access I-5 north is via the Morrison Bridge. If you are in the Pearl or Old Town take Couch or Glisan west to I-405 north on ramp. I-405 will cross the river and meet up with I-5.
I-5 South: If you are in the downtown core get on Naito Parkway and head south. Take a left at Market Street which becomes SW Harbor Drive. Keep driving straight, it turns into an onramp for I-5 south. If you are in the Pearl or Old Town take I-405 south which can be accessed by driving west on Glisan.
Getting to Highway 26 (to the beach)
If you are in the downtown core take SW Jefferson Street west and it will turn into an onramp for Hwy 26. If you are in the Pearl or Old Town use I-405 south.
Getting to I-84 (to the Gorge)
If you are in the downtown core I-84 can be accessed via the Morrison Bridge. If you are in the Pearl or Old Town I still prefer to drive to Alder street and take the Morrison Bridge (habit I guess) but it can also be accessed by either I-405 south or north, north being the quickest.
- 5th and 6th avenues: Avoid these two roads like the plague. 5th and 6th compromise the downtown bus mall. Both the bus and the Max use 5th and 6th for north/south travel. Cars can only use the left lane and can only take left turns. Nearly every day waiting for the bus I see some Trimet employee yelling at a car to get in the left lane. Take 4th or Broadway instead.
- Burnside: Burnside is fine but traffic sort of sucks and beware that you can only take right turns.
- Not knowing how Portland is laid out. For details read my first post in this series.
- Know which streets turn into the bridges, this way you don’t end up on the east side, see above.
- Portland Geography 101: Navigation
- Portland Geography 102: Portland’s Bridges
- Portland Geography 103: Surrounding Areas
- Portland Geography: Where the Heck is the Pearl Anyway?
My wife, kids, and I spent a week on the Big Island of Hawaii the week before Christmas. It was a great trip. It was wonderful to get away from this wet weather here in Portland and enjoy sunny skies and warm weather. For this trip report I am going to break things up into three sections; sights/beaches, our hotel, and how we did this for nearly free. Personally, I hate reading long trip reports so I will try to be succinct, or just post lots of pictures.
Sights and Beaches
The Big Island is filled with lots of amazing sights. We didn’t even scratch the surface of all the things to see and do. Big things that we missed were hikes, Keck Observatory, and long drives exploring the island.
Hapuna is a world class beach. We only spent one morning here because the shore break was a little too big for me to feel comfortable having the kids playing too close to the surf. The boogie boarding was great. I wish we could have spent more time at this beach. Sans kids I would have spent all day here relaxing and playing in the surf.
Mauna Kea Beach
We spent more time at this beach than any other. It is a spectacular beach. The building in the picture below is the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Which by the way is a Marriott property for those paying attention with Marriott points to burn. Public parking for the beach is managed by the hotel and there are only 40 public parking spaces. The downside is you need to get to the beach early to get a parking spot. If the parking lot is full you have to park a mile down the road at Hapuna and walk. The upside is that the numbers at the beach stay low so you have a lot of room to yourself.
Magic Sands Beach
This beach is in Kailua-Kona and is called Magic Sands because the beach virtually disappears during the winter and “magically” reappears in the summer. From the surf you can see why the sand disappears.
We stopped here on our drive back from the North Kohala coast to watch the sunset. This is also a great beach for kids.
Pololu Valley Lookout
On the North Kohala Coast the road ends at this lookout. There is a trail that you can hike down to the beach, which we skipped. On the drive to this beach make sure to stop in the village of Hawi. There is amazing ice cream at Tropical Dreams and even more amazing fudge next door at the Kohala Coffee Mill.
Volcanoes National Park was incredible. We all had a blast exploring various parts of the park. The boys loved the Thurston Lava Tube. Highlights for me were the Hilina Pali lookout, which had an incredible view of the island, and Kilauea crater glowing after sunset.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
The Hilton Waikoloa is huge, there are three different hotel towers, a 4 acre lagoon, and pools galore. I saw a sign that said the maximum pool occupancy is 2200 people and that was just for the pool by our tower. The property is so large there is a boat and a tram to take you between the three hotel towers, the convention center, and the lobby. Which are all in separate buildings.
The tower furthest from the lobby is the Ocean Tower it is the circular shaped building in the map below. I think most people are booked into this tower. It is a 20 minute walk from the lobby to the Ocean Tower. We lucked out because I managed to get us upgraded into the Lagoon Tower, which is the building on the opposite side of the bay from the Ocean Tower.
So instead of a 20 minute walk to our room we had a 3 minute walk. We were also upgraded into a one bedroom suite. That made a world of difference for us as well with the 2 little guys.
The grounds, the hotel room, the pools, the lagoon, the dolphins, and the entire atmosphere were all fantastic.
While I enjoyed these things immensely I would not reccomend this hotel unless you can guarantee a stay in the Lagoon Tower. Which if you are booking on points like I did, is not something you can guarantee, we just lucked out big time. Why would I not recommend this hotel?
Well, I’ve never been nickel and dimed so much by a hotel in my life. It was unbelievable. For instance, I needed a knife to cut a pineapple, so I called room service. They told me it would be a $12 charge just to bring me a knife! There is a $25 per day resort charge plus $25 per day parking fee ($30 per day for valet) The restaurants are all insanely overpriced and the food ranges from bad to average at best. The breakfast buffet is $30 per adult and barely a step up from the free breakfast at a Staybridge Suites.
Also if you are staying in the Ocean Tower make sure you have everything before leaving your room and going to your car. If you self park it is 20-25 minutes to your car, if you forget something….
There are some definite pluses about the Hilton Waikoloa. Mainly, that it is a wonderful place for kids. Both my boys enjoyed the lagoon and we spent almost every afternoon there. I was fortunate to be upgraded into the Lagoon Tower. If I was in the Ocean Tower I think our experience would have been much different and since I can’t guarantee that result I would probably opt for another location next time. Still, it was a wonderful place and if you are paying the premium for the Lagoon Tower I think you will enjoy your stay as much as we did.
Booking This Trip on Miles and Points
We stayed 7 nights on the Big Island and our total out of pocket expenses were about $300. When I booked this trip I set out with the goal of a $0 vacation including all expenses. I thought it would make for a fun experiment. In the end we spent about $300 of our own money for the entire trip, including all expenses. We did all this with credit card signup bonus.
Airfare was covered with one credit card. A couple years back the British Airways Visa had a 100,000 mile sign up bonus. This was good for 4 round trip tickets to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines. The taxes and fees came out to $20.
I signed up for 4 Hilton credit cards over the course of a year that netted me 210,000 Hilton points. With meeting the minimum spending on each card plus putting a little extra spending on the card we got up to 240,000 hilton points. This allowed us to book 5 nights for free with 200,000 points and then I booked two additional nights with cash and points for 20,000 points + $125. The cash portion I charged to my Barclay Arrival card and used the points from the Arrival card to cover the hotel expenses.
To cover expenses we signed up for the Wells Fargo Propel World card, Barclay’s Arrival card, and the Chase Freedom card. Each came with a cashback bonus and between these three cards we had about $1,100 in spending money. Unfortunately, the hotel expenses that were not covered by points (two nights points and cash, parking, and three meals at the hotel) sucked up about $500. So we ended up not having as much spending money as we had hoped for. I guess I should not complain too much since we had an awesome vacation and only spent $300 of our own money.
Total credit cards for the trip was 7 spread out over a year. I applied for 4 and my wife applied for 3.
If you are interested in learning to travel for (almost) free like we did for this trip, check out my miles and points consulting page. The best benefit of which is that I will assist you with all award bookings for a year.
This was one of our favorite vacations thus far with the boys. We all had a wonderful time and the boys were still talking about Hawaii when we got home. It was nice to escape the dreary winter weather here in Portland and get some sun and beach time. We try to go to Hawaii every year and usually go in the fall. We had such a great time that we are thinking about permanently moving our trip to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which by the way is a low season in Hawaii so you can score some great deals.
If you have not been to the Big Island, add it to your bucket list.by
Last night when we got home from Hawaii (Trip Report to follow soon) I was greeted by this big wooden cuckoo clock. Turns out is is part of a promotion by Travel Portland the official tourist marketing wing of the City of Portland. Travel Portland hired a wood carver to build this sucker and then sent it to Vancouver BC and Seattle to promote Portland tourism. The clock will be sitting in the atrium at PDX just past security for gates A,B, and C. In addition to the clock Travel Portland is also running a promotion on their website for winter travel, this is what the press release says.
Winter Deal Wheel Offers Visitors Free Stuff
As if tax-free shopping weren’t enough, the Portland Is Happening Now Deal Wheel highlights a dozen of the nearly 90 discounts and deals around Portland that will be available to winter travelers, including free dining, shopping and beer-related items. Visitors who book a Portland hotel stay for travel through March 31, 2015, on TravelPortland.com will be given access to a downloadable coupon pack that features more than 85 coupons valued at more than $1,000.
The items travelers can redeem without a purchase (deals are good through March 31, 2015) include:
- Bunk: One FREE sandwich at all Bunk Sandwich or Bunk Bar locations
- Columbia Sportswear: One FREE Portland Is Happening Now shopping tote by Portland Garment Factory at the downtown or airport locations
- Hopworks Urban Brewery: One FREE ceramic mini-growler from Portland Growler Co. (beer not included) at the N. Williams or S.E. Powell locations
Examples of the other 85+ coupons (deals are good through Dec. 31, 2015) include:
- Burgerville: FREE regular size milkshake or smoothie with purchase of equal or greater value
- Danner: 20% off a pair of USA-made boots
- Salt and Straw Ice Cream: One FREE single (4 oz.) scoop of ice cream with purchase of one of equal or greater value
While this sounds good I don’t think it is that great of a deal. For starters, the coupon book they are referring to is the Chinook Book which can be purchased online. No need to overpay for a hotel to get the book. Second, if you are traveling to Portland this winter using my Priceline method for hotels is an absolute must. Taking advantage of low demand is THE best way to score cheap deals on hotels.
While I don’t think the promotion is that great, at least they built a really cool clock.by
On Friday Uber began operating in Portland, without the blessing of city officials. Needless to say some of the powers that be in city government had some choice words. My favorite quote comes from Steve Novick the City Commissioner who oversees the Bureau of Transportation, the bureau in charge of regulating taxis.
“They think they can just come in here and flagrantly violate the law? This is really amazing. Apparently, they believe they’re gods.”
I suppose you can always count on a politician for asinine rhetoric like that. To counter and for a helpful video about Uber you should see this video from the Oregonian.
I have yet to use Uber, but I plan on giving it a try on Thursday when the family and I head to the airport.
How Uber works is pretty simple. After downloading the app and entering your details and method of payment (use my referral link for $20 off first ride) ordering a ride only takes a click of a button.
When you launch the app it will zero in your location. To order a car press the black arrow.
Then to confirm press the black UberX button.
Prior to confirming your order you can also use the fare estimator (on the left above the Request button) to get an idea how much your ride will cost.
If you want to check the rates you can press the little blue car prior to pressing the black arrow button.
One major complaint about Uber is that they have surge pricing, meaning they jack up the rates during high demand. I have no experience with Uber so take this for what it’s worth, my assumption is that when they increase prices the current rate will show up in the blue button. If they don’t then I’m not sure how much I will use Uber. I’m excited to try Uber and we’ll see how it plays out here in Portland.
Update: Uber has suspended operations in Portland after getting into an ugly fight with the City. Plan for now is Uber will stop operating in Portland and the city has agreed to update taxi regulations in the next three months. The saga continues…by
Update 2: More on the City making threats to Uber. This time from the Oregonian. My favorite quote in the article, from Steve Novick our always level headed city commissioner “‘They think they can just come in here and flagrantly violate the law?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘This is really amazing. Apparently, they believe they’re gods.'” Congrats people, if you order an Uber you will get a ride from god!
Update: Looks like Portland and Uber did not work it. Per this article from the Portland Mercury. Uber decided to give Portland city council the middle finger and just do it. Looks like Portland is threatening action. #developing.
About a month ago I wrote about Uber going live in the Suburbs but the Portland cab cartel was trying to keep Uber out of Portland. Looks like Uber has prevailed and is now live in Portland.
What is Uber? Uber is a ridesharing company that allows you to use your smartphone to order a ride, track the cars progress to you in real time, texts you when the car arrives, and all payment is handled through the app.
I’m very curious to give Uber a try and see how the rates compare to the traditional taxi companies. I’ll post more this weekend about Uber and how the app works. In the mean time, here is an easy way to earn $40 to $60 in free rides:
If you use my referral link to sign up for Uber you will receive a free ride worth $20. When you sign up you will also get a referral link/code. If you refer a friend they will get $20 and when they take their first ride you get $20. If you have a significant other this is effectively $60 for the two of you.
The one caveat to these credits is that they work for one ride at a time, and they operate more like vouchers. It’s really one free ride worth up to $20. So if your ride is $17, that uses up your entire $20 free ride. If your ride is $40, then you owe the difference.
Note: When you use my referral link I also get a referral credit. Thank you in advance.by