America’s Largest Cuckoo Clock at Portland Airport

Portland Cuckoo Clock

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.

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Uber Comes to Portland and How Uber Works

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.

Uber Pickup

Then to confirm press the black UberX button.

Uber Confirm

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.

Uber Fare Estimate

If you want to check the rates you can press the little blue car prior to pressing the black arrow button.

Uber Rates

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.

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Uber Now Live in Portland

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.  

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Alaska Airlines Cyber Monday – Great Fares To/From PDX

Tomorrow Alaska Airlines is having a cyber Monday sale.  There are some great deals to be had.  Some gems include the following:

Portland to Oahu, Big Island, and Maui for $398.   
Portland to Puerto Vallarta for $398
Portland to Los Cabo for $318
Portland to DC for $258
Portland to Las Vegas for $138
Portland to Palm Springs for $138
Portland to San Francisco for $98

I can’t remember the last time I saw sub $400 fares to Hawaii, even if it is only by two dollars. Where these prices become down right criminal is if you have an Alaska Airlines companion pass.  If you don’t yet have an Alaska Airlines credit card, get one.  The Alaska Airlines credit card comes with a $99 (plus taxes) companion pass.  At these rates two people could fly to Hawaii for $540!

It so happens that I have an extra companion pass that I am not using this year.  If you are interested in using it, email me for details.

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Today is Portland Travel Tips Second Anniversary

Two years ago when I started this bad boy my goal was to last two years.  I figured anyone could blog for a year but to keep it going for two years seemed like more of a challenge.  Today I have reached that benchmark and I have no plans to stop.

Looking back it is interesting to think about posts that I thought would be popular that weren’t and the ones that were surprisingly popular.  I’m not sure what that means other than there is no point in predicting what people will like.  Frankly, I’m just flattered anyone cares to read what I write.  That point, never ceases to amaze me.  It is also interesting looking back and seeing projects I started and did not finish.  Some projects, like the neighborhood series, I would like to finish.  Others, not so much.

Like last year, I thought I would spend this anniversary post highlighting some of the more popular posts.

All time most popular post:  How to Save Money With Priceline Part 1: Rental Cars

This post is by far the most popular post on my website.  It has had more than double the pageviews of the next most popular post,  Save Money on Airfare With Throwaway Ticketing.

Most popular food and drink post:  Breweries Map

This should be no surprise considering that Portland has more breweries than any city in the world.  We like our beer here in Portland and so do visitors.  The brewery map is a helpful tool to see what breweries are close to where you are staying or planning a pub crawl.

Most popular restaurant review:  TILT: Portland’s Best Burger and You Have Probably Never Heard Of It.

The cat is now out of the bag with Tilt since they opened up a new location in the Pearl. Previously they were on Swan island and only known to people who worked on the island or locals who lived in the area.  It is seriously one of, if not the best burger in Portland.

Most popular miles and points Post:  How to Earn Alaska Airline Mileage Plan Miles, Lots of Them.

I’m surprised that this has been popular.  Although I talk about miles and points occasionally, it is not a focus.  So it was surprising to me that I get a fair amount of organic traffic to this page.  I think it just goes to show how little there is in the blogosphere about earning Alaska miles, which are a bit of a hidden gem in the miles and points community.

Other posts that were popular on social media: Rescue Bagel: Rescuing Portland From The Evil EmpirePortland Mayor’s Mansion: Portland’s Newest Bed & BreakfastPowells City Of Books, A Book Lover’s Paradise, and Twitter as a Travel Tool.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog.  It is a lot of fun watching this site grow and interacting with readers.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for year 3.

 

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Portland’s Best Take Out Restaurants

Last night neither my wife nor I felt like cooking dinner.  Going out was not an option since the kiddos did not nap and were being a tad cranky.  Our normal go to take out restaurants did not sound appetizing either.  We were in a dinner funk.  Looking for inspiration I got on the google machine and googled “Portland take out”, hoping to find something.  Sadly there was not much, most of the lists focused on food carts.  Food carts on a list of best take out restaurants seems like cheating to me, all food carts are take out.  Plus they keep irregular hours so it was not particularly helpful.

Then like a curry flavored lighting bolt it dawned on me what we should do for take out, Indian.  I called up my favorite Indian restaurant, Dwaraka, placed an order and we were out of our take out funk.  Once my belly was full I started thinking about how lousy the few lists I saw online were.  Good take out restaurants soon began flooding my brain, thus the inspiration for this post.

Dwaraka:  In my opinion this is one of the best Indian restaurants in Portland.  The food is delicious and flavorful.  My first visit to Dwaraka was with my in-laws and we ordered a wide variety of dishes.  My recollection was that every dish was excellent.  Each dish comes with a choice of rice or naan.  My take out tip is make rice at home and order naan with each dish.

Frank’s Noodle House:  I love Franks.  These noodles are made fresh from scratch are my favorite asian noodles in Portland.  Frank’s was the first handmade noodles in Portland, and they are still the best.

Fire on the Mountain:  Fire on the Mountain is the go to wings joint in Portland.  Fire on the Mountain is not as good as it once was but is still way better than Buffalo Wild Wings. Their sauces are still excellent and my preferred take out for the super bowl.

Du’s Grill: Du’s is a delicious teriyaki restaurant in NE Portland.  It is mainly a lunchtime operation where they churn out pounds of tasty grilled teriyaki beef, chicken, and pork.

Luc Lac:  Luc Lac is a very popular Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Portland. Luc Lac used to be a small little operation inside the food court next door.  It quickly outgrew the confines of the food court and moved into its own space.  It is a wildly popular lunch spot with the local workers bees and for good reason, it’s good.

Papa Murphy’s:  No take out list can be complete without a shout out to the king of take and bake pizza, Papa Murphy’s.  Papa’s is not great pizza but it is good, reliable, and cheap.

 

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I’m Doing Something New Here and a Little Crazy

When it comes to travel, there are 3 things I know well.

  1. Portland
  2. Priceline
  3. Traveling for pennies with frequent flyer miles.

As for numbers 1 and 2, they are covered here on the blog.  My series of Priceline posts have been the most popular articles on this blog since I published them.  The articles drive the majority of the traffic to this site.

As for number 3, it is not the main focus of this blog but something I cover occasionally, usually when it comes to me bragging about a trip I scored for next to nothing.  The next post on that subject is due in December when my wife and kids and I will fly to Hawaii and stay 7 nights at the Hilton Waikoloa for $20 (don’t ask me how many Hilton Points that took, ugh).

While the blog is pretty quiet on the points front, I’m fairly active on twitter and on one my favorite mile and points blogs travelbloggerbuzz.com.  So the other night I tweeted this,

and I’ll be damned if someone actually took me up on it.

While I may have been kidding on the square, I had to do it.  6 hours later, I found an award that routes through London to Hong Kong from Los Angeles.  The award was a combination of coach, business class, and first class.  All international flights were in business class or first class.  West Coast to Hong Kong would have been much easier and I could have done it in less than 6 hours.  However, routing via Europe was a fun challenge so I enjoyed it.  US Airways is a strange beast and I am still waiting to hear if it was successfully booked.

Back at my favorite mile and points blog, Travel Blogger Buzz (TBB), there has been a lot of talk about monetizing blogs and his in particular.  TBB has struggled to find a way to get something out of all the work he has put in on his blog.  He has turned to credit card affiliate links, which is ironic because they main focus of his blog is how much travel bloggers who push credit cards suck.  I have given him a fair amount of grief over it.

The experience with the award booking and discussion at TBB has me thinking about more ways in which I can monetize this blog.  I do surprisingly well with Google Adsense. This is due in large part to the fact that most of the traffic on this site is organic (i.e. “bidding on Priceline” searches).   Looking for ways to add extra revenue is always good. I’m thinking about offering a miles consulting and award booking assistance service to the blog.  I doubt it will get much interest but it will be fun to see and experiment with.

To that end, I created a page offering what I basically offered on twitter.  I figure if I get one or two people every couple of months that would be fun (and manageable if it takes me 6 hours per award!).

Without further ado:

Frequent Flyer Miles and Points Consulting:  Learn to Travel for Free.

SEO dictates TRAVEL and FREE be included in the title, even though it’s not.  Unless you’re this guy.  I am probably totally crazy for offering this for $45, but what the hell it’s cold and wet outside.

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Uber is Coming to Portland (Sort of) and How to Get a Free Ride

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.  Uber is a competitor with traditional taxi services.  The taxi industry here in Portland is a highly regulated industry, except that it’s sort of not.

In Portland there are a limited number of taxi operating permits that the city issues to taxi companies. These permits are effectively controlled by the Private For Hire Transportation Review Board.  The board does not actually approve the permits but is heavily influential with respect to taxi industry policy within the city.  As you can imagine when the taxi industry has a heavy influence on policy it may affect whether Portland would permit Uber to operate within city limits.  As of today, Portland is the only major west coast city not to permit Uber to operate within its city limits.

Well there is good news, if you live in a suburb.  Uber is now operating in Tigard, Beaverton, Gresham, and Vancouver.  Uber can pick you up in these cities and drop you off in Portland, Uber just can’t pick you up in Portland.

When the taxi industry has a controlling hand in policy what do you expect? God forbid Portlanders be allowed to use a ride service that is convenient and cheap.  For comparison sake lets look at costs between traditional Portland taxi’s and Uber.  A ride from downtown Vancouver to PDX is $17- $22, Beaverton to PDX is $36 – $48, and Gresham to PDX is $27 to $36.  (Click here for Uber cost estimates).

Now, lets take a look at how much a traditional taxi from Beaverton to PDX will cost you. From downtown Beaverton to PDX is 20 miles.  You will be charged $2.50 for pickup plus $1.00 for each additional passenger.  You will then be charged $2.60 per mile plus $.50/minute waiting time.  At a minimum, assuming no waiting time charges (yea right) a taxi will cost you $55 for a couple to ride from Beaverton to PDX.

With Uber not only will you save money on the base rate but there is also a trick to earning an easy $60 – $90 in credits with Uber.

How to earn a free ride:

Here is an easy way to earn $60 – $90  $40 – $60 in free rides with Uber.  If you use my referral link to sign up for Uber you will receive a free ride worth $30 (now $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.

I imagine that eventually Uber will come to Portland.  Unfortunately, it will probably involve making Uber just as expensive as the traditional taxi companies so they are not put out of business.  All the more reason to sign up for the credits above.

Note:  When you use my referral link I also get a referral credit.  Thank you in advance.  

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Pause Kitchen and Bar: A Pleasant Surprise in North Portland

As I have mentioned in my last couple of posts on restaurants I have been in a bit of a funk lately with my dining out experiences.  I have been striking out left and right on new places that I have tried, culminating in a very disappointing experience at the Woodsman Tavern.

This being Portland, I would eventually come out of this funk and the funk recently ended with a stop at Pause Kitchen and Bar.  This is a nondescript little restaurant on a less than ideal stretch along North Interstate.  I tried Pause for the first time a few months ago and was impressed.  We went again last week and I was curious to see if the food experience was a fluke or the real deal.  Turns out it was the real deal, this place is good.  With our second visit Pause now ranks as one of our favorite restaurants in North Portland.

On this trip my wife ordered seared albacore tuna with fingerling potatoes, green beans, and a kalamata olive muffaletta.

Pause Kitchen and Bar

My wife was kind enough to share a bite with me and man was it good.  I’m normally not a huge fan of albacore tuna.  I prefer ahi and I usually associate albacore with tuna fish sandwiches.  Don’t get me wrong I love a good tuna fish sandwich but thanks to that mental association I don’t really eat albacore.  It’s fish from a can, right?  Wrong! This was good and flavorful.  I think I will need to rethink that mental association.

I ordered a smoked pork chop on greens and latke.

Pause Kitchen and Bar1

This was easily the best restaurant pork chop I’ve ever had.  My only complaint was that it was too small.  I thought I was in for a good chop when the server warned me that they serve the pork chop medium rare. Unbeknownst to her, I love pork and I am well versed on the proper temperature to which a pork chop should be cooked – e.g. medium rare.  I also don’t like greens, so I mean this as a huge compliment when I say they were edible. They did not take away from my enjoyment of the meal at all. Lastly, the latke that was wrapped under the greens was crisp and flavorful.

After having a very disappointing experience with the Woodsman Tavern, Pause was a real joy.  I also thought it was a good value.  Both our meals were reasonably priced and kids eat free!  I highly recommend this restaurant.  They also have a good happy hour.

Pause Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

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Twitter as a Travel Tool

In the last 6 months I have come to really appreciate twitter as a valuable travel resource. This weekend I finished our booking for Hawaii when we go to the Big Island in December. I called the hotel (Hilton Waikoloa) directly because I wanted to make a request for a crib and a microwave.  Unfortunately, the phone rang and rang and rang for 5 minutes before someone answered.  I was then transferred to another phone tree.  It was quite annoying, while the phone was ringing I decided to complain to the hotel’s twitter feed.  It turned out to be a really good decision.  Here is the exchange:

twitter as a travel tool

Within a few minutes of sending a DM to @hiltonwaikoloa I got a call from the front desk manager, Charlie.  He was very helpful and apologized for no one answering the phone. He took care of the request for the crib and microwave and put a reminder on his own calendar near our arrival to make sure we have those things.  He even gave me his email address to email him if we have other needs that come up.  He went above and beyond what I was expecting.  The experience got me thinking about how much I love twitter and how it was so much easier to basically send them a text message then calling and dealing with a phone tree (or two).

Hilton Waikoloa is not the only company I have tweeted and gotten quick responses and or assistance.  American Airlines has a great twitter feed that is very responsive and helps out as much as they can when you have an issue.  I tweeted American Airlines when our flight was delayed leaving Chicago to Madrid and they were pretty responsive.

Twitter is also a great tool for information.  I sometimes follow an airports twitter feed if I have concerns about delays.  Most destinations have a tourist information feed that can also be helpful.  News organizations will tweet traffic delays, weather, local news, etc… There is a plethora of information out there on twitter.  More often than not news organizations will tweet something before the story even shows up online.

Another great way to use twitter is to connect with locals for advice.  I regularly respond to people with questions about Portland.  Have a question where to eat? Just ask and include a #Portland or #PDX.  You will get plenty of responses. Lastly, I am always more than willing to respond to tweets so feel free to tweet me directly with any Portland related questions.  You can follow me on twitter here.

Bottom line, if you are not on twitter, I would suggest joining.  When you go on a trip follow your airline, your hotel, and ask for advice on twitter.  I think you will be really impressed by the responsiveness.

 

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