I was excited when I woke up with a plan for Friday—to find Delirium. After reading the story, some of you might think that I started out there (pun definitely intended). My quest to find the best coffee shops in the area is not limited to downtown and I had heard about a café in Gresham that was supposed to be a good one, Café Delirium (thanks Desiree). Since I’m trying to get to know Portland and the best way to get the feel for a place is to see it on foot, I decided to walk from downtown out to the café, following Burnside Street as far as I could. Google Maps said it was only 13.5 miles (it turned out to be 14.3 miles) and estimated it would take 4.5 hours. That was only half a day—no problem!
Before I left the house at 8:30am, I saw in the paper that the forecast was for periods of rain. That made me a little nervous because I didn’t want to get soaked. Then again, living in Portland, you have to get used to walking in the rain. I wasn’t going to let it stop me. Besides, if it started raining too much, I could just step into a café along the way and wait it out. The downpours here don’t usually last too long. The drizzle does, but not the heavy rain.
It was a great morning for walking, despite the humidity. The temperature was cool, but there was no wind, so I was comfortable walking in a t-shirt, jeans and my ever-present Chacos.
Meandering through downtown, I found my way up onto the west end of the Burnside Bridge, stopping to take a picture with the famous “Made in Oregon” sign that has been the subject of negotiations for the last couple years.
The sign is about to become the “Portland Oregon” sign. (It took a year and a half of negotiations between the University of Oregon, the sign’s owner, the building’s owner, the city council and the historical preservation committee to figure out what to do with the sign after the U of O leased the building below it. Things finally reached their conclusion this week). Crossing the bridge, I thought that maybe I should write about all of Portland’s bridges sometime. There certainly are a lot of them.
The first stretch of East Burnside I passed through a fairly interesting section. Like many parts of Portland, it’s a gritty area, with lots of small businesses, some cafés and a strip club or two. I saw a couple businesses helping keep Portland weird.
The commercial district lasted up until 32nd Avenue, where an ostentatious stone arch crossed the sidewalk, announcing my arrival to the Laurelhurst neighborhood. I was impressed (sarcasm intended).
On this stretch of Burnside, I saw lots of BMWs and Mercedes parked in front of the stately houses. One driveway had a sign that said “Physician Parking Sticker Required”. I even saw a “Dudley for Governor” sign, a rarity in the city (Personally, I don’t care much who wins the governor’s race, but judging by the number of Kitzhaber signs I have seen around, Dudley is not going to carry the city vote).
Seven blocks later I crossed Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard (formerly known as 39th Ave by anyone who has lived in Portland for more a year). On the other side of the avenue the houses weren’t quite as nice, and the neighborhood became less affluent the farther I walked. I passed Mount Tabor, then 82nd soon after that. It wasn’t too long before I reached Interstate 205.
About this point I realized that I was in for a long walk. Fatigue had not quite set in, but I could tell it was coming. I kept my eyes open for an interesting place to stop on Burnside, but didn’t see many options. There were lots of businesses but not many cafés. Continuing on, I reached 122nd and the road inclined a little. I was soon back in a residential neighborhood.
About 140th, I was really ready for a rest. I kept looking for a neighborhood café where I could get something to drink and rest my feet. Had I known how long it was going to take me, I probably would have worked harder to find something at 122nd. About 160th, I checked my map for places on Burnside. There was a café coming up at 172nd—hooray!—I could make it that far.
When I arrived at 172nd, instead of finding the respite I was looking for, I found a coffee shop that was closed! At 11:15am! I had been preparing the review in my mind as I anticipated arriving at the café: “Morning’s Best Coffee, an oasis in the coffee desert that is far-out Burnside Street. . .”, but the only review the café is getting is that it is “closed when you need it!” Bitterly disappointed, I won’t be going back there anytime soon.
Needing some energy, I pulled out the egg sandwich I had in my backpack. It disappeared quickly, and I crossed over to the other side of Burnside to see if that would change my fortunes. Nope. Nine blocks later I had to cross back because the sidewalk was closed for construction.
At 190th, where Burnside and Stark come together, I spotted a taco truck. Tacos sounded great, so I walked over. The woman working inside let me practice my Spanish with her. I asked her what she recommended. Tacos, of course (duh!). I ordered four: two steak (asada), one spicy pork (pastor) and one tripe (tripa).
The tacos were excellent—fresh, hot and spicy. The steak tacos were probably the best of the three kinds, but I really enjoyed the tripe too. The tripe I have eaten in the past has been very soft and gelatinous, but the cook fried it for the tacos, so it was crispy. Four tacos and a bottle of Coke cost me $6, and if you’re ever in the Rockwood area (190th and Stark/Burnside), I recommend Taquería El Cazador as a good place to go for lunch.
After my lunch, I wasn’t too excited about getting back on my feet, but since I had come this far, I wasn’t going to give up. I was full of food and re-energized, but my feet hurt and I still had several miles to go. Oh well, must keep going. At 212th, I finally left Burnside, glad to see something new. Burnside has a few interesting parts, but there were long stretches that were pretty boring. As I walked on 212th toward Division, I saw a Nissan Pathfinder shoot through a train crossing with lights flashing and the gates starting to drop. Some people like to live dangerously.
The last couple miles of the journey were a test of my mental endurance. I just wanted to finish. My feet hurt like hell, and I think I was probably limping a little—at least shuffling along like I had old bones (So much for my endorsement of the Chacos the other day). Entering historic downtown Gresham, I was one block from my destination when I looked over at a market across the street and saw a woman out front with a display, selling something. She called out and invited me over for a sample. Still on the lookout for a story, I walked over.
It turns out the woman was selling barbecue sauce. Her name was Susan Arter, she was 60 years old and starting the sauce company was on her ‘bucket list’ (things to do before she died). The idea behind company was 28 years in the making (it’s never too late to start!). She explained that her sauce company, Summit View BBQ, was named after another of her goals, to summit a 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado, something she did last year.
Susan wanted her sauce to reflect her healthy lifestyle, so she has been very careful to use the best ingredients possible in her sauce. The sauce was pretty good, but her story was better (no website yet, but you can find the company on Facebook). Since we fully support following your dreams here at Caffeinated PDX, I told her I’d give her a quick mention. You can buy the sauce at Food Front, a co-op grocery store at NW 23rd and Thurman in Portland, at Ed’s Specialty Meats in Gresham and at the Gresham Farmers’ Market every Saturday. I wished Susan the best and turned up the street. One more block. . . .
Finally, at 1:30pm, nearly five hours after I started, I arrived at Delirium (You could probably say I was already there for those last four miles). I ordered my espresso and found a table. My adventure was nearly over. At that point, I didn’t care how I was getting back downtown. I just wanted to relax, catch my breath and think about the next adventure!