How's the Weather in Portland?
by Ruby Bayan
Our plane landed on schedule at the Oregon airport. My best friend, Lucy, picked us up and, in the 32-degree and terribly wet winter afternoon, drove straight for Downtown Portland.
"Is it always like this here?" my year-round sunshiny Floridian temperament was starting to get depressed at the dreary rain that seemed to have been drenching the foggy landscape for hours.
"Well, this is Portland -- it's almost always raining here." Lucy was a bit apologetic.
But Mike and I didn't come to Oregon for the weather. We came to celebrate my birthday, and Lucy's birthday, in January, with friends who just happened to be in Portland. I tried not to think of spending the whole week cowering from the cold rain.
We grabbed a late lunch, checked in, and rented a Ford Explorer. The whole time we were running from the freezing rain. As if adding insult to injury, the guys at the car rental place couldn't hold down a guffaw when they saw Mike's driver's license. "You guys are from Florida? You came to Portland for a vacation? In January? That's new! Hahaha!"
I heard Mike mumble that night, "I wonder what the weather is in North Carolina." I wondered, too, because we had originally planned on spending my birthday week in North Carolina. We were supposed to drive up to the Smokey Mountains and Chimney Rock. But when Lucy called and said she'd love to spend our birthdays together, we cancelled our NC booking and grabbed two last-minute airline tickets to Oregon. With the dismal weather that welcomed us, I knew Mike regretted having agreed to the change of plans.
It was 30 degrees the following morning. Foggy, drizzling. We thought of North Carolina again, as we turned on the TV. The weather station said there was a snow storm heading towards the east coast. It was raining in Orlando, and snowing in the Carolinas. Well, maybe Oregon wasn't too bad after all.
Not to be dampened by the weather, Mike and I decided to drive to Oregon's summer hub, Cannon Beach. The highways were empty -- no one seemed to be heading for the coast. Oh, yes, it's winter.
It had stopped raining so we were able to get off the Explorer at one of the viewpoints on the snow-covered Saddle Mountain. By the time we reached Cannon Beach, the sun was peeping through the clouds. Sunshine! We were ecstatic! But the 50-mph winds were still too cold for us. We could only dare a couple of minutes outside the vehicle -- to pose for souvenir pictures of the Haystack Rock and the other huge monoliths that make the Oregon coast unique. We drove down the captivating coastline, the lazy sun slowly sinking behind the clouds along the horizon.
The next day, Mike and I were awake at 4am -- which was 7am, our usual wake-up time, in Florida. The weather channel said a foot of snow had paralyzed schools and offices in North Carolina.
As the sun began to shine through our hotel window, the phone rang. It was Lucy, "Hey guys, what a beautiful day! I've taken the day off! Let's go sightseeing!" Mike and I knew we were in the right place.
It was indeed a beautiful day. In fact, the next three days were totally clear and sunny -- a rare occurrence that time of year in Oregon. People left early from work to enjoy the outdoors.
We were able to drive up the Columbia River Scenic Highway to gaze across the mighty river that divided Oregon and Washington. We counted the waterfalls along the northern tip of the Cascade Range and marveled at the awesome 620-foot Multnomah Falls. And we spent our last day in Oregon riding inflated tire tubes down the slopes of the Snow Bunny Resort in Mt. Hood. A horde of Oregonians excitedly flocked to the ski resorts.
Five beautiful days of crisp and brilliant sunshine -- to gaze at the sparkling, blinding splendor of snow-capped Mt. Hood, to witness the crystalline gush of the waterfalls along sheer cliffs and gorges, to immerse in the soothing smell of cool pine in the dense and immaculate woods. By standing under the sun, Mike and I found the 35-degree days a little less distressful.
Lucy swore we brought the Florida sunshine along with us, for our birthday get-together. That week it had rained continuously in Orlando and snowed heavily in North Carolina. The morning we left Oregon, the 5-day weather forecast for Portland was back to normal -- rain.
I won't be surprised if Lucy invites us again to spend winter in Portland. They could use a little sunshine out there.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Crown Point State Park (Vista House)
The Grotto, Portland, Oregon
Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort
[First published in Suite101.com, 2000]