A Family from LA Parks in Oregon


A Family from LA Parks in Oregon

have an impressive fact to share: My family just spent seven days traveling around Oregon, and we didn’t have any trouble parking. I wasn’t expecting parking problems, but I’ve found that visiting new places usually offers enjoyment, excitement, enlightenment, exhaustion … and confusion about parking.

Comparing parking in Oregon with parking in California is like comparing oranges to apples – an analogy that’s appropriate in many ways.

We didn’t expect parking in Oregon to be like parking in California – specifically Los Angeles. In fact, that’s one reason we traveled to Oregon. We wanted to get out of the city. We wanted to spend a few days away from traffic, smog and all the different types of congestion that a billion vehicles cause.

So, maybe parking was easy because there was more space and fewer cars. But I think it was something else: “smarter” parking strategies, better public transportation, consistent payment options, and people who aren’t in a constant frenzy trying to find a place to put their vehicles.

After we landed at Portland International Airport, we took the MAX Light Rail to pick up our rental car in downtown Portland. The next day, we started out from a cabin near Mount Hood and toured the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. From the first amazing views of the gorge from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, we then drove the scenic byway in search of waterfalls.

We’d read about the crowds that flock to these beautiful sites and were worried about “traffic” and parking options. There’s only so much preparation you can do before a trip, so we planned the waterfall adventure for a weekday and hoped for the best.

Even then, we still got stuck in a long line of cars waiting for parking at one of the most popular waterfalls: Multnomah.

It took about 15 minutes inching forward on a two-lane highway, surrounded by rocks and trees all covered with velvety piles of moss, before we could even see parking at the base of the falls. Once we were within sight of parking, we had a spot in minutes.

There were a couple of organized parking lots and an improvisational parking area that contained overflow. With no painted lines, the rules in the supplemental parking area seemed to be to park safely without blocking in anybody else and have a nice day. So that’s what we did.

I can’t say what it’s like on a Saturday, but people weren’t honking or yelling or stealing parking spaces. So, between the gorgeous scenery and easy-going atmosphere, it was quite peaceful.

We found parking options to be similar around the gorge and Mount Hood, including an agricultural area called the Fruit Loop, and we enjoyed our waterfall hiking, tree worshiping, berry picking, jam tasting and pie eating.

I will go ahead and apologize here, publicly, for all the blueberries I ate before we weighed our baskets. I really had no idea blueberries could be so good.

We had similarly positive parking experiences along the Oregon Coast. Parks and viewpoints, scenic areas and beaches were all labeled, and parking was provided at intelligent intervals. At Cannon Beach, we found a good place to park just a block from the sand at, of all places, Cannon Beach Parking Area. It was too easy – and free.

Back in Portland, we did find traffic and parking challenges, but although buildings loomed overhead and bridges popped up out of nowhere, and many, many vehicles negotiated the space around us, we were not overwhelmed. That’s mostly because we live in the LA area, one of the most crowded places in the country and are accustomed to being squished, but also because Portland manages its congestion so intelligently.

We found that parking in Oregon was organized to flow with the crowd, and not against it. It was integrated with the way humans move – not the way vehicles move.

People walked, people used buses, and people parked in garages or rode trains, and then walked or used buses. Or like us, they found a metered spot and a little green box where they paid for two hours maximum, ate their donuts, bought some books and moved on.

We definitely experienced a few difficulties during our travels: spiders, lots of spiders, in one of our Airbnb rentals; getting on the wrong train line back to our hotel; and that day my husband kept “accidentally” missing all the exits for Oregon National Historic Trail sites.

But none of those had anything to do with parking.

I don’t dare generalize and say that everyone in Oregon is more relaxed – although we speculated about the constant appearance of abandoned clothes. Everywhere we went, there were forsaken shirts, shoes and socks, as if the people of Oregon frequently and spontaneously have the need to undress and cast off their coverings to go swimming, feel the wind on their skin, or make a statement about shedding the social trappings of clothing to more freely identify with nature and community, instead of hiding under products symbolizing the pressures to conform and label that are made by corporations that separate humanity through greed and oppression.

I can only guess, but there were socks and shoes all over the place.

For a population that places so much emphasis on acceptance and inclusiveness, Oregonians sure hate people from California. It’s OK, though, because I loved Oregon, and if it were my state, I’d want to keep it all for myself, too.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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