My trip to Portland: the adventures, the misadventures, and everything in between.

Note: this is one of those epic posts that goes on and on. And on. Grab yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and settle in.

I am experienced air traveler. Back in the day when I was working I flew to most of the cities >50,000 west of the Mississippi. Since then I have flown many times to Florida to visit Smokey’s parents (always with two little kids in tow), once to England, once to South Africa, and multiple times to NYC to see Elder Son at NYU and later, med school.

Which is to say, even experienced travelers can screw up big-time.

Smokey made all my travel arrangements for the Portland trip because he is an expert at getting the most for the least $$. I had looked over all the confirmation emails — flights, hotel, rental car — and saved them in my Gmail travel folder and my Dropbox travel folder, not to mention printing out a hard copy just in case.

On Tuesday, August 7, he dropped me off at the Humphrey terminal in Minneapolis; Humphrey is the smaller terminal, for which I was glad. Fewer people, shorter lines, less walking.

I walked up to the Sun Country ticket counter and announced that I was checking in for my 12:30 flight to Portland.

Ticket agent looked confused. “We don’t have any [more] flights to Portland today.”

Me: …

Me: (to myself) WTF?

Yes, I had misread my flight itinerary. 12:30 PDT was the arrival time in Portland; my flight had left at 10:55 CDT.

Me: Arrgghhh!

Well, I would just have to find another flight. Walked over to the Southwest ticket counter, a mere 20 feet away. Yes, they had flights to Portland later that day; no, there were no seats available.

Since the only other airlines at that terminal were Icelandair, Condor (never heard of them), and Jet Blue, I determined that my best course of action was to get to the main terminal. Airlines there ranged from Air Canada to United. Surely I could find a flight.

I called Smokey, and behold! he had his phone with him, turned on, and in earshot. (This is an uncommon occurrence, btw.) While I waited for him to drive back to the airport I searched the other airlines’ websites for Portland flights. Oh, sure, there were flights… for $400+, $600+, $1,000+. More than I was necessarily willing to spend. Happily, American Airlines came through — $178! Score!

The American ticket agent in the main terminal was very helpful, especially when I told her why I had to be in Portland the next day. I flew American to PDX… via PHX, Phoenix. But I did get there and not terribly late, either, plus my suitcase got there at the same time I did. Thank you, American Airlines!

However, when I handed my credit card and driver’s license to the agent at the Dollar car rental counter, he asked me if I had a temporary license.


Oh, yeah, my license would expire on Friday, August 10. The notice had arrived in the mail a couple weeks earlier and (senior moment! way too busy! some other time!) and I had forgotten. Since I wanted the car until Saturday, this was A.Problem. An easily solved one, though; I would have to return the car on Friday. Oh, all right, okay, I will just have to shell out for cab fare Friday night and Saturday morning.

In the immortal words of Harvey Mackay, envelope king of Minneapolis: If you have a problem that can be solved by an expenditure of money, you don’t have a problem. You have an expense.

[aside] Yeah, ask tRumph how that’s working for him. [/aside]

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 12.38.50 PM.jpg

After all that day-long kerfluffle, it was mighty reassuring that a, I found my motel, and 2, my reservation there was no problem. The manager/owner had a framed letter on the wall from the Museum of Neon Art praising him for keeping his sign in such good repair.

That was Tuesday. Wednesday, the day of the audition, has to be better, right?

Well, yes. Mostly.

Given that the audition was at 10am in downtown Portland and that my motel was not in downtown Portland, I left at 7:20am to beat the rush hour and find parking close to the site. Success!

The audition itself was fine. Having done this four times already, I knew what to expect.  Unlike previous auditions, though, this time I was by far the oldest person in the room. This gave a little advantage for a couple-three questions, but was a definite hindrance to any pop culture questions. Oh, well. Click on the links above to read about what the audition is like. They are all pretty much the same except that the Jeopardy! traveling contestant team changes.


After the audition I had lunch in the hotel restaurant next to the audition room. I love a good rare hamburger, and this one was probably the best ever. All the foods are locally sourced, organic, free range, free trade, LGBTQ-friendly, etc. That is probably why they can offer such a rare burger.

After lunch it was time to find my car. Happily, I remembered the name of the parking ramp. Tragically, I did not remember where it was. And there are numerous SmartPark facilities in downtown Portland. At this time I did not have an all-over map of Portland in my head, so I had only the vaguest idea which direction was the way to go. Plus, when I had parked that morning I had walked a fair distance in not-the-right direction to get to the audition site. This proved to be a definite source of confusion when I attempted to retrace my steps.

Eventually I looked up phone numbers for the various SmartParks. After several attempts — no answer! mailbox full! no answer! — I reached an attendant. He told me to look on my ticket for the address. (Duh!) He was polite enough not to laugh at me. Thank you, sir.  I felt quite dumb enough already.

The rest of my trip went swimmingly, mainly thanks to Erika, a 10-year internet friend I had never actually met. She picked me up at the airport Friday evening after I returned the rental car and drove me back to the airport in the morning. Thank you, Erika! You were a most generous lifesaver!

Once I had the car I drove west to see the ocean. Although it was sunny in Portland, it was foggy at the ocean. (I suspect that is not news to anyone who lives on the coast. To a flatlander like me, it was a bit of a surprise.) Didn’t see any whales, still managed to get some lovely photos, and discovered that the Pacific, at least on that day in that location, smells completely different than the Gulf or the north Atlantic.


The drive to the coast was lovely…


…albeit a little scary.


But it was foggy. Still, ocean views are surprisingly rare in Wisconsin.


The most interesting tree.


Sadly, I had nothing to feed the gull. It probably went to sleep hungry that day, all because of my negligence.

I made a friend.


There were people on the beach in spite of the fog.


Rather a lot of people, actually.

They were not all on the beach. Some were in the water.

Please excuse the last few second of both videos.
IMovie defeats me every time I try to use it,
this time to try to do a simple thing like cutting off those endings.



This post is quite long enough. More on another day.

This entry was posted in Jeopardy!, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to My trip to Portland: the adventures, the misadventures, and everything in between.

  1. Diane says:

    Thanks for sharing,,,,,,was hoping we’d find time for breakfast, but I’ll have to wait until school is in full session.

  2. AJ says:

    I’m glad you got the chance to get to the beach ! I think it’s the best part of the west coast!

  3. gayle says:

    Oh, I remember Erika! I followed her for years, then lost track of her. Glad to hear you got to meet her!
    Looking forward to Part II of this adventure!

  4. k says:

    You missed us! I can tell. Were you in the smoke?

  5. Cindy Martinson says:

    Your trip seems like something from my worst nightmares. I am not wired for that kind of stress and would have walked straight into the ocean rather than cope with the logistics of getting back home. My god, you are resilient!

  6. Kat says:

    I agree with Cindy.. you are resilient! Thank goodness you are an experienced traveler because otherwise this story would have absolutely ended differently! (And, that burger!! WOW!!)

  7. Nicole says:

    I don’t know about other coasts, but yes, fog like that is a very common sight on West Coast beaches. You can still get quite a good sunburn on a foggy day, though. (Sadly, I do speak from experience. My worst sunburn EVER was acquired on a foggy day at the beach.) Sounds like a good trip, even if it did have some mishaps!

  8. My neighbor Milt, and experienced traveler says you must learn to be flexible as a traveler. Surely you have!!! The coast images are beautiful.

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