We’ve been warned by many people in California that the weather in Oregon and Washington is cold and wet. I noticed that Californians, especially from the South, tend to exaggerate a little since they hate the sight of clouds and absolutely cannot live if drops of water come down from the sky. In the universities of San Diego, LA or Santa Barbara, a rainy day is a valid excuse for not attending classes, and staying at home. One part of me wishes it was the same in Normandy, and an other part of me is glad to be able to read and write.
Right now, the air is wet; the streets are wet, my gloves are wet and my hands are cold, but because it isn’t actually raining right now at this moment, I’m going to consider this as good weather. If you don’t, and consider heavy overcast as bad weather, then you might never see good wether in Oregon, and that could lead to depression.
Portland has a proper town center with a tram rolling through the middle, and if the streets weren’t as square, this could almost be somewhere in Europe. Maybe their should be a few old churches added too. Growing up in Caen, it seems normal that there should be a church on every street, and the more you travel, the more you realise that very few cities have that many churches per inhabitant.
El Afghani is shivering, standing frozen with his arms straight and kept a few inches away from his body. He desperately needs a new raincoat because the one he bought in San Diego looks great with its very agressive shade of fluorescent yellow but it really isn’t waterproof. He heads into the Columbia store, while we keep his bike, and he comes out a few seconds later, shaking his head and muttering « 95 dollars » through his cold lips which don’t seem to be working properly. We then go to Niketown - which is just a shop by the way - and the same face comes out and says «115 dollars». Tonight we’ll be sleeping in a house in the East of Portland, and hopefully they’ll know of a place where we can buy a waterproof jacket.
A bunch of kids who must be on a school trip are crossing the street on a lead, like they’re a herd of animals on their way to the abattoirs, the teachers keeping everyone in line. We keep cycling downhill slightly until we reach the river and suddenly the clean impression I got of the downtown area changes as dozens of grey bridges and flyovers seem all tangled up on the other side of the river. An old lady tells us off for being on the wrong lane, so we change lanes so as not to upset the locals, who seem, like many americans to live by very strict laws, regulations, and silly rules.
El Afghani finds a good little shop, and not only manages to find a cheep good-looking jacket but also manages to swap his non-waterproof yellow jaket to get the new one. The smile is back on his face, his lips back in working order after his great swap.
The next and last stop is the supermarket where we get the usual « lucerne » yogurts and some pasta. We buy a few local beers, as Portland is famous for its brewries and we’d like to try them. We line up at the till, and as usual, we need to show ID so that the lady can make sure we’re old enough to be buying beers. But this time the lady wants to see all of our 3 IDs, and that’s another ridiculous rule I don’t understand. What if a Mum goes shopping with her 5 year-old son, can’t she by a bottle of wine?