.As I mentioned, the night after nationals was deserving of its own post entirely. You see, it all began with a quest for cheap Nike apparel and the best doughnut shop ever... or so we thought!
At the coaches meeting on Friday, I asked one of the local coaches about what to do in Portland. She told me about Niketown, a HUGE bookstore, and she also told me that we absolutely HAD to go treat ourselves to a doughnut from this cool little hole in the wall in downtown Portland. I was assured that this doughnut shop had been on Food Network, and that no trip to Portland would be complete without going to VooDoo Doughnuts.
After the post-race pasta feed, showering, and resting a bit, we were ready for a night on the town. The 5 runners, 4 parents, 1 sibling, and myself headed over the bridge once again into Portland. Have I mentioned that on this adventure I was driving a 15 passenger van in downtown Portland?
There are 3 key phrases in the previous sentence: I, 15 passenger van, and downtown Portland.
Let's start with I... although I have a CDL, my driving skills make my husband QUITE nervous. It's not so much my driving skill... I suppose it is my LACK of attention to details and my propensity to panic that make him nervous when I am behind the wheel.
While many of my friends adeptly maneuver their 15 passenger vans all over the country, I am used to our family mini-van. (It is called a MINI van because it is a lot SMALLER and easier to maneuver into parking spots!!!)
Finally, I would just like to make sure that everyone knows that the majority of parking options in downtown Portland are parallel spots found alongside their seemingly NARROW streets.
We were off, and we had a plan... or so we thought. The plan WAS to park in a certain locale that would allow us to walk to all three locations and find some dinner in between. We found an open spot (thank GOODNESS my mother taught me the trick of parallel parking!), parked the van, and walked our 10 blocks or so to the Nike store (1st stop on the list).
As we entered the three story building filled with Nike apparel, we were all impressed... until we started looking at the prices. Where were those great deals we had heard about from other runners? Not here, that's for sure! (Although, I could kick myself for not getting those grey, knicker length spandex!!) We shopped around for a while, and then I asked the sales clerk if he had a "sale" department. At this point, he directed us to the Nike OUTLET... which was across the river, over a different bridge, and in a different part of town! Because it closed early, we shifted to plan B.
We walked 10 blocks back to the van, got out of our parking spot, threaded our way through traffic and over the bridge, and found the Nike Factory Outlet store! Now, THIS is what we were looking for! Imagine a grocery store sized building filled with Nike shoes, apparel, and accessories... a runner's dream! (Especially because they really were outlet prices!)
After shopping a while, we headed back through traffic, over the bridge, and began looking for a parking spot between the bookstore and doughnut shop. It was dinner time, and everyone was getting hungry at this point... we just THOUGHT we would pass a place to grab a bite to eat!
As we looked for parking, we saw it! A little parking LOT with several empty spaces... enough room to pull in and get parked! I was thrilled! (Even though it took about 10 times going back and forth and 2 dads directing me to get straight in the little spot!) We went to insert our cash for parking, and it would not accept our bills. We tried change. Credit cards. Nothing worked. Our assumption: It must be free! After all, it was after working hours on a weekend... maybe the paying lot was for people who worked downtown during the week.
We walked over to the bookstore, which was REALLY cool. It was about the size of a city block, and it was two or three stories high! I could have stayed in there for HOURS and HOURS! However, it was time to move on, and we were still hungry. There were no places to stop and eat... apparently, in downtown Portland, you can go to a bar or you can drive out of downtown and go somewhere else! We joked the entire weekend that there weren't as many overweight people in Oregon and Washington, because there were no places to eat or buy groceries!
We walked towards the doughnut shop, still looking for a place to eat. As we walked the 25 blocks into the ghetto, we saw some sights not found in Blue Mountain, MS! It was like a scene from a horror movie... a group of inexperienced tourists, dark and wet city streets, "ladies" standing on the corners, a crazy homeless man... there was even steam coming out of the gutters!!
Finally, we arrived to see VooDoo Doughnuts. The lady was not kidding... it really was just a little hole in the wall.... a little door on the side of a large brick wall. One one side there was a bar. On the other side was a "girls, girls, girls" kind of place. However, there was a line about 15 people long coming out of the door and winding down the sidewalk. We thought that maybe the lady was right, and the shop just had a very unfortunate location.
As we joined the line, we looked around at our surroundings. A homeless man sat on the curb beside us, smoking a joint and holding a sketch of a marijuana leaf and the saying "Keep Oregon Green." The sign for the doughnut shop hung on the brick wall to our other side, with a single light illuminating it. My first clue should have been their saying, "The magic is in the Hole." I am very slow to get innuendos, and so it went right over my head. The parents were laughing and saying, "Well, coach! Where have you brought us!?" We were all starving, though, and it smelled SO good... we decided to wait it out.
As we entered the door, a couple who had JUST gotten married came to get a doughnut. It's not every day that you see a couple in their wedding clothes, stopping to get a doughnut! It would have been really cool if they had gotten married IN the doughnut shop while we were there... apparently, it is an option! They have weddings, and you too can get married under the big doughnut inside VooDoo doughnuts.... not that you'd want to!
Back to entering the door... there were underwear hanging on the walls. Bad sign. We read the menu... Badder sign... the names of the doughnuts were for the most part inappropriate. The doughnuts themselves were all very, well, interesting. They were covered with things like rice crispies and peanut butter sauce or fruit loops. We ordered our doughnuts... being careful to pick one that had a decent name, and headed back to find our van.
Later, I thought that I should have just said, "I'm sorry... we are not ordering from here." ...Even if we had been told that we just HAD to have one, even though we had walked 30 minutes, even though we were starving, and even though we had waited in line outside the place for another 30 minutes... I am not good at changing the plan mid-stream. We had come for a doughnut, and so thinking otherwise did not occur to me until after the fact.
Thus began the trek back to the van. Along the way, we joked about us not paying to park... what if we had been towed? What if we had one of those nice little envelopes on our windshield? We passed China town on the way, and we all had to get a picture of Richard at the entrance.
We arrived in the general vicinity of the van... and couldn't find it! After some searching... remember, we are in the ghetto... those orange and white sawhorses everywhere, steam blowing in the air, suspicious characters on the streets... we found the van.
There was a nice little envelope on the windshield.
Someone saw the police officer walking down the street, so I hurried after him. He was a nice gentleman, but his English was not very clear. I showed him the ticket and explained that we TRIED to pay for the spot, but couldn't. He returned that we had to pay or not park. If we don't pay, we get a ticket or we get towed. Turning on my best southern accent, I tried to reason with him, telling him that we were not from the city, and that we didn't have parking lots like that in our little Mississippi town. He stated again... get towed or get a ticket. In desperation, I pleaded, "Well, sir, can't you just tear up the ticket for us? We are leaving tomorrow, and I will never do it again!!" (Say that once in a normal voice. Now say it again, but draw it out as much as you can, taking twice as long as the first time.) He looked at me and the parents/ runners now gathered around me... and took the ticket out of my hand. We cheered, and returned triumphantly to the van... amidst jokes about getting out of tickets and trying to charm police officers...now the task of backing out of the parking lot seemed trivial!
The fact remained. We were still hungry! It was now about 9:00, and we had not seen any eating establishments that were not also night clubs! We headed back to Washington and pulled in to the only restaurant nearby. After a very, very late dinner at Joe's Crab Shack, we headed to our hotel to pack. Our flight was another very early one!
The next morning, (well, middle of the night almost) we headed to the airport. It was good that we allowed plenty of time, because we had to drive around the world to find a gas station for the rental van! Once we arrived at the airport, things went very smoothly.
Over half a day later, we arrived in Memphis. It is always fun to travel, but it is always so NICE to be home! We joked about Memphis, "home sweet home," where people talk like us, sell sweet tea, and there's trash on the road! (It was agreed that the mid-south could learn some lessons on recycling and keeping cities clean!)