You and I were talking the other day about the big river here in Portland. It is called the Willamette, and people sometimes get the pronunciation wrong.
They want to say “will-a-MET”, to rhyme with “make a BET”, but this is incorrect. It is actually “will-A-met”. My dad taught me how to remember it properly when I was about your age. He said, ”It’s will-A-met, dammit!”
The Willamette is unusual. Like the Nile River in Egypt, it flows from its headwaters in southern Oregon, north to the join with the Columbia River. For years, it was the easiest and safest way to travel from the university cities of Eugene and Corvallis, and the state capital of Salem, to Portland, and beyond that to the Pacific Ocean.
Even today, hundreds of ships bring cargo and people to the city. But our river is also a playground! Tour boats, jet skis, kayaks, fishermen and amateur sailors are out whenever the weather is good, making the most of this gift.
Just within the city of Portland, TWELVE bridges cross this mighty river, connecting the Westside, where the city began in the 1800s, to the Eastside, where we live. They are all useful in their own way, though some are more beautiful than others.
My favorite is the Tilikum Crossing, the newest bridge. It is only for public transit and pedestrians, so is the quietest. It is also very pretty, looking like a harp stretching across the river.
I hope that when you visit we can take a walk across some of these wonderful bridges.
Yesterday Cousins Jasper and Kestrel and I went to OMSI, The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It is only one train stop from their house and we spent the whole day there! At the train stop, we met a nice lady named Maria and her son Josue. They mostly spoke Spanish, so I got to practice speaking Spanish for a while. They met some friends and off they went.
The Museum moved from Washington Park, where the Zoo and Rose Test Garden are, to the current site on the east bank of the Willamette River, in 1992. It has a Planetarium, space capsule, a hall for changing exhibits, and a large hands-on room called Turbine Hall.
We started with a visit to the temporary exhibit on The Robot Revolution. The first floor was very informative, and we read a lot about how robots are built, how they ‘learn’ new information, and how they move. There was a small soccer filed sort of area where two robots were trying to score goals while another robot tried to block them. We could even make robots move, like this big spider walking one, or a robot about 10 inches tall who was programmed to do different moves, like push-ups, headstands, or wave.
Upstairs, the exhibits were much more hands-on. Kestrel played tic tac toe against a robot, and mostly played to a tie. She used “grippers”, what robots use for hands, and had to do a lot of figuring out to make them work. It was great to watch her brain work!
While Kestrel was doing these things, Jasper was building robots with Cubelets. These are, as you might guess, cubes that you put together to make robots. Each cube has a different job: battery, mover, light, rotator. By putting the different cubes together in different order, you can make robots that move, light up, or other things. Jasper worked on these for almost an hour, finally creating a robot different from anyone else’s, that walked in a weird wobbly fashion while lighting up.
We bought lunch in the cafeteria, pizza and fruit juices, and ate on the patio that looks out over the river between the Tilikum Crossing Bridge and the Marquam Bridge. It was a very pretty day, so there were lots of bicyclists, joggers, and boats to watch, as well as cars and trucks on the Marquam and trains on the Tillikum, which is only for mass transit, walkers and bikes.
After lunch we visited another part of the museum, Turbine Hall. This is a room almost as big as a football field, full of hands-on activities to study air pressure, gravity, wind, sound,water and engineering. The exhibits are so well designed that if a child can reach it, they can be successful at some level at it. Kestrel enjoyed exploring the wind and water areas, while Jasper enjoyed working with other kids to build an arch or make a machine play Score Four. There aren’t any pictures of Jasper because he hates having his picture taken.
We stayed at the Museum until almost 5 o’clock, and there wasn’t a cross word or bored moment. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Portland with children!
We left in time to make dinner and feed the cousins and Auntie Katie when she got home from Books with Pictures.
Our fall weather is taking a break this week, reminding us how lovely summer was. Temperatures in the 70s and bright sunshine are warming the pumpkins and fallen leaves.
Yesterday was too pretty to stay inside, so I went walkabout. First I visited the Lone Fir Cemetery, hunting for the grave of my latest subject of interest, Frederick van Voorhees Holman. Since his parents had been pioneers, I looked in the oldest part of the cemetery, and there they were, the whole Holman clan. So now I have solid dates and family members. Check.
Then I took the #15 just across the Hawthorne Bridge. I wanted to walk along the Willamette River’s West Bank, called South Waterfront. Just south of the Hawthorne Bridge is a green swath of lawn, full of seagulls, geese, and people eating their lunch on the steps. The view across the river was of the very ugly Marquam Bridge and equally lovely Tilikum Crossing Bridge. Beyond both of them in the far distance, was Mt. Hood, shining white against the blue sky.
Past the Park was a long planted promenade and small boat harbor. It reminded me of all the lovely harbors along the coast of California, but tiny…maybe 50 boats in all, waiting at their docks for someone to come play. Serving this area are a dozen or so very posh shops. A restaurant called Three Degrees, a few bars and restaurants with outside seating, art galleries and even an Umpqua Ice Cream shop.
Further along was Poet’s Beach, an actual sandy beach you can walk down to and put your feet in the water, if you want to. Along the path were poems of young children carved into rocks. It was lovely. Standing directly under the double-decker freeway that is the Marquam Bridge, I remembered the evening that Auntie Bridgett and I drove over that bridge into Portland. We were strangers here then, lost in a new place. Now I feel so at home I give directions to lost tourists.
Just under the Marquam Bridge I ran into construction, with fences, noise and people in hard hats, and decided I had walked enough. Crossing Third Street to get to my bus stop, I passed Lownsdale Square and the memorial erected to honor the soldiers of the Second Oregon Regiment, a group of men from Oregon who fought in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Just across that street is the historic Multnomah County Courthouse, a lovely old building that has been overgrown by the newer buildings around it.
I got home on the #15, walked through Lone Fir again, and had a rest and dinner. Since it was so warm and pleasant, we all walked out again. The flamingos are back! They were gone after the Cubs lost the pennant, probably feeling very sad. But they are dressed up for Halloween and seem to be all better. Welcome back, Flamingos!