Sunday Parkways

Dear Liza,

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Grandpa Nelson and me on the Tilikum Crossing Bridge

Bicycles are very popular here in Portland. Not just to play with, but for people to get to work and school. The city makes this easier by designating some streets as greenways in the neighborhoods, where bikes are the main traffic and cars are discouraged.

But riding downtown or along busy streets like Division is still hard because there are just so many cars. So since 2007, the city and local businesses and hospitals have organized a fun way to enjoy riding in different parts of town. It is called Sunday Parkways.

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Just the place for third breakfast!

For the five warmest months of the year, one Sunday a month, in one section of the city, streets are closed to car traffic in a loop from 7 to 10 miles long. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett got to ride in our Sunnyside/Belmont neighborhood in May. Grandpa Nelson and I rode through the industrial and downtown area this past Sunday.

We started with coffee and pastries at Trifecta on 6th street, because every good day starts with third breakfast. I got to chat with a delivery person for B Line, a company that delivers Trifecta’s baked goods to restaurants and stores by bike! He said he liked being “in the middle of the future.”

When we saw other cyclists passing by (dozens of them, right in the middle of street!) we knew it was time, and off we went. The path for us was marked with signs and helpful folks willing to provide shade, water, directions and advice.

We rode up to the Moda Center, an indoor sports arena, where a bike fair was happening. There were booths for registering your bike, music, food, and a huge event with the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. It was so crowded, we had to get off and walk our bikes through the people.

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Traffic downtown

When we were past that, we continued ACROSS THE STEEL BRIDGE. It couldn’t be closed to traffic, since it is so busy, but we got one lane to share for the bikes going in both directions. Downtown it was crowded again, with booths and so many people. Think of it like when you go for a Sunday drive and everyone else in town does, too.

But the joy of riding with thousands of other people on a warm sunny day is no small thing. Last year, over 74,000 people rode on some part of the Sunday Parkways. That is about half the population of all of Salinas!

In an unexpected historical moment, we passed the Simon Benson House. Mr. Benson was a lumberman from the 1800s and 1900s whose good works have lived after him. He donated money for Benson Polytechnic high school, the land where Multnomah Falls is, and the wonderful always-running water fountains called bubblers. One of them in right in front of his house!

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Simon Benson House

Coming home, we rode over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. This is the newest bridge in the city and is just for trains, buses, pedestrians and bikes. NO CARS, ever. We stopped to enjoy the view and chatted with some folks riding with three generations of family, and took each other’s pictures.

Back on the east side of the river we rode on the Vera Katz Esplanade, created by a former mayor and named for her. There was a band on a barge playing music, more treats and happy people.

The last part of the ride (as it often is) is coming back up the hill to our house. You understand that rivers are always at the lowest part of the land, and that we are 33 streets up from that. It adds up to about 150 feet of elevation change, which feels like an awful lot at the end of an 8 mile ride!

Finally home, we drank lots of water and enjoyed the wonderful cool rest of knowing we had done something very special, and very Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Song for Fun

Dear Liza,

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Sunsets

Your Mommy or Daddy can teach you the tune for this silly re-write. The Song is called “My Favorite Things.”

(Read the captions!)

First Verse:

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And artists
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And baseball with Pickles
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Beaches with grandchildren, giggles and tickles
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Kittens in fl’wer pots
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And wrecks by the sea

These are the things Portland’s given to me!

Second Verse:

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Art found on sidewalks and up on a tower
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Hearing the voices of love’s greatest power
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Old friends and new friends

e

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And pinball for fun

All of these just since the summer’s begun!

Bridge:

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Ghosts and mystery!
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Creepy History!
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Yummy food and wine….
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I’m up to my eyeballs in Portland, my friends,
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And I want to say…
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It’s fine!

Love,

Grandma Judy

OMSI

Dear Liza,

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We’re Here!

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.

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Big Spider Robot
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Learning by Watching, then Doing

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.

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Jasper’s Robot

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.

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Tillikum Crossing

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.

What a wonderful day!

Love,

Grandma Judy