First House Sit in Portland

clouds and sky from an airplane

Yes, you guessed it – from the airplane!

What a Day!

I had breakfast in Los Angeles and lunch in Portland, Oregon. Well, I could have. I didn’t have breakfast and didn’t have much lunch either since I flew early in the morning. 

Upon arriving, I grabbed a taxi and got to our house sit right on time. The first order of business was gaining entry into the home as the owner had departed earlier and supposedly left a key in a lockbox. 

a tree trunk covered in moss and lichen

The moss is incredible around here!

I was a bit worried (especially when I thought about the last time I arrived at a new house sit after the owner’s had departed). It was strange getting a taxi in a strange city, arriving at an empty house, and walking down the side of it searching their yard for a key. 

All went as planned and I got in with no problems. We would be spending almost three weeks at this house without ever meeting the homeowners in person. We did have two Skype conversations, and I felt comfortable within the first few minutes and knew it would be a perfect place. 

White Flower in Portland in December

A flower blooming in December!

A Short Flight and a Long Drive

What I found when I got in was a lovely house, a detailed instruction sheet, a bottle of wine from the homeowners, a sweet black cat, and even some goodies in the refrigerator. It was extra special to find the food – that meant I could eat for the next couple days until Jim arrived with the car!  

Jim left Ojai two days later and drove the whole way in one shot, 20 hours non-stop! Not too shabby for an old guy. He just kept going and going, calling me every couple of hours from another coffee shop along the way, every mile making a hotel stop less worthwhile.

a snowy scene on the road

Along Interstate 5

And, he sent a picture of snow piled up along the road near Mount Shasta: first time for that in years. Finally, he rolled in after midnight and started unloading the car – in the rain, of course, glad to be off the road. 

Apparently, we arrived in Portland in time for the biggest rain storms they’ve had since ‘The floods of 1996′ – Lucky us! Every time we watched the news we saw story after story of roads being washed away, massive sinkholes causing road closures, hillsides eroding and flooding everywhere.

moss growing on a curb of a sidewalk

It even grows on street curbs

We didn’t see any of that first hand, but we sure saw rain! By Southern California standards it was chilly, and I took to wearing two pairs of pants and three layers on top whenever I went outside. What was interesting was to see that the rain doesn’t stop life here at all. To the contrary, it seems the people don’t even notice the rain.

Almost everyone we saw, whether walking down the street or children walking to school, most had no rain boots, no real rain jackets and certainly no umbrellas. It became apparent very quickly that using an umbrella was taboo, at least for locals!

a small branch with lichen on one side and moss on the other

Sorry, I love this stuff!

More About the Rain

Sorry, but we’re from Southern California and the rain was a big deal for us. The amount of rain was mind boggling and gave us a taste of the weather to come for the next few months. 

We knew we needed better footwear for the winter but had purposely waited until arriving in Portland to buy. We figured Portland (a place where it rains all the time) would have better options than Los Angeles (where it hardly ever rains).

So, one of our first ventures out was to purchase rain boots. I researched a bit and decided REI was the place to go. I was right, well at least for me. Jim had to go to a second store before finding what he wanted.

Now we had the proper foot attire for winter in the northwest. Good thing since it rained every day of our three-week stay. We saw the sun exactly three times! Each time at 2:00 pm for about five minutes – that was new for us!

a black cat sitting under a table

Our calm and gentle new friend

A Sweet Black Cat

The house came with one sweet 13-year-old cat who fell asleep on me within the first ten minutes of my arrival. What a lovely welcome! He loved affection but didn’t rub up against us as most other cats do.

Sometimes when I stopped petting, he would start thumping his tail. He wanted and sought out contact in the sweetest way. His owner had informed us that he often hung out in the spare bedroom and that we might need to invite him to join us. We did, and he always came, he loved the company.

a black cat sleeping on a woman's belly

Within ten minutes of my arrival.

He slept with us for most of each night, right by my side and snored the whole time. His meow was in the base range and not used often. As related to food, he had one peculiarity – if he could see the bottom of his food dish – he wouldn’t eat. 

It happened once, and he told me to check the dish which I did. Sure enough, you could see the bottom of the dish at one spot. I shook the bowl to cover the bottom, and he went back to his dinner. What a character! 

a cat drinking out of a human's water glass

Oh, my goodness. Not again!

We Loved This Cat

At one point, I walk into the room and what do I see? A cat drinking from my water glass, again. I guess I haven’t been mindful of the downside of keeping a glass of water around!

He was an older cat who did go in and out several times a day but seemed mostly to sit and watch his surroundings when outside. All that rain might have had something to do with it.

I had never thought about cats who live in colder, wetter climates. Rain and water are part of their normal life, not so in Southern California. Most of the time he was at the front door when we went looking for him, so we know he at least goes around the house when outside. 

This guy was friendly, easy-going and we had no mishaps or problems with him. What a great guy. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return one day and spend more time with him.

a black cat lying on a woman

My selfie taking skills are lacking, I know.

Around Town

The house was in a great neighborhood with good stores close by and a lovely park that we didn’t visit given the weather. One day on our way to do some grocery shopping we saw Paul Bunyan, right there in north-east Portland! Who knows why he chose here – maybe something to do with all the trees! 

The house was a few miles south of the Columbia River which we learned is the largest river in North America that flows to the Pacific Ocean. Rising at Columbia Lake in the Rocky Mountains of Southeastern British Columbia it flows 1,243 miles all the way to the ocean.

sculpture of a hand holding an open book

In the middle of the sidewalk!

It flows at one time or another to the north, south, east, and west: wow. Even though there are many dams further upstream, slowing down the current, it is still quite a sight.

Being close to the Columbia River also meant we were ten minutes from Washington State. Just cross the river, and you’re there. That always strikes us being from a massive city like Los Angeles in a State the size of California. It’s a minimum of five hours east or south to get to a different state (Arizona and Nevada) or a different country (Mexico). If you drive north – well it takes two days to get to Oregon! 

a tall statue of Paul Bunyon in Portland

It’s two-stories high

An Unintended Trip

A lot of our time at this house was spent writing drafts for blog posts since we had decided to chronicle our house sitting adventures. We couldn’t do a bunch of fun stuff outside anyway so it was a good use of our time. 

We did venture out a few times. Downtown Portland was close but except for our boot shopping expedition, we didn’t venture that way much at all.

We did take a drive south to see an acquaintance who had long ago moved from California. (It seems many Oregonians used to be Californians, at least in our experience.) To continue – we were driving along and all of a sudden we saw tons of water and just had to stop and check it out.

Oregon City

Oregon City

Oregon City

This place, once known as Willamette Falls was at one time the site of an Indian salmon fishing village. Eventually, those falls furnished the power for a lumber mill which began operation in 1842, then a flour mill, a woolen mill and the first paper mill in the Pacific Northwest.

Just in case you were wondering, the first long distance commercial electric power transmission in the US was from Oregon City to Portland in 1889!

a woman standing by a river in winter

We enjoyed watching the wild water

If you’re impressed with rivers (we are) this is quite a spot. The water flows wide and deep here. You can tell exactly how fast it flows as it spills over lines of rocks and concrete forms, leftovers from the power plant and other structures, sitting idle on the west side. The sound is amazing, a roar that never stops. 

The water gets moved all around and spills back into the river from all four directions – how do they do that? We come from an area where the rivers have long since been dammed up. Rain storms alone cause the only moving water of any significance. And there aren’t too many rain storms to speak of.

Watching this mighty river swiftly flowing was a real treat. Could have stayed longer, but we had ground to cover.

a man standing by a river in winter

It was quite cold, though

What’s Next – A look back at our first full year of house-sitting!

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