Portland author Chuck Palahniuk once wrote a terrific off-the-beaten path guide to Stumptown called Fugitives and Refugees, and that might be the best assessment yet of who lives in this incredible, eclectic, funky and beautiful town. A lot of people seem to be here from somewhere else. I moved here for the environment, for the food, for the family and friends, for the strangers yet to be my friends, for the weather and terrain, and to be with fellow fugitives and refugees who love the Portland area. (I even kinda moved here to be somewhat geographically closer to Chuck Palahniuk, but it would be too creepy to admit that, right?)
So, why are you moving to Portland? I’m not here to convince you to move to Portland. I’m not here to tout all the magazine articles that declare Portland to be the best town in the US for walkers, for bicyclists, for foodies, for readers and writers, for artists, for techies, for environmentalists, etc, etc. If you are reading this, you probably already know that Portland is the place for you.
No matter what your reasons are, there are always some things to learn, and I want to share my experiences to help guide you. There are many travel guides and city guides, so I think of this as a “Welcome to Portland” guide.
In no particular order, here are some things you should know when you begin your new Portlandia life:
The DMV here is really nice and easy to use. I’m not kidding. Go check out the Yelp reviews of the DMV. People actually Yelp about their good experiences at the DMV here. If you have a license from another state, you will probably only need to take the written exam to get an Oregon driver’s license. Most of it is common sense, but do take the time to review the Oregon Driver Manual and take the online practice tests. When it is time to get your car registered, you need to have the smog system checked at the state-run DEQ facility. If you are from California, like me, you will find this very affordable and simple. Then go right to the DMV and register your car. This should all cost you about $300, and your car registration is good for 2 years.
There are two electric companies here, but you don’t get to choose which one you use. It depends on where you live. I live in the Northeast and use Pacific Power. Portland General Electric, which also has its name on the downtown ball park/soccer arena, handles electric in most other parts. One great way to find out which electric company to use, as well as other utilities and neighborhood stats, is to visit the Portland Maps website.
Don’t be afraid to eat at one of the 500+ food carts scattered about town. The food cart movement started here in Portland a few years ago, and they have quickly become an institution. Downtown is full of them, and there are “pods” of carts and single stands all over town. Every cuisine imaginable can be found if you look hard enough. On Hawthorne? Try the Hawaiian-Korean pulled pork stand. Up in Alberta? Stop by the French themed converted rail car or the now-famous Grilled Cheese Grill, where you can chow down in a converted yellow school bus.
Walk across one of the seven bridges crossing the Willamette. All of the bridges, except the freeway passovers, are bike and pedestrian friendly. Walking across the bridge, especially at sunset, is a great way to see the city views. And, when the bridge has to raise for a big ship passing under, an impromptu community forms during the wait. Maybe you will make a new friend on the bridge.
Want to know all the cool fun stuff going on in town? Follow Byron Beck’s blog . He’s got the lowdown on celebs in town, great new restaurants, can’t miss gallery events, political brouhahas and more.
While you are at it, follow Mayor Sam Adams on Twitter.
This is just the first part. I’ll be back with more tips on settling into your new life in Portland.