Pacific Northwest travelblog: Fighting Portland traffic to get to Corvallis
Seattle and Portland are two of the more unique major cities in America. Lots of water, lots of hills, lots of character, lots of weirdness.
And lots of people. Don’t ever forget, lots of people.
Friday, it took us three hours to drive the 91 miles from Vancouver, Washington, Portland’s north suburb, to Corvallis, Oregon, for the Oklahoma State-Oregon State football game. Traffic jam after traffic jam, getting through Portland and even after.
- Related to this story
- Article: Seattle is a world-class city
- Article: Puget Sound in Seattle and Victoria's Inner Harbor make for a great day
- Article: Quaint Cowichan Bay makes for an idyllic spot on Vancouver Island
- Article: A Canadian treasure awaits at Butchart Gardens
- Article: The Empress Hotel and whale watching make for a great day in Victoria
- Article: The Irish Times and Victoria's Inner Harbour is hard to beat
- Article: Washington: Where the mountains meet the ocean
Early Saturday morning, around 2 a.m. Pacific time, we headed back for Vancouver. With Interstate 5 finally deserted, it took us 90 minutes.
And what can they do? I mean, in Oklahoma and Texas and Arizona, when we need a new road, we build a new road. In Portland, it’s a little more complicated. They’ve got two major rivers, lots of hills and few stretches of open space. That’s what happens when people flock to your city.
Greater Portland had a little more than one million people in 1970. By 1990, that number was 1.5 million. The estimated population today is 2.5 million and growing fast. It’s a beautiful city but has a bunch of problems, including a huge homeless population.
And Portland seems more than 90 miles from Corvallis. It seems decades from Corvallis, which is a town of about 50,000 that sits about 10 miles off I-5.
OSU writer Scotty Wright and I, along with Daily O’Collegian staffers Joe Fazio and T.C. Brewster, headed out for Corvallis a little after lunch Friday. The O’Colly guys are in a pickle for a road trip like Oregon State. They’re too young to rent cars, but Corvallis is too far from Portland to use Uber. So we were happy to give them a ride.
And we got to know each other quite well, since what should have been an OKC to Ardmore-type drive became OKC to Dallas. Very frustrating, but soon enough the traffic thinned, probably about Salem, the state capital, and we sailed into Corvallis.
Corvallis is in the Willamette Valley and has mild temperatures all year round. Mostly dry in the summer and wet in the winter. In the 2010 census, Corvallis’ population was 83.8 white, 7.3 Asian and 1.1 black. For comparison, Stillwater, a city slightly smaller than Corvallis, was 79.5 percent white, 5.6 percent Asian, 4.7 percent black and 4.0 percent Native.
We didn’t see as much of the Oregon State campus as we wanted. Both Scotty and I had plenty of work to do, which is why we left at 1:30 p.m. We thought we’d have some cushion, but the Portland traffic ate it.
I found the Oregon State campus sort of nondescript, but I fully admit I missed much of it. But the Beavers’ Reser Stadium, I saw quite well. I would compare it sort of to Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium, with maybe a little more architecture. Both sides of Reser Stadium has a huge awning, but otherwise, very similar to what they have in Ames. Not much opulence.
The famed elevator caper – OSU’s pressbox coaches got stuck in the elevator coming back from halftime – is not overly surprising. Old pal George Schroder worked several years in Eugene, Oregon, and tweeted out that the Reser pressbox fiasco was no surprise to him.
It’s a rather dated pressbox, and the elevators certainly fit that description.
But it was a fun night. I ran into a couple of Portland journalists I got to know during the Thunder-Blazers playoff series, including Kerry Eggers, who spent many years with the Oregonian, now writes for the Portland Tribune. I discovered Friday that Eggers’ father, John Eggers, was the 28-year sports information director at Oregon State. The Beavers’ pressbox is named after John Eggers.
I also ran into Dennis Dodd’s son, a recent Kansas graduate who has gone to work at Oregon State. I met Dennis Dodd in 1992, when he was with the Omaha World-Herald, and he’s been with cbssports.com for many years, becoming one of the top college football writers in the nation.
And then Josh Scobey said hello. Scobey was a Del City High School tailback in the 1990s who went on to play for Bill Snyder at Kansas State, then spent several years in the NFL. Now he’s a scout with the Arizona Cardinals, based in Phoenix. We reminisced about a lot things – the late Henry Manning, who was the longtime Del City coach, and Snyder and the tragic death of Mike Gaddis. Scobey, who lives in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, is high on the Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury marriage. We’ll start finding out soon enough.
So it was a fun night at the ballgame, even before kickoff. We went down on the field, probably 45 minutes before the game, and I was surprised at how many Cowboy fans already were in Reser Stadium. At that point, there was as much Cowboy orange and black as Beaver orange and black.
Eventually, Oregon State fans filled in well enough. The Beavers are one of the more beleaguered programs in college football history and don’t have a huge following. Add in that school hasn’t started, so not that many students around, and the Pac-12 culture of ambivalence anyway, and you had a chance for a really small crowd. But the announced total of 31,681 was relatively spirited and provided a decent environment.
The Cowboys’ constant scoring eventually sent a lot of fans scurrying, but for awhile, it was rowdy enough.
The Cowboys’ dressing room was in the basketball arena, Gill Coliseum, which is next door to Reser Stadium. We traipsed over for interviews, then headed back. Scotty and Joe were with me, and we made our way back to the elevators and were told they weren’t in operation.
So we climbed to the top of the stairs to use the door I used to get to the field, only to find it locked. It took some doing, but we finally got the elevator to open. We marched in with a leap of faith and made it back to the pressbox.
We worked until probably 1:45 a.m. Pacific time, which was 3:45 a.m. Oklahoma time. Then we headed back, and I kept writing while Scotty drove, then we taped a podcast, also on the open road. Sometimes, multi-tasking is needed.
Scotty dropped us off at the Springhill Suites around 3:30 a.m. I sat down, finished off my column and slept for 30 minutes.
The Dish and I were up at 4:45 to get to the airport for a 7:15 flight. And we had an issue.
I had booked us on an 8:15 a.m. flight, but back in June, Southwest changed the schedule and put us on the 7:15. They alerted me with an email, but I guess I never saw it. So I didn’t know about the change, and Friday morning, when I checked in, I was an hour late. Which meant I got back-of-the-line boarding passes.
That meant two things: 1) I might not get to sit with Trish the Dish; and 2) trying to sleep in a middle seat is tough duty.
So we got to the gate as early as possible, so I could look into upgrading. Sure enough, Southwest sold me a $40 upgrade. I could board with the A group. In fact, I was A1. I got my pick of seats, so I got the exit row and slept rather soundly on the flight to Phoenix.
Our flights were full of OSU fans – and OSU personnel. The Cowboy team charter flew into Eugene, but the Eugene runway is undergoing renovations, and there are limits on planes. OSU had to downsize its charter, and cheerleaders, managers, ticket personnel, all kinds of people, got bumped to commercial. Probably 30 or so were on our flight, and they had arrived at the Portland airport around 2 a.m. for the 7:15 flight. Not all trans-continental travel is glamorous.
I learned a little from chatting up the OSU people. Namely this. A decent amount of people knew long before Friday that Spencer Sanders was going to be the quarterback.
In Phoenix, the Dish and I got some breakfast at La Madeline, then went to our gate and bumped into all kinds of people. Former OKC mayor Ron Norick and his wife, former fire chief Gary Marrs and his wife, and Bill Ahrberg of Cushing, a former Cowboy football player who is the father-in-law of former Cowboys Billy Bajema and Jeremy Seaton.
It’s always fun coming home from a road trip, because you run into so many people you know or meet.
And I enjoyed getting on the ground in Phoenix, which always strikes me as more like home than all the spots on the West Coast. For instance, I’ve about had enough of unisex bathrooms, which are all the rage in the Pacific Northwest. One of the OSU guys heard my take on that and said, “Come on, it’s 2019.” And I said, yeah, not 2419.
I had my second wind on the Phoenix-to-OKC flight, and it was a unique experience for me. I never fly on a college football Saturday. I bought Southwest’s internet for $8 but it still wouldn’t load video so that I could watch the games. But I could watch free TV via Southwest, so I watched Nebraska-South Alabama and Ohio State-Florida Atlantic, while following the other games on play-by-play updates.
It actually was kind of exciting. Sort of like the old days of 100 years ago or more, when frequent updates of athletic events would come in via telegram or teletype, and a man would relay the information to those assembled on the seat.
That’s how I felt as I stared at my iPad’s screen, waiting for updates on Iowa State-Northern Iowa. Funny how quick a flight can go when you’ve got football to follow.
Soon enough, we had landed, running on fumes, glad to be back in Oklahoma after a great trip to the Pacific Northwest, where we found more adventures and OSU found a quarterback.