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    Main | Third Wave Coffee Tours: a great introduction to Portland coffee »

    Stormy PDX: Where'd the sun go? (plus a visit to North Portland)

    Experiencing the weather is kind of like drinking coffee, in that it is such a universal human experience (if you think the analogy is a stretch, consider the fact that people drink more than 700 billion cups of coffee each year). Growing up in a farming family, the weather was always a topic of conversation at meal times, at the hardware store, on Sundays in church—pretty much everywhere you went. Even though we couldn’t do anything to control the weather, life revolved around it. Weather dictated what you could do in the fields each day, and was the most important factor in how the crops would turn out. If it rained too little or too much, was too hot, too cold, or too windy (it’s hard to keep farmers happy), stress levels around our house would go up. When a late spring shower broke a long stretch of drought, it was grounds for celebration. Perhaps that’s why I still pay so much attention to the weather. Old habits die hard. –WH

    The view from inside Coffee Division today.

    If you’ve lived on the East Coast or in the Midwest, you might jeer at the fuss Portlanders make over a couple inches of snow. A Nor’easter in Boston that dumps a foot of snow overnight causes less disruption than the few inches we’ve received over three days (though as I write this, a third wave of storm is really starting to pile up the snow outside). Portland just doesn’t have a lot of equipment dedicated to clearing the streets. Seeing a snowplow in Portland is kind of like seeing a bobcat in Eastern Washington. You know they exist, but they’re rare enough that you might spend your whole life there and never see one. As infrequently as it snows, why should the city spend much money on snow equipment? Especially since it has already dedicated so much funding to paving roadways and putting in sidewalks in Southeast Portland (oh, wait….)

    Regardless, residents have done a pretty good job coping with the storm. Conventional wisdom says that no one in Portland can drive in the snow, but from what I’ve seen inside the city limits, people are being pretty careful, moderating their speeds, and not tailgating as much as usual (hopefully, that latter will continue after the snow is gone).

    Last week, long before snow ever made it into the forecast, I visited St. Johns for the first time. Located on the peninsula between the Willamette and Columbia rivers, St. Johns has been a part of Portland for 99 years. In 1915, the residents of Portland and St. Johns, two separate municipalities at the time, voted to annex St Johns into Portland. St. Johns frequently pops up lists of “up-and-coming” neighborhoods in the city. One of the must-see sites in the area is the St. Johns Bridge, spanning gracefully over the Willamette, its bluish-green towers designed to mimic the lofty spires of a Gothic cathedral.

    St. Johns can be challenging to navigate if you’re visiting for the first time. A few of the streets come together at some very odd angles, and if you’re not paying attention, you can suddenly find yourself headed the wrong way down a one-way street, or circling the blocks trying to find a the name of an avenue you are sure must be just ahead.

    One of the first things I did was try to find some coffee. As you might expect, a Starbucks sits in the middle of the St. Johns’ busiest intersection, at the perfect location to attract foot and car traffic.

    The company is as much a real estate powerhouse as it is a coffee company. If Starbucks isn’t your thing though, you can find Stumptown coffee right around the corner, at Fourth Estate Coffeehouse.

    Open only since November, Fourth Estate is relatively new to the neighborhood. The shop has high ceilings, a creaky wood floor, and thanks to a large skylight overhead, lots of light. Polished plank tables and repurposed church pews give the café a rustic air (it could use a few more tables).

    Fourth Estate serves Stumptown coffees, and the Ethiopia Duromina on drip the other day was a nice cup (full of berry notes). When the weather warms up again, the seats on the sidewalk will be inviting.

    I had been planning to write about how the dry weather (sunshine!) has been a pleasant change of pace this winter, but, given the events of recent days, that seemed a bit out of place. If snow’s not your thing, take heart. It should be raining again by Monday.

    7373 N. Burlington Ave., Portland, OR, 97203 (map)
    Monday-Sunday 6:30am-8pm

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