Search CPDX

Coffee News and Information
ABWG adventure advertising AeroShot airplanes ambition America Angel-in-us art Australia bakery barista barista championship baristas basketball beer Beijing birds blogging bonk book book review Boston bravery Brazil brewing methods Briggo buildings bus station business cafe cafe review Cafe Show caffeine caffepdx cappuccino Case Study celebrations censorship championship cheese China Chinglish class Coava coffe coffe shop coffee coffee book Coffee Fest coffee review coffee shop coffee shops coffee tour community competition contest courage create culture cupping cups dating Datong Dayton decaffeinated decisions diversion dreams driving dunkin' eating economics economy education entrepreneurship environment espresso ethics exercise family farming five questions flowers food Fox News freelancing friends funny goals Godin graffiti Great Wall green coffee Greyhound grinders Guillebeau guitar hacking Happy Cup harmony harvest Heart heat HFC history holidays hood river hostel how to brew how to roast humbug humor iced interview Italy Johns Landing judging junk food keep it weird kid-friendly kind strangers Kobos Korea languages latte life links love marketing Massachusetts mead Milletto MIlstead MistoBox Mongolia Trip music new perspectives new year news Nicaragua non-conformity Nossa Familia nutrition NWRBC obesity pastries PDX people persistence philosophy picture pictures poetry politics Portland power presentation private equity quality rain Ralph Waldo Emerson rant restaurants reuse review Ristretto roaster roasting running San Francisco SCAA SCAA 2012 Seattle self-reliance Seoul service shakerato shopping single origin sivers Smyth snow social media society sounds specialty coffee Starbucks Steampunk Sterling Coffee Stumptown subscription suburb success sustainability Tacoma tasting tea technology Torque tour traffic travel traveling Trust30 USBC Vancouver varietals videos wandering water WBC weather whisky wine winter work writing
This form does not yet contain any fields.

    Connect and Share

    Follow CaffeinatedPDX on Twitter facebook button

    Tweet, tweet...

    Entries in traveling (22)


    Tacoma to PDX: it shouldn't be so hard, right?

    [I spent a couple days in Tacoma last weekend as a judge at the Northwest Regional Barista championships. I’m still working on an article about that experience, but I wanted to first share my misadventures trying to get back to Portland.]

    Under most circumstances, I’m a big fan of mass transit, mostly because it means I don’t have to drive and can focus on doing other things. However, when you rely on someone else to get you places, you are at the mercy of forces beyond your control. Most of the time you get where you want to go when you want to get there, but not always.

    Riding up to Tacoma (I came with Brandon Arends), I figured I would be able to find someone who was headed back to Portland from the NWRBC on Friday afternoon. The barista competition runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but I needed to leave early to get back to Portland. If my efforts failed, I knew I had some friends leaving Tacoma for Portland on Saturday morning, so I had a backup plan.

    Unfortunately, my original plan was faulty. It was a parade of bad luck and even worse timing. It seemed like the universe had conspired against me to slow my travel down.

    Swing….and a miss!

    When Friday’s competition ended, I asked around to see if anyone was headed back to Portland. I was told that ‘someone named Jeff’ was going back, but that he had already left. Rats. Another person suggested I take the train. That sounded like a good idea. Amtrak is a nice way to travel between Tacoma and Portland. I pulled out my laptop and checked the schedule. The next train to Portland was leaving about 3:10pm, which would  put me in Portland by 5:30. Perfect—except that it was already 3:00 and there was no way to make it to the station, buy a ticket and get on the train in time for its departure. The 6pm train was sold out, so Amtrak wasn’t an option. Double rats.

    That was two near misses, and I wasn’t even out of the convention center yet.

    Brandon, who was staying until the next day, and I went back to the hotel about 3:20pm. The first thing I did was check the Greyhound bus schedule to see when the buses left. There was one leaving at 5:10pm that still had seats available. I almost bought a ticket, but then I remembered that sometimes you can find people on Craigslist (CL) looking to share rides. What the hell, I thought, I’m up for an adventure, so I went to CL to try to find a ride.

    If you’ve never used CL to purchase or anything, the site is a free online classified ad site that has a very unique etiquette model. Whenever you try to sell or buy something, you have to accept that people won’t necessarily give you a response. If they don’t call you, you have your answer—no. Therefore, when you are trying to get something on CL, you have to send out multiple feelers. Some bite, most don’t. It’s not that people are being rude—rather, that’s just how the game is played. You just have to accept it.

    On the Seattle rideshare section, I found a few different possibilities. One person named Josh was leaving Tacoma at 3:30pm with room for three people. He left a phone number to call.  He didn’t answer, so I left a message and a contact number. Another ad said that two students planned to leave around 2pm. Two o’clock was already long past, but people’s intentions don’t always work out, so I sent them an email in case they were behind schedule.

    A third ad said that she was leaving Seattle for Portland that evening (see picture).

    I sent an email, trying my best to convince her I wasn’t dangerous, creepy or looking for more than conversation, but I must have failed, because I got no response.

    Finally, I found an ad saying that someone was leaving Tacoma for PDX about 3:45pm, asking $20 for help with gas. That was better than the $35 that Greyhound wanted. I sent the person a text, saying that I was in Tacoma at the La Quinta hotel, right off the freeway. No response. About 10 minutes later, I wrote and was more direct: “I have $20 and I’m right by the freeway exit,” I clarified.

    I waited another 20 minutes, figuring that if no one responded I still had time to buy the bus ticket. About 4:15, I decided to go ahead and buy the ticket. Reluctantly (should I wait?), I pressed the ‘Confirm Purchase’ button. I received a confirmation email that told me to be at the station an hour before departure to pick up the ticket, which made no sense because it was already less than an hour before departure. I love computers. They give such great customer service.


    As I closed the screen of my laptop, I heard the familiar bzzz-bzzz of my phone, indicating an incoming text message. The person I had texted earlier said that he would be there in a few minutes and asked for the address of the hotel. Aaaggghhh! I knew I should have waited (I had bought the cheaper, nonrefundable ticket, of course). I texted back that I had just bought my bus ticket and that I didn’t need him to pick me up. Damn. That was about 4:20. Had I ridden with him, I would have gotten back to PDX about 6:45pm. As it was, my bus was scheduled to pull into Portland at 8pm.

    Since I was supposed to be at the station an hour before departure, I left the hotel at 4:30 and walked toward the station with my bag. It was a beautiful day in Tacoma, the sky was blue and the crisp air was invigorating as I walked briskly toward the bus stop. It felt good to be traveling on my own again, even if it was only from Tacoma to Portland. There was an extra bounce in my step as I made may way down the hill to the Greyhound station.

    When I got to the station, it was dark, and locked. A man waiting outside told me that the station doesn’t open until 5:00. But doesn’t the bus leave at 5:10? Didn’t Greyhound’s email tell me to be at the station an hour early? Who’s in charge of the  computer system?

    It wasn’t much fun standing there on the street, waiting with nowhere to go. In the back of my mind, I was marginally worried that the station might open late and there not be enough time to get the tickets printed out before the bus left. I was prepared to try to talk my way onto the bus using nothing more than the confirmation email on my phone. The message clearly stated that a paper ticket was needed for boarding, but if you couldn’t get the company to print it out on time, that wasn’t my fault, was it?

    It turns out my worries were unfounded. The customer service rep was on time, and he printed out my ticket by 5:05pm, though it would not have mattered if I had shown up late. The attendant soon informed us that the bus was running “20 minutes late.” Of course it was.

    At fifteen minutes to six (35 minutes late), the bus pulled in. We boarded the bus and were on the road ten minutes later, 45 minutes after the bus was scheduled to leave. At that time of day, the traffic is pretty bad in the region and the driver had to fight stop and go traffic until almost Olympia, where the bus stopped to drop a couple people off. Our expected PDX arrival kept getting later and later. I spent time writing about the NWRBC experience until my laptop battery quit, then I shut off the light and sat in my seat staring into the dark night.  

    In all the excitement, I had forgotten to eat, so I sat there staring out the window trying to ignore my growling stomach. One of the rules of the road is that you should always have some backup eats for situations like this. I had violated the rule. One more thing.

    We finally pulled into Portland at 9:00pm. I checked the Tri-met bus arrivals at the nearest station for my route home. The next #19 bus was coming in three minutes, which meant that by the time the bus finally parked, the opportunity was gone. Yep, that’s just how the whole trip was – one more missed connection. The next #19 was not coming for another half hour. I could do nothing but throw my hands up and laugh (and swear, if I’m being honest). To kill time, I decided to walk from the Greyhound station up to PSU. The exercise felt good after sitting around for so long.

    As I was waiting at the PSU stop, my phone buzzed as it received another text from the mystery driver who nearly gave me the ride. He offered to take me back to Tacoma on Sunday. In my reply, I thanked him for the offer and said I lived in Portland, taking the time to lament that I still wasn’t home. I could picture him laughing as he responded with the news that he was headed out to a bar. That was the end of an anonymous conversation with an unknown fellow traveler. Craigslist has a funny way of bringing people together.

    Thankfully, the #19 arrived on time – ahhh, the last leg of the trip. At 10pm, I finally walked in my front door, tired and hungry. Instead of taking two and a half hours, the trip took just over five and a half hours from door to door.

    An iffy day

    The day could have been much better, if only:

    If I had found “Jeff” before he left, I would have probably made it back to Portland by 5:15pm. No dice.

    If I had checked the Amtrak schedule 15 minutes earlier, I would gotten on the train and made it back by 5:30. Nope.

    If I had waited one more minute to buy the bus ticket, I would have ridden back with the mystery texter and made it back to Portland by 6:45. Negative.

    If the bus had arrived at the Tacoma station on time, we would have made it back to Portland at 8pm, and someone would have been available to pick me up at the Portland station when I got back.  Afraid not.

    If the traffic between Tacoma and Olympia had been lighter and we arrived a few minutes earlier, I would have caught an earlier Tri-met bus home. Instead, I missed the bus, which cost me an extra half hour. Go figure.

    Like I said before, I like mass transit. I enjoy seeing and meeting new people, I like the fact that people share resources and I really like letting someone else do the driving. But after a day like Friday, I remember why people drive. Mass transit can be a real pain in the ass. But it does make for some interesting stories....


    San Francisco Scenes

    A couple pics from our recent jaunt to San Francisco:

    The Golden Gate Bridge, a must-see for first-time vistors
    Still looks great after 78 years
    That's a big cable

    Click to read more ...


    Searching for Sightglass Coffee, or ‘the “honkey” incident'

    Another story from San Francisco:

    Anthony Salas, a barista at Paper Tiger Coffee in Vancouver, suggested that we try out Sightglass Coffee while we were in San Francisco. Always up for trying new places, we followed his recommendation. It turned out that finding the café was as memorable as the café itself.

    Sightglass Coffee is located on Seventh Street, close the heart of downtown San Francisco. After lunch at the wharf, we hopped onto the cable car and rode it over the hill to Hallidie Plaza (For the record, the cable car is overrated—not much more than tourist transportation. I would estimate that 95% of the people on the car were tourists, and the other 5% were the driver and the ticket-taker. Call me a cynic, but it was not the “San Francisco treat” that you have seen on television). From the plaza, we walked down Market Street and turned onto Sixth Street. We could have walked one more block to Seventh ,  but I wanted to get off of Market because it was loud from all the traffic. Our chosen route made for a more interesting story, though at the time it was a little unsettling.

    To give you a little background, when traveling, I do my best to not look like a tourist. Granted, this is not always possible, but I try to not saunter around gaping at tourist attractions, snapping lots of photos and being more conspicuous than necessary. I try to act like I know where I am going, and I do my best to avoid using maps in public. Tourists can be targets for mischievous or malevolent people, so it’s best to not look like one.

    We probably should have done a little research about this part of the city before we went, because it would have been good to know its reputation. On Sixth Street, it was pretty much impossible to not look like a tourist. Theoretically, it could have been the safest part of San Francisco, but the neighborhood looked like it was going through a rough time. There were lots of shops that looked run down, with paint peeling off the walls, as well as many empty storefronts covered with old posters and graffiti. The shops that were open included several pawn shops and convenience stores. Groups of young black men stood around, crowding the sidewalk and watching us as we went by. It reminded me of walking around Datong, China, where the local people stared at the unfamiliar faces (us) passing by them. Even worse, I had a camera around my neck, flashing “TOURIST!” in big bold letters to everyone on the street.

    I felt out of place, and asked myself if I was nervous because we appeared to be the only white people there, or if the area just gave off the impression that it was unfriendly. It was probably some of both. It can be unsettling when you visit a place where you stand out so much.

    That said, I don’t think my uneasiness was much different than what people from outside Portland feel when they visit downtown and have to pass through the groups of homeless people crowding the sidewalk. Walking around downtown Portland doesn’t bother me anymore, but I have spent a lot of time there. Sixth Street in San Francisco was completely new to me.

    To add to my unease, one of the things we saw as we were walking was likely a drug handoff. I could be mistaken, but seeing two men approach each other on the sidewalk and discretely pass a small paper bag between them without saying anything seemed a little suspicious. I commented to my wife that it didn’t look like they were sharing doughnuts. She agreed. We kept walking, pretending not to notice, or at least to not care.

    The most memorable incident of our side trip took place a couple blocks later. As we came to the corner, a tall black man dressed in a red hat and a blue and white sweat suit looked at us in disapproval. He was talking to a group of men, and as we approached, he stepped out directly in front of us.

    “. . .and someone like this honkey,” he said, glowering at me.

     “Oh, sh--,” I thought.

    My heart jumped when he said that, though I tried to not show any fear. We stepped around him to the left, hoping that he wouldn’t try to stop us. If he had, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. I wasn’t looking for a fight, just a coffee shop. Fortunately, the man made no other moves to block us—he had already made it clear enough that we weren’t welcome in his neighborhood. We kept walking, glad to soon reach our destination.

    Looking back on our misadventure, I doubt we were ever in any real danger. We were uncomfortable, but no harm came of it. After all, the man made no physical contact with us. All he did was call me a honkey, which is actually kind of funny. I haven’t been called that since the days when I used to play a lot of basketball. There was always lots of creative things said in the heat of the games.

    All in all, our quick trip to Sightglass was a memorable one. We found some pretty good coffee and we came away with a story to tell.



    Caffe Trieste (SFO) - not just a café 

    What is it that makes a café a “local place,” or even what I would call a “neighborhood institution?” In my previous post about Xpression Coffeehouse, I wrote about how the owners want to make their café a place where the neighborhood gets together. But how does a café reach that goal? There may not be a single answer to that question, but I do know that some places are successful while others are not.

    Last week, I visited the original Caffe Trieste in San Francisco, and it is a place that definitely has “it.” The café is the proverbial place “where everybody knows your name.” Although no one knew my name when I was in there, I was confident that after a few visits, many of them would.

    Having great coffee is not the only way to become a neighborhood café. The first day I went to Trieste, in fact, I thought my espresso was barely drinkable. If I were going to base my experience solely on the coffee, I would not have gone back the second time. However, my pastry was excellent (it tasted a lot like a chocolate chip cookie) and the environment was fun, interesting, and full of character and quirk. I wanted to go back.

    Click to read more ...


    Book Review-A Sense of the World

    It has been a while since I last wrote about traveling. That is mainly because I have not done any traveling lately, something that I hope to change soon. After all, traveling is one of the most valuable and invigorating experiences a person can have in life, in my opinion. If you don’t travel, you lose the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the wider world.

    In an effort to take to the road without actually taking to the road, I recently read A Sense of the World-How a Blind Man became History’s Greatest Traveler, written by Jason Roberts. The book is a biography of James Holman, a fearless traveling Englishman, who, in spite of his blindness, was able to travel all over the world. What makes the story even more compelling is that he did his traveling in the first half of the 19th century.

    Holman was not blind from birth. He was born in 1787, one of six brothers and the son of a pharmacist. In those days, class structures were very rigid in England, and Holman’s father had high ambitions for his son, whom he wanted to become a gentleman. One way for a commoner to do this was to reach officer status in the military, which is what James Holman did.

    Click to read more ...


    Tired of paper transit tickets? (updated)

    Today, I want to step away from coffee for just a moment. One of my favorite things to talk about is entrepreneurship, and I have something I would like to share with you.

    When I’m out traveling around the city, I prefer to walk or take public transportation. Walking around, you really get the feel of a place, and on the bus or the train, you don’t have to stress about traffic.

    Since I take the bus and the train pretty regularly, I can say with confidence that it would be nice to be able to pay for tickets using an app on my phone, especially when riding the bus. Even better, the phone would serve as a ticket itself.

    Tri-Met (Portland’s public transit agency) doesn’t have a system like that yet. However, a couple of my classmates from Portland State’s MIM program are trying change that. Nat Parker and Michael Gray have started a company called GlobeSherpa to develop mobile phone apps, and their most promising app at this time is called TransitSherpa, an app that acts as an electronic ticket management system for Tri-Met. I’ll let Nat explain:

    Their company is currently in negotiations with Tri-Met to make the system a reality, but they need some funding to speed things up. Tomorrow evening, at 5:30pm, Nat and Michael will be at the Backspace café/pub competing in the second-to-last round of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network’s Seed Oregon competition, a competition that helps start-up companies with funding and guidance. The winner is determined by popular vote of the audience, so the more supporters TransitSherpa has, the better chance it has to win. The winning company gets to present at the Angel Oregon conference in March, where it could acquire the funding it is looking for.

    If you think that a Tri-Met ticket app is something that you would rather have sooner than later, come by Backspace tomorrow evening at 5:30 and support TransitSherpa. It costs $25, which I know is kind of steep, but it’s supposed to include some kind of food and drink spread. In addition, Nat has promised me that he’s going to be especially entertaining during his presentation.

    You might wonder if I get anything out of this advertisement for them. Nope. I’m just spreading the word for them and trying to speed up the process of creating a Tri-Met ticket app. It’s 2011, and the time for e-tickets is here. Let’s help TransitSherpa make it happen.

    No más

    Update: GlobeSherpa won by two votes! Congratulations and good luck at the next round.


    Airport Coffee Hacking Tip

    When you travel, one thing you may get tired of is airport coffee. It’s true that most airports these days have Starbucks or Peet’s (or some other large coffee chains) in them, but even if you do like their coffee, you probably don’t like the high prices they charge. Airport cafés have limited competition and they know it, so they charge way more than they would on the street.

    There is a way to beat the airport coffee cartels and still have great coffee.

    Zachary Gray, owner of Paper Tiger Coffee, gave me some great advice for getting great coffee when you’re traveling, without being treated like an ATM.

    Here are the steps:

    Step 1-Right before you leave for your trip, grind some coffee beans and put the grounds into a Ziploc bag. It is very important that the beans are ground extra-coarsely—more coarsely than for a French press. Grind out enough coffee so that you have at least two tablespoons of grounds for each six ounces of coffee you are going to want to drink. Put them in the bag and remove as much air as possible. Seal the bag and throw it in something you are going to carry onto the plane.

    Step 2-When you get to the airport, look for a Starbucks—not to buy coffee, but to get a cup of hot water. Starbucks has great water. They triple-filter it so there is nothing in it to add or detract from the taste of the coffee. Order the size you want, making sure to match the quantity of water with the quantity of coffee you have.

    Step 3-Dump your ground coffee into the cup of hot water. Gently stir the grounds to make sure that they all come into contact with the hot water. Let sit for 3-4 minutes, then pour just  a little cold water over the grounds to help them sink to the bottom. The coffee should be ready to drink.

    As you drink the coffee, you have to be gentle with the cup so that the grounds stay at the bottom. If you do this, the grounds are less likely to release some of the bitter compounds they contain (i.e., they won’t over-extract) and you won’t get a mouth full of sediment when you drink it. As long as you’re careful, you will not taste much more sediment than you would with a French press.

    It’s not rocket science—high-quality fresh coffee + good water has always been the recipe for great coffee, even if the method is somewhat primitive. In Gray’s experience, this ‘farmer coffee’ (a.k.a. ‘cowboy coffee’) is better than nearly all the coffees you can get at the airport. The fact that you don’t have to spend so much money also makes it taste better. Enjoy!

    (Feel free to pass this on to your fellow travelers/coffee lovers)