Oregon has the highest gas prices in the nation - say the locals. Saying that gas is about $5 a gallon in Europe just gets a "well, it won't be long before we have it, too" in return.

The weather was superb.

The Pacific Ocean rules.

What a book you could write about the psychology of someone who would purchase a Hummer.

Vespa sales in Portland are rocketing.

Grocery stores are a lot different than when I was a kid.

Local newspapers run headlines that you can read about almost 36 hours in advance on the net.

American beer and coffee used to be the butt of many tired jokes, especially by Euros. Now: Portland brewery Bridgeport makes an IPA that is probably the best of any beer I have had in any country. There are so many coffee houses in Portland grinding up lovely delicious fresh roasted coffee beans that the ubiquitous Starbucks is just a face in the crowd. The waiters in laid back joints on the east side will stand at your table and natter on about how they roast their own. Then they stop by and ask if you want a refill because they just brewed a fresh pot. (The preceding event occurred in the "Bagdad Cafe"). On our way back we had several hours in Frankfurt to kill so we spent some time in the city. The coffee I was served at one cafe looked like cleanup from an oil spill with blue shiny slicks on the surface - a sure sign of a dirty coffee maker and so bitter it could have passed for castor oil. And a standard cup of it cost more than a Starbucks Grande.

There's a great little northwest burger chain called Burgerville that serves onion rings made from Walla Walla sweet onions in season. They have two serving size options: "semi-huge" and "huge".

On the way home I got caught with scissors and a miniature swiss army knife in my shaving kit by the nicest lady at the security point. Had forgotten to stow them in my checked luggage. She strolled me over to the postage machine so I could mail them and then wished me a pleasant flight.

Walking along a street in downtown Portland I passed a couple of young guys sat on the sidewalk and apparently living rough. They called out to me: "hey, hey! Would a vegetarian eat animal crackers?"

There's a number of carts and lunchstands in the center of the city selling some exceptional street food. One is called "Tábor" and is run by a couple of Czechs selling three or four typical Czech dishes. He's an emigre with 20 years in Portland, and his wife's been there since the mid-nineties. She looked at me and said, "hey, you're my English teacher!" She was one of my students more than ten years ago when I was doing that. True story.

I have lost the knack for driving all day and not minding being cooped up in a car. What a pain in the ass it can be living out west.

Spent a week camping in central Oregon at a place called Waldo Lake. It is supposed to be one of the purest bodies of fresh water on the planet after Crater Lake (also in Oregon) and Lake Baikal in Russia. Four hundred feet deep in places, the water is so clear you can swim at midnight under a full moon and see the bottom clear as day way below you. Which I did do.

Steve | 14:17 |