It was frigid and flakes of snow were falling but my son, Zach and I still posed on a tiny traffic median strip in downtown Portland, Oregon as evidence that we’d been to the Guinness Book of Records certified tiniest park in the world. Mill Ends Park, also known as the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland, is a landscaped concrete circle two feet across in the middle of a busy street in downtown Portland. On that cold November day we were its only visitors though Zach’s research indicated that the park had at various times hosted a swimming pool for butterflies, a miniature ferris wheel and a flash mob of plastic army figures during the 2011 Occupy Portland movement.
Portland, the setting for the quirky television series Portlandia, is a city proud of its unconventional reputation and so it was no surprise when my unconventional son, Zach, suggested a Portlandia themed trip to Portland for his 26th birthday and assigned 10 episodes to watch before catching the train from Seattle to Portland.
We have traveled many Zach-inspired and researched trips over the years and in doing so, I have discovered that setting aside my adult driven trip itinerary to see the sights he wanted to see has resulted in some of my most memorable travel experiences.
Our first such adventure was the result of a bribe to get him to finish his 5th grade report on the state of Iowa. “If you research and plan a trip to Iowa” I promised, “we’ll go there over spring break and do the trip.” Travelling to and through Iowa the first week of April when everyone else was fleeing to beaches or ski hills for spring break was a cheap road trip in turned out. And who knew the state has the world’s largest popcorn factory and ice cream capitol? It’s also the home of the president of the International Fainting Goat Association (we went to her farm….fainting goats are real), the site of Field of Dreams, Bridges of Madison County and Music Man, the home state of John Wayne and Herbert Hoover and where the only member lost during the Lewis and Clark Expedition died.
Now that Zach is a well-traveled, fully launched adult, we still find time for an occasional joint adventure and while much has changed since he was 10 years old (he can drive, he can pay for his own expenses and we can explore a place independently as two adult traveling companions would), his choices of what to see are still some of my favorites. This spring because he had vacation time from work to burn up and I was doing a meandering road trip to a conference in Las Vegas, he offered to be the co-pilot and joint planner. We alternated who decided the itinerary each day. He’s an archaeologist by profession and avid outdoorsman and wanted to see national parks (Mazanar, Crater Lake and Zion in particular) and archaeology sites enroute as well as a friend in Salt Lake City. I wanted to visit places where I grew up and went to school (Idaho Falls, Idaho), an artsy community in NE Oregon (Joseph) and attend the conference. We did it all.
One of its many highlights was a night in Salt Lake City’s speakeasy bars (the next blog post).