Thursday, August 1, 2013

An Afternoon In Portland

You pick up Route 26 off of 101 halfway between Seaside and Cannon Beach, whose downtowns, as it were, are separated by maybe seven miles.

It's not easy leaving Cannon Beach, what with its amazing natural beauty, especially Haystack Rock. The rock is actually accessible by foot when the tide is out, while at other times there's a good 20 yards of Pacific Ocean in between the beach and the rock.

When you can walk out to the rock, you find sights that you don't normally see, like, for instance, gigantic starfish of several different colors.

Haystack Rock is so mesmerizing that it's easy to lose focus of everything else on the beach, which has several other smaller rocks, not to mention mountains that come down almost literally to touch the sea.

And then there's the town itself, which runs at a much slower pace than does Seaside, which in turn runs at about, oh, 10% of the speed of the Jersey Shore.

No, it's not easy to make the turn onto 26 and head east, though that's exactly what TigerBlog did Wednesday morning.

Route 26 connects Oregon's North Shore with the state's biggest city, Portland. It's about a 90-minute drive from Cannon Beach to Portland, and almost all of it is spent on Route 26.

And almost all of the time on Route 26 is spent going through forests. This is the home of the Pacific Northwest logging industry, and there are trees everywhere - well, almost everywhere, as there are also huge empty patches where trees used to be mixed in with the ones still standing tall.

Whoever built the road had the foresight to envision trucks hauling logs up and down mountains and therefore decided to put passing lanes in every few miles. Otherwise, the trip from the shore to Portland could be two or three times as long.

TigerBlog was in Portland once before, back in the early 1980s, for the Far West Classic men's basketball tournament.

Back then, he was doing student radio for WXPN, Penn's campus station, and it was the Quakers who were his primary focus in Ivy basketball. The tournament that year was an eight-team event held on the banks of the Willamette River at the old Memorial Coliseum, former home of the Trail Blazers. For those who paid attention to such things, the Blazers used to sell out every game, and attendance was always 12,666.

Anyway, Penn went 0-3 in the tournament that year, keeping the team winless to that point of the season. Or at least that's how TB remembers it. Or is he wrong? Did Penn win its last game at the tournament for its first win of the year?

Either way, from there, the Quakers turned their season around, winning the Ivy League and advancing to the NCAA tournament.

TB remembers flying back from that tournament, on a flight that was originally supposed to go from Portland to Denver to Philadelphia. The flight actually backed away from the gate and then came right back, as it turned out Denver was getting hammered by snow. Instead, TB was rerouted through Chicago - his bags arrived two days later.

This time, TB's trip to Portland was merely a stopover on his way back to Seattle. Portland has many suburban sections that have as their mailing address the city itself, and TB was on his way to one of those, a house near the top of a dead-end street that is the home of the Leland family.

When TB rang the doorbell, he was greeted by Max, the youngest Leland, who simply opened the door, let in the strangers and then went about his business as his mother greeted her guests.

Mrs. Leland is Sandi, the former Sandi Bittler, Princeton Class of 1990. Back when she played at Princeton, she was a deadly three-point shooter, and she used that weapon to ring up 1,683 career points.

To this day, only one player in Princeton history, male or female, has ever scored more than she did. That, obviously, was Bill Bradley, who scored 2,503 in three years, with no three-point shot. Just in case anyone out there forgot the absurdity of what Bradley did.

As for Leland, her record has withstood some serious challenges, mostly on the women's side.

Meagan Cowher finished her career with 1,671 points, just 12 behind Leland.

Think about that. That means that had two three-pointers of Leland's rimmed out and three shots for Cowher that didn't fall gone in, they would have been tied. And that's over four full seasons.

Then there was Niveen Rasheed, who would have beaten Leland by probably 250 points or so had she not missed the entire Ivy League season her sophomore year with a torn ACL. Or, for that matter, been part of teams that so routinely won by 20, 30 or 40 or more points that her minutes and scoring opportunities on many nights were over shortly after halftime.

Leland makes no bones about her place in Princeton women's basketball history. She freely admits both Cowher and Rasheed and others were better all-around players.

At the same time, she is definitely proud of her standing as the all-time leading scorer for the program.

TB's visit lasted about two hours and included some home run derby in the backyard and male vs. female basketball in the driveway, with lineups stocked with TigerBlog Jr., Miss TigerBlog and Max's siblings Emma and Jack.

Then it was off to I-5 and the trip north to Seattle.

TB never realized that Portland was so close to the Oregon/Washington state line, but even with heavy traffic, the rented Subaru Outback was back in Washington state in about 20 minutes. Three hours later, it was back in Seattle.

TB very much enjoyed his time in Oregon, though.

Two relaxing days on the beach. Two fun hours with an old friend.

Not a bad way to start the week.

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