The Problem with Portland

No, that picture has nothing to do with food, or France, but it has a lot to do with fun and frivolity.  It’s the top of an ancient single-cylinder motorcycle engine that powers an equally-ancient single-seat racing car.

Guest blogger and husband Shel here, if you haven’t already guessed.  Abra wouldn’t touch this subject with a bargepole.

But I digress.

For a Seattleite, the Problem with Portland is that it is a very cool city.  Cool but inconveniently located.  It’s about a hundred miles south of Seattle, but there’s so much traffic on the Interstate that it’s at least a three-hour drive. You can fly, of course, but what with the drive to the airport and being there early enough for a leisurely strip-search, it takes as long to fly as to drive.

Then there’s Amtrak.  While a lot of their long-haul trains can be spectacularly off-schedule, the Cascades service that runs up and down the Northwest coast generally isn’t.  The on-board food is forgettable, but it’s clean and comfortable, the price is right, and, best of all, the three hours you spend reading on the train is not spent behind the wheel on I-5 dodging semis and wondering which one has your number.

But I digress.

I went to Portland to see my son and look at some old cars.  Since it was the All-British Field Meet and Classic Races at Portland International Raceway, Eric was outnumbered about three-hundred-to-one by the cars.   He held up manfully, none-the-less.  We both like old British cars.  I like them in spite of my ownership experience; he likes ’em … well, I don’t know why. Maybe he has a secret fear that, unless he has a car that leaks oil, his driveway will rust.

There were a lot of them, cars, that is, both racers, like this Lotus Elan from the ‘sixties…

… as well as daily-driver rarities like this early-seventies MGC …

… or this twenty-first century “Aero” Morgan …

… or, for you Hitchhiker’s Guide fans, this late-thirties Ford Prefect pick-up truck …

Of course, few people actually drive cars like that every day.  That would be completely frivolous.  Almost as frivolous as owning and racing an early-fifties, J.A.Prestwich-powered, methanol-burning Cooper racing car …

… an enterprise requiring dedication that borders on insanity.

As a background to the hundreds of cars on display, there were races. Cars of the same era as those on display, primarily pre-1970, circulated the track in packs, adding a background continuo and the occasional visual flash…

The moral to our story is … is … well, OK, there’s no moral to the story, except that there’s really no problem with Portland that moving it north a hundred miles wouldn’t fix, and that having a day in the sunshine looking at interesting things with folks you love can more than make up for a tepid raceway hot dog and an Amtrak microwaved cheeseburger.

News From The Mixing Bowl – We Have a Winner! The winner of the absolutely fair and random name-drawing for A Taste of the Gulf Coast is Rachel Palmer .  I’ll be contacting you for shipping information, and my thanks to the rest of you for entering.

Explore posts in the same categories: French Letters Visits America


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10 Comments on “The Problem with Portland”

  1. Eden Says:

    I’d hapily put up with a crappy race-track hot dog to meander among such lovely (impractical) vehicles.

    I wish that Morgan’s new LIFEcar was as sexy as their Aero…

  2. Jan Says:

    They are lovely cars, but I’m commenting on your digression. The other great thing about the Cascaades run to Portland is the stunning views of Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier (if you’re lucky) and some nice countryside. I love the train!

  3. Ciao! Gorgeous cars, beautiful day! Do they have vintage car road rallies in France?
    One great feature of rural Italian summers is the car rallies. They tie up traffic for miles, the carabinieri actually have to stand in the sun and direct traffic, and no one cares as hundreds of fabulous cars toodle by.
    Big fun no matter where you are!

  4. Lucy Says:

    My father and I used to scan the classifieds and look at old cars together. It’s nice to see you went to this show with your son.


    Great day out Shel …….. petrolheads unite!!

  6. Haven Says:

    Happy to see you out and about, especially with Eric. My son Lincoln is far away in Tallahassee, FL. Wish his mother still had the TR-3 that helped lure me to her!
    That JAP casting is a work of art.

  7. Gigi Says:

    Portland loves Seattle, too. But it’s closer to 200 miles. I haven’t been to Seattle in a couple years. Great town. But so is Portland.

  8. John Says:

    Greetings from Santa Cruz, even further down the train track and several dgrees weirder in automotive taste. My favorite entry in the show here was a custom roadster, shaped like a boat-tail Bugatti, but six feet tall at the withers, powered by a twelve cylinder aircraft engine, borne on bus tires, and sporting in the place of honor at the center of the walnut dash, a compass.

  9. Shel Says:

    Judith – Yes, they have historic car rallyes in France; seeing a bunch of old rallye cars parading through Uzes is a common occurrence. Mostly French cars, of course, which makes it doubly exotic.

    Haven – Unfortunately, the JAP-engined Cooper holed a piston in its early-AM track session. The owner said the NAPA store was fresh out of Prestwich pistons, too.

    Gigi – You’re right about the distance. I’ll see if I can fix that. As I wrote it, I kept wondering why it took so long to go a hundred miles.


  10. elaine Says:

    Can’t wait to share this with our son Philip who has aquired a vintage porsche (or maybe it’s aquired him). It is making one repair shop rich and happy! Hope you’re doing well.
    your former neighbor

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