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Best River Floats in Portland – Hello, Summer!

This week marks the official start to summer! As the weather heats up – yes, it gets into the 90s in Portland – city folk run for the Oregon coast and the nearest rivers. If you’ve been dreaming of a leisurely day on the water, here’s everything you need to know to get out on one of our many rivers.

Which Portland river to float?

While there are many rivers that you can swim and play in near Portland (including parts of the Columbia and the Willamette), if you want to do a proper float — from point A to point B — your best bet is to head to the Sandy River or the Clackamas River. Both rivers have several parks that you can base yourself from and either swim/wade in the water or go tubing. The Sandy is a little closer to central Portland, but the Clackamas is my favorite. You can also float on the Willamette River in July during The Big Float event.

Clackamas River float


First, you’ll need two cars if you plan to float from one park to the next (your other option is to bike or hitch a ride back to the upper parking lot). Here’s how:

1. On your way to the river, either drop Car #1 off at the float STOPPING point (and have driver #1 jump in Car #2) and drive Car #2 to the START point. OR have everyone meet at the STARTING point and then while everyone is getting ready, Driver #1 and #2 take both cars to the STOPPING point as detailed above.

2. When you arrive at the end of the float, either fit everyone into Car #1 and go get Car #2 at the STARTING point OR send both drivers to rescue Car #1. And everyone else gets to start a picnic. (Hope you put the food in Car #1).

Remember, the drivers need to keep their keys with them on the float!

Where to buy or rent tubes in Portland:

Most outdoor stores (Next Adventure etc.) in Portland have inner tubes for river floats (and stores like Fred Meyer do too). As summer heats up, it can be difficult to find tubes in stock and/or at a reasonable price, so plan ahead (I was quoted $60 for the cheapest tube at one big box sporting goods store in town one year). As much as I like to shop local, I decided to buy inner tubes on Amazon (and with Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping, you don’t have to plan ahead that far), which makes the adventure much more affordable!

Best Routes: Clackamas River Float

You have several options for floating the Clackamas River, as there are three typical start points and three end points. The most popular launch is from Milo McIver State Park‘s Upper Ramp near Estacada, Oregon (see map for details).

Float times:

  • Route 1: McIver Upper Ramp to McIver Lower Ramp – 2hrs
  • Route 2: McIver Upper Ramp to Barton – 6-7 hours
  • Route 3: McIver Upper Ramp to Carver – 8-9 hours
  • Route 4: McIver Lower Ramp to Barton – 5-6 hours
  • Route 5: McIver Lower Ramp to Carver – 7-8 hours

Best Routes: Sandy River Float

The most popular route on the Sandy is Dabney State Recreation Area to Lewis & Clark State Park (see map below). You can also start at Dodge Park and continue to Lewis & Clark.

Best river floats

Things to Bring to the River:

Newbie Tubing Tips:

  • McIver State Park and Carver County Park both close at 9pm; Barton closes at 10pm. Keep this in mind when you’re planning which route to float.
  • Most routes pass through several sets of small rapids (depending on the time of year, water levels and speed vary), so not recommended for small children.
  • You’ll need to purchase a $5 day use pass for both cars (main and shuttle).
  • If your car key is a fob and not an old school key, you’ll need to have a way to keep that key dry, by using an Otterbox etc.
  • Bring water! The idea of drinking a beer while floating the river might sound fantastic, but you’ll want water as well.
  • Bring a lunch! There are a few convenience stores on the way to the parks, but after your first hour or two of floating you’ll be glad you packed a picnic.
  • Just because you can drunkenly lay in a tube and float in water, doesn’t mean you can swim, maneuver small rapids, and/or help someone else if they need help. Drink responsibly!
  • If you get a fancy-schmancy tube you’ll need a pump to inflate the main intertube and a bike pump or your mouth to inflate the backrest.
  • Go see what the river looks like at the STOPPING point so you don’t float by.
  • You’ll learn this tip quickly: when you’re approaching rapids (and rocks), lift your butt out of the water!
  • Have fun, but be smart – every couple years someone dies on the river. Take safety seriously.

River Float Map:

View Portland Tubing: River Float Map in a larger map

Have you been river floating near Portland?

Leave your favorites in the comments. Float on!

Happy Girls 10K – Bend Oregon


This is a quick race recap post about my running adventures. Check out my Running page for more info on races and how I started running.

Happy Girls Course - Bend

If you haven’t been to Central Oregon, add it to your list! 300 days of sunshine, epic views of the Cascade mountains range, and a booming beer scene. Plus, one of the funniest things about Bend, is as a pretty outdoorsy person, being there makes me feel like a total amateur. While the Pacific Northwest has a good deal of people who like to get out on the weekend and hike etc., Central Oregon is full of athletes and people who are outdoorsy like it’s their job. Coming from Portland, it’s fun to see the difference.

I started the ball rolling on Memorial Day weekend plans in Bend way back in January. Then I saw that the Happy Girls 10k was the same weekend and decided to sign up.

Last year it was a bit chilly over Memorial Day weekend in Bend, but this year was pretty ideal running weather. Since the place we were staying was literally right on the course, we had our own little cheering section at the park. I definitely need to work on the slow down and smile nicely for a photo from loved ones bit though.

My Happy Girls 10k Time – 0:59 (9:37 pace)

  • Mile 1 – 9:25
  • Mile 2 – 9:15
  • Mile 3 – 9:54
  • Mile 4 – 10:07
  • Mile 5 – 10:13
  • Mile 6 – 9:37

I started out waaay to fast [for me!] on this one. I also overlooked that there was a bit of a hill in mile 5, oops! My Nike+ ended at 6.1 something instead of 6.2, so not sure what was up with the course or my phone.

Happy Girls Race Swag/Perks:

  • goodie bag with random stuff I don’t remember (the lavender soap was great though!)
  • 1 GoodLife Brewing beer at the finish
  • post-race snacks (fruit, hummus etc)

What: Happy Girls 10k
When: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Where: Deschutes River Trail – Bend, Oregon
Price: $37.58 (with promo code)

Bend 10k - I don't usually buy race photos. Ha!Overall, I loved the Happy Girls race. The course around the Deschutes River and parks is as-always gorgeous. It’s also fun to see Mt Bachelor and Broken Top in the background of race photos.

The staff of the event were also really kind. The only downside was that it lacked the “race energy” that you experience at bigger events with more people. And for my friend who ran through an injury, the lack of a distraction from smiling, cheering faces was probably a bit more noticeable. While the 10k was a tiny group, it seemed like both the half and the 5k were a bit more packed.

I can see myself running this one again.

South Waterfront Portland – My Mapped Guide


My next installment of Portland Neighborhood Maps hits close to [my first] home – South Waterfront. I moved to South Waterfront in the summer of 2010. South Waterfront was one of those areas that was created out of “nothing” in the mid-2000s. Most of the high-rises were just being finished as the economy tanked in 2008 and all development and business expansion came grinding to a halt. By 2010, a couple of the condo buildings in South Waterfront were still pretty vacant and there were several real estate auctions. No pressure. I bought one, sight unseen.

My first couple of years in South Waterfront, the neighborhood was quiet. I would mostly just take the streetcar into downtown or walk through no man’s land to Waterfront Park and across the river. Then things started changing. The Elizabeth Caruthers park was finished. I joined the community garden by the river. The farmers market opened. A pedestrian bridge over I5 opened. Little Big Burger arrived. There went the neighborhood.

South Waterfront, Portland:

SoWa still has a long way to go to get that unique lived-in feeling, but as my “first” grownup neighborhood, I’m rooting for them. South Waterfront is officially part of the South Portland neighborhood. When I was designing my map, I debated about how close to zoom in. I ended up deciding to show the tangle of highways and onramps as it’s a big part of what boxes in this little neighborhood. Highways to the west and river to the east.

Here’s my mapped guide to favorite places in South Waterfront!

South Waterfront map

Eat, Drink, Shop, Explore:

Bambuza – A practically ancient restaurant, in Portland years, Bambuza has been in South Waterfront since 2008. They serve up consistently delicious Vietnamese food. Order the banh mi sandwich and fresh rolls.
3682 SW Bond Ave [Hours: Monday - Saturday 11am - 9pm]

Rip City Grill & Moody Food Carts – There’s a reason this place is slammed at lunch time. Everyone raves about the tri-tip steak sandwich, thankfully Clint also makes an awesome portobello burger with caramelized onions and blue cheese.
Docks at Moody Ave & Abernathy St [Hours: Monday - Friday 10am - 2pm]

Little Big Burger – The long-awaited South Waterfront location of this Portland burger empire finally opened in 2013. As long as you don’t hit it during the OHSU lunch rush between 11-1 it’s a great bet.
3704 SW Bond Ave [Hours: 11am - 9pm daily]

Lovejoy Bakers – A Pearl district favorite since 2010, seeing a bakery finally land in this area (in May of 2014) is perfect. Since South Waterfront still lacks a grocery store, I can see them staying pretty busy from SoWa locals and the constant stream of OHSU employees.
3159 SW Moody Ave [Hours: 6am - 6pm daily]

Daily Cafe at the Tram - Nothing fancy here. It’s a solid lunch option and quick place to grab a coffee or a chai before you jump on the Streetcar.
3355 SW Bond Ave [Hours: Monday - Friday 7am - 5pm]

The Old Spaghetti Factory – Before Portland was the foodie paradise it is today, Old Spaghetti Factory was fine dining. While not its original location (which opened in 1969 at SW 2nd Ave & SW Pine St in downtown) , OSF has been holding down the fort in “South Waterfront” since before it was called South Waterfront (1984?)! It’s still worth a visit for the nostalgia, river view location and when you have kids in tow. Order the mizithra cheese!
715 SW Bancroft St

Greanleaf Juicing Co - One of South Waterfront’s newest additions, Greanleaf is in the Emery building by the tram. As you would expect by the name, they offer up veggie and fruit-packed juices and smoothies,  and some lighter items like soup and granola bowls.
3151 SW Moody Ave [Hours: Monday - Thursday 7am - 7pm, Friday 7am - 6pm, Saturday - Sunday 9am - 6pm]

South Waterfront Farmers Market - The farmers market opened in 2012 and was a welcome addition to this supermarket-less neighborhood. Every year it gets a little bit bigger!
Elizabeth Caruthers Park [Hours: Thursdays 2 - 7pm - June to October]

Frank Wine and Flower - Another 2014 addition to SoWa, this inconspicuous little shop is a wine bar meets gift shop and is pretty adorable.
3712 SW Bond Ave [Hours: Sunday - Monday 12 - 8pm, Tuesday - Thursday 11am - 9pm, Friday - Saturday 11am - 10pm]

Urbana Market – an almost-yuppy convenience store. It’s tiny, but saves the day when you need something basic for a recipe, or a snack, or a $5 bottle of wine.
3550 SW River Pkwy

South Waterfront Greenway & Osprey Nest - A few years ago this was a great grassy stretch to walk and sit by the river, with a few DIY trails down to the water.  It’s currently under construction to add in retaining walls, restoring the river bank, adding water access etc. Probably a smart idea to support the growing neighborhood. Expected completion winter 2014. It’s bordered on the north by the Dahlia field a great place to get giant gorgeous flowers, which I’m guessing won’t be here too many more years with all the new development. And was bordered to the south by the Community Garden (which is now planning to be developed as “Block 37″ a 6-story apartment building), which has now been moved closer to Macadam.

Elizabeth Caruthers Park - The park is named after a pioneer woman, who was a fascinating note in history (1850 Donation Act, a woman – married or not – had the same property rights as a man). Finished in 2010, the park is home to a bocce court, hilly grass, a short boardwalk and some neat fountains. Summer movies in the park, a few concerts, a cider festival, and the weekly farmers market keep the park busy – in the summer months at least.
3508 SW Moody Ave [Hours: 5am - midnight daily]

Waterfront Trail - Perfect for running and biking, the trail starts by the old trolley station at Moody and Bancroft St. It follows the river all the way through Willamette Park and the Sellwood bridge, where you can cross and connect with the Springwater Trail to either loop north up to the Eastbank Esplanade or towards East Portland.

Go By Bike - I think the only transportation option we’re missing now in SoWa is boating (the shipyard doesn’t count until they offer us boat rides). There’s now a massive bike valet at the base of the tram, also repairs and bike rental.
SW Moody & SW Gibbs [Hours: Monday - Friday 6am - 6:45pm]

Coming Soon:

-Cha! Cha! Cha! – another Portland chain that is promising to open sometime in June.

-Tilikum Crossing Bridge- Despite the boring name, we will all be happy when it opens in the fall of 2015. The pedestrian and transit bridge will bring much needed access to the east side of the river.

-Rumors of a pub opening in the fall in the old Soho sushi place.

Any other favorites in South Waterfront?

PS. If you missed my first mapped guide, it was Hosford Abernethy (& Ladd’s Addition).

Street Art in Valencia – 19 of My Favorites


Exiting the metro on our first night in Valencia, we navigated through the tiny streets of the Mercat and El Carmen neighborhood. We seemed to be the only ones on the street. It felt a little post-apocalyptic, walking past abandoned lots, half crumbling buildings that didn’t even look to be under construction, and shuttered business with roll-down doors. This will all look different tomorrow I thought. And then we rounded a corner and saw our first (of many) Valencia street art.

There are several high-profile artists from Valencia (here’s a bigger list). Escif and Hyuro were two that I was able to start recognizing from their style. From our first night in Valencia, it became a fun surprise to round a corner in the old town and come across an amazing piece of art or graffiti or whatever you want to call it. I am by no means an expert on street art, but here are some of my favorites while in the city.

Graffiti Valencia - horse and snailHorse and snails on Carrer de Sant Dionis

Cat graffitiCat on Carrer de Salvador Giner

Rabbits and bananaAerobik Karaoke – bunnies and banana on Carrer de la Corona

HyuroHyuro – wolves and cars on the south side of the Central Market

Hyuro street artMore Hyuro street art – Gentrification – on Carrer de les Carabasses

DistraerseDistraerse (distracted) – more Hyuro near El Mercat

Escif ValenciaEscif in Plaza del Tossal in El Carmen, Valencia

el Carmen GraffitiThe neighboring wall – Moses with Euro and Dollar tablets and the most terrifying facial hair.

Colorful street art in ValenciaColorful street art didn’t seem as common as the contrast-heavy thoughtful pieces, which made some of these colorful lighter pieces stand out.

Anime & Dead streetartMore colorful pieces in El Carmen

Mummy graffitiThe size of this one on the side of a building on Carrer de Sant Miguel

Rolldown graffitiNothing fancy here, just a fun look at how the rolldown shop doors are used for advertising and graffiti when not rolled up for daytime business.

TigerKind of a strangely interesting one on Carrer de Guillem de Castro

Fairy tale graffiti
Fairy tale graffiti in el Carmen

Hot dog graffitiOne of three fast food pieces – hip! hop! don’t stop!

Valencia street art
“From here to fame” pizza

EscifThe Fast Food series by Escif 

Valencia graffitinear Plaza de la Merce

Thanks to Instagram, I was able to learn who some of these pieces were created by. I tagged them #valencia and #streetart and then got a few comments from strangers identifying the pieces as as Escif etc.

What’s your favorite street art city?

Madrid in 3 [Easygoing] Days


I don’t believe in “once in a lifetime” trips.

First, “once in a lifetime” suggests you’re not traveling again. That’s 100% un-fun. Second, it sets ridiculous expectations of perfection. Travel can be tiring and silly, and confusing, but so amazing. Yes, that quote about travel being “the journey not the destination…” applies quite nicely. Third, every moment is “once in a lifetime” is it not? And we’ve come full circle…

One of things taking a round the world trip taught me about myself is that while I love playing tourist and seeing the major sights (hey, they’re sights for a reason!), I prefer to go at a slower pace.  Trying to see one big “sight” in the morning and one in the afternoon is a nice strategy. And if I don’t end up there, that’s fine too. Can you see most of the major sites in many cities in three days? Yes. It’s possible to whip through many of them. Instead, I like to say “I’ll see it next time!”. If you think about what you really want to see, experience, eat etc., it makes travel more easy going. If you have time for more, great. If not, even better, see it next time!

With 3 days in Madrid, our goal was to do a lot of wandering, eating, with a bit of museums and sights thrown in.

sunset in Madrid

Day 1: Europe from the west coast can be a long trip. After a 4 hour layover in NYC, (yay for a United Club pass!), and then an overnight flight, we arrived in Madrid in the late morning. By the time we got to the metro, transfers, to Sol, and then walked to our hotel, there was no worry about being able to check-in early. We often stay our first night of a longer trip at a hotel. It’s nice to not having check-in issues be a worry, and to be able to get in, nap, shower, and feel a little refreshed. Then, the move to an Airbnb etc the next day is a quick adventure, and not at all stressful.

After a quick nap, we headed to Plaza Mayor for a cafe con leche and people watching. On my first visit to Madrid in 2008, I did a free walking tour (“free”, but you tip), and really enjoyed the opportunity to just follow and listen vs navigating. This time, I played tour guide and we did a less structured walk, reading about specific places (parks/squares/history) in the guide book . I ended up bringing the same little Lonely Planet Madrid Encounter guide I used last time I was here, that I bought in a used bookstore here in Madrid! I enjoy have a tiny tangible book with a few maps. It’s especially nice when I’m traveling sans-Internet and when my phone battery is low. These days, I don’t use guidebooks for restaurant/bar recommendations anyway, but places like the Prado and barrios aren’t going anywhere, so a book from 2007 still felt acceptably current.

Madrid-San Miguel market and wandering

It was the first day of spring and perfect to be wandering the streets of Madrid in a cardigan. Some trees were already blooming, while others with little buds just ready to pop. We stumbled across Mercado de San Miguel, and popped in for a wander and ended up getting some tapas, a dessert, cervezas and then a mandarin orange for the road. We went through Plaza Isabella II and then headed toward Plaza de Oriente by the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) where the sun was beginning to set, and up to the hill by the Templo de Debod.

It got cool pretty quickly after the sun set, so we walked through Plaza de Espana, grabbed a bocadillo (cheap and tasty sandwich, my favorite are with spanish tortilla inside) and back to our hotel in Plaza de San Martin. Later we went out for asian fusion tapas at StreetXO. It’s on the roof of the El Corte Ingles, as part of their “Gourmet Experience” area. We didn’t have the highest expectations, since it seemed kind of “food court”-ish, but it ended up being one of my favorite meals in Madrid.

Chocolate con churros in Madrid

Day 2: We started the day out right with cafe con leches y chocolate con churros at Chocolatería San Ginés near our hotel. If you have a sweet tooth, this is can’t miss. We followed up breakfast with a tiny bit of window shopping at a few bookstores and Lots of Colors, which appears to be Decathlon’s colorful small shop concept. Super fun.

Then it was time to check out of our hotel and head over to our Airbnb. I’d been looking forward to this place, based on the pictures, and it didn’t disappoint! So much has changed in the last few years, in the travel space, when it comes to lodging. I’m still amazed sometimes when I think about how cool it is that you can stay in a flat like this in center of Madrid. Something you couldn’t have done 5 years ago unless you were renting for much longer, or had a friend with the space! After checking in, I really could have just stayed in the flat the rest of the day. ;) But come on, we were in Madrid, so that would be silly.

After a little downtime we headed out towards the museum area (Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen are all out near Park Retiro). We stopped in at a coffee shop for a lunch/snack. The place was super cute, but we had one of those funny experiences of “this is totally not what I thought I was ordering” when the patatas bravas were a potato chip version. Random!

El Retiro park in Madrid

It was so fun to revisit the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. I like museums. I like art (yes, I did just say that), but I’m not the kind of person who wants to spend six hours in a museum. So I had a good second wander through the museum. If anything, Picasso’s Guernica will make you want to learn more Spanish history and about their civil war. After we’d had our fill of aaaaht, we grabbed a coffee at the museum cafe before heading towards the Parque del Buen Retiro and stumbled across the Cuesta de Moyano bookstalls (on the south side of the botanical garden) something I missed on my first trip to Madrid. We did a lot of wandering and people watching before staking out a spot in front of the pond area for a bocadillo. After a bit more wandering, we hit up the supermercado by our place for some cheese, bread, wine, and fruit. Dinner!

Madrid IPA day

Day 3: We started off day 3 in Hipsterville – Malasaña - at La Bicicleta Café for breakfast. Then we spent some time shopping and wandering in Malasaña and Chueca. In the afternoon we checked out a brewery Fábrica Maravillas (IPA in Madrid?!) did a lot more wandering around, before having tapas for dinner near our flat. After a few days in Spain, I was beginning to adjust to Spanish time. Our third day in Madrid was one of those days where you think “where did the time go?”. We didn’t really hit any big sights or museums, just a fun day filled with wandering and snacking and drinking!

Our Airbnb was just between Sol and Huertas, so we mainly wandered through Huertas during the day (and Barrio de las Letras). On my next visit, I’d like to explore that neighborhood’s nightlife a bit more. Also on my “list” for next time is wandering around the upscale Salamanca barrio.

Although this was my second [short] trip to Madrid, it still felt like a new city, in a way, since I was experiencing it with someone else.

Have you been to Madrid? What are some of your favorites? Let me know and I’ll add them to my Foursquare list.

Olivia Raymer
Things I ♥: travel, food (I'm a pescatarian), the Pacific Northwest, bikes (I ride an orange mixte), beer (IPAs), summer, coffee, lists, and kitties. Travel enthusiast, former product manager, dabbler, and currently helping small businesses with digital strategy at Early Bird Strategy.

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