Barley Mowat 

Getting There Is Only Half The Journey

with one comment

…Getting Back Is The Other Half

Sadly, I won’t be attending Central City’s Summery Cask Fest this weekend. And nope, despite rumours to the contrary, the primary reason isn’t that said caskfest is in Surrey and that I’m a collosal downtown snob. (Hey, just because I refer to Kits as “the ‘burbs” doesn’t mean I’m a snob)

The reason is actually much simpler: I won’t be here. In fact, the day before I will be leaving Vancouver and traveling east… then south… then through Surrey (I know, I know)… then, uh, through, um, whatever’s next (I don’t get out that far very often), then over the border.

The smart amoungst you have already pegged my mode of circuitous transport (a train), and therefore very likely pegged my destination as well: Portland. Yup, I’m forgoing a great beer festival at the edge of my mental map of the world for a trip to the great beer city that’s only very slightly beyond it on said map (yeah, my geographical knowledge kinda breaks down south of 16th… so Surrey is, like what, 1/2 way to Portland?)

Portland is the Grande Towne of Beer, and I cannot stress enough that everyone even remotely curious about our favourite beverage should make the pilgramage as often as possible. Step one of that trip, though, is simply getting there. So, without further adieu, here is my guide to Getting To Portland:

Option 1: Bolt Bus

So you desperately want to go to Portland, but even after cleaning out the back of the couch all you can find is $25 in change and a half smoked blunt? Well, don’t worry my friend, that and $25 more will get you not just TO Portland, but also back again! What a world we live in! Although what you’ll do while there and where you’ll stay without money is beyond me.

Bolt Bus thundered (yeah!) on to the scene promising the cheapest method of inter-city transit short of dismembering yourself and dropping the individual parts in the mail (what, too soon?). Fares start at about $20 each way and go up from there, peaking around $50-60 if you really need to go tonight.

In addition to taking out a row of seats to give everyone 2 whole inches of extra leg room, BB has wired up the bus with free internet so you can surf slovakian midget porn the entire way and forget that you’re stuck on a bus with 50 other people who, like you, also shower every other day to save money.

Poor people smell, is what I’m saying.

— At least one $1 fare on every bus, but most seats ~$20 each way
— Up to $60 each way day of
Travel Time:
— 8 hours plus traffic
Biggest Plus:
— Seriously Fucking Cheap
Biggest Drawbacks:
— Wireless signal can fade towards back of bus
— You have to get off at border, get your bags, and walk through
— You have to transfer in Seattle
— You’re on a bus
Pro Tips:
— Don’t take the bus, man.
— Seriously don’t. You’re better than this.

Option 2: Fly

Planes are an intriguing option, with a flight time of about 45 minutes to an hour. Sure, the cost is much higher, but that’s a fair price for the fastest means of getting from A to B minus a sub-orbital ballistic trajectory.

There are some minor issues, in that airports don’t tend to be anywhere near downtown–that plus customs adds a solid 90-120 minutes back into your travel time, plus ensures that you’ll likely have to talk to at least one cabbie. Although it should be noted that even the worst case scenario here beats up the bus/train timetable and takes their lunch money.

The trick is luggage restrictions. You see, I’m going down to Portland to not only have fun, but to also buy massive amounts of beer. Canada sees fit to allow me to come home with 8.5 litres of foreign beer, and I plan on bringing home every drop. 8.5 litres is about 30 lbs of beer including bottles, and that means you’re checking that bugger. Have a nice, relaxing flight back home, knowing your box of highly fragile precious is being handled by the ramp rats at YVR.

They’re also called “Luggage Throwers” FYI.

— $125-250 each way in steerage
— $350-400 each way with civilized people
Travel Time:
— 3h door to door
Biggest Plus:
— Fast, Fast, Fast
Biggest Drawbacks:
— Airports are in the boondocks
— Baggage restrictions and handling
— Pricey
Pro Tips:
— Nexus pass is your friend, but it won’t make the plane fly earlier
— Watch out for seat sales
— Pick an airline and stick with it. Rewards build fast on short flights.
— Horizon has free craft beer on PNW flights

Option 3: Drive

I get it. Your car is nice. Yeah, the stereo is pretty sweet, and sure, these leather seats are comfortable. No, I don’t want you to turn on the seat heater. Yes, I’m pretty sure. No, I’ll leave my seat upright, thank you. Um, I’m pretty sure you can shift gears without also groping my knee.

Driving is a nice option with plenty of upsides, the main one being that you get to take your pride and joy along with you for the trip. Plus, you’re allowed virtually unlimited baggage on your return trip, and you’ll rest well secure in the comfort that you yourself packed it in the trunk securely. Or you could, if you weren’t driving for at least 6 hours that day.

Piloting a car also gives you the option of leaving when you want and pulling over just about anywhere for food. Sure, it seems like having the choices are nice, but it does also have the nasty habit of slowing you down. It’s funny how people can confuse freedom with inefficiency.

— $60-200 gas each way, depending on your car
— $10-25 a day parking
— Unlike other modes, these prices are spread over several people
Travel Time:
— 6-8h depending on border, stops. 5h30m if you’re insane.
Biggest Plus:
— Freeeeedooooooooom!
— Can eat at nice restaurants
Biggest Drawbacks:
— Pretty cramped
— Border line-ups
— Traffic is highly variable
Pro Tips:
— Get a Nexus pass, and make sure all your friends have one too
— Seriously, force non-Nexus people to take another car
— Not sure what else; it is your car, afterall

Option 4: Train

I, however, much prefer the train to all the other options. The trip takes about 8 hours, and both starts and ends right downtown. The bar car carries a small but decent selection of US beer, including Deschutes. They accept Canuck cash but only give US change (at a decent rate), which actually can serve as a nice little currency exchange depending on how many beers you want to drink before noon.

Oh yeah, the train leaves before 7am. They kinda left that detail out of the brochure, didn’t they? Plus, Amtrak’s reliability on the early train (train 513) is just over 50%. This wouldn’t be so bad if the delays were measured in minutes, but I personally was once stuck in Tacoma for four hours.

All told, though, I think the train is a nice balance, and a relaxing way to travel. The seats are huge and cushy, the wireless is nice, and everyone has a big picture window to look out of… that hasn’t been cleaned in years (bring a squeegee).

— $60-120 each way
— $30-40 more for business class
Biggest Plus:
— Scenery, plus trains are cool
— Bar car
— Can get up and move around
Biggest Drawbacks:
— Slooooooooow
— Wireless can be spotty
— Bar car food is sketchy
— Early departure
Pro Tips:
— Book into business; it’s cheap and much much nicer. Plus you get off first for customs on the way back.
— Pack your own food (remember border restrictions)
— Pack your own beer for the trip back

Written by chuck

June 26th, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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  1. […] written about this before, but of the four main options for Vancouver to Portland conveyance, the train wins my vote most […]

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