More on Portland
ScotsSkier, Dave86 and sno'more have very accurate comments about the Portland area. I’ll add some more.
I lived there (first in Vancouver, WA), for a few years in 96-98.
Vancouver WA is definitely a suburban community, everything you’d need if you were raising a family and wanted all the traditional soccer-mom amenities (grocery stores, Wal-Mart’s, Home Depots, Costcos, etc.). There are jobs on that side of the river, too. Clark County was at one time the fastest growing county in the US.
But if you’re younger, or single, and not into the suburban cookie-cutter housing developments/apartment-townhouse complexes, then Portland is the place to live. It’s the difference between urban and suburban. In the city of Portland itself, everyone rides bicycles for example, and there are bicycle lanes on all the streets. Not so in Vancouver. In fact, I remember one bicycle shop in Vancouver, but six or seven in Portland (same for ski shops/outdoor gear stores).
If you want to hang out in cool bars, listed to live music, or go for an afterwork happy hour somewhere, everybody in Portland does that, but in Vancouver everyone would drive to the bar, and then have to leave after an hour to get back to the wife/hubby/kids. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just how the demographics work out.
Portland is also very liberal-ish. It’s kind of hard to describe exactly, liberal in the traditional sense, very user-friendly, very livable, very walkable. But there’s an added component that makes it hard to really classify. If you read the local papers, the daily oregonlive.com, and the A&E weekly, wweek.com, you’ll get an idea. They take a different approach to their local community issues, public schools, city government, community and neighborhood issues, the famous growth boundary, etc.
I always thought of two distinct seasons there, a nine-month rainy season -- which doesn’t stop anyone from doing outdoor activities, people still hike, bike, run, paddle, surf, ski (above the snow line and on the water) -- and a three-month sunny, dry summer season (with really gorgeous, clear, dry days). Do not give short shift to your ability to adapt to the dark, grey days in the winter and spring months, they last for days on end, it’s a psychological thing, and lots of people have trouble with it.
What really struck me when I first moved there was, all the cars with all their recreational gear in tow. You could go on I5 (the main N-S interstate highway for WA, OR and northern Calif.) and almost every other car or truck had a camper shell, a trailer, was pulling a boat, or had a roof rack with kayaks, canoes, bicycles, surf gear, skis and snowboards lashed to the roof racks.
There’s an island in the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, -- Jantzen Beach I think it’s called -- that has an exit for I5, (it’s on the OR side, so no sales tax). In the summer months it’s a popular stopping off and meeting up point, for traveling north or south into the Cascades, east into the Gorge, or west to the coast. It had a Safeway store, an REI store (since moved), some gas stations and convenience stores (pic
). And it was so cool just to walk through the parking lots of any of those stores, seeing everyone stocking up with food, ice and supplies, and listening to them talking to their friends about where they were going and what they were heading out to do (climbing Mt. St. Helens, wind surfing or hiking in the Gorge, sea kayaking along the coast, mountain biking in the Pinchot). I always thought that scene, especially on a weekend in the summer, condensed the culture and mindset of Portland and the PNW into what it really was all about, outdoor recreation and the environment.
Two more things before I forget, a big OR-WA difference is that WA has no income tax, but a sales tax, and OR has no sales tax, but a high income tax. The others correctly said the downhill skiing is average at the close by Portland places. That is true, but the XC skiing is pretty good there. Get above the snow line and loads of great trails on national forest lands.