Don’t Blink Part 2: Exploring Portland, Oregon

The juice is sweet, and the possibilities are endless in the City of Roses…

Once upon a time, settlers from the East Coast braved the daunting and dangerous journey across America and found their way to Portland, Oregon.  185 years later, my father, John Mills MD (Yale School of Medicine 1971/ Retired US Army Special Forces/Writer/Yoga Instructor, etc), and baby sister Madison (17 years young and not quite a baby anymore), would brave the same journey…with a few less hurdles and rivers to cross of course.

It was June 2nd, 2016 when my boyfriend Noah, a 4th grade teacher, and myself, a collegiate coach, hit the road from our new homeland of San Diego County to the new age City of Portland, Oregon. In case you were not aware, Portland, OR was named and inspired after the iconic East Coast harbor town of Portland, Maine.  If you are familiar with Maine and the original Portland, I bet you already have a smile on your face…you likely recall memories of fresh lobster for the best price, nostalgic fall foliage, local maple syrup, sunrise hikes and some of the friendliest strangers you may ever meet.

For this reason, many of us New Englanders (like my family), find the similar terrain of the Pacific Northwest to satisfy our sweet tooth cravings for peace and nature.  Tales of a magnificent trail ridden coastline, outdoor sports galore, and ripe juicy blueberry bushes amidst flowering hillsides have warmed our ears from new neighbors for decades.  And vice versa of course.  The difference being, many of us New England natives are enticed by the “no long winter” situation while the already outdoor enthused native Oregonians are lured and attracted to the challenge of a snow capped wonderland and negative degree winter temps.

My father and little sister Maddy planted their feet in the suburban Portland town of Lake Oswego, just approaching her junior year of high school this past fall.  Renowned for its excellent public school system, Lake Oswego was the perfect fit for them and where they were both at in life and I could not wait to see them and this new home!  I have heard many a story about the wonders of Oregon…it always seemed like a place I could adjust to with ease.  Previously, I had only been to the area one time for a commando mission coaching adventure while serving as a graduate assistant for University of Redlands Cross Country and Track.  We were in and out and on our way after the Bulldog cross country teams raced their final race of the season at the NCAA DIII West Regional Championship.

Needless to say, there was still a great deal of juice to explore and drink up in Portland, Oregon.  We agreed kicking off our summer travels visiting my family’s new stomping grounds was the best plan of action.

Noah and I packed our bags for the month long journey ahead, a journey that would lead us all around the country.  From the busy Southern California streets, sun and surf, to the unfamiliar outdoor paradise of the Pacific Northwest, onward to my grass roots of scenic New England with the final destination of Virginia Beach and Florida, we hit the road ready for the possibilities ahead.  Which as I write this journal, makes me truly appreciate and realize the innate human instinct and drive we share to travel and explore…just like the original settlers of the West Coast back in the 1830’s, and the many generations before them.

People need to move, need to see, need to learn, need to share, and need to find love, in the many wonders of the world.  And whether you like to travel or not, we do.  Always.  We travel to work, we travel to our hobbies, we travel for food.

We are pioneers at heart.  Destined to explore and destined to create our own bliss.  We are all on different journeys through the story of our lives and if you want my two cents, I truly believe humans need to step out of their comfort zones to grow.  We need to travel with open minds, free from rigid schedules, routines and expectations.  When you take time to adventure, you may just discover a whole new world of possibility…

And what better destination to land than the infamous Portlandia, accompanied by some of your favorite people in the world…

 ~ Stumptown Coffee Roasters ~

Day 1 begun as any typical day in Portland would begin, in the pursuit of beans…coffee beans of course.

dad and maddy

After a great deal of research and hours spent browsing YouTube for Portland’s most reputable buzz, we found ourselves strolling into the original Stumptown Coffee Roasters shop located on SE 45th and Division Street, which opened in 1999.  Stumptown coffee is one of the pioneer’s in this business, a company that quickly understands how magic can happen when a quality product is distributed to the people with passion and purpose.  They specialize in cutting edge brewing methods like chemex, nitro infused cold brew, and the classic pour over technique for a memorable bean experience.


Have some now or bring some home for later!


Their menu is simple.  Their service is pure.  The experience is raw…

me and maddy stumptown

Enjoy cold brew on tap and you are sure to get jazzed!


Full of energy, we ventured down shaded trails while inhaling the fresh pine infused air.  It was greatly appreciated after a year of the dry Southern California climate Noah and I had adjusted to.

~ The International Rose Test Garden ~

rose garden entrance

When you take the path less traveled, you will find the opportunities awaiting you to be deliciously serendipitous!

Rose Garden Ampitheatre

Retired from a career in the Army, US Special Forces, my father naturally had a well crafted itinerary planned with plenty of room built in  for spontaneous excursions…

rose 3

A must-do, must-see on your Portland, Oregon visit is the International Rose Test Garden.  The oldest official rose test garden in the country planted during World War 1.

Dad taking pics

They say the best things in life are free and the rose garden proves this theory true.  Have your camera ready, you are guaranteed to be captivated by its splendor and beauty.

NP arbor

Endless rows of bright blooming roses just may sweep you off of your feet and into a dream!


We as humans do not just live in nature, we are nature.


And what should then be natural and beneficial to us all is to respect and admire the infinite layers of life around us everyday and in all of its shapes, forms and colors.  The way I see it, lessons are everywhere.  The ground beneath our feet is our forever school and the strangers that we grow next to, our forever classmates and teachers.

~Downtown Portland ~

trying to be hipsters

Above: Maddy and I trying to be “hipsters”.

One thing I learned very quickly in Portland is that fitting in, pretty much means clashing as many different articles of clothing and accessories together into one eccentric outfit that makes a statement of who you are in your unique way.  Today, we classify these individuals as “hipsters”.  Naturally I consulted the bible of stereotypes for some more insight…

 Urban Dictionary categorizes this subculture of people to be: “men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses. Hipsters shun mainstream societal conventions that apply to dating preferences and traditional “rules” of physical attraction. It is part of the hipster central dogma not to be influenced by mainstream advertising and media, which tends to only promote ethnocentric ideals of beauty”.

Public fountain

After all that jazz and food for thought we trekked deeper into the city, which by the way, is the cleanest city I have experienced!


A pleasant surprise was the downtown fountain…a public fountain that attracts many locals and passerby’s to sit and enjoy its many levels of waterfalls and pools.  If I was an animal this place would seem like a safari watering hole.  People of all ages, types and sizes splashed around or rested nearby.

The river

Again, the best things in life are free 🙂

~ West Linn Cafe ~


An avid coffee fan himself, my Dad took us to one of his favorite local cafes by his office, “Cafe West Linn”.


Simple, quaint, and with a home touch feel, you will quickly slip away into bliss.


Unwind and find inspiration through local art…


And enjoy your late made with love 🙂

~ Chuck’s Place ~


So this is Chuck…well Chuck in his hay day…


And this is his place, Chuck’s Place Cafe, tucked down a blossoming side street and located at 2nd and B, Downtown Lake Oswego.  And this is how Chuck rolls…


Case and point, Chuck has the right idea.  I highly recommend you experience his unassuming retro cafe.

~Undaunted Journeys ~

shakespeare garden

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind”. -William Shakespeare

dad and poem

To top off our travels in the land of art, adventure, and community, my father read some of his poetry for the first time to a crowd (apparently father/ doctor/ army men have a lot on their plates). It is titled, “To Be Undaunted” and is inspired by the hiking group and soul friends who welcomed him with whole hearts upon his move to the weirder side of things.

If you watch my YouTube Vlog above you can join our footsteps, meet some of my family and hear for yourself Dr. Mills’ debut in the pursuit of wisdom through poetry and expression.

~ Until the Next Time~


So where ever you are traveling, whether by car, plane, or covered wagon, and for what ever rhyme or reason… always remember we do have the right to happiness.  Value your independence, pursue your passions, and know that you are in control of your destiny.

Mt hood

OH! And one more thing…NEVER forget to take time to stop,

smelling roses

and smell the roses.

Peace, love, Portland,


P.S. Next up: Don’t Blink Part 3: Exploring Boston

Thanks for joining me!

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