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August 13th, 2008 WHITNEY HAWKE | News Stories
 

Cheap Thrills

YOU DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE TOWN TO EXPERIENCE THE RIDE OF YOUR LIFE.

     
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Face it: This gas crisis is a total buzzkill. You’d have to pony up some serious dough to tote the family down to Disneyland in icky Orange County, Calif. Even the Enchanted Forest outside of Salem is spendy ($31.75 for admission and a ride bracelet? Say what?). But luckily there are a host of great rides within Stumptown’s city limits that cost next to nothing and will only make your gas needle tick down a smidge.

POLICE RIDE-ALONG

Price: Free!

Riders: 1-2 each week at East Precinct

Physical challenge: You get in and out of the car a lot, and sometimes drunk people yell at you.A police ride-along is rad to the core. Odd incidents come at you rapid-fire—like a guy killing his roommate’s pet python because he thinks his roommate is an alien, or an old lady beating the crap out of a plate-glass window with a crowbar. You’ll become a bit more culturally callused after a 10-hour shift trolling the East Precinct (headquarters: 737 SE 106th Ave., 823-4800) with officer Sterling Farrar, 30, who is tall, built, ambidextrous and the kindest badass on the block. One of the first calls that came in during our ride-along was a report of a 15-person melee in a parking lot. Were there actually 15 people throwing haymakers? No. But, by God, we responded like there were. This meant blaring through East Portland going 90 mph, heading into oncoming traffic and swerving around idiots who apparently don’t know how to pull over. We hit 90 mph again en route to an incident first reported as a shooting, but that turned out to be just a big hubbub. After arriving on scene, a handcuffed, belligerent, shirtless fellow named Marcus started shouting gibberish while pressed against a nearby squad car. The following exchange ensued. Belligerent man: “She’s the one who started all this shit!” Cop: “Who?” Belligerent man: “That bitch in your car!” (Yes, he was referring to your innocent journalist.) The ride was free, and awesome to the nth degree.

WASHINGTON PARK MAX ELEVATOR

Price: Free!

Riders: Averages 1,079 on weekdays, 2,674 Saturdays, 1,966 Sundays

Physical challenge: There’s some G-force, and your ears might pop.

The elevator at the Washington Park MAX station (Southwest Knight Boulevard at the Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon Road) is a nonstop shot toward the center of the earth! At 260 feet underground, Washington Park’s is the deepest public transit station in North America, and second-deepest in the world (we’ve been beaten by the Russians in this non-Olympic event). Manufactured by Finnish company KONE, the elevator takes 21 seconds to reach the bottom—that’s 12.4 feet per second. A bright-red digital counter tracks the rapid descent from 710 feet above sea level at the top, through layers of Portland silt, ancient landslide and decomposed basalt, to 450 feet above sea level at the bottom. Inside the elevator doors is a meticulously etched diagram depicting the long elevator shaft, MAX station tube and surrounding geological layers—it’s an incredibly phallic-looking picture. The ride is about half the length of the elevator in Portland’s tallest building, the Wells Fargo Center (546 feet) downtown. But this elevator doesn’t mess around with stopping on floors—it’s point A to point B, bitches! And it’s an incredible ride.

OHSU TRAM

Price: $4

Riders: Approx. 4,000 per day.

Physical challenge: Infants and sick people ride it. You fill in the blanks.

Riding the tram (3303 SW Bond Ave.) is like gliding through the air in a giant metal Tic Tac. Put side by side with costs of other rides, the $4 ticket (which can be purchased only with quarters or a credit card) is steep, but the view from the top is worth every penny. The tram’s top speed of 22 mph pales in comparison with the 90 mph police car, but the fact that you fly 3,300 feet in three minutes earns the tram some serious snaps. Since its inception, the now-infamous twin gondolas have received a lot of flak for their high cost and questionable usefulness, but you know what? Seeing Portland from a dangling pod in the sky is something we couldn’t do before. Now we can, and it’s pretty damn cool.

GEEZER CASINO BUS RIDE

Price: Free with reservation and enrollment in the Chinook Winds players club (also free)

Riders: 20,000 annually

Physical challenge: Functioning on the elderly’s schedule—which means getting up early enough to be in the parking lot of a Vancouver Kmart by 7:45 am.

Unbeknownst to most of Portland’s under-65 crowd, Chinook Winds offers gratis Casino Fun Bus rides all the way to coastal Lincoln City (Spirit Mountain’s shuttle, in contrast, costs $5, but you don’t need a reservation). The buses run routes six days a week and pick up oldsters in pretty much every suburb, as well as coastal towns like Waldport, Newport and Astoria, and also at downtown’s Portland Amtrak station. This is a day trip in the truest sense (you must catch the Fun Bus back to PDX on the same day), but, hey, a trip to the beach is a trip to the beach. Plus, if you get hammered at the casino you’ve got a built-in DD. And, as a member of the “Winners Circle,” gambling earns you points toward lunch-buffet coupons, gift-shop discounts and, if you become a real point hog, premier tee times on the golf course, hotel deals, VIP tix for epic concerts featuring stars like soft rocker Bruce Hornsby (Aug. 22-23), and even guaranteed Fun Bus seating—by the time you hit the Newberg Rite Aid, the thing’ll be near full, no joke. So, in essence, the Fun Bus is better than free: It pays you back! To reserve a seat, visit chinookwindscasino.com or call 1-877-4-WE-R-FUN.

OMSI MOTION SIMULATOR

Price: $4.75

Riders: 150-170 per day

Physical challenge: It’s pretty smooth, but very tippy.

What is hell without the heat? OMSI’s motion simulator! But not in a bad way—in a visual way. The vessel, appropriately named Virtual Adventurer, takes you on a five-minute simulated trip down a volcanic mine shaft and safely escorts you over gooey, bubbling, digital lava. After you buckle your seat belt, the simulator lifts up, turns dark and begins its series of dips, drops and turns. You won’t have to hold on for dear life, but it’s a good idea to hold the seat in front of you if you don’t want to sway all over the pod like an idiot. Overall, the simulator is a satisfactory proxy for Star Tours (Disneyland’s Star Wars-themed motion simulator). But the ride does have one fatal flaw—its decibel level. All rides (and activities in general) are exponentially more fun with 1980s hair metal raging in the background. OMSI’s motion simulator is suffering from a crippling Guns N’ Roses deficiency. It’s a problem. The faint “shwoop” noises were bush league in comparison to Oaks Park’s Top 40s hits from the past two decades. The 15-passenger gyrating pod is located in the lobby of the OMNIMAX Theater (1945 SE Water Ave., 797-4640) and is open to anyone over 40 inches tall (shoo-shoo, shorty).

 
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