I got back to Portland late in the evening on May 1 after visiting the Olympic peninsula that weekend and pulled into my home, Cabin 2 at Champoeg State park, around 10:30 p.m. My shipment from Qatar, including my furniture, clothes and everything else I had shipped to Qatar in 2013, was supposed to arrive three days later, on May 4 – at least, that’s what the shipper had told me a few weeks earlier. All my stuff was tightly packed in a 20-foot container, which was crossing the Atlantic on a container ship and it included several things I wanted to take with me on my road trip, most importantly a good foam pad that I was going to put in the back of my truck to use as a mattress. Since my shipment would be in Portland on May 4, I planned to leave on my road-trip on May 5.

 
 
Above:  This was my home during the spring:  Champoeg State Park, located about 20 miles south of Portland.  It was close to my house, my storage unit, two Home Depots and three Fred Meyer stores.

So on May 2, the day after I got back to Portland from the Olympics, I contacted the shipper to confirm that, indeed, my shipment was arriving in Portland on the 4th. Well gee, no -- sorry, said the shipper. He assumed that the container ship was going to dock in Portland and offload there. But guess what?  Portland’s one-and-only container shipping terminal had shut down about a year earlier due to a labor dispute between the longshoremen and the terminal owner.

While I was in Qatar, I read the Portland newspaper’s website, OregonLive.com, at least once a day so I knew a lot about what was going on in Portland, and last year I’d read about the shutdown of the port’s only container terminal. Apparently the longshoreman who worked there decided they couldn’t live on a salary of $120,000 a year so they went on strike. But who can blame them?  Jeez, I don’t know how anyone who could possibly live on only $120,000 a year. OK, that’s tongue-in-cheek. But when I’d read about the shutdown a year earlier, I got a bit miffed about the whole situation -- but I figured it would never impact me.

Well, it did. Since the container terminal was shut down, all container ships bound for Portland were being diverted to Seattle, about 200 miles north of Portland and from there, 20-foot containers like mine were being hauled down Interstate 5 to Portland by truck. So what all this meant was that my shipping company couldn’t tell me when my stuff would be arriving in Portland. Maybe in a week. Maybe in two weeks. Or a month. Hard to say. So yes, that was a bit frustrating, knowing that my container was going to be sitting on a dock in Seattle with no ETA for Portland.

Related to the shipping issue was exactly where I was going to store all this stuff coming over from Qatar. When I moved to Qatar in 2013, I rented out my house in Portland, sent half of my stuff to Qatar via sea freighter and stored the other half, things that I wouldn’t need overseas, in a 10 x 15’ storage unit I’d rented in Portland. So now I had to figure out where to put all the stuff coming back from Qatar. I decided to get a much larger storage unit, figuring that I could fit everything in a 10 x 30’ unit while I took my road trip around America. The only problem with this brilliant idea was that my storage facility in Portland didn’t have anything close to a 10 x 30’ unit available. After a little online research, though, I found a large unit at a different facility, this one in Hillsboro, about 20 miles north.

So one morning I rented a U-haul and a couple helpers from eMove.com (a small company called Beaver Moving – great guys). The two Beaver Movers loaded everything from my 10 x 15’ storage unit into the Uhaul, I drove it up to Hillsboro, then they unloaded it into my much larger unit. Altogether it took about 3 hours for this transfer, but I now had a place to put my stuff that would be arriving from Qatar – sometime.

Another issue I dealt with -- about a week later and still waiting for that shipment from Qatar -- was the foam pad. As I’ve mentioned before, I planned to put a foam pad in the back of my truck to use as a mattress and, fortunately, I had one available. Unfortunately though, I’d shipped it over to Qatar in 2013 and it was now coming back to America in my 20-foot container, and given the uncertainty over the shipping situation, I had absolutely no idea when I’d ever see it again. Maybe next week. Maybe a month from now. Who knew?

I couldn’t wait for the shipment to arrive, though, so I decided to buy another foam pad to take with me on my road trip. I went to a couple foam stores (yes, there are such things) on the east side of Portland and ordered a 4” quality foam pad from a place called In-Ex Upholstery. Now silly me, I thought I’d just go into the store and walk out with a foam pad. Nope. As Mario there politely-but-firmly explained to me, they had a backlog of 74 orders so it would take them at least four days to get to my order. “So it’ll be ready by Friday?” I asked with a gulp. “Probably on Friday, maybe Saturday.”  The foam pad cost about $300 but I had no choice, since I didn’t have a clue when I’d ever see my Qatar shipment again, or the foam pad that was in it. So I handed Mario my Visa card and he filled out the paperwork and put it in the queue.

It was now Monday, May 9 and I spent the rest of the week dealing with my storage unit move, saying goodbye to a few folks, and getting ready for a Friday departure. Well -- “Probably,” to quote Mario. I also coordinated with my neighbor Dave regarding my Qatar shipment. If I was going to leave on Friday and if my shipment hadn’t arrived in Portland yet, I would need someone in Portland I could trust to handle its arrival, telling the movers where to store everything. Fortunately I know someone trustworthy enough to do that, my neighbor Dave. So I gave Dave a key to my storage unit in Hillsboro and asked him to handle it – when and if my Qatar shipment ever arrived.

The other thing I did that last week, along with running around and handling a million small errands, was working at the Tualatin library, resuming my very-sporadic effort to learn Joomla web software. I wasn’t making much progress on it though, so I figured that I’d learn web design after I left on my trip, which is sort of like learning to cook in the middle of preparing a seven-course meal.

But all systems were go for a Friday departure. Or as Mario would say, “probably,” 

The Last Days in Portland