As the Coffeeneuring Challenge moves towards its conclusion on November 20th, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I might not get in seven rides before it’s done. I started pretty late, my first ride happening two weeks after it started. And then a good week-plus of COVID and recovery meant that even more time slipped away. It’s still entirely possible I can pull it off, but I’m also not going to pressure myself into it. It’s fine if I get an “Honorable Mention”. This is the tenth year I’ve participated. I’ve biffed at least one year before that. Barring the sun going supernova, there should be another Coffeeneuring Challenge next year.
Anyways, Thursday November 3rd rolled around. It was ten days after my initial COVID symptoms showed, so I figured I would be okay to get on the bike again. The weather has been wet the last few weeks–after a dry and hot beginning of October, the last third of the month made up for that, getting all the rain that should have been spread across the month into one intense period. And the rain shows no signs of leaving anytime soon, but Tuesday and Wednesday were relatively dry and Thursday promised another break before an atmospheric river shows up Friday. My energy levels were still not 100% again, so I wasn’t interested in making coffee outside. And since I was still recovering from the coronavirus, I would strictly get a coffee to go and drink elsewhere. So where should I go?
I’d go somewhere old, yet new at the same time.
One of the things that amazed me when I moved to Portland in 2001 was the amount of old school independent pharmacies scattered around town. This tidbit of info was something that no one moving to town would know about, it wasn’t touted by Travel Portland or anything. If anything, the only connection I had with “Portland” and “pharmacy” before I moved here was Gus Van Sant’s 1989 movie Drugstore Cowboy, starring Matt Dillion, William S. Burroughs (!), and a very young Heather Graham. The movie was shot in Portland, and a few of the robbed pharmacies were still extant when I moved here, like Nob Hill Pharmacy at NW Glisan St and 21st, where this classic scene took place:
Nob Hill closed down in 2005. Another pharmacy featured in the movie, the one at SE 60th and Belmont (forget the name), closed soon after I moved to town. There were others: Phoenix Drug on SE Foster and 67th,1 Dickson Drug at SE Stark and 80th in Montavilla. All of these closed before the aughts ended. Many of these drug stores had classic drug store services not seen at CVS, like soda fountains, post offices, and in the case of Phoenix, electric razor repair!
By the turn of the teens, only two old school pharmacies with soda fountains remained, both on NE Sandy: Paulsens at NE Sandy and 43rd, and Fairley’s at NE Sandy and 72/NE Fremont. Alas, Paulsen’s closed last year. The drug store had been around since a year before the United States entered World War I. Bad management killed it off. I mean, a pharmacy should be pretty resilient in the time of pandemic. This leaves one vintage pharmacy with soda fountain: Fairley’s.
The soda fountain still exists (you can get phosphates) but it’s been modernized, now housing Rosebridge Coffee. I’ve had coffee from the soda fountain in the past, but not from this particular coffee purveyor. I figure it would be a good destination!
The day was pretty grey and dark. Despite the forecast saying it’d be dry (and it had been dry for much of the two previous days), it was a bit damp and drizzly when I left the house in the afternoon. Hopping on my Superbe, I wondered how I would fare. I hadn’t been on a bike since Monday October 24th and just had the plague of our modern era. Would I be breathless, wheezing at the side of the road? Thankfully, no. I managed to climb up Alameda Ridge without difficulty, though I did make sure I took the easiest way possible.
I got a mocha. The barista noted me shooting with my Olympus Pen EES-2 and we talked about film photography for a bit. (She had taken some darkroom classes herself.) The rest of Fairley’s not-big interior is pretty sparse, reminiscent of the time when mom-and-pop drugstores just had the basics, not like the almost Target level of stuff you can get at Walgreens. I always loved the 60’s era “Prescriptions” sign here, so I made sure to get a pic of that.
I rode over to the Rose City Bluff along SE Sacramento and above the golf course. Neighbors have put out a few chairs, so I took a pause to drink my mocha. Fall foliage was really starting to show itself, but had maybe another week or so that all the native trees would be popping. I finished the mocha and rolled back down the hill to home. It was 6.1 miles/9.8 km total, a nice ride after my sickness-induced drought.
I hope Fairley’s survives. It’d be a shame if a pharmacy that’s been around almost 110 years shutters. I hope to get back up there again. But next time, I’ll get a cherry phosphate!
1 Phoenix Drug was owned by the Leach family, the same people responsible for Leach Botanical Garden. The original grand brick building seen here was used as the pharmacy until 1970, then served other businesses until 1999. The building finally reopened this year, housing Foster Outdoor (a good place for new and used outdoor gear.) Phoenix Drug moved across the street to where the dialysis clinic is now, next to Dollar Tree. I remember stopping in Phoenix a few times, but it was gone by the time I had my studio in the back of now-gone Guapo Comics in 2007.
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