I have wanted to ride the Deschutes Rail-Trail for a number of years. But it’s always been just far enough away: 100 miles east of Portland, on the Deschutes where it meets the Columbia River. To do it as a bike ride would mean a four or five day tour. I thought about incorporating it into my Portland-Gorge-Spokane Tour last year, but the tight timing and distance needed to be covered didn’t allow for a side-trip.
I’m not necessarily a fan of drive-to-bike trips, but figured in this instance it would be the best way to do the trail. Through the power of teh internets, Brad and I organized a rag-tag crew of seven to head out on Friday night, April 18 via two vehicles: a rented van and Kim’s car. We booked two “primitive” campsites at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area, a park at the mouth of the river and start of the rail-trail. We drove out Friday afternoon and arrived two hours later at the park with no incident. We set up camp, built a fire, socialized. The weather was fine for the evening: clear with a low around 40F/4C. My new down bag kept me mostly toasty.
Saturday morning was good, cool not cold, passing clouds. We made our breakfasts, took down camp, stored our gear in the vehicles, and hit the trail around 10 am. There were some other folks on the trail during the first mile, but for the next ten we hardly saw a soul. The only noise came from the river, wind, a very occasional passing BNSF freight on the still-active rail line on the opposite side of the canyon, and our wheels on gravel. Peaceful.
Being a rail trail, the elevation change is very gradual, with the exception of a couple sections where the original trestles were gone so a new path had to dip into a little valley. The trail surface was pretty packed but still rough in spots. Nothing that was too horrible for the 26″ x 2.0″ slick tires on my Crested Butte, but there was lots of washboarding and sections with some pretty big rocks. The folks on skinnier tires than myself seemed to do fine. Our big worry was the goat head thorns. We heard that it was best to stop at the abandoned ranch 11 miles in because the worst was beyond that. Only one of us got a thorn, which was remarkable as we heard horror stories about other folks’ experiences with the dreaded goat heads.*
That’s all well and good, you say, but what about the experience? Well, it was great! I love coming out to the “dry” side of Oregon, as it is so different than the Portland area. Even being out here for 13 years, it’s still a bit weird that “the true West” is just a two hour drive east of Portland, a landscape of sagebrush and grasslands, more cattle than people. It feels like being in a Western movie. The Deschutes canyon is beautiful in its soft spring colors and rocky arid desolation. It makes me excited for the Eastern Oregon tour I want to do later this summer, where I’ll have many days of riding through this type of country.
We rode to the abandoned ranch, 11 miles in and took a lunchbreak. The weather turned from sunny to cloudy to windy and then we had a brief rainshower. The downside to touring in Eastern Oregon: the weather can change suddenly and dramatically. I was reminded of my experience on the Trans-Oregon Tour in 2010, where I narrowly avoided a cloudburst in the tiny town of Elgin. I watched the street in front of the store I took shelter in literally flood in front of my eyes! This wasn’t as bad, thankfully, but the headwind and rain made it a bit more of a slog for the return trip. We ended up stopping a lot less, but after the rain passed the weather wasn’t so bad.
Soon enough, we were back to the cars. Besides stopping in The Dalles for beer and food at Clock Tower Ales** the ride home was scenic but uneventful. Everyone had fun, and we’re thinking about doing it again at some point. The thing we’d do differently next time is bike up the trail and camp at one of the dispersed campsites along the river. We’d have to bring our own water*** (there are pit toilets at the sites) but all we’d have to do is pay the $5 per vehicle parking fee.
*Apparently things were much worse just a few weeks ago. I guess it’s a benefit to wait until mid-April and let the other
suckers riders before us take the brunt!
**No Spookys this time. Hopefully next.
***Theoretically one could filter water from the year-round Deschutes River, but there is so much agriculture around the river, whether fertilized farm or ranchland, I’d be hesitant to do so.
Yes, it’s been a quiet week n’ a half on Ye Olde Blog. But my life has been anything but quiet. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a good chance to blog. So here’s a quick run-down on things that have happened since the last time I spoke with youse.
- I never did end up going on that camping trip last Tuesday night. Which was sort of a good thing: it gave me time to give attention to some ignored deadline stuff, and that Tuesday night it absolutely poured. It would have been a soggy night at camp.
- I still did manage to get in a good ride last week, a 50 mile loop that took in the Springwater Corridor and Powell Butte. I should be writing about that adventure soon.
- Sunday saw our annual Tweed Ride, which I was a semi-organizer. The weather was great: sunny and 70F, no excuse to not show up. (The last few rides have been quite wet.) But of course, 70F (21C to you) is just a wee bit too nice to wear my nice but heavy Harris Tweed jacket, so I just pretended it was a seersucker social instead. We had about 150 people total and we wound our way from Peninsula Park in North Portland to Old Portland Architecture in inner NE.
- On Tuesday I helped pick the designer of this year’s Pedalpalooza poster. It was a pretty painful process, as we had a lot of good applicants. Many a beer was consumed in the process.
- And tonight (that be Friday) a group of us are driving out to the mouth of the Deschutes River (on the Columbia) just east of The Dalles, camping the night, and then riding the Deschutes River Rail Trail tomorrow, a 32 mile out-and-back that will give me beautiful desert canyon views. I’ve been wanting to do this ride for a few years, but never managed to do it until now. Should be fun!
Hope everyone has a good weekend!
I shall be blunt: right now, my life is a big ball of stress.
I’ve got too much on my plate. I work full time, five days a week. Then I have freelance stuff for my free (ha!) time. I’ve got art assignments for a few different people, both running late. I’ve got a book assignment, also running late. (Thankfully I have a little extra time now, thanks to the publisher.) I’ve got rides to plan. I’ve got a house to clean, laundry to wash. And, of course, a blog to write. Of course, while I’ve made my share of lists, and will still make more lists, lists don’t get things done, I get things done. And I’m not always productive, if you know what I mean.
And bikes? Oh yeah, that. Not only do I need to ride my bike(s) more, I need to do more stuff to them. There is the fabled Wayfarer 2.0 project in the works, but that’s a bit less out of my control. What’s more in control is what I can/am doing with my other two bikes. Like the Crested Butte.
I have plans to camp out at Stub Stewart on Tuesday night, meaning tonight. (While I should be doing something else, I also need a mental vacation. See the first line of this blog post.) I was planning on taking the Crested Butte, because I wanted the widest tires in the stable if I was going to tackle the sometimes rough Crown Zellerbach Trail. But I wanted to re-tie the basket to the front rack, as the zipties were becoming slack, causing rattle. I started to cut the first ziptie, but I didn’t realize what I was cutting instead, until it was too late: the dynamo wire connecting the headlamp to dynamo. Shit! Now the lights on this bike don’t work, urrrgggghh.
Not only that, but I’ve come to the realization that while I like the new fatty tires, the CST Metropolitan Palm Bay deals, they are just too fat for this mid-eighties mountain bike. I can’t inflate them over 30 psi otherwise they rub on the dropouts, but even at that pressure I notice that it rubs intermittently, most likely due to the tire not being “perfect”. And I can’t go in the super-low gear because the chain rubs against the tire. I realized that the width (2.35″ or 60 mm) was not optimal, but with all those factors in play, I now have to suck it up and admit it: I need some smaller tires. I’ll probably switch back to something like the Rubena Cityhoppers, at 52 mm they were amply fat and didn’t cause the clearance issues or chain rub. Oh well.
So realizing that getting the Crested Butte ready was now futile, I needed to get the XO-3 ready for the camping ride. There wasn’t much I needed to do, except change the saddle. The old Brooks Champion Flyer, while once comfortable, has moved more into “ass-hatchet” category and is beyond adjustment. So I purchased a new B-17, but hadn’t gotten around to installing it, until of course now. Now some of you may see installing a new Brooks saddle then going on a long two-day bike ride as foolish. But what’s more foolish in this circumstance: ride out on a new saddle that might not be comfortable, or an old saddle that I know is no longer comfortable? I’ll put up with the new saddle, thanks. And due to my weight and ample ass, I should break the new B-17 in in no time!
Of course, all this might be moot point. I originally had a few folks going with me. But now one of them wants to bail due to the forecast: every day for the forseeable future shows sun or clouds, but dry with highs in the 60s. Except Tuesday night, when it’s supposed to rain. The night we’d camp. Come to think of it, I don’t want to camp in the rain either, and could move the camping back to Wednesday, but it would alter the trip somewhat because I have to be at work at 3 pm on Thursday. But he may not be able to do Wednesday, and the other friend for sure can’t do Wednesday. So do I camp in the rain tonight with someone else, or camp in the dry on Wednesday with maybe someone else or probably no one at all?
Welcome to my life.
April 4. The anniversary of the date I moved to Portland, April 4, 2001. Thirteen years, wow. Since I’m turning thirty-nine this year, this means I have lived in Portland one-third of my life, and if you consider yourself an adult at age eighteen, I’ve lived in Portland for the majority of my adult years. April 4 2001 feels both like just yesterday and a long time ago. Reflecting on my “Portland Years” I’ve had several distinct eras. Some people from the early era I’m still in touch with, others dead, others unknown.
It’s been a good ride so far. I’ve learned a lot about myself and this town. This city has given me a lot and I’ve given a lot of myself to it.
How long will I be here? I don’t know. It could very well be another 13 years. Maybe the rest of my life? Or maybe I’ll move? Part of me still loves this city intensely and immensely. That part of me is a staunch defender of Portland, the kind of person who rolls their eyes when someone makes a Portlandia reference or makes some joke about “hipster vegan fixie kids”. Part of me wants to wander somewhere else, explore new places, try new things. That part of me is sick of some of the bullshit that Portland has been spewing as of late.
I did briefly entertain the idea of leaving town right after the breakup. The breakup…it’s been a tough 2013 into 2014. Even though our split happened almost nine months ago, and the rational part of me realizes it’s over between me and April, my heart still hasn’t healed completely. A vast loneliness has engulfed me in those nine months, a loneliness I haven’t yet shaken. I felt loneliness before April and I got together, but that was the “default” setting of my life. It feels worse after being close, intimate with someone for half a decade.
While leaving Portland and starting over somewhere new is definitely romantic, in reality there are drawbacks. I don’t relish moving and moving out-of-town would be a big deal. I’d be lucky to find a town with a few friends and acquaintances, so I’d have to create a new social circle. And look for work, too. I don’t have the vim and vigor for that like I used to. I was 25 when I moved to Portland, entering a new city at almost 40 is a different thing.
And of course, where would I move to? The Northwest is such a great place, with so much natural variety: mountains, rivers, oceans, seas, forests, deserts, volcanoes. Where else would I find that in the United States? We complain about the rain in the winter, but I don’t know if I could deal with snow all winter again, and I really don’t want to move to California. (No offense.)
And I still feel like I haven’t exhausted Portland’s, and Cascadia’s potential. There is so much of this region that I haven’t yet explored. And I have seen a lot of this city, but there is still stuff that I haven’t seen. On a monthly basis I discover new things. Maybe when I feel like I’ve “done it all” here, I can move on. But will that ever happen?
And while I don’t like all the bullshit of being in an “it” place, it still feels great to be in a city when it’s “happening” at least once in my life. Most people never get that privilege. I remember when I moved to San Francisco in 2000, wandering around and seeing the sites from the 60′s, feeling like I had missed the right time to be there. I moved to Portland just before “the right time”. While it would have been fun to get to town earlier and see things before everything became so cool, what’s past is past. I don’t entertain any notions of moving to another town as it becomes the “it” place, once is enough.
Here’s to another year of Portland. Hopefully it will be a great one.
A quick visit to the soon to be moving Belmont Goats this afternoon. This guy was first startled by me and the bike, then came back and allowed me to pet him/her before moving on to other things.
It’s been a bit since I’ve written about my Raleigh Crested Butte vintage mountain bike. Actually, I’ve barely ridden the bike over the past few months, as I’ve been mostly riding the XO-3. But there’s been a few changes to the bike as of late, and now is as good a time as ever to talk about ‘em!
In the fall I went ahead and got dynamo lighting set up on the Crested Butte. No, it’s not what you think: I didn’t get a dyno-hubbed front wheel installed. Nope, I went old school and got a bottle dynamo installed. A bottle dynamo? Aren’t they noisy, eat your sidewall, go out when you hit a bump, go out when you stop, work horribly in the rain, and give feeble power output? Well, maybe the olden bottle dynamo units you remember from your Huffy you bought at Kmart in 1977.* But I got myself a modern unit, an AXA HR bottle, one that can be found on many a European citybike. And attached it to modern LED lights, like the basic B+M headlamp and taillamp.
And what’s the verdict? The setup works good! The power output of a bottle dynamo is the same as a hub, 3 watts, so the lighting is just as bright as it would be on a hub generator bike. Yes, there is noticeable drag and the tell-tale whirring noise when the dynamo is on, but it’s not as bad as you think it may be. And no eating away at the sidewall, either. A lot of that is due to its mounting position: It’s mounted to the canti post on the rear wheel so the positioning is pretty stable, haven’t noticed any slip. (Most of those crappy bottle dynamos you remember were mounted via clamp, which meant the bottle would slip. If you look at Euro citybikes, they have a bottle mount tab built into the fork.) As for rain performance, I’ve been using it since October through a good amount of rain. I notice no difference in performance.
So if you’ve been thinking about using a modern bottle dynamo for bike lights, I say go for it! The key thing is it’s going to work best with a canti/V-brake bike, using the special mount that works with the brake boss. Unfortunately, getting a decent bottle dynamo State-side is tough. I know that Peter White sells a B-M unit for about $40 but that’s all I could find. Mine was given to me by Mr. C. of Chester Cycling (thank you!) who got it directly from the Netherlands. Quite the convoluted supply chain there!
The other big change is tires. I’ve rocked the Rubena City Hoppers in brown (think of them as a low-rent Schwalbe Big Apple/Big Ben) since buying the Crested Butte in October of 2012. They were fine, durable tires (only one flat from what I can remember) and looked good. But they were starting to look a little long in the tooth. And I get weird about tires: after a year or so I feel like getting some new ones, try out something different, etc. I was thinking about something similar to the Continental Speed Rides that I have on the XO-3, a tread that has a little bit of “aggression” but mostly for pavement. But instead I scored some CST Metropolitan Palm Bay tires in brick (think of them as a low-rent Schwalbe Fat Franks) for cheap.
The CSTs definitely look close to Fat Franks, though the tread pattern is a bit different. And the brick compliments the brown color of the frame, more so than the brown City Hoppers. The biggest difference, though is the width: the Rubenas were 26″ x 2.0″, 52 mm wide. The CSTs are 26″ x 2.35″, or 60 mm wide. There was a few hours of futzing and swearing in the installation,** and I almost gave up. But I got it to work (also aided by the help of the local bike shop, UpCycles.) Still, the clearances are very tight, and I had to remove the cafe lock for now. And while the maximum pressure rating is 60psi, I have them running at 35psi, anything more, and things would definitely rub. But the whole point of big fat tires is low pressure, right? And the tires definitely give it a cush ride.
As for saddlebag, the old black Carradice Nelson Longflap that is usually on the bag is out for repairs, so instead I mounted the green Lowsaddle Longflap that I bought from Nicholas/Gypsy By Trade. It’s supposed to be just temporary, but I do like how it looks with this bike, so the green bag may stay. It has less capacity than the Nelson, but the front basket is so big, and heck, maybe I’ll get a bigger basket! And the Lowsaddle needs to see some adventure. It’s probably not going to see as much epic adventure as it would with Nick C, but oh well.***
Other than that, no changes. The Crested Butte is pretty much “done”. Why mess with it more? It’s the most “original” of the vintage bikes I own, it still has the original wheels, brakes, derailleurs, crankset, and pedals. I’ve swapped a few things, like the handlebars, and consumables have been changed at least once, but why change all the good stuff? It was built well with the bestest stuff of its era, so unless those things break or wear out, I’m not going to change them.
Like my other primary bikes, the Bridgestone XO-3 and Raleigh Wayfarer, the Crested Butte is an “all rounder” that can do many things, one that I could pull out any day and meet the challenges of my life. While not optimally set up for touring right now (and the geometry doesn’t lend itself to being the best touring bike), I have used it for bike camping, and wouldn’t hesitate using it for that purpose in the future. And while it’s supposed to be a “mountain bike”, it’s set up to be more of a city/utility/”commuter” bike with its swept-back bars and big basket. But I wouldn’t hesitate riding it on some rough trails, either. If anything, it’s the closest thing I have to a “cruiser”, with its very laid back angles and very fat tires. From time to time I think about finding an old mid-century American balloon tire bike, and maybe I still will if I find one cheap enough. But the Crested Butte is the next best thing, and a bit more functional to boot. It’s served me well for a year and a half, and will keep on serving me well in the future.
*These ones are still available today.
**Mounting the tires on the rims was laughably easy, getting everything else to work, not so much.
***Nicholas’s commute to work is more epic than all of my bike tours combined.
It was hard to tell what the weather would be for departure for the Ainsworth bike camping trip on Tuesday, as it seemed to change with every new forecast. When I initially planned the trip, the weather forecast called for Tuesday to be clear, but each subsequent day had rain creeping in ever closer. Sounds pretty similar to what happened with the Three Speed Ride, eh? But unlike the Three Speed Ride, the weather actually became good for Tuesday. Clouds to sun, no rain, highs in the upper 50s F. Not bad for March.
Nate met me at my house in NE just after 11 am, and after fumbling a bit through the industrial crap along NE Columbia “Blvd”, we got on Marine Drive which was a nice fast straight shot to Troutdale. 16 miles went by with seemingly little effort, and we broke for lunch when we got into the Dale of Trouts.
After lunch, we were on the Historic Columbia River Highway, which we would stay on until we reached our camping destination. I have ridden this road many a time in the past ten years, and have written a lot about it too, so I won’t go too much into the details. (Hint: search this site for more.) But it’s always a great time when I’m on the old highway, especially when the sun is out. And the sun came out. I was beaming the whole climb up the hill, beaming while glimpsing the grandeur of the Gorge for the first time in 2014, beaming when we made a stop at Vista House (the balcony was open!), beaming on the descent to Latourell Falls, etc. And beaming that we didn’t have any wind.
And Nate and I especially beamed when a representative from Ninkasi Brewing gave us free beer at Multnomah Falls!
Nate and I arrived at Ainsworth at 5:30, with virtually no one in the campground. I was relieved. Last year when April and I came out during the same time and on a weekday we found all six of the wooded walk-in spots occupied, plus pretty much all of the basic camping spots, leaving us with camping in a “pull-through” spot. (Apparently it was spring break.) But not this time. The only person who was there was Tomas, who got to the campground before us despite leaving after us. (He ended up taking I-84 the whole way.) Soon the rest of the crew rolled in: Brad, Ed, and Erinne. We set up camp, got a fire going, and made merry into the thankfully dry night.
I awoke Wednesday morning around 8 am and made breakfast. Everyone took off on their own pace, and I left camp after everyone else. And right when I departed the good weather finally gave way to bad: a heavy drizzle. “Heavy drizzle” seems to be the Gorge’s favorite type of rain, at least when I ride out this way. I dealt with a heavy drizzle on the inaugural tour on the Long Haul Trucker back in April of 2008, a drizzle so heavy that I almost scuttled tour, but ended up staying in a motel in Cascade Locks. I dealt with a heavy drizzle at the start of last years PDX-Gorge-Spokane Tour in May. I dealt with a heavy drizzle during my Pedalpalooza Mid-week Gorge Ride last June. Thankfully, I was returning home, and the drizzle lasted for only an hour. By this point I was westbound on I-84, wanting the fastest way home. I took a quick pause for coffee at Rooster Rock State Park, where the park ranger took a photo of me doing said activity! (Maybe I’ll end up on the brochure?)
Not too much else to report on the return ride: I stopped for lunch at Edgefield in Troutdale, opted to ride the whole way home via Sandy Blvd for a bit, a route I hadn’t taken before (not bad, not great), got caught in two downpours, got a flat a few miles from home (wire.) I got home, showered, then ran out the door to attend a Cycle Wild meeting in SE.
All in all, a great trip! About 40 miles of riding out, 35 riding back. I got to hang out with good friends, enjoy the splendor of the Gorge, and camp again. Now I’m waiting for the next trip…
The calendar says it’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and here in Portland, it definitely feels it. It’s been nice and sunny the last few days, highs around 60F/16C. It’s that type of weather that just makes you want to be outside as much as possible, before the novelty wears off. Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of time outside in summer, there’s just something about the first month of good weather that demands action. And while many crow about Daylight Savings Time (and I don’t like losing the hour of sleep), it is nice to have “extra” daylight after work.
This is the feeling that gripped me after work on Saturday. I raced home to Woodlawn from SE and grabbed my preferred outdoor coffee making apparatus, my Esbit coffee maker. Where to go? I could go over to Woodlawn Park, just a half-mile away. But being where I am living now I have some other choices, and I want to explore them more because there’s no telling how long I’ll be living up here before I decide to plant roots in another district.
So I rode a short distance over to Farragut Park in North Portland to make coffee and listen to NPR on my solar radio. There are many nice parks in Portland, and Farragut ain’t bad. But Farragut is “off the map”, so to speak. On the very north edge of Portland before it drops off into the industrialized bottomlands along the Columbia, Farragut provides some good views of the mountains to the north like St. Helens. Of course, it’s hemmed right up against Union Pacific railroad tracks and that industry that I was talking about. But I like watching trains, too. And Farragut is never a busy park, so it was easy to find an empty picnic table to set up my coffee making station. Compare that to say Laurelhurst, which would be choked with people on a nice Saturday. (I don’t need to go there to know that.)
The only issue with where I set up camp was the picnic table was in the shade. 60F is nice…when you are in the sun. In the shade it doesn’t feel so warm. So it was time to move on. I was getting hungry so I picked up a burrito then head out to the bluffs above the Willamette in North Portland. Here the gentle plateau of North Portland drops dramatically and steeply, with an elevation of about 100-150 feet above the river. This is a great spot to watch the sun set.
The default option for most folks is to go to the “Mocks Crest Property”, or popularly known as the Skidmore Bluffs since it’s at the west end of N Skidmore Street. This was once a “secret” location, but now it seems like most of the city comes here to watch the sun set, especially the young and hipster. I don’t feel like competing for a square foot of space against what could literally be a couple hundred people in a “park” barely a couple acres in size. So I end up going to the “Horseshoe” for want of a better term. It’s a swath of parklike land where N Willamette Blvd makes a big horseshoe curve just south of Rosa Parks. Much more open, and much less crowded. When I got there, there was a party of a half-dozen hipsters under the dead madrona tree (which I call Rivendell Ridge), and some scattered other folk. A few people played with their dog on the land just underneath the bluff. I don’t think this is officially an “off leash” area, but this place doesn’t feel like it’s officially anything other than open space that couldn’t be developed.
I dove into my burrito while listening to classic rock radio. I read a book while I waited for the sun to go down, occasional hoots and hollers from the hipster party to break the calm. I saw many a cyclist riding along Willamette, a few “packs” of folk, laden with panniers, heading to some other destination on the Peninsula. A party? Bonfire at Kelley Point? Everyone wants summer to be here, and is acting like it. Myself included.
The official sun set was 7:24 pm. Because of the West Hills, the sun actually set here about 7:10 pm. Soon after the rays of solar energy went behind those mountains, I started to feel chilly again. As I said, 60F is nice when the sun is warming your body. I packed up my gear and rode the couple miles back to my house.
There’s going to be a few more nice days, then the rain will return for a bit. Then it’ll be nice again.