Ramblin’ Down By The Slough 2: Electric Boogaloo

The XO-3 in the woods, at Wilkes Creek Natural Area.

Over the course of the last week, I’ve found myself down near the Columbia Slough, the meandering waterway on the Columbia floodplain just south of the main stem of the river, twice. Of course, I’m pretty much always near the Slough, as my house is less than a mile from this mini-river. But despite this, I don’t go down to the Slough as much as I should. This is a shame, as the Columbia Slough has many hidden charms and wonders.

The first time I headed towards the Slough was on Tuesday July 22, the day I met Robert/Spiral Cage out in the Gorge. Wanting a bit of a ride, I meandered near the Slough for the whole way out to Troutdale. On the way through the Cully neighborhood I found a “new” bike path that followed the right of way of NE 70th Avenue north of Alberta St for a few blocks. The Cully is a treasure-trove of unimproved streets and secret cut-throughs, but this path looked freshly paved and official.

From there I followed NE Sandy for a bit. Sandy out east of Parkrose has little to recommend as a bike route, besides it being flat and direct. (It does have a bike lane, but it’s fairly narrow and choked with debris.) So I rarely ride out that way. But when you ride through unfamiliar territory, you might get rewarded with a new discovery. And I was: I found the Wilkes Creek Natural Area off Sandy and just west of NE 158th. The east side of Portland has very few extant natural streams, as most of them have been paved over. To find one of them is a big deal to me, no matter how minor they may be. And the “daylighted” portion of Wilkes Creek is pretty minor, maybe about 1/3 of a mile in length and tiny in width. It’s still nice, though, and I’m glad they managed to preserve a little bit of natural area around it.

Later in the week, on Saturday, I found myself heading down to the Columbia to watch the sun set. On the way from my house in the Woodlawn neighborhood in NE I took the back way through the industrial what-not along NE Columbia Blvd. This is where I found a newish bike path running along a side channel of the Columbia Slough, just east of NE 21st Avenue and south of NE Elrod St. There’s been plans of building a path following the slough, and over the years the city has built parts of it here and there, most of it west of NE MLK. It will probably be decades before we see a contiguous path from the Columbia Slough’s source at Blue Lake in Fairview to its mouth near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. (That is, if we see a contiguous path.) For now, we’ll have to be satisfied with a little bit here, a little bit there. I don’t remember hearing anything about the opening of this particular section of path, but why would I? It’s hemmed in by industry and golf courses, and really doesn’t lead anywhere (yet.)

All of this reminds me that to really explore the Columbia Slough, I need some sort of floating transportation, be it a canoe or kayak. The lower Slough (just west of 21st) is free flowing into the Willamette/Columbia, while the upper slough have a few “dams” that require portaging. So it’s navigable the whole way up to the lake. One of these days, I’ll do it!

Photos from Nicholas…


I just received a packet of photos from Nicholas/Gypsy by Trade! Most of the photos are from his bikepacking trip in Europe last year, but there was a few from earlier North American tours thrown in as well. Good stuff. Thanks, Nicholas!

Nicholas, along with his co-conspirator Lael, is currently bikepacking across Europe again. Check out what they are up to!

Save the Date!


The Archive Crawl is back after a year hiatus. I’m looking forward to it!

Originally posted on Oregon Archives Crawl:

Making plans for the summer and fall?

Put the 4th annual Oregon Archives Crawl on your calendar now.

Saturday, October 18, 2014 from 10am to 3pm

Visit all three locations – Multnomah County Central Library, Oregon Historical Society, and Portland Archives and Records Center.  Meet real, live archivists representing over thirty Oregon archives and cultural organizations. See fabulous examples from their varied collections. Take tours and attend special programs. Enjoy a day of fun celebrating Oregon Archives Month with activities and events for all ages.

Keep your eyes open for details about participants and programs later in the summer. For more information, visit http://pdxarchivists.wordpress.com/ or contact Terry Baxter at terry.d.baxter@multco.us.

We all can’t wait to hook you up with history!

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So very wet: Meeting spiralcage in the Gorge, 22 July 2014

Robert points to where he came from.

Robert/Spiral Cage, the man behind the Rootless in Place blog, has been on a Tour Without a Goal since early this month. So far, he’s been following the Sierra Cascades route through Washington and then will continue southward through Oregon south to California. He wanted to come to Portland so I agreed to host him for a few break days in town. And since the day he’d be riding through the Columbia Gorge was my day off, I decided to meet him out in the Gorge and guide him in. I was itching for a long-ish ride and haven’t been out that way in a month, so it was a good excuse.

I had a few options on getting out there: I could ride out the night before and camp, then meet him close to Cascade Locks, Oregon, where he’d be crossing the Columbia from the Washington side. But this would mean leaving town right after work Monday night and hauling ass to get about 40 miles out. Turns out I wasn’t really in the mood for that. Another option was I could take the bus that goes out that way in the morning, meaning I’d only have to ride back in. A great idea in theory, the problem is that bus leaves from the eastern fringe of the metro area at 7 am which would mean about 15 miles of riding just to get to the bus stop. Waking up at 5 am or earlier wasn’t in the cards. So I decided to leave the house in the morning and ride out as far east as I could to intercept him.

I left the house around 11 am. I could have taken transit to get to Troutdale, the furthest east I could get to the Gorge, but it would most likely take about the same time as riding the 15 miles. And I was in the mood for adventure.

I chose a route that hugged the area around the Columbia Slough in the far northern reaches of Portland. Along the way I found Wilkes Creek, a small stream that flowed into the Slough. There’s a small natural area surrounding the creek, so I explored it for a few minutes. There’s a lack of streams on the east side of town, so it’s always great to find one, no matter how minor it may be. The rest of the way into Troutdale used paths paralleling the Slough and then Marine Drive paralleling the Columbia River itself. I got into Troutdale around 12:30 pm and had lunch.

While finishing lunch I got a text from Robert, saying he was at Multnomah Falls. I decided that we should meet at Crown Point, and then I took off on the Historic Columbia River Highway. When I started to climb, the much-threatened rain arrived. It had rained early in the morn before I woke up, and the forecast called for a chance of showers. So I was unpleasantly surprised when it started raining really good, and I lacked real raingear. Yes, we don’t always carry raingear in Portland, especially during the dry summer months when rain is the exception. And now I was facing the exception. I was getting soaked down to skin. The only good thing was that the temperature was in the low 70’s, so I wasn’t cold. But man, I was wet!

The rain ebbed and flowed on the climb to Crown Point, but it did not stop. I arrived to Vista House and quickly headed inside to wait for Robert out of the rain. He arrived shortly thereafter, equally soaked. We exchanged greetings and took off, as the rain had stopped. The dry spell didn’t last long, and we got more soaked on the descent. So stopping at Edgefield in Troutdale for food and drink was a good idea! Thankfully the rain stayed away for the rest of the trip back home.

Robert hung around my house for two days, taking a well-needed and well-deserved break from the road. He took off on Friday morning, headed back east to reconnect with the Sierra Cascades route. It was fun hanging out with him during the time he was in town.

Maybe you’ll stay with me when you pass through on your bike tour? Maybe I’ll even guide you into town! And if I do, hopefully it won’t be as wet!

When bike tours get combined with something more.


If you’ve read the Urban Adventure League blog (TM) long enough, it should go without saying that I like the whole notion of bicycle touring. And I like it so much that I do such silly things like write a guide on touring or post things to the touring subforum of Bikeforums.net.

And I really like it when people make a bike tour something more than “just a bike tour”. Now don’t get me wrong, I love “just a bike tour” typed bike tours. In fact, I’ve done a lot of them over the years. Nor am I referring to “cause” bike tours, so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with bike tours that raise awareness for issues and try to do good in the world. But let’s be honest: there are quite a few of them out there, and while a particular cause may be unique, the whole idea of doing a bike tour in the name of a cause is not unique in itself.

No, I’m talking about when people incorporate something that isn’t generally associated with a “bike tour” into their bike tour. Like incorporating performance into a bike tour. Yes, that’s right, performance touring via bike! Why not?

9334811229_a5a2845a37_kAnd here’s the latest example of this, which I learned courtesy of the CBC Radio “World at Six” program, er, programme:* There is an opera company in Ontario (called, appropriately enough, The Bicycle Opera Project) that has been touring ’round the province by bike! And this is the third year that the’ve done it! I don’t remember all the details of the radio broadcast, but co-founder Larissa Koniuk was a cyclist who was also into long-distance riding, and wanted to combine both of her passions, and found some willing compatriots to go along with her. And three years later, they are still at it!

This year, they’re touring from July 4 to (about) August 10th around southern Ontario. And the whole “touring bike opera” idea is novel and worthy, but what makes me really appreciate what they’re doing is that they are self-supported, meaning: no one is trailing them in a big van with all their gear.

This is a big deal, at least for me, because I don’t get that excited for supported touring, no matter how big or grandiose or interesting the idea of a particular tour may be. For example, there was a bike touring documentary crew out earlier this year that was trailing Oregon’s favorite lone wolf, OR-7, as he (supposedly) rambles across the state. But they had a van for all the gear. And remember back in 2006, when the folky duo The Ditty Bops did a bike tour/performing road show across the US? Well, it was just the two of them on their bikes, the rest of the band, gear, etc. followed in “the van”.**

9334720757_c951db5217_kNow please don’t interpret this as saying that both of the above examples are somehow invalidated by being supported, or that they weren’t worthy in their own right. But to me, it just feels like a bigger deal when folks do something “crazy” like combining performance and bike touring, and do it without the help of a motor vehicle.*** It’s just more impressive watching the performers and musicians of the Bicycle Opera Project haul all their stuff down the rolling Ontario roads, two trailers weighing about 100 lbs each behind them. No roadies needed.

And while The Bicycle Opera Project is the latest example of performance-with-bike touring to catch my eye,**** there have been many other examples over the years. The one that is strongest in my mind is the tour the B:C:Clettes, Vancouver’s bicycle inspired dance troupe, took in the summer of 2008.***** And for good reason: I was on it! The “Wheely Fun Tour” was great fun, but unfortunately not repeated. Of course I documented it in a comic!

6489277739_30ca6d05e9_o 6489278629_84810cd888_o

*This is a habit I picked up from the Cross-Continent tour. Plus, the local NPR affiliate (OPB) simply replays the 4 pm broadcast at 6. Do I really want to hear it again?

**I saw their Portland performance on this tour on the night before I embarked on my tour down the Pacific Coast. And jeez, was it really 8 years ago? Time flies.

***Yes, I realize that motor vehicles deliver the goods that are stocked in the stores along the way, etc. Let’s not go down that road, please.

****Well, in this case, caught my ear.

*****And another Canadian performance tour? Must be all that arts money they got going around there. ;-) (And jeez, was it really 6 years ago?)

Sunset Burrito Club at Ricky Point (16 July 2014)

Sunset over the Columbia River.

Yes, yes, I have done a number of Sunset Burrito Clubs since spring. But they all happen at “the spot”: the Horseshoe Curve on N Willamette Blvd, overlooking Swan Island. A nice spot, yes. But I wanted something different this time. I wanted more water. And this was important: it reached 91F/33C on Wednesday July 16th. Hot outside the house, hot inside the house. Somewhere on the water meant cool. So I chose Ricky Point, that little obscure “is it a park or is it not?” spot at the very east end of Tomahawk Island in the Columbia River.

And it was a good choice. After snagging a burrito at Acapulco Grill on N Lombard St at Albina Ave, I hightailed it to the quasi-park, and had just minutes to spare before the sun sank below the West Hills. Everything was perfect: Ricky Point was near deserted (there were a few people down on the sandy beach), the breeze kicked in, cooling things down, boats plied the Columbia River, Mount Hood loomed over everything in the dying light, KMHD played Mississippi John Hurt, and yes, that burrito was good.

I hung out until 10 pm, before the moon rose. (I hoped to be down here on Saturday when it was the full moon, but a backyard barbecue kept me from going.) Then I high-tailed it home through the quiet backways in North Portland.

I get my first Warmshowers Guest!


How many of you know about Warmshowers? Wait, no, it’s not what you think, you perv. Warmshowers is an “internet based hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink.” (And sometimes, a warm shower!) Think of it as couchsurfing for cyclotourists.

I’ve been a member of Warmshowers for four years, and have used the hospitality network dozens of times. But I had never lived somewhere that I was able to host touring cyclists…until now.

And I just ended up hosting my first touring cyclist on Monday and Tuesday of this week. His name is Joe and he’s from Nashville. He’s at the end of a coast-to-coast tour from Virginia that used the Lewis and Clark routing since Iowa. He’s been having a good time and all (though the headwinds through the Columbia Gorge had done a good job of pushing him back) and is now heading out to the Pacific Coast to finish his journey.

It was nice to finally get a chance to repay the Warmshowers community, and also, it was nice to be able to actually host someone. I had done my share of hosting friends and guests in Portland since moving here in 2001, but it has been in inconsistent waves: a lot in the first year, a few here and there. The last time I hosted someone was when I lived on NE Glisan in 2008. Since moving from there, I have lived mostly in places that hosting anyone wasn’t feasible. But my house in Woodlawn has the space, so I’ve set myself as “Available to Host” on Warmshowers.

Hopefully I’ll be getting more people coming through soon. It’s always fun hearing touring stories.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been doing a comic in Bicycle Times for like several months now.


Hello, dear reader! I am sometimes pretty bad about self-promotion. Case in point: until right now, I have not mentioned that comics by myself have been regularly appearing in the esteemed Bicycle Times Magazine. And I’ve been appearing since issue 27 that came out early this year. (Issue 30, the latest, is out now and also features stuff about bikepacking in Europe by our friend Nicholas/Gypsy By Trade!) So yes! Every two months you can see comicky goodness by moi in one of America’s premier bike mags.

Below, for your enjoyment, are the first three comics I’ve done for them.


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