The thaw occurs.

32210084022_30447fc05c_oIt was bound to happen. Portland can’t stay that cold that long (usually). The much promised thaw began to happen, despite the snow’s best efforts to stick around until May.

It started with whimper on Tuesday. It started to rain (some areas got freezing rain) but the temp was in the mid-to-upper 30’s. There was still plenty of snow about, but when I walked to the pub in the neighborhood, I noticed that the sidewalks weren’t really icy, they were slushy.

32244931392_8eaea08bd6_oWednesday brought more rain and more above freezing temps. My street looked clear enough, so I decided to get out on the bike. That wasn’t the best idea, as most of the side roads still had their share of icy/slushy ruts. True, there was a lot more bare pavement showing, but it was still too treacherous to be fun. On the way home, I said screw it and rode the major streets since they were clean and traffic was lower. That mostly worked, though crossing the MAX tracks on N Interstate Ave was still sketchy, since there was still ice around it–and a car right on my back.

31598941943_6cc5dca858_oBut Thursday? Finally, the thaw has really happened. The temp rose into the mid-40’s over Wednesday night, and when I left the house Thursday afternoon it was a practically a tropical 50F/10C! Yeah, the south wind was stiff and I was heading south, and there were still a few random icy/slushy spots, but it was 90% fine. It was such a thrill to ride a bike in over a week, a bike ride where I didn’t feel like I might fall at any time.

And hopefully that’s the last of it for 2017. Never say never, but I don’t really want to see any more snow this year that isn’t on a distant mountaintop. (And if it does manage to snow again, hopefully it’s minor and quick.) I think this has become the view of most people in Portland. The snow was fun for the first couple days, and then when it became a chore to get around…

I really hate dissing snowy winters, so those of you who live in snowy winters and love it, I apologize. But there is a reason why many of us ended up here, and it’s because of the lack of snowy winters. And since snow is unusual here, the city doesn’t know how to deal with it. The strategy is to “let it melt”. When snow lasts for a day or two, that’s fine. But when it sticks around for over a week, it’s just not fun anymore.

Now maybe I can go camping next week!

32036675230_ff6cbffc2a_o

Snow, begone.

31484852293_381631f34c_oUgh.

As I write this on Sunday, the snow from our surprise (and surprisingly epic) snowstorm on Tuesday night is still around. Things were supposed to start thawing on Saturday, but that hasn’t happened, since the temps are still at or below freezing. We’re looking at The Great Thaw starting on Tuesday, when daytime highs bounce back to about 50F/10C. We’re also going to get a good rain on Tuesday, so we’ll probably have a Great Flood as well, ugh. So we’ll have snow and ice stick around for nearly a week. Normally, we get one, maybe two snowfalls a season, usually two inches or less, usually sticking around for two days max. To have two snows last almost a week each is a big deal. We’re looking at the coldest winter in 20 years, and the snowiest in awhile: more than 2014 but less than 2008-9.

And if you haven’t guessed yet, I’m sick of it. (If you hadn’t guessed, you probably didn’t read this post from last week.) I don’t mind a couple snows a year. But we’ve had four so far. (And I got five when I went to Vancouver for New Years. It stayed dry in Portland. Lucky me!) The weather is reminding me a bit too much of New England winter, and I moved away from that for a reason. I know that the standard damp Cascadian winter is not everybody’s cup o’ mossy tea (and even I get a bit sick of it by season’s end) but I do appreciate it, and enjoy it more than a cold and snowy winter right now.

But what is really getting me down is my diminished mobility. I’m not one of those lucky folks who don’t have to go to work when it snows. The hostel is open every day regardless of weather, and I need to be there. I didn’t set up any of my bikes to deal with the snow (we’ll get into that in a minute), so I’ve been relying on foot and bus. Now I do appreciate Portland’s public transit system, since it is pretty good when it works. But on our unplowed streets, buses can only go so fast (they need to be chained). They are slow and the schedules have been unreliable. There’s already been a couple times where I had to wait over a half-hour for a bus (they typically are on 15 minutes or less headways). And the sidewalks are still an icy mess. I’m lucky that I have a pair of ice grippers that go on my boots, but still I wish I didn’t have to use them.

And I realize what’s really bringing my mood down is not being able to ride a bike. Bicycling is my default transportation mode, and I usually ride every day. Since the New Year I’ve only ridden a bike maybe four times due to the snow and being sick. I did ride my Heavy Duti around Northeast on Wednesday when the snow was fresh. But that bike only has a rear coaster brake (and no studded tires) so I wouldn’t want to rely on that for any real commuting in these conditions. Before the winter started, I thought about finally switching out the front fork so I could put a brake on there. If I did, I would have set the bike up for icy commuting with studded tires. But other bike projects took precedence and while I’ll probably get around to improving it at some point, it’s going to be too late for this winter. Coulda shoulda woulda.

As for other bikes, the Raleigh Superbe is okay for a little bit of snow, not this. I could have swapped tires on the Bantam, but the front wheel is still an issue so I didn’t bother. The Crested Butte is a good commuter and would be okay for some of this (though studs would be good). But it’s been sitting in the shop since before New Years, getting a bunch of stuff done to it. It’s been waiting on some parts and the project has become more expensive than I thought it would be. Ugh.

While I’m sick of this weather and am chomping at the bit for the return of regular Portland winter, I still sometimes think about moving to a place with real winter! I don’t know why. Maybe the idea of the snow just being there for the winter, and you have to adapt yourself and your bikes to it? Maybe the idea of cities that are designed to deal with snow? Maybe the notion of becoming a “Real Winter Biker?” I don’t know. I don’t always make sense. All I know is that here the snow is a fun thing for a day or two and then becomes a major annoyance if it makes the mistake of sticking around too long. All I can do is think of warmer days. And the only snow I want to see until next winter is the stuff on the mountains in the distance.

Snow. No, we really mean it this time.

Last time I saw you fine folks I said it was snowing. But little did I realize at the time how much it would snow! And granted, it doesn’t take much to shut down this city (an inch!) but this time, it was waaaay more than that.

The forecast for Tuesday night called for some snow, but it was 1-4 inches. That means maybe two at best. At 8 pm on Tuesday night, I went outside. There was already two inches on the ground, and it had only started at 6. An inch an hour. This rate is A LOT more than we typically see, and the snow did not show any signs of slowing anytime soon. When I went back in the house I checked the NOAA forecast and all the sudden the snowfall prediction switched to 8-13 inches! This was going to be something different…

Overnight, it snowed and snowed. I even saw some lightning (thundersnow!) When the morning came, much of Portland was under a foot of snow. This is the most I have seen from a single snow event in town. While Snowpocalypse 2008 had greater overall snow, it was spread over a couple weeks. A foot is a big deal in most parts of the country, and even more so in Portland.

While in my last post I mentioned how sick I had become of this weather, a good, GOOD snow is something different. Since I had the day off and no obligations, it was time to enjoy this rare and record snowfall. And how would I enjoy it? On a bike of course!

The Heavy Duti was pressed into snow biking duty. While the lack of a front brake is not ideal, its fat tires (60 mm)* would be the best for this snow. (The Crested Butte is still in the shop, and the Bantam still has slick Compass tires on it.) I lowered the pressure to about 15 psi and got out there.

While the “fresh” snow would be too much for anything short of a fat bike, the ruts in the streets were fine for the Heavy Duti, once I got used to the handling. And what was originally thought of as just a quick jaunt around the neighborhood became a multiple hour event through Northeast Portland. I rode south to Alberta Street to the cusp of the Alameda Ridge so I could get a view of the city. I found a Mexican spot (La Bonita) open so I got lunch. I went as far east as NE 42nd until I turned around to head back, spending a couple hours at the Kennedy School for libations.

Many people were out enjoying the snow, since the city was for all intents and purposes shut down. While there was plenty of snow people being built (which happens any snow), I did see an impressive amount of snow forts being built. Lots of people tramping through the snow, whether by foot, snowshoe, or ski. I did see a few other cyclists, but they were few.

But sledding, yeah! There were kids doing their thing on the side streets, but the parks were where it was at. I heard reports about Tabor and Overlook Park, but I checked out Fernhill Park, since it was on my circuit. Man, there was at least a hundred people having fun on the slopes there.

I really had fun checking out the snow today. This storm was a once in a decade or so event. It was real. But after it melts over the weekend, I will be happy to not see snow again until next winter!

*yeah, I know. Not a true fat bike nor even “plus”.  But ya gotta run what ya got!

Sick and ice. (And sick of ice?)

It’s shaping up to becoming “one of those winters”. While those with a short attention span (or haven’t been here that long) are saying this is the “snowiest winter ever”, it has seen its share of snow. And it’s not exactly about quantity of snow, as most of the snows have been fairly small (see my last sentence), it’s about the frequency of snow. As I write this, we are seeing our fourth snow event since about December 8 when it all started. And the last event was just on Saturday and Sunday, so we really haven’t had any relief.

While I do like some snow from time to time, this is not the type of “real winter” I like. I like having some snow that you can do something with, not a light layer that lingers for far too long. And the worst part of it all is the ice. Ice is no fun, unless its a frozen lake you can walk across. Sure, you can bike on ice if you have studded tires. But I don’t hear people wax poetically about biking on ice in the same way that they do about fat biking across snow. That’s because ice biking is tolerable at best, downright dangerous at worst.

So it hasn’t been a helluva lot of fun around here since I got back from Vancouver. While it was cold but dry upon my homecoming, I promptly got sick with a good cold. I was layed up at home for two days. Then the snow/ice storm hit. The ice didn’t thaw until Monday afternoon. So since Thursday night I have been off the bike.

Tuesday was fairly okay, damp and cold but no snow and ice. So I decided to get out there for a moment on the Raleigh Superbe. While the ride itself was nothing epic or spectacular (pretty much my standard cruise through North Portland) it did feel good to get on a bike after being off for the better part of a week.

And even though it had been barely 24 hours since the snow/ice had melted, it seemed like a lifetime ago. Portland’s perma-green was present everywhere. This is why I like Portland’s typical winter. While the damp and grey gets to some people (and even me after awhile), we do live in pretty damn temperate climate, where freezing temps aren’t generally the norm in the winter. To lift up my mood a bit, I passed by some palms, magnolias, eucalyptus, and of course madronas, our native broadleaf evergreen.

But that was just for today. Now it’s snowing again, and it looks like this will really be a good snow…

Looking ahead 2017

wp-1483845600929.jpgHello friends, yeah I know that the “rule” is to write these “goals” types of posts before the New Year, but I’m always a little late with these things. All apologies! And I’m not writing a year end wrap up for 2016 either. While there were some good moments, it’s a year I don’t want to repeat anytime soon. (Or ever.)

So, what will I try to pull off in 2017? In general:

  • More bike riding. Yes, this is something I pretty much say EVERY year. But 2016 has felt like such a low point. Even with a fancy new bike, I didn’t have as many bike adventures to note. I do ride pretty much every day (about a 12 mile roundtrip commute to work) but that’s not enough. And I always feel better when I go on a ride. But sometimes I jinx myself and psyche myself out of rides, not into them. This self-destructive thinking has got to stop.
  • More camping and touring. Again, 2016 didn’t have as much bike camping as I had hoped. Again, I tended to psyche myself out of more camping opportunities than into them. This has also got to stop. As for touring, I did only one real tour last year, the Islands/Sounds adventure in Sept/Oct. That was good, but not enough. While I do want to do a “big” trip again, I know that 2017 is not the year, as I need to save up some cash for that and think about some other things. But one tour in a year is definitely not enough, so I need to figure out ways around that.
  • Explore new places. While the Islands/Sounds Tour was good, it featured a lot of spots that I’ve hit before. I realize that there are several parts of Oregon that I have rarely to never hit up, and I should tour these places too.
  • Do more creative things. Yeah, I always need to draw more, but there is other stuff beyond blogging and posting pictures on the internet. I’ve been meaning to update my Cycle Touring Primer for YEARS, so I should definitely work on that soon!

And for some more concrete plans:

  • I hope to spend a couple weeks in California in March. It’s been three years since I’ve been to the Bay Area, and eight since I’ve been to Southern California!
  • I plan on heading out to the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour as well. Maybe you’ll join me this time?
  • As for big tours, like stated earlier, I’d like to do some explorations in the “untapped” areas of the state, namely Eastern Oregon. Southern Oregon would also be a good spot too!

And a more personal goal: Last year, I got into a brief relationship with someone. It was good while it lasted, but was too brief and not meant to last. This was the first time I went out with someone since breaking up with April three years previous. That breakup was harder on me than I thought it should. Having the idea of love in my life again was great and then it was gone. It was nice having that validation because I didn’t feel that without someone else.

And that made me realize that I need to learn how to like myself, with or without someone else in the picture. Y’see, I’m pretty much estranged from my family, and while I have a decent amount of friends, I’ve never had a “best friend”. I’ve been a loner more by default than by choice. You’d think I’d be able to get used to myself after 41 years on the planet, but I still haven’t reached that point to feel good about myself. I didn’t realize that until I got into a long-term relationship with April. My idea of self-worth improved because I had someone who loved me, and someone to love. With her gone, there was a hole in my life. I was hoping new love would plug it up, but I need to learn how to plug it up myself.

I need to realize my self-worth and not be so damn hard on myself all the time. I need to be okay when things don’t work out as planned. I need to learn to take care of myself. I’m not saying I’m not looking for someone else, but I need to realize that someone else is not going to figure out these things for me.

And on a more positive note, there should be some changes at my work this year, namely a new schedule. For the past several years I’ve been working a Thursday through Monday schedule. While having weekdays off can be nice for some things, it’s getting old since most people I know want to do things on a weekend. If I have enough advance notice I can get a weekend day off, but that’s the key: advance notice. It would be nice to have a bit of the weekend off automatically so I could do things. And that will happening come February, where I should be transitioning to Sunday and Monday off. It’s not a true weekend, I know, but having at least Sunday off means more opportunities to do things with others will open up. It also means that it could be possible to do close-by camping with folks on a Saturday night. And I would still have a weekday off, and that would be nice too!

I hope you all have a good 2017.

Vancouver New Year Trip: The wrap-up

wp-1483838701041.jpgIt’s been a few days since I returned to Portland from my Vancouver holiday. And since then, I managed to get laid up by a nasty cold. Glad it happened after the trip, not during!

Overall, it was a fun little trip, a nice getaway to clear my head. It doesn’t hurt that Vancouver is one of my favorite cities. While I maybe don’t love it with the same fervor I did ten years ago, it holds a special place in my heart. I got to see quite a bit of my old friends, which is always good. And I hit up a few of my favorite spots, also good.

Still, the snow threw a monkey wrench in my plans of “biking around a lot”. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to spend four full days in town (one more than usual) was to do that. I did consider cutting the trip a little short, but by that time the cost to rebook the return trip would have been double what I initially payed. So I decided to stick around the whole time. And having that extra day meant the ability to see a friend who I couldn’t see on the other days, so that’s good.

But even as good as the trip was, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head, and it took a few days to figure out what it was: I would have almost rather have spent the New Year at home than away.

The big reason why I started the tradition of leaving town for the holiday back in 2007 was how mediocre  the holiday became. Either I was in search for a whatever party, or there would be this highly ambitious “event” that required a costume or a number of hoops to jump through. I felt that being alone out of town was a better option. And so a tradition was born.

But there were several different things going in Portland this year that sounded like fun. In fact, they would be mostly small scale things with friends, the type of event I like. This thought went through my head on that snowy Saturday afternoon, when I thought I’d be spending the holiday alone. Why wasn’t I at home?

In the end, things turned out well, and I had fun in Vancouver. So I had no regrets. But maybe this is the time to put another tradition to bed. I did the Palm Tree Ride for ten years before I ended that, maybe it’s time for this one to end too? We shall see as New Years rolls around. But that’s another year away!

Vancouver New Years Trip: The Rest of the Story

When I last left you fine folks, it was Sunday afternoon, New Years Day. The snow and ice were still all over, so I basically pushed my bike back to the hostel on the West End. But crossing False Creek, the body of water that separates the peninsula downtown is on from the rest of the city, I noticed something, or the lack of something: snow and ice! The central core was mysteriously and magnificently dry. That gave me hope.

On Monday morning (Jan 2) I said f– it and decided to ride around Stanley Park seawall. Yes, it is one of the most touristy things you can do in Vancouver, but it is beautiful. And throngs of people were out. Most of the path was clear of ice, though there were several sketchy sections that I walked. I also did some Coffee Outside, since I dragged the equipment all the way up here it’d be silly NOT to! 🙂

Later that day I rode towards East Van, specifically Commercial Drive. As I got further from the urban core (and more uphill) the snow and ice reappeared, so I decided to walk again. (Commercial Drive itself, like all the major streets, was clear, but I wanted to actually walk down the street for once.) I met my old friend Cara for dinner at Bandidas, then did ride back the main roads (Commercial to Hastings) to get back to the hostel, since it was late and the streets were quiet.

On Tuesday (Jan 3) I decided to leave the bike at the hostel and walk/take transit. This was the first time in almost six years since I had used transit in the Terminal City! I bought myself a day pass (using those new fangled “tap” cards) and rode a bit around the Sky Train with some buses thrown in. I went to Bandidas (again) to meet my friend Leanne for brunch, then went up to Queen Elizabeth Park, highest point in the city, to take in the view. Finally, I made my way over to Naam in Kitsilano to end the day.

And like that, the trip was done. Early Wednesday morning (Jan 4) I boarded Amtrak Cascades to head back home…

New Year in Vancouver: The snow

I got into Vancouver late Friday night (Dec 30). After sleeping in a bit, I got a lazy start. The weather didn’t look promising, a mix of rain and flurries with a high just above freezing. I pulled the Raleigh Superbe out of the hostel and got out there.

I noticed during my coffee break that it was snowing. But it was wet and not sticking. I soldiered on, crossing the Burrard Bridge towards the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. As I climbed up that ridge that runs across the center of Vancouver, I noticed that the streets were getting a bit slushy. Uh oh. Not too long after that, the snow started to stick. This is going to be interesting!

I knew there was a chance of snow on the forecast, but it was slight. And if I decided to throw a studded tire on the front of the Bantam, it would end up dry. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

It was late afternoon and I had no plans for the night. (Vancouver people seem to be bad with email.) I was totally prepared to spend the New Year alone, but then got word that my friends Keltie and Pol were having a shindig, so I aimed towards their house. I attempted to ride as much as I could, but by dark there was about a couple inches of snow on the ground and the side streets were hopeless. After a slow speed fall, I decided to walk the rest of the way.


The party was fun! It was pretty low key, which is what I wanted. And it was good to reconnect with my old Vancouver bike friends. We all got to know each other during The Great Cascadian Bike Culture Exchange that happened from about 2005-10. Many of the folks at the party are ex-members of the B:C:Clettes, Vancouver’s all-woman bike dance troupe. I went on their Wheely Fun bike/dance tour on Vancouver Island in 2008. Ah, memories…

I didn’t relish the idea of getting myself and the Superbe from about King George and Fraser to the West End at 3 AM on a snowy night, so I crashed at the house. It was a lazy Sunday morning, then I slowly made my way back to the hostel…