How can I ever leave this place?

I just rolled back into Portland a couple hours ago. I’ve done many a two day trip on Amtrak in the last fifteen years, but it’s still long, and my the final morning I’m itching to get off. Still, its always nice returning on the Empire Builder, since the return consists of the Columbia River Gorge and my first glimpse of Mount Hood. And I saw three bike tourists on WA SR 14!

And coming into Union Station on an appropriately drizzly day, I ran into two more bike tourists! They were waiting for the bus out to Tillamook to ride the coast south to San Francisco. Their original plan was to ride to Lincoln City and camp at Devils Lake, but that’s a long slog of a day on a surely busy US 101 (it’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States, the official start to summer) to get to possibly the worst state park hiker/biker campground on the Oregon Coast. I think I convinced them to stay at Cape Lookout instead, just about 10 miles from Tillamook and possibly the best hiker/biker campground on the entirety of this Pacific Coast. My bike touring good deed of the day! (Wish I had some Oregon Coast bike maps to give them, though.)

From there I headed to my Post Office box to pick up my two week accumulation of mail. While locking my bike, another cyclist stops and asks if I’m Shawn Granton. When I confirmed it, he wanted to thank me for writing the Zinesters Guide to Portland, since he used it heavily when he moved here last year! Then he asked me how my trip went! Apparently he recognized me by my bike.

Oh Portland, why do I ever think of leaving you?

Travel Notes: Homeward Bound


It’s around 9 am Central Time on Friday May 22nd. Right now I’m on the westbound Empire Builder train, heading through the vast flatness of North Dakota. Minot is our next stop. I wanted to post more on this trip, but several factors conspired against me: losing my power cords somewhere after Lake Pepin, a lack of internet connectivity, and most importantly too little time to sit down and write something!  So I’m going to be very brief, as I’ll be writing more extensively about the trip in the coming week or so, not to mention I have hundreds of photos to sort through!

In short, the trip went very well, even better than I initially expected! Yes, there were a few hiccups, there always is a few hiccups. But whatever. Lake Pepin was just as fun as last year and it was great seeing familiar faces. The weather mostly held out, another plus. The big thing this year was the “Quintuple Pass-Storm Challenge”, which I managed to complete, but lemme tell ya, that Maiden Rock summit is one bad you-know-what. And the three day three speed camping tour also was good despite a medical issue and temperatures cooler than hoped for. Pondero and I managed to ride 140 miles over mixed terrain with loaded three speeds. It can be done!

But all trips must end. I had fun in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and want to come back again. But I’m looking forward to getting back to the great old Pacific Northwest, and back to my regular life (and regular bed!) And after riding the Wayfarer for two weeks straight, it will be nice to ride the Crested Butte again! Pedalpalooza is just around the bend and there will be fun afoot. Stay tuned!

Travel Notes: Done with Minneapolis, now in Red Wing

I’m drinking pizza and eating beer in Red Wing. Minnesota. Just got here a few hours ago (thanks, Paul Z’s mom, for the ride!)

Four days in Minneapolis was good. Arrived Monday afternoon. Despite the Empire Builder being on schedule all the way to Minot, North Dakota, the train got in four hours late to St. Paul. Oh well. Wish I could have spent a bit more time, but that’s the way it goes. (Also wish that the weather was a bit better!) This was my sixth visit to the Twin Cities, so there wasn’t a lot of new things discovered. Still, its nice to get in some rides on the area’s numerous rail trails. Between those and the relative flatness of the area, I managed to ride about 45 miles a day without even trying! It was also good to visit old Portland friends like Buffalo Dave and Nickey Robo. And also good to sample the local beer! 😁

Now its the night before the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. While its going to be summer-like this weekend, there is a risk of thunderstorms both days, and as per the National Weather Service, “tornadoes are always a possibility.” Trying to not let the forecast dampen my spirits. The ride folks should start to show up soon.  And I’m ready!


A mini report on the Train Day Ride, and eastbound.

As I said in the last post, leading a bike ride right before hopping on a train is a bit…irrational. It would have been more practical to leave on Sunday. But the big problem with that is that I only have so much vacation time, so leaving a day later would mean one less day in Minneapolis, and I can’t have that now, can I?

As it was, I was running later than I hoped, since I had to throw everything on my bike. I got to Union Station (with roommate Jon in tow) at about 10:50 am, about 30 people waiting for me. And even though going into the planning of this ride I had two cohorts/ride leaders, I was flyng solo, something I wasn’t hoping for. I do a bit about Portland and trains, but not as much as Dan or Sir Andrew!

Despite it all, the tour went well, with just a few hiccups. I talked up some of my favorite train-related spots like Union Station, Steel Bridge, Sullivan’s Gulch, the Bellrose/Oregon City Interurban Line, Brooklyn Yards, and Golf Junction. Seemed like everyone was having fun, though we steadily lost people as the ride progressed.

And while I could have checked some baggage before the ride started, since we started at Amtak, I decided to do the ride fully loaded. It wasn’t for cool points, but more to just test how the damn thing rode fully loaded! And it did okay. I definitely felt the added weight back there, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I definitely got used to it after a while. I think I’ll do okay on the tour after all!

Now I’m on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, hurtling eastward through the dark eastern Washington night, Spokane in a bit, Minneapolis on Monday morning.




Pepin Bound

16810919094_a09a12e3f7_kToday, Saturday May 9th, I’ll be boarding Amtrak’s Empire Builder at 4:45 pm to head eastward to Minneapolis. Yes, this will be after leading a bike ride. Yes, I am crazy. I’ll get to the Twin Cities on Monday morning, then spend a few days there before I head down to Red Wing to participate in the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. Then after that, Pondero, Gravel Doc and myself will do a three-day, three-speed camping tour in the Driftless Region of SW Wisconsin just outside of La Crosse.

All in all, I’ll be away for two weeks. Two weeks! This will be the longest I’ve been away from Portland since the Cross-Continent Tour in 2011. It will be a nice break, for sure.

Anyways, I haven’t been as stressed as I normally am before a big trip. Yes, there’s the usual last-minute getting everything wrapped up and put together, and despite how much I trim, it always feels like I’m bringing more than I should. (It doesn’t help when I need to plan about two days worth of food for the train, lest I have to deal with the overpriced and mediocre fare in the cafe car.) But this is the first time in a long time where I don’t feel like I have to figure out a whole bunch of new things before I leave. Right now, I just have the anticipation of this new adventure.

I’m going to try to blog as much as I can from the road, but it probably won’t be as much as I’d like to. See you down the road!

How long to keep it going?

IMG_1825You may have noticed an absence of photos of the Crested Butte over the past couple weeks. That’s because it’s been in the shop. I brought it to Upcycles because I figured the freewheel was toast, and Kai confirmed it, so he was going to replace it. Simple? Not so. When he removed the wheel, he also found that the axle was busted. Now this should also be “simple” but the problem was that the freewheel was seized up and he couldn’t remove it.

So I was in a bit of a quandary as what to do. Build a new wheel? Find a suitable replacement? But all of these things of course cost money. And I was trying to spend as little as possible on the Crested Butte for two reasons: I needed to save up cash for parts for the New Mystery Bike Project, and I intended to sell the Crested Butte at some point after the completion of the New Mystery Bike Project. One of the great things about the Crested Butte was that because it was a garage queen with a great frame and quality parts, I haven’t had to worry much about stuff on this bike. (For comparison, I did a lot of stuff to the XO-3 to make it how I liked it, which in hindsight seems like not such a great idea since I sold it not long after doing a bunch of stuff to it, nor did I ever take it on a serious tour.)

I briefly thought about just selling it, but this would be wrong for two reasons: the resale value would suck with a broken rear wheel, and I still need this bike until the New Mystery Bike Project gets built up. As much as I hate the idea of sinking more money into it,* I don’t really have a choice, at least if I want to do any touring in the next few months. So fix I must.

Thankfully Kai did eventually manage to get the freewheel off, so he got the extant wheel repaired. He had a good used Suntour Superbe freewheel to replace the old Suntour Suberbe freewheel, the only difference being a slightly smaller big cog (32 teeth vs 34). So my granny isn’t quite as low, but that’s okay, as the old granny taxed the capacity of my rear derailleur.

When I got the bike back, I was amazed how good the bike felt. I wonder how long I had the broken axle and didn’t notice it. It must have had quite the impact on performance, as riding the fixed wheel feels like night and day. The bike is fun to ride again. So I’ll have it around a little while longer. But how much longer?

And in a side note: If you are an experienced bike mechanic, Upcycles is hiring!

*And of course I say this after all the tire follies!

REMINDER: Train Day Ride this Saturday, May 9!

While there ain’t going to be anything “official” at Union Station for Train Day this year, you really don’t have an excuse to not go since Saturday is going to be beautiful! (Sun, high 81F/27C) And we’ll stop by the rail museum so you’ll get your train geek on!

The details:

Train Day Ride

Saturday May 9th

Union Station (meet at the obelisk at NW 6th and Irving.)

meet up at 10:30 am, ride at 11 am SHARP!

Experience how Portland history has been shaped by rails. This approx 15 mi ride starts at Union Sta. and heads across the Willamette into SE with many stops in between. Not a loop, ride ends at Oregon Rail Heritage Center.traindayride2015

Challenges Unmet

The campsite in the AM.

The campsite in the AM.

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that I didn’t go on a bike camping trip in April, despite pledging to do one bike camping trip a month this year. Yeah, I’m not that thrilled that I didn’t meet the challenge. But April was a hard month to do it, for a few good reasons:

  • I didn’t have a lot of free time. I ended up working six-day weeks twice in April, meaning that I only had two “true” weekends, less time for camping. While I could theoretically pull off a camping trip with just one day off, I prefer two full days because for me, it really does occupy both days.
  • And when I did have those two days off in a row, the weather was crappy.
  • Since I had been camping since December, I had hit up pretty much all the quick-and-easy places. Come May, more places will open up (like Clackamas County Parks), but that’s May, not April.

But really, the thing that held me back most was that I just didn’t feel like going. If I did, I’m sure I would have overcome the obstacles listed above. But I just couldn’t find that motivation, that desire, especially since no one else was willing or able to camp. Camping alone during the off-season isn’t that much fun for me.

And this is the problem I face with most of these challenges: Good idea on paper, but what happens when I don’t want to do it? Do I force myself to do it, just because I said I was going to? Do I beat myself up afterwards for not doing it?

Take, for instance, the 30 Days of Biking Challenge in April. On paper, this should be a “breeze” for me since my default mode of transportation is biking. (Same goes for the Bike Commute Challenge put on here in September.) But do I need a challenge like this to inspire me to ride a bike? No. And what happens if one day I want to walk or take the bus instead, or I don’t even have the need (or desire) to leave the house? Do I do one of those silly token bike rides, y’know, ride around the block a few times just to say “Hey! I rode my bike today?”

So I tend to stick to bike challenges that are pure fun, like the Bike-Tour-A-Month challenge, or Mary’s Coffeeneuring challenge. (At least with that one, I get a patch!) And I do like the idea of challenging myself to bike camp every month in a year (and yes, I’m fortunate to live in a place where I can pull that off.) But sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. And I get depressed about it.

The only silver lining is that the Bike-Tour-A-Month Challenge actually started in February, letting folks off the hook for January. Since I did camp in January, can I get off the hook for April?