Bay Area trip: Sacramento dispatch

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight left just a little after 2:30 PM PDT yesterday, Sunday March 19. This was the first time in three years​that I used this train. So I got to use the new roll on bike service. Bike hooks! No more boxing of bikes!

This was also the first time using the new Business Class on the Coast Starlight. What does that mean? For about $40 more, I had a pretty empty coach car. Compare this to the usual packed to the gills coach cars on this train! I also got a $6 voucher which I used for the wine tasting in the Pacific Parlour car. Yes, the swanky old Santa Fe lounge car (built in the mid 1950’s) generally reserved for the Sleeping Car passengers! Style and class. I also ate dinner in the Dining Car. While this is an added fee for Business Class, (it’s included for the Sleeping Car passengers), I just felt like being swanky. And I got to have an interesting conversation with an “on vacation” Amtrak Conductor and her very railfan husband.

Night fell as we crossed Willamette Pass and I fell asleep after the train crossed into California. I awoke around 5:30 AM in Sacramento. I retrieved my bike from the baggage car and noticed a bulge from the tire sidewall. Damn. The bike must have done a bit of rubbing on the hook. Now I have to figure this out before I go further.

But no bike shop is open at 6 AM. So I killed time with breakfast and coffee, and also contacted Compass to get a replacement RTP tire sent to me in SF. I found a bike shop open at 10, but they seemed… Disinterested in helping me out. So I crossed the river into West Sacramento and found Edible Pedal, who was enthusiastic about helping me out! (It’s always a good sign when one is greeted with “Cool bike!”) He booted the tire with Gorilla Tape, and also adjusted my front brake too!

So the bike is back in shape, so time to ride…

Announcing: Three Speed Adventure April challenge!

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello friends. You know I love bike challenges. First, it was my THREE SPEED OCTOBER challenge. Now, just six months later, I am introducing THREE SPEED ADVENTURE APRIL!

What exactly is this challenge, and how is it different than the October challenge? Well, this challenge is about doing things with/on a three speed bicycle that some people would unfairly consider “beyond its abilities”. These bikes are more able than even some seasoned three-speeders think!

The overall challenge consists of five different sub-challenges:

  1. Ride your three speed at least fifteen miles (25 km) in one ride.
  2. A climb of 5% or more grade, with a cumulative elevation gain of at least 150 feet (45 m).
  3. A bit of unpaved/dirt action, of at least a cumulative one half mile (1 km).
  4. Coffee outside via three speed.
  5. A bike overnight or bike camping trip by three speed.

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here…

View original post 1,884 more words

Not heading to Pepin…

Yep, this year I won’t be heading west to Minnesota and Wisconsin in May for the annual Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. I was initially planning on going this year, which would make it my fourth time, but work is going to be too crazy then for me to get away.

But honestly, the past week or so I had been considering not going, even before the decision from my boss came down. And it’s not that I don’t like the event, or that I’m “over” three speeds. No, I started to think about time and money, and my enthusiasm dwindled.

As for time, while I get a decent amount of vacation time each year, because I work in the hospitality industry it’s hard for me to take a big chunk of time off in the middle of summer. The best I can do is a few extended weekends in July and August. So I end up taking a week off in May and one in September. This of course, is good touring season in these parts.

And since I’ve used my week off in May the past three years to travel to the Midwest, that means I can only get one good week-long tour in each year in September.* And that’s if I choose to do a good week-long tour in September. My “tour” last year was more a trip to Victoria than anything else (which was nice, don’t get me wrong, but not as much of a tour as I planned it out to be.) And the Iron Horse Trail tour in 2014 was a comical failure. So, since 2013, I’ve only done one week-long tour, the Eastern Oregon adventure in 2015.

Don’t get me wrong, bike overnights and mini-tours (say, a half week) are great, but it’s not until I’ve been on the road for five or more days do I feel like I’m really bike touring. This is a feeling I’ve been lacking over the past four years, so I’ve been itching for something more substantial. And I need to go to new places, or to places I haven’t been in awhile. Right now I’d rather devote a late spring week off to something different, vs. going back to the same thing I go to every year. There’s a lot of the Northwest I still want to explore, and I can’t do that if I end up going back to Minnesota every May.

And then there’s money. Now, I can travel pretty cheap because I’ve got the hostel connection, and friends (or family of friends) in lots of different places. But there is still the train tickets, which at minimum would be $300 round trip. Not bank busting, but I have been spending A LOT more money on things lately, and it’s been hard to save up cash. Between the Crested Butte and the Bantam, I’ll have spent almost a grand on repairs and needed things. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ll need to buy a new laptop at some point this year. That all adds up. I’m also heading to California next week, so there was travel expenses there, and you always spend more money when you travel vs. being home. Now I know that if I go on a bike tour in late spring I’d still be spending some cash. But I could choose a tour that starts and ends from my front door, so no need for train tickets. And if I chose to use Amtrak or other transit for something nearby, tickets will be cheaper than going to St. Paul. And camping is relatively cheap, too.

So I’ll probably get a week off in early June and go on a bike tour in Oregon and/or Washington. I don’t know exactly where yet, a lot would depend on things like weather and how the Cascades look. So I’ll still do something, it just won’t be Lake Pepin.

Even with all that, I still am bummed that I’m not going. I do enjoy the ride, and I won’t get to see my “Pepin friends”. And I like visiting Minneapolis too. But Pepin will keep on happening, and I know I’ll be back. Maybe 2018? I’d hope to make the next time out be a more substantial affair, with a nice little bike tour added on like I did in 2015.**

It of course would be easier if I lived in the upper Midwest, so Pepin wouldn’t be such an epic trek. I guess I just need to work on some bigger three speed ride here and have everyone come out this way! 🙂

*Of course, I could take some time off in winter and head for a warmer climate, but haven’t gotten around to that yet.

**In the initial planning of this year’s Pepin adventure, there WAS going to a bike camping tour, but that went away after the other folks that were going to do it bailed.

A pretty good day for a bike ride: Sunday March 12

Man, this winter. Even people who claim to luv Portland’s damp winters are pretty sick of the rain and the cold by now. We’ve had the coldest winter in a quarter-century, and every month is breaking the record for rain. Dry days have been scarce, and having two dry days in a row is too much to ask for.

But spring, spring is definitely coming. It’s starting to finally get warmer, ever so slightly. Which means those when those dry days happen, they are getting pretty nice. Friday March 10th was nice, but I had to work. But Sunday March 12th? I had off. Oh sure, I have a million things to do this week before I leave for my California vacation, and sure, I’ll have plenty of time next week to bike care-free around the sunny and warm Bay Area.

But goddamn it, I need a bike ride NOW.

So I put everything on hold, and just a bit after noon, I got on the Raleigh Superbe, and got riding.

Where to? Well, I’ve been fascinated with the milestones along SE Stark Street. Y’see, Stark follows the Willamette Baseline, and because of that, was one of the first “highways” leading out of town. Sometime in the mid nineteenth century, someone put up stone mileposts along the way, for fifteen miles out. Surprisingly, more than half of them survive! I’d seen the three extant ones east of 82nd many times (MP 2, 4, and 5 for those of you playing along at home.) But east of 82nd? I hadn’t seen any yet. So what better time than now, when it’s sunny and 60F/16C?

And saw these milestones I did! There were six to see MP 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 14. Now, Stark Street is a pretty crappy street for biking, esp. west of 162nd where it is a busy multi-lane thoroughfare lacking a bike lane. I stuck to parallel streets there, then got on Stark near 162nd to finish the rest of the quest. Yeah, even with the bike lane, it wasn’t exactly pleasant (and there was a moment where I thought I might die at the intersection with Burnside.) But I was more concerned with the milestones, and also the weird and random shit one sees out on these busy East County thoroughfares. If I led a bike ride out here, I’d stick to quieter roads where possible.

It was about 5 pm by the time I made it to the end, Milepost 14. The original plan was to head over to Powell Butte to watch the sun set and moon rise (full moon!), but the descent down into the Sandy River valley was too tempting, so I went that way. So I got to the beginning of the Historic Columbia River Highway. I haven’t been out that way since at least summer, and just the taste of the highway was tantalizing. But it was too late in the day for a jaunt to Crown Point, so I’ll save it for another nice day. Hopefully we’ll get another one!

Instead, I rode towards the Columbia. The goal now was Chinook Landing Park. The sunset was pretty good, moon rise, not so, since there were too many low clouds on the east horizon. It took awhile before the moon cleared them. At that point, I was on Marine Drive westbound, to home. I was a bit worried being at least ten miles out from home, since it’s pretty dark out this way. But my B+M Eyc headlamp with vintage 1968 Sturmey-Archer Dynohub worked great at illuminating the path ahead. And it was just so damn peaceful out. A great end to a great day.

At the end of the day, I had biked 52 miles, all on my three speed! And it felt fine. Oh Superbe, you are so superbe!

Now we just need another nice day…

20% off sale extended until March 15, and a note about sales.

wp-1488861292080.jpgHello friends! I have decided to continue my 20% off sale a little while longer. From now until March 15, you can get 20% off ANYTHING in my store. This includes pre-orders and the Postcard Club! Simply use the discount code IDESOFMARCH in the checkout. (20% off is not valid for shipping rates.)

And this will probably be the last time I will offer a percentage off sale, since after the 15th Storenvy (my web store provider) will require me to pay a monthly fee to create discount codes. I don’t do enough business to justify that, at least not at this time. I will most likely offer sales on individual items, just not an across the board sale.

And now is a good time to make a purchase, as in the next couple months I’ll be revisiting the prices on my comics and zines. Most likely a few of them will go up. The reality is that inflation has happened in the five to ten years since I initially priced some of them. I don’t intend to get rich selling zines, but don’t want to go broke, either. And I’d like to do a bit more than just cover my costs.

And honestly, I’ve always undersold my stuff. Part of this comes from my “punk rock zine” background. When I started making mini-comics twenty (yeesh) years ago, one dollar was as much as you could charge something without getting grief from someone, and you still could get grief.* (They’d only allow you to charge $2 if it was nicely printed or 100 pages long.) Now? I see people sell zines that are the same size as mine for at least double what I charge, if not more. I want to keep my prices fair, but also don’t want to undersell my work.

In any case, if you feel like supporting my work, now is a good a time as ever to do so! And thank you for your support.

And you can find all my stuff at my store.

*A review of my first-ever comic, TEN FOOT RULE #1, complained about my dollar price tag, which the critic felt was “too much” for what it was, though they overall liked it.

Goin’ to California, March 19-28

12177582033_469424cbef_oHello friends! Big travel plans are afoot! Or rather, awheel. I’ve got a lot of vacation time to use up before it goes away, so now is as good as ever for a trip. And where to? Why California, of course!

I haven’t been to California in three years (and before that, five years.) It’s funny, that. I visited Cali at least once a year from 1998 to 2009. And I lived there for a year as well! So this trip is long overdue. In the original planning stages I hoped to go to both Northern and Southern California (where I’d take part in the Redlands Strada on March 18). But the trip got pushed back and I’m not getting as much time off as I had hoped, so this time it’s just a Bay Area concentration. Which is perfectly fine!

You may be wondering how I’ll be getting down there. And I’ll be wondering if you actually read this damn blog, because I always take the train for anything further than a bike ride! (And no, don’t have the time to ride down.) Besides, flying is for the birds.* Also, I don’t own a car.** Anyways, I will be on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to and from the Bay Area. But this time I’ll be doing it a little differently than my past California excursions.

On the way down I’ll be taking “business class”. It’s still coach-style seating (though supposedly there are less seats in the car), but I’ll be able to use the classy Pacific Parlour Car, which is a lounge usually reserved for sleeping car (first class) passengers. Swanky! I also get to use the first class Metropolitan Lounge at Portland Union Station. All this for $40 more than the regular fare!

And on the way back? I’m going all out and getting a roomette in the Sleeping Car! Actual bed! Such luxury! Yeah, I got spoiled by the sleeper on my last Lake Pepin trip. (And I also cashed in my Amtrak Guest Rewards to get it!)

I take off from Portland on Sunday March 19. Here’s the rough itinerary:

  • I’ll be getting into Sacramento the morning of Monday March 20. I have spent little time in the Golden State’s capital,*** so I will spend the day here and crash at the hostel.
  • The next day, Tuesday March 21, I’ll head towards San Francisco. On the way I’ll spend a little time in the very bike-friendly town of Davis, a place I have not been to.
  • That means I’ll be around San Francisco and the East Bay from Tuesday night through Saturday March 25.
  • The last two nights of my stay, Saturday the 25 and Sunday the 26, will be spent at the Marin Headlands Hostel, so I’ll be doing some Marin exploring then.
  • I’ll be taking the Coast Starlight from Oakland northbound on the night of Monday March 27, getting home Tuesday afternoon.

What do I hope to do?

  • First off, don’t be silly! Of course I’m going to bring my bike. So I hope to have some good rides.
  • Critical Mass will fall during my stay, so I should go if I can.
  • There are a couple Coffee Outsides I have heard about: one in SF on Friday, one in the East Bay on Saturday, so want to hit those up as well.
  • And yeah, I will visit Rivendell in Walnut Creek. Grant, watch out!
  • I want to check out the Marin Museum of Bicycling, too!
  • And maybe Manny will do one of his crazy-epic rides through the hills while I am there. One can hope!

Are you in the Bay Area and want to hang out during my visit, or want to let me know about something cool going on? Get in touch!

*Ironically enough, the last time I went to the Bay Area, I flew back. This was due to time constraints. I did train down, though.

**Though I have owned cars in the past. I have gotten rides down in the past, but I’d rather be in a train than on I-5.

***Hell, I’ve barely spent any time in my own state’s capital!

Return to Tabor Mountain, March 1, 2017

March is upon us! First month of spring in the Northern Hemisphere! Woot! It’s been a long and wet and cold and snowy winter here. While we are definitely not done with rain and cool just yet, the onward charge towards Vernal/Northern Equinox (and summer solstice) means longer days. Longer days mean I don’t have to save my “going on a bike ride” type bike rides for one of my days off, I can actually do a ride after work!* Well, I mean, I could do a nice ride after work in the middle of winter, but sometimes it’s actually nice to see things, ya know. 😉

The weather was decent on Wednesday March 1st, a high of 50F/10C, and not raining. A high of 50 is a bit cool for now, since the average is more like 55, but I took what I could get. My destination for a little ramble was up to Mount Tabor, a volcanic cinder cone about two miles (as the crow flies) east of work, and the highest point on the east side of the city. Nothing earth-shattering here, as I’ve been up to Tabor a bajillion and one times in my sixteen years in Portland. The biggest deal is I hadn’t been up there in a couple months, at least.

But goddamn, it sure was nice. It’s nice to be in a woodsy environment,** divorced a bit from the city while still in it. I’m lucky that we have quite a few places like this in town, within easy reach. And people were definitely enjoying the views and the ambience of the park when I was there. (It doesn’t hurt that Wednesday is the “car free” day, where some of the access roads are closed.)

And while I’ve always sort of liked Tabor from Day One, I didn’t truly appreciate this gem of a park until I moved close to the mount in late 2007. Before, I would get up into the park by the couple obvious routes, take in the view, and descend.*** Besides, the view from Rocky Butte is better. But moving closer to the park encouraged me to try out all the different ways one can access the park by either bike or foot. (And there’s a lot of ways!) And due to proximity it was just easier to spend more time in the park, and explore the non-obvious corners. It’s not just about the view from the top or the reservoirs, no.

I didn’t spend a hell of a lot of time up there, just enough to be satisfied. I descended the mount via the east side, and headed to the Montavilla neighborhood, one of the many ‘hoods I’ve lived in, to get a beer and pizza. An afternoon well spent.

And that’s the thing: One doesn’t need to have an epic bike ride to have fun. It’s just about three miles to the top from work (though it’s a good eight miles home from there.) And I’m glad I have these opportunities so easily accessible!

*I typically work until 3 pm when I have a day shift.

**I hesitate to say “woods”. While there are many a tall Douglas-fir tree in the park, and from the distance looks like forest, the naturescape of the park is a bit too…managed (read: we clear out a lot of the underbrush) to give a full on “being in the woods feeling”. But it is close.

***And I also associated the park a bit too much with pot smoking and drum circles. Not that those things stopped…

It happened: Chehalem Range Ramble, 26 Feb 2017

Yes, my friends, the ride I had rescheduled twice over the course of two years has finally happened. This time I had the determination to stick it out, no matter what.

And determination is what I needed as I woke up Sunday morning. While Saturday was beautiful, sunny and dry with a high near 50F/10C, I awoke at 6 am on Sunday to rain out the window, and a forecast of showers and rain all day. To top that off, I got texts from two of the people who were supposed to come bailing on me. Will anyone come? Or is this going to be an hour long MAX trip to just have breakfast in Hillsboro? I texted a couple other people who said they’d be going and got one confirmation, so that was something to raise my spirits.

The trip to Hillsboro was a comedy of errors. I missed my MAX train by about five minutes. No problem, I’ll catch the next one. But I forgot that early on Sunday morning the train runs at a half-hour frequency, which meant I was going to be late. To top it off, about 15 minutes in the train stopped for 15 minutes due to a medical emergency. I had to transfer trains two more times to get to Hillsboro. I was supposed to be to Hillsboro by 8:30, now it was more like 9:30! Thankfully, there were three folks waiting for me: Vince, Ed, and Aaron, and they were just finishing up breakfast. And miraculously, the rain had stopped, and the radar didn’t show anything for a while. A break.

The first 10 miles was the warm-up to the Chehalem Mountains, a relatively flat romp first through suburbia, then open farmland. A decent headwind made up for the lack of hills. But the real challenge started after we passed the always-closed Laurel Valley Market. Campbell Road started its charge skyward, and lower gears were wished for. Finnigan Hill Road started with a brief but screaming descent into the McFee Creek valley, then the true climbing began. For the next four miles we’d be gradually climbing up the mountain. But Finnigan Hill Road turned out to be the best way I’ve found up so far: generally a 5 to 7% grade with a few short steeper 10% pitches thrown in for good measure, decent gravel for the most part, peacefully quiet and pretty scenic.

But there would be another “challenge” thrown in. The forecasts had threatened a snow level of around 1000 feet all weekend, and we’d be easily going higher than that. We saw a couple cars descend down from the mountain with snow on them. And as we climbed further, we started seeing evidence of snow on the sides of the road, then eventually on the road itself. This is going to be interesting, I thought to myself!

The last mile to the top of the mountains on Bald Peak Road was paved and mostly clear of snow. A heavy fog clung to everything, and the state park at Bald Peak was covered with a light layer of snow. It wasn’t raining, but the snow on the Douglas Firs was thawing, creating a “rain” where our picnic table was. Plus, the heavy fog meant that there was no view. We all ate our food (and I made my coffee) as fast as we could.

It was all downhill from there, of course. The first bit of descent was sketchy as there was snow on the road, and unseen gravel mixed in. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to get out of the “snow zone”. We turned onto Laurelwood Road for the true screaming descent, announced by a warning sign of 18% grade! Thank you, disc brakes!

It wasn’t long until we were out of the Range and back into the Tualatin Valley lowlands. We stopped in the tiny town of Gaston at about 25 miles in for food and warmth. We could do a ten mile loop that would incorporate Williams Canyon Road, one of my favorite gravel roads out this way. But we were beat already. We all came to the realization that we hadn’t done that much “good” riding this season, mostly because the weather hasn’t been conducive (and also for me, because my Bantam has been out of commission for months). While we could have done the loop, we opted for the easier option of heading back to Hillsboro from here. This was on more mostly mellow farm roads with a bit of rolling action and a lack of traffic. We got into Hillsboro just before 5 pm and hopped on the MAX light rail.

I am really, really, really glad that I did the ride after all. It was a fun time, and it reminded me of why I love this area. And besides the snow and fog at the top of the mountains, it was pretty much dry, too. (There was a brief sprinkle while we were eating in Gaston.) I wish there were more people that showed up, but I’m going to try to do a variation of this ride again, except early fall when the weather is better. In the meantime, I plan on getting back out here for more bike explorations. Maybe you’ll join me?

The basic ride route here on RideWithGPS.