The days are getting longer, or, Optimism.

It’s been a toughish month or two. I have been busy with finishing up the Zinester’s Guide to Portland, so a lot of my “free time” has gone into that. There was also the frantic throwing things together for Bike Craft. And most importantly, it’s been damn wet. Even though the month has not finished, we have just broken the rainfall record here in Portland: We just passed the old record of 13.35 inches, and the month isn’t done yet!

To put it bluntly, I have not biked much beyond transportation reasons. And on a few of those days, I opted to take the bus instead. So with all of those factors listed above, there hasn’t been a heck of a lot to write about, so the content here has been lacking.

But the guide is done. And there may be breaks in the rain. And more importantly, I had to go to the dentist Tuesday morning. My dentist is located in Garden Home, a small unincorporated community in Washington County, on the west edge of Portland proper. I didn’t know if I was going to bike or bus it, especially since the weather forecast for Tuesday was iffy. But when I awoke, things were dry. I would bike. I needed a bike ride.

It’s not like I hadn’t done the twelve mile bike ride to the dentist over the years, but doing it on a December day requires motivation. By the time that I bombed down and through downtown, I was in the mood.

The best part of the ride out there was the few miles spent on SW Terwilliger Blvd. If you have ridden here, you know why: the road is mostly through the forest, though the city is close by. And that forest was just about perfect Tuesday morn: cool (low to mid 40’s), slightly damp but not raining, still green because of the abundant Douglas firs, rhododendrons, and moss on bark. After living here for fifteen years, I feel like winter is the best time to experience a Northwest forest, it’s at its most magical. While sometimes I fantasize about living in a snowier and colder place (i.e. a place that gets “real” winter), or heck, a drier and warmer place. But that would mean missing out on a Cascadian forest on a damp winter day. And that wouldn’t be right.

After the dentist appointment (the good news: all my teeth aren’t going to fall out, after all), I decided to take my time getting back and explore different routes. The weather was still okay and I had no other obligations, so why not take my time? Plus, I rarely ever get out to SW Portland, the “forgotten quadrant”. Granted, there’s not a lot of reasons to get out here for me, but might as well try to enjoy this place!

And because I decided to explore a different route, I happened on a coffee shop plopped randomly in SW suburbia: Maplewood Coffee and Tea. It’s housed in a house that was both general store and post office for a good part of the twentieth century. In earlier times, an interurban line that ran from Portland to points south in the Willamette Valley ran right past it! But now it’s a good coffee joint also serving beer. It’s the type of place that would seem normal on NE Alberta and there it would be full of the young and hipster. But here, it has a neighborhood feel, with older folks hanging around, drinking coffee, shooting the shit. I’ll have to come back by here the next time I’m out this way.

A little more rambling and I found myself down on the west side of the Willamette River, in the new development known as South Waterfront. It’s an old industrial area converting itself into a high-rise district of glass towers, very Vancouver. Not much going on yet, though. But they’ve been working on the Waterfront Path down here, and the small segment is pretty nice. But the best part is the new perspectives and angles to the places I’ve come to know over the past fifteen years. Sometimes you think you know a place, but then you’ll see it from a new vantage point, like the one on the north end of the path. I got an interesting view of the Ross Island, Tillikum, and Marquam Bridges.

From there I decided to ride over the Tillikum Crossing. Even though it’s been open since September, I think this is only the second time I biked across it! By then, the threatened rain had shown up. I made a quick visit to Rivelo and got some food, then hopped on the light rail towards home. A pretty good day after all.

I’m looking forward to the longer days ahead, and a new year. It’s been a bit stressful here, and having less obligations and more time to do fun things will be refreshing.


5 thoughts on “The days are getting longer, or, Optimism.

  1. Ah, dentist trips, what the cool kids are doing these days. Ha. Although we got a huge dump of snow and I had to walk this last time. I love the photos. Makes me miss BC.

  2. Did the dentist trip today too. It’s a solid 40 minute ride, in St. Johns so it’s a tossup between going up or going over to St. John’s Bridge. Seriously, within a few minutes either way.

    My “fast” bike hasn’t been out of the house in two months. I’ve been out quite a bit on my city bike though, including on some really wet days (see: my Saltzman video). Still, it’s hard to get motivated.

  3. 13.35 inches of rain so far this month? Wow. I still think you Portlanders are hardier than us in harsh winter climates. I rode through a winter two years ago with 56 mornings with below zero temperatures. I think I prefer that to 40 degree rain. At least it’s dry, very dry, when the temp is -25F.

    I looked up our average Annual rainfall here in Duluth, Minnesota. It is 30.94 inches. Portland will match half of our yearly rainfall in just one month. Yikes. That’s a heck of a lot of rain! I’d take the bus too.

    • To note, 13 inches is abnormally high. The average for December is 5 1/2 inches, the second wettest month (Nov is slightly higher.) So we’re looking at almost triple the monthly average. Our annual rainfall is 36 inches, which is actually lower than many Eastern cities. (Go look.) We just get it mostly in winter and intermittently, so we get the rep of “rainy place”.

      As for snow, I do think it would be nice to see more snow. I’ve been away from snow for long enough that when it does snow here, it’s fun. I don’t mind a couple good snows a year. But I think that’s enough for me. I remember March into April, when you want spring to come and it’s dumping snow outside. I remember the last April I spent in Connecticut, one day it was short-sleeves weather, next day dumping snow. I don’t think I can hack that anymore.

      Then again, there’s those nauseating rainy days in May…

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