Nostalgia for past commutes sure beats nostalgia for past wars

Ah, nostalgia. Despite our smarter urges to avoid too much of it, it does get stronger as one gets older. And it’s pretty common to get it from predictable triggers, like putting on an album that you haven’t heard since high school will inevitably remind you of high school.

But has a bike commute ever triggered nostalgia for you? It has for me.

Last week I rode from work to a pizza place over on NE 72nd and Glisan. I used to live at 68th and Glisan, and half-way through the ride I realized I was riding what would have been my commute during that time. Now, I’ve ridden these roads in this area many times in the intervening years, but not in this particular sequence, a sequence I only did when travelling from home to work or vice versa. And I couldn’t help but remember my old house.

I lived at NE Glisan St at 68th for a little over a year, from April of 2008 to August of 2009. This was the first “good house” I had in quite some time, after a few years of bouncing from friend’s house to friend’s house, or living at the hostel. Sure, there were some not-so-good things about the place: the noise of traffic on Glisan, the insane next-door neighbors, the awkward bathroom situation, the uninsulated attic I lived in, and most importantly, the revolving door nature of the “third roommate”* which, along with finding cheaper rent, pushed me out of the place.

But there were heaps of good memories there, too: Not long after I moved in, I got my Long Haul Trucker and did a few decent tours in that year, including the Wheely Fun Tour. The summer of 2008 is when Pedalpalooza exploded, and the rest of the summer was just plain crazy in a good way. And I started dating April during my final few months of the Glisan house. Ah, memories. I have to say, the years of 2006 through 2011 were overall generally good for me, probably my “Portland Golden Age”, so thinking about this time gives me the warm fuzzies.

As for the bike commute itself, it’s nothing particularly special. It was just around three miles one way, which for me is that sweet spot between it being barely anything and too long. And it was more downhill on the way to work, so I could easily leave the house at 7:45 and be to work on time at 8. The route itself wasn’t particularly scenic, just meandering through neighborhoods.

My favorite bike commute was when I lived further east in Montavilla around SE Stark and 90th from April of 2010 to May of 2011. It was a bit longer, a hair under four miles. This part of Montavilla is on the other side of Mount Tabor from where I work. At first, I would skirt Tabor by going around the north side, which added distance. Then I just decided to take Tabor head-on, even with my three speed. This gave me a bit of a workout for about 1/3 of a mile until I crested. Then it was a glorious mile of bombing downhill (especially if the light at SE Belmont and 60th was green.) There are of course some great memories of that little humble apartment April and I shared, the only time I just lived with a significant other sans roommates…

Earlier that day at the Belmont Library, I had another nostalgia trigger. I spotted a 90’s era Giant Rincon. While this is no head-turner, a pretty basic entry level mountain bike, it was the bike I owned for the first five years of living in town. I bought mine in July of 2001 for the then princely sum to me of $150 from Citybikes. I had lived in Portland since April, but I was growing weary of busing and walking everywhere, and anyways, I wanted to be a “cool Portland cyclist”.

I rode the shit out of this bike until the summer of 2006, when I finally got a nicer bike, my beloved mid-80’s Centurion Accordo. In retrospect, the Rincon was too small for me, and since I was cheap and underemployed then, repairs meant “the cheapest way possible” when things wore out. And believe me you, things wore out! But I explored every nick and cranny of town on this bike. I even went on my first bike tour with this bike. So I did a lot of good and fun things on this bike, despite it all.

Would I move in again to that house on NE Glisan and 68th? Heck, no. Would I own a Giant Rincon again? Unh uh. These are just objects of my memory, a time and a place in the past. They are good memories. But I need to work towards creating new experiences that I’ll get nostalgic about ten years down the road…

*My main other roommate, Jesse, was cool and I got along with her pretty well. But she was just not good in picking out roommates. It was mostly due to her indecision. We would interview a candidate, I would say “Let’s go with them”, but she’d want to hold out until she found the “perfect match”. Then when the list was exhausted, we’d go back to my choice, and they had already found a spot. (It was definitely a renter’s market then.) So then she’d scramble and find a “warm body” by the end of the month to make rent. They would end up being disastrous in some way, and we’d give them the boot after a couple months.


Next Three Speed Ride announced: Sunday June 25

Society Of Three Speeds

Hey all! We are gearing up for Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual celebration of Bike Fun. This year, it’s all of June! Of course I am planning all sorts of fun stuff for the month, but as like the past umpteen Pedalpaloozas, a three speed ride will happen!

This Pedalpalooza Three Speed Ride will happen on Sunday June 25th. Meet up at Woodlawn Park in NE (north of NE Dekum St, west of NE 13th Ave) at 9:45 am. Yeah, earlier this time! We’ll be taking off around 10:30 am. Here are some deets and info:

  • Coincidentally, this ride will happen right at the same time as the Woodlawn Park Coffee Outside, which starts at 9 am. So come with your coffee or tea brewing setup. (You’re going to use it again during the ride, anyways!) Some food ain’t a bad idea.
  • Yes, this ride is on the same day as Sunday…

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A Leif Erickson ride, 16 April 2017

Sunday, April 16 2017.  A pretty nice day around these parts. not that sunny, but dry and a high reaching 63F/18C. A nice day to be outside. I had no work or obligations. Where to go? Well, there was a ride heading out to the tulip festival in Woodburn. Sounded fun, but it would be at minimum a 70 mile round trip ride. I don’t know if I was in shape for that yet. Going out to the Gorge would be cool, but on a nice Sunday? Think of the traffic. (Not only that, but there was a stiff east wind today.) Nope, something closer to home, and shorter, since I didn’t leave the house until after noon. How about Leif Erickson Drive in Forest Park?

Yes, Forest Park, that vast wooden expanse stretching northward from downtown along the West Hills. I wanted some “woodsy” time, this would give me quite a bit of that! Sure, Forest Park isn’t exactly pristine wilderness, but it’s enough for me right now. And some sounds of the city can permeate the dense woods, but it’s pretty serene nonetheless.

I decided to enter Forest Park from the south, via NW Thurman St. I do this for a couple reasons: 1) Heading east across the St Johns Bridge via bicycle is easier than west and 2) Most of the climbing happens in the first mile or so. Not only that, but the first mile or two from the Thurman gate is the roughest section of the Leif Erickson trail, so it’s nice to ascend here than descend.

There were plenty of cars at the trailhead, and there were a decent amount of folks within the first couple miles. Beyond that, things thinned out a bit, though the trail had users on it the whole eleven miles on this nice Sunday. There were walkers, joggers-I mean runners, dogs, and other cyclists. The bikes ran the gamut: while this is considered a “mountain bike” trail, I did see folks with fairly skinny tires (28 mm?) and I also saw a few fat bikers too.  (I was in the middle with my plump Rat Trap Pass tires, which did well on everything except mud.)

But I wasn’t here to see cyclists, I was here to see trees! And the ride didn’t disappoint in that department. All the creeks were flowing mightily with winter rains, the buds on the deciduous trees were in bloom, and there were trilliums everywhere I looked! The trail itself was in okay condition, though there was its share of puddles and mud.

I rode the whole length of Leif Erickson, then bombed down Germantown Road to the St Johns Bridge. I got dinner at Proper Eats (which is closing at the end of the month, alas.) Then it was a fairly short jaunt homeward…

Here is my route.

The bike tourists return

As those of you who have been following this blog for awhile, you know my day job for eleven years and counting is working the desk at a hostel. (Which hostel? Look at my photostreams and you can figure it out.) Now working a hostel has its ups (getting comped bookings elsewhere) and downs (it’s customer service/hospitality, and guests don’t always do the right thing). But being a hostel in Portland means we see a decent share of bicycle tourists. And of course I like that!

Now bike tourists at a hostel in Portland is pretty much a given: Hostels have a long history with bike touring. My employer, Hostelling International-USA (when it was known as American Youth Hostels or AYH) was the preeminent bike touring organization in the US before Bikecentennial-Adventure Cycling Association stole its thunder, so to speak.* And Portland is a popular touring destination, since we are on or near four big ACA routes, and there’s oodles of touring opportunities all around. And oh yeah, we’re a pretty cheap place to stay, all things considered.

So over the years, I have seen lots of cyclotourists pass through, primarily in the summer months but a trickle still through the off-season.  The past year, however, we haven’t been as popular a spot. I don’t think there’s been any dip in cyclists coming through, it’s probably due to things like Air BnB getting more popular, and the fact that people book up our place so far in advance, cyclists can’t squeeze in (though we do work to accommodate them!) And I haven’t seen anyone in months, either. It’s no surprise as we’ve had quite the intense winter.

But on Thursday April 13, I saw my first cyclotourists of the year! And yes, plural. No, they weren’t together, it just was happenstance that I got two different tourists on the same day. The first was an older gent with a sweet mid-80’s Schwinn Sierra MTB and a BOB trailer. He was heading east through the Gorge. The other was a younger Brit with a thoroughly modern bikepacking setup on a Niner. He was heading out to Astoria to ride the TransAm.** Unfortunately, they showed up in the afternoon so I only got a few minutes to talk to both, and neither stayed Friday night. (The Brit originally booked two nights but departed early. I think he got anxious and wanted to get moving.)

But they are the first of hopefully many. Now if the weather ever improves…

*All of the four founders of ACA got involved in bike touring through AYH.

**And yeah, it’s a bit early for that, especially this year with all the cold, wet, and snow…

Touringish plans for late spring and early summer

Hello friends, even though it’s still oh-so-damp outside, better weather is just around the corner. And now it’s time for me to start thinking about all those bike tours and camping trips I want to do.  I haven’t done much this year so far, just the camping trip in January to Battle Ground Lake and the February cabin trip at Stubb Stewart. (Well, I guess compared to those in colder climes who don’t camp in the snow, I guess I’ve done a bit. 😉  )

I managed to snag a three-day weekend on the first weekend of May. Providing that the weather isn’t complete crap, I’d like to get out to the coast! It’s been awhile (a year!) since I saw the Pacific. Wait, no, I did see the Pacific when I was in the Bay Area. No, it’ll be the first time I’ve been to the Oregon Coast in a year. I may just go out to Cape Lookout, as it’s fairly easy, and beautiful. And man, my time in the Bay Area reminded me of my big Pacific Coast tour in 2006. I need to explore more of that soon…
And as consolation prize for not going to Pepin in May, I snagged a full week off in early June. Where to? Well, I’ve been hankering to go back to Eastern Oregon again, the vast expanse of the state east of the Cascades.* It’s been awhile since I biked out that way, and things like my December work retreat to Smith Rock has wetted my appetite for the dry side, so to speak. But Eastern Oregon is a pretty vast region. Where exactly? Well, my train trip to California made it clear: start in Klamath Falls, since it’s easy to take Amtrak there. From K Falls, I could incorporate sections of the famed Oregon Outback bikepacking route. I’d also like to see some of the big endoheric lakes down that way, and it’s high time to see Newberry Crater too. A lot to tackle in a week. I’ll be refining my plans over the next couple months, and figuring out if I loop back to Klamath Falls, or end elsewhere like Bend or Eugene. Stay tuned.

I also managed to snag an extended weekend off in mid-July. This is reserved for going up north of Seattle again, some of it for doing a bit of the San Juans (most likely just Lopez, my favorite island) and for a special event in the Skagit Valley.

After that, I really hope to do a backpacking adventure this year. Yes, backpacking! While I’ve bike toured a metric crap-ton of times, I’ve never just gone out into the woods with a pack strapped to back. Hopefully, this year will be different.

And besides more camping adventures scattered throughout the summer, I plan to take another week-or-more long tour in September. I just need to figure out where…

*Some may argue that there is two zones east of the Cascades, Central and Eastern Oregon. But to us wet, er, west siders, it’s all Eastern! 😛

Finally, the Three Speed Ride Report for the April 2 ride!

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello folks! I have to say, we had a pretty good first Three Speed Ride for 2017! For one, the weather was pretty decent, a mix of sun and clouds (though at one point we did feel a couple drops) and a high in the mid-to-upper 50’s. (The only complaint there is the temp was “in between” enough that I kept on adding and subtracting a layer throughout the ride.)

We had a good turnout too, around 15 (we picked up a couple more at the end of the ride.) And the ride itself was just the right mix of ease and challenge, with an overall length of 18 miles. Some folks remarked that this was as far as they pushed their three speeds, which was a good sign. But you can push them even further than this ride!

Oh yeah, we managed to hit up four of the five…

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Three Speed Adventure April is happening NOW. And some clarifications on those rules.

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello all! We are officially in the midst of the Three Speed Adventure April challenge, which will be going on until the very end of the month (which is Sunday, April 30.) We’ve got a few people who have said “yes” so far. So if you are on board, give me a heads up at

I just wanted to clarify a few of the guidelines of the challenge, since there’s been some confusion, and I screwed up a couple details as well. So…

  • Please remember that the bike doesn’t have to be a three speed! As with the previous challenge, I accept four or five speed internally geared hubs, basically, what you could have gotten from Sturmey-Archer in the 1970’s.
  • As for that pesky derailleur on Bromptons, you’ll need to disable the derailleur to participate in the challenge. Note: I just said “disable”. You don’t have to remove…

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