my bikes, places i've lived, ponderings

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.

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