Portland is a rather large city. Its 640,000 denizens occupy an area of 145 square miles. So there’s a lot of area. For many people, “far out” Portland is the part of the city east of I-205, a vast swath of postwar suburbia. But I spend a lot of time out that way. For me, “far out Portland” is another swath of postwar suburbia at the opposite end of town. I’m talking deep SW.
How would I define “deep” SW? Well, it’s for one not the close in SW of downtown and the area hugging the Willamette River. Nor is it the tony hills above it. Nope, it’s the area beyond all that. As a dyed-in-the-wool eastsider, I have little reason to go out that way. Granted, there are a few areas of note like Hillsdale and Multnomah Village. But while a SW’er may argue otherwise, there’s not much there that couldn’t easily be found on the east side. The major reason I venture out this way is because my dentist is out here (Garden Home). But every once in awhile, I find the urge to come out this way and explore. What better time to do so than the Coffeeneuring Challenge? If anything, it means a longer ride. And a day like Tuesday October 24, with possibly the last time we’d see 70F/21C until 2018, was a perfect opportunity to explore.
And now there is a Five Points Coffee Roasters out in as deep of SW as you can get. Yes, the coffee shop owned by my former roommate Chris. I visited the original SE Division location during Coffeeneuring 2015. Since then, he added two more locations: one in Johns Landing on SW Macadam (which I have been to before, but not on a Coffeeneuring Challenge) and the newest one (added this year) on SW Capitol Highway in the West Portland Park neighborhood, a half mile down the road from Portland Community College’s Sylvania campus (and also from the city/county line.) It’s a 12 1/2 mile from my house, and it’s beautiful, so…ride time!
The first part of the ride was familiar territory, bombing down N Vancouver Ave to the Broadway Bridge and across the Willamette. Broadway through downtown has a bike lane, but it’s less than pleasant (Don’t get right hooked! Watch out for the clueless student walking into the bike lane!) Then it was the climb over the West Hills. Besides picking a route more suited for mountain goats over this small mountain range, bicyclists (and most cars) are funneled onto two primary routes: Barbur Blvd, which has a more gradual slope but is busier (State Route 99W) and features disappearing bike lanes where you most need it, or Terwilliger Blvd, a more scenic route (planned by the Olmsteads) with less traffic (but still more than you want) and steeper grades. I opted for Terwilliger. Besides, the big-leaf maples were showing off their colors.
From Terwilliger, I turned towards SW Capitol Highway. This road passes through Hillsdale and Multnomah Village. This part is fairly okay as bike riding goes. But after that, the shoulder/bike lane disappears, and the road becomes windy and hilly and narrow, with fast moving traffic. I was hugging the fog line, dodging speeding cars and shrubbery and branches that jutted out from the sides. This is the stereotype we eastsiders have of biking in this neck of the woods. I find it amazing that there are folks who regularly cycle commute out this way, but they are indeed out here (yet not in the same numbers of the east side.) I wondered to myself if I ended up in this part of town first rather than SE,* would I have become the cyclist I am today?
Finally I arrived at Five Points, in a strip mall a bit south of where Capitol Hwy crosses I-5. Chris was there to greet me. I got a lovely mocha and a blueberry muffin (baked by them!) and chatted with Chris for a few hours about the coffee biz in Portland plus our lives.
Before I knew it, it was 5 PM. I had grander hopes of getting here earlier and doing a more in-depth exploration of this far flung area (this marked the first time I’d been in this neighborhood, ever), but as I left, I could feel the chill in the air as the sun moved behind trees. Still, I wanted to do something out this way. So I headed for Nansen Summit, a small butte and high point (about 1,000 feet) just about a mile from the coffee shop. The last bit of the climb was steep, but I appreciated bringing the Bantam. (Y’see, I did entertain the notion of “underbiking” and ride the Raleigh Superbe out this way, but I figured with the hilliness of this area the lowest geared and best braking bike would be the most appropriate tool.) Nanset Summit would provide a 360 degree view of the Coast Range, west side suburbs, downtown, and all the snow capped volcanoes, if it wasn’t for some pesky McMansions and trees. So I had to squint between it all to take in the view. It was worth it, though.
From there, it was all down. With the sound of squealing brakes, I headed first towards Tryon Creek but then north again towards Hillsdale. While much of the outer SW I had just passed through was “gridded” to some degree, this area featured more meandering roads. It resembled to a degree the semi-rural areas of Connecticut I spent some of my younger years in, though the houses in CT were set back further from the road. I made a quick pit stop to the “beer window” at Moonshrimp Brewing, since it was (luckily) only open on Tuesdays. (Gluten free, too!) I did stumble across a few gravel streets and sneak paths, a definite bonus.
I wrapped up my deep SW biking adventure at Sasquatch Brewing in Hillsdale. The combination of a couple beers plus mac and cheese and a pumpkin spice goat cheese cheesecake did me in, and I decided to take the bus the rest of the way home. Hey, it was late and I had already done 20 miles, so still an accomplishment!
So yes, I need to get out to deep SW again sometime soon. There are still more roads that need to be explored. But I am thankful that I don’t have to bike out that way regularly…
*During my first month in town, I did live in SW, though it was Kings Heights, close to Burnside and west of downtown. Since then, I have not lived west of the Willamette.