A New Year in Bend

It’s been an annual tradition since New Years 2007: Get out of town. My first five years of New Years in Portland had been mediocre at best, either a whatever party or home alone. So getting out of Dodge, somewhere, anywhere was a better option. I’ve stuck with that tradition, hitting up places like the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Coast, Coast Range, Seattle and Vancouver BC. This was the first time doing it in Central Oregon. Destination: Bend, the outdoors-loving metropolis of the region.

I’ve been to Central Oregon several times, and have passed through Bend on a couple occasions. This would be the first time I would spend more than a day here. Bend is part of a class of Western Mountain Towns like Park City or Telluride, where urbanites go to get away or move permanently so they can mountain bike or ski all the time. And it being Central Oregon, it’s drier, sunnier, and colder than Portland in the winter, so many people come to enjoy the sun and/or winter activities.

We took off from Portland on Friday December 28. It was raining pretty good, though it thankfully wasn’t snowing when we got over the shoulder of Mount Hood at Wapinitia Pass. The next few days would be mostly dry with a bit of precipitation at night. We spent three full days in the Bend area (a half day spent in neighboring Sisters), basically wandering around, eating a bunch of good food and drinking some good beer. Bend is no slouch in these departments. We didn’t bike around (many of the side streets were sketchy) but we did see a decent amount of folks on bikes, both fat and not. More folks than I saw riding in Austin during my recent visit, yet Austin is ten times larger (and double the warmth) of Bend!

We returned home on Monday January 1st. We took a longer way back, heading north on US 97/197 to The Dalles then west on I-84 to Portland. On the way back we stopped by Smith Rock State Park for an hour hike. Smith Rock has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the state (in a state with lots of beautiful spots.) Lots of folks were enjoying the park, too.

Oh Central Oregon, you tantalize me. So close yet so far away. I’d get out to you more often if driving wasn’t the only viable way to get here. (Yes, I can bike, but it’ll take me maybe three or so days one way. And the bus to/from Bend isn’t that great, esp. when it comes to bikes.) I’d love to spend more time in Central Oregon and really explore the high desert. Maybe a bike tour is in order…

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Looking ahead to 2019

It’s a new year. I know it’s just a date, but it is an appropriate time to look ahead for what a new year will bring. Some people make resolutions. I prefer to make goals. I know that this is an ideal, and I know that I won’t accomplish all the things I hope. But I gotta try!

Biking: I said last time I needed to bike more, but this time it’s a bit more urgent. Since I don’t have a job to ride to, my weekly bike commuting miles has been reduced to zero. And bicycling is my only true regular exercise. I’ve been feeling it around the waist, and when I put my leg over a top tube. I need to make myself get out there and ride more, and more often. Short rides, long rides, you name it!

Bike Camping and Touring: Yep, 2018 was lighter than hoped in this department. I’m going to make a concerted effort to do more, especially since camping and touring not only can be fun, but keeps me balanced. Luckily since I don’t have a “regular” job right now, my time is a lot more open than in the past. Gone are the days of figuring out tours months in advance and hoping I can get the time off. No, I just need to make sure that my life business is in order before I go on the road. And if it is, I can even do a spontaneous trip!

I don’t have any plans of doing a super-long tour (like, a month or three) in 2019. While it may look like a perfect time on paper, there’s still so much I need to get rolling with my “business” that I can’t just f–off for a whole summer. Not only that, I’m not feeling the desire to do a month or longer tour right now. I know someday I will again, but 2019 won’t be the year for it.

Instead, I’ll aim to do a bunch of small stuff like overnighters and three day trips, and throw in a smattering of weeklong (and possibly something pushing two weeks) outings. It’ll be long enough to get away from things, but short enough that I can still be engaged with my real life. And that’s what I need right now.

Where to go? I’ll stay in the Pacific Northwest, mostly. I don’t want to go that far since I’m pretty broke right now and can’t afford to spend a lot on the to/from. Thankfully bike touring in itself can be inexpensive, and also that there’s lots of destinations close at hand. Some thoughts of where include:

  • Up to Vancouver, BC! It’s been since 2011 (Big Tour) since I rode all the way up, and since 2012 since I rode north from Portland
  • Out into the Columbia Gorge. I didn’t ride out here at all in 2018 since much of it was closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire. It’s been too long. The Gorge is good for a quick overnight, or a longer jaunt.
  • Central Oregon. I’ve been out there twice in 2018, sans bicycle. It reminded me of how much I want to explore by bike. I’m thinking a week long outing, maybe on the Outback route, maybe a mix of other things.
  • Oregon Coast. Last year was the first time in twelve years that I did something extensive out there, and I’d like to get back again. I’m thinking going further south from where I turned inland at Reedsport. Some of the best coast is in the south. I could incorporate some Southern Oregon riding here too.
  • Gifford Pinchot/Mt Hood National Forests. This compromises the forested Cascades east of Portland. Close at hand, with lots of good destinations.
  • San Juan Islands. Because!

I don’t know if I can do all the above, but I’m gonna try.

Backpacking: I didn’t get in a trip in 2018, and am bummed about it. I’d like to get in something, at least an overnight. I’m not looking to do a big thru-hike, but a three day, two night trip would be nice, too. It would be cool to do more than one trip, but at least one trip, please!

Structure and schedule: One of the hardest things about being self-employed is not having a schedule to adhere to. This can be problematic, since a lack of structure means you do things “whenever” and that whenever can easily turn into never. So I need to work on this, have some regular things to do each day, and a regular time to wake up. Because there’s a lot that I want to accomplish this year, and I don’t want to let a lack of efficiency hinder it.

Volunteer: I spent the first decade of my Portland life volunteering for various non-profit organizations like the IPRC, Portland Zine Symposium, and Cycle Wild. I pretty much let all that drop by 2013, with the Portland Tweed Ride being my only current volunteer activity. I miss that interaction, the helping out of an organization I believe in. So I need to get back on that. If anything, having a regular activity will add more structure to my life!

Art and the creative biz: I’ve done quite a bit of art in the last quarter of 2018 and want to keep that going. It’s fun, and also, it’s a way to make money. I’ve also got book projects in mind, like the eventual revision of the Bike Touring Primer plus a guidebook collecting many of the Portland area bike rides and walks I’ve done since 2004.

All of this is going to take time. Thankfully, giving myself more time was one of the reasons that I quit my job at the hostel. But the important thing here is to stick with it. I’ve got an opportunity here, I don’t want to squander it.

I look back to 2012, the year after the Big Tour. I was actually getting quite a bit of illustration work, just off my reputation alone. I was also drawing a buttload of comix, putting out the first New Old Stock in the summer. “Building my brand”, as they say these days. But of course I wasn’t thinking that way, more concerned about finding steady work. So when a position opened up at the hostel, I took it, and let all that creative work slide. All that I built up? It pretty much eroded away in the next five years. Here I am now, having to build it up again.

So I want to work at this. I want to spend my time wisely and think of the big picture. I don’t want to panic at my broke situation and run out and find a job. Because I’ll be no better off than I had before I started. If being an artist is what I want to do, I need to seize the opportunity. If there’s on promise to myself I want to keep, it’s to get all the way through 2019 before I start to think about a “real” job. Because I don’t know if and when I’ll get an opportunity like this again.