A Saturday Social Distance Ramble: 28 March 2020

I haven’t been riding my bike as much as I should, even before global pandemic and “stay at home”. So getting out on a bike for a few hours right now is a big deal. Gone are my regular errands by bike (though I still get down to my P.O. Box once a week), so my bike rides are now “pure”, unadulterated with needful things, unencumbered by my usual “daily carry” stuff. Now is the time to bring just the necessities on a bike ride. Almost like a roadie, but still more than a roadie. Maybe a randonneuring level of stuff?

Anyways, if I’m going to do a “pure” ride, I might as well ride one of my “fun” bikes. Last Saturday I took out my Robin Hood path racer project, a fine machine, but needs some adjusting. I haven’t ridden my Bantam since The Dalles Ramble at the end of February (just a month ago, but now feels like a lifetime), so why not give that a go?

And where to go? I’ve been hearing reports that the obvious places, like the bike paths and big parks, have too many people despite the “stay at home” order and the concept of social distancing. Now the weather for Saturday was meh, steely gray and occasional light sprinkles (the type you don’t notice after two minutes), so they probably wouldn’t be choked with people. But I’m still going to avoid those places for the most part right now. Plus there’s many quiet streets and off-the-beaten path places to go, especially the further east you go in Portland. So that’s what I did.

I ended up making a 17 mile loop from my house. I first headed north to the Cully neighborhood, then easwardaround the north side of Rocky Butte, then south through Maywood Park, Parkrose Heights, and Hazelwood, then back west through Montavilla and home. It’s not a loop that many would take, but I like getting out this way, especially since there’s a mix of unimproved (read: dirt or gravel) roads and the types of general weird shit you are not going to find in Inner Southeast.

I guess being on my “touring bike”, seeing landscapes that somehow reminded me of the Canadian Prairies (yes, really), and the good headwind I encountered when southbound reminded me of bike touring. It was a bittersweet feeling, thinking about the good times I’ve had on my bike over the past fifteen years, and thinking about what lies ahead.

I don’t think this year is going to be a good “touring” year, for me or really anyone else. I’ve had meh touring years (that I complain about a lot here), but much of that can be blamed on internal forces–my lack of desire and feelings of inadequacy. And while external forces have come into play before–like lack of time off, crappy weather, a kid setting fire to the Columbia Gorge--this is going to be the biggest external force in my lifetime. We don’t know what the world is going to look like this summer when it comes to bike touring. Will there still be shuttered campgrounds and businesses? Sure, one can stealth camp, but what if there’s another spike in COVID-19 cases in summer or fall, requiring another series of self-quarantines? And maybe you are just about to go on the road, or even worse, you’re on a tour far from home?

I realize that worrying about touring this year is selfish, when people are dying from coronavirus and many have lost their jobs. I worry about these things a lot. But this whole global pandemic has really upended our lives, and we are nowhere in the homestretch. It may be an altered world when we get out it, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse, most likely a combination of the two. At the most basic level, I hope to be able to do some sort of bike touring this year, even if it means lots of stuff close to home. Getting out on the road on my bike is better than not, no matter what.

But in the short term, getting on my bike around town is better than not, no matter what. I need to make sure I do a ride like this every week through the crisis. Heck, after the crisis as well. And yeah, I should have been doing this before the crisis, too. It’s funny how events like this put things into perspective.

Hope everyone is hanging in out there.

You can see my route here.

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