I think that most cities have certain Christmas lights traditions. Here in Portland, the big one has been Peacock Lane. SE Peacock Lane is SE 40th Ave between Stark and Belmont. Every year, the houses along Peacock Lane set up elaborate light displays. Every year, thousands throng to the street to see the displays. It’s a Portland cliche: The hoopla attracts as much as it repels. It’s the “cool thing” to say that it’s hyped, the crowds are big (true), and the displays don’t change (also true.) Still, even the naysayers sometimes make a token trip each season.
And in 2020, Peacock Lane didn’t turn on the lights due to the pandemic. The thing we all took for granted was not happening. As hackneyed as it could be, Peacock Lane was doable for cyclists and pedestrians. They closed the street to cars for a couple nights, and since it’s in close-in SE, it’s easy to get to. The next-best alternative, the (never-changing) lights at Portland International Raceway (PIR), is further out (though accessible by light rail). In the past PIR had one token night for bikes and walkers, but they cut that this year, so you have to drive through. I can understand why Peacock Lane had to cancel because the crowds are tightly packed to a 1/5 mile street. But PIR is a racetrack over a mile long and never attracts as many folks. Oh well.
Then I learned via Bike Portland contributor Tom Howe that there’s another light display just a few miles further out on Stark. There’s a cul-de-sac neighborhood on SE 111th north of Stark called, appropriately enough, Starkwood. Like Peacock Lane, most of the homeowners have elaborate displays set up. And since it’s obscure enough, it didn’t sound like there’d be throngs of people. The evening of Saturday December 26th turned out fairly mild and dry, so Emee and I rode our three speeds over to Starkwood to check it out.
It’s just about four miles to get to Starkwood. The street was quiet when we got there. There were a few cars that came through to check out the lights, but we were the only cyclists. (And no pedestrians.) I brought my Olympus 35 RD rangefinder, loaded with Kodak Ultramax 400, to capture the lights. I rated the shots at 800. And I got some decent shots! A lot of the lights displays were pretty fun.
Emee and I rode south through the Cherry Park and Mill Park neighborhoods and caught a few more light displays. In particular there’s a good display on SE 114th Av south of Salmon, and another good one around SE 101st Ave and Harrison.
It was a ten mile round trip ride. Emee and I had a bunch of fun. I’m not that big on holiday traditions, but maybe riding to Starkwood for Christmas lights will become one?
Oh yeah! This was Midnite Bicycle League 2020 Challenge Ride 2!
Check out photos from Starkwood below, or look on flickr.