Westside Explorations

My view of the “west side”, the suburban land-mass of Portland that starts in the West Hills (Tualatin Hills) and continues westward until it peters out before the Coast Range, has definitely evolved over the years. I was definitely in the “hater” territory when I had a holiday temp job in Hillsboro in 2005. But I now respect this area a lot more and try to explore it more. But I still haven’t been out there as much as I hope. It’s a ways away, and I need to motivate myself.

One way to motivate myself is to drop off a camera. The two camera shops I use for camera repair, Advance Camera and Portland Camera Service, are located out that way. I had to deposit my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s from Advance on Friday June 18th. They had serviced the camera, but there were still a few outstanding issues (iffy shutter release, hard to open film door) that had to be addressed. I could have driven out but since it was a nice day why not bike? I made it easier this time by taking the MAX light rail to Sunset Transit Center and bike the three miles from there. I am glad that I brought the Bantam, as that area is hilly. It was more down than up to get to the camera shop.

I decided to take a more adventurous route back. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway features gradual grades, one of the few roads in this area that does. But it sure is busy, bike lane or no. So I decided to head south of there for a bit. This was hilly, to say the least. I discovered a nice secret path, what would be “SW 45th Ave” between Fairvale Court and Cullen Blvd. This is a part of SW Trails route 7. There were steps and a couple footbridges which added to the funky feel.

The main goal of this expedition was to seek out yet another obscure Portland history spot. This was found at Texas Hydro Park at SW Texas St and 32nd Ave. A “hydro park” in our local parlance is a spot where a water tower or tank has a bit of public-accessible greenspace attached to it. Most every hydro facility had some sort of lawn, but for decades they were off limits to people until the city loosened regulations. With a simple rule-change Portland got a bit more park space, albeit parks outside the Parks bureau. (They are maintained by the water bureau instead.) What makes Texas Hydro Park significant (to me) is two concrete posts found on the northwest corner. These two posts were part of the base of an air raid siren, part of Portland’s civil defense system. There were several sirens placed around the city from the 50s to the mid-60s, these two concrete posts are the only thing that remains. These sirens were very prominent during that era of weekly-to-monthly tests, now they are barely a memory.

One thing I will remember for a bit is the climb to Texas Hydro Park. It makes sense that these water tanks would be on the highest spots in the area, so that water could be gravity-fed to the residents. After catching my breath and several gulps of water, it was mostly all downhill from the height of 600 ft down to the Willamette, then zipping towards home.

For photos of my Raleigh Superbe over the years, see the dynamic flickr album below. Or click here.

SW Terwilliger Blvd, 18 June 2021

Another excuse to get out to the west side is a group bicycle ride. Compared to what goes on from the West Hills eastward, the west side is a virtual desert in non-roadie rides. So it’s a big deal that some folks are trying to put together a casual fun ride highlighting some of the things out that way. The Westside Wednesday Ride had debuted in June, for now an every two week thing. The ride meets at Beaverton Transit Center, making it easy for my east side ass to get over there. I decided to try it out on the evening of Wednesday June 30th. There was about a couple dozen riders gathered, a range of ages from twenty-something to sixty-something. Carlos, the ride leader, warned about climbs ahead. Luckily I opted for the Bantam yet again.

The climbs started as we headed north into the region known as Cedar Hills. Beaverton is just on the edge of the West Hills, so climbs are just part of the riding experience out here. I worked up quite the sweat, and there was one climb that I walked, and so did many other folks.

But if I want to learn more about this “uncharted territory”, I’ll pay for it with climbs. Thankfully the Westside Wednesday Ride delivered. I got to see a nice pond at Commonwealth Park, then a bit of “technically singletrack” through more greenspace, and the jewel of the ride: an actual waterfall. Cedar Mill Creek drops over rocky cascades right next to NW Cornell Road. i’ve biked this section of Cornell a couple times, yet never knew of its existence, as its hidden in deep woods below the road. This was the site of the “cedar mill” that gave the neighborhood its name. It was pretty dark when we were here, but I’d definitely like to get back here again.

There was a bit of down and then a bit of up, and the ride ended up on the top deck of the parking garage at Sunset Transit Center. Hanging out atop parking garages seem to be a theme with group rides in these parts, as its not something one would normally do on their own. It was already after 10 PM at this point and the ride had a few more miles to get back to the start point. I was a bit tempted to ride, as it was promised to be “all downhill”. But the MAX station was right here, and the trains run every half-hour at this time of night. So I broke off from the ride and hopped on the light rail to back home.

I hope to get back out on another Westside Wednesday ride, as I want to explore this area more and also want to support rides out this way. But even without the excuse of a group ride, I should definitely get out here more. I got some bike maps and a sense of adventure…

For photos of my Raleigh Superbe over the years, see the dynamic flickr album below. Or click here.

Cedar Mill Falls. Westside Wednesday Ride, 30 June 2021
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