It had been a busy September, with a big conference occupying one full week, and then travel to Boise another. Despite sneaking in some rides while in Boise, my September cycling has been pretty scant. Returning to Portland, I knew I needed a bike ride.
I had to go to Blue Moon to pick up supplies. Yes, I head up to Portland’s premier film camera store on a regular basis, and my film stock is pretty good. But I am now in a darkroom class, and my instructor had a few requirements. I needed to use Ilford HP5+. I do like this black and white film stock, but I was actually completely out of it. Not only that, I needed to buy photographic paper to print with.
The basic ride to St. Johns is about thirteen miles from my house, but I wanted to make it more adventurous. I wanted rough stuff. And the best way to get that is via Leif Erickson Drive through Forest Park in NW. I hadn’t ridden Leif since May, so another visit was due. As I described it back in May: Leif Erickson “Drive” is actually an eleven mile/eighteen kilometre dirt road through second-growth forest, Portland’s best opportunity for “gravel grinding” without leaving the city.
And since it was Saturday, it meant PDXCoffeeOutside. I had not been in months, as my Saturdays had been occupied. This time it was at Creston Park in SE, about three miles from my house. I could easy incorporate it into the ride. I pulled out my “quick” coffee kit (Esbit stove with half-liter pot, pour-over coffee bags), aired up the tires on my Bantam, and got to coffee at about 10:30 AM. It had already been going on for an hour and a half, but the Saturday version of Coffee Outside is a lot more casual than the old Friday edition. While it technically ends at 11, when I left a little after noon there were still people hanging out.
From Creston Park, I headed down to the Willamette River, crossed it via the Steel Bridge, and rode into NW. I made a pit stop at Food Front Co-op for lunch supplies. After Food Front, the up starts, a couple good pitches on NW Thurman St, the first one gets up to almost 10%. I was really feeling it. I took a long pause at the Leif Erickson gate, then climbed some more. There were plenty of people out on this lovely early fall day (sunny, 80F/27C). Most cyclists fell into the “gravel grinder” category: spandex, light bikes. I wonder what they thought of me, laden with big handlebar bag and Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag!
At about the 3 1/2 mile post, there’s a picnic table next to a creek. This is my traditional lunch/break stop.1 I love stopping here, because not only am I surrounded by deep woods, but it’s so quiet. The sounds of the city fade away for the most part. You might hear a stray train horn or helicopter overhead, but wind through trees and bird songs dominate.
The further I ride on Leif Erickson, the better it gets. Walkers become sparse, and the forest itself feels thicker even though the path pretty much parallels NW St. Helens Road (US 30) below. Leif has a bit of up and down as the road cuts across numerous small valleys, though it feels like it flattens out a bit the further in you go. Still, I was definitely feeling the climbs today. I guess I’m pretty out of shape.
After a couple hours of forest riding, I re-entered riding with traffic at the end of Leif Erickson. NW Germantown Road features a nice, windy bomb down to almost the St. Johns Bridge. After crossing the river again at this suspension bridge, I’m in downtown St. Johns. I pick up film and paper at Blue Moon, have a drink and a snack at Stormbreaker Brewery next door, and ride east. I’m tired, worn out, so I decide to catch the Yellow Line MAX light rail at N Killingsworth St and Interstate Av. I had done 32 miles by that point, not too shabby. Maybe I can get back into Forest Park again on my bike before it gets too muddy. And I’m sure I’ll need to get some more film and paper at Blue Moon at some point…
1 There is a dearth of picnic tables or benches on Leif Erickson. The only other one I know of is at the Leif Erickson/Saltzman Rd junction at mile 6. Lots of cyclists stop there.