It was obvious: I needed a good ride. After almost two weeks off the bike, a few short rides were not going to do the trick. And if I wanted to build stamina for summer adventures, I needed length.
The #pdxcoffeeoutside for Saturday March 11th was happening at Columbia Park. And there would be a group ride afterwards that would go up to Council Crest, one of the highest points in the city. I like group rides, but I was not necessarily in the mood to “crush it”, especially on the intense climb to Council Crest. That’s a ride I need to do at my own pace, solo, not be in the back of the pack and/or left behind so that I technically have a solo ride when I wanted a group ride. No, I’d get to Columbia Park and then figure out what to do.
I decided to ride my Bantam the almost ten miles to Columbia Park, as while the MAX light rail would alleviate most of the riding part, it would take about the same amount of time due to the transfer at Rose Quarter. It was a nice ride. There was some sprinkles for the first half, but after that the day stayed dry and we got to see the sun quite a bit. There was maybe 30 people at the park by the time I arrived at 10 AM. I got to work making coffee, using my Esbit pot kit with Solo alcohol burner and Backporch Coffee Roasters “pour-over” packs–not as sophisticated as grinding my own coffee, but it did the trick. There was a collection of familiar faces mixed with newbies, and I chatted with folks.
11 AM came around and the group ride departed. Now I was deep in North Portland and at a fairly early hour for me. (Compare this to the “sometime after 2 PM” that I would usually find myself in these parts.) I knew I wanted to hit up Blue Moon Camera and pick up my online orders. After that I wasn’t too sure, though I wasn’t feeling the urge to cross the St. Johns Bridge and cruise through Forest Park–I’ll wait for Leif Erickson to dry out a bit. After picking up my purchases from Blue Moon and eating lunch, I decided I’d ride up to Kelley Point Park, where the Willamette flows into the Columbia. Kelley Point is a favorite spot of mine, but I don’t get up there enough, especially now that I live pretty far from it. (The last time I was out there was during last summer’s Bikes and Film Cameras Club ride.) Going to Kelley Point would have the added benefit of distance, since it’s so far from everything, I’m forced to ride.
On the way I swung by Cathedral Park under St. Johns Bridge. And I also discovered a new-to me natural area, Baltimore Woods. Okay, I’ve known about Baltimore Woods for several years, and have been to the area closer to N. Baltimore Ave. But this natural area, basically a one-to-two block wide woods between N Decatur and Edison Sts, runs for about a mile. The slope right here is fairly steep, so the land didn’t get built upon like the neighborhood just east of it. I happened upon an access point between two houses on Edison, right where it intersects N St. Johns Ave. This led to a fairly large open meadow that had views of the bridge in the distance. There were a few young madronas planted in a small grove, too. Madronas are the only broadleaf evergreen tree native to Portland, and they are typically found along the bluffs along the Willamette, as they like well-drained soils. Hopefully the young madronas thrive!
From there, it was a few miles of riding through the mix of industrial and wild that dominate this part of the peninsula. Kelley Point was not too busy for such a nice March Saturday (the high peaked around 52F/11C), so that meant that my favorite spot, the picnic table near the confluence of the two rivers, was unoccupied. I made another cup of coffee while watching traffic on the Columbia River. A car-carrying cargo ship left its port and headed downriver, but first two tugs had to help turn the boat around so that it was pointing the right way. There were also several dogs with their humans wandering around (Kelley Point is a popular spot to bring dogs, especially since it had one of the first off-leash areas in the city.)
The ride so far was good. Kelley Point was twenty miles in, the longest I had ridden in 2023. And there was still plenty of ride home if I wanted it. While my body protested a little, wondering why we couldn’t just go to the nearest MAX station, I wanted to try to ride the whole way back, at my own pace. I’d take as many stops as needed. There was a few more miles of industrial meh, then a pause at Smith Lake, full of water after winter’s rains. I kept on riding eastward along the Columbia Slough path along the levee, a fairly rough path. That’s good, because it means no fast roadies as they wouldn’t want to ride 25mm tires on this crap! The Slough is another area that I used to ride a bunch when I lived in the Woodlawn neighborhood, but don’t get out to much since I now close to Mount Tabor. And the sky kept on clearing, which meant that I got a peek at both Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens!
Eventually I would need to leave the flatlands along the river to get back home, and that meant going up. The hill to get over the N Vancouver Ave Viaduct felt especially taxing to my out of shape body, but then I remembered I always hated this hill even back in the days when I was more fit. I was getting a bit peckish, so I paused at Farragut Park. This park was just about a mile from my old house in Woodlawn, so I’d come here often, especially when I’d do my outdoor camping dinners when it was hot out. Farragut Park is pretty obscure, being on the edge of things, but that was nice because it meant not a lot of people there. I definitely miss aspects of this area, even though I now hate that house I used to live in.
I still had a ways to go. But the riding was pleasant as the last day of Standard Time transitioned to night. Another pause at Bella Pizzeria on NE Alberta for a couple slices (the riding was making me quite hungry) and it was more down than up to get back home. A glimpse of Mount Hood from Alameda Ridge, resplendent in snow, boosted my spirits.
I got in just a little after dark, 37.9 miles (61 km) total. This is the longest I’ve ridden in quite some time. Looking back on my records from last year, I hadn’t put in a day that long or longer since Day One of the 2022 Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour (47.5 mi)! (My Creek Country Ramblers ride and the miles to/from in August came close, at 35.2 miles. And my Leif Erickson ramble in September came in at a respectable 32.1 miles.) And I sure felt it! But I used to do rides like this all the time, and want to do more bike adventures this summer, including tours. So I need to get used to it. It’s a good start, though…
Sounds like a great day. An epic ride on your own terms. Congratulations!
Thank you, Lisa!
yay ride! 🙂 way to stick with it and make all the stops to make it fun and adventurous even though it was hard:)
That sounds like a great ride – I have yet to come up with very good rides from my house in Santa Fe. A few years ago, I finally got out on Waldo Canyon Road on the old Raleigh, but the traffic out there on the frontage road was fast and close, and then Waldo Canyon Road was dirt, and some deep loose sand at that, and the whole ride ended up being 70 miles. I need to work on finding some nice thirty mile rides that aren’t simply riding out to Tesuque and eating at the overpriced Tesuque Village Market, or bicycling up the ski basin road. I envy you people in the Northwest with your rivers and parks that are off your regular routes, but not so far away…