A quick before work ramble, 14 February 2018

While my Monday Ramble wasn’t exactly the bestest, I did have a moment of clarity where I realized that I needed to “bike just for the sake of it” more. And it’s hard to do that in the middle of winter, with all the dark. But now as we creep towards spring, it means more opportunity to sneak in a little ramble of an hour or two, something less than a day ride. And that will be good.

On Wednesday February 14th I had a chance to do just that. I had to work in the PM (starting at 3), so the morning to early afternoon was free. Typically my mornings off consist of rolling out of bed after nine (yes, I am no early riser), making a lazy breakfast, fooling around on the internet, and general putzing around the house until it’s time to take off. But this morning was different, as someone was dropping stuff off at my house at 9 and Emee was picking me up at 10 to drop off my Bantam to get some work done. So I was ready early.

After dropping off the bike, Emee and I had a late breakfast in a cafe. She had obligations starting at 12:30, so I hung out by myself awhile, writing letters and drinking coffee. Finally there reached a point where I couldn’t just sit there anymore, I needed to do something. But what? It was 1:30 PM, and I didn’t need to do anything else before work. Why not ride around a bit, burn off all that caffeine?

Ninety minutes isn’t enough to do a long ride, but it’s enough for something as long as I didn’t go to far afield. So I rambled. I decided to meander from NE 53rd and Halsey around the back (east) side of Mount Tabor and then to work. It’s a well-worn route, though I did hit up a few pockets I haven’t been to in a bit. I got to see a rather large madrona tree, explore some unimproved roads, and got a nice view on the west side of Tabor. And I managed to avoid most of the rain as well!

And that was enough. Rather than drag my ass into work, I felt invigorated, happy even. This just tells me that any little adventure is good (especially when there are no mechanical issues.Β  πŸ˜‰ ) And I need to do these little rambles more often. Also, it means I should get my arse going earlier on mornings off, so I can do stuff like this more often. Oh, to be a morning person…


Trying to be in the moment: A ramble to Kelley Point Park, 12 Feb 2018

Things have been a little stressful here at the Urban Adventure League HQ. At work, we got a new reservation system that I’m still trying to figure out. In my personal life, I have a lot of projects to tackle.

Like most fully employed “regular job” folks, I get two days off a week, typically on Sunday and Monday. While I’d love nothing more to just go ride or do something fun on my weekends, sometimes I just gotta take care of business. This is where I found myself this past Sunday and Monday. There were the prospects of going withΒ  Emee to the coast or bike camping with my friends*, if I didn’t have to work on Saturday. (Oh, to have a regular weekend again!)

Sure, I could have made my own adventure, like go camp alone, but 1) lonely 2) dark and 3) cold.** Plus, I have some big travel plans coming up in March, where the first three weekends of the month consist of going out of town. So I’d feel guilty about goofing off for the weekend when I have so much I want/need to do and so much travel coming up. Now is time to get shit done.

On Sunday I attempted to put my nose to grindstone. I did get a few things around the house done, and worked on a bit of bike stuff. But not nearly as much as I wanted. Of course I was looking out at that blue sky taunting me all day…

Monday came and I decided I needed to do a little bit of riding, because I felt like I was getting nowhere fast. It was another sunny and mild (50F) day, but there was a good east wind, so riding east to the Gorge didn’t sound tantalizing. I’d like to get up to Powell Butte again, but the day was waning, so I went with the tried and true: Down to the Slough. I hadn’t been all the way out to Kelley Point Park in a while, why not now? And I haven’t done a true solo Coffee Outside adventure in a bit, so what better time to pull out the Esbit coffee machine?

The bike I’d be using for this ramble is the Robin Hood. I’ve been riding it a bunch in the two months since I got it built up. I really like riding it a lot, but I still need to tweak some things. I got around to fixing the rear flat from the week previous, and also reinstalled a bag support that I hadn’t been having much luck with. I wanted to give it one more shot. Normally, I use the Carradice Nelson Longflap bag with this bike, but with all the supplies I wanted to take (coffee kit, a bit of lunch, an extra layer for when it gets cold later, my sketchbook and other implements), it was a bit much. So I got the larger Camper Longflap and it absorbed everything. I hit the road.

That’s when things went a bit south.

Immediately when I sat on the saddle, the nose of the Brooks tilted upwards dramatically. This was the problem I had with the bag support before, since all the weight of the bag was attached to the back of saddle (vs. saddle and seatpost when not using one.) I made sure that the bracket attaching saddle to seatpost was as tight as possible, but it still didn’t stop the nose up. I rode a few miles down the road since the day was waning and I wanted to “keep the momentum”, damn the discomfort.

I got about five miles in and took a break at the picnic shelter by Smith Lake. I decided to take the bag support off, since that should mitigate most of the “upward nose” Brooks issue. And it did, but it of course caused another issue: the bigger, laden bag rested up against the rear brake cable. causing the brake to drag.*** (It hadn’t done this with the Nelson (or as much) since the bag is smaller.)****Β  The four miles to Kelley Point felt draggy, like I was facing a headwind (even though it was a tailwind.) I didn’t realize what was happening until I got to Kelley Point.

I was a bit frustrated. I know that Any Bike Ride is good, and I should enjoy the moment. But it’s hard to do this when frustrations like this cloud the experience.Β  I started thinking about All The Things I’m Putting Off Because I’m On A Bike Ride. Sure, I need to take care of my mental health and do things like this for myself “because”. But I couldn’t think about all of that at the time.

Thankfully, there was no issues with the coffee making. And things were beautiful at the point in that brilliantly clear February day way. There were quite a few people enjoying the park on a Monday afternoon, so much that it made me think Washington’s Birthday was today, not next week. The mountains were out and dazzling. And I got to see two bald eagles–two!–fly overhead. So it wasn’t all bad, but it was hard to think that while in the moment.

No matter which way I went, I was a ways away from home. So I decided to head back home via St. Johns in order to get some dinner and maybe a beer. The ride was still a bit draggy, but since I knew what was up, I didn’t mind as much. I just know I need to tweak things a bit more.

*Yes, in February!

**No, not as cold as most of the country, but we did see our first frost in over a month Sunday night. My equipment could handle it, but that long night alone would be daunting, unless I sprung for a cabin.

***It’s a steel rim, so no worries about “wearing out the rim” by this.

****Remind me why I like these saddlebags so much again? πŸ˜‰

A West Hills/Council Crest Hike, 7 Feb 2018

As I said previously, the beginning of the week of February 4 was a “hell week” for me in regards to work. Wednesday February 7 came around. I still had a 9 AM to 1 PM training in NW, but I was free after that. Despite the urge to just go home and collapse, I decided I should do something, as the weather was nice. Since I was already on the west side, I should do something over there. The thought of riding Forest Park/Leif Erickson came up, but I had done it in December. What about a hike? I haven’t been up to Council Crest in like a year, why not now?

So I packed my backpack and took the bus to NW. After lunch and a dash to Trader Joes for pertinent supplies, I hopped on the MAX Light Rail to the Oregon Zoo/Washington Park. Besides the fact that this station is the deepest rail station in North America, the elevator (260 feet of it!) takes me up to a starting height of about 810 feet. Cheating, yes! πŸ˜€

From here I wound down the hill a bit to catch the Marquam Trail. I’d be on this trail for most of my 4 1/2 mile hike. This is the lesser known major trail that follows the West Hills (the better known is the 30 mile Wildwood Trail) and travels a mix of forested sections behind fancy houses with a couple on street segments. This trail also is used as most of the alignment of the “trail” section of the 4T Trail, the other three sections being train (MAX light rail), trolley (Portland Streetcar), and tram (Portland Aerial Tram).

This first part sucks, to put it mildly, as I have to cross a couple freeway on/off ramps to US 26, then literally walk on the shoulder of an on ramp for about 100 yards to get to the true trail. From here, the Marquam winds up a wooded ravine away from the roar of traffic. Most of the woods found along the Marquam are less than pristine, as invasive English ivy and other non-natives choke the forest floor and trees. (They are doing removal on some sections, however.)Β  Still, it gave me enough of a “woodsy” feel despite catching glimpses of those big houses. This area always reminds me a bit of the woods that I explored growing up: it feels like a world apart, though suburbia is always within reach.

It was a little bit of a grunt, but I made it up to Council Crest. It’s the highest point in the city at 1,070 feet (an in-city high point higher than Vancouver BC, Seattle, or San Francisco (for reals!)) It’s not the best view in town, as trees hem in the prospect from many sides. (I’d say Pittock Mansion and Rocky Butte are the two best viewpoints in town.) But the view is by no means bad. And today it was quite great! There was a little haze, but Mounts Rainier, Saint Helens, Adams, and of course Hood were visible!*

It was just about 3:30 PM. Sunset was just about 5:30, so I still had a couple more hours of daylight. Rather than catch the bus or go down the quick way, I kept trekking on the Marquam Trail. It descends through neighborhoods and between houses to get to the Marquam Nature Park behind OHSU. This is one of the more extensive natural areas in this part of town. Despite their best attempts, they never did build up here because it’s a steep-sided ravine. This was the most natural part of the hike, especially since they’ve done a good deal of invasive species clear-out. Soon I found myself at Oregon Health Sciences University, waiting for the Portland Aerial Tram to carry me downward, with the city laid out before me. A bit of dinner in the South Waterfront district, then the Portland Streetcar to the bus home.**

It was a great quick hike. I need to do this more often. Now that spring is marching towards us, it will be easier. But first I need to get used to hiking again, because I was one sore unit the next day…

*The fifth snow-capped volcano that one can see from Portland, Mount Jefferson, is not visible from Council Crest. It’s pretty hard to see from most points in the city, though.

**I used every possible means of public transit possible in Portland today: bus, streetcar, light rail, and aerial tram! Now if they just got a ferry going…


Coffee Outside, 2 Feb 2018

Well, the groundhog must have seen its shadow on Friday February 2nd, because I went to Coffee Outside!

Yes, Portland Coffee Outside has been running for almost two years now, every Friday morning at 7 am.* I’ve been to it many a time, as has been well documented here or on my Instagram. But I don’t go as often as I’d like. Last time I went was in November. There’s several factors in play for my paltry attendance, besides the fact that I Am Not A Morning Person: the location of the event (ever-changing, only announced on Thursday), the location of where I’ll be that Thursday night, whether I work at 8 AM or 3 PM on Friday. I’m less likely to hit up a Coffee Outside at Wallace Park in NW if I’m staying at Emee’s on Thursday night and working at the Hostel in the morning; it’s too far out of the way and I’d have like fifteen minutes to hang out.

But sometimes things line up just so. On February 2nd, I was staying at Emee’s and working at the hostel, but Coffee Outside was at Laurelhurst Park, which is in between both! I couldn’t not stop at Coffee Outside, since I ride through the park on the way to work.

And Coffee Outside was a-buzz with folks. The numbers have not dwindled this winter, in fact they’ve increased since summer! There was about fifteen people there by the time I arrived (late) at 7:45 AM,**many I had not seen before. It doesn’t hurt that the weather was nice, 50’s and dry. (January has been a very mild month, especially in comparison to iceberg-forming January 2017.***) And since there’s so many people now, i didn’t even have to worry about making my own coffee! Someone offered to make me a cup. Now, normally I do bring my own kit, but didn’t this time, so it was nice.

I spent only a few minutes since I technically was supposed to be to work at 8. It was nice seeing some folks I hadn’t in awhile. Now I just need to get to another one…

*There was a couple month lull last winter, though.

**Which meant I missed the hash browns being made.

***Which explains the break last winter.

Tempting fate with the flat gods

I’m one of those Boy Scout type of cyclists. I ride prepared. I got lights, I got a tool kit. I got a spare tube. I got first aid supplies. And I have a pump. In fact, I have a pump for every one of my bikes. Since my kit switches up with each bike, I can’t do that “have just one pump because I just use the same pannier on every bike I own” because I’d assume a pump to be in a bag when it’s not.* No, I have a pump strapped to each of my bikes, ready for use.

Or so I thought.

On Sunday February 4th, the Day of Sports Bowl, Emee and I decided to take an afternoon bike ride. While it was cloudy, it was dry with a high scraping 60F/16C, and the tantalizing promise of light traffic. I had the Robin Hood path racer, so naturally I encouraged Emee to bring her green Raleigh Sports, not just we’d be (sorta) matchy couple. No, also since we had just installed a lovely Brooks B18 saddle on it and she needed to test it.

“But I don’t have my pump with me!” Emee exclaimed. “That’s okay,” I replied, “I have mine.” This was technically true, my Zefal Lapize was clearly mounted to it.

We got a mile into the ride and paused at the top of a hill. I looked at the pump, and noticed that the hose was missing. This is an “old style” pump, and the removable hose nests inside of the tube. I had mounted the pump upside down, with hose end on bottom because I stupidly felt it “mounted” better that way. Well, now I learned that the hose doesn’t sit in as securely as suspected. We were just a mile in and could have turned around to fetch another pump, but I didn’t want to kill the momentum.** And besides, when was the last time I flatted on any of my bikes? Summer, probably. I’ll be okay.

And of course, within another mile or so, thump-thump-thump.

We were now on the I-205 Bike Path next to the Gateway Green Bike Park. You’d think with all the time and money invested into this new urban MTB park, a fix it station avec pump would be de rigueur. Nope. And that light traffic? It meant we didn’t see any other cyclists, so no pump to borrow. So we walked fifteen minutes to the MAX station and went back to Emee’s house.


So of course I needed another hose. This isn’t the first time I had this quandary. The original hose was in the handlebar bag that got nabbed on Election Day 2016, the same bag that had moosemoose on it. (Oh, moosemoose…)

I got around to replacing the hose last year. (Moosemoose, no replacement yet. 😦 ) And it’s sort of a funny story: I bought the hose from an eBay seller, as I could get it direct from Zefal in France, but the eBay seller was in California, so y’know, faster. It took a monthΒ for it to get here due to the seller’s ineptitude. (Seller charged me first-class parcel rate, but wanted to just sneak by with a Forever stamp. It got returned to him, and he put the make up postage on the back. And whose fault was all this according to the seller? The post office, of course.)

This time I ordered it from Zefal, and will wait patiently. But interestingly enough, it cost about the same to get two replacement hoses plus a couple spare parts than it would for just one hose from a US seller. And yes, this is factoring in shipping.

ADDENDUM 2/13/18: I ordered the items from Zefal on Sunday, and the package arrived on Friday. Five days!Β 

In the meantime, I’ll make sure I have a working pump on every ride!

*Some days, I wish I was that “same pannier on all my bikes” type of person.

**I know some of you who live in more rural areas would be aghast at me doing this. But I knew we’d be in the city the whole time, with transit accessible with a little walk. I wouldn’t be totally stranded if something happend.

Long work days make me long for long days.

It’s been a bit of a hell-week with work. I’ve had a training in NW from 9 AM to 1 PM on Monday February 5, Tuesday the 6th, and Wednesday the 7th. And on Monday and Tuesday, I had to take off from the training and go straight to the hostel to work until 10 PM.* Brutal. There’s really no time in the day for anything else. Thankfully, the work shifts were quiet.

I briefly thought about taking the bus for these two days, with the thinking I’d be so beat by 10 PM I wouldn’t want to ride my bike. But then I realized: my bike ride is going to be my only “other thing to do” for these two days.

And I’m glad I did bike. The two days were nice, mild (mid 50’s F) and dry. Spring was starting to show itself around these parts. But the big thing about riding was it gave me balance. I think I’d be even more cranky if I took the bus for these couple days.

And there’s just those little things you get from riding. For instance, on the way in on Monday a fellow rider complimented my sweater! On the ride home on Monday night I followed for maybe a quarter-mile what appeared to be a small coyote (or large fox?) roaming through the Irvington neighborhood. Or on Tuesday afternoon, in transit between NW and SE, I opted to take the scenic route of the Eastbank Esplanade along the Willamette River. Who cares that I had to wait for ten minutes as a freight train passed?

Sometimes I forget how much balance bicycling gives to my life. It gives me exercise, it gives me release. When I don’t get these things, I feel not as good. I’m looking to increase my feeling better moments. And longer amounts of daylight will make me feel better, especially since there will be more time in the day for bike riding…

*Originally I was scheduled to work Monday and Wednesday, but I figured it would be best to get the hell days out of the way. Then I could breathe easier Wednesday afternoon, especially since I had Thursday off.

A Springwater Ramble, 31 Jan 2018

I had a nice bike ride on Sunday, January 28th. I noted in that post that my next two days off were Tuesday and Wednesday, and the weather looked like it’d be okay enough for another ride. Well, as those days approached, it looked like Wednesday would be the better day, and a ride would work out better, as I could ride eastward and end up at Emee’s house. So I decided Tuesday would be my “get stuff done” around the house day.

Of course, I woke up to sun on Tuesday morning. Despite a prediction of rain, it was clouds and sun with a high of 53F. Nice out. I did manage to get a short ride in after house chores and before the sun went down. In fact, I caught a very lovely sorta-sunset from my favorite spot to do, The Dog Bowl.

Wednesday? It was grey and the high only got up to 48F. So much for relying on the weather report for which day would be the better one for a ride! But it remained dry, so no complaint there.

I decided to head south first, just like on Sunday, but then take the Springwater Corridor east, maybe as far as Powell Butte. While the Springwater is probably the most obvious easy “long ride” destination in town as it’s our longest MUP/rail trail, I don’t go there as much as I used to, especially during the winter. It’s about 10 miles from my house. On my off days in winter, I’m more inclined to hit up the lands of the Slough as they are close at hand. But I wanted some variety and I wanted a long ride.

I wandered southbound through the neighborhoods east of the Willamette to get to Sellwood where I’d pick up the Springwater. I made a point of hitting up Westmoreland Park, since Crystal Springs Creek flows through it. There are very few free-flowing and “daylighted” brooks on the east side of the city, so its mere existence is a big deal to me. The course of the creek through the park used to be a very manicured thing in a mid-20th Century kind of way (read: channelized and walled), but a few years ago the parks department did a beautiful full restoration, returning its meander and making wetlands around its banks. This had the benefit of making water colder and more inviting for the fish, and less inviting for Canada Geese since they loved all the lawn-like areas around the creek. (Ducks do like the creek, however.)

The creek runs about another mile south to its confluence with Johnson Creek. Here it meanders through Sellwood, the only place on the eastside where a brook runs through the city grid. (The rest of its course is pretty much parkland.) Johnson Creek Park is a nice hidden gem between the two streams. I love going down here when I can. It reminds me of my childhood when I’d explore the brooks that were close to my home.

I rode east on the Springwater. It was a bit too late in the day to tackle Powell Butte (unless if I wanted to do it in the dark), so I rode as far as I could, stopping by the WPA era “waterfall” on Johnson Creek and Cartlandia for a bit of late lunch. (Banh Mi!) I also hit up the Foster Floodplain and detoured south of the path for a mile, where I crossed back over Johnson Creek via the closed bridge on SE 122th. (Closed to cars, that is!) I headed north on 122nd then west on the Springwater until 111th, then meandered northward through Lents to hook up with the I-205 path. I met up with Emee at East Glisan Pizza in Montavilla where we had a lovely pizza.

The days are getting longer and nicer. I know I’ll be heading further east on the Springwater soon, hitting up the awesomeness known as Powell Butte. And hey, a lot of the campgrounds will be opening in March…

Retro-Grouch Shaving Dept. (Reprise)

I mentioned this in a post last week, but since it’s been so dead at work, I’ve been spending hours “binge-reading” years worth of my old blog posts. Not because I’m vain, just because it’s sometimes fun to relive one’s past and see what I was up to in 2014.

Anyways, I came across this post from 2013 where I talk about changing up my personal shaving habits. I decided to abandon the “razor wars” and dump the four-to-six bladed monstrosities and go for the simple classic safety razor of a single blade. I picked up a cheap vintage Gillette on etsy, got a shaving brush and old school shaving cream, watched a few videos, and got on my way down the road of Retro-Grouch Shaving.

And five years later? Still doing it that way! I still have that Gillette razor. I still use a brush, but a nicer one than the $5 Freddies special. And I still use traditional shaving creams and soaps vs Edge Gel or some nonsense. And I’ve been liking it. My shaves over the past half-decade have been better than my previous 23 years worth. I’ve gotten to like the process of shaving (so zen!) though I do take longer to shave. And because I like shaving, I do it more often vs. the every three days I used to do. That’s mostly because the process of shaving (and its aftermath) is not as harsh as it used to be.

I’ve tried a few different types of creams, soaps, oils, and balms. I’ve managed to stay within reason on prices; I haven’t gone down the wormhole like I initially worried about. And it’s not hard to do this old school wet shaving without breaking the bank, as double-edged blades are cheap, you can get them 10 for $3 if you aren’t worried about brands (though I spend a little bit more). And traditional creams last a long time if you use a brush.

I have expanded the kit a little bit, so I have a shaving kit at Emee’s house when I stay over there, plus a “travel” shave kit for when I tour or travel. Most of this stuff is vintage and came from scouring eBay/etsy.

Now I can’t see going back to those super modern razors. And I just don’t like having a beard, so I’ll keep on shaving…