Slough Country Ramblin’, 14 May 2017

Originally I was supposed to head out to the east side of the Columbia River Gorge for a ride on Sunday. But this was going to be a carpool type affair with folks I didn’t know. And I got the word on Friday that fitting my bike was a “maybe”. Plus, the meet point was ten miles from my house, at 7 am. I said, nevermind, I’ll try it again some other time.

The initial weather forecast for Sunday May 14 was crap,* but something remarkable happened: Around noon the rain stopped and the skies cleared up a bit. Nice weather for a bike ride.

I decided to pull out the ol’ three speed, my trusty Raleigh Superbe. This was also the same weekend of the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. After going for three years in a row, this was the first year since I started going that I wouldn’t make it. I’m a bit bummed about this, but honestly, I’m not as bummed as I thought I’d be. Well, if I couldn’t be physically in the Midwest, at least I could be there in spirit!

It seemed as appropriate as ever for a nice little ramble down into the lands of the Columbia Slough, especially since I have an upcoming ride down here. What better time to test that route than now!

First stop was Columbia Childrens Arboretum to eat my lunch. This obscure park was peaceful (and a bit muddy) on this Sunday afternoon, just the hum of industry in the background. That’s the ultimate irony of the lowlands of the Slough: One moment you are in a forest of cottonwood and alder, or next to a peaceful pond. The next moment you’re near an auto wrecking operation or trucking company.

Further on, I took a pause by that secret slough by Heron Lakes Golf Course. Parking the Superbe against a pine, I had a postcard perfect scene. Nevermind that I-5’s roar is just less than a mile away, and quite audible.

I rambled further down the Slough trail. The bike/ped bridge across the Slough by the wastewater plant is open again, so good news. But I decided to press on. The water in Smith Lake was quite high. I made it all the way to the “edge of the peninsula”, Kelley Point Park, where the Willamette and Columbia meet. The rivers ran high here as well, swelling with spring rains, obscuring most of the sandy beaches.

I rode back towards town, using Marine Drive towards St Johns. The busy freight route was quiet this Sunday, but there were still trains a’moving and other things humming. St Johns was quiet. I got a couple slices of pizza for dinner, then a drink, and headed back home.

As I’ve said before, I’m not totally in love with living all the way out on the edge of NE Portland. But having the lands of the Columbia Slough so close by is a big perk. I can get to peaceful nature settings in a little over a mile by bike. I wouldn’t be able to do that in many other parts of town. And I can’t take that for granted.

*If I did go on the original Gorge ride, the weather would be nicer, since it was on the drier side of the mountains.

Pedalpalooza coming! Here’s what the Urban Adventure League (and Society of Three Speeds) has in store.

pp2017fullposter_DONOTPRINTYes, my friends, Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual celebration of bike fun, is just around the corner. This year, it’s all of June! Which I’m not super stoked about, as I feel it’s just a bit too long. But whatever. (And I’ll be gone for a good chunk of the first half, due to bike tour.) But come the second half, I’ve got a lot of great rides lined up, including a new history-themed ride!

So, what do I have in store?

  • Thursday June 1, 5 am SUNRISE COFFEE CLUB Mount Tabor Park, SE 69th Ave and Yamhill (group picnic area on east side nearest 69th/Yamhill gate, NOT THE VERY TOP) What better way to start Pedalpalooza? Get up before the crack of dawn and ride up to Tabor to make coffee while watching the sun rise. Coffee and camaraderie guaranteed. BYO coffee, water, and way to make coffee. Think camping stoves and the like. Sunrise is hoped for at 5:24. Bringing some breakfast ain’t a bad idea, either.
  • Tuesday June 13, 5 pm PIZZA RIDE Yep, my semi-annual crazy mystery ride hitting up five or more pizzerias is BACK! Start location will be revealed a t registration but it’s somewhere around Tabor. $15/person, capped at 25 peeps. Register here: NOTE: Ride is currently full, but there is a wait list. If you are interested, I encourage you to SIGN UP FOR THE WAIT LIST. We may expand the size of the ride, and that will only go to people on the waiting list!
  • Sunday June 18, 11 am STARK ST MILEPOSTS  Stark St Station, 6049 SE Stark St  (Meet outside cafe.) Back in the day, there were stone markers laid out for every mile on SE Stark St. Miraculously, more than half survive! We’ll take an eastbound tour of the extant ones from MP 4 to 14. Ride will end out in Gresham. You can take transit home, though I’ll probably grab lunch at the end! Moderate pace, we’ll mostly be riding OFF Stark.
  • Tuesday June 20 6:45 pm POWELL BUTTE SOLSTICE SUNSET Taylor Court Grocery, 1135 SE 80th Ave (Meet outside store, but stock up on supplies inside!)
    Watch the sunset on the shortest night of the year from one of East Portland’s highest points! We’ll tackle the butte the easiest way possible, but it will still be work. We’ll have a lovely picnic (BYO) waiting for the sun to set. About a 7 mile ride one-way, some unpaved action. Not a loop but we’ll get you home. Sunset at 9:03 pm.
  • Thursday June 22, 5:30 pm ROUGH STUFF RAMBLE, EASTSIDE EDITION Fillmore, 7201 NE Glisan St An afterwork romp around the lands bordering I-205. Expect a 15 mi moderate pace with a mixture of paved/unpaved, a hill or two, and a lot of places you may have never been to. Route not a loop and will remain a mystery, but we’ll end up in NE and can get food/drinks at the end. Wider tires recommended. Bring lights/layers, we’ll be out until dark.
  • Sunday June 25, 9 am WOODLAWN PARK COFFEE OUTSIDE Woodlawn Park (under the bridge), NE Dekum St and Bellevue Ave (This park has cover, no excuse for rain to keep you away.) Wake up at a civilised hour to roll over to the park for coffee. This is a BYO affair, either make it there via camp stove, or bring brewed coffee. Something to eat isn’t a bad idea, either. Spend a bit here with friends, what’s the hurry?
  • Sunday June 25, 9:45 am THREE SPEED RIDE Woodlawn Park (under the bridge), NE Dekum St and Bellevue Ave A tour of the northern regions of the city on your humble internally geared three speed bicycle. Bring your trusty three speed bicycle from any nation. Three speeds preferred but any bike welcome if you don’t have one. Casual paced ramble,approx 15 mi, fairly flat, with a little unpaved “rough stuff” action thrown in. We’ll have a picnic and tea brew up on the way, bring all the necessities like food, a teakettle and a camping stove. Ride not a loop, ends near transit and adult beverages. Check website for more info.
  • Sunday June 25, 10 am SLOUGH COUNTRY RAMBLE Woodlawn Park (under the bridge), NE Dekum St and Bellevue Ave Let’s explore the nearer reaches of the Columbia Slough! This approximately 20 mi ride will feature sleepy reaches of this waterway, plus other secret spots. Mixed surfaces, may have to push or carry a bike for a bit. A bit of high traffic roads, too. Not a loop but will end near transit, and maybe we’ll do lunch, etc at the end.
  • Monday June 26, 10 am MIDWEEK RIDE TO THE COLUMBIA GORGE (start location revealed upon registration, but somewhere in Gresham) Riding to quiet country roads and spectacular scenery is easier than you think. The Columbia River Gorge is just a short bicycle ride away. And you can totally handle it if you are an everyday rider. Bring a snack, water, and Trimet fare. Geared bikes recommended. Approx 40 miles round trip. Camping option at Ainsworth State Park. REGISTRATION REQUIRED!
  • Monday June 26 MIDWEEK CAMPING IN THE COLUMBIA GORGE Ainsworth State Park, Historic Columbia River Hwy, just S of I-84 (at the hiker/biker sites) After the Gorge ride, let’s camp at Ainsworth State Park for the night and head back Tuesday. Hiker/biker site $5/person. You can ride out with the main Gorge ride or come out on your own. Registration required.
  • Thursday June 29, 6:30 pm PROPER PEDAL PICNIC  P’s and Q’s Market, 1301 NE Dekum St (Meet outside store, but stock up on supplies inside!) A classy type of picnic ride. Leave your ratty t-shirt, cutoffs, and “I just ran to the store” chips and hummus for ANOTHER picnic ride, this one is about stepping it up. Dress up nicely (you don’t have to be super-fancy, but it wouldn’t hurt) and think about nice foods and beverages to bring. Blankets and nice picnic setups are good too. Thankfully we start at a classy joint to buy provisions. Ride will be about five miles to a mystery picnic destination. Bring lights and layers, we may be out after dark! And stay classy.

Adventure April Update

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello all! Yeah, I haven’t posted much about the wrap-up to the Three Speed Adventure April yet, and it’s half-way through May! I know, I know. I aplogise profusely.

And what can I say? Life has been hectic. The last few weeks have been Pedalpalooza deadlines, and getting ready for all the other craziness that will happen this summer. Contrast this to last November, after the October Challenge was over. Bike touring season was over, the holidays were approaching. Things winding down. More time for this stuff.

So because of this, I’m giving everyone a little more time to get their reports in. You have until next Friday, May 19th, to let me know. You can email me or send it to my PO Box. Yes, you still need to email or mail me, even if you’ve been tagging me in all of your Instagram posts!

And then I will…

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Oxbow Bike Camping, 8-9 May 2017

And whaddaya know, some nice weather for once! After the previous week’s summerlike weather, we had a day of rain, then it dried out and warmed up again. In fact, from Saturday May 6 through Wednesday May 10–the longest streak of dry weather we had since, ugh, January!*

I did manage to snag a “three day” weekend from Sunday through Tuesday. Initially I planned on doing something ambitious, like going to the coast. But my work week was especially long and hard, and I had Pedalpalooza deadlines which took up Sunday. So I thought about doing something like a two day tour using the Banks-Vernonia and Crown Zellerbach trails, like I did in April 2014. But even that was going to take more time then I could afford. But I still wanted to bike camp! So something close…Battle Ground would be nice and quick, but I had already been there in January. Same with Stub Stewart. And I didn’t feel like going to McIver or Champoeg. So…Oxbow? The closest destino? Sure, and I hadn’t been there in a year. And going to Oxbow even on a Monday night means I could snag someone else to come along. Stasia was game (as she always is when it comes to a quick overnight to Oxbow), so we would meet down there!

I still had stuff to do in the morning, so I didn’t get going until early afternoon. But Oxbow is close enough that I can do that–If I took the MAX light rail to the east end of the line, it’s less than a ten mile ride. I opted to ride the whole way via the long way, as I felt like a good ride. I hadn’t ridden the length of the Springwater Corridor Trail in awhile, so it was nice to see everything in full summer mode. And it definitely felt like summer, even though it was maybe 72F/22C–I was definitely not used to “the heat” yet, especially after such a long and cold winter!

The way out was about 35 miles, using a route that was over half bike path, and skirting most of the rush hour traffic in Gresham too. I got down into the Sandy River Canyon around 6:30 pm and found the campsite Stasia was at. There wasn’t that many people down here, which was nice. Come summer, it’s hard to find an empty spot even in the middle of the week unless you book it in advance. The campsite was close enough to the river to hear it all night, so nice and peaceful! (Except for the deer who wandered through, so casual!)

After dinner and a bit of a fire, Stasia and I returned to our respective tents. I decided to keep the rain fly off so I can see stars.** It dipped into the mid-40’s overnight, but I stayed mostly warm with my 0C down bag, liner, and pad. I overinflated the pad and pillow, though, so I was a bit stiff in the morn. I always do this during my first couple camping trips of the season, though. Live and learn.

It was a casual morn of making breakfast and looking at the river. Stasia had the day off, so she went off to wander around the woods, so I took off solo after 10 am. Getting out of the Sandy River Canyon is never fun or easy, though. While the climb is about a mile and a half, the first short section is about 13% grade! And the rest is in the 8-10% range. Once over the hump, it’s a pretty flat to rolling ride home. Once again, I decided to ride the whole way home, though a more direct way. However, I did stop a bunch on the way, so I didn’t get home until evening. That’s the problem with a close-by camping destination and you have all day to get home: What’s the hurry? 😉

I can’t wait for more nice weather bike adventures and more bike camping!

*And that January “dry” streak didn’t count, since it was after a snowstorm, and cold. So it just meant that the snow stuck around too long.

**I did consider using my rarely-used bivy sack, but was worried that it’d be too buggy at Oxbow. It wasn’t.

A taste of summer

After what seemed like the longest winter ever (or at least since as long as I’ve lived in Portland)* we’re finally getting a taste of nice weather. And in this case, summerlike weather, with the warmest weather of 2017 (so far).

Wednesday May 3 was sunny and warm, with a high of 82F/28C. After work I grabbed a burrito and high-tailed it over to Rivendell Ridge, aka “Dog Bowl” for some Burrito Outside action. Normally by this point of the year, I’ve done several burrito outsides/Sunset Burrito Clubs. This year, it’s just the second one!

On Wednesday May 4, it got even hotter, 85F/29C. It was a bit more humid, too. It’s rare that it’s warm and humid here, and that little bit of stickiness (and it was just a little bit) reminds me of summer on the East Coast. Because of the added humidity, there were scattered thunderstorms in the area throughout the afternoon, though none hit me.** (Though later that night, I got to watch quite the lightning show from a distant cell.)

I got a little more adventurous and headed east for pizza. I was in the north side of Montavilla, so I decided to hit up one of my favorite obscure natural areas, Rosemont Bluff. There was barely anyone around, the grass was high and the wildflowers blooming. Just perfect. Well, except running against prickly plants with bare legs, but that’s what summer is about, eh?

I further rambl’d through NE on the way home, hitting up the rough trail that hugs the north side of Rose City Golf Course (and sits beneath the Alameda Ridge.) I also meandered through Cully, finding yet another secret foot path that connected two unimproved streets. I love finding these secret nooks and crannies in my city!

The weather got damp and cool on Friday, but then got nice again starting Saturday. Relief.

And I can’t wait for more nice weather…

*And it’s true: We have actually had the wettest and coolest winter in about 30 years.

**Thunderstorms are pretty uncommon here, since the conditions are just not right. There is more of a risk east of the Cascades, and there are some “dry” (as in no rain) thunderstorms in the mountains during the summer. In fact, lightning strikes from these dry thunderstorms are the leading cause of summer forest fires.

Nostalgia for past commutes sure beats nostalgia for past wars

Ah, nostalgia. Despite our smarter urges to avoid too much of it, it does get stronger as one gets older. And it’s pretty common to get it from predictable triggers, like putting on an album that you haven’t heard since high school will inevitably remind you of high school.

But has a bike commute ever triggered nostalgia for you? It has for me.

Last week I rode from work to a pizza place over on NE 72nd and Glisan. I used to live at 68th and Glisan, and half-way through the ride I realized I was riding what would have been my commute during that time. Now, I’ve ridden these roads in this area many times in the intervening years, but not in this particular sequence, a sequence I only did when travelling from home to work or vice versa. And I couldn’t help but remember my old house.

I lived at NE Glisan St at 68th for a little over a year, from April of 2008 to August of 2009. This was the first “good house” I had in quite some time, after a few years of bouncing from friend’s house to friend’s house, or living at the hostel. Sure, there were some not-so-good things about the place: the noise of traffic on Glisan, the insane next-door neighbors, the awkward bathroom situation, the uninsulated attic I lived in, and most importantly, the revolving door nature of the “third roommate”* which, along with finding cheaper rent, pushed me out of the place.

But there were heaps of good memories there, too: Not long after I moved in, I got my Long Haul Trucker and did a few decent tours in that year, including the Wheely Fun Tour. The summer of 2008 is when Pedalpalooza exploded, and the rest of the summer was just plain crazy in a good way. And I started dating April during my final few months of the Glisan house. Ah, memories. I have to say, the years of 2006 through 2011 were overall generally good for me, probably my “Portland Golden Age”, so thinking about this time gives me the warm fuzzies.

As for the bike commute itself, it’s nothing particularly special. It was just around three miles one way, which for me is that sweet spot between it being barely anything and too long. And it was more downhill on the way to work, so I could easily leave the house at 7:45 and be to work on time at 8. The route itself wasn’t particularly scenic, just meandering through neighborhoods.

My favorite bike commute was when I lived further east in Montavilla around SE Stark and 90th from April of 2010 to May of 2011. It was a bit longer, a hair under four miles. This part of Montavilla is on the other side of Mount Tabor from where I work. At first, I would skirt Tabor by going around the north side, which added distance. Then I just decided to take Tabor head-on, even with my three speed. This gave me a bit of a workout for about 1/3 of a mile until I crested. Then it was a glorious mile of bombing downhill (especially if the light at SE Belmont and 60th was green.) There are of course some great memories of that little humble apartment April and I shared, the only time I just lived with a significant other sans roommates…

Earlier that day at the Belmont Library, I had another nostalgia trigger. I spotted a 90’s era Giant Rincon. While this is no head-turner, a pretty basic entry level mountain bike, it was the bike I owned for the first five years of living in town. I bought mine in July of 2001 for the then princely sum to me of $150 from Citybikes. I had lived in Portland since April, but I was growing weary of busing and walking everywhere, and anyways, I wanted to be a “cool Portland cyclist”.

I rode the shit out of this bike until the summer of 2006, when I finally got a nicer bike, my beloved mid-80’s Centurion Accordo. In retrospect, the Rincon was too small for me, and since I was cheap and underemployed then, repairs meant “the cheapest way possible” when things wore out. And believe me you, things wore out! But I explored every nick and cranny of town on this bike. I even went on my first bike tour with this bike. So I did a lot of good and fun things on this bike, despite it all.

Would I move in again to that house on NE Glisan and 68th? Heck, no. Would I own a Giant Rincon again? Unh uh. These are just objects of my memory, a time and a place in the past. They are good memories. But I need to work towards creating new experiences that I’ll get nostalgic about ten years down the road…

*My main other roommate, Jesse, was cool and I got along with her pretty well. But she was just not good in picking out roommates. It was mostly due to her indecision. We would interview a candidate, I would say “Let’s go with them”, but she’d want to hold out until she found the “perfect match”. Then when the list was exhausted, we’d go back to my choice, and they had already found a spot. (It was definitely a renter’s market then.) So then she’d scramble and find a “warm body” by the end of the month to make rent. They would end up being disastrous in some way, and we’d give them the boot after a couple months.

Next Three Speed Ride announced: Sunday June 25

Society Of Three Speeds

Hey all! We are gearing up for Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual celebration of Bike Fun. This year, it’s all of June! Of course I am planning all sorts of fun stuff for the month, but as like the past umpteen Pedalpaloozas, a three speed ride will happen!

This Pedalpalooza Three Speed Ride will happen on Sunday June 25th. Meet up at Woodlawn Park in NE (north of NE Dekum St, west of NE 13th Ave) at 9:45 am. Yeah, earlier this time! We’ll be taking off around 10:30 am. Here are some deets and info:

  • Coincidentally, this ride will happen right at the same time as the Woodlawn Park Coffee Outside, which starts at 9 am. So come with your coffee or tea brewing setup. (You’re going to use it again during the ride, anyways!) Some food ain’t a bad idea.
  • Yes, this ride is on the same day as Sunday…

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A Leif Erickson ride, 16 April 2017

Sunday, April 16 2017.  A pretty nice day around these parts. not that sunny, but dry and a high reaching 63F/18C. A nice day to be outside. I had no work or obligations. Where to go? Well, there was a ride heading out to the tulip festival in Woodburn. Sounded fun, but it would be at minimum a 70 mile round trip ride. I don’t know if I was in shape for that yet. Going out to the Gorge would be cool, but on a nice Sunday? Think of the traffic. (Not only that, but there was a stiff east wind today.) Nope, something closer to home, and shorter, since I didn’t leave the house until after noon. How about Leif Erickson Drive in Forest Park?

Yes, Forest Park, that vast wooden expanse stretching northward from downtown along the West Hills. I wanted some “woodsy” time, this would give me quite a bit of that! Sure, Forest Park isn’t exactly pristine wilderness, but it’s enough for me right now. And some sounds of the city can permeate the dense woods, but it’s pretty serene nonetheless.

I decided to enter Forest Park from the south, via NW Thurman St. I do this for a couple reasons: 1) Heading east across the St Johns Bridge via bicycle is easier than west and 2) Most of the climbing happens in the first mile or so. Not only that, but the first mile or two from the Thurman gate is the roughest section of the Leif Erickson trail, so it’s nice to ascend here than descend.

There were plenty of cars at the trailhead, and there were a decent amount of folks within the first couple miles. Beyond that, things thinned out a bit, though the trail had users on it the whole eleven miles on this nice Sunday. There were walkers, joggers-I mean runners, dogs, and other cyclists. The bikes ran the gamut: while this is considered a “mountain bike” trail, I did see folks with fairly skinny tires (28 mm?) and I also saw a few fat bikers too.  (I was in the middle with my plump Rat Trap Pass tires, which did well on everything except mud.)

But I wasn’t here to see cyclists, I was here to see trees! And the ride didn’t disappoint in that department. All the creeks were flowing mightily with winter rains, the buds on the deciduous trees were in bloom, and there were trilliums everywhere I looked! The trail itself was in okay condition, though there was its share of puddles and mud.

I rode the whole length of Leif Erickson, then bombed down Germantown Road to the St Johns Bridge. I got dinner at Proper Eats (which is closing at the end of the month, alas.) Then it was a fairly short jaunt homeward…

Here is my route.