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.

A pretty good day for a bike ride: Sunday March 12

Man, this winter. Even people who claim to luv Portland’s damp winters are pretty sick of the rain and the cold by now. We’ve had the coldest winter in a quarter-century, and every month is breaking the record for rain. Dry days have been scarce, and having two dry days in a row is too much to ask for.

But spring, spring is definitely coming. It’s starting to finally get warmer, ever so slightly. Which means those when those dry days happen, they are getting pretty nice. Friday March 10th was nice, but I had to work. But Sunday March 12th? I had off. Oh sure, I have a million things to do this week before I leave for my California vacation, and sure, I’ll have plenty of time next week to bike care-free around the sunny and warm Bay Area.

But goddamn it, I need a bike ride NOW.

So I put everything on hold, and just a bit after noon, I got on the Raleigh Superbe, and got riding.

Where to? Well, I’ve been fascinated with the milestones along SE Stark Street. Y’see, Stark follows the Willamette Baseline, and because of that, was one of the first “highways” leading out of town. Sometime in the mid nineteenth century, someone put up stone mileposts along the way, for fifteen miles out. Surprisingly, more than half of them survive! I’d seen the three extant ones east of 82nd many times (MP 2, 4, and 5 for those of you playing along at home.) But east of 82nd? I hadn’t seen any yet. So what better time than now, when it’s sunny and 60F/16C?

And saw these milestones I did! There were six to see MP 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 14. Now, Stark Street is a pretty crappy street for biking, esp. west of 162nd where it is a busy multi-lane thoroughfare lacking a bike lane. I stuck to parallel streets there, then got on Stark near 162nd to finish the rest of the quest. Yeah, even with the bike lane, it wasn’t exactly pleasant (and there was a moment where I thought I might die at the intersection with Burnside.) But I was more concerned with the milestones, and also the weird and random shit one sees out on these busy East County thoroughfares. If I led a bike ride out here, I’d stick to quieter roads where possible.

It was about 5 pm by the time I made it to the end, Milepost 14. The original plan was to head over to Powell Butte to watch the sun set and moon rise (full moon!), but the descent down into the Sandy River valley was too tempting, so I went that way. So I got to the beginning of the Historic Columbia River Highway. I haven’t been out that way since at least summer, and just the taste of the highway was tantalizing. But it was too late in the day for a jaunt to Crown Point, so I’ll save it for another nice day. Hopefully we’ll get another one!

Instead, I rode towards the Columbia. The goal now was Chinook Landing Park. The sunset was pretty good, moon rise, not so, since there were too many low clouds on the east horizon. It took awhile before the moon cleared them. At that point, I was on Marine Drive westbound, to home. I was a bit worried being at least ten miles out from home, since it’s pretty dark out this way. But my B+M Eyc headlamp with vintage 1968 Sturmey-Archer Dynohub worked great at illuminating the path ahead. And it was just so damn peaceful out. A great end to a great day.

At the end of the day, I had biked 52 miles, all on my three speed! And it felt fine. Oh Superbe, you are so superbe!

Now we just need another nice day…

Return to Tabor Mountain, March 1, 2017

March is upon us! First month of spring in the Northern Hemisphere! Woot! It’s been a long and wet and cold and snowy winter here. While we are definitely not done with rain and cool just yet, the onward charge towards Vernal/Northern Equinox (and summer solstice) means longer days. Longer days mean I don’t have to save my “going on a bike ride” type bike rides for one of my days off, I can actually do a ride after work!* Well, I mean, I could do a nice ride after work in the middle of winter, but sometimes it’s actually nice to see things, ya know. 😉

The weather was decent on Wednesday March 1st, a high of 50F/10C, and not raining. A high of 50 is a bit cool for now, since the average is more like 55, but I took what I could get. My destination for a little ramble was up to Mount Tabor, a volcanic cinder cone about two miles (as the crow flies) east of work, and the highest point on the east side of the city. Nothing earth-shattering here, as I’ve been up to Tabor a bajillion and one times in my sixteen years in Portland. The biggest deal is I hadn’t been up there in a couple months, at least.

But goddamn, it sure was nice. It’s nice to be in a woodsy environment,** divorced a bit from the city while still in it. I’m lucky that we have quite a few places like this in town, within easy reach. And people were definitely enjoying the views and the ambience of the park when I was there. (It doesn’t hurt that Wednesday is the “car free” day, where some of the access roads are closed.)

And while I’ve always sort of liked Tabor from Day One, I didn’t truly appreciate this gem of a park until I moved close to the mount in late 2007. Before, I would get up into the park by the couple obvious routes, take in the view, and descend.*** Besides, the view from Rocky Butte is better. But moving closer to the park encouraged me to try out all the different ways one can access the park by either bike or foot. (And there’s a lot of ways!) And due to proximity it was just easier to spend more time in the park, and explore the non-obvious corners. It’s not just about the view from the top or the reservoirs, no.

I didn’t spend a hell of a lot of time up there, just enough to be satisfied. I descended the mount via the east side, and headed to the Montavilla neighborhood, one of the many ‘hoods I’ve lived in, to get a beer and pizza. An afternoon well spent.

And that’s the thing: One doesn’t need to have an epic bike ride to have fun. It’s just about three miles to the top from work (though it’s a good eight miles home from there.) And I’m glad I have these opportunities so easily accessible!

*I typically work until 3 pm when I have a day shift.

**I hesitate to say “woods”. While there are many a tall Douglas-fir tree in the park, and from the distance looks like forest, the naturescape of the park is a bit too…managed (read: we clear out a lot of the underbrush) to give a full on “being in the woods feeling”. But it is close.

***And I also associated the park a bit too much with pot smoking and drum circles. Not that those things stopped…

It happened: Chehalem Range Ramble, 26 Feb 2017

Yes, my friends, the ride I had rescheduled twice over the course of two years has finally happened. This time I had the determination to stick it out, no matter what.

And determination is what I needed as I woke up Sunday morning. While Saturday was beautiful, sunny and dry with a high near 50F/10C, I awoke at 6 am on Sunday to rain out the window, and a forecast of showers and rain all day. To top that off, I got texts from two of the people who were supposed to come bailing on me. Will anyone come? Or is this going to be an hour long MAX trip to just have breakfast in Hillsboro? I texted a couple other people who said they’d be going and got one confirmation, so that was something to raise my spirits.

The trip to Hillsboro was a comedy of errors. I missed my MAX train by about five minutes. No problem, I’ll catch the next one. But I forgot that early on Sunday morning the train runs at a half-hour frequency, which meant I was going to be late. To top it off, about 15 minutes in the train stopped for 15 minutes due to a medical emergency. I had to transfer trains two more times to get to Hillsboro. I was supposed to be to Hillsboro by 8:30, now it was more like 9:30! Thankfully, there were three folks waiting for me: Vince, Ed, and Aaron, and they were just finishing up breakfast. And miraculously, the rain had stopped, and the radar didn’t show anything for a while. A break.

The first 10 miles was the warm-up to the Chehalem Mountains, a relatively flat romp first through suburbia, then open farmland. A decent headwind made up for the lack of hills. But the real challenge started after we passed the always-closed Laurel Valley Market. Campbell Road started its charge skyward, and lower gears were wished for. Finnigan Hill Road started with a brief but screaming descent into the McFee Creek valley, then the true climbing began. For the next four miles we’d be gradually climbing up the mountain. But Finnigan Hill Road turned out to be the best way I’ve found up so far: generally a 5 to 7% grade with a few short steeper 10% pitches thrown in for good measure, decent gravel for the most part, peacefully quiet and pretty scenic.

But there would be another “challenge” thrown in. The forecasts had threatened a snow level of around 1000 feet all weekend, and we’d be easily going higher than that. We saw a couple cars descend down from the mountain with snow on them. And as we climbed further, we started seeing evidence of snow on the sides of the road, then eventually on the road itself. This is going to be interesting, I thought to myself!

The last mile to the top of the mountains on Bald Peak Road was paved and mostly clear of snow. A heavy fog clung to everything, and the state park at Bald Peak was covered with a light layer of snow. It wasn’t raining, but the snow on the Douglas Firs was thawing, creating a “rain” where our picnic table was. Plus, the heavy fog meant that there was no view. We all ate our food (and I made my coffee) as fast as we could.

It was all downhill from there, of course. The first bit of descent was sketchy as there was snow on the road, and unseen gravel mixed in. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to get out of the “snow zone”. We turned onto Laurelwood Road for the true screaming descent, announced by a warning sign of 18% grade! Thank you, disc brakes!

It wasn’t long until we were out of the Range and back into the Tualatin Valley lowlands. We stopped in the tiny town of Gaston at about 25 miles in for food and warmth. We could do a ten mile loop that would incorporate Williams Canyon Road, one of my favorite gravel roads out this way. But we were beat already. We all came to the realization that we hadn’t done that much “good” riding this season, mostly because the weather hasn’t been conducive (and also for me, because my Bantam has been out of commission for months). While we could have done the loop, we opted for the easier option of heading back to Hillsboro from here. This was on more mostly mellow farm roads with a bit of rolling action and a lack of traffic. We got into Hillsboro just before 5 pm and hopped on the MAX light rail.

I am really, really, really glad that I did the ride after all. It was a fun time, and it reminded me of why I love this area. And besides the snow and fog at the top of the mountains, it was pretty much dry, too. (There was a brief sprinkle while we were eating in Gaston.) I wish there were more people that showed up, but I’m going to try to do a variation of this ride again, except early fall when the weather is better. In the meantime, I plan on getting back out here for more bike explorations. Maybe you’ll join me?

The basic ride route here on RideWithGPS.


Chehalem Range Ramble! Sunday February 26!

2014-11-22 14.32.03Yes, I am finally getting around to rescheduling the Chehalem Range Ramble! Woot! With my new schedule of Sundays and Mondays off, it’s a lot easier to schedule this stuff. And my bike should be fine this time. Just really hope the weather is good, but damn it, I’m going to do this ride!

The basic details haven’t changed much since October when I originally scheduled this ride. But here ya go:

  • This ride will happen on Sunday, February 26 at 8:30 am. The sort of meet up spot is the Hatfield Government Center MAX station in Hillsboro, which is the west end of the Blue Line. We won’t actually “meet” there though.
  • We’ll actually meet at 8:30 am at Diversity Cafe, 230 E Main St in Hillsboro. This is about two blocks east of the Hatfield TC MAX station on the Blue Line (the end of the line.) Yep, we’ll have a nice sit down breakfast before a big ride! You can check out their very breakfasty menu via the web, but BE WARNED, IT’S ONE OF THOSE WEBSITES THAT STARTS PLAYING MUSIC, ETC WHEN YOU OPEN IT! Looks like they stopped the music thing, whew.
  • If’n you aren’t into a full breakfast, just meet us at the cafe by 9:30 am. (There is another coffee option nearer the station if you just want something quick, but I ain’t naming names. Hint: There’s a mermaid on the cup.) Please note that we won’t be going by the MAX station after breakfast, so meet us at Diversity Cafe.
  • The ride is about 50 miles round-trip, and you can check that out here. We can shave off about 10 miles by cutting out the gravel loop around Gaston. I’d prefer to keep that loop, but if we’re too beat or the weather starts to suck, it’s an option. The biggest difference between this ride and the one in 2014 is there will only be one crossing of the Chehalem Range, not two. Also, we’ll be hitting up Forest Grove and straight-shotting along Baseline back to Hillsboro. Yeah, it’s not ideal, but it allows a dinner stop in FG (see below) and really, most of the riding right outside of Forest Grove on the south side is sub-par, so it’s six of one, half-dozen the other…
  • This route also has a bit more Bald Peak Road than before. It’s paved, but there is some traffic. We’ll descend via Laurelwood Rd through the community of the same name. I’ve always wanted to check out this town!
  • As for breaks and food, Bald Peak is at about mile 19. I plan on taking a good break here and making coffee. While there’s an outhouse, there is no water here, so make sure you have enough for the ride, esp. if you want to make coffee here. At about mile 27 is Gaston, which has a store and probably a pub/restaurant. We’ll pass through Forest Grove on the way back, so we can stop by the Grand Lodge for dinner and drinks.
  • While this ride does not stray that far from the fringe of the metro area, it has a surprising lack of services. After leaving Hillsboro, the next food/water will be Gaston at mile 27 and then there may be a country store or so before Forest Grove. So be prepared!
  • I’d say about 25% of this ride is gravel. I think the ascent to Bald Peak is a good deal of gravel, and the Gaston Loop is I think mostly gravel. Note I said “I think” as the maps don’t tell me. But most of the climbs over the Chehalem Range are gravel, so it’s a good guess. I’d say you should be good if you have tires north of 32 mm in width. Nothing super-technical, so you don’t need to ride your full-sus MTB unless you want to!
  • And as indicated in the last bullet point, I have only ridden some sections of this ride, not all. So expect a degree of mystery!

If you are intending on going, please give me a heads up! urbanadventureleague@gmail.com

A foggy slough and Couve ramble, Wed 28 Dec 2016

Wednesday was a day off, and the weather was supposed to be okay. So a perfect opportunity for a little bike ride! As I stated previously, the Columbia Slough is “my jam” so I decided to aim that way, since I didn’t want anything too ambitious.

The big problem though was a persistent fog that clung to the lowlands. While the fog was clearing around my house when I left after 1 pm, it wasn’t going anywhere by the river. As I got deeper into it, feeling that chill that only fog plus just above freezing temps can give. (Oddly enough, I felt a headwind when I traveled west.) Originally I had a vague notion of heading up towards Kelley Point, but that changed. How about Hayden Island instead?

Hayden Island is an island that sits in the middle of the Columbia River. Well, “middle” isn’t exactly correct, as it’s closer to the Oregon side. As such, most of Hayden Island is a Portland neighborhood, generally known as Jantzen Beach because of the former amusement park/current mall that takes up a good chunk of the island.* I wanted to check and see if Ricky Point, one of my favorite sunrise/set/moonrise spots is still locked off. ** (Unfortunately, it still is.) Even worse, now the wild side of Hayden Island, the part just west of the railroad tracks where we brought Grant Petersen out that one time is also completely fenced off and inaccessible. Sigh.

With an air of resignation I took a coffee outside break at tiny Lotus Isle Park. The fog made everything look eerie, which was cool. But I sort of questioned my own judgement of standing still for so long to make coffee in these conditions. It’s probably because I dragged the kit along, so I felt like I should use it. (And if I somehow didn’t bring the kit along, I would have regretted it. Damned if you do…)

At this point I could head back south and do some more rambling, but since I was practically to Vancouver, Washington I might as well take advantage of it. I rode over the Interstate Bridge and was quickly in downtown The Couve.

While Vancouver is still a bit sleepy and doesn’t feature the explosion of construction that Portland does, every time I visit I see changes. Seems like there’s a new brew pub or cafe, or a restaurant or store. And there’s a lot of murals! For the longest time it didn’t seem like anything was going down downtown, but now there’s even things for a Portland snob like me. I tried out a couple brew pubs, and also visited Niche, the wine bar that my friend Leah owns. (And of course Todd would be there too, so he can finally see what I did to the Superbe since I bought it from him so long ago!)

Then it was dark and late. I headed south, home. I’ll be in Vancouver again, hopefully soon…

*It’s a popular shopping spot for Washingtonians since it’s right across the river from Vancouver, and Oregon has no sales tax.

**Technically Ricky Point is on Tomahawk Island. It was once separated from Hayden Island, but is now connected, so there’s not much of a distinction anymore.

A Christmas Eve with the goats on Rodney

img_20161224_133709.jpgAs you read this, it will be December 25, Christmas. This holiday is always a bit bittersweet for me, as my family lives on another coast, distant. (It doesn’t help that I’m pretty much estranged with them.) I’m one of those Portland orphans, no family in the area, so family-centric holidays like Christmas make me feel like an outsider. And since most of the staff at the hostel retreats for the holiday, guess who ends up covering?

Alright, enough of that maudlin crap. This is about finding a bit of happiness on this hallowed holiday. And what’s more happier than goats?

I had to work the PM shift on Saturday the 24th, which means starting at 3 pm.  I left the house a bit early because I wanted to get a little bit of riding (it was nice, if cool) and visit Rivelo. When I go this way, I typically take N Vancouver Ave, the southbound of the one-way couplet shared with N Williams Ave, “Portland’s bike highway”. Despite this being one of the most important bike arteries in town, in the week or two after a “snow event”, the bike lane is still strewn with gravel, making for not an enjoyable ride. I opted to take NE Rodney Ave, a parallel side street that is quiet.

And near the intersection of N Failing St* is where I found the goats of “ZZZ Goat Ranch”. (They are on the Book of Face so go look it up.) Urban goats on Rodney? How come I had not seen them before? This isn’t the first time I’ve biked down this way. Of course, I came to a quick stop!

The three goats, Zygoat, Xanadu, and Goatzilla were mulling about in the yard. ‘zilla was closest and came up to me. I petted his coarse pelt, but he seemed slightly disinterested in that, like he wanted something…else. Then I looked over, and saw the “Feed the Goats, 25 cents” dispenser. Aha! And good thing I have a lot of quarters. I got four rounds, and all the goats came over and ate out of my hands. I had to make sure that Zygoat got enough, because rambunctions ‘zilla tried to eat all the food when I got near Zy.

Oh! Oh yeah, this is a bike blog, so I should say something about the Crested Butte. Why yes, those are new grips. I got some of those Rustines constructeur rubber grips from VO. I always liked the way they looked, and wanted to give ’em a shot. In my limited riding, they seem pretty comfy, but wonder how sweaty bare hands on them will feel. I also got some of their Retro Cages MKII to “class up” the bike, as the old Kleen Kanteen version are getting long in the tooth. I didn’t care much for their Moderniste bottle cages, as they didn’t hold the steel bottles well. These one seem to do the trick, so let’s see how long they last.

Anyways…I hung out with the goats as long as I could, which was unfortunately not that long today. But I’ll be back! And at the very least, it’s always fun to encounter urban goats. It always lifts my mood. It made what could have been a melancholy Christmas eve not so melancholy.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

*If you think that’s amusing, we have an intersection of Failing with N Haight Ave, where Unthank Park is. Yes, that’s right. “Meet me at Unthank Park at the corner of Failing and Haight.”

Slough Country Rambling, or I have finally figured out my “jam”.

It seems like most cyclists have a certain “jam” with regards to where they bike. Look at their photostream or blog, where do they usually end up on a bike if they don’t have anywhere more specific to go? For years I thought maybe my “jam” was something more cool and exotic in the Portland area. And while I do ride in Forest Park, or up to one of the many east side buttes, I’ve come to realize that the lowlands around the Columbia Slough are my jam.

While riding on a floodplain isn’t as challenging as riding up a big hill,* many scenic nooks and secret crannies abound in this area. The lowlands are a patchwork of industrial and residential, wild and developed. It’s where we put the airport, sewage plant, and landfill. But it’s also teeming with wildlife and big ol’ cottonwoods. There are a lot of bike paths down here, too. And most importantly, it only takes me a mile to get there. This makes the Slough area a very easy destination for a later day bike ride, or on a day when I just want to get out there and ride but don’t have any real plan.

And that’s how it went on Tuesday December 20. After all that snow** over the weekend, I was itching for a ride. And a great day for it! It was fairly clear (though no mountain views) and a high of 52F/11C. Yeah, low 50s, twenty degrees warmer than it was a few days ago! To some of you folks living in more wintry winters, 52 seems hot. And while it’s indeed a bit more mild than we’d normally get on December 20th, you have to remember that the average high here for December is 46F/8C. Compare that to Duluth with an average December high of just 22F/-5C! It’s like almost twenty-five degrees warmer! And today there was practically zero sign*** of snow from Wednesday. The snow felt like a decade ago.

Anyways, I left the house around 1:30 pm, with about 3 hours of daylight to spare. I could head west towards Kelley Point Park, which is always nice, but I went that way a couple weeks ago when I went to Smith and Bybee Lakes. (I didn’t write about it, but pictures are here.) Instead, I decided to head east since I could hit up the Swedish Embassy of Shopping for late lunch and pick up some more coffee.****

On the way I hit up the East Columbia neighborhood, a truly obscure district in the Slough lowlands. It’s a small collection of houses plus a few small urban farms, with a feeling far from the rest of Portland, yet it’s only about a mile north of my house as the crow flies.***** I passed by a cornfield and saw a turkey! Within East Columbia lies one of Portland’s more obscure parks, the Columbia Children’s Arboretum. The idea of this arboretum was to show the state tree of all 50 states. It’s not well marked, so I don’t know if they ever met that goal. But it does have the state tree of Connecticut, the white oak, and that’s all that matters to me!

From there eastward, it was a quick and sucky mile on NE Marine Drive until I got to the dedicated bike path. A quick pause at Broughton Beach to watch a guy fly a kite and watch a few jets take off from Portland International Airport. Another few miles eastward onto the path until I took a side path to get over to the Cascades Crossing retail development where the Swedish Embassy of Shopping and their delicious veggie meatballs (and all you can drink free coffee) was located! Despite it being just five shopping days until Christmas, the place was only modestly busy. I guess housewares and bags of frozen meatballs don’t make good gifts?

From there, I took the more direct way home, which wasn’t as fun because it was dark and busy and the shoulders full of gravel. (We use gravel here for traction in snow and ice.) I guess the “storm” wasn’t as long ago as I remembered, eh?

So there you have it: my go to biking spot. I will be back soon enough, yes. Do you have a “jam” of your own?

*Unless of course you have a headwind!

**Relatively speaking.

***There were a few lingering snowpiles from plowing in the parking lot at IKEA.

****I was running low, and I actually do like IKEA coffee. It doesn’t hurt that it’s $4 for a half-pound bag.

*****There’s no direct “air line” route between the two, so the ride is more like two miles.