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.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) 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 withย  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.)****ย  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.ย  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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) 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 monthย 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!ย 

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…

A spring-like Sunday cruise, 28 Jan 2018

I’ve said this on ye olde blog before, but spring is my favorite season. And it’s great being a spring lover in the wet side Northwest, as spring arrives sometime in February and goes to about May, when we start getting our first tastes of summer (though summer doesn’t really lock in until July.) Once mid-February hits, it becomes harder for us to get “real” winter (snow/ice) weather, though there is always a chance for frost. And flowers and buds make their first appearance. The deciduous trees usually fill out in early April (vs mid-May in Connecticut.)

It’s been a mild January here. Our only freezing temps happened during the first three days of the month. We haven’t hit 60F/16C, though we’ve gotten up to the upper 50’s a few times. Our temperate climate is being all temperate this winter, and I’m okay with that.

But we’ve still seen our share of wet this January. We’re at about 5 inches of rain, which is spot on the “average” for January. We’ve had some dry days and spells, but they don’t always align with my days off (or my health!) For example, I had four days off last week. Most of them were wet, the one that wasn’t I had other things going on.ย  So no fun bike rides. Sure, I can ride in the evening if it’s dry, but sometimes it’s nice to see things, y’know?

But Sunday January 28th was promising to be a dry and mild day. And I wanted to take advantage of it and ride a bike. The big problem was I had to work. Normally I have Sundays off, but I had to work this one because The Boss was out of town. And thankfully I had the PM shift which starts at 3 PM, so I could take advantage of the morning and afternoon. Of course, I didn’t get out of the house as early as I wanted, mostly because it’s hard to wake up early after working the night before until 10 PM. And of course, once I get outside I wish I did get out earlier! It was so beautiful. So it goes.

I decided to take the Robin Hood, since it’s the newest bike and I’m still getting used to it. I enjoy riding it, but it needs a few more tweaks. And there were a few tweaks I needed to do before and during the ride, like reseating the rear wheel* and adjusting the kickstand I recently installed.

Since I didn’t have much time I decided to do something easy. I headed south from my house to the Willamette, passing the Rodney Goats on the way. The Eastbank Esplanade was surprisingly free of people on such a beautiful January Sunday. I wondered if maybe I forgot about the Superbowl going on, but realized it’s next Sunday instead. Oh well, more for me to enjoy!

I kept on going south, eventually riding on the Springwater’s Willamette section. The river on my side, trees overhead, birds singing. I felt pretty good. I arrived at the Sellwood Bridge and decided to cross it, meaning I’d be heading north along the west side of the river. A quick pause for coffee and a snack at the Five Points Coffee on SW Dakota, one of the shops owned by my former roommate. It was getting late, so I hustled a bit more, which is hard since the Willamette path here meanders around various condiminium complexes, and the pedestrians picked up. So I didn’t linger over the not-crowded Tillikum Crossing Bridge to get back to the east side.

I got to work right at 3 PM. The ride was fifteen miles, not bad. And it put me in a good mental space. But now I want more. The next few days don’t look good, but it looks like Wednesday may be dry though not as mild as Sunday. (Sunday’s high was 57F/14C, Wednesday promises 47F/8C.) And I have Wednesday off. Let’s hope the stars align. And let’s hope more spring weather is not far away!

*The biggest thing I hate about three speeds is removing and installing the rear wheel. I needed to take it off to change the rear fender light (I just got a Spanninga Vena), and I never seem to get it positioned right and/or fully tightened n the first take.

Riding Back Towards Wellness

It’s been a quiet week around here. That’s because I’ve been sick. I started feeling ill on Tuesday the 9th. It was the classic flu, with all its classic symptoms like headache, aches, cough, congestion, fever, nausea.

I spent a few days primarily in bed, not necessarily sleeping, but in that sickly in between state, wallowing in my own sense of despair and melancholy. I thought I was well enough to go to work one day, but really wasn’t so it probably pushed me back more than help. Each day started out with me being the same sick I was the day before. I started to wonder: Would I ever get better?

Of course, things like the flu typically end, and Sunday saw me turning the corner. I still wasn’t healed, and felt a bit blah, but it was a marked improvement. Things started to feel positive. If there’s one thing I can appreciate about sickness is how you feel–not just physically, but mentally and spiritually–one it starts to subside. I wanted to enjoy life again, be out in the world.

Now I wasn’t going to go overboard. But I wanted to go outside. It didn’t hurt that the weekend was a real nice one, sun and temps in the high 50’s F, very springlike. Why not go for a bike ride?

I decided to roll down to the Slough, since it was close by. And if I started to feel down, I could get home quick. The ride was nothing new or spectacular by my standards, but a good soul-affirming ramble. I hit up favorites like Columbia Children’s Arboretum, the little slough by Heron Lakes Golf Course, the path and bridge by the wastewater plant. The mountains were resplendent in snow and there were other folks enjoying nature.

I rolled home right around dark, after stopping by the market. My Robin Hood doesn’t have a cyclocomputer, and I don’t use Strava, so I didn’t keep track of distance while riding. But mapping it later, I realize that I did about 17 miles! Wow! A bit more than I thought I was doing–and probably a few miles more than I should have, owing to my health. But I survived with no adverse effects.

I’m still getting over this sickness, but it won’t be long before I can enjoy life to the fullest again.

An optin’ outside, givin’ thanks kinda ride: Mon 27 Nov

Last Thursday (November 23) was Thanksgiving in America. For most, a four day weekend, a time to travel home and/or eat lots of food. For others, the start of the holiday shopping season. It’s become a big thing over the past couple years to buck the whole waiting-in-line at midnight for doorbusters by #optoutside. Y’know, don’t go shopping, do something outdoors instead. I get it, but it somehow feels a li’l smug to me, especially when I get bombarded by everyone’s “rad adventure” photos on Saturday.

And why is that? Well, since I work in hospitality, I don’t get things like four day holiday weekends, even for Thanksgiving. In fact I work most Thanksgivings and Black Fridays. I can’t do the crazy awesome adventures. At best, I can hope for a little something.

And a little something was what I was hoping for on Friday morning (November 24.) The weather was nice, and there was a late-edition Coffee Outside near my house. So I hoped to do a little ride on the way to work at 3. That all got thwarted when I got a bit of a head cold on Thanksgiving night. So no optin’ outside that day. Nor the next several days, since I was still sick, had to work, and the weather got crappy.

But Monday November 27 turned out pretty okay. I had a little bit of time off, so I decided it was now or never for a bike ride. And I was jonesin’ for something, since it had been awhile. Quick and easy was the order of the day, so I headed down towards the Columbia Slough. First stop, Columbia Children’s Arboretum, a fairly obscure and secret spot of woodsy solitude, theoretically featuring every state tree. I had been down here a month ago, and the leaves were mostly gone. This time, I decided to take the path closer to a slough side channel vs. the main route through the arboretum.

I winded my way out of there and westward until I hit Smith and Bybee Wetlands. Smith Lake was full of water and geese, and the rapidly setting sun shone through the alder forest that lined the banks. Another peaceful moment.

Kelley Point Park was just a few miles away, and there was still daylight, but I didn’t feel like going that far, especially since it was becoming rush hour and the traffic would get bad.* Only if I left earlier, oh well. I headed southward, crossing the Slough at the ped/bike bridge by the treatment plant. I steered for St Johns for food and drink. I soon realized that St Johns on a Monday isn’t the best idea, as it seemed like half the restaurants were closed. Still, I found a great Indian place, and got a drink elsewhere.

I’m really thankful that I have spots like the Children’s Arboretum, Smith and Bybee Wetlands, and other lands around the Columbia Slough close at hand. All I need is an hour or more to unwind and recenter, and I can easily do this with just a couple hours left of daylight on an almost-winter day.

*While there’s a “bike path” that goes all the way there and almost into St Johns, it’s really an overglorified sidewalk with lots of driveway crossings.