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.

Coffeeneuring 2017, Ride 6: Moto coffee? Sun 5 Nov

Yep, I cancelled my originally planned Chehalem Range Ramble because the weather forecast was fairly dire. And true to form, it ended up being not that bad after all. Maybe a sprinkle, a temp around 50F/10C. Oh well, I do know of a few folks who went out and did some form of the Chehalem Ramble after all, so all was not lost. And honestly, after a tough work week and working until 10 PM on Saturday, I’m glad that I didn’t wake up early, hustle on the MAX, and do a 40 mile ride with about 2,500 feet of cumulative climbing.

What I did instead was a bit more mellow. After spending the AM around the house, I departed the Holland House around 1:30 with a general objective of heading west through the Peninsula. First, I aimed north towards my favorite bottomlands of the Columbia Slough. Oh slough, you are so peaceful, and so close. The first bit of exploration was along the levee on the north side of the slough just east of NE MLK Blvd. This is technically “off limits” to public use, but that gap in the fence is so damn wide due to years of use and abuse, ain’t no stopping no one. The first bit was a rough grassy track, then the inexplicable orphaned paved path behind FedEx, awaiting a linkage to a network that may be decades in the making.

I descended down from here and made a beeline (relatively speaking) to one of my favorite spots down here, the Columbia Children’s Arboretum. The gist behind this random park is to have a state tree from all 50 states. I don’t know if that ever happened, but I do know that my home state of Connecticut is represented with a White Oak. (It also happens to be the State Tree of a bunch of other states too, but did they have The Charter Oak? No!) Of course, all the (deciduous) trees were at peak poppin’ now, so a great time to be down here.

I kept heading westward along the Columbia Slough path, which sits on the north side levee above the slough. While it had remained dry and off/on sunny, the stiff west wind was not exactly fun, and made it feel a bit colder than it probably was. I paused at the bridge over the slough by the wastewater treatment plant, watching a UP freight pass by in the distance, and hoping for a heron to pop out of the water.

So it was definitely time for coffee. My original hope was to try Willamette’s End Coffee on N Lombard, since it was a cafe I had never been to before. And also, a cafe on N Lombard as well. I commented a few years back about how N Lombard was one of the few long avenues in Portland to be bereft of coffee shops. That’s been changing over the past few years. But unfortunately Willamette’s End closed at 3 PM and I was too late. I could just go to Cathedral Coffee, a great place, but I’d been there before. Is there another new-to-me cafe? I did a search and found a few in St Johns, Portland’s farthest-flung North neighborhood (and own city at one point.) One piqued my interest: 2 Stroke, a two-wheeled themed cafe, albeit around motorcycles. They promised some interesting coffee drinks and food trucks in back. Why not?

I rambled further west, trying to find some great off-the-beaten path streets. And I definitely found one on the north side of St Johns, N Seneca St. Most of it was in some form of unpaved, yes! (I even passed by a chicken coop.) I found myself at 2 Stroke around 3:30. Normally I go for a tried and true “house”/drip coffee, but they had an interesting menu of specialty drinks. I got a “Vermont” which was espresso, white chocolate, maple, and cinnamon. Delicious, especially with a marionberry hand pie!

And then it was nightfall, so early with Daylight Savings Time done. I got some food, drank some beer, headed home. It was cold now, around 40F/4C. Winter is on its way…

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.

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.

A three speed ramble up to Children’s Arboretum, Ricky Point, and St. Johns: 4 March 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve been behind in blogging, so, while this adventure happened before the Leif Erikson ride, I’m getting around to posting it afterward. So sorry.

Another week, another adventure. Part of my challenge for my adventures this year is to go to places I have not been to, or places that I haven’t been to in awhile. This time I decided to head back out to the lands of the Columbia Slough, because they practically start from my doorstep. (Read: So I can get going later in the day.) While I’ve explored this area many a time, even recently, there’s still spots I hit up infrequently. On this day (Wednesday March 4, 2015) I wanted to hit up the Columbia Children’s Arboretum, which is barely two miles from my house. So after some putzing around the house in the morning, I got on the Raleigh Wayfarer and headed out.

The Arboretum is an interesting park. It was once surplus land for the Columbia School District, so someone had the idea to make it an arboretum that the children could work in. Then Portland Parks took it over. (See link for full info.) The theme is the State Tree from all 50 states. There doesn’t seem to be much of a rhyme or reason to the arboretum: many trees are unmarked, there is no map, and I’m pretty sure there aren’t all fifty state trees. (For example: I didn’t see a palmetto, so South Carolina is not represented. North Carolina’s pine is here, though.) Of course, I was happy when I spotted my home state tree, the white oak for Connecticut.

And it’s a bit of a forelorn park, hidden away from central Portland, so most people don’t know about it. While the park looks quiet from photos, on one side of it is a truck park for Jubitz, so there’s constant noise from that. The other sides of the park are surrounded by the East Columbia neighborhood, which has the feeling of remoteness. But the neighborhood cherishes this out-of-the-way spot, and I saw several residents walking their dogs through here.

After a respite of snacks and tea, I took off for Ricky Point, a spot that I hadn’t been to since the summer. I’ve written about this obscure little spot at the east end of Tomahawk Island before, check out full info here. It was a beautiful day to be out at the point, and a great view of Mount Hood over the Columbia River awaited me. Another rambler, an older gent on foot, asked me if we were “okay” being here, as any traveller to the point has to pass through a gate marked “No Trespassing”. I said I’ve seen many a person down here (in fact, there were folks down on the beach as we spoke) and no one has ever said anything to me before. He seemed satisfied by my answer, and promptly got to work watching birds.

I didn’t stay for long, as there wasn’t much daylight left and I wanted to do some more riding. I headed further east via the Peninsula Crossing Trail to St. Johns where I enjoyed food from a tacqueria and beverage from Occidental Brewing. It was dark by the time I left, and the almost full moon greeted me. What a wonderful night to end a wonderful day of riding.