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.

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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: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pizza-ride-2017-head-east-tickets-33880030082?ref=wpwidget 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! https://ualmdwkgorge2017.eventbrite.com
  • 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. https://ualmdwkgorge2017.eventbrite.com
  • 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.

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.

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.

Coffeneuring 2016, Ride 3: 19 Oct 2016

Wednesday, October 19. A break in the crappy weather we’ve been getting all month, though the nicest of the weather happened in the morning. When I woke up, it was sunny. But it was my day off, so I didn’t get going early enough to capture the sunniest part of the day. By the time I got going for my Coffeeneuring adventure it was closing in on two. The sun had turned to clouds, and the forecast called for a chance of showers. Oh well. I was going in a ride today, dammit!

The point of the ride (obviously) was to complete another ride in the Coffeeneuring Challenge, plus my own Three Speed October challenge. But where to go? I wanted something with a little bit of length, but not that far, and not that hard. How about head out to Kelley Point Park? It’s about nine miles from my house via flat bike paths for the most part. And I hadn’t been there in a bit, since it’s one of those “close yet far enough” destinations, and also since it’s not on the way to anything, since it’s the northwest tip of the eastside, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Why not?

I got out the door somewhere after 1:30, after I hurredly threw together something resembling a lunch, since there would really be no place to get food on this trip. (Why did I not pick up something the night before, when I was at store? Damn my stupid lack of planning.) The sunny weather had changed to the ominous high clouds that foretell more unsettled weather coming. Still, I got to take in awesome views of the snow covered volcanoes (in this case, St. Helens, Adams, and Hood) as I crossed the tracks on the Vancouver Ave Viaduct.

Rather than go directly to the Point, I stopped at a secret spot on one of the orphan channels of the Columbia Slough next to Heron Lakes Golf Course. Even though this is only three miles from my house, I had never been to this stone wall overlook until the Midnight Mystery Ride last month. See? There’s still plenty to explore in this town, even for someone so steeped in this town. I made some coffee here via my Esbit coffee maker and at some lunch. It was pretty peaceful here, it seems like no one knows about this spot except dogwalkers, blue herons, and possibly an otter. The drone of Interstate 5, barely a mile east, was easy to ignore.

More flat bike path action westward towards Kelley Point Park, with a pause at Smith Lake. It’s a seasonal floodplain lake connected to the Columbia Slough. In the middle of summer there’s no water in it, but after the good rains we’ve had this month, it’s starting to fill up, but nowhere near “full”. It’s a pretty peaceful spot despite the occasional clangs of industry and freight trains in the distance.

I got to a mostly deserted Kelley Point Park around 4. It was pretty quiet, only a few dog-walkers, so it felt like I had the whole park to myself. Even in the middle of summer, when it’s humming, it never feels quite “full”. By now, there were a few spits of sprinkles, so there goes the idea of a totally dry ride. The spot I gravitate to, the picnic table right at the confluence, is a great place to watch the ships plying the two rivers, whether giant ocean-going freighters or more humble river-going barges. There was plenty of both today, as it seemed like there was something big passing the Point every five minutes or so. While I know it doesn’t “count” towards the challenge, I decided to make some more coffee, this time with the integrated Esbit stove/pot to boil water for pourover. (And yep, still using the Trader Joes “Tanzania” that I used the last time!)

After my coffee, I hustled towards the St Johns neighborhood, about five miles down the road. I didn’t really feel like getting caught in the rain out here, and this part of the trip was mostly light-industrial with more traffic. I got some dinner at my favorite St Johns place, Proper Eats, then finished it with some fine German style beer at Occidental Brewing. At that point, it was dark and really raining, so no getting around it: put on the rain cape, grit teeth, and head home. I stayed mostly dry, thankfully.

By the numbers:

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2016

  • Ride No: 3
  • Destination: Kelley Point Park
  • Miles: 24 total
  • Coffee: Esbit coffee machine and pourover, using Trader Joes Tanzania.
  • Bike: Raleigh Superbe

Pedalpalooza starts TOMORROW! And here are ALL the Urban Adventure League and Society of Three Speeds events!

27159271012_87e16a672e_oHello friends! Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual festival of bike fun is upon us. It’s been going strong since 2004* and this year it runs from June 8 through July 4. The calendar is packed with 277 (as of now) unique events. And this year, I’ve got nine different events going on! yes, NINE! Try as I might to “scale it back”, this year I decided to go full on. Because I wanted to see the types of events I want to do! 😉

So here we go, the UAL/SoTS events for Pedalpalooza 2016:

  • Thursday June 9, 5am (the first event of Pedalpalooza) SUNRISE COFFEE CLUB
    Broughton Beach, 4325 NE Marine Dr (right off Marine Dr multi-use path, east of where it intersects the road)
    What better way to start Pedalpalooza? Get up before the crack of dawn and ride up to the Columbia 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 5:21. Bringing some breakfast ain’t a bad idea, either.
  • Monday June 13, 8:30pm FOR THE LOVE OF THE BOTTLE (DYNAMO) Lucky Lab, 1700 N Killingsworth St  (The one in North Portland!)
    A ride appreciating the humble bottle or sidewall dynamo generator! Vintage or modern, it doesn’t matter, as long as the generator works. We’ll cruise around the night, kept company by the whirring of the dynamo wheel against tire. Please, NO HUB DYNAMO SYSTEMS OR BATTERY LIGHTS! Bottom bracket dynamos OK!
  • Wed June 15, 10am OUTER SLOUGH RAMBLE 
    Cascades MAX Station, NE Cascades Pkwy & NE Mt. St. Helens Ave 
    Let’s explore the further reaches of the Columbia Slough! This approximately 25 mile ride will feature sleepy reaches of this waterway, plus other secret spots. Mixed surfaces, and we 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.
  • Sun June 19, 4 pm DEAD FREEWAYS RIDE 
    South Park Blocks in front of Lincoln Hall (PSU), 900 SW Market St 
    What if…Portland built all the freeways it planned? This ride follows the routes of several highways that never made it off the drawing board, such as the fabled Mt. Hood Freeway, some that did but were later removed, like Harbor Drive, and also as a reference some freeways that currently exist. Approx 13 miles of riding through moderate traffic. Drinks and discussion to follow.
  • Mon June 20, 7:45pm SUNSET/MOONRISE RIDE P’s & Q’s Market, 1301 NE Dekum St Did you know that on the day of the full moon, the moon rises right around the same time that the sun sets? We’ll ride about 5 mi to a good spot where we can see BOTH. Stock up on supplies and libations at Ps and Qs (sorry, they are not known for cheap beer), and of course bring an extra layer and lights for the ride home.
  • Wed June 22 5:30pm TRAIN HISTORY RIDE 
    Union Station, 800 NW 6th Ave, Portland (meet outside by stone obelisk)
    Experience how Portland history has been shaped by rails. This approx 10mi ride will explore SW, including a climb to Council Crest. So yes, there will be hills. Not a loop. Ride is co-led with Dan Haneckow of Cafe Unknown.
  • Sun June 26, 9am ASSOCIATION OF CAFFEINATED WHEELMAN RIDE 
    Green Zebra Grocery, 3011 N Lombard St
    There ain’t nothing better than riding somewhere and enjoying coffee, esp. coffee that you make there! We’ll ride under 5 miles to a scenic spot to have coffee. Points for elaborate prep or quirky gear. And you might as well make/have breakfast, too. And tea is perfectly fine. ACW gear encouraged, BYO everything. Wheelwomen too!
  • Sun June 26, 4pm THREE SPEED RIDE 
    Omaha Parkway, N Omaha Ave & Ainsworth St (in the parkway strip)
    What better way to finish Sunday Parkways than ramble around the northern reaches of Portland 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 10-15 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.
  • Tues June 28-Wed June 29 MIDWEEK BIKE CAMPING  You need to register to get start location, but it’s near MAX in North Portland
    Because bike camping isn’t just for weekends! We’ll head on up to Battle Ground Lake in SW Washington. Approx. 25 mile ride one way and we’ll stop for supplies. You can either ride with the group or come up on your own. We’ll split the cost of campsites and wood. Must have some experience with bike camping. More info and to register here.

*Technically this all started in 2002 with Bikesummer, then morphed into Mini Bike Summer in 2003, finally becoming Pedalpalooza in 2004. Semantics, schemantics.

An unexpected Wednesday ramble, or rediscovering the Heavy Duti

Wednesday January 27 was my only true day off this week. I had no ambitious plans, as I wanted to do some stuff around the house. Also, a bit too much whisky the night before left me a bit too little energy. But I wanted to at least a short bike ride, as the day would be dry and I also needed to pick up some groceries.

I decided to pull out the Schwinn Heavy Duti, since besides a couple very short jaunts over the last few months, it’s been a while since I rode it. Also, I was still unsure of the whole giant basket and bullmoose setup, so the only way to find out was to ride it.

I left a little after noon, motivated because there looked to be a band of showers maybe ninety minutes from Portland. (This scenario would actually last all day, as the band of showers seemed to stall over the coast.) It would be only a short jaunt to the store, but I decided to go the long way via the Columbia Slough Trail.

I had just ridden the trail the week previous, but there’s nothing wrong with riding it again so soon! In fact, I don’t know why I don’t ride it more often, as it’s only a mile from my house, and provides miles of flat, scenic, and most importantly no-stress riding. Oh yeah, because it’s not on the way to anything. But I should revel in that!

I could have cut back over to “the mainland” via the North Denver Avenue viaduct, but I was having fun, so I decided to go even further, to the bridge over the slough by the water treatment plant, then cut across the peninsula via the Peninsula Crossing Path.

My worries about the giant basket and bullmoose bars melted, as the handling seemed fine. And riding the Heavy Duti is always weird for the first few minutes since I need to get used to the coaster brake again. This is one of the reasons why I don’t ride it that much, the solitary coaster brake. It’s funny to think that most of us started out riding coaster braked bikes and didn’t worry about it. Now at my risk-adverse age of 40, not having a front brake does concern me.

So should I go through the trouble and effort to do something about it? Part of me says no, keep the bike as it is, it’s a bike I haven’t spent a lot of money on, and I have three other bikes with better brakes. And there would be no easy or cheap way of going about it. Part of me says yes, because I like riding this bike and it would encourage me to use it more often.

And that is the big thing: I do like riding this bike. Despite its name, it doesn’t feel as heavy as it should.  And the single gear around 60 gear-inches is pretty practical, too. Sure, I don’t try to climb too many big hills with it, but it works pretty well for around town riding. This cruise around North Portland reminded me how much I do like this bike. The bullmoose bars made it feel slightly more sporty, if that could be possible.

I did a fly-by of Waud Bluff, looking down at Swan Island. A cruise ship was in the dry dock, and Mount Hood was getting shrouded in clouds. The weather still holding out, a high around 55F again, me with just a flannel shirt. Eventually I hit up the market, ate a lunch, and headed home. By this point the wind was picking up a bit, and I could feel the rains coming.

What was to be a short jaunt turned into a thirteen mile loop. It was a good time, and I need to get out on the Heavy Duti again soon. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do so!

My bike route here on RideWithGPS.

A Wednesday Ramble, 20 January 2016

Tuesday and Wednesday were my first two days in a row off since the new year! So obviously I needed to do something resembling an adventure. Tuesday was rain all day, but Wednesday was dry for most of the day. So Wednesday it would be.

But what kind of adventure? Originally I was hoping to take the Schwinn Heavy Duti out, since I rarely ride it. But I was thinking about doing some Coffee Outside action, and the Bantam Rambleneur would be best suited for it. Plus, there was still a chance of rain later in the day, and I didn’t want to be out in it with the Heavy Duti. While the Schwinn has fenders, it only has a coaster brake, which would be a bit sketchy in the wet.* So, the Bantam it would be!

Where to? I didn’t want to go that far, especially since I was departing the house in the afternoon. Thankfully I only have to go about a mile to hit the Columbia Slough bike trail, so I aimed for that. Ah, the Slough trail. I often forget about it, even though it’s so close to home. But it’s in the opposite direction from everything I do, and not on the way to anything. But it’s great for leisure riding, which is what I wanted to do!

While there were some sun breaks earlier in the day, by the time I left the house around 1 PM, the sky was steely overcast. However, the clouds were fairly high, so I still got good views of snow-capped Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood. While it’s great seeing these volcanoes on a clear winter day, when they are visible on a cloudy day in winter, they have an eerie aura to them, something hard to describe. But beautiful. Just look at the photos!

While I could have ridden all the way up to Kelley Point, where the Willamette and Columbia meet, I was aware that there was a band of rain moving into the metro area. (Thank you, smartphone weather app!) So I aimed for Smith Lake instead. It’s a lowland lake located in the former floodplain of the Columbia River.**

On the way there, though, I heard the all too familiar HISS…HISS…HISS of a flat. Great. A good chunk of glass had embedded itself into the tire. A flat exactly one week after the last? Yeesh. I flipped bike over and got to work. (Oh yeah, I brought my radio for the adventure, and it was nice to listen to jazz while fixing the flat!) While repairing the puncture I realized that this was the first time I fixed a flat solo on this bike. The last one I brought to the shop, and the only one before it was on the Eastern Oregon tour, where it was a team effort. Thankfully with a big chunk of glass, it was easy to find the hole, and I managed to patch the tube without completely removing it from tire.

It was only five miles to Smith Lake, the water much higher when I visited it in summer.*** There’s a little picnic area near the access road, and that’s where I made coffee. But better yet, this picnic area was sheltered, so even if the rain did start, I would be covered! Somehow I had forgotten about this sheltered area. I need to keep this in mind for future adventures.

For this Coffee Outside outing, I decided to bring the big Trangia 27 Stormcooker set, the first time I had used it since summer. The main reason it came along was because I wanted to have a bit of lunch. So I pulled a box of bean soup I had in my “camping reserves.” In any case, the full stove set made this feel that much closer to camping. Originally, I was thinking about camping this weekend, but the weather forecast was not conducive to that. So this gave me a little taste of that, “day camping” if you will. Still, this reminds me that I need to get out soon.

After coffee and lunch, I decided to head back towards home, since the rain was still coming. I’ll do a more extensive ramble some other day, but for now, this was good enough.

*I know, I know, bikes with only a coaster brake are not great. But to get a front brake on the Heavy Duti would take some investment and one of the big things I like about this bike is that I haven’t sunk a lot of money into it. Plus, I have three other bikes with better braking abilities.

**I say former because the levees protect this area.

***The lake had completely dried up then.