Saturday, October 14, 2006

My new commute

I wish I could explain why the six miles from our apartment to downtown Portland put a silly grin on my face twice a day. But, those that would understand already know, and those that don't understand, well, just wouldn't. In person, when I tell people more or less what my commute is, they either nod and smile immediately, or ask the unanswerable question: "That must get old, huh?"

My schedule varies, but most likely I'm loading up the bike in the early afternoon. From gurgling Johnson Creek, I climb up through city streets and descend to the river. I consider the wind, my mood, and how presentable I need to be in half an hour before nudging the downtube shifter into a gear for the ride. The Springwater-on-the-Willamette bike trail takes me the next 3.5 miles or so. The trail is smooth asphalt with a center dividing line and only one road crossing the whole way. There's ample time to watch for herons, listen to the woods, or just ponder the whoosh of tires on pavement. On a nice afternoon, I may meet or be passed by 20 or so other cyclists, an even mix of exercisers and travelers.

At the trail's end in a cement yard, I connect with the Eastbank Esplanade--a wide sidewalk, more or less--that ferries me under the roaring I-5 bridge and ramps onto the more sedate Hawthorne Bridge. The bridges are tricky points for cyclers in Portland, but this is one of the better ones. Wide sidewalks on either side are lined (with textured paint that won't get slippery) for bikes on the left and peds on the right. After taking in the views from the bridge, I ramp down to a bike lane on the street, and then ride the last mile or so in city traffic up the hill to my bike locker (more on that later).

I reverse the trip starting sometime between 7 and 9:30 at night. The trail is nice during the day, but I especially appreciate it at night. One of my pleasures in Missoula was riding dark, quiet roads at night. I get the same experience (minus potholes and occasional pickup trucks) on the trail. The section through the Oaks Bottom Refuge is especially haunting on the night leg. The bluff pushes the road away up above and leaves just the damp air and river sounds in the bottom. Slicing through this stretch on a smooth six foot ribbon of asphalt--often with no one for a mile in either direction--it is hard to remember I'm in a city of a million people. Even harder to imagine why half the city doesn't get to work and back this way. It is good to see those nods of understanding from other cyclers, though.

More to come...



Blogger nate said...

Your commute is about as good as it gets, but take care on the Springwater Corridor after dark. I hit a raccoon on my way to work one dark morning. Luckily it was during cyclocross season and my bike handling skills were at their peak. I was able to stay upright and both raccoon and I survived the incident. There are a lot of little critters running around down there.


9:40 AM  
Blogger Yuri said...

sounds ideal. i love the fall commute.
course that means in the 80s here...
break out a camera one time - i'd love to see some pics of your commute.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Scoutie said...

I love riding in Portland late at night, too.

When I first began cycling again, I also started working at a job where 16-hour days were quite common. I still wanted to ride my bike after work, but it was dark. I soon got over that fear, and learned to love night rides better than day ones.

I rode some of my favorite paths for the first time when it was dark. . . the Esplanade is lovely at night, and if you're in the mood, the ride up to OHSU is a perfect night ride (so long as it isn't a Friday or Saturday night, when the hospital traffic is a bit nutty).

Welcome to Portland!

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Calvin White said...

Hello, Joe and Rachel,
Like you both I am both a Missoula and car driver refugee. I rode the Bikecentennial of Summer of 1976 when I was 29, from Salem, OR to Missoula, with no flats(believe it or not).
It was a pilgrimage. I moved to Missoula. I left the Dakotas for Missoula in 1951,moved to Whitehall,MT in 1957, and to Eugene,OR in 1959. After graduation from 3 Oregon colleges,dropping out of grad school, 6 venues,and two wives in 20 years,my 2nd wife and I ended up in Vancouver,WA , Summer of 1979; married and moved to Portland, 6 months later. After 18 years we left Portland because of the poor schools system's effect on our then teenage son. My wife and I were unceremoniously retired in our late 50's with a 30 year mortgage, and unemployed adult son in 2003. My
wife still drives a car, My 22 year old and I refuse to get drivers licenses, because of papyrophobia , gas prices, being poor insurance risks. My son's first vehicle is a folding bike. Mine was a german lemon minicar( an NSU prinz). I was a poor insurance .I gave up driving for the safety of others. I gave up auto insurance because I was actually sued by a driver who doored me for $200 damages. I lost and my rates went up.This was before Oregon made doorers liable. I am presently volunteering weekly as a Scientific Educator at OMSI role playing a mad scientist, and occasionally at OPB.I ride my bike to 1 or 2 times a week to Vancouver Mall, take an inbound C-tran bus#4 to DT Vancouver, tranfer to TRIMET #6; get off at the Hawthorne bridge ramp, and ride to OMSI from the bike/ped off ramp avoiding the train crossing and traffic. I may take one guest at time with my OMSI membership. Just give me a weeks notice

1:28 PM  
Blogger SueJ said...

I always wonder how to blog the goodness of the commute. It's different every day but the words don't really convey it.

1:42 PM  

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