When I was a young man, I used to live in a very small town in south-central Maine. Our farm was on a small back road, where our neighbors were out of sight. Traffic would usually happen in the morning between 6a and 8a, and again from 4p till about 6p. In the in-between times, there was hardly more than a tractor going by, an occasional jogger, and sometimes a biker. It was really, really quiet. As I grew up, I learned how to ride a bike, and as soon as I could get permission from my parents, I started riding on this quiet back-country road. Jaunts would be short, to start, but over time, and as I gained their trust to obey traffic laws and pay attention to cars, I began trekking out across town. I’d go visit my grandparents. I’d ride to school. Eventually, I’d ride across town, over two massive hills, to my best friend’s house.
He and I would take off on our bikes and go all over the place. It was not unlike us to set off in the morning around 9a and not get back until the sun went down around 9p in the summer. All day long, pedaling everywhere, all over the places we chose. Once, he joined with my family and some family friends, and we set off on an epic bike ride of over 60 miles, which when you account for the fact our group included two moms and a bunch of kids between ages 10 and 15, was quite a feat. Still, even after that ride, getting around by bike was never something I complained about, nor did I even think about. I just did it.
In the spring, after the snow had melted, the first few rides were the toughest. I had fallen out of shape over the winter, but it wasn’t long before I was all over the roads again, thinking nothing of the hills, navigating over and under wherever I needed to.
The last time I was on a bike was when I lived in England, back in 2006-2008. I bought a trusty red bike there, and on occasion, would set off all around the North Norfolk coastal region. Sometimes, I’d clock upwards of 40 miles in one day. I loved exploring on my bike, and found the region to be pleasant by pedal.
Today, five years later, I set off on my bike for a little trek. I wanted to get out and explore some of the area around Portland. At first, I pulled up Google Maps and dropped a pin at the coast. 80 miles one way seemed a bit much. So did 60. Then, I figured I’d just set off on one of the major roads that went down the Willamette river, along the border between Washington and Oregon, and see how far I’d get before turning around.
Below is a map of my ride:
View West Portland Exploration in a larger map
I was pleased with most of this trek. The initial part was great, as I like riding up to St. John’s, one of my favorite areas of Portland. And the St. John’s Bridge is always a fun thing to cross. I didn’t like, however, how busy Rte 30 was. It’s THE road that runs along the Willamette, so it’s got a ton of commercial traffic. Probably the worst part of the ride, though, was Cornelius Pass Road. If I had it to do all over again, I would have found a way to bypass this road. It’s narrow, and ODOT saw fit to corrugate the pavement along the edges of the road, so whenever I had to pull the side for cars, I was shaking myself nearly apart. And, it’s a HUGE cut-through for Beaverton folks. As in, I think most of Beaverton was out on the road today and just HAD to get to the river. At one point, as I was hugging as close as possible to the corrugated strip of pavement without hitting it, a dude in a truck thought he should lay on his horn as he passed me. The ENTIRE time he was passing me.
I know, I know. I’m not in a motorized anything. I’m less than. You reminded me.
After that, though, and once I got onto Skyline, it was back to a very pleasant ride. I stopped to enjoy some wild blackberries along the side of the road, which were the perfect pick-me-up at that point (it had been predominantly all uphill once I’d gotten off Rte. 30). I met some other bikers, but they were all decked out in their lycra and racing equipment looking all flashy and whatever. I was in cut-off jean shorts and a sweaty cotton tee, so I wasn’t worthy of a hello, for the most part. Meh. More blackberries for me!
The downhill was awesome near the end. I got to fly through some tunnels and through some amazing canopy of trees that are part of the Northwest area of Portland. Just beautiful!
I hadn’t been out on a bike in years for any length of time, and today, I rediscovered my respect for distance bikers. My mom is one, and she can outpace me every day. I also have a deeper respect for triathletes/ironman folks. Biking isn’t easy, but when done right, it can be really exhilarating. Today was exhilarating for me!