Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rain and River

Portland is temperate. It's an oceanic climate so it rarely gets cold and it rarely gets hot. But, it does rain and if you are going to be a cyclist in Portland you have to learn how to ignore the rain. 2 minutes before I start my ride today, it starts to drizzle. I take off my sunglasses and put on my light jacket. The jacket is more to keep me from getting chilled than keeping me dry. I have a whole different set of rain gear for bike commuting (pants, jacket, shoe covers), but for a fitness ride I don't mind getting wet.

I start my ride by going up over Mt. Tabor. A few brave hikers are out in the rain with their dogs. The city is hidden by a cloud as I circle the top and make my way down Yamhill, my breaks squeaking from the rain.

I ride north on the I-205 bike path and get to the Columbia river as the rain stops and the sun comes out. Turning west I glide over the beautiful trail, almost alone. This is bicycling nirvana.
This section of Portland's bike path system is my favorite. The river glides mightily beside you, hosting a few bobbing boats, some kayakers and the occasional motorboat with a water skier behind. Lining the path are tall grasses and wildflowers. There's a bit of a headwind heading west today but I know it will be at my back when I turn around. Riding like this, alone, my thoughts seem to have lightened their touch on my psyche. In an almost dreamlike state I yearn to just continue like this for the rest of my life, pedaling rhythmically to the sound of wind whistling through the straps of my bicycle helmet.
I stop for a break to eat a banana, rest my back and drink some more water. Airplanes fly directly overhead, but I still don't see a soul. I get back on my bike and pedal away, back east, with the tailwind behind me.
There is a nice stretch of bike path east of the I-205 bike path, so I ride on the shoulder of Marine Drive to get to it. I'm rewarded with views of the riverbank across from me almost completely devoid of human habitation. At the end of it, I notice that the road has been repaved. Fresh asphalt and a wide shoulder beckon me so I continue east. It's a busy road with semis whizzing past, but everyone gives me plenty of room. I ride like this for a few miles, taking a detour south for a bit through a neighborhood before I turn around and head back.
Getting back the the I-205 bike path I decide I'm not ready to go home. I ride west again, now with a few more other cyclists and walkers. It's exactly 10 miles out and back on this pristine bike path. When I get done with these 10 miles I finally feel ready to go home.
These last 10 miles include 5 speed killing stoplights, but I make good time in between them. Feeling a little sluggish at Maywood Park I stop and eat a gel, throw out my used banana peels, drink a bottle of water and head back towards Tabor. Getting to Tabor I climb most of it, but decide to skip the park and head straight home (my back is a bit tired). Pulling into the driveway, I look down at my mileage of 51.3 which puts me at over 100 for the week (since Sunday). Relishing my cycling glow which today is made up of one part simple mileage and one part spending so much time is such a beautiful place, I lock up my bike, greet my ecstatic dog, and make plans for my next amazing ride.

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