Friday, September 3, 2010

Wonderful Portland

"I've decided that I'm going to judge all places and people from now on based solely on how they treat cyclists," I said to Peter 10 miles into our 41-mile ride today. I've been reading Barbara Savage's Miles from Nowhere these last few days and it has cemented in my mind that the way the people of a place treats cyclists says all you need to know about them. If you love to travel you'd love this book. You know...really travel. If you love seeing the people, the culture, talking to locals, then this is a book for you. If you love cycling, you'd naturally love it because it is a cycle tour around the world. Loving both travel and cycling, I've been devouring it, and learned a lot about the world and my own country. Bicycling through the West and Midwest sounds lovely, scenic (except for the Dakotas) and friendly. The East Coast sounds tiring because of the traffic unless you stay in the Appalachians. Florida seems downright suicidal. I stayed up to 2 am, reading in terror the tale of Barbara and her husband, Larry, riding in Florida. They've got 4 kinds of poisonous snakes in Florida and the threat from them is measly compared to the threat from Florida's homicidal drivers. This book was written 30 years ago, so maybe it is better now. But, still,'re on my list.
As we pedaled happily through North Portland, past Smith and Bybee lakes, I explained to Peter that it's like judging a place based on how they treat children or animals. I'd been regaling him with tales for days about the lovely people of Spain treating Barb and Larry like celebrities and how a family in Italy had sent them pedalling away with 4 gallons of wine to "get the through the next few days." Things turned for the worst when traveled through Egypt dodging rocks being hurled at them constantly. Don't ever ride your bike in Egypt.

We were riding on a stretch of Marine Drive where there is a fairly small shoulder-y bike lane when I saw the two men walking ahead of us in the bike lane. This stretch of our ride had had a steady stream of traffic, including semis, whizzing past us so I started to slow down, contemplating how we were going to get around them. I could hear a semi coming up beside us, so I slowed down to let him pass. But then, I looked back and he had actually slowed down all the traffic to let us get around these two men. He had been looking ahead to see what WE were heading into. I couldn't believe it. I mean, I just couldn't believe it. We zipped around the pedestrians, gave the semi-driver a cheerful wave and laughed in amazement at what had just happened.
For the next five miles I was nearly delirious. In that good kind of way. Portland has got to be the single greatest city in the entire United States of America for cycling, I gushed. We've got flat. We've got hills. We've got little mountains, medium-sized mountains, and mountains so big they get lost in the clouds. We've got hundreds of miles of bike streets, bike lanes and bike paths. In over a year of serious cycling, I've only run across two antsy drivers (both of whom passed me in a tunnel), but the thousands of other drivers I've encountered have been patient and courteous. And, we've got all kinds of cyclists. I passed a woman today dressed in a beautiful floral dress while pulling her toddler in a Burley trailer with a giant flag on the back. I chased a road biker up a hill with an Arrogant Bastard Ale bike jersey on. I saw little kids out with their dads. I saw couples on hybrids. I got completely smoked by a hipster on a fixie (this happens a lot). I didn't see any tandems or mountain bikes, but we've got those too. We ARE the People for Bikes commercial.

We decide to pull into Ikea after almost 30 miles for lunch. For 12 bucks we got two GIANT plates of meatballs, mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, salad, and soda. It was the first time we'd stopped and it felt good to get out of the heat.
After lunch we rode over to Best Buy to pick up the newest season of The Simpsons. We bungeed it to my bicycle beam and then headed south in the 90 degree weather towards home. I was still feeling a bit giddy from my I heart Portland experience. "You look so happy," Peter noticed at a stoplight. "I am happy," I replied. There's nothing like feeling that you are in exactly the place you want to be.

We took the flat medium length way home, stopping once so Peter could eat a banana and rolling into the driveway with 40.8 miles. Today, I could have done 80. After a snack and some water, we hopped on our hybrids for a trip to the library and the grocery store which puts us at around 43 for the day. A great day of cycling in the greatest city in America...wonderful Portland.


  1. so much fun reading your blog!

  2. Thanks! I've sure had some highs and lows this week.