BikeTown Chronicles #4

I returned to spin class today.

I’ll wait for the applause and trumpet fanfare to die down.

This isn’t the typical type of cycling that I’d include in a BikeTown post. The reason this is a milestone of note is more the reason for my absence from spin versus the return itself.

Back in late July – maybe early August? – I’d finally pulled the trigger on returning to spin. My original BikeTown efforts had been derailed by the temporary closure of the Springwater Trail, my normal cycling route. The city was upgrading a culvert from the Willamette River to a nearby marsh – which ran under the Springwater – in an effort to provide salmon a more attractive conduit to a spawning area.

Y’know, your basic salmon bom-chika-bom-bom moment brought to you by America’s kinkiest city…everyone is getting their freak on here!

The trail closed in early July, which significantly expedited my not-working-weight-gain. In the three months prior to July, I had put on 20 lbs. Between July 1 and 31, I welcomed another ten pounds into the – ahem – folds.

However, by mid-August, while I was easing back into spin, my diet and weight and overall feeling of well-being had pretty much stagnated.

So…I took a temp job. I know this is redundant information to regular readers, but the important aspect of this job is the to and from and not the job itself.

I rode.

It was just a 3.5-3.7 mile ride each way, but four days a week I was working in the equivalent of a spin class during my “work” commute. That was doubling my spin workouts.

I’m not sure why my ride home was two-tenths of a mile longer than my ride into work…but it’s not like I’m trying to tell you it was uphill both ways. I think that gives me a little latitude on the accuracy of my GPS tracking.

The effort was more significant than spin class, too. I found a range of gears that afforded me a good challenge throughout my ride. This was easier than figuring out my easy-challenging resistance settings on the spin bikes.

And, while not both ways, there was a hill on my commute. During spin classes, I hadn’t found a comfort level rising up out of the seat to simulate a hill climb. My knee was just not having it.

However, my daily ride took me past Montgomery Park

which was the old Montgomery Ward building back in the day.

<pours one out for Montgomery Ward>

There’s an S-shaped hill behind the building that transitions down from Thurman Street and effectively out of the Alphabet District and onto St Helens road, which took me into the industrial part of town. That hill was fine and dandy on the way to work, but ~8 hours later, the uphill was…likely to be a walk.

Except.

I learned there were only a handful of bike commuters working at my Amazon location. A max of six during my temporary assignment’s duration and on a couple of nights, just me.

And then there was Minh…

Me being dirty old me, I immediately registered the fact that two of the regular four riders during my work week were attractive young guys. The other regular rider was an Oldie Hawn, like me.

Ben, one of the two young uns, usually arrived early and left late. He was all about those hours.

Minh was not. He usually beat me out of there at the end of the shift.

I realized this first on my second night of work. Night one, I’d ridden the bus because I was unsure of the bike parking sitch.

I’d ran/walked home the next morning because the shifts end at 430 and the bus came around 5. Who needs to wait around in the dark for a half hour?!?

Well, just for a bus, at any rate.

That second morning, I set off on my bike for home. I pedal at a pretty good clip because I want the workout. However, after having my ass handed to my by about about 1500 boxes during my shift had me wondering if there was a way around that Montgomery Park hill. Mentally, I was assuring myself that when the road forked to go uphill, that other fork surely came out on the other side of the complex.

But why risk getting lost? I’ll just ride up as far as I can and then walk the rest of the way in the protective anonymity of darkness.

Unfortunately for my elderly ego, just ahead of me was Minh. I somehow seemed to be gaining on him…like there was a tractor beam in his butt.

This sent me into a frenzy.

The gaining on him, not the butt. Although…woof.

If I caught up to him and then died on the hill, that would be tragic. Moreso than simply being “that old guy that stares”. Still uncertain of the alternate routes, I dialed back my pace and hoped for the light to change and stop me.

This is me we’re talking about, though, so naturally that didn’t happen.

I cruised up on to the hill as Minh disappeared around the first curve. I rode as far up as I could – about a quarter of the way – before giving up. To my surprise, while I thought I was quitting, my ego was telling my body to rise up off the saddle and keep going.

Ok

It wasn’t pretty, but I actually ended up making it to the top without stopping…and I gained ground on Minh, who had not even stood up while ascending the hill.

Obnoxious punk.

I think what really got me to the top was not the fact that I was gaining on the kid. Rather, I was pretty sure he could hear my labored wheezing behind him and if that stopped he’d either know I’d quit or think I’d died. I couldn’t bear either fate.

So, pedal, did I.

Cycle Yoda-speak!

The next day, I made sure to call out Minh for taking the hill without standing up. He made it sound like no biggie, so I decided that I’d keep riding up the hill versus finding out where that other road led.

I started counting off my pedal strokes. At first it was to drive my pace, to avoid losing momentum up the hill.

One-two, one-two, one-two

There were 50 one-twos going up.

The next week, I just counted pedal strokes. Sure enough, there were 100. At least I was being consistent.

The third week, the other Oldie Hawn told me about the other fork in the road. “Much easier”, he told me.

I think I’m going to take the hill for the whole month, then I’ll think about changing

I thought those were crazy words, certainly not words I would have imagined speaking on Day One.

Do exactly so, I certainly did!

But you better believe that on commute 19, I absolutely sailed right through the light at the bottom of the hill, veering left toward parts unknown instead of right to the hill that I now called my bitch.

I’m proud of my cycling accomplishment during my regular two months of work at Amazon. However, I am also aware of several opportunities during that time where my BikeTown blog crossed over into Red Shirt Diary territory.

First off, (mom, stop reading) since it was only three and a half miles each way, I didn’t wear my helmet. Bad, old Xtopher, I know! However, only one of the regular four actually did…so, somehow that makes it better, right?

Then there was the whole, riding at night without a head or tail light. Yeah, pretty suicidal. But, I did follow fairly well lit roads. There were a few dark areas where I could safely assume homeless people had taken out the street lights in order to give them better darkness for sleeping. Or whatever they were doing under that cardboard. Fortunately, there were only a couple of near miss swerves to avoid large sticks or…shoes. Why are there so many discarded shoes on Portland streets?!? Oddly, the only direct impacts I suffered sounded like license plate frames.

But I never fell. Hooray for my short clad legs and helmet-less brain bucket.

My practice had been wearing my reflective safety vest during my ride. However, in the middle of my assignment, my family took off for the Oregon high desert. When I dropped my bag in my room, I discovered an optic orange Nike vest that my sister had brought along for me.

Yay, substitute mom!

The trip coincided with my nephew checking into college in Bend. I’d already been watching as my sister inched closer toward an empty nest. By watching, I mean receiving random care packages over the course of the summer countdown to college.

A Captain America tee shirt she picked up for me at the Costco.

Some cookies.

Shorts and another couple of shirts. I suspect these were a result not only of her frustrated mom gene, but also self defense for her eyes since they were having to watch me trundle around in clothes that hadn’t fit in a good 15 pounds.

So the vest was not a huge surprise, but that it was also my favorite color was all the more “aw” for me. Of course, I laughed pretty hard at myself when I learned the vest was originally for my brother in law, but hadn’t fit his meatier, mor muscular frame.

Then I thought, “How dare she buy him a vest in my favorite color!”, like I somehow had reserved rights to all things orange.

Don’t I, though?

Nevertheless, the episode afforded me a more fashionable alternative to night time visibility than my tattered old safety vest.

The most strange of my Darwin-esque Red Shirt moments involved those damned e-scooters. Yeah, there was more than one.

The first was simply me mistaking an oncoming headlight for another cyclist. I was fairly nonplussed at the fact that the oncoming light was on my side of the road. Ascribing the poor behavior to the overt asshole-ness of Portland cyclists, I moved to give the bastard a wide berth. Psychotically, the headlight started weaving. As it whizzed by me at about 15 mph, I realized it was a scooter and not a bike. This was as I was also making a last desperate swerve to avoid a collision with the oncoming erratic swerving maniac.

The second instance was also a case of vehicular mistaken identity. There were two scooters traveling side by side, I mistook them for a car. I was pretty surprised when the driver’s side of the car split off from the rest to swerve into my lane. Realizing my mistake, I hugged the parked cars as tightly as I could to remain out of the way of the scooter, which was now traveling toward me in my lane.

Asshole

was the most affable salutation I could muster for this jag as he passed within inches of my handle bars.

Helmets, scooters, hills and poor visibility aside, I survived my two months of bike commuting four times a week to work and back! It was a great way to get amped up for a night of work, but also a surprisingly welcome cool down on the way home. I’d been anticipating hating the ride home after work and expected myself to take it easy along the way.

I didn’t.

I’d arrive home each morning; panting and sweating, leg muscles twitching. Also surprising was logging some of my best commute times on the longer ride home. Those are results I can take!

The end result was returning to my spin class today, 20 pounds lighter than I’d been on the last class I’d attended. I’ll take it!

But what I appreciated most about those morning rides wasn’t chasing Minh most of the way. No, it was leaving work with a stiff back and sore shoulders and arriving home feeling like I’d worked those kinks out.

Not a bad way to end a couple of months of long day’s nights! Of course, neither was chasing Minh…story of my life, right there. <shrugs>

BikeTown Chronicles #4

3 thoughts on “BikeTown Chronicles #4

  1. Is it not illegal to doff one’s helmet in the enlightened world of rain and salmon saving? Even in hippie old hip wannabe cooler when it was real Austin helmets are required cycling apparel. Went to high school with a girl, her younger brother rode too close under a tree branch. Drilled holes in his head too late for the hematoma…it was a large family, but still, I think of that when I wear my helmet on the stationary bike…you know, help I’ve fallen and all that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m picturing you sprawled on the floor under your stationary bike!
      I would originally feel guilty when I set off without my helmet. But guilt being as merciful as it is, *that* passed.
      Still, you’re right, helmets are required by law. It’s just treated like speeding and jaywalking, ie: unenforced.
      But you know how I feel about my pal Darwin…I shouldn’t be teasing him by not wearing my brain bucket.

      Like

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