BikeTown Chronicles #2

Over the past week, I’ve been missing being active as my foot heals up. It’s provided me the opportunity to live actively vicariously through myself…my memories of being outside and active, at any rate.

It’s also gotten me thinking about the unfortunate side effects of getting back on my bike. Back in the saddle, if you will.

The muscle soreness, I look forward to. Achey knees, I’m able to tolerate…literally walking off the cumulative shock in the hours or days after a ride.

That saddle rash, though.

Short of getting a new seat, I’ve done what I can to minimize the occurrence of saddle rash. Wearing fewer layers of fabric to minimize chafe. Wearing the right layers, ie: padded undergear. Post-ride care, including a bag balm, because some remedies have to make you question whether the cost of the cure is worth the cause of the malady.

Kinda like the old chestnut about only sane people questioning their sanity. So when I ask if applying salve to my taint-ish region is a reasonable post exercise recovery…I have to be able to affirm my cycling adventures. It’s not as worth it as it would be if someone else were (gingerly) working the cream into my nether area.

Shush, Diezel.

But, since that’s not a fun part of my cost/benefit cycling analysis – and since today is the first day old leftie is feeling like a ride won’t send my recovery backwards – I move past the potential discomfort into other areas of my recent outdoor adventures.

So I’m co-opting or resurrecting this draft of my second BikeTown Chronicles with a few things further onto the plus side of cycling in order to motivate me back out onto the road this afternoon!

I had gotten to the point where I would remember gloves. Actually, I was pretty proud, I remembered them after my first ride. My forearm soreness was pretty severe after my ride, but in a weird way. I also experienced numbness during and after my ride. I remembered the gloves recommendation from one of The Fabulous Baker Girls, who is an avid cyclist. She swore the padding in the palms of the gloves would reduce, if not flat out alleviate, hand and wrist numbness during my ride.

The fact that I experienced numbness up my forearm after the ride reinforced the need for gloves. I put them inside my helmet so I wouldn’t forget them for my next ride. My hands and wrists still get a little numb during my rides, but not until I’m about 10 miles in. I have a mountain bike, with traditional straight handlebars. I’m sure there’s an alternative bar that would afford me the opportunity to reposition my hands during my rides so that I can reduce this numbness even further, similar to 10-speed handlebars. I just haven’t done any research into those options yet.

Cycling took an unexpectedly social turn on my third or fourth ride of the season when I ran into – more accurately, he “caught up” to me – Casey Adler toward the end of my Springwater Trail ride. How he recognized me from behind, in cycle gear – including a helmet, Mom! – is beyond me. I don’t consider myself to be that distinct looking as to be recognizable from either that angle or at that velocity.

It was a nice surprise, though. We rode the last couple of miles of the trail together, catching up.

Honestly, though, there was a moment where “catching up” turned into “catching my breath”, when I tapped out and told him he needed to talk for a while while I wheezed and listened.

I’m old, I own that!

I hadn’t been in a situation where I needed to be cognizant of sharing the path as we rode two abreast and chatted. I’m usually the grumpy guy muttering “excuse me” as I steer to avoid such people. I was proud of the fact that Casey and I took turns dropping back to avoid colliding with oncoming groups that were also riding side by side, albeit obliviously so. Hell, Casey was even aware enough to see a faster rider coming up behind us and sped up so we were riding single file again so Speed Cycler could pass.

Our social cycling ended abruptly when we realized that Casey was taking a street route – presumably – back to his place in NoPo while I was peeling off to take the Esplanade back toward my place.

After we separated, though, I focused on his casually motivational comment when I asked where he was coming from. He simply said that he’d taken the path out to Boring and was on his way back in. I was inspired because that’s a 50 mile ride for me, probably closer to 60 for him.

It was just two rides after this encounter that I managed – and promptly swore off of – my own half century ride. I know I’ve got another 50 mile ride in me…at some point. I just need to figure out how to incorporate them into my cycling routine, since they are time consuming and do have quite a physical toll.

My Health App and Strava finally synced on this ride, too!

Prior to this, for whatever reason, there had been about a half mile discrepancy. My Health app had been shorting me a half mile in ride and doubling the total mileage post-ride.

Weird.

Interestingly, it had been – and still is – waaaay overvaluing my caloric burn. It measures the energy in kcal units, which as my simple mind understands metrics – is 1000 calories. For the ride above, Strava estimates a 534 calorie burn, while my Health app insists on making that a 534 kcal burn.

Sadly, I don’t see me burning a half million calories in a month of cycling, let alone a single day.

But like I said, maybe calories and kcals are interchangeable and I’m just an idiot on the subject.

Could totally be the case.

There are definitely a few things for me to remember as I psych myself up for a ride today. Negative factors that are beyond my control, unlike padded shorts and gloves.

The ride that prompted this entry originally occurred on Cinco de Mayo. I failed to connect the dots between the holiday and the fun zone idiots I encountered on my ride home along the waterfront. The path along the waterfront is mixed pedestrian, cyclist, skateboarder, roller blader, unicyclyer, jogger, segue rider and any other mode of transport you can imagine. It’s Portland! The city may as well put up bleachers on the path at Gov Tom McCall Park since the path runs between the river and the strip of grass that houses amusement park rides or tents during the many summertime waterfront events. This effectively renders the pathway unnavigable as lower functioning humans are stunned into a slack jawed, mouth breathing and quite stationary existence on the path as they contemplate whether or not to enter.

Sidenote: this is not happening anywhere near the actual entrance to the festival.

Since we are in the midst of Portland’s annual Rose Festival activities, the fun zone is in full swing. Luckily, there’s a path along both sides of the river. I just have to remember to take the right one on my way home!

Hey, did you know that Walkathons are still a thing? Apparently, most of them are in support of Rude People Pride since they seem to block the entire path…prompting me to admonish them to share as I weave and wobble through the crowd.

That said, a Monday ride is a ride free of Walkathons!

However

I need to be careful to time my ride so that I’m back before rush hour for Portland’s bike commuters. This is particularly important while there’s an event at Tom McCall Park since everyone funnels along the east side of the river to get home, bypassing the virtual bleachers on the west side of the river.

Generally speaking, I love catching the worker bee exodus of Portlander cyclists as they leave work for the day when I’m returning from a ride. It reminds me of what a great city Portland is to live in.

The only pinch point is the Steel Bridge.

This bridge was opened in 1912. One has to admit that at 106 years of age, it’s fared quite a bit better than more infamous technological marvels of that same year. Portland has also worked to integrate the bridge into its infrastructure plans to make sure it doesn’t cripple the city’s growth through the years.

Originally, this two-decked bridge carried vehicles on its upper span and train traffic along its lower span. When Portland introduced its commuters to light rail in the 80s, the upper span was repurposed to carry two lanes of car traffic and two lanes of light rail MAX trains. When the Eastbank Esplanade was created, the Steel and Hawthorne Bridges were selected to connect the east and west side waterfronts, each gaining a pedestrian and cycling path. For the Steel Bridge, that manifested in an addition to the lower deck. At about 5 feet wide, it’s half the width of the paths along the waterfront.

For all the ribbing Portland drivers get for being too polite, demonstrated nicely by Portlandia in its “No, You Go” sketch where two drivers at an intersection bent over backward to yield to the other, one of whom didn’t even have a stop sign or signal, the same cannot be said for its cyclist population. Especially bike commuters.

I’ve long suspected that being killed as a pedestrian by a cyclist would be the perfect manifestation of a Red Shirt worthy demise. Little did I realize that cyclists are trying to take one another out, too. During the Cinco de Mayo fun zone-slash-bike commuter rush hour, the Steel Bridge became something of a cycling Thunderdome. As I was crossing over in this last mile of my ~20 mile ride, the path was packed with slow-moving pedestrian and bike traffic.

I’m sure there was a very good motivator for what I experienced on the bridge this day, but all I can muster is either selfishness or straight up idiocy. We riders were all doing a slow pedal across the bridge as we navigated across with our walking counterparts. For whatever reason, an oncoming cyclist decided to pass a mother/father/stroller situation that was walking side by side across the bridge.

Mind you, at around 5 feet wide, this path is barely wide enough to accommodate three people across. This oncoming cyclist – in her irrefutable good judgment – decided rush hour was the day to make this a four person across path by bending the rules of physics.

She was partially successful, this typically stupid American. However, most of her success I attribute to me slow-crashing my bike into the hog wire railing of the pedestrian path. The commotion she caused didn’t cause her to slow down or rethink her judgment whatsoever. To her credit, it also didn’t cause her to speed up, so the chaos she created was maximized.

What a feckless cu…well, you get where that’s going.

So, hopefully the need for editing in this post is minimal, since I’m giving it less than that. You see, I have a 3 hour and 6 minute window for my ride before the bike commuter rush hour starts. I need to run.

Er…peddle.

BikeTown Chronicles #2

Fat Shamed By My Phone

I’ve been a little lazy lately. Kind of living the life of a shut in or hermit.

Lots of factors.

However, the two that led to this initially and then hooked me, eventually were:

A) The first of the season sunburn that I exposed myself to during my spur of the moment half century ride has kept me inside versus making it worse. I could simply buy some sun screen, but for now I’m living a literal version of “once burned, twice shy”…at least until I stop peeling!

And,

B) I hurt myself. Yes, again. Yes, while I’ve allegedly been inactive.

But there’s a story behind that Point B.

Naturally.

The Silver Fox was laid up a few days back and I offered to take his pooch out for his pre-bedtime walk. His dog is a good boy. Certainly a better pet than my Mistress Myrtle, who is currently in the midst of an Otter Identity Crisis.

George is 110 pounds of heart. Definitely more heart than brain, but as soon as I open the door he’s doing his “happy to see you” dance. It’s the same dance I get when I’m visiting and use the bathroom in The Fox’s Lair. Anyway, having been a slug for the past several days and wanting to make sure The Fox gets every opportunity to rest up by sleeping through the night, I decide to give the dog a good pre-bedtime run. We zip around the North Park Blocks in the darkness in between sniff and pee breaks so that he can get all the pup-dates the neighborhood dogs leave…the NPB really are like Canine Facebook.

Still, we ran up and down four of the five blocks of park in between Chez Galby and The Fox’s Lair, occasionally doubling back on ourselves as we ran and played. It was only 3/4 of a mile, but I knew it was more than George usually gets at that late hour and I could tell he was ready to settle in for the night when we were done.

I went to bed thinking, “You know, you could shuffle out a mile jog around the park blocks a couple times a week” and motivated to give that a try to see how my knees and lower legs tolerated it.

Of course, I woke up on Monday scarcely able to put my ever increasing body weight on my left foot.

Gotdammit.

So I’ve been relegated to the sofa most of this week…naturally, it’s also a week where my normal Monday morning acupuncture was cancelled because of the holiday.

First World Problem.

You’d have thought being laid up would give me plenty of writing time.

You’d have been mistaken.

I’ve been trapped in a daily Netflix Spiral.

But, ending the week on a high note, I am determined to tell the story of that time my phone fat-shamed me. It was also my last outdoor activity, a hike with Little Buddy in Forest Park. There might even be some pics, it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten if I snapped pics during that hike or not.

One of the reasons that I enjoy hiking is the natural setting, of course. That’s the same reason I enjoy cycling. The difference is that while hiking, I can enjoy the scenery a bit more than when it’s buzzing by at a whopping 15 MPH. Hence the potential for pictures.

My usual Forest Park hike is a ten mile affair, about 50/50 split betwixt sidewalk on the to and from and actual trail in the park itself. It’s usually a 3-4 hour endeavor, depending on how long I stay at Pittock Mansion once I reach this little urban summit. Little Buddy had told me she had a few hours between work and family dinner duties, so I stopped her from paying to park by my place when she rolls up, figuring we can park adjacent to one of the many entry points and start there.

I’m not just respecting her pending familial obligations, I’m also ensuring our post ambulation recreation at The Big Legrowlski: beer!

Here’s the rub, though: I’ve never driven to the trail, so I have zero clue where to direct Little Buddy. Being the slave to technology that I am, I google Forest Park and get directions.

This takes us in the complete opposite direction than I normally head off in when on foot, so I’m completely lost. I usually head NW through the Alphabet District – encompassing the Pearl District, Slabtown and The Conway neighborhoods – and then into Northwest and ultimately the forest on Thurman Street.

These google directions set us off toward Burnside, the primary East-West thoroughfare through town and really the first street in the Alphabet District, and the opposite end of the alphabet from my normal entry point. Mind you, Google Maps is – allegedly – going to provide the quickest route, so off we go.

Intrepid, no?

Here’s the payoff for struggling through those Portland neighborhood specific details…patience really can pay off.

We’re heading up Burnside, chattering comfortably away about her and 2.0’s new home escrow, an upcoming kitchen remodel in their current home and my parents’ kitchen remodel – it appears I literally have nothing to add to this conversation myself, so I’m ripping off my parents. But, being an okay son, when she mentions having a potential Quartz Guy, I tell her that my parents had wanted quartz but opted for marble because they couldn’t find a decent deal on quartz.

Sidebar: She literally just texted me this as I’m writing

Hehe…Wong’s.

This is my life, I cannot make it up any better.

End sidebar.

So, we’re driving up Burnside and our conversation is interrupted by directions, as is often the case when GPS is your friend. Or in this case, frenemy.

“In 600 feet, continue on past Taco Bell”…

As far as landmarks go, if you’re going to base them on businesses, Portland has a few iconic offerings along Burnside. For example,

Jim Fisher Volvo has been on Burnside since 1957 and its sign 60 feet over Burnside is nearly as famous as this guy sitting at the head of NW Burnside.

But, no, my phone had inherited my snarky and completely unveiled bitchy personality. Allow me to translate its directions for you.

“Hey, fatty, since you don’t drive and based on your drunken Uber history, the park you’re looking for is past Taco Bell…do not stop at Taco Bell!”

Little Buddy and I were so stunned by this out of character type of direction that it took us a moment to begin laughing our asses off. LB nearly drove into a truck. We were laughing so hard that we nearly missed the second warning at 400 feet. We’d regained our composure enough to enjoy the fact that google kept on shaming me until the “200 feet” marker.

As funny as that was – shituationally – I felt a little cheated that there was no congratulatory message once I’d successfully made it past my drunken dietary siren.

Somehow – after that amazing ab workout slash dose of the best medicine – we made it to our urban trailhead destination. I recognized it, as I’d crossed this road a few times on other adventures. After parking, we head out into the trail as I try to mentally adjust my map so I don’t get us lost.

We both quickly realize that we aren’t entering at the easiest point on the path…as we pretty much are silenced 300 feet into a maybe 12 degree (I’m guessing, not really sure how grades are measured…just assume it’s steep) climb when LB says something along the lines of, “Geez, how long is this hill?!?”

Basically, what I was desperately trying to remember. Wiping the streams of sweat from my face before turning to answer, I tell her that “I can’t actually remember” and that it’s “longer than I recall, I’m trying to remember which way to go at the top so I don’t get lost again”.

Now, this Little Buddy of mine, she’s pretty sharp.

Again?!?”, she asks.

This totally takes the pressure off the early phone fat shaming since I answer her honestly by telling her that I’ve only gotten lost in Forest Park twice.

This year.

This just happens to be one of the two paths I’ve been lost on.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’d guess that the initial climb was about 1000 feet and my treacherous phone told me we climbed 13 stories. One of my math-y friends can figure the grade out and tell the rest of us in the comments.

After that initial near death humility inducing beginning, the path leveled off into a more comfortable elevation gain and we were back to our normally chatty and much less wheezy selves. It was last Wednesday and we both enjoyed the relatively people-free trail as we absorbed the natural settings and caught up.

It’s one of those normally awesome experiences that is even better for the company. I’m glad she and I have had a couple of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company, being outdoors, some beer, a lil wine, great weather and surprisingly few other people. As a matter of fact, once we reached the mansion, I mentioned that this was the smallest crowd I’d seen up there in the three years I’ve been hiking these trails.

Less than a dozen counting us. Excluding us, maybe not even a half dozen.

Heavenly.

Naturally, two of the only other visitors were feeling chatty. And commemorative, asking me to get a pic of them in front of the overlook. LB took off for a shady spot in the corner while the tourists from Salt Lake chatted me up. I mentally praised her reclusiveness, even though I knew that I was projecting my early onset grumpiness onto her mom check in moment.

I can’t blame the tourist for wanting to capture the beautiful view, even if the mountain wasn’t out that day.

I swear, there is a mountain in that haze…somewhere. Maybe next time. I have that luxury, even though it’ll probably be so crowded up there when the mountain is actually out that I won’t be able to get a decent shot of it.

Oh well, first <ahem> step is to get my foot cooperating again!

Fat Shamed By My Phone

I’ve Taken Cap’t Can’t’s Advice

“You know what? Take a hike, don’t ever talk to me again.”

This was the reaction from Captain Can’t when I’d apologized for unintentionally offending him about eight months before I left my last job.

Very mature, right?

Well, The Boss had cleverly manipulated me into being the adult, setting a good example and taking the high road with my jag of a peer. While it worked poorly for me in this particular shituation and The Boss never re-addressed it with Cap’t Can’t, I am happy to report that upon quitting that exercise in daily frustration of a job, I have embraced Cap’t Can’t’s unintentional wisdom.

Frequently.

And will later today, I’m sure. I’m actually writing this as a motivator after failing to get outside yesterday…it was a “too cold”, overcast 65 degree day here in P-Town West.

Today, I need to find my motivation and a trail.

It’ll just be a city trail in Forest Park, but I’ll manage to make it new by inadvertently getting lost on my 10 mile urban sojourn. Unlike last week’s Hood River adventure with Little Buddy.

LB and 2.0 are in the process of buying a house across the Columbia from Hood River and we swung by their title company for a quick errand on the way to our trail. There we were…conveniently adjacent to Aniche Vineyards, where BreitBarb had a case of wine in need of transport back to town.

So, when in Rome…

Not a bad way to loosen up before a hike!

We crossed back over the Columbia and dog legged over to a speck on the map called Mosier to hike a short trail there…

It’s a 3.5 mile switchback path that screams “Live in Mosier!” on behalf of what I’m sure is a nonexistent Mosier Chamber of Commerce. We’ll get to the views, but the houses you can see across the ravine the trail skirts as you climb the backside of a hill are incredible. As much as I appreciated the real estate views during our climb, I was also well aware of the fact that if I lived there, I’d appreciate a much better view facing out past the Mosier Plateau trail and over to the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge.

So, speaking of ravines, Little Buddy and I learned something about each other that day.

She learned that I didn’t like heights and I learned that she didn’t know that about me. There was occasionally a few feet between the path and that cliff. It wasn’t bad, mostly it felt vaguely reminiscent of the hillside Buttercup throws the Dread Pirate Roberts down in The Princess Bride. And there were plenty of wildflowers growing alongside the trail.

But as you can see in the swimming hole pic above, the situation wasn’t all fun and games.

That newfound fear amused us on the way up. I think LB was a little relieved to find that I had a more normal fear than the previously shared fear of sharks…in any body of water. She had brought her new family pooch, Barley, as well. At just under 4 months, this was his first hike and he was a well behaved champ of a hiker, so that was a fun distraction on the way up, too.

He was much better behaved than the two dogs we encountered on the hilltop after we did the turnaround loop. I was leading, so I saw the first of these off leash pooches playing amongst the wildflowers and knee high wild grasses before LB or Barley and excitedly exclaimed “Goat!”.

LB told me to get a pic because our friend BreitBarb hasn’t met a negative emotion goats can’t banish. Now I’ll always be the boy who cried goat.

These dog’s owner had very little control of his animals. I learned both of their names, but can only remember Peter, the first one we met, now. Of course, I remember it because the owner yelled it a lot during the back half of our hike in lieu of actually leashing his exuberant pup. He also yelled the name with some fey accent, so it didn’t come out “Peter” as much as it did a plaintive and eventually annoying “Poitier“.

Still, the view from the top of the trail was simply awe inspiring.

And windy!

I really should have taken a selfie of wind blown old Xtopher, but while I really wanted to see what the never ending, cooling mountaintop gorge winds did to this shaggy mess of hair, I still don’t selfie as often as I could as an American citizen in good standing should.

I’d be a lousy Kardashian.

The top of the trail wasn’t even the top of the mountain, either.

I couldn’t imagine the view being any better from the top, but I was still a little curious about the eastward view from the top since we could only see westward and across the river into Washington state from our trail.

I had all the friends I wanted on the trail with me. Little Buddy and I chattered easily away during our hike, occasionally breaking to get Barley’s take on a topic. Still, this didn’t prevent a few children of the wilderness from trying to introduce themselves to me on the way back.

Lizards…do. not. want.

They kept getting bigger and bigger as the trail descended, too. Weird. Shortly after we passed back by the swimming hole, they stopped appearing, which was good because if they had gotten any bigger I’m afraid I would have been sharing the path with a Gila Monster.

The return trip also afforded us a longer stop at the little pioneer cemetery that we’d passed on the way up.

That second pic is of an 8 year old’s grave. She and I share the same birthday so it was an exciting and eerie discovery.

There weren’t a lot of grave stones in this tiny memorial. There were a lot of depressions in the ground around the trail that made me suspect there were some unmarked graves with wood caskets that had caved in on the trail side. Many of the visible graves were young people, 20 and under…so heartbreaking to imagine the pioneer experience of losing any family on their trek west, let alone losing a child and having to leave them behind.

I was pulled out of this morose imagining on the way up by the appearance of hikers trailing behind us. They stopped in the little cemetery, too, and we moved out. It felt too crowded with our party of three and their party of five. Three moms and two infants.

The Mom Squad.

In addition to feeling crowded, I also didn’t want to be around moms and their babies should the realization that these were largely kids’ graves dawn on them.

Why did I feel guilty about this company?

Anyway, the path being largely switchbacks, we got not far from the Mom Squad. Their chatter was…incessant. I’m sure our own was equally distracting to them, maybe. For me, the semi-valley-girl-esque tone of their talk distracted from the rest of the amazing environs.

Still

I was appreciative of their active lifestyle and unwillingness to be limited by their children.

However

I also judged the safety of strapping your infant onto a front-facing backpack and toddling off on mountainside paths that made me uneasy. I was fearful that mother and Child were only a loose stone away from going over the side.

It made me a little uneasy. I was glad when our little party returned to the viewpoint from the turn around loop and discovered that they had left for the trailhead without doing the loop.

Still, kudos to getting the kids out in nature early. I believe it will create a solid connection to the beautiful PNW wilderness for these newly minted S.N.O.B.s (Society of Native Oregonian Born) and that’s the type of person that keeps the PNW spirit alive!

Little Buddy and I had originally planned to grab lunch after our hike, but we were running late and she needed to get home to get dinner going for her boy and also allow Barley to relieve himself. He’s one of those pups that will only pee off leash…

So, no lunch.

Still, there was time for a teensy wine tasting at Marchesi Vineyards on the way home. LB is a member, so the tasting is gratis. And they had my favorite wine back in stock, so I could pick up a couple bottles of the good stuff to hold me over.

Not driving or having a car makes it hard for me to get out of town, so I love having friends that will take me along every now and again and try to make the most of every chance I do get.

This is my type of high road.

I’ve Taken Cap’t Can’t’s Advice

BikeTown Chronicles #3

How do I get myself into these shituations?

Oh, yeah…I’m stubborn.

And…competitive.

Fine, but I can still whine about this stuff, right?

After a gorgeous weekend through which I suffered through what The Fox likes to call bubble guts, I was feeling pent up. And, yeah, a bit frustrated that I hadn’t managed anything active during the good weather.

Sunday was our most beautiful and warm day of the year thus far and Monday was projected to be the same. So, I’d committed to getting outside after coffee. I was a little torn about completing some actual responsible tasks before my ride, but talked myself out of it since I was only planning a 90 minute/20 mile ride.

I’d be back in plenty of time to get to the FedEx/Kinkos to print out some documents for my unemployment hearing next Tuesday and get them in the mail.

Then as I was leaving my neighborhood coffee shop, the barista asked what my plans were.

“Bike ride! It was touch and go between bike or hike, but the ride wins out today!”, I told him.

The Fox had told me that our barista had been telling him about a 70 mile ride he’d done recently. “Told me” as in “I interpreted it as a dare”.

So, I leave the cafe after vocalizing my intent to take off on a little 20 miler. Saying it out loud makes me accountable, right?

Then I go home and get sucked into Netflix for an hour.

I end up leaving the house around 12:30, still plenty of time. Home by 2, showered and planted in Kinkos by 3, probably done by then, realistically.

My usual short ride out the Springwater Trail ends at the 6.5 mile mark, preventing me from having to cross any real major thoroughfares on my urban trail ride. It’s a 1.5 mile trip through the waterfront to the trail, so I come up a couple miles short of my 20 mile goal. I’ve offset that by taking a loop over the Tilikum Bridge and back around the waterfront to make up the difference.

I noticed my water bottle hitting my leg as I ended that loop and thought that I hadn’t placed it completely back in its cradle after my last drink.

Wrong.

I’d somehow lost a screw and that was causing the whole contraption – including my bike pump – to pivot on the remaining screw. I pulled over to tighten shit up and got back on the road, satisfied that I’d gotten the situation secured.

I get to the 6.5 mile mark and am feeling pretty good. My butt is tolerating the seat pretty well and I think, “Let’s just go to 30”. This is where my competitiveness and mild OCD kick in. I get to the 30 mile turn around point and it’s in the middle of the path, versus one of the park areas or major intersections. I decide to ride on so that I can fill my water bottle at my turnaround.

That happens at the 35 mile point and I think, “35 miles? That’s not a ride. No one does 35s”. I haven’t done a 40 since last year and decide to push on, thinking back to a conversation Little Buddy and I had during last week’s hike. She mentioned that most of her and 2.0’s rides were 40-60 mile affairs…so, why not?

I get to the 40 mile point in Gresham and think back to last year, when I was last here and decided not to push further to the end of the path. I also recall last weekend’s ride where I’d run into my friend, Casey Adler, and we’d rode along for a bit together toward the end of his ride.

He’d gone all the way to the end of the trail in Boring.

I was going to go, too.

This mentality is how I get myself into these situations.

The path out to Boring was lovely. It’s newer than the rest of the Springwater, so it’s also in really good shape, which is nice because my bum was beginning to ache.

At the 45 mile turnaround point, I do question my rationale for completing a ride that is 60% longer than my prior ride. Then I ignore myself and keep going because I’m gonna need to refill my water bottle, right?

I arrive at the Boring Trailhead Park and stumble off my bike in need of a little stretch. I walk it out around the little bathroom hut and realize that I’m not alone. There’s a “serious cycler” on the other side of the bathrooms getting ready to ride out. I decide to stretch until he leaves, not in the mood to be passed by a fit someone that is just starting his ride.

Once he leaves, I go to the water fountain to refill my bottle before getting under way.

Broken.

Ugh…I set my sights on refilling at Gresham City Park and gingerly head out. GCP is kind of new, I think maybe it was added when the Springwater was extended, but I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that there’s no water fountain.

I get back on the trail. I’m beginning to resent the overt associations the Springwater Trail has with…water as my thirst gets real. I think this as I’m cycling past signs telling me that I’m in the Johnson Creek Watershed.

Water, water everywhere.

Somehow, I manage to catch my fit serious cycler as I peddle toward the next park – a baseball field – in hopes of hydration. I’m in a mid-range gear in sprint mode because my knees are beginning to complain. I decide to follow him for a bit and ratchet my effort back to avoid overtaking him.

Yes, I’m judging him while also telling myself that he’s probably still in his warm up mode.

Then I see he’s wearing dress shoes.

Chuckling – and rejudging – I think that maybe he’s a bike commuter and forgot to pack his cycling shoes. It is Monday, after all.

No, I tell myself…

A) Who lives in town and works in Boring?

B) He’s gotta be on his way home at this time of day, so he rode to work in the same shoes.

Now I’m curious.

And passing him.

I pull into the baseball field and begin cruising around for a functional water fountain.

Jelly legs.

As I’m refilling my bottle for the second time after immediately draining the first refill, fit serious cycler guy cruises past and I mentally say farewell, absolutely setting my sights on not catching him again.

I succeed!

But I do run into a couple of other curious characters on my ride back in.

The first was a motivationally fit fella out on the path in just bike shorts.

Well, spandex shorts. When he’d passed me heading toward town, I’d appreciated his bare torso and turned to appreciate the rear view after he passed. No pads in his shorts!

This time, as he passed me on his return to whatever outer region of town he called home, I wondered, “Where the hell does he put his keys?!?”

Or his emergency $5?

Or his ID?

My parents raised me well. My zippered back pocket held all three.

Sexy and dumb. Maybe I should chase him down…nah. Peddle, Xtopher.

The second character I passed on my ride back into town was resting shirtless on a bench by my 30 mile turnaround viewpoint. He made some vague hand signal as I passed by that appeared to me to be an offer of oral sex but I convinced myself was some cycler code greeting.

He should have been wearing a shirt.

After passing him, I reach down for my water bottle.

Gone.

I’m not totally surprised, because it never fit snuggly into the cradle. Then I notice the cradle, too, I’d gone. As is my bike pump.

Fuuuuuuuck!

It’s ok…I’m inside the final 15 miles.

That optimistic thought evaporates as I pass the perpetually wet spot on the trail that I always amuse myself by thinking, “Here’s the spring the trail is named for” as I pass through it.

I pull off to stretch and rest my bum for a few minutes. Shortly after I get back to my ride, Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy passes me. I think that he must have been riding pretty hard to catch up after so long just as he drops his hand and makes yet another weird, finger waggly hand gesture to me.

What the hell is this guy on about?

I’m approaching the segment of the trail called Tres Bridges because there are three bridges in relatively short succession taking riders over some industrial land, train tracks and Hwy 99. After my prior four rides this season, I’m remembering the rhythm of the bridges’ uncomfortable bumps so I can stand to avoid the ass abuse they create. I don’t need that this far into my ride.

I’m in the final ten miles.

I come off the last bridge and the shirtless guy is there, pulled off at a bench again. This time, as I pass, he laughs maniacally at me and laugh tracks me from my approach until I can’t hear him any longer.

“Oooooh”, I think, “He’s a crazy”. Ok, that tracks.

It’s Portland.

As I come out of Sellwood and get back onto the last leg of the Springwater before it becomes the Esplanade, I begin to feel…crispy. It’s now that I realize my spontaneous 50 mile ride is going to come in at a smidge over four hours.

Without sunscreen.

In a sleeveless tee.

“It won’t be that bad”, I think, considering the base tan I’ve developed on my bikes and hikes from earlier in the season.

That thought was wrong.

Oh, well…might as well get my sunburn out of the way.

Plus, now I’ve crossed a half century ride off my summer bucket list. I’m also well prepared to talk myself out of future aspirational endeavors.

And, hey…there’s always the two-day mail option to get my unemployment hearing stuff in before the weekend!

Oh, btw, my fitness tracker is convinced that I somehow burned 1300 kcals on my ride. That’s 1.3 million calories. However, since I woke up still fluffy today, I’m going to choose to believe that my fitness tracker is either broke or crazier than Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy.

BikeTown Chronicles #3

I Live in BikeTown, USA

Don’t let the title fool ya, I’m a fair weather cyclist. Part of me dreams of being an intrepid cyclist type that commutes to work regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us.

But I’m not.

I had tentative plans to find the path to the airport and bike to work “once the weather got good” a few times this summer. Instead, I quit my job. The only thing worse than a bad job is a bad job that you also have saddle rash while doing, right?

Ok, maybe there’s worse things. Probably that’s no contest,

But outside of the weather, I’m leery of becoming a regular bike commuter for two reasons:

A) I saw a UPS truck going the wrong way on a one way street the other day.

Now, my faith in humanity is pretty low, I won’t lie. To that end, I look both ways before crossing a one way street. But I don’t expect to see a professional driver pulling a bonehead move like that.

B) Bike Commuters are mean. At the very least, intimidating. Probably to some degree because of their hyper vigilance on the road due to the folks in example A, but even within their own ranks, their pretty fucking judgy.

But, Portland has had its False Spring and now that nice weather has come around for the second time, I can reasonably expect the weather to be decent more days than not and I’ve trotted out the old bike to try and blend in.

That’s a lie.

I’m trying to pedal off my Winter Layer.

I’ve managed two rides in the last week and am heading out on my third this morning, but am also enjoying being trapped under Mistress Myrtle while sipping my Monster so I thought I’d tap this out before I go…I’ve just got to get out before all the Cubicle Dwellers finish their First Brunch of the weekend and get outside.

That was one of the many things I re-learnt on ride number one.

Second Spring arrived on a Saturday and I let my enthusiasm get the better of me and went out for an afternoon ride on the Eastbank Esplanade and out the Springwater Trail.

Mistake!

But it was only my first of this short ride.

Everyone was there. They also seemed largely to be suffering under the delusion that they were the only people on the planet. I expect the Esplanade to be busy with strolling couples on a weekend. Lovey-dovey shit going on is gonna happen. The only way I’ve discovered to avoid it is to be…y’know, me. But on top of those slow strollers, you’ve got the other fair weather athletes out getting their shakedown runs and rides on the books.

Oh, and the actual athletes that probably were hating on all of us.

But it was a shit show.

No one was paying attention to anyone past the immediate obstacle they represented. Sure, they were going around them, but not thinking past them to what might be ahead.

Around the figurative next bend, if you will.

Here’s an example:

A jogger comes up behind a slow moving couple walking hand in hand and moves around them by running down the center of the path. There just happens to be a cyclist coming the opposite direction, but it’s ok…the path is wide enough to accommodate four abreast.

Ok, that example NEVER happened.

It was close, but:

Maybe the couple wasn’t walking hand in hand and there was a person width gap between them.

Maybe the jogger passing the strollers was a fair weather athlete and as he passed, a real athlete came up and decided to pass him simultaneously, not realizing that jogger was passing a couple he couldn’t really see.

Maybe the oncoming cyclist was two abreast instead of single file.

Unattended toddlers.

Wandering geese.

This shit show created a lot of Matrix worthy action as everyone just carried the fuck on.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at oncoming traffic before I try to pass someone and occasionally hold up behind them until oncoming obstacles go by, only to see some jerk-wad pass me and the people in front of me and almost die in a head on collision with oncoming traffic he didn’t see ahead.

Sidebar: I’m not being sexist when I say “he”, we men are typically at fault when it comes to single minded selfish behaviors. Outside of nothing, I never saw any of the many women doing their fitness do any of this stupid alpha male bullshit behavior.

What really surprised me was that this general cluelessness continued onto the Springwater Trail. I wasn’t expecting this. The Springwater is a 25-ish mile long path that runs from Downtown out to the ‘burbs. It’s actually got an extension now out to the Netflix-famous town of Boring, Oregon, so maybe it’s even longer these days.

That said, it’s not a path that really affords a casual “let’s just get on the trail” type of experience. The entrance and exit points are fairly distant, so once you’re on, you’re on for a while. Seeing so much casual traffic was confusing to me because I couldn’t figure out their motivation or destination.

It became clear to me a few miles in when I encountered the first couple just suddenly reversing course.

No looking around before they turned.

No stepping to the side to let any trailing traffic pass and check to make sure it was clear.

Just, “we’re going back now” and <poof>, they were suddenly facing the other direction.

This happened three times on the Springwater during my nine mile ride on it – 4.5 out and the (after pulling off at a wide point by a bridge) 4.5 back to the Esplanade.

Really, I left the Springwater hoping for more Wandering Geese. At least I couldn’t fault them for their brainless behaviors.

That earlier sexist disclaimer aside, I cane upon a weird situation that just ended up being a racist stereotype trap by Oaks Park during my ride out.

There was a woman seated on her BikeTown bike seat walking her bike instead of pedaling. She was in the middle of the outbound half of the trail. The way she was moving, I thought she might be injured. I slowed down to make sure and check as I went by – on the right side of her. Naturally, the runner behind me just blew by on the left as some oncoming cyclists passed a slow mover on their side so we almost all died.

Turns out, the woman I thought was injured was just Asian and the slow mover in the oncoming lane was only her boyfriend trying to snap an “action” shot of her “riding” her BikeTown bike in front on the Oaks Amusement Park roller coaster in the background.

Idiots.

The rest of my Mistake Moments on this inaugural ride of the season were gear related.

Remembered: Helmet, tunes, water bottle and sunglasses.

I did pretty good for my first ride.

Forgotten: Padded underwear and cycling gloves.

Now, this was only a 12 mile ride. I was intentionally taking it easy because I’m prone to injury.

The injury I wasn’t prepared for was the hamburger ass I ended up with for forgetting my padded underwear.

It was ONLY 12 miles!

But, sure enough, every little bump on the ride back in was an exercise in agony.

Bicycle seat + cargo shorts + cotton underwear + my lame yet frustrating excuse for a vestigial tail = the perfect recipe for saddle rash. Regardless of the shortness of the ride. Add to that a good sweat on a nice day and you get “Oh, c’mon!” type irritation for your ride home.

As if my trail cohorts weren’t irritating enough.

But, lessons learned so that future rides were more enjoyable, right?

Sure enough, my second ride of the season was mid-week and much less crowded. Poorly timed, it seems, if only because all the shirtless runners were heading into town as I was heading out.

It took me the first three oncoming joggers to really relax into appreciating the oncoming displays of masculine beauty.

The first one was a slender but muscular runners framed guy with a smooth chest and impossibly thin waist. My internal pedo alarm went off and I warned myself against ogling truant high school boys.

The second jogger that came my way prompted the same perversion diversion behavioral subroutines to activate. I began thinking that I’d wandered out during a HS track team practice run and prepared to tuck my lascivious nature away for the duration of my ride. Just as I began to look for a place to pull off and put on some Indigo Girls music to tamp down my inner dirty old man, the third, fourth and fifth shirtless runners passed by, visually reassuring me that the first two were just flukes.

I was relieved. Guy-Candy is such a motivator for me when it comes to exercise. I enjoy being a fair weather cyclist. I love the urban nature Portland has to offer and I unapologetically consider shirtless athletes to be part of that urban nature.

So, motivational visuals safely intact and padded underwear securely in place, I confidently set my sights on a 20 mile ride.

It was great.

Not too crowded.

Actually, the best Portland stereotypes were out.

Recumbent cyclists.

Superfit granola-y type people in their 60s or better out slow-jogging.

Rollerbladers, because Portland Weirdos still do that.

Combination standard/recumbent dual bicyclists – that’s a new one one me.

No list of Portland’s finest would be complete without Segue Riders or the poor man’s Segue, the Razor Scooter.

All out on display on this gorgeous day.

Not too hot, but sunny!

Gorgeous scenery. The aforementioned male pulchritude and the riverside greenery and occasional wildlife.

My favorite part was the 5-way intersection on the way back by Oaks Park where the Springwater crosses a road. A driver coming out of Oaks had the right of way, I was next and then there was a car coming to a stop on the road.

Now, this lady could have been through the intersection before I even stopped at my sign. I was gauging this and thinking about whether I should stop just to be sure the second car didn’t pull a California stop and kill me in exercising my right of way.

But, no…this being Portland, the first driver waited for me to stop so she could yield her right of way to me in true Portland fashion. But I’m certainly not going to complain about someone being considerate!

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out onto the trail for my ride before it gets too people-y. I’ll proof read later.

Maybe.

Oh, PS: I still forgot my damn cycling gloves last time. This caused some good numbness in my forearms during my ride, but my achey knees made up for the lack of feeling in my arms. But I’ve got the gloves safely stowed in my helmet for today’s ride.

PPS: I’m thinking this might have to be a summer blog series…thoughts?

Ciao for now!

I Live in BikeTown, USA

Before Forrest There Was Pre…

I pass by this mural practically every day.  It’s about a block and a half from my place, pretty much right between Chez Galby and my favorite caffeinating and intoxicating holes, which are conveniently located next door to one another.  I say “practically” just in case I miss the odd day, but I don’t actually think that happens unless I’m temporarily near death…

I like to think it’s based off this pic, but I’ve never fact-checked it.

This is a mural honoring Steve Prefontaine, a runner for the University of Oregon in the late 60s and early 70s.  He’s a native Oregonian – well, was…he was killed in a single car drunk driving accident in 75 – and has had a fanboy grip on me since I learned about him forever ago.  

A) because he was an Oregon hero

B) he spoke to me on a gay-instinctual level before I knew what sexuality even was…I mean, hubba-hubba

And,

C) he represented a mystery to me…dying when I was only 7, I never knew of him in real time so my connection to him has always been inexplicable.  

Well, minus the hubba-hubba factor.

He never lost a distance race, his entire running career.  He’s actually co-credited with starting the running craze, not just here in Oregon, but nationwide.  Take that, Jim 


Of course, Jim bothered to live a bit longer than Pre.  Still, dying at 52 versus 24 could give you a pretty solid con-running argument.

Glad I was forcibly retired from running?

Anyway, I wear a winter reminder of this mural, so I find myself thinking of my slight Prefontaine Obsession even when I’m not passing the mural.  A couple years back, I was walking back from breakfast at Fullers and saw some nogoodnicks throwing fluorescent green paint on the mural.

Acting before thinking, I ran toward them yelling at them to stop.  They ran off like punks, throwing down their paint cans as they left.

Me.  Running again!

I got closer than I thought because when I got home I realized some of their paint had splattered on me as their paint cans bounced around.  Lucky me, it was my $400 Arcteryx jacket.

I’m not letting a little green paint stop me from wearing that! 

Or the fact that I’m a little too puffy to wear a puffy down jacket.

One of my favorite things about this mural, though?  The optical illusion.

It’s even odds that that plumbing hardware is going to make me think, “Ooh, nipple!” as I pass by.

Before Forrest There Was Pre…

Fitfy:  fin

Well, it’s happened…my odometer has rolled over.  Today is the start of my sixth decade of good fortune and ridiculousness that I’ve trademarked as my life.

While I don’t know what my fifties will bring to me, I spent last year course correcting myself after reflecting back on my first five decades during the timeframe between the holiday and my birthday.  Realizing I’d spent too much time investing in things I can lose – job, relationships and wealth – with little control at the end of the day, I committed to spending the year brushing up my favorite human.

Or, who I realized should have been my favorite human and really wasn’t.

I don’t want to dwell on the pursuit/reward cycle I’d caught myself in, unawares.  I wasn’t happy to call myself on being trapped in that unfulfillingso-called lifecycle.  I can acknowledge that I slipped innocently enough into it, having ended a relationship, slogged through career transitions, physical injuries and retethered my base of operations back in my fabulous hometown of Portland, OR over the prior five years.

But it was time to get back to a life lived with a more massive modicum of intent.

Resetting lifestyle and fitness expectations from the far outdated ideals, habits and even rituals of my renegade bachelor 30s and 40s and find an equanimity with those expectations that would provide me emotional and physical stability in this late-middling part of my life.

Fitfy.

I’d reached late December feeling accomplished, having deconstructed a lot of the fitness patterns that led to repetitive injuries.  How boring those quickly become.  Having healed up and sustained, I had found a fairly functional regimen that was private, not going to the gym was providing a sense of accomplishment vis-a-vis home workouts and stair running.

Diet was a part of that accomplishment, plenty of treat-eating and reasonably balanced meals of salads, grains and protein.  Nowhere perfect or sufficiently sustained to declare victory, but definitely a good tragectory.

I should have known that the ingrown toenail I complained about at the start of the year was just a harbinger of obstacles to come.

I awoke one day after that had cleared itself with a tender and throbbing big toe.  Walking was a less than graceful exercise in ambulatory necessity.

I assumed I had kicked my table the prior night on a hazy trip to the head.  I’m not quite familiar enough with my new digs to make my usual nightly zombie bathroom walk without running into something.

Each way.

Getting through my 6-8 miles of daily walking at work was struggle enough, stairs were out.  At least for the week.

This past and final week started with me uneating at 4 am on my way to the MAX stop on my way to work.  Barfing on the streets of Old Town very early on a Sunday morning – or very late on a Saturday night – like a drunk white girl.  How humiliating.

Plus, I missed a day of work.

Two days of eating anything other than crackers and soda water basically had emotionally landed me here

Of course, I mention it to my substitute needle man that week.  

The disturbance in my gut.

My idiomatic toe injury.

Of course, I’m typical, snarky Xtopher when I tell her.

“I dunno.  I’ve got, like gout or something.”

“That does look a bit like gout, you should talk to your PCP about it”, she says, all too chipperly.

I miss my regular Needle Man.

I email my PCP when I get out of the office and he replies with the doctor-equivalent of, “Nah”.  You could probably interpret a fairly accurate amount of disdain for eastern medicine in his reply, but at least it’s back to being just another unconfirmed trauma in my life.

Plus, a couple days later and acupuncture has done its hoodoo magic and I’m back to 85-90% big toe function.

But I’m not self-soothing with junk food and booze like I had previously when injured.  That’s a good outcome for a year of inwardly focused intentions.  My injured physical self wasn’t adversely affecting my mental self.  

I was just injured, not physically depressed, and that injury wasn’t bleeding into my mental state.  

I’m still about 10 lbs heavier than I want to be, but it’s no longer driving me to punish myself.  And during the last couple of physically busted up weeks, I’ve legitimately held steady at the same weight.

That’s actually a fine place to set off on this fresh year and decade.

Imperfectly satisfied.

Who really saw that coming?  

Fitfy:  “Cheers, bitches.” <dumbbell drop>

Fitfy:  fin