Monthly Archives: February 2012

hint o’ spring adventure

Today was an unexpected and gloriously sunny day–and with not much work scheduled, it gave me time to go for a much needed bike adventure! When the weather’s crappy, I still bike everywhere, of course, but I’m not as overly enthused about it as I am on a day like today, when everything is bright and the air smells fresh and even flowery.

Since I was going to be up in Northeast Portland anyway, I took the opportunity to grab my binoculars and take a trip out to Smith and Bybee Wetlands, where I sometimes volunteer and where one can scope out a pretty impressive amount of bird variety. There’s nothing like listening to birds and watching them flit about to celebrate spring, right?:)

I’ll admit I did not take a direct route to get there. I wanted to get off the big streets and take the trail by the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant–which often smells a little questionable but is quite visually lovely:

From there, I crossed the Columbia Slough to the appropriately named Columbia Slough Trail. Sadly, it was closed in the direction that I wanted to go (west):

…but the easterly direction is lovely too, so no worries. This is not a ride-fast-on-your-nice-racing-bike path though, as perhaps you can tell. It’s not evenly paved, and in some parts it stops being paved at all for a few feet at a time.

The end of this path is where I often find myself somewhat lost. I say “somewhat” because though I’m never lost in the sense of having no idea where I am, I also don’t necessarily know where a certain street will take me, nor do I have a great sense of what streets to take to most efficiently get to a specific spot. Here, I always end up bumbling around until I eventually get to where I’m trying to go, and I’m pretty sure I never take the same way twice. (I should add that this place is around the Expo Center and the Portland Meadows racetrack, and the ensuing mess of large, fast-moving streets are not particularly pleasant to bike on.) So imagine my pleasure to find new signs pointing me in the right direction:

I love Portland bike infrastructure!

Suffice it to say I made it to Smith and Bybee and was able to birdwatch like a champ.

This kind of day is exactly what I want when the weather starts turning nice, even if it’ll still only be nice in spurts for a while. After a few months of biking almost exclusively for commuting/pragmatic purposes, it’s nice to really sink into a joyride, just for the sake of exploration and being outside.

Mt. St. Helens. Or, All Roads Worth Biking (even with a trailer) Have Hills

[I was just doing the internet equivalent of flipping through my post archives, and found this old post still languishing in draft form, never published. So despite the fact that I took this bike trip, oh, a year and a half ago, I'm going to post it. Not only for the sense of closure, not only because it was an amazing trip, but because with the hints of spring we've been having in Portland recently, I've got the itch to travel. This morning, I set out with my bike trailer to pick up some snowshoes for the weekend, and the sunny morning, springy (albeit cold) air, and the fact I was carrying my trailer made me feel like it was high time to pack up my tent, clean up my bike, and set off... ]

My bike trip to Mt St Helens? Well, I’m back. And oh my goodness was it amazing.

I don’t think I can really do the whole travel narrative thing right now; suffice it to say that I spent my days biking and hiking my ass off, surrounded by natural beauty, and I fell asleep in the super-quiet of non-mechanized space. I don’t think there was a single flat road until the very end of my trip, the rather unscenic commute between Battleground and Vancouver, Washington–but like my title says, I think all the best roads are the hilly ones, since they’re the winding, woody, rivery ones that not as many people drive on.

People’s reactions to my biking fell into one of two extreme but predictable camps: either the “you are a badass” camp–I liked that one–or the “you are completely insane and does your mother know you’re doing this?” camp. Seriously. There was no one who was just kind of eh about it, everyone I talked to either thought I was totally awesome or a total raving lunatic. It kind of made me feel like a biking iconoclast or something. And honestly, I kind of like that.

Anyway. Check the rest of my pictures if you want: Gifford Pinchot Bike Trip And then take a trip yourself and tell me about it!:)

Licensing

If someone’s going to do something potentially dangerous that can affect other people, I’d like to know that that person has been adequately taught and tested. If a doctor is going to do surgery, for example, I want her to have gone through a whole bunch of training beforehand, and I want her to have been rigorously assessed to make sure she can do it correctly. I want her degree to show that she’s qualified to open up my insides.

Similarly, if someone is going to drive a car–a very large, very deadly, very fast machine–I want that person to have proven, through a rigorous process, that she is capable of driving that car safely and responsibly. That’s the idea behind the driver’s license, as far as I can tell: that document you keep in your wallet proves that you have been rigorously tested and have proven yourself trustworthy behind the wheel.

So I was happy to discover, when James needed to renew his license recently, that license renewal is a pretty arduous process in Portland. However, it turns out that it’s hard for all the wrong reasons.

License renewal is not hard because:

  • You have to pass a difficult driving test
  • You have to show that you can drive courteously and interact safely with other roadway users
  • You have to prove that you know and abide by the rules of the road
  • Or really anything that has to do with driving

No, it turns out that you don’t have to do any of those things to renew your license. What you do need to do is:

  • Present proof of your full legal name
  • Provide your social security number (and thus have a social security number)
  • Provide proof that you are a legal Oregon resident
  • Pay the $40 re-application fee
  • Be able to go to the DMV in person and wait for a whole bunch of time during normal business hours
  • And, if you’re over 50, you have to pass a vision test. But otherwise, no tests necessary

So maybe I’m more incensed about this than is necessary, but it seems like the DMV makes it hard to renew your license for all the wrong reasons. It’s annoying to gather together proof of your social security number, legal name, address, etc, etc, etc (and perhaps impossible if you’re, say, an undocumented worker). It’s hard if you work a minimum wage hourly job to make your way to a DMV office between 9 and 5 on weekdays, and then pay the required $40 (which would take, without taxes factored in, about five hours to earn). I get the fact that it’s a government-issued ID so they want to be stringent about checking certain things, and I’m not even necessarily saying that the DMV should be more lax about those, but is that really all we want to focus on when we’re talking about who in this country should be able to drive?

Shouldn’t license renewal require proving that you can still drive? That you know what the rules of the road are? That you’re basically well-adjusted and won’t use your power for evil? Shouldn’t it be something where you actually have to prove you’re capable of driving? Especially seeing as how, if you’re not, the damage you can do is so vast?

I’m definitely open to being pushed on this, but my initial reaction is that we’re focusing on all the wrong things… Thoughts?