Monthly Archives: January 2013

Things you might see while biking: disparaging graffiti! :)

Ha! Though this particular piece of sidewalk graffiti close-ish to my house was not meant for me (so far as I know;), it was certainly a good reminder today to not take myself too seriously!

blog sucks

It was also not too far from another painted addition to the landscape that said, in similar handwriting, “fuck the police.” Whether this practitioner of free speech meant there to be a connection between his or her blog-and-police remarks, I don’t know.

things you CAN’T see from a bike

Wait, what? A post about something you can’t see from a bicycle?

Heh. Yep. It’s true. It turns out there are some things that you can’t see very well from a bikey vantage–unless you have an amphibious bike, that is:)

Last week, I stumbled across Willamette Riverkeeper, an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Willamette River. Part of what they do is teach people about the river and various conservation issues surrounding it–which meant, last weekend, that they organized a river paddle from OMSI to the St John’s Bridge. For free!

Thus it was that James and I found ourselves awake unspeakably early for an end-of-a-loooong-week Saturday, bundled up in a ridiculous number of layers, strapping on our personal flotations devices, fumbling our begloved fingers over our oars, and schlepping our very own (borrowed:) canoe down to the river. Whee!

It turns out that the view of Portland from the middle of the Willamette is way different from any view I’ve ever seen of it before.

paddling broadway bridge(paddling our way under the Broadway Bridge. Notice the huge ship appearing out of the fog in the distance)

It’s kind of fun to go under the bridges that one always goes over, for one. And to paddle past the ginormous ships that dock all along the shores. But really the craziest thing was seeing the backside of all the riverfront industry. This falling-apart building, for example (that had an RV parked in it; not sure if someone was actually living there or not) –I had no idea this existed.

willamette riverkeeper paddle

There isn’t really access to a lot of this kind of thing from shoreside, since it’s hidden in the bowels of private industrial land, sequestered behind fences and barbed wire.

back of UP

This whole shoreline, for example, downhill from University of Portland, is basically condemned. Or rather, there’s a whole stretch from here that was totally toxicified from creosote and other industry byproducts, so a lot of it has just, landfill-style, been “capped.” That is, all the pollutants are contained by–yep–putting a cover over them. It makes for a rather bleak shoreline, all ridged in concrete to keep the toxics in.

But it’s not all gross. In fact, a lot of it is healthy, vibrant ecosystem. We saw a few bald eagles…

willamette bald eagle

…a whole bunch of other birds, and the day was even sunny sometimes, with crazy intermittent fog that shrouded the whole thing in magic. It was pretty awesome, especially so because Willamette Riverkeeper offered it for free, just to get people out on the river and learning about what’s in our backyard.

And, you know, because it was a side of Portland that I never see on my bike:) That was pretty awesome too:)

fun in the (sort of:) snow!

I was surprised to get a phone call from James this morning not 15 minutes after he’d left for work. “You have to get down here!” he said.

Unused to such phone calls while he’s still in the midst of his morning ride, I was a little worried that something bad had happened–a crash, an unfixable bike issue. But no. “It’s a winter wonderland down here!” he exclaimed.

At our house, it was cold and white-looking through the windows, the cars on the street covered with frost. But further west, almost exactly at SE 26th street, the cold turned into actual ice/snow on the ground. Seriously. There was almost exactly a line where the dry ground ended and the white ground began.

SE Clinton at 26(all of a sudden, the world looked like this!:)

People slowed down; not only a few cyclists opted to take the somewhat slippery turn from SE 21st onto SE Ladd (or vice versa) at a walk. The tenor of the commute was way different–people made eye contact. They smiled. They went way more slowly, both bikes and cars. It felt like people were looking out for each other, surprised into a different frame of mind by the unexpected square mile or so of “snow.”

All through Ladd’s Addition, it looked like winter, yet the sky was already showing hints of future (very cold:) blue skies:

SE Ladd

Aside from one fellow behind me who wiped out on the turn into Ladd’s (he was okay), it seemed like everyone was doing fine. It wasn’t actually that bad, just unusual enough to make people pause.

And then, as quickly as the snow had appeared, it was gone. After crossing SE 12th by Hawthorne, the ground was dry again, the white relegated only to the clouds of my breath swirling around my face. If I hadn’t biked back through it to get home again later (and if I hadn’t taken pictures:), I would have almost believed I’d made the whole thing up.

But lest you think that was the end of the cool weather, there was more. At the Hawthorne bridge, where downtown usually looms across the river, it seemed like the whole of Portland had been swallowed.

Hawthorne bridge fog(where did all the buildings go?)

willamette river(they’re in there SOMEwhere!:)

I couldn’t help but take a tour around both sides of the river, loving the ridiculous calm of the water and the crazy interplay of trying-to-be-blue skies and thick, thick clouds.

willamette river fog(a fantastical river wonderland:)

It was a lovely introduction into today. Welcome (again, and again), oh changeable weathers of Portland:)

(more pictures here)

“I tramp a perpetual journey…”

Of course: a magical combination of feeling disgruntled about work and reading a book about long-distance adventure has once more kindled the ever-flickering stasia wanderlust. (As if it’s not enough to have just gotten back from Puerto Rico…)


Hm. I’ve now tried a whole bunch of ways to explain myself up there, but it ultimately comes down to a few things that I don’t yet know how to form into coherent words. There’s the feeling that if I’m already making so little money at work, why not just admit that I basically might as well not be working, super minimize my expenses, and get the hell out of dodge? There’s the conflicting but related theory that maybe I should just get some super high-paying shit job for a year, save up, and then get the hell out of dodge. There’s the whole complicated mess of loving my established life (and slave-wage job:) in Portland and always wanting to come back here, yet when I’m here always in the back of my mind champing to get out. (Although that may not actually be true, it may just be a facet of my current disgruntledness that I think I always want to get out.) And then there’s the sense that even with all the bike travel I was able to do this last year, I’m just beginning to scratch at an itch that is so much more all-encompassing than even a month-long trip south and a smattering of other travels will sate. The fear that I’m the only one holding myself back from what I really want to or can do.

Like I told James, it’s dangerous for me to read books or blogs or articles about long-distance, long-term travel, especially when I’m even remotely dissatisfied with anything else about life. It gives me a glimpse of other possibilities, of a life that could be. The grass is always greener.

Tomorrow, when I’m feeling back to my normal spunky indomitable self and have stopped letting work piss me off, perhaps a simple long ride will suffice.


Oh, and that title is a quote from Walt Whitman. Bonus points if you knew that already:)