Monthly Archives: October 2013

Things you might see while biking: nature wins

In northwest Portland (on NW 24th, I think), this fire hydrant is being swallowed by a tree:

fire hydrant

In case you want an alternate view:

hydrant tree(out of service, indeed)

So there you go. Nature wins in the long run, every time:)

slightly creepy (?) bike interactions–thoughts?

I’m trying to figure this out. Earlier this week, I was hustling from work to a board meeting for the Hollywood Farmers Market, trying to navigate the other hordes of cyclists who also head north on Williams during evening commute time (geez! I had no idea so many people biked that way!).

At one point, I signaled a right turn. You know, the way they teach you to signal right turns, like this:

right turn

I always signal with my left arm because that’s the side that traffic is on. I guess if I were on the left side of the street I would signal with my right arm; I just want to use the signal that most people are likely to see.

Anyway, I signaled my turn, then turned, then had to stop at a red light. While I was stopped, another dude on a bike rode up to me. “Hey,” he said. “When you’re signaling a turn, it’s much more clear if you point in the direction you’re going to turn. That way, no one gets confused.”

Basically, he was telling me to signal like this:

alternate right turn

Which is definitely a valid way to signal, just one that I chose not to use. I was a little annoyed that he was trying to school me on road etiquette, but figuring that he was probably just trying to help, I swallowed it down.

“Well, I generally use my left arm to signal because that’s the side that traffic is on.” I said. “Was my signal not clear or something? Could you not tell what I was doing?” I was trying to assume good intentions on his behalf, and also wondering if maybe my signaling is getting sloppy.

“Oh, no,” he answered. “Your signal was fine.” And then he went on to tell me all about how signaling with your right arm is really the way to go so other people on bikes understand you.

At this point, I was a little confused. The way I signaled is perfectly legal, makes more sense for visibility, and he’d just told me that my signal was fine. Why the heck was he trying to tell me to signal differently?

I couldn’t really figure out what he was after, and the more he talked the more it sounded like he was sort of covertly saying that he understood my signal but all those other unwashed hordes of cyclists probably wouldn’t. Like he was trying to put the two of us in an elite club of cyclists removed from all those other guys. Which I really don’t like.

Anyway, he ultimately took off, zoomed past a bunch of other people, and then pulled in next to the only other woman biking in our little peloton. And struck up a conversation with her. Perhaps about her turn signals. And it made me wonder, was that signaling thing just an excuse to talk to me? Was he trying to hit on me by setting himself above all those other cyclists? Was he sort of paternalistically trying to ingratiate himself? And even if he wasn’t hitting on me, even if he was, say, just trying to encourage women biking, why do it in such a veiledly-condescending way?

I have no idea, but the whole thing left me feeling a little gross and a lot confused.

There should definitely be a way in life to tell people how they can improve something without their getting pissed off–some dude should be able to tell me when I’m not being clear with my signals, and I should be able to take it as a learning experience. But when what I’m doing is clear and what’s unclear is the motivation for this random dude talking to me in a way that smacks of elitism and maybe sexism–then, I’m not sure what the right response is.


The Portland-Corvallis cultural exchange:)

Back when I was in Glacier National Park, camping out in the Many Glacier hiker/biker site, I met a super awesome fellow–we’ll call him Jason–from Corvallis.

Jason was on the tail end of a four-week bike trip that took him from Corvallis through Oregon, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, a bunch of other rad places, and finally to Glacier, where he was going to catch the train back to Oregon. He’s one of those people who immediately feels like a friend, so when we were both back at camp from our various adventures we spent a lot of time chatting. And when James showed up to meet me but had forgotten his waterproof layer, Jason lent him his jacket for the rest of our trip.

james-jasons jacket(sadly, I have no pictures of Jason, but his jacket sure looks good on James! :)

Fast forward a bit. James and I have mailed Jason his jacket back (plus some vegan cookies for good measure:) ; we’ve emailed a few times. Since I have a three-day weekend coming up, I get it in my head that I could have a mini bike adventure: on Friday, I could bike down to Corvallis and Jason could show me around the cool parts of it. Saturday morning, we’d go to the Corvallis farmers market (there are few things better than a farmers market:), then I could bike back to Portland, with Jason if he’s into it, and show him some of the cool things here. Then, he could bike home to Corvallis on Sunday.

The Portland-Corvallis cultural exchange, I start calling it in my head.

Generally, I scheme these little schemes and end up doing them by myself, since most people are so busy and planned out all the time that there’s little room for spontaneous adventure. But amazingly enough, Jason was also into the Portland-Corvallis cultural exchange–not only the my coming down part, but also the him biking up part. And to add even more spontaneous amazingness, another friend of mine was not only excited to bike partway down to Corvallis with me, but also created an excellent cue sheet for us to follow.

Thus it was that I found myself biking the approximately 100 miles to Jason’s house last Friday on a grey but entirely pleasant day. I got there around 5, just in time for us to hit up some awesome parks, cruise through downtown Corvallis a bit, and eat an amazing vegan dinner at a place called Nearly Normal’s Gonzo Cuisine (I have no idea what Gonzo Cuisine is, but it seems like it means a shit-ton of delicious options;)

Corvallis seems pretty cool, full of separated bike paths that go all sorts of places and with a buzzing college-town bustle. The farmers market was as awesome as I’d hoped, and we stocked up on a bunch of fresh goodies for our ride back to Portland. And since it’s never as fun to go the same way home as you came, we altered the route a little so that we could take a different ferry over the Willamette River (the Buena Vista Ferry instead of the Wheatland one) and go through Salem. Just for the heck of it.

life is an adventure(heck yeah it is! A sign seen from Buena Vista Road)

After a lovely ride–more sunny on Saturday than Friday–we got to Portland in time for an evening jaunt around the waterfront and a ginormous dinner with James. I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I was pretty ravenous for most of Saturday. I guess in retrospect that the 100 miles back-to-back will do that, but at the time I was just sort of bemused that I was almost immediately hungry again even after I ate what seemed like an adequate amount of food.

Anyway. We toured around Portland Sunday morning and bought Jason a new front bike light for his ride home, then I escorted him as far as Milwaukie where there was yet another farmers market to provide some fresh biking goodies for the rest of his ride. And thus the cultural exchange came to an end. He biked south back to Corvallis; I biked north maybe 10 miles back to my house and an evening full of Portland friends.

But man! It was so super awesome to fit an adventure like that into a three-day weekend! Those days felt full to the brim, crammed with activity and exploration and spontaneity, a great use of three consecutive days off. And I’m super thankful to Jason and my biking buddy David for being game for anything, even at the total last minute. I started this week feeling happy and full, a lovely beginning:)

Crossing the Willamette River–by Ferry!

It’s old news that there are twenty million bridges that will get you across the Willamette River in Oregon. Heck, there are ten–almost eleven, once the new MAX bridge is finished–alone within a few miles of downtown Portland.

But perhaps lesser known are the ferries that will shuttle you across. Yes, there are still three different and awesome ferries that will take you across the water: The Canby Ferry in Canby, the Wheatland Ferry north of Salem, and the Buena Vista Ferry south of Salem.

buena vista ferry(the Buena Vista ferry, looking eastward)

The Canby Ferry is an excellent way to get to Canby or back toward Portland without having to go through Oregon City and the wending and weaving to avoid 99E, though at $2 for pedestrians and people on bikes, it’s the most expensive of the three. (Still an excellent deal:)

Both the Buena Vista and Wheatland ferries are free for pedestrians and only $1 for bicyclists.

All three are excellent adventures. Though after finally taking the Buena Vista Ferry this weekend on a ride back from Corvallis, I have to say that one’s my favorite. Probably only because it lasts the longest. :)

I’m not sure, honestly, why these ferries still exist, who uses them, or why these three in particular were never replaced by bridges like the other Willamette River ferries. What I do know is that there’s something so wonderfully quaint about taking any one of these across the river, a whisper of bygone eras (not to mention a chance to cross a river and actually sightsee without having to worry about swerving into traffic). And they’re all accessible via a loooong ride from Portland:) Totally worth the trip.