Sauvie Island: a lovely day’s ride from Portland (plus optional berry-picking!:)

4th of July? Extra day off? Super summery weather? Itching for a bike ride? The ever-present summer desire to eat my weight in ripe berries? That’s a recipe for a trip to Sauvie Island if I ever heard one!

Sauvie Island is a pretty sweet little gem just far enough outside of Portland to make either a great day trip or simply a few hours’ bike ride if it’s only the riding and not the stops that you’re after. For that matter, the number 16 bus takes you right to the Sauvie Island bridge, all you have to do is cross the river and BAM! Tons of miles of pleasant, flat, farmy island riding. (Though the 16 doesn’t run on Sundays).

Without taking the bus, there are bunches of nice ways to ride out there–including ways that almost entirely avoid biking on Highway 30, which, if safe, is fairly loud and unpleasant.

Since James had never biked on Syline Blvd before, we opted to take the long, beautiful, hilly, and Highway-30-avoiding way out to the island, then the shorter way back:

(our route: check-check it! :)


It turned out to be just over 50 miles for the whole ride, with a long stop around 30 miles in at Columbia Farms where we picked about 15 pounds of blueberries (and probably ate about three pounds on the spot. heh).

On the way back, St Johns would generally be an awesome lunch stop–but since it was the 4th of July, everything except for Burgerville was closed. (But I guess that’s what the three pounds of blueberries we’d already eaten were for;) On non-federal holidays, though, that would be a good option.

Like I said, there are many, many ways to get out there, and other than picking berries–or pumpkins, depending on the season–there are also tons of other things to do. There’s a nude beach, for one, as well as non-naked swimming beaches, tons of bird watching, natural areas, a Metro park (Howell Park) with heirloom apples you can pick for free, a boat launch, hiking, and, apparently, Oregon’s smallest lighthouse (I’m going to have to go back to see about that last one;)

It’s a great way to get the heck out of the city without too much effort. And with lots of berries to show for it:) Put some extra tupperware in your panniers!

When transit is part of the adventure

Leucanthemum vulgare

What does an oxeye daisy–Leucanthemum vulgare, which (by the way) is edible–have to do with biking or car-free transportation? In this case, everything!

Last weekend, I took part in a super awesome 3-day workshop called the Ginger Root Rendezvous. It’s a few days of camping at the Silverton Grange under the direction of John Kallas, botanist/nutritionist extraordinaire who teaches a shit-ton about wild, edible plants–that is, plants that most people consider weeds, or plants that you just never knew you could actually eat. Even though I went last year too, I still came home this time chock full of new knowledge about plants and their variable edibilities, which always makes me happy: a learning stasia is a happy stasia.

Anyway, this workshop is held in Silverton, OR, about 50 miles away. Last year, I caught a ride with a woman coming down from the Seattle area; this year I opted to pack up all my gear and bike.

It was so much nicer to have biked.

First of all, as people trickled in to the rendezvous on Friday evening grumpy about the heinous Friday traffic, I was secretly pretty smug (I hope I didn’t actually come off as too smug;) about having wholeheartedly enjoyed my four hours of active transit down to Silverton on lovely (and, for me, not-impacted-by-traffic) country roads.

Also, once we were there, I was so happy to have my bike and be in control of my own transit. I know, people who were there with their cars were also in control their own transit, but since I would have carpooled, I would not have been. And my bike had the added benefit that after a day without too much physical activity (other than picking plants, of course;), it was really nice to be able to stretch my legs out as I ran an errand or two. Not to mention be able to explore Silverton at a human pace.

And lastly, for the whole weekend I had another super lovely ride back up to Portland to look forward to.

wild food dinner(fueled by an amazing weekend’s worth of wild food cuisine:)

It all reminded me how lovely it is when the journey to and from my destination is a whole other wonderful part of the adventure. In a strictly time sense, I probably spent about 6 more hours traveling for the weekend than I would have had I carpooled with someone. But those were hours spent doing exactly what I always want to do: ride my bike through the world. It’s so nice when transit is an adventure, not something to be endured.

Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People

Since June 2011, I (and probably 600,000 other Portland residents:) have been watching the construction of an awesome new bridge that will carry light rail, streetcar, cyclists, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles (but no private vehicles) across the Willamette River.

incomplete tilikum crossing(November 2013, before it was connected in the middle)

Since April of this year when it was decided, I–and the 600,000 other people–have been able to call that bridge by its real name, Tilikum Crossing. “Tilikum,” according to Wikipedia, being a Chinook work that means people, tribe, or family.

Yesterday, I got a pretty awesome view of that bridge from the new OHSU/PSU building on the South Waterfront:

Tilikum Crossing

Even though it’s still not slated to be open until fall of 2015, they’ve already got some bike lanes painted on and everything. So psyched for this bridge!! :)

The new OHSU/PSU building (the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, or the CLSB, as I’ve fondly come to know it) that opened to the public yesterday is also pretty rad. James has been spending a lot of time there for work lately–so much so that he was the first person to get to use the new bike staples they just put in:

first long haul trucker(the first ever bike to be locked to the first-ever staple racks at the CLSB!)

Just to give you an idea of what’s in that building, check out this chair–the best damn view you will ever get while someone tightens your braces:

CLSB orthodontics(12th-story orthodontia. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see all the mountains!)

Anyway. Sometimes it’s crazy to think of all this change in Portland–new bridges, new building, new houses, giant condos, new businesses, new streetscapes. Even though it’s been gradual since I’ve lived here, when I think back, I know that the Portland that people move to now is way, way different than the Portland I moved to thirteen years ago.

Mostly, I think it’s change for the better. Things like the Tilikum Crossing, which will drastically extend the reach of public transit and offer another option to relieve the crazy masses of cyclists and pedestrians who currently use the Hawthorne Bridge–those things are great. More density is great. My little, somewhat-reclusive self doesn’t necessarily like the huge influx of more people, but I do appreciate the things that come from bigger cities–things like better transit, more diversity, great public libraries, all the services that are harder to provide when there are fewer people more spread out.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder when Portland will get too big for its britches, if there’s a tipping point after which it will be too crowded and too expensive and too gosh-darn trendy for me to want to be here anymore. Or perhaps I’ll just grows along with it, change my person along with the changes of my chosen city.

I’ve never consciously chosen to live somewhere other than Portland, so I don’t know how that all plays out. For now, I’m pretty psyched.

Disc brake catastrophe–Or, failure is the root of all learning

Okay, “catastrophe” might be a little strong. More like “potentially very bad situation.” Regardless, it has to do with my new(ish) Soma bike, which you may recall has disc brakes.

Disc brakes are a new system to me. If they’re not familiar to you either, they look like this:

avid bb7 road disc brakes

The rotor–that circular metal disc–is attached to the hub of the wheel, and the brake itself is attached to the fork (in that picture, it’s the black thing that’s sort of hidden behind the black fender attachment). When you brake, two pads in the brake on the frame squeeze together against the rotor and you stop. (I think this is basically how brakes in a car work too?)

Anyway, it’s all very nifty because since you’re not rubbing against the rims of your wheel to slow yourself down, your wheel lasts longer (unless you destroy it through means other than wearing out the rim;). And they gather a lot less gunk in wet weather, which means that when it’s raining and you brake, your bike still actually stops. Also, if your wheel comes out of true, you can still ride just fine, relatively, since the brake is on the hub and the wonkiness of your wheel won’t affect it the way it would rim brakes.

So I’ve been pretty psyched on my disc brakes.

The braking power in my front brake has been gradually declining, and I’ve been gradually tightening it, but the other day I decided that for realz I needed to actually replace the pads. I had a general idea of how to do it, but since it’s a whole new system to me I wasn’t sure about the finessing details. So I watched some YouTube videos, and talked to one of the mechanics at Seven Corners Cycles when I bought a new set of pads from him. Feeling cocky, I took out my old pads and put in new ones.

avid bb7 road disc brakes2(the copper-colored tabs that stick out of the brake are the arms to the brake pads. They sit super tucked away inside the brake)

Great! Pads replaced! Commence the better braking! Except that I did it wrong, and as I was biking home from work on Monday, I hit a bump while I was braking down a hill. With a hideous ping, one of the brake pads shot out, hit the spokes, and wet careening off into the road. Yikes! I stopped as best I could with only my back brake (only about 20-30% of your stopping power comes from that one), pulled over, and gathered up my errant pad.

Luckily I was actually able to find it. And since I knew I’d done it wrong the first time, I tried again, differently, to put the two pads back in together. Tighter this time.

But sure enough, another hill, another bump, and the same brake pad went flying off my bike again–except this time it flew into traffic and promptly got run over by a car. So much for my mechanical skills.

To make a long story short, I was only a few blocks away from The Bike Gallery, which was still open for another 20 minutes. I stopped in to buy new brake pads again but mostly to ask if one of their mechanics would mind walking me through what I was doing wrong. Sure enough, a super awesome fellow (thanks, Nathan!) walked me through exactly what I should have done–and unlike the first time, when I hadn’t yet tried it myself, this time I could identify my personal mechanical pitfalls. (Mostly, it came down to not pushing hard enough. Disc brakes are burly.)

So there you go. It was a good reminder to me that sometimes near-catastrophic failure is necessary to show you exactly what you’re doing wrong. I’m pretty sure that when I go to replace my back brake pads in the near future, I’ll be able to do it right:) I hope:)