A bike adventure question for you

Those of you who are perceptive may have noticed a while ago that I mentioned an upcoming bike trip in Utah. It’s true! Come the end of this month, I’ll be flying down to Grand Junction, CO then embarking on three weeks through Utah: Arches, Moab, Canyonlands… there may even be some family bike adventure in there too! (Stay tuned for if I manage to meet up with my bitty bro, since we both independently planned Utah trips for almost exactly the same time frame:)

I’m beyond psyched. Like way beyond psyched. Like get-giddy-and-smiley, giant-goofy-grin-when-I-think-about-it psyched. My living room has spent a lot of time with this sort of thing:

utah trip planning

…as I try not only to figure out where I want to go and what’s feasible but also (Edward Abbey, I’m looking at you) what kind of flora and fauna I’m going to see, what new things are out there to learn in this crazy desert landscape.

So excited. So beyond excited.

Here’s my question, though. Since I’m flying down, I’m going to send my bike ahead of me to The Bike Shop in Grand Junction. How does that work with bags? Basically I’ve got my two panniers and then another bag that I’ll put on top of my rack–one bag, you might notice, over the allotted carry-on bag limit for a plane. I don’t really want to check my panniers, so I suppose I can carry those on and check the supplemental bag, but I’m wondering if any of you have any thoughts about this.

Has anyone ever shipped a bike ahead? What did you do with your gear? Any thoughts about best practices? It seems hard to really fit gear and bags into a box with my bike. Should I? Or is it better to take them on the plane?

Gosh. I’m so excited that even logistics stuff like this gets me all giddy. heh. But yeah, hit me up with any suggestions or thoughts. I’m planning to send my bike on the 18th or 19th, so if you have any burning thoughts, the sooner the better:)

Portland, we’re really lucky

Today, I feel blessed.

We live in a pretty dense part of Portland–okay, not New York dense and not even downtown-Portland dense, but dense enough to support a great bus system, dense enough to be able to walk to many different grocery stores, restaurants, even my doctor, dense enough to feel like a city.

And despite that, on any given day, without setting foot in a car, I can run in the woods.

Mt Tabor is a great stop-gap woods run: it doesn’t feel particularly remote, but there are still excellent trails and it’s a migratory bird hotspot, plus it’s about a 7-minute bike ride (or 12-minute run) from my house.

With a little more time investment, I can bike to Tryon Creek State Park or so many different access points to Forest Park, or I can run from my work right into Hoyt Arboretum and Washington Park. Any of those actually feel like woods: no roads to be heard or seen, just the doug-fir, cedar, ferns, and, right now, more new springtime birds every day.

Today, I found my early way to Lower Macleay Park, along swollen Balch Creek, around and around in the misty woods–past the Audubon Society of Portland, up to Pittock Mansion, around and around and up and down, nothing but the squelch of mud under my feet, the songs from pacific wren and spotted towhee and even a barred owl that hadn’t yet tucked itself in. The Indian plum is starting to flower, as is the red-flowering currant. The rain, when it started in earnest, was almost warm on my face. I ran and ran and ran, so in love with the world and its springtime waking.

Portland, it is amazing that this happens right in our backyard. It is amazing that I can be out for hours in what feels like the deep, dark woods, and yet be only a 35-minute bike ride from my front door. We are so lucky to have what we do.

I fricken love this city.

Stub Stewart: First bike camp of 2014!
(Or, an exercise in being wet:)

Rain? What rain?

Despite a forecast that looked pretty crappy, this weekend I was determined. I’ll be taking a 3-week trip through Utah later this month (more on that later!:), and before I go it seemed prudent to test out my new bikey camping setup–since I’ve never really traveled without a trailer, I mean, and I wasn’t sure if two panniers would actually cut it for the kind of bike adventure I have in mind.

This weekend is when I had two consecutive days off, so for a test run this weekend it was, weather be damned.

bike overnight camping setup(The setup. Yeah, I know, not a very informative picture, but still:)

The perfect place for a test camping trip? Stub Stewart State Park, of course–it’s only about 47 miles from my door if I take a detour to the Beaverton Farmers Market (which I did, of course, for some fresh provisions:). It has a super awesome, incredibly peaceful hike/bike-in campground that only costs $6 per night in the off-season. (If I’d really wanted to stay dry, I could have instead rented a cabin–but those are something like $45, and they wouldn’t have given me a chance to practice my wet-handling abilities:).

Also, while I was at it I wanted to go running, and there are miles and miles of trails there. Perfect!

camping setup stub stewart(Home, sweet home)

The tarp in the above picture was a fun, last-minute experiment inspired by the weather forecast. It was actually really nice, since it provided a dry staging area to pack up my stuff in the morning deluge. But other than the tarp, I tried to bring about the same sorts of things I would bring on any longer trip: extra clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, water filter, extra shoes. Even though it was only overnight, I brought a lot of stuff–in part because I wanted to have lots of dry things (I hate being perniciously wet!) but also because I wanted to try to emulate a longer trip to see if I could actually carry everything.

I think I can! I’ve been nervous about only having the one rack in the back, but also loathe to deal with another rack and set of bags right now. It turns out I think I’ll be able to fit everything I need into my two bags plus some stuff strapped on top of the back, no front rack or extra bags required. If anything, it’ll force me to be super judicious about what I bring, which is always good.

Also, biking with panniers (rather than a trailer) might be my new favorite thing. I’m still getting used to the fact that my bike when propped up will not necessarily balance the way I think it will, and I’m a little awkward at putting the darn things on, but I love the feeling of everything on my bike instead of trailing behind me. I feel so self-contained!

stub stewart(the horse area of Stub Stewart as seen from my hike, mist-erious;)

As for the rain? There was a lot of it. Happily, it let up by the time I got to Stub Stewart, so I could set up in the dry and was even able to take a long evening hike without getting more than misted on. It was cold, cold, cold–more so because of the damp–but I was pretty cozy in my sleeping bag. And despite being drenched all day today and bringing home basically everything wet (as we speak, my tent is re-set up in my basement to dry; my other things are spread everywhere for the same reason)–despite that, it was a lovely time. And I’m feeling good about my upcoming longer adventure with this bike.

So I’d say this was a great way to kick off the bike camping season of 2014:)

Oh, and the moral of the story? If it’s only an overnight trip anyway, any weather is bearable:)

Guest Post: Wet and Wonderful

Though I haven’t been doing much in the way of organized randonneuring lately, guest writer Dieter Loibner can fill in the gaps for me:) Get psyched!:)

Oh, so February. Coulda slept in. Coulda watched the Olympics. Or the NBA All Star weekend. Or read a book. But nooo. Up at Zero Dark Thirty, in the saddle an hour later, just in time to catch the first raindrops on what promised to be wild day. Why, the question was posed, would one ride a bicycle 140 miles in the rain?

Because, really, what else is there to do?

the nutty side(The nutty side: Yeah, it was that early. Yeah the numbers were that bad. And yeah, these are Celsius degrees on my weather app…)

After getting angrily honked at by the only car on the road, Hughart and I presented ourselves at the Bybee Starbucks for coffee, sugar and a 0600 time stamp before hustling off on Dave Parsons’ Volcanoes vs. Farmland 200. Some smart wimps did it on Feb 1, on a lovely day by all accounts. We on the other hand picked the lousiest forecast of the month, figuring that we need to get in a tough ride so we can enjoy the soft ones even more.

Dampness turned to wetness and into sogginess by the time we checked in at the Barton control. Pace was slow, but spirits were high and after restocking some carbs, we tackled the yo-yo portion of this loop. Fisher’s Mill, Ridge Road, Buckner Creek, up and down, up and down. The volcanic hinterlands tested the cardio on the inclines (11% tops, per Hughart’s gee-whiz instruments) and the cojones while schussing down into the gorges, dodging potholes and patches of loose gravel.

photo 1(Big hill, small wheels: Mr. Hughart in full orange combat gear, conquering the Boring lava fields. Credit: Dieter Loibner)

On the descents we got lashed by mad drops that came hard and fast. My “waterproof” gloves had a rabid case of continence: the water that went in never drained. And my Gucci bike bell got so wet, it lost its bing. But rain can be fun too, if you learn to listen to the incessant drumming on the helmet cover, the jacket, the pants and the map sleeve. Random splatter eventually becomes a symphony of drip.

By the time we reached Canby we were nearly in the hole, but switched into cruise mode to traverse the flatlands, the Champoeg State Heritage Area before rolling into Newberg. Crossing the Willamette via the St. Paul Hwy Bridge on 219 was the only unpleasant stretch of the ride, and mercifully short at that.

Lunch at Chapters restored caloric balance and core temp, which made the next leg to North Plains a cinch. With a brisk southerly tailwind we got there presto to fortify us once more for that last climb.

But turning east, the friendly following breeze suddenly had become a raging gale that wanted to blow us sideways. We lowered the right shoulder to lean into it as the power lines were humming in ever-higher notes to urge us on.

Turning left onto Old Cornelius Pass at the Rock Creek Tavern, and starting up the hill with water cascading from drainage pipes and bubbling up from storm drains, a strange sensation of euphoria took hold. There was nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. One with the road, the ride and the rain. Nirvana? Nah,  that’s been flogged to death. Let’s just call it a real happy moment.

On Skyline the steady rain was upgraded to Ogygian deluge. With liquid matter splashing up from the road, it felt like riding through Salmon Street Springs. And then the water stopped. Poof. Someone flipped a switch. In the matter of seconds, it went from downpour to blue sky. Ha, the opportunist in me suddenly was wide awake: Time to stop. Time to change into the dry jacket and gloves that were stashed in the saddlebag.

More (dry) happiness on the descent of Germantown Rd. and coasting back into the city. Got honked at again, but on a friendly note. A car went by, all its occupants waving. Maybe they liked Day-Glo orange helmet covers.

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 10.55.22 AM(Lovely loop: 200 pretty kilometers, even when ridden on a dog of a day)

Toward the end, clearly under the influence of bike brain, we rode down Milwaukie, which is barely tolerable in light traffic, let alone at evening rush hour. It’s the prescribed route, but next time we’ll take the Springwater path to Spokane and backtrack to Bybee and the finish. It might add one bonus mile, but it’s a much better way to end this lovely loop in style.

Yes, it was wet. And it was magic.

Glad I didn’t sleep in.