The possibilities of a new commute

Though I was worried about commuting to Vancouver full-time, I’m going to tentatively say that it’s pretty fricken awesome so far.

In part, it’s awesome because of something I’ve written about before, the excitement involved in newness, in not yet having ingrained habits, in feeling like anything and everything is possible. Though I’ve mostly taken the same way to work, every single day on the way home I’ve taken a different route, pretty drastically different. These routes can deviate anywhere from around 13 miles (the direct option) to 19 miles (I think the longest of the scenic routes I’ve tried so far), depending on how spunky I’m feeling, how much I want to get away from traffic noise, and how many birds and wetlands I want to see.


(the Columbia River Slough — depending on how out of my way I want to go, I can bike on it for .7 miles or almost 3 miles)


In part I’ve taken so many different ways home because of how many options it feels like I have. With my last job, the Springwater bike path was so obviously the best way (for my own preferences, that is) that I was never really tempted to pioneer different routes. When it came down to it, the quiet, the lack of traffic, the natural feel, the ability to zone out (did I mention no cars?), the birds and wildlife always eclipsed any desire I might have had to forge through the largely non-bike-friendly, broken-glass-littered hinterlands of Gresham and east Portland. Sometimes I felt bad about that (stasia, you hate routine!), but then I’d get on the Springwater and love life all over again. I mean, I did take alternate routes on occasion, usually if I was trying to get places other than my house when the Springwater just made no kind of sense, and that felt like enough to have an idea of what was waiting for me on surface streets. The Springwater was always better.


(Seriously. You can’t argue with this kind of thing on the Springwater path:)


But with this commute from Vancouver to SE Portland, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious best choice — which, on the one hand, is kind of a bummer, but on the other, is pretty darn exciting because it means every day I can try something new, take one different but approximately equal turn that leads to another different turn in an ever-forking buffet of route permutations.

And for someone who, after all, hates routine, that’s pretty cool. I’ve never had a commute like this, where I could go one of any bazillion myriad ways and have it be approximately the same experience.


(same mountain; different path — Mt Hood from the Columbia Slough)


I’m sure I will whittle it down the longer I do this. I already have a few tentatively favorite east/west routes, though the southward direction is where it’s tricky. North/south is the downfall of our Portland bike network; there are not so many direct and pleasant and non-stoplighted streets that go N/S for as long as I need them to (Ha! Which is, basically, the entire length of Portland), and the ones that do exist tend to meander back and forth in maddeningly inefficient ways.

So I’m sure that as I do this for longer I’ll settle into more typical routes, but it’s fun to think that I can switch it up with no drastic change in how long it takes me whenever I get tired of a certain path. It’s exciting to feel like I have a whole world of commute options in front of me. Bring on the North Portland exploration!

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