I left my house early this morning tired, a little cranky, and headachy, definitely not sure why I was biking 14 miles to get to a faraway park in the middle of some Portland suburbs that I hate.
Well, I guess it was so I could go on a mushroom walk I’d registered for a long time ago, but this morning, headache and headwind and all, it sure felt like past stasia who signed me up for it was a crazy person. Who rides to something where the ride there and back will take longer than the event itself, unless the ride is inherently awesome too? Which this ride was not.
But there I was, on my bike, headache and headwind and all, plus the ever-pleasant sound of zooming cars for most of my ride, first south on the I-205 path (ahhh, the sweet symphony of the interstate), and then east on Sunnyside Rd (ahh, the harmonies of 5 lanes of speeding suburban traffic).
Why the heck was I choosing to spend my weekend like that? I almost bailed; the only reason I didn’t is because I have the zoom-out ability to know that the shitty ride would be finite, and I’d be glad I’d done it after a few hours tromping around in the woods learning about mushrooms from one of my favorite mycologists.
And that was true. Super true.
But it made me think a lot about what makes riding pleasant, and what is likely to entice or encourage any average person to ride her bike. Of course, I can’t really answer that for anyone other than myself. The steep hills on my ride this morning, for example, were definitely the best part for me — maybe partially because they were also the least trafficky parts of my ride. But I know that they would definitely not have been, say, my friend Janna’s favorite parts (hi Janna!;) And maybe the traffic noise doesn’t bother someone else the way it does me if they ride with headphones.
What I decided is definitely not pleasant, though, for anyone, is big old roads with a million lanes of traffic and a wee little bike lane on the side as an afterthought. Or a bike lane that starts and ends randomly, like one of the lanes I encountered on my way home when I pioneered a different route (SE 129th in Happy Valley, I’m looking at you).
Determined to have a better time on the way back than I did on the way out, I turned my ride home into a meandering joyride, which just got better and better the further away from Happy Valley I got, and ended with me feeling happy about biking again. And the best part of the ride, predictably, was my time on the Springwater path, especially the moments of pulling over to watch two bald eagles fish in Oaks Bottom, and deer graze at the new culvert under the path. If all of the world was a path like the Springwater, biking would be phenomenal;)
I’m not sure if there’s a moral to this story or any larger point, really, except that on a personal level, I’m thankful for the ability to stick with something shitty knowing that it will get better. And on a more global level, I’m grateful for bike infrastructure that actually works, getting places people want to go efficiently, but also enjoyably.
And, mushrooms are awesome:)