Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Ride Home, Part 2

Ok, so here's the promised part 2. When we left off, I was crossing the Hawthorne Bridge. This picture here shows me after crossing the bridge and heading towards OMSI - the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. OMSI is built into an old PGE powerplant.

That bridge is the Marquam Bridge, where I-5 crosses from the east side of the Willamette River to the west side. The bridge is double-decked - the lower deck is I-5 South, the upper deck is I-5 North. The line of people walking across the path are a bunch of rowers. On most days with nice weather like this (even if this day was a bit cold), you can usually see at least one rowing team out on the river.

OMSI is also home to the USS Blueback (SS-581), the last diesel submarine in the US Navy before it was decommissioned in 1991. The submarine was given to the museum in 1994 and is a permanent exhibit.

The Blueback was the submarine used in the film "The Hunt for Red October" for certain scenes with the USS Dallas, including the "emergency blow" scene where the submarine comes up out of the water.

I turned the camera a bit to get the pic of the submarine. You have to watch out in this area because during the nicer parts of the year there can be a lot of kids in this area.

After OMSI is the home of the Portland Opera. This building used to be the television station KPTV (Channel 12) until about a year ago. I didn't even know the TV station was moving - just all of a sudden it was gone, and the Portland Opera had moved in.

Right after the Opera the sidewalk makes a sharp left turn near the Portland Spirit dock and dumps you into a cul-de-sac in an industrial area near the railroad tracks. This is the first of several "gaps" in the Springwater Corridor, which starts at the Eastbank Esplanade (basically at the Hawthorne Bridge) and ends in Boring.

No, I'm not making that up - Boring, Oregon. It's a small town 4-5 miles out past Gresham. The path continues as a bike line on the road from the Opera's offices towards the railroad tracks of the Oregon Pacific Railroad. Just before the tracks, I turn right towards the Ross Island Sand & Gravel cement plant.

You won't see it here, but there is a sign proclaiming the start of the Springwater Trail. (You can actually see one of the posts holding up the sign in the next photo. The sign always reminds me of the sign for Jurassic Park.

I've never liked riding by the cement plant (off to the right of this photo). It's smelly, it's noisy, and there's frequently grit in the air and stuff spraying over the path. The path runs between the plant and the railroad tracks. Fortunately the plant only extends 100 yards or so. way off in the distance here is the Ross Island Bridge, where Powell crosses the Willamette.

One nice thing about the Springwater Trail through this area is that the road surface is brand new and smooth. Since our winters are so much milder than my former home state of Michigan, it also has no potholes.

Here's what most of the Springwater Trail looks like - long, straight, and NO CARS. No crossings to have to worry about. Great views of the river, too. This is the segment where Tomas sometimes breaks off in a sprint. After this point, the trail turns through a gentle "S" curve past the operations of Ross Island Sand & Gravel.

Once past Ross Island S&G, the wetlands start. If you come through later than this, after the sun sets, the noise of all the frogs can get almost deafening.

Ok - here I am, in my dorky riding outfit. I don't have a spare $500 to drop on cycling clothes right now, so I have an eclectic mix of equipment.

I'm wearing my balaclava, because it's cold out. Also my bike helmet and my climbing headlamp. You can't see the rest of it, but I'm also wearing thermal underwear, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt and a fleece vest, plus sweat shorts and sweat pants. Remember, it's something like 30 degrees out, and in the 20s with wind chill.

Yeah, even 250 pounds doesn't insulate well.

Sunset over the Willamette as old Sol starts to sink below the ridge of the western hills. Along the river in the background are a bunch of houses on the water. There are a number of waterbourne housing communities on both the Willamette and the Columbia. I don't know exactly why people buy these with the risk of a repeat of the 1996 floods and the drought from a few years ago lowering the river level to the point where the houses almost settled on the river bottom. (which, BTW is bad - it can crack the centerbeam of the house, or the keel or whatever they call it on those)

We're well past the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge trail at this point, and approaching Oaks Amusement Park, now 100 years old and the last remaining of 7 original amusement parks around the city.

At this point the trail starts to slope gently upward, and my speed which until now has averaged about 13-14 mph drops down to 10 or less over about a 1/4 mile. We're now almost 3 miles from the start of the Springwater Trail at the cement plant. Oaks park is where Portland's steam locomotives were kept before restoration.

Ahead is the Sellwood Bridge, the southernmost of Portland's bridges across the Willamette River. The Sellwood is a really old bridge in poor condition. Recently truck traffic was restricted and the busses had to be re-routed. The bridge has too many cracks, and ODOT is debating whether to reconstruct it or build a new one. The Sellwood Bridge was built in 1925, and links Portland's Sellwood neighborhood with southwest Portland (the John's Landing area) and Lake Oswego (a prosperous Portland suburb). After passing under the bridge, the trail path abruptly ends and dumps us into the Sellwood neighborhood.

And through the neighborhood demonstration project on SE 8th and onto this stretch of street.

This street trackage is where I had my recent accident, a week or so before this photo was taken when it was dark and raining. Where the tracks curve left is the road I take out to 17th. When I had to cross the tracks again I was at too shallow an angle and fell. Fortunately it was cold and raining at the time, so I had three layers of clothes, including my rain gear, and leather gloves. I was slightly bruised, but no cuts, scrapes or abrasions.

Here is where the old trolley car barn was located. It's now being turned into condominiums. I keep riding down this lightly trafficked street until I get to SE 17th Avenue. Turning left on 17th I cross the railroad tracks and head past the warehouses of north Milwaukie.

I wanted to show a couple pictures of downtown Milwaukie, but it was getting too late in the day and my pictures were getting blurrier. On 17th we lose all the altitude we gained in Sellwood. The Springwater trail averages about 40' above sea level. In Sellwood, we climb up to about 120'. On 17th we then drop back down to 40' again and end up at this intersection:

SE 17th and McLoughlin.

At this point, 17th is 2 lanes and makes a sharp turn from south to east. We're now facing east and I'm waiting my turn to cross. The right lane is right turn only - I am in the left lane, which goes either left or straight. Once the oncoming traffic gets its red light I'll have my green. From here it's a short ride through Milwaukie to Lake Road, which runs uphill again, gaining 60' or so before the intersection with Oatfield.

On Oatfield, the road drops sharply down to Kellogg Creek (about 35' above sea level) and then goes sharply (a 10% grade) up 150' to where it meets with Park Ave. I don't like crossing Park because there's always a lot of traffic there and I'm always moving at a very low speed and usually out of breath. One day I'll be in better shape and it hopefully won't bother me as much.

After Park the road levels out and continues on a couple of miles past Courtney, Oak Grove, Concord and Theissen. After that, is....

Home. Kind of blurry, but there you are.

Ride Report - Tuesday Evening

Ride Details:
Distance: 11.07 miles
Top Speed: 21.4 mph
Average Speed: 9.4 mph
Time on Bike: 01:10:40
Temperature: 46

Springwater Trail:
Bicycles: 13
Joggers: 4
Cats: None

Well, I was wrong about the rain - it wasn't done. Right after I walked out of my building, it started dripping. By the time I met Tomas at Waterfront Park, it was starting to actually rain. We mounted the new front fenders on the bikes and headed home.

You can tell that the weather here in Portland is getting better - there are more people out and about in the evening. The Springwater Trail section along the river had 13 cyclists and 4 joggers, compared to 10 and 2 the day before and 0 last week when we had that cold snap.

Anyway, of course it stopped raining about 20 minutes after we got back to the house. That's Portland for you.

Ride Report - Tuesday, February 28th

Ride Details:
Distance: 12.38 miles (including a lunchtime trip to REI
Top Speed: 21.9 mph (flying down Oatfield at the hill)
Average Speed: 11.4 mph
Time on Bike: 01:05:05
Temperature: 46 degrees F

On the Springwater Trail:
Bicyclists: 3
Joggers: 2
Cats: 0

Notes: Lots of rain. A steady rain, in Michigan it would be considered heavy drizzle or light rain. About 2/10 of an inch in the 1 hour I was riding. Again it was kind of messy - the fenders I bought yesterday at REI didn't fit either my bike or Tomas' bike, so back they went. I had to wear my hiking backpack with me to work, because it's the only thing large enough to hold the fenders and keep them from getting all muddy on the trip downtown (REI doesn't like to take back muddy merchandise - go figure). My Vaude backpack has an integral raincover, which today was invaluable. Riding home will be easier - it looks like the rain is done for the day, at least until sunset.

I know I still need to finish my "ride home" series of pictures - hopefully I'll do that today or tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Ride Details:
Mileage: 11.02
Top Speed: 27.9 mph (flying down Oatfield at the hill)
Time on Bike: 00:57:15
Temperature: 40 degrees F

On the Springwater Trail:
Bicyclists: 5
Joggers: 0
Cats: 4

Pretty normal commute in, except Tomas got a flat and had to spend 15 minutes changing it. I hung by rather than continuing on, and was a few minutes late for work.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ride Report - Thursday Feb 23rd

Ride Details:
Mileage: 11.20
Top Speed: 31.8mph (flying down Oatfield at the hill)
Time on Bike: 00:56:03
Temperature: 45 degrees F

On the Springwater Trail:
Bicyclists: 5
Joggers: 2
Cats: 3

For future reference: on my commuter rides, I count the number of joggers and cyclists I pass (or who pass me) on the Springwater Trail - specifically the 3 mile long section that runs next to the Oregon Pacific Railroad tracks.
Near the north end, somone has placed about a half dozen food dishes next to the railroad tracks, almost directly underneath the Ross Island Bridge (Powell). At first, there was a black cat that came and ate the food. Now, there are five, and four of them look to be kids of the first one. All five are black as coal. The other week I saw all five of them, and I was worried that the recent cold snap might have taken them. Today I saw three, so I'll have to see if they're still around. It's sad that someone is feeding these wild cats (Portlanders are BIG on cats), because there are already too many strays and when they're caught they are inevitably put down.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ride Details:
Mileage: 10.97
Top Speed: 31.5 mph (flying down Oatfield at the hill)
Average Speed: 12.6 mph
Time on Bike: 00:52:17
Temperature: 43 degrees F

On the Springwater Trail:
Bicyclists: 2
Joggers: 4
Cats: 0

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Typical Ride Home

I've been riding for more than 2 weeks now, and thought I'd post a few pics of a typical ride home for me.
Here's an overview map of the first few pictures.

#1: Leaving Bike Locker
#2: Heading East on Burnside
#3: Heading East on Ash
#4: Entering Tom McCall Waterfront Park

BTW, Google Earth is a wonderful tool for doing stuff like this.

This is the view right after I leave my bike locker in downtown Portland. My building is back behind me, and I'm headed west. I'm about to turn right onto Broadway and travel one block before turning onto Burnside and heading towards the river.

Mary's Club is straight ahead in this picture, it's one of 3 or 4 strip clubs in downtown Portland (there's one right across the street from my building in what used to be a Cuban restaurant) Portland has the highest per-capita number of bookstores, coffee shops, and X-rated establishments in the US, which pretty much describes Portlanders: eat, drink (we also have over 200 microbrews), read and have sex.

I've just turned off Broadway and onto Burnside. The building ahead and to the right is the Unico US Bancorp Tower, where I work. It doesn't look like much from this position, but it's actually 42 stories tall. I work on 15, which is actually the 14th floor because the building has no floor 13.

Burnside is one of the busiest streets in Portland, and the intersection I'm about to go through is one of the 3 most dangerous in the city for pedestrians. (It's not so bad for bicycles)

I usually ride about 3-4 blocks down this road and then go right a couple blocks before

continuing east to Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Ok, in this third picture, I'm on SW Ash, heading east towards the Willamette River, which is only a few blocks away. We're about 20' above sea level here at best. The City of Portland rests at sea level at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. The Willamette remains at sea level up past downtown and the Columbia sits at sea level for more than 90 miles from Astoria all the way up past Troutdale into the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. The rest of the city not adjacent to the rivers ranges from 20' above sea level in the downtown areas to 1,100' in the western hills near downtown and the volcanic hills to the east like Mount Scott.

Picture #4 - I'm entering Waterfront Park now, and directly ahead of me is the Willamette River (pronounced Will-LAMB-it). On the other side is Portland's Eastside warehouse district, which is sort of undergoing a revitalization right now. If there weren't clouds in the distance on the right, you'd be able to see the peak of Mount Hood, Oregon's highest mountain at 11,240'.

Ok, so once I get into the park, I turn right (south) and start heading down to the Hawthorne Bridge so I can get across the river. Portland is called the city of bridges, and for good reason: just by car alone, you can cross the Willamette on the St. John's Bridge, the Fremont Bridge, the Broadway Bridge, The Steel Bridge, the Burnside Bridge, the Morrison Bridge, the Hawthorne Bridge, the Marquam Bridge, the Ross Island Bridge or the Sellwood Bridge.

Here I am riding through the park, with the Morrison bridge coming up ahead. I ride under the Morrison Bridge and cross at the Hawthorne near the south end of the park.

This is a rare view of the park - green grass and no obstructions. It only lasts until May 1st. On or around May 2nd, a zillion trucks come in and set up tents, rides and other items for Portland's annual Cinco de Mayo fest. After that, the grass is trampled into mud. Every 2 weeks after that, someone sets up for another big event, from early May all the way to Labor Day. By that time, any remaining grass is brown or dead, and the city re-seeds everything. By late October we've gotten rain again and the grass seed usually grows back out.

Here I am at the Hawthorne bridge. I'm now about 20' above the park after having successfully navigating a circular on-ramp up to the bike lane. A few years ago, they rebuilt the sidewalks on the sides of the Hawthorne Bridge and made them much more pedestrian and bike-friendly.

Once I get some pictures of my improvised camera mount, I'll put them up on the blog. Basically, a screw and a couple of nuts, washers and a wingnut are holding the camera on my handlebars, allowing me to take all these pictures while riding.

Part Two coming up later!


Friday, February 10, 2006

Cycling Again!

Ok, so I used to be a fair-weather cyclist. That is, I started riding again, but only in nice weather and only in the daylight. I started back up again last year in late spring and rode through the summer until September. After that, I kind of tweaked my back again and only rode in a couple more times in September and October before calling it a year. I thought that would be it until after April or so of this year, when it was light enough for me to ride to and from work.

I thought wrong.

I've been wanting to ride the bike, and get back to losing weight. I had gotten up to 260 last year before I started riding. I'd dropped down to around 238-240 by the time I stopped, and promptly worked my way back up to 250 as of a couple of weeks ago. Something needed to be done, so something I did - I started riding again 2 weeks ago. Tomas dragged me out in the early morning to ride into work and stop for Breakfast on the Bridges, which is a monthly thing put on by the local bike commuting advocacy group "SHIFT to Bikes!". We then went to the "I Share the Road" rally put on by the City of Portland. Somone even caught Tomas and I in this picture. (I'm the guy in the back in the center of the photo wearing the gray rain jacket. Tomas is to my right, wearing a proper reflective yellow rain jacket. Another picture with us is here, where you see our backs (I have a blue crate mounted to the back of my bike).

So, I took a couple rides to and fro in the rain, starting exactly 2 weeks ago. I rode 3 days last week, and 4 days this week. Last week was cold and rain, this week was cold and dry, though the last day or so added high winds to the mix, and the temperature is warming up. It may be nearly 60 degrees when I ride home tonight. I'm borrowing the rain gear I'm using, and Tomas gave me a light for my bike (a REAL light, to see rather than be seen).

So, in 14 days I've ridden 168 miles at an average speed of 10.4 mph. That's a total of 16 hours and 20 minutes in the saddle, at an average of one hour and one minute per trip.

Not bad, for a guy who's over 34% bodyfat.

The real question is: can I meet my riding goals for the year? I plan to do a couple of Centurys (a century, for you non-cyclists, is a 100-mile ride) this year, and those plus the training rides plus my commute should allow me to rack up about 6,500 miles on the bike this year.

Ooh-Rah! (as the USMC says)
Us former Navy guys would say "Sierra Hotel".

New Blog

Ok - new blog. I've destroyed the old ones, either because I wasn't updating them or because they had identifying information that I didn't want other people to have. So, here's the new blog - dedicated to my travels on foot and on bike. Maybe I'll throw in the occasional other item from time to time.