On Riding a Bicycle for 20 Miles on a Whim
Summer is winding down in Portland, but we still have sunny days and the weather is still in the 70’s for at least a few hours a day. A few weeks ago we were actually going through one of our approximately 3 heat spells, when the weather got above 80 degrees and stayed there for a few days.We don’t have air conditioners, so steps had to be taken.
d42 and I have been eyeing our bicycles for a few years now, thinking about how we should ride them maybe, instead of just allow them to be one more awkward thing do deal with when moving to yet another apartment. All that eyeing finally culminated in us dragging the bikes out into the sun, dusting them off, spending approximately 2 hours attempting to fill the tires with air, and then, finally, getting on and shakily taking off.
The major factor in bikes finally getting ridden is the 40 mile loop called the Springwater Corridor, which starts downtown Portland, continues to about a mile away from our apartment complex and then actually heads into Gresham (where I work) and continues all the way to Boring, Oregon (must have been an incredibly unexciting settlement). Because we are still New Yorkers, it is in our nature to ignore, if not actively frown upon, anything that attracts attention and could be seen as a landmark. This was taught to us by the thousands of tourists that make Times Square an unendurable excercise in angry shuffling along with an enormous crowd that is never in a hurry. And so, we have never gone on this trail. But it has been there, RIGHT THERE, for more than a year, and Oregon’s healing influence has calmed our minds and soothed our souls enough to allow us to show curiosity in our environment again.
So, without really knowing how far it goes, or what it looks like, we found the entry point and began to ride along the flattest, smoothest, most pleasant road I’ve ever been on. The trail is almost exclusively surrounded by greenery, and even when it does go along a road, you are never actually ON the road with traffic. We rode for a few miles, remembering how pleasant it is to ride a bike on a hot day, and began noticing signs that say “Gresham” and even “Boring.” Turns out that if I was to follow this trail on my bike, I would need to cover eleven miles to get to work. Eleven miles is a lot of miles, we agreed, but decided it would be cool to try and do it anyway.
We continued to ride and sip our water. And ride, and sip. And notice the natural beauty, and marvel at the smoothness of the road, and the fresh air moving past us at a cooling speed. We missed the 5.5 mile mark and only noticed the one that told us we already rode 6. We stopped there to consider. Well, obviously 11 miles isn’t that far, because at 6 we feel awesome. The decision was somehow reached to just, screw it, let’s go for 20. Twenty miles. The trail became somewhat less crowded and we were able to ride side by side, conversing, observing the occasional farm lands around us, and how the sun appeared to be setting.
By the time we got to mile 10, two problems became obvious. One, we didn’t bring enough water and no food at all. Two was that post-crotch, pre-butt area that pro bicyclists wear special padded pants to protect… we didn’t protect it. It was now time to ride the ten miles home.
Problem one was solved fairly easily. Blackberries are an invasive, horrible, delicious weed and grew all along the trail. We cut up our fingers trying to cram as many as possible in our faces. Later we found an apple tree, and although we couldn’t reach any apples that were not covered in dirt and insects, we picked a bunch off the floor, wiped ’em on our sweaty shirts, and savored every bite until the wormy bit.
Problem two remained a problem. For about a week afterwards really. We will fix it by buying those fancy pants before another bike ride of that proportion.
Despite these minor issues, The Springwater Corridor is a wonder whose existence I attribute primarily to the fact that on the West Coast government agencies, and private citizens are willing to work together to make something awesome that will benefit all, especially if it has to do with bicycling, which is taken to a whole other level around here.
This trail is apparently still not even completed. The plan is to connect it to the Pacific Crest Trail, which would basically mean that if I was dedicated enough, I could leave my apartment and then bike all the way to Mexico, or to Canada.