Monday, February 18, 2008

Velo-tine's Celebration

The bicycle gods were with me as I trudged around Portland a couple weeks ago.  I'd been out doing a bunch of errands, and was just about to my last stop when I walked right by my stolen  purple Cannondale, locked up to a bike rack at a car-park.  Actually, I didn't walk by it--I started hyperventilating.  There was no doubt that it was my bike.  They only used that color purple one year, and all of the extras that I'd added to my bike were still there.  I didn't have my cellphone on me ('natch), so I went in search of the lot attendant.  Turns out that he was the new "owner", but that he'd gotten it from a local restaurateur, who'd bought it from, well, some guy.  Now, I know Randy, the restaurant owner, so we walked over to have a chat with him.  Randy did the right thing and I went home with my newly-recovered purple Cannondale.  

At first I was too nervous to lock it back on the rack at our condo, but the day after my first ride, I got over it.  I also got a titanium u-lock.

I had been riding Matthew's "beach cruiser", a bike that is fine for the city but just a shade too big for me.  I hadn't been able to muster up much enthusiasm for getting a new bike--maybe feeling a little guilty that I hadn't protected my old one the way I should.  But as the time drew near for the annual "Worst Day of the Year" ride, I started to wonder if I could ride the too-big bike for 18 miles.  Sooo glad that I didn't have to make that decision!

I've got to take it in for a tune-up--there's a new clicking noise associated with pedaling and the fork is a little loose--but not for the next couple of days.  Ever since the "Worst Day" ride on February 10th, the weather has been great!  I hear we're in for rain on Wednesday--maybe I'll take it in then . . .

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Wedge

Fall has definitely arrived in Portland--everywhere the maple leaves are turning brilliant red and show-stopping yellow-gold.  We had decided on Friday night to get up early on Saturday, ride to breakfast (waffles at NW's Dragonfly Cafe? or omelettes at the Downtown Bijou Cafe?), and then head over to the Farmer's Market at the Portland State University (PSU) Park Blocks.  But, as dawn broke and the skies were still cloudy, it was hard to leave our cozy warm featherbed.  We dawdled until 9am, choosing a bagel and juice at home over breakfast out, but then attached empty panniers to Matthew's bike and headed out to the Market.

We hopped on to the Waterfront Park path, just outside our home near the Steel Bridge, and headed south toward the Salmon Street Fountain.  It's a cool morning, so we decide that fleece jackets are warranted.  I have a new one, a gift from Matthew that he picked up on a recent trip to Vancouver, BC.  The Inukshuk, a favorite icon of mine, is the "mascot" for the 2010 Olympics, and my jacket sports a multi-colored one.  My hands were cold on yesterday's commute, so I'm also wearing knitted mittens.  Fall has always been my favorite season, and now that I'm living in the Pacific Northwest, I feel like I'm getting the full monty.

The Waterfront Park path is packed with pedestrians and bicyclists, and as we wend our way along the Williamette River seawall, I easily imagine that we're riding in Europe.  At about that time, I get passed by a young father riding a bakfiets from Clever Cycles.  The bakfiets is a Dutch bicycle design, specifically made for transporting people and stuff.  The cargo hold of the bakfiets is attached on the front of the bike rather than the rear, and is an integral part of the bike.  The kids ride in front, which means that the cyclist can see them at all times.  Presumably, parents enjoy (and some even prefer) this arrangement.

Since my bike is completely sans load, I'm a little indignant that I've just been passed by a loaded cargo bike, but I'll get over it.  I don't like to ride really fast in the Waterfront Park--there's usually a lot of pedestrians to thread through, and there also fun things to see along the river.  Today, for instance, there's a DUKW amphibian tourbus heading south past the Steel Bridge, and the Oregon Maritime Museum's sternwheeler Portland is docked at the seawall near SW Pine and is open for tours.

It's a quick trip to the Salmon St. fountain, and from there we cross Naito Parkway and head west toward Park Ave, then south until we end up at PSU.  The market is already bustling, but we need to find bike parking before we can get into the mix. 

I've spotted what I think is a bike rack, across the greenway, so we head toward it.  There's a lot of bikes locked up here--so many, in fact, that there's no more room on the rack!  We have U-locks, which limits our parking options.  I see bikes that have been locked to street light poles, but that won't work for us.  I see the father with the bakfiets roll up and, using 2 long lengths of thick chain, lock up to a street light pole.  A small child pops out of the cargo hold, and they head into the market fray.  As we debate looking for another rack, a couple approaches the bike rack, laden with recent purchases from the market.  They begin to load their produce onto their bikes, and I realize that this is the first time I've ever had to wait for bike parking!  Now, where's the coffee?

Our bikes safely locked up and coffee in hand, I can now turn my attention to: The Wedge.  Artisan, Northwest cheese-makers have gathered at the Farmers Market today to showcase their wares, present seminars, and celebrate all things cheese.  More than 25 regional cheesemakers are on hand with samples, and I'm ready to dive in.  We circulate (slowly) past each tent, sampling and talking with the vendors.  And purchasing.  We picked up a raw milk cheddar from Rogue Creamery (not to be confused with Rogue Brewery, two tents away), and then after sampling their Chocolate Stout Cheddar (confused yet?), got a wedge of that, too.  I'd recently heard that honey was a good cheese companion, and when I saw the Beehive Cheese Company booth, thought I'd hit the jackpot.  Turns out, their name comes from the fact that they're from Utah (The Beehive State), and didn't know anything about a honey connection.  They do know about cow's milk, though.  Their herd is Jerseys, a beautiful breed whose milk has a high butterfat content, which results in oh-so-creamy cheese.  We tasted all of their samples, including a fabulously rich cheddar rubbed with espresso and infused with lavender.  We bought their Full Moon Raw Milk Cheddar, because the creamy, buttery taste was so pure that I wanted just that simple, perfect flavor.

At the Willamette Valley Cheese Company, we sampled their Farmstead Gouda, and couldn't leave without a wedge.  Their other cheeses were very good, but the Gouda was irresistible.  From there we met the cheese makers at the Silver Falls Creamery, and sampled every one of their spreadable goat cheeses.  They're milking about 80 head this year, mostly Togggenburg, Nubian and Alpine breeds.  We also sampled both the Basil Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato spreadable cheeses from River's Edge Dairy, and snatched up the latter.  Goat milk has a lower fat content, and the fat particles are smaller than those found in cow milk.  It's also naturally homogenized, and for all of those reasons and a few more, many people who are lactose intolerant find that goat's milk works for them.  We both noticed that the goat cheeses seem to almost float, they're so light and airy.  It's almost not fair to compare cheeses made from the different milk sources--they're that different.

And as long as we're at the Farmer's Market, I picked up a couple of squash and some onions.  I sampled about a half-dozen different types of pears at the Market's "taste-it" booth--but forgot to pick any up to take home!  I really enjoyed the Starkrimson red pears--now I have to hunt them out at Wednesday's Farmer's Market.  I got the pear-cheese-wine wheel at the Market's info booth, which has rudimentary pairing information.  I suspect it was intended more as a USAPears marketing tool than a comprehensive "pearing" tool--and it worked.  Back at home, I went right to the website for more info about the Starkrimson.

Now that our panniers are nearly full, it's time for a treat stop.  Gabriel's Bakery temps Matthew with a Pain au Chocolat, but I am on the hunt for the Market Gourmet brownie, just voted as a "Best Bite" by the Oregonian.  Their description of how the brownie is made hooked me: "baker Monica Halici breaks up her Schokinag German chocolate by hand, then whips it with European butter, Italian espresso extract and a little chocolate liqueur. But her real secret may be the pure, organic, fair-trade Singing Dog Vanilla".  I saw their booth right as we entered the market--the line wrapped around two sides of their tent.  Since it's near our bike-parking, my plan is to hope that they're not sold out and pick up one on the way out.  And my luck holds--there's only a short line, and I can choose either a Raspberry or Turtle Pecan brownie.  Eenie, meenie, minie mo--I pick the raspberry, gently load it into my backpack, and we're done.

It takes a minute to load the panniers onto Matthew's bike, so I have the chance to enjoy the South Park blocks.  Lined with large trees, the Park Blocks offer a shady respite in summer.  As the weather turns cool and their leaves start to turn and drop, these beautiful old trees offer us a shower of confetti, in colors that occur only in nature.   It's a wonderful day to be outside, appreciating Portland's green spaces and Hood River's bounty.  We head down Park Ave. to Salmon St. and then turn back toward the Williamette River and Waterfront Park.  There are even more people out on the Park's path--on bicycles, on foot, with strollers--and we thread our way through them all.  At the Salmon St. dock, there's a large ship being loaded with luggage (wonder where they're going?).  A couple of guys are practicing their skateboard skills on the steps at the pump station, and across Naito Parkway, the Portland Saturday Market is in full swing.  The crowd thins out here, so I can fly under the Burnside Bridge, through the Japanese-American Historical Plaza, and around the Friendship Circle at the Steel Bridge.  No trains in sight, so we ride over the tracks and through the gates into McCormick Pier.  It's just noon, and the rest of the day is still ahead of us. 

Monday, August 27, 2007

Riding to work again

August 1, 2007 - So back in Lawrenceville, my commute to work was a measly 6 miles, with just a few well-spaced climbs to make me sweat a little. A little. Enough so that I had to wait a few minutes on arriving at work before changing into work clothes, but not enough to actually require a shower (or so I believe - anyone want to disagree, let me know). Nancy's was half that, so she could almost FALL to work. The small period of time between too cold to ride and too hot/humid to ride limited the number of times I actually biked to work, but in retrospect I was just being a baby. I could have ridden every day (opposition from Gwinnett County's finest notwithstanding).

NOW, though, my commute is over 11 miles, and after the first mile or so, it becomes a 7-mile series of pretty decent climbs before a few good descents, and there is no question that I should hit the showers when I get here. My employer is next to a Bally's, fortunately, and membership there is a benefit. If I leave the house by 6:10am, I have an hour's ride and enough time not to rush through the shower before getting to work before 8. And the view! There are points along Barbur Boulevard where, on clear days, you can look through the trees, over the river, and see Mount Hood beyond the city. Majestic.

And get this: every morning I ride, I see dozens -- DOZENS -- of other bikers on their way to work. I lost count this morning, but before I did I had counted 50. And that's a normal day.

I should have been biking to work EVERY DAY since I first started. EVERY DAY. But no, that big baby in me got loose and I started *gasp!* driving.

Well, no more. Not unless there's good reason, like yesterday's errands to get several large objects from Office Depot, The Container Store, and Home Depot. I'm going to ride every day I can.

Nancy went and looked at new bikes a few weekends ago, and if the new Cannondales arrive soon she'll be getting one of those. She spent over an hour with Brigette at River City Cycles, testing several for fit and comfort, talking components and performance. I wandered the store while she did, carrying her helmet, sunglasses, wallet, phone, and keys. I was her Sherpa. More soon!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wheels, Reels, and Hoops

Old Town was a-buzz last night with activities and events to please everyone.  In our backyard, the North Park Blocks, top national racers flew around a half-mile track to compete in the HealthNet Twilight Criterium.  In true Portland style, the race featured a beer garden as well as vendors plying spectators with natural sports drinks.

A jump-cut away, at Sequential Art Gallery (NW Broadway & Flanders), a special screening of a 7-minute short film, "Quality Control" began at 8pm.  The director, producer, and several of the cast were on hand for the screening.  Great film, part of the 48 Hour Film Fest project.  Kudos to Falling Tree Films & One Bad Cat Media for creativity under duress.  The noise from the nearby Crit wasn't nearly as stressful as the scavenger-hunt-grab-bag methodology of the film fest.

And finally, Rake Art Gallery (NW 6th & Flanders) hosted a benefit for an artist and his girlfriend who are recovering from a recent car accident.  Kevin Darras is a talented screen print artist; his work on canvas, paper and clothing was showcased at Rake.  Other talent was on hand to lend a festive air to the evening.  My favorite--Vannessa Vortex, hoola-hoop artist.  Her music and dance routine includes TWO aluminum hoops--try that!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ladd's Addition

When we moved to Portland we became a one-car family.  Some thought that we would certainly regret the decision--some thought even one car was too many!

But I've discovered that Portland is very easy to get around.  The scale of the city is quite manageable--city blocks are not huge here, and the grid layout of the streets make it very easy (even for map-challenged me) to find addresses.  Car parking is always a hassle in cities, even though there does seem to be plenty of lots, garages, and on-street parking.  So I've pretty much given up using the car unless I'm headed out of town.

On a recent ride to and from an eastside neighborhood art show, Matthew and I rode from our house, across the Steel Bridge, and out to the southeast neighborhood known as Ladd's Addition.  The art show was being held in various homes and churches throughout the 'hood, and we visited about 10 different spots.  Portland's southeast side has a rep as kind of a funky neighborhood, shouldering the "Keep Portland Weird" banner for all of us.  Ladd's Addition is a neighborhood that was platted in the late 1800's, and goes against the grid-grain that is so Portland.  The neighborhood itself is contained in a square, with angled streets, public rose gardens and roundabouts sprinkled liberally throughout.  Once inside Ladd's Addition, it's easy to get turned around.  The streets angle toward a giant roundabout/rose garden in the center of the neighborhood.  The mature trees reveal the age of the 'hood, creating a shady oasis for peds and cyclists.  The streets feel calm, caused by a combination of the roundabouts, the angled streets, and the irresistible urge to ogle all the charming houses--some of which are historic sites. Ladd's Addition is completely residential, with the exception of a church or two.  It seems isolated, with a kind of Hansel and Gretel feel to it.  But right at the edge of the forest (um, neighborhood), is SE Division, awash with Portland's weirdest. 

We rode around Ladd's Addition, and stopped at about 10 different shows.  Some were single artists, others were gatherings of multiple artists.  At a church we saw everything from fabric art to photography to metal art to modern acrylics.  In another basement we met a very talented artist, Jonathan Liu.  Check out his website for fun pen and ink drawings, and also Etch-a-Sketch art.  He's moving to Tribune, Kansas this month (August 07), as his wife has is a physician and has a job lined up there.  Oddly enough, we know about Tribune, having ridden through there on our x-county trip in 2006.  Portland will miss Jonathan's gentle sense of humor.  We met Jonathan at the home of Bonnie and Hap Pritchard, and discovered that they were x-country cyclists, too.  We had a great time chatting with them about their trip.  Also showing with Jonathan was Emily Pritchard, a wildly-talented artist with a penchant for tissue paper and animals. 

Another house was packed full of artisans who created jewelry from glass and stones and fantastic felt hats.  At a lovingly-restored Craftsman, Liz Allen's studio showcased her watercolor and ink artistry.  Liz has a great way of portraying pets--with or without their people.

By the time we got back home, it was late afternoon.  I'd had a perfectly wonderful day--what's better than cycling and art-hopping?  I purchased three of Jonathan's pen and ink illustrations of Portland landmarks--the "Made In Oregon" White Stag sign, the Hung Far Low building sign and the Steel Bridge--as well as 4 greeting cards--Portland Theater, St. John's Bridge, Portland Classical Chinese Garden and the Benson Bubblers.  We headed back toward the Steel Bridge and our home at McCormick Pier, laden with art and neighborhood discoveries.  And after all of that?  Our odometers had tracked our mileage--a whopping 8 miles.  Scale. Balance. Ease. Smile. Bicycles.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mourning My Loss

well, I've prodded into blogging again.  Seems that some of you are still checking to see what ridiculous things we're up to now that we're off the road . . . in bicycle heaven, I might add.

The last few weeks--really, all of July--have been pretty gorgeous here.  Enough sun to warm things up, but if you start to feel the heat you can find relief in the shade.  Where I spend most of my time (Old Town Chinatown), the breeze from the Willamette River keeps things cool.

Today I wandered down 1st Ave to Pine St., looking for the BikeCentral shop.  The Bicycle Transportation Authority (BTA) bike shop list shows them on Naito Parkway, but they moved a few months ago to their new location in Old Town Chinatown.  The BTA is a new Old Town tenant, too.  They had been located near PSU, but TriMet needed the space and the non-profit was forced to look for new digs.  They've moved into a space on 5th Ave--also in Old Town.  BTA sponsors the "Bridge Ride"--ride all 10 bridges in Portland and end at the Bite of Oregon festival in Waterfront Park, and the "Night Ride", which starts (at dark) from Union Station and features glow-in-the-dark give-aways and entertaining rest stops along the way.  I stopped in at their new space, and signed up for membership.

In case you haven't heard, my purple Cannondale--the one that I rode 6,606 miles across the country last year--was stolen in June.  It was my fault, really.  I didn't lock it up because I was headed back out the door within 30 minutes.  But gollygeewhiz, whoever took it came up 3 flights of stairs and snatched it from my front stoop!  In a city where bicycling is an easy way to get around, bicycles are a high theft item.  Case in point: Netherlands.  Population:13 million; bicycles:14 million; bicycle theft:10%.  I have been using my spare bicycle that we had at Matthew's parents house, but that one was stolen about a week later.  As a courtesy to our neighbor who is selling her condo, we moved our bikes from the front deck to the rack in the parking lot.  Mine was locked with a cable lock, and the thief made quick work of it, leaving the sliced cable on the asphalt. 

I wasn't really prepared to buy a new bike.  I test-rode a really nice Trek at the Bike Gallery, and checked out a used one from Craigslist, but couldn't bring myself to make the purchase.  I remembered that Matthew had a spare bike at him folks' house, so we brought that one back and I've been riding it around the last few weeks.  I thought I needed a period of mourning for my old bike, but it turns out that I just needed a small dose of back pain.   Matthew's frame is just too large for me, and it's stressing out my back.  So now I'm in the market.

The guy at BikeCentral was nice, but not very trusting.  Guess I don't blame him--I lost 2 bikes in less than 2 weeks!  He showed me a nice commuter-type bike, but I was a little put off by his manner and so I didn't test-ride it.  I'll have to do a little research into the KHS brand, the kind they carry.  I'll head over to River City Bicycles next, to look at their Cannondale offerings.

On the walk back home, I stopped off at the New Market building and picked up a menu for the Mandarin House.  It's a well-known spot in Old Town Chinatown, and we've been intending to try it out.  As I crossed Davis, I met up with Merlin.  I met Merlin a couple of months ago, when she became the volunteer editor of the Old Town Chinatown newsletter, The Crier.  Her day job is with the city, as an Information Ambassador.  Sometimes she has a pushcart of brochures for anything and everything you can do in Portland, and sometimes she spends time just walking around looking for people that need her.  Information Ambassadors wear a uniform that makes it pretty obvious you're talking with someone who's job it is to KNOW THINGS.  Besides which, Merlin is super-friendly in a very warm, encouraging way.  When she uses the word "super", she really means it.  Merlin and I are collaborating on taking The Crier into cyberspace, and I'm enjoying working with her.

Tonight we're heading off to the North Park Blocks to watch a friend's team play bocce'.  The city hosts a league, and has something like 90 courts throughout the city.  The one in the Park Blocks is great--cool and shady.  Then we have to head down to the "vortex of evil"--so named because on one corner is a Ben & Jerry's, Cupcake Jones, TearDrop Lounge and the soon-to-be-open Bishop's Barber--Hair, Nails and Cocktails.   Matthew has pre-ordered cupcakes for his office which we'll pick up tonight.  Cupcake Jones features a monthly menu, everything made on-site, and "frosting shots".  See you there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I've been needing a little bit of good karma, and what better place to find it than at PINK? PINK is an installation art piece, and although it feels like it was birthed in Portland, it actually originated in Autin, TX (the other weird place). PINK is in PDX as part of the month-long bicycle celebration known as "Pedalpalooza". Create your love note (or notes) to be delivered in Portland by a PINK bicycle messenger. My lack of good karma has reduced me to riding Matthew's bicycle--probably reducing my karma even further by depriving him of riding during these oh-so-gorgeous days of June. Two (count 'em) bicycles have been unceremoniously stolen from me within the past week, so I'm feeling a little like a lost puppy ("have you seen my bicycle?"). I need some bicycle luv. Matthew's bike is a little big for me, but if I adjust the seat down a couple inches, I can manage the short trip to PINK, and probably a follow-on stop at Whole Foods. I have to wear shoes with clips, though, since Matthew's pedals don't accommodate street shoes easily. No worries, I have sandals with the right clips, and it's a sunny day in Portland, with temperatures in the mid-70's. I grab a pannier for the post-PINK food stop, and head out onto Naito Parkway for the ride to 318 SW Taylor. After crossing Naito and dipping into Old Town Chinatown, I turn south on 3rd. Along the way, my spirits are lifted by seeing the images of bicyclists that have been "personalized" by by our DOT staff. They've added hairstyles, hats and (happy) facial expressions to the standard-issue bicycle-lane bicyclist icons. The weather today, along with Portland's bicycle-friendly climate have coaxed dozens of riders to share the road with me today, and now I'm beginning to feel happy. Happy to be pedaling along with other cyclists, motorists and buses. Happy to smell the jasmine in full bloom as I pass the Portland Classical Chinese Garden on Everett. I pass out of the Alphabet Streets (Everett, Davis, Couch, Burnside and Ankeny) and cross into the Arbor District (Ash, Pine, Oak). In no time I'm in the Presidential Borough, turn right on Taylor and start looking for PINK's HQ. Not hard to find, either. Pink a-frame signboards on the sidewalk alert passersby that this is the spot. The location has been donated for the duration of the installation, but the storefront seems "Taylor"-made for PINK. Big windows across the front beckon all who walk past to stop, wonder and perhaps walk in. I'm immediately enchanted by the place, and as I step across the threshold, "Martini" greets me with a friendly "welcome to PINK!". I declare my intent to put my "love on the line", and am directed to follow the dotted pink duct tape line to "Reception". A lovely young woman in a white jumpsuit gives me a quick intro to how the process works, and I head down to create my love note. I pass on the in-house poet, on hand to provide inspirational help for the prose-aicly challenged. I decide to wait for a manual typewriter to open up--how often do you get to use one of these? After typing out my messages, I mark the delivery address for the messengers, and pop my notes into pink-be-ribboned bottles and hand them to a PINK staffer. Above our heads was the "love line"--a hand-powered, clothesline and bicycle wheel pulley system. The staffer added tags, attached the bottles to the pulley, and we all yelled "love on the line" as my glass vials-o-love were sent up the line for delivery. Ah, love. I feel so much better already! After the PINK stop, I head on to the Farmer's Market and join the throng of shoppers enjoying the day, the sun, and the fruits of someone else's labor. I restrain myself from buying everything that looks good (it all does), and come home with fresh veggies that will last me until the next market--which happens to be Wednesday night. I find that my notes were all delivered in the next 24 hours, and am basking in the glow of requited love and PINK wishes. Is my Karma being mended? Will my own bicycle return to me? Stay tuned.