Yeah … Portland Oregon. How good can it get? If you’re a cyclist, you likely already know what that means. Bike culture, bike infrastructure, seriously bike friendly city. Platinum level! And this should shock you … I never once RODE a bike in Portland! Explanation coming in a bit. I was there to attend a bike mechanic’s class at United Bicycle Institute along with my friend and mentor, Ruth …
… another Adventure Cycling tour leader. Since I’m leading bike tours for Adventure Cycling and Wilderness Voyageurs, but I’ve been a real retro-grouch with my “less-than-current tech” bikes, I decided I should update my skills to be helpful with participants with modern bikes. It was really great actually meeting and working alongside Ruth after having been “virtual” Facebook friends for over a year. And icing on the cake … I also got to reconnect once again with my all-time fave “Trail Angel” Vickie …
… who might very well have saved my (and Karen’s) life back in 2004 on our Trans-Am adventure. We last met when Todd, Karen and I went out to ride the San Juan Hut Systems north route (Telluride to Moab). I’ll spare you the very cool but long story, but needless to say … we had a helluva great time!
The trip included flying into Detroit, then Chicago before the last leg to Portland.
Hey Chicago … I’ll see you again June 10th!!
Arriving in Portland on Saturday afternoon, Vickie picked me up at the airport, got me checked into the Travelers House Hostel, and we headed out for dinner at the first brewpub for the week. I had perhaps the best burger of my life there: a FarroBurger, a wheat-garlic patty with hazelnut, romesco, caramelized fennel, arugula, and ciabatta. OMG … I think I’m gonna like Portland!
Sunday, we hit the road to see a bit of the Columbia River Gorge. I’ve heard so much about bike touring there so I really wanted at least a peek at it. Not disappointed! Even though Portland was getting a serious bit of cold and icy rain, we ventured up the gorge, slowly, and took time to hike some icy trails …
… to numerous waterfalls. And a real treat was getting to one I had seen pictures of, but didn’t realize it was here … Multnomah Falls.
I should mention that the weather was a bit “challenging”. The cold, snow and ice was nothing compared to the wind in the gorge. As we got higher into the gorge, we stopped at a beautiful overlook at Crown Point called the Vista House. Getting out of Vickie’s truck, the wind nearly ripped the door out of my hands as it was blowing at least 40-50mph and was shaking the truck like a leaf in a hurricane. Just standing in the wind was the closest thing to skydiving I’ve felt since … well … last time I went skydiving!
Vickie braved the icy weather Monday morning to head back home to Ashland, while Ruth and I braved the icy streets to get to class.
UBI turned out to be a good investment. Although I had already done most everything we covered in class countless times before, (I’m an “old” biker), there were a lot of procedural tips to pick up that will help me work faster and with less hassle. Yes, I really should invest in a torque wrench to do things according to enginnering specs and design, and Ruth showed me a great little mini-torque wrench she carries on trips that for touring, would be a PERFECT addition to the tool set, especially when riding with others.
Class was fun, but AFTER class in Portland was even more fun! Portland’s bike culture is evident everywhere you look, but it seems that the craft breweries all over the city attract an even bigger crowd. And there are intersections of those cultures in many places like the Hopworks BikeBar right next door to the bike school …
… and Velo Cult!
We have some nice bike shops in Rochester, but I’ll concede, Portland lives bikes to the max and Velo Cult is the kind of shop that actively celebrates and promotes the culture of cycling by being a “hub” (get it?) of activities. The owner appears to collect classic bikes and hangs some really sweet steel from the rafters for safe display … safe from drooling people like me.
And the shop encourages socializing by including features that many in Portlandia appreciate, like a brewpub, a coffee shop, space for musicians to gather and play, and tables that double as display cases of custom, artfully designed bike components (aka bike bling) to gather around and sip.
Our evenings out for dinner included a place called Base Camp Brewing …
and Bye & Bye, but we returned to Velo Cult another evening with our new friend and fellow UBI student Paige. Paige works for Santa Cruz bikes, and she was as enamored with Velo Cult as we were.
The class wrapped up and after reluctantly saying bye to Ruth and our classmates, my exploration of Portland continued.
I elected not to ship a bike to Portland, partly to save $$ and avoid bike shipping damages, but also because I knew that Portland is very pedestrian and transit friendly. Confirmed that! And if I decided I did need a bike, I could easily rent if need be. I was hoofing all over Portland … Downtown, the Tram, Mount Tabor, wherever. Amazing … pedestrians get RESPECT from motorists in Portland. Never once in nearly 50 miles (I’m not kidding!) of hiking around Portland did a motorist disrespect my status as a ped. Clearly, bike/ped alliances to address urban transportation issues WORK! And I witnessed “the action”. It’s amazing how smoothly bike, pedestrian, auto and transit traffic blends in this city. Design, design, design!!! Cycling infrastructure, and culture, permeates the city. I’ll wrap up this report with a few photos …
How do I love thee?
Let me count the spokes!