Monday, April 20, 2009

Boring Ride ?

It wasn't. With the forecast for stellar weather (finally), several of the team mates seemed to be chomping at the bit to get in a long country ramble. The idea of a jaunt out to Multnomah Falls was briefly entertained, but braving the narrow shoulders of the scenic highway on one of the first warm days of spring was reason enough to look for someplace more remote. Ever heard of the town of  George, Oregon? Me neither. 

The Rubber to the Road guide list two routes called "Boring - hardly," the short version and the long one. Six of us set out for the full-meal deal Sunday morning. Not exactly bright and early like I hoped, but early enough. The first of many climbs came where 181st becomes 190th on the south side of Gresham. A lovely fast swoop down Butler past Persimmon golf course put us square in farmland and my old neighborhood at the base of Tower hill. Up and down Sunshine Valley road led into the town of Boring and the beginning of what Fergus called "the ride of a thousand hills." 
The back 40 on this ride was all up and down in the Cascade foothills, with just enough flat plateaus to allow some casual spinning before dropping into the next drainage. We crossed Eagle Creek, Deep Creek, Tickle Creek, Johnson Creek, and a bunch of other creeks, some of them several times. The high point of the route is the lollipop loop out of Eagle Fern park and up to the "town" of George. There's a real pretty church there and not much else. This Sunday there were about a dozen kids playing outside. Maybe George is always this way, but we remarked at how quiet the kids were. Like, eerie quiet. 

The drop back down took us through big fresh clear cuts on perfect sweeping curves. It looked like a lot of logging roads I've driven to get to climbs here in the northwest, except it was paved. I wish I'd taken a picture of this portion, but I didn't want to stop in the middle of such a fun descent. I checked my altimeter on my bike and we dropped about 1300 feet in about 10 minutes. Of course, we had to gain a lot of that back getting out of Eagle Creek. And it took longer. 

Back in Boring after the last climb out of Tickle Creek, everyone was feeling pretty toasted and no one complained when new-guy Andy's bike flatted just sitting in the parking lot at McCall's store in Boring. A few minutes delay in hitting the road for the final stretch back into Gresham was fine.
 I bought a muffin and some grapefruit juice since for the first time this year I actually ran out of food. In the absence of a support van, I was handing out fig bars from my snazzy notebook pencil organizer/handlebar feed bag. Maybe it was my imagination, but I think the derisive smirks disappeared in the face of empty pockets and the hunger bonk. 
all in all it was A Splendid Day. Here's the route.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Consolation Ride

On Saturday I really wanted to be doing this. But with the girls gone to the ranch, big C here with me, and a pre-Easter dinner planned with my parents and sisters, I had to content myself with something shorter. Still, It ended up being a good long enough ride on roads new to me. And it didn't rain, which was a welcome break.

The three deer and I
watch the Canby fe
rry cross
but I board alone

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cars, part 2

Six-hundred riders
chase the Lion of Flanders
Up. Down. Up. Down. Up.

On Saturday I joined a bunch of other cyclist, including about a half-dozen guys associated in one way or another with the team, for de Ronde van Oeste Portlandia. I did this ride last year and was glad to have some friends along for the suffering this time. The weather was beautiful - really, the nicest day so far this year, which probably helped drive the turnout, which was estimated over 600. I think that's incredible for something that's unofficial and just organized by word-of-mouth and the net. You can read more about it here and here.

Unfortunately, one of our teammates, John, was seriously injured on one of the descents when a driver made a left turn directly in front of him and a group of riders. John was probably traveling 30+ mph and the accident sent him over the truck and left him with a badly broken leg and numerous other injuries. Our group had been split in half by a wrong turn a little earlier, and I came upon the scene a couple minutes after the crash. Fortunately, John was conscious and
 responsive, but he was in a lot of pain. There's no telling for sure, of course, but what I saw was as good an argument for the value of a helmet as I have ever seen. We were all left fairly shell-shocked, and those who were literally at his side when the collision took place were quite traumatized. The comment that most struck me was "it looked like a bike explosion."

In a previous post I talked about the price we as a culture seem willing to pay in order to drive. For me, this tragedy puts a violent and angry exclamation on that. I'm sick of what feels like the senseless brutality that drivers of cars inflict on vulnerable cyclist and pedestrians. And I'm sick of the voices that dare to say that cyclist and pedestrians are somehow to blame because the roads were made for cars. I refuse to use the term "accident" for this type of violence because to do so implies that it was inevitable, and that there wasn't a human at fault when there was. I'm not claiming the driver assaulted John, but when someone is at the wheel of a car and his recklessness or lack of attention or poor driving skills cause injury, a crime has been committed. I don't say this out of malice toward the driver, who, if he's like most of us, must feel sick with remorse. But I say it because I believe that if things are ever going to change - if road safety for all users is ever going to be a priority, we need to see more bad drivers charged with a crime. I hate saying this, because I take no pleasure in anyone's punishment, regardless of what they have done. But the close calls are beginning to wear on me and those who love me. Those of us who choose to regularly commute by bike can recount frightening close calls by the dozens. And despite the familiarity with bikes that inner-Portland drivers have (and bless their hearts most of them are great at sharing the road), there's still far too much selfishness and aggression out there. I want the driver who hit John charged with a crime not because I want him punished, but because I want the rest of the drivers out there to get the message that they must take the responsibility of getting behind the wheel as serious as a heart attack. I want the same rules for the road that I have for my classroom - that is, doing the wrong thing must be harder and more uncomfortable than doing the right thing. When a motorist can send a cyclist to the hospital and get back behind the wheel and drive home, something is seriously wrong.

Face It

Your car, like mine
cannot leap through giant hoops of fire
or loop, upside down, in gleaming tunnels of steel
it cannot scale cliffs, ascend roadless peaks
or plow through towering drifts of snow
your car will never speed across Bonneville, 
cut midnight cookies in New York City,
or drag race in a parking garage

Your car is not sexy
and doesn't make you sexy either
it is not a weapon or a toy 
it does not symbolize freedom
independence America power
an animal or you

Your car, like mine
is an appliance 
like a washing machine or a refrigerator
good to have 
necessary to the job at hand
a tool fit to its purpose

and when your car has been used with gratitude
and carefully kept from carnage
guided through neighborhood streets
gently purring past children as they play
at the end of the age of the auto
your car, like mine
will come to a stop
maybe in a quiet pasture
to rest and rust and return
until all that remains
is a dull orange headstone
leeching iron back into the earth

photos by Dave Roth

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flat road in flat light
from my tires to the sky
seven shades of gray