To celebrate twenty years together, we ran away from home this weekend. We took our bikes and not much else – two panniers with a change of clothes and our toothbrushes. Because the Oma has only a basket and is new to long distances, my husband’s StumpJumper carried both bags (the panniers’ clasps are too small for the Oma’s back rack – maybe they can be adjusted but not just yet). Oma’s basket was handy for water bottles and a ziplock of medjool dates and sesame snaps for re-charging the riders.
Of course (this is Oregon, it is February), we got caught in the rain.
A scarf works pretty well for keeping more or less dry. Made of lightweight wool, it was pleasantly warm even when it had absorbed its fill of rainwater. But when the scarf slipped back, so did the helmet. The helmet-police would not approve. So no true solution yet.
We followed the route of the Seattle-to-Portland along Hwy 30, a relatively flat four-lane county highway with a nice wide bike lane. The rain filled all the little streamlets so that the basalt cliffs were full of movement of water and trickling.
In places the bullfrogs could be heard over the roar of traffic and sudden waterfalls inspired meditations upon the meaning of words like “spate.”
But pedaling produced its own heat. The rain was steady but not drenching and the riding relatively easy for the first 30 miles, until the StumpJumper picked up a tack in the industrial area on the outer edge of Portland.
In the rain the patch wouldn’t stick and so it was out with the old tube and in with a new. We’d made good time, but after changing the tube, as the rain poured down and the light began to fail and our bodies lost the glorious heat of cycling, it was nearly dark when we jumped back in the saddle. We paddled our way carefully over wet railroad tracks, then rode up and over a low curving overpass to Naito, wheeling down past the train station and into the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Suddenly we were seeing other bikes – well-lit, two-wheeled commuters riding home to the cadence of TGIF. In groups. One by one. Helmet lights bobbing. Rain slicks in dayglo and regular jackets in darkening colors soggier by the moment. We crossed the river in their company on the lower pedestrian deck of Steel Bridge.
And then onto the Esplanade which begins low on the water
and offers riverside views of the city.
The bridges of Portland have distinct and appealingly unique identities. And the Esplanade allows an up-close view of each of them. As we passed beneath, the traffic overhead was deafening.
But along the Esplanade, blossoming trees poured out their soft sweet smell.
And on the river sculling teams slid in silently, shouldering their oars.
We rode up Hawthorne Boulevard until the bike lane ended and then joined the walkers on the sidewalk to pick up groceries for the weekend and bread from the bakery.
At the end of our wet road was a backyard cottage – tiny and perfect as the fort you always dreamed of and never quite achieved – standing where a one-car detached garage may have once stood. But this is a cottage and no garage.
The one big room was warm and well-lit. Branches full of yellow pom-pom blossoms arched against the wide window.
We boiled water for the handmade ravioli and added sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil to a canned sauce in the just-right kitchen, setting the table from the stack of white plates and bowls on the open shelves.
Can you imagine? Streets full of bicycles and here and there a snug house with its small guesthouse ready and waiting in the back garden?
Who wouldn’t want to live in a cycling city?