Emerging from Winter and Preparing for Wisconsin

In my brain, winter is a time when I hole myself up at home drinking tea—maybe getting some reading done—all while trying my best to stay warm.

The problem is, winter is never actually like this. This winter, circumstances found me joining a gym so I could take a shower, getting back into yoga, doing my best to take care of the health issues of an aging dog, and much more. Circumstances were such that I couldn’t really bike to work and my weekends were pretty full up, so I barely biked at all. My daily exercise was an hour and a half of walking Atticus along with one or two yoga classes each week. It seemed like I was rarely—if ever—home. (Although in keeping with the aforementioned vision of winter, I still managed to drink gallons of tea per day.)

Then quite suddenly, it was spring. And some planned trips that seemed so far off were just around the corner.

Case in point: a bike trip to Wisconsin. My friend Amanda won a bike trip for two to Wisconsin at Interbike, and she asked if I wanted to be her +1. I jumped at the chance.

Now, I’m still not entirely sure this trip is actually going to happen. After all, we’re now a month out and the details we have are scarce (May 6th: this has been rectified. -Ed.). Two things have been keeping my nerves under control:

  • If the day arrives and I don’t have an airline ticket—nothing much I can do about that, is there?
  • In an emergency scenario, I know two people who could come to the rescue if need be. One lives in Wisconsin. The other lives in Illinois but goes kiting in Wisconsin regularly, and has vowed to rescue me if I need it. This is heartening.

To avoid a rescue scenario, I’ve started doing my best to get my body back into the swing of things. The last couple of weeks I’ve been riding in an effort to get prepared for my trip.

A Ride to the City of Ham

The first ride was pretty simple—a ride from my house to Gresham and back, with a food stop at the Gresham location of Nicholas’ Restaurant. Steven joined me. It was his first bike ride in a while too, so we were getting our sea legs together.

When we got to where Gresham should be, we discovered that it has been replaced by the City of Ham, as evidenced by an enormous gateway sign welcoming traffic from the Springwater Corridor. Steven had a busted tire by this time, so we ended up walking from the entrance to the City of Ham to a nearby bike shop. (Thank goodness it was Saturday and they were open, else we would have been riding the bus back!) We left his bike with the shop and went to eat. The City of Ham provided more than enough food for two vegetarians.

Kinda Epic Triangular Solo Ride

Clearing Sunday on my calendar, I vowed to start seriously preparing for this trip by doing a longer ride. Before leaving the house I had a vague idea that I’d like to head east almost to the City of Ham again, head north, head west, go downtown, and then back home—a lengthy loop. That didn’t quite happen, but leaving the ride open to flexibility ended up being a good decision.

It wasn’t until I was booking it east on the first trail that I realized I had forgotten to eat breakfast or bring any food with me. I ended up overshooting a few miles and going to Jazzy Bagels in the City of Ham. (Jazzy Bagels is a bit of a relic of the past, from when the town was known as a local jazz capital because the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz was held there each year, and it was a major summer event.) Once I was done with breakfast I got back to business, heading back to my intended turnoff, then heading north until the Gresham-Fairview trail ended. I decided to keep heading east a few miles until I got to Edgefield in Troutdale, then turn back.

This is when I started entering new territory. In theory I could have gone back the way I came or headed a bit further north to catch another trail that paralleled a noisy highway. Instead, I used my Bike There! map (which needs replacing—turns out my copy is now six years old!) to navigate myself…to the Portland airport. I’ve biked to the airport one other time, but with a different approach. Approaching from the east was interesting, for sure—there were two times I needed to navigate across traffic feeding onto highway on-ramps. In an effort to stay in the shoulder, I ended up taking the exit to Cascade Station and had to shoulder my bike over a grassy island to correct my mistake and get to the frontage road that is part of PDX’s official bikeway.

In theory I was going to go inside PDX and get a soda or use the bathroom, but when I got to the terminal I didn’t feel like it. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing in secondhand smoke (the airport’s closest bike rack is right next to the designated smoking area) and then headed back west. I visited my nearby workplace then decided to time my journey home. Part of the reason I haven’t been commuting by bike is that I consider an hour each way my limit. This was a chance to test what I thought would be more than an hour ride.

The next hour was spent with me silently cursing ODOT planners from the 1970s. If you’ve never been on the I-205 bike path, you probably know there is much needless up and down on the trail. When your body is getting tired, these are the things you meditate on as you are puffing your way up some of the climbs that exist on the north part of the path—fortunately it gets a little better south of Gateway Transit Center.

The fourth and final hour of my bike ride ended with a stop at Cartlandia, just a mile from home. London Pasty Company, one of the carts in the pod, now sells a $1.50 ice cream cone with raspberry syrup on the top—a pleasant thing to remember as you’re passing by.

Subtracting ten minutes for the ice cream stop, turns out it took me an hour to bike home from my work building. This blows one of my excuses for not biking to work out of the water. My coworkers have been asking if I’ve started biking to work yet, and with the upcoming trip it seems like now would be the time to start. Unfortunately, it will mean leaving Atticus for 11 rather than 10 hours per day—frankly, time with him is a higher priority than biking, so I may not do any permanent changes just yet.

Thinking back on my busy winter, it seems like spring and summer are bound to be even more action-packed!

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