Readers of this blog may recall Diana, a spunky cross-country cyclist I had the pleasure of hosting last summer when I was living in Missoula. Diana has since landed in rural Wisconsin, where she is a practicing small-animal veterinarian (dogs, cats) and is also working toward a Master of Public Health degree.
Diana recently visited Portland! She and her boyfriend John were planning to attend a wedding on the Oregon coast, and would be in my fair city for fewer than 24 hours. What could we do that would give us time to catch up, allow Diana and John to enjoy some of Portland’s masterful microbrews, and would be oh-so-Portland?
Quick, someone reserve the last three tickets on the Brewcycle tour!
If you’re not familiar, the Brewcycle (or Cycle Pub, Beer Bike, etc) is a truck-sized, bar-looking contraption that runs on pedal power. It’s a pretty popular concept: it seems that there are similar vehicles running in Germany, The Netherlands, and even Bend. The New York Times covered the Beer Bike phenomenon earlier this year. Never to be outdone when it comes to either beer or bikes, of course someone had the brilliant idea to build one for Portland. Although ours doesn’t look quite as spiffy as the others, and due to various laws (mainly ORS 811.170 I think?) it doesn’t actually serve beer on the bike itself. Unlike others.
Diana, John and I met up at the tour’s start location, and after a brief jaunt into an unfinished space (supposedly the company’s office), the 16 passengers were vying for space on the Brewcycle. Our tour was pretty much as full as it could be. Not only were all the non-pedaling stools occupied, but the three-bum-wide bench at the back was full up, and one person even ended up sitting behind the bar on a small portable stool. Brewcycle tours have a city-approved route, and so each tour selects three of four available stops they would like to visit. We discussed our options, and off we went!
Rogue’s public house in Northwest Portland was our first stop. I knew I could not drink a full pint during the mere 25 minutes we had per location, so I ended up splitting a pint of Rogue’s Double Chocolate Stout with Diana, and it comprised the bulk of beer that I had on this trip. Left to my own devices, I’m not much of a drinker—a fact I mention mostly because of this exchange:
Diana: “Ooooh, it tastes just like a tootsie roll! Taste it, John!”
John: “That’s chocolatey alright!”
Me: “It tastes like beer. Oh, maybe I can kind of taste a little chocolate at the end?”
I fail to notice taste subtleties unless I’ve been drinking beer way more regularly than I have the past year. However I do appreciate a good mouthfeel, which is why I enjoy the darker, chewier beers than the lighter stuff.
Caps and Corks was the next stop. As soon as the Brewcycle pulled over, Diana noticed a couple of loaded touring bikes parked outside, right behind me. It was not tough to find the owners, Monica and Bill, and we sat and chatted about bike touring. Monica and Bill quit their jobs and are riding from the Seattle area to Zion National Park—we crossed paths with them on the third day of their journey. They asked Diana about her experience with Warmshowers, and we pointed out that she and I had met through Warmshowers on her cross-country bike trip!
Our last stop was the good ol’ Lucky Lab, a business which is near to my heart. Not only is their mascot a dog (and they’re a pretty dog-friendly business!), but their locations feel less bar-like to me. They serve food I don’t mind eating, and you’ll often find board games or other fun at the Southeast location. Now and again they even have a pear cider on tap—but not on this night, so I drank nothing. Instead I tried a new vegetarian sandwich on the menu which featured pesto, roasted tomatoes, onions, and mozzarella on whole wheat bread. Once we were seated, Diana and I continued catching up—pets, houses, jobs. It was really nice to be able to say the words “aural hematoma” to someone and not have to explain what that meant.
Diana and John weren’t done with their drinks by the time the Brewcycle was leaving, so they opted to stay instead of pedal the four blocks back to the end of the line. I did go though, and it seemed the intoxication level had jumped on this last little leg of the journey. (Naturally, this is when the tip jar got passed around!)
Aside from getting a chance to catch up with Diana, my favorite part of the evening was pedaling the ginormous bike. At first I wasn’t sure I’d be able to use one of the pedaling seats since the stool height is apparently challenging for shorter people. But with a little extension in my feet, I was able to pedal just fine. Another treat—navigating the urban streets of Northwest Portland on First Thursday. Not only did a streetcar actually stop so we could cross Lovejoy, but we traveled a couple blocks on busy NW 14th and despite the long line of cars piled behind us…there was not a single honk. People on the sidewalks stared and took photos, even though this contraption clearly travels through this area very regularly. It was nice though, to be seen by other traffic as amusing, rather than as a scofflaw menace to society—which I got a dose of today in Sellwood.
Normally this isn’t a tour I’d have done on my own, but I’m glad I went. It’s difficult to have discovery and adventure in your life when you’re in a place you’ve lived more or less your entire life. In addition to occasionally partaking in things like this, I’ve also been contemplating buying a hiking book and trying to check off all the hikes inside. Or planning more solo bike trips. How do you keep from being bored to death by your current surroundings?
See more photos from the Brewcycle tour on Flickr.