The first half of my ride was easy. It was cold, but that’s easy to deal with. Though I am slightly worried about my feet. I haven’t felt them since I rounded the bend off Carver Rd and rolled past the grocery store toward the Clackamas river. I wonder how long it will be before I do more damage to them. “How much easier is it for me to get frostbite now?” The left turn onto NW Thompson comes with a kick in the grade brining my head back to the task at hand.
I left the house at 8:30 and headed east down the Springwater Corridor following it to SE 92 which takes me south into Clackamas County. In the handful of times I’ve done this route I’ve never seen another person riding. Perhaps its because the bike lane aren’t all that wide and there’s a fair amount of traffic. All that aside there is a magic moment when you see the land start to rise up to your left. Slowly it meets the Southern flanks of Mount Hood and when you round the bend there it is in all its glory. Maybe its because of that, or the fact that Carver, Oregon already has a hold on me, whatever it is I love this ride.
I cross the bridge over the Clackamas and turn left and pull off to the side of the road. I should have known better than to take my knee warmers off. I get off the bike and watch the fog roll over off the river and over the bushes toward me. Whether it dissipates or just over comes me I don’t know. I’m equal parts excited and scared about riding through the fog on this winding road where trucks carrying produce sometimes barreling past.
Once my knees are covered I push back off and roll past my favorite climbing spot. It’s only been a month since I posted all my climbing gear online and sold it off, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Still I feel drawn here.
My trip along the Old River Road is uneventful. Only a handful of cars pass me, but I still can’t feel my feet. The sun warms every part of my body except my feet as I pedal through Lake Oswego. Cars whirl by carrying suburb dwellers to church, or soccer games, or coffee with friends. Oh coffee, sounds so good. Maybe I can stop and get an americano, just to warm my feet a bit. After all these miles are all base miles, and I’ve still got another two hours and change to go. “A cup of coffee shouldn’t get in the way too much.” I say out loud. I pass three Starbucks and two other coffee shops, but I don’t stop. I keep going forward, looking to the road ahead or down at the computer strapped to my handlebars.
Riding through this particular stretch of suburbia annoys me and I anxiously look across the street for the entrance to Tyron Creek State Park, and the start of the first long climb of the day. When it finally comes I cut across the street and head up the bike path through the woods, then up SW Terrwilliger toward OHSU before dropping back down into Downtown Portland.
At the junction of Thompson and Skyline all of that feels like it was eons ago. Every time I go out for a long ride it feels like this. There are times where I look down at my computer and realize that the gel I sucked down was only seven or eight minutes in the past, not the thirty or forty.
Its much warmer now, not to mention much later. There’s no way I’m going to be back in three hours, which is what I told Signe before I left. The rise in temperature brings out more people. Also Skyline is a much more popular ride than the country to the SE. I wave at the first few people who pass me on their way down. Just a raise of my hand and a nod of my head. Of the ten or so people I’ll see while I suffer up this hill only two will acknowledge my friendliness and one will smile. The others give me a look that says “Who the hell are you ?”
This irritates me to no end but it gives me a slight break from the suffering I’m enduring. Don’t get me wrong, I love the suffering and one of the reasons I came back to this way of life was its ready access to suffering that I would normally have to take a train to Seattle to get. I just find it strange that the most bike friendly city in America has the least friendliest cyclist. Most of whom lack the skills needed to ride in a real big city. The protections they enjoy have made them uppity and soft.
The irritation helps me to tap into a different type of anger. A kind of anger that I haven’t felt since I left Cleveland. This comes out when I’m on the bike. I haven’t found a good way to explain it yet, maybe I never will. What I do know is that it’s going to propel me the rest of the way up this hill to NW Newberry where I’ll enjoy my reward of a beautiful long descent to the “dirty thirty”, up and over the St. Johns Bridge and North Portland before I reach the esplanade which will eventually drop me at my front door. Four and a half hours after I started.