A Nice Long Bike Ride

Published 2007-08-28

Sunday I had my first “long” bike ride since our return. I rode to Iowa Hill, a total round-trip of 58.8 miles, which I finished in a little more than 3 and a half hours. Other than Iowa Hill itself there was precious little climbing; I rode to outer Washington County on the Tualatin-Sherwood Highway, and returned (more or less) on SR 10 and Scholls Ferry road. For me, any ride that tops 60 miles is officially a Long Bike Ride. I can kinda just get on my bike and ride 50, but for more than that I have to bring food, money, tools, phone, and a different attitude.

My average speed these days is about half a mile an hour faster than it might have been a year ago. I reckon I lost 5 to 10 pounds in China, mostly muscle. I’ve put most of it back, but I haven’t weighed myself since January, so this is really all conjecture. There’s a theory that Lance Armstrong’s cancer-induced weight loss abetted his Tour de France winning streak. That’s not as unlikely as it sounds. Five pounds weighs more when you have to pull it yourself.

Oregon treated me to one of its good-to-be-alive Sundays: broken clouds, mid-60s, not too much wind. Perfect riding weather. After I reached, I dunno, Scholls? the countryside opened up and presented one rustic tableau after another. Llamas. Shetland ponies. Red-tailed hawks. Sunflower fields. Handpainted “U-Pick” signs. Red barns. Rolling hills. Woodsy tree claims. Nice. I never take a camera on these rides but maybe I should start.

Tiny agricultural communities used to surround Portland. Most of these (Scholls, Farmington, Progress, Cornelius) have decayed to an intersection and a couple of repurposed buildings. A lucky few (Sherwood, Forest Grove) have blossomed into bedroom communities. I pine for a landscape that would have provided a regular punctuation of small towns for my bike rambles. I gave only one business my patronage outside the Metro boundary, a café at the intersection of SR 219 and Scholls-Sherwood. For the longest time, a pizza and sandwich place occupied the building (vintage ca. 1910); it closed around 2003 and the building stood vacant until sometime this past year.

Four-lane highways, and the way of life they encourage, have no room for places like Farmington. I grew up in a rural state and rural landscapes are my favorite. A lot of West Coast people fairly worship “wilderness,” in my opinion to the detriment of damn near every other landscape. From time to time I might spend Sunday afternoon driving an hour to an old growth forest, there to walk around in a circle with a backpack, then drive an hour back home. It’s like Disneyland, but with trees instead of the teacup ride.

But I see more birdies and bunnies from a bike.