Our fifth bike trip to Portland

This time: BoltBus, Palm Tree Ride, Islabikes.


We’ve just returned from another lovely trip to Portland. We’ve gone twice by Amtrak Cascades (with the old mamabike–my longtail would need to be taken apart and boxed for train travel) and now three times by BoltBus.

At BoltBus

I still think the train is more pleasant with kids, but the bus is cheap and takes my cargo bike…provided there’s room. And we take up a lot of room. Here’s our four-day-trip luggage spread out (I remove and stow my WideLoader in a FreeLoader bag, but everything else comes off the bike):

Bike unloaded for BoltBus

Previous drivers have been very accommodating, having me stow my bike before everyone’s baggage, and from the sidewalk side (normally bikes are shoved in from the street side). A couple have helped with the bike lifting to speed things along.

For our Friday 10:30 a.m. bus of a three-day weekend, the driver didn’t think we’d fit–he had a full bus with three bikes already on board. He checked our boarding number versus that of the other passenger with bike (and trailer) hoping to board. Our group B beat his group C so as soon as he gave me a leery OK, I removed half the baggage from one of the cargo compartments, shoved in my bike, and then stuck everything around and on top of it. And then the other guy somehow fit his bike in as well. He was headed down to a Christmas tree bonfire–and had apparently been at Burning Gardens, too, but we didn’t recognize one another’s bikes. Obviously, both our bikes are more recognizable than our faces.

The other bike waiting for BoltBus

My initial assessment of our driver as grumpy and not bike friendly was totally wrong, by the way. The kids made him thank you cards which he cheerily accepted at the end of the trip. And we got to see him an extra time because I left a helmet on board and had to track him down at the Greyhound station where he was happily waiting for us by the door, ready to end his long day of work.

Urban Adventure League Palm Tree Ride

On Saturday we headed to Velo Cult to meet some friends for the 10th Annual Palm Tree Ride. I collected a couple lost Canadians on the way over and brought them along. Always the ride leader :) This photo shows a monkey puzzle tree, but there were plenty of palm trees to be enjoyed–my evidence here on Flickr.

Portland Palm Tree Ride at monkey puzzle tree

The tree talk was great (I didn’t know monkey puzzle trees before), but I was also in it to check out people, bikes, and accessories. Like Timo’s cool mirror:

That mirror!

We went a bit of the way up Mount Tabor for a gorgeous view of Mount Hood. Most riders took pictures of the mountain, but I opted to take pictures of the picture takers. The kids were not impressed–they’re loyal to Mount Rainier.

A view of Mount Hood

The ride also encountered a couple friendly cats. One almost jumped in Kath’s bakfiets box while were waiting to rejoin the ride after the cargo bike detour (we had to skip an uphill walking segment with barrier). And this mean-looking tomcat left the hood of his lawn car to make friends with Brock of The Sprocket Podcast.

Brock and guard cat

We couldn’t have had better weather. We saw frost on a couple blocks that hadn’t seen sun all day, but otherwise it was sunny and almost warm. I thought I was getting sick later in the day, but it turns out my hot face/flushed cheeks were a slight sunburn. Sunburn in the winter!


Mr. Family Ride joined us (via Amtrak Cascades) Saturday afternoon for an appointment at the Islabikes Fitting Studio. The company is based in the UK and recently opened a by-appointment-only showroom in Portland. I read about Islabikes when they first hit the states and then met Tim and saw the bikes at the Washington Women of Cyclocross Festival last summer. Sadly the kids weren’t with me that morning. My six-year old borrowed a CNOC 16 for the Fiets of Parenthood, but today was a test ride of the two 20-inch models. Note: it’s not necessary to visit the Fitting Studio to test ride–the size chart is very accurate and Tim is happy to help via email or phone.

At the Islabikes Fitting Studio

I’ll write more about the bikes in a future post, but enjoy these pictures of the test track/bike box velodrome in the meantime:

Islabikes test track

Islabikes test track

And if you go in, don’t show up in snow boots. My four-year old (above) test rode in shoes with inordinately high soles.

It was just our luck that the company founder, Isla Rowntree, was visiting town for a week. Always nice to be able to shout “I LOVE YOUR BIKES!” at the person responsible.

Back to reality

On Monday we said goodbye to Portland and its lovely bike infrastructure. Here’s Kath of Portlandize using a crossing button for bikes:

Kath and bike crossing button

And a bike passing lane on the way to the Hawthorne Bridge:

Bike passing lane

But home in Seattle we were met with the familiar sight of a taxi (sometimes delivery truck or regular car) parked halfway in the bike lane and halfway on the sidewalk next to the J.P. Patches and Fab statue. Sigh.

The usual

Of course Portland isn’t without its [very few] faults. You may have noticed the yellow van parked in the bike lanes two photos up. The driver pulled over right before I took my picture. By the time I got alongside, he was walking around to the front of the van, presumably to pop the hood.

And I couldn’t figure out which lane I should use for heading to the BoltBus stop. I know there’s no sidewalk bicycling downtown, but that’s all I know about downtown Portland. The lack of the word “ONLY” made me think I was welcome in the middle lane so I rode six blocks between the rails (aw, just like Westlake at home…not that familiar means good). The left lane was a bit backed up with cars and it didn’t seem very Portland-like to have to be stuck in that.

Biking the Transit Mall (badly)

I asked the Twitterverse once we were on the bus:

so now I know the error of my ways. SW 6th Ave is part of the Portland Transit Mall and I should have been in the left lane and should not have turned right over the rails. Oops. Ideally, I would have gone a bit out of my way and just avoided the Transit Mall.

Something to try out next visit! Miss you already, Portland.

8 thoughts on “Our fifth bike trip to Portland

    • I didn’t ask his name, but it certainly could have been Frankenbike :P He was able to load his bike and trailer just fine! He was taking things apart while we were boarding so I know at the least he disconnected trailer from bike and removed the flag, but he may have broken it down a little more to squeeze it all in. BoltBus is pretty cool–as long as it fits, go for it!

      So not really like an adult bike fit that can involve changing of components to make our rickety old joints happy. The size chart on the Islabikes site has a range of height and inseam for each model and there’s a bit of overlap so during the fitting Tim can help with approximations on how long a certain bike will fit. He talked about how upright the kids sat on each size bike and arm reach to help figure out which bike was the best fit. With either kid, it could have gone big or small so it was nice to get the on-site advice. Though naturally each kid chose the bigger size–more surface area for stickers.

  1. Finally browsed through friends photos on Flickr which reminded me to come read your blog! It was great to get to see you and your family so much. I need to remember to go on fun rides like that when people aren’t visiting. Someday we’ll figure out how to get up there so you can lead us around Seattle.

    • That was so fun! Are you keeping an eye on that calendar? That’s the first step :)
      I’m trying to plot a trip down for the podcast. I pitched the idea of a solo trip, but I think that won’t work. Maybe I shouldn’t have suggested pedaling there and back! (“Do you realize it’s 200 miles away! Do you know what riding even 100 miles is like?” No, of course I don’t! That’s why it sounds fun–ha ha.)

      Your first comment went to moderation–I think because you added your URL. So I approved that one and zapped the second one. Hopefully next time it’ll go straight through. Gotta have you linkable!!

  2. That’s wonderful news about the Bolt Bus. We have a tandem that makes sense for biking vacations (no issues with faster/slower riders) but good luck getting that on the train.

    I don’t see why you’d regard twitter as an authority. I’ll go with the lane markings, if there’s ever any trouble, you can point out the selective use of the word “only”. Till then, alleged ignorance is bliss.

    • Yes, tandem will work on BoltBus, too! Car Free Days has done that. Definitely less stressful if you can travel at non-peak days/times.

      Yeah, the twitterverse is not the authority, but the lazyweb is nice for quick answers :) Now that I know (from reading actual PBOT webpages), I’ll avoid the Transit Mall and enjoy emptier lanes and no pesky rails to worry about slipping me up.

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