Let me start by apologizing that no, it wasn’t a bike move.
Also, you’re not the first to ask ;) I used a PODS (Portable On Demand Storage) portable storage container.
There are many brands of movable storage containers, some that operate only in certain regions, and I’m pleased to report I found my PODS very convenient. Choosing arbitrary dates for the container when booking it was the hardest part, but it ended up working out just fine. I had the container at our house for a week and gradually carried all our stuff into it…alone, because I was too stubborn to ask for help, which I don’t recommend. At one point while collapsing under the king mattress in the basement stairwell for the third time I muttered, “I wish there were two of me!” so do consider using a movable storage container, but also consider enlisting help. Then we camped out in sleeping bags for a week because that’s how long it takes the PODS to make its journey. I traveled down solo by train to meet the PODS and unload (with help for the few big items this time–I learned my lesson) in just a day.
I used the largest of the three container sizes (16 feet, holds 3-4 rooms worth of stuff). Fortunately, my many recent forays to the thrift store to give away years and years of accumulated needless stuff paid off and I was able to fit just about all of our belongings into the one container. I originally booked two, with the smallest of three sizes (7 feet, holds one room worth of stuff) to arrive right after the big one was picked up, but it was easy to cancel the second container as soon I could tell everything would fit in the first PODS.
While I thought I had put just about everything in the PODS it turns out those “just a few essentials” left out to use during the moving process somehow expanded. In addition to my train trip down to meet the PODS, I also took a trip down with my friend Michelle in her Westfalia camper van packed with quite a lot of leftover stuff.
One of the hardest things was deciding which bike to leave out. I wanted to get everything except for my new Brompton folding bike in, but I ended up not being able to fit my Surly Straggler into the PODS (not for lack of hefting, whining, falling, getting scratched, getting chain marks on a bunch of stuff, etc) so that was the bike I left out. That ended up working to my advantage because after the container left I borrowed a Haulin’ Colin trailer (I have the special hitch on my bike already) so I could make one last thrift store run. And then I took the Straggler down on the train (and the Brompton back up).
I ended up renting cars twice for visits to Portland to look for housing with the kids (after a couple solo trips that were easy to do by train and bike). The first time we got stuck with an SUV. I always like getting the smallest car possible for better gas mileage and easier parking. Previously I’ve always refused the “For the same price you can upgrade to a larger vehicle!” thing, but this time it was paired with, “Oh, and your small car won’t be ready for a few hours” and that unexpected delay would have put a big wrench in our plans. At least that made it easy to bring bikes along so our weekend wasn’t all spent in the car.
After so much driving, I couldn’t stomach one more car trip so we made our final move by train. And surprise, surprise, I somehow still had a lot of stuff to carry. I had the Brompton with me and it played the role of luggage cart marvelously. Most notable was when a homeless guy on the last bus leg of our trip (after bus, walk, train, walk, light rail) took one look at me and said, “Wow. I’d been feeling sorry for myself with everything I have to carry, but look at you!” I’m happy to have brightened his day. It pains me that I’m sometimes mistaken for being homeless just because I’m on a bike, but I do like that having a bike along (even when it’s not overloaded) often makes me more approachable to homeless people. It’s not the most apparent way bikes unite people, but it is indeed a thing.
I’ve left behind some amazing friends in Seattle (whom I hope will all come down to visit!) as well as some great bike events that I’m happy to say will all live on in my absence: Kidical Mass with Familybike Seattle, Seattle Critical Lass, and #coffeeoutsideforher. We look forward to visiting Seattle to play bike tourist and see what changes and what stays the same. There are already new protected bike lanes going in downtown!
A couple weeks ago, on Bike Everywhere Day, I took a kid-free/Pixie-free train trip to Portland to carpool with friends to The Dalles for camping and bike riding.
All my photos here: Flickr: Portland/Deschutes River Trail – May, 2017 – 161 photos, 1 video
The impetus for the trip was Life on Two Wheels Marley’s plan to ride the Dalles Mountain 60 with a huge group of women over two days with camping in the middle. It sounded amazing! …except having just done the Dalles Mountain 60 with Pixie in March while carrying more weight than necessary on my bike (in addition to Pixie, that is) and considering I’m still quite a bit out of regular shape from riding a lot less than normal this winter/spring I knew I wasn’t up for it. So instead a few friends (Coffee Kelley, Neighbor Kelly, and Chele) and I made plans for a gear-free (other than snacks) bike ride in the area with plans to visit Marley’s #galsatthedalles group Sunday morning. We would car camp at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area Saturday night after riding one of many scenic loops in The Dalles area. the original plan was to ride either Japanese Hollow or Hastings, but in the end we decided we’d simplify things and just ride out the Deschutes River Trail a bit, turn around, and come back.
It was terrific! And since I tackle everything thinking about how it would be for kids: this would be a nice trail for kids, too! This Oregon Bikepacking post, Deschutes River Trail: An introduction to bikepacking, has terrific descriptions and photos of the trail. It’s nice to know we stopped before the goat heads (very pokey burrs that cause flat tires) got bad and that the rattlesnakes we saw are summertime-only denizens.
We weren’t in a rush and thus got started fairly late in the day after driving over and setting up camp. It was close to 3pm and fairly warm by the time we hit the trailhead.
The trail is mostly flat, save for one big dip where an old bridge was removed. On our way out we saw a mom and three kids coming up the hill–the oldest kid had biked up it and was resting/waiting at the top, the mom was pulling a trailer containing one little kid (!!! trailers are very hard to lug uphill!), and the middle kid was walking his bike up from near the bottom. Taking kids three miles down the trail and turning back before the hill would even be a fun ride, but tackling the hill yields some great scenery on the other side…but, of course, having to descend and climb the hill again on the way back. I found descending the hill more difficult than climbing the hill, but I’m not much of a descender.
Lots of the gravel is the good kind of small hard-packed gravel, but there is also quite a bit of rocky stuff to maneuver around. I rode my Surly Straggler with smooth Compass tires with 38mm of width and they were OK. Neighbor Kelly’s Rivendale Atlantis was the other “narrow” tired bike with 42mm wide Compass tires and Coffee Kelley and Chele rolled on 3-inch fat tires on rigid (no suspension) fat bikes–a Surly ECR and a Bantam adventure bike. We all thought it was pretty bumpy.
Along the trail are several pit toilets (bring toilet paper if you’re visiting outside the high season) down near the river surrounded by open areas for dispersed camping for hikers, bikers, and rafters. This is where the 18 #galsatthedalles camped, but we opted for the luxury of the regular, less-rustic camping at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area campground.
While we didn’t go quite far enough (and I’m not sure how eager I would have been to hike up a steep side trail if we had!) to see the petroglyphs mentioned in the Oregon Bikepacking post, we saw lots of cool stuff.
Abandoned train car! The abandoned train car around mile six provides shade! And it’s fun to explore. It’s very close to a spot with cell phone reception, too.
Puddle! At the bottom of the hill (3.5 miles in) there’s a puddle or two to ride through. Deep enough to splash one’s feet. Related: there are also a couple cow catchers along miles 0-11 in case you’re touring with a Chiweenie (Pixie was running free for portions of the Dalles Mountain 60 and got tripped up by one).
Lava tubes! I think these were a bit past the hill. Remnants of little lava tubes according to Coffee Kelley who knew the most about the region–though the least about rattlesnakes–of all of us.
Old homestead! The old homestead 11 miles in was our turning-around point and a good shady rest spot. Coffee Kelley said last year when she was here the house was upright and she was able to walk up the stairs inside. I hope it doesn’t dilapidate more because it’s beautiful in its current state!
Rattlesnakes! We saw a rattlesnake in the barn by the homestead!!!!!! It was my first rattlesnake; Coffee Kelley’s, too. Neighbor Kelly and Chele both grew up with snakes (not to be confused by “were raised by snakes”). It wasn’t feeling social and slowly slithered away as we took photos. This one never coiled up and rattled. While heading back we passed close to a snake on the side of the trail that did rattle! I pedaled past before I realized what was going on while my three friends stopped behind it to let it move away from the trail. Coffee Kelley took pictures. I took pictures of Coffee Kelley taking pictures from a much safer distance and decided I’d Google “rattlesnake bite treatment” once back to camp with a cell signal.
I was relieved to read that the rattlesnakes are summer attractions. Between that and the heat we experienced, this trail is probably most fun in the spring.
Dispersed campers! We saw a group of teens with a couple counselors bike camping at the farthest (mile 10?) pit toilet. I was so impressed! Especially when I rode out the following morning and saw them returning to civilization, just after they scaled the hill. Go kids!
We encountered the #galsatthedalles group in small batches as we headed back to camp Saturday night and directed them to the camping area by the pit toilet around mile 8. Conveniently the group of teens had left markings in the gravel at the turn off (indicating “No, don’t stop here, continue along” for their own group). We may have been a little excited about our snake sightings and mentioned the possibility of rattlesnakes to each group, but I don’t think we caused any undue fear.
I rode back out the following morning to visit with the #galsatthedalles and found them breakfasting and breaking camp. It turns out they had a car at the trailhead for carrying their gear so I volunteered to carry stuff out on my empty bike since they still had a 30-mile day, including Old Moody Road. I scored two panniers and a shoulder bag. I also scored a pinch flat, boo. But that was the only flat for our small group all weekend.
And that’s that! It was awesome, but as I’m not a big fan of driving places to ride my bike and am perfectly happy with all the places we can reach by pedaling or pedaling plus bike/train/ferry, I’m not sure how soon I’ll be back. Neighbor Kelly pointed out the trail alongside the highway, but it doesn’t go all the way through yet. One can still ride all the way there, but parts of it are along fast-moving highways and parts of it experience stop-and-go traffic with no shoulder for passing near Multnomah Falls.
Just wanted to acknowledge a couple cool new Portland things:
Better Naito is a temporary bike lane I took upon leaving the train station and it’s amazing!
While accompanying Kath of Portlandize on her test ride for her weekend Kidical Mass PDX Treats Ride, we biked next to a contraflow bike lane on SE 34th Ave at Division. Kath said it was residents of that block who had spearheaded the project to fix the problem of people parking in front of their driveways. What an interesting and unexpected reason!
I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight on the way down and the Amtrak Cascades on the way back. I’ve written a comparison of the two trains before: Portland with bike and dog! And Amtrak Coast Starlight vs. Amtrak Cascades and that all remains the same, but there is a new procedure at King Street Station in Seattle: someone walks your bike the looooooooong way down to the baggage car now! I’m not sure if this is only for the Coast Starlight or both trains. The Coast Starlight is much longer so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not for all trains. Also, it’s a very new procedure so despite several different employees warning me that someone would come for my bike at some point–including “in five minutes”–once I got out the door, there was no promised bike pusher so I walked the bike myself. One of the employees (the guy with my first and third warnings) saw me and jumped out of the baggage car to walk the bike the last little bit to facilitate this photo op:
Have you been along the Deschutes River Trail? What was the old homestead like during your visit? Any additional tips?
We spent a super-fun August week in Portland on an e-assisted Douze cargo bike front loading bakfiets style kid hauler provided by Clever Cycles. They have a lot of family/cargo bikes in their rental fleet, but I wanted “The one Elle had and liked so much!”
All the pictures: Portland, OR – August 18-24, 2016: 223 photos.
Thursday, August 18 – 8.2 miles
One nice thing about bringing a bike to Portland is that we have wheels to get to and from the train- or bus stations. We generally take the bus once a month to visit the orthodontist 20 miles away, but we bring bikes so we don’t have to walk a mile or add a second bus transfer. So we’re not the best walkers…especially with luggage. This trip went as expected: walked across the street to catch the bus (easy peasy), then walked a few blocks to the train station where we had the obligatory discussion and investigation for stairs and elevators locations. One kid currently won’t use elevators and I wasn’t about to lug the big wheelie bag down a long flight of stairs so we worked out a plan together (of course interrupted by a helpful stranger letting us know the location of the elevator and my explaining that we were just accommodating the non-elevatoring kid, but thanks!) and split up. Always a fun little adventure and something I always forget is going to crop up. In Portland we had to walk a bunch of blocks from the train station to the bus stop and just missed the bus…but it’s a high-frequency line (does Seattle have that??) so we only had to wait 10 minutes. However, those 10 minutes involved a very curious bee and lots of screaming. And it was really hot. And then we walked two blocks from the bus stop to Clever Cycles and we all survived!
The kids ran straight for the Lego table while I test rode the bike with Leonard, perpetual employee of the month. He’s a stuffed dog my kids have loved since meeting him five years ago during our very first visit to Clever Cycles and if he ever disappears, my firstborn probably stole him. Pic from our first visit to Clever Cycles:
Then I test rode with the kids and they complained that the small box was cramped. It was, but I love riding a bakfiets when in a flatter-than-Seattle city so there was no chance of me swapping for a different bike. p.s. Douze makes three sizes so don’t worry if you’re in the market! And anyway, adding the luggage after they said they were cramped made them appreciate what room they had. Like most things in life, it’s all relative. I grabbed a Yuba Cargo Strap (psst…there’s a hidden cargo strap theme for the week) from Clever Cycles to attach the bag and we were totally fine for the half-mile ride to our Airbnb.
We ate dinner in and since it was only 7pm, we headed back out so I could show the kids Tilikum Crossing: Bridge of the People, the largest car-free bridge in the United States. I’ve been down to Portland a few times without the kids recently and have crossed the bridge countless times, but this was their first time. Super fun!
And then we joined the Thursday Night Ride for the first half hour. I saw a bunch of people I know and was surprised to see a few Seattleites! Turns out there were a bunch of people in town for the International Open Streets Summit. There are always a lot of amazing bike things to see in Portland, but I think the most amazing sight tonight was the guy with the parrot and Pomeranian on his bike.
Friday, August 19 – 10.6 miles
We attempted to start our day with second breakfast at Slappy Cakes (griddles built into all the tables–so dangerous, the kids love it!), but the wait was too long so we hit the playground in Laurelhurst Park to kill enough time until Bricks & Minifigs opened. But first, speaking of killing things, the e-assist went out! At the bottom of a hill! Less than 24 hours with the thing and I was smitten so I sucked it up and begged the kids to walk uphill for one block as I pedaled up and we went about our day with plans to return to Clever Cycles in the afternoon. Portland is fairly flat, but any incline is noticeable with an unassisted cargo bike (I can appreciate any and all hills on my Big Dummy, for instance), so I was relieved we were uphill from everything else once we got up that block.
Let me tell you about Bricks & Minifigs: bins of used Lego bricks sold by volume! Tons of individual pieces ($3 seal yay! $9 pig I will never stop calling “The $9 pig, ugh”)! Current sets! Retired sets! Party rooms! Apparently they’re building one in Seattle!
Oh, and Fred saw me post on Facebook that we were here so he came by to say hi. So easy to pop around the corner from work when you’ve got your bike at your disposal.
After lunch at slightly lower elevation, we hit Clever Cycles while the kids played with more Legos and I swapped the e-RAD mid drive Douze for one with a BionX. Pretty similar, though I thought the e-RAD felt more powerful. But the BionX has a boost button for picking up speed from a stop, which is great for getting going through an intersection since the e-assist doesn’t kick in until you’ve started moving. Extra helpful with a heavy cargo bike.
Then we visited Books with Pictures for comic books and to visit owner Katie Proctor, who is wonderful for a lot of reasons, but I find most notable for the awesome wooden boxes on her Yuba Mundo longtail cargo bike for holding an infant carseat. The store is new, this was my second visit and the kids’ first. Apparently the block was an auto body shop before so there’s no curb, just a block-long driveway. Which means no bike racks yet, until the curb goes in. But this is Portland so I bet that will happen soon. And the building is pretty and modern with AIR CONDITIONING which was really nice on this hot day. Katie arranged the front display with books all set in cold or watery places. How fun!
Dinner was at McMenamins Barley Mill Pub with kid menu and bike corral (I guess most Portland restaurants have bike corrals next to them now so it might not even be worth mentioning) via a spin around Ladd Circle because there are two cute dog sharrows.
Saturday, August 20 – 16.7 miles
And then the main event: Kidical Mass!
It was extremely hot out so our group was small: we three on our Douze, Ginger with her visiting sister and one of her two kids on her Circe Helios tandem bike (from Clever Cycles) with Burley Piccolo trailer bike, and Cory and daughter on their longboards.
We had a wonderful ride and ended at a water park, thank goodness!
After parting ways with friends we paid a visit to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center train museum. This used to be our main reason for visiting Portland, but it’s been years since we were all about trains. It’s conveniently across the street from Rivelo so we still often end up near it, even if we don’t go in. The old engines are all inside and there are potties, drinking fountains, tables and chairs for snacking at, and couches by the train tables and fans so it was a great escape from the heat.
We meandered home via the grocery store and a few murals. This sort of bike makes it particularly easy to stop and check out mural after mural without the kids getting impatient.
Sunday, August 21 – 9.4 miles
Sunday was the Southeast Sunday Parkways open streets event and IT WAS AMAZING. There were so many bikes (and our two skateboarding friends) out and wonderful activities at all the parks. The kids did rock climbing, bunny petting, and bounce houses, we stopped in at a house party, I tried a BIKETOWN bike share bike.
We biked most of course, starting at Laurelhurst Park and making our way clockwise around to Colonel Summers Park. It was everything an open streets event should be, and a lot bigger than Seattle Summer Parkways and Seattle Bicycle Sundays. Not only was it longer, better attended, and packed with more activities, there were no cars! The Seattle events are more sort-of-open streets events with too few volunteers and inattentive police officers keeping some of the cars out. A friend told me that Portland originally had a similar system, but now uses construction traffic controllers who love getting waves and thank yous at Summer Parkways versus less grateful feedback from people in cars during their usual gigs. It’s really worth a trip down, and we’ll try to visit again for one next summer.
As we rested at Colonel Summers Park, getting a last bounce house bounce session in and watching everything get packed up, I watched another group of families quickly pack up to hit the road so they could be home before the cars were allowed back. It was a good reminder that not everyone feels comfortable biking on roads shared with cars and how important these events are.
We did a little more sharing car areas on our way home and visited the Burgerville drive through since bikes are allowed!
Monday, August 22 – 22.1 miles
We started our day at Slappy Cakes–no wait on a Monday!
Then we visited OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) which is always fun, and nice for hiding from the heat, it turns out.
After OMSI we headed back across the Willamette for an appointment at the Islabikes Fitting Studio so my seven-year old could try out the Pro Series. He’s in between sizes so he zoomed around on the smallish 20-inch model with flat bars, but didn’t want to try the too-big 24-inch since he doesn’t like drop bars. We’ll stick with the regular series, but the Pro Series is super cool for more serious riders than us.
That wasn’t quite enough kid biking, though, so we checked out the Lumberyard Bike Park. My seven-year old LOVED it and quickly made friends with a regular and they disappeared for an hour while I stuck to the warm up track (me on foot) with my more cautious nine-year old. It’s mostly indoor, but there’s an outdoor section the little kids explored and when we couldn’t locate them at the end of our hour, I discovered there’s a basement area, too. I don’t think I ever want to try it, but the kids had a blast.
Tuesday, August 23 – 21.2 miles
First up was another bike shop visit–Metropolis Cycles–and another cargo strap purchase–Surly Junk Strap this time. But we were really there because the kids decided I needed a bell and Metropolis was on the way to Dawson Park which was on the way to lunch with friends at Hopworks BikeBar. BikeBar is awesome for kids and adults alike. Lots of outdoor seating, as well as a little play kitchen. And there’s a stationary bike out front for powering the restaurant…though kids aren’t supposed to pedal it (shh!).
Then I took the kids up Rocky Butte to see the awesome view. I’d been up once without them when I was visiting town for the Urban Cycling book signing party at Clever Cycles. I was on my Straggler with a borrowed kid that time.
We hadn’t been up Rocky Butte long before the kid who isn’t currently willing to pee on trees needed to visit a restroom so I examined the map on my phone and we rushed down to nearby Glenhaven Park. Had I not been on the awesome e-assist bike I would have whined a little, but I figured we could easily bike back uphill after the potty visit. As it was, we ended up hanging at the playground for a long time and went straight from there to ice cream with friends.
I’m sad to see The Maple Parlor is closed because it was terrific! I particularly liked that you pay up front and then pile on the heavy toppings–no weighing involved. It’s right on Hawthorne, providing good people watching and Dingo of Olive & Dingo: Portland’s Favorite Clowns cruised by on his tallbike.
I took advantage of having a box bike for our last stop of the day and left the kids idling outside while I picked up to-go sushi.
Wednesday, August 24 – 0.7 miles
I crammed kids and luggage onto the bike for breakfast at nearby Tiny’s Coffee before returning the bike to Clever Cycles. Kath was a dear and carried my suitcase on her bakfiets while Kelley walked with us. This was just a few blocks to the bus stop, mind you, but you’ll remember we’re not accomplished walkers so it was plenty. It was great to have company.
What a trip! HUGE THANKS to Clever Cycles for the use of the Douze. We were able to cover 90 miles over the week and go everywhere and do everything! I’m eagerly waiting for winter to be over so we can plan another visit. Obvs, Portland is visitable in the winter and we do that, too, but I want another visit like this one.
I made a fairly last-minute decision to head down to Portland for the weekend with Pixie. Then I made an even-more-last-minute decision to take my mountain bike instead of my Surly Straggler, thinking the knobby 26″ x 1.95″ tires would be better than the 700c x 38 mm slick but supple Barlow Pass Compass Tires on my Straggler because Portland is absolutely covered in snow. I found a pet-friendly Airbnb that was close-in so I wouldn’t have to do too much biking and could ditch the bike and walk if need be.
All my photos are here: Portland snow with Pixie – January 13-15, 2017 – 105 photos, 2 videos
Mountain bike as travel bike
I stayed up late after the kids were asleep Wednesday night to transfer the bags I keep on my road bike to pretend it’s a travel bike to my old GT I-Drive 2.0 mountain bike to pretend it’s a travel bike. I used to mountain bike (very poorly) in San Diego occasionally, but these days this bike mostly gathers dust in the basement. It comes out for our very occasional snow (like biking in 2012’s snowmageddon) and for my first mountain biking in 10 years last summer (still extremely slow and cautious, but super fun!)
The Carradice Bagman Quick Release Support went on easily, but the KLICKfix mount for my Swift Industries Paloma Handlebar Bag is sized for my road bike bars covered in bar tape so I shimmed it with lots and lots of old inner tube. [NOW I know inner tube should not be used as a shim.] I also swapped out my clipless pedals for flats and took a little Knog Blinder light from one of the kids’ bikes to put on my fork since I couldn’t fit anything else on the bars with the Portland Pogies handlebar mittens on. I brought my CygoLight in case I could figure out where to mount it (with plenty of spare old inner tube, of course).
On Thursday I took a shakedown ride to REI. This meant my mountain bike visited the I-5 Colonnade Mountain Bike Park for the first time! I didn’t do any mountain biking because it’s too technical for me. But I took a picture:
I also didn’t ride the gravel test track at REI. I guess technically I was test riding a bike (just not one of their bikes), but I was also in a hurry and only there on an errand.
The front bag worked great! The pedals stayed on! The rear bag, however… It looks like there’s a lot of clearance between the rack and tire, but that rear shock is really squishy.
As I pedaled home and heard rubbing over each unnoticed bump (tiny bumps, even!) it occurred to me that I’ve heard the phrase “lock out one’s shock” so I Googled that when I got home, but it turns out I don’t have that kind of shock. I considered taking my Straggler after all, but decided to pack even lighter than I was already forced to pack (handlebar bag + saddle bag is a lot smaller than two large panniers) and cinch the bag around the middle with a John’s Irish Strap. This helped on the tiny bumps a lot. And getting out of the saddle for medium and big bumps worked for those. There was still a bit of rubbing here and there on bumps I failed to notice ahead of time.
Once I loaded the front bag with lots of stuff–that’s my laptop in a cloth diapering dry bag (waterproof! I use this large size for swim suits) cargo netted on top of the bag–the bag started to droop. Fortunately I didn’t notice this until I got off the train in Portland so I wasn’t worried about it for the long train ride.
First thing Saturday morning I hit the closest bike shop, Crank, to see if they had something better than inner tubes for me. Justin was SO NICE and instructed me that inner tubes should never be used as shims (shh, I’m still gonna use them for little things like bells) and found an old mount that uses the same sort of brackets and installed those.
So now my bike was sorted. Without the Straggler’s front basket, Pixie was forced to travel in her Timbuk2 Muttmover backpack the whole trip. This was probably better considering the slippery snow.
Amtrack Coast Starlight vs. Amtrak Cascades part two/Amtrak with pet part two
I recently took my first Amtrak Coast Starlight trip and compared it to Amtrak Cascades. I gleaned a bit more information about the Coast Starlight and about traveling with pets.
First: you get two seats when you travel with a pet! I thought it was an accident on the way down, but on the way back the conductor told me that it’s for safety since there’s no legroom with the pet down there (not so if the pet is in one’s lap, of course, but them’s the rules so I got an empty seat next to me each way). Reading Amtrak’s All Aboard, Pets page, it looks like perhaps that’s only an Amtrak Cascades thing and maybe the extra seat on the way down shouldn’t have been.
Second: Coast Starlight will bring food to you! From the Coast Starlight webpage:
“…Just-for-You Express Meal Service, where coach passengers can select from a limited daily menu featuring specially priced, freshly prepared lunch and dinner selections with the convenience of at-seat delivery.”
This is especially great when traveling with a pet, although earlier I stuck her in the backpack to walk to the cafe for a coffee. The lunch this day was a BLT with chocolate chip cookie and bottled water (and easy enough to skip the bottled water and utensils to cut down on trash/recycling).
Obviously, I’m not a regular snowbiker/icebearder so this is not the place for all things biking in snow.
I have only one interesting observation: fighting to stay upright on a mountain bike in unpacked snow is not unlike stubbornly refusing to put a foot down while inching along behind two circuitous toddlers on balance bikes on a cargo bike in gravel.
So the snowy snow felt familiar, but I still hate ice. I slipped and fell to the ground once on Saturday. After that I successfully hopped clear of my tipping bike three times. Pixie was unscathed and seemed not to even notice my fall and jumps.
I got a bit better at recognizing surfaces too icy to ride over, but I still fell a few times on Sunday, too. The first I went down hard on my elbow and expect to see a nice bruise soon. That was as I realized I was on a hill (steeper than the very slight icy downhill that felled me so many times the day before) that had turned from snow on top of ice to just ice and as I VERY VERY SLOWLY applied my brakes to dismount and walk, down I went. But I got pretty good at choosing spots to slow to a stop and get off to walk. Walking isn’t easy on the ice, either, but using the mountain bike as a outrigger to help balance made it a lot easier. I never fell while walking the bike, but I got off the ice as quickly as I could (and by quickly I mean very slowly, but via the most direct route).
Sunday was slushier than Saturday, but there was also more ice. Most my falls were on sheets of glassy ice, but running up against the icy edges of ruts was wobble inducing, too.
All weekend people kept talking about Seattle’s snow plows having come down to Portland to help plow the roads. I didn’t much evidence of plowed roads, though. I think the streets too busy for me to ride on were plowed, but that didn’t mean they were clear of snow as this non-snow-experienced visitor would have expected, rather the snow was packed down much more in the roads than it was on the sidewalks.
If I lived somewhere snowy, I’d love to have a set of studded snow tires. Of course I can’t say that I’d bike as often in the winter if it was snowy. It’s still faster than walking and more reliable than transit (the bus app in Portland temporary replaced “minutes away” with “distance away” since it’s impossible to predict in these conditions) so I have a feeling I’d stick with biking. I certainly wouldn’t want to drive in these conditions–eek!
I really didn’t ride much either day: 5.8 miles on Saturday and 7.9 miles on Sunday (divided into three trips: 4.4 miles + 1.5 miles + 2 miles). Had the streets been clear, I would have done more stuff, but for a last-minute trip and tiring snow, this was just perfect.
One cold-weather thing I think I finally got figured out is keeping my phone running. I keep my iPhone 5s in a LifeProof case at all times (waterproof and shockproof for those of us who have dropped phones in toilets and on hard cement) and attach it to my handlebars with a LifeProof Bike + Bar Mount so I can listen to the Google Maps app tell me where to go. My previous phone, an iPhone 4s worked better in the cold and would shut off when the battery was at 20% on very cold days. This phone seems to do the same at 50% battery. It seems to work slightly better if it’s doing something–like giving me directions or playing music. But keeping it plugged into an external battery (I have a RAVPower Deluxe that has a little built-in flashlight I’ve never used other than accidentally turning it on and blinding myself, but it might come in useful someday) kept me running all weekend.
And just to give a shout-out to all the fun places I visited, here’s what we did…
As previously mentioned, I started Saturday with a visit to Crank. This is a great bike shop! Lots of cool bikes, including Public Bikes in adult and kid sizes. And a dad came in with an Islabikes that needed its rear wheel trued from excessive jumping and skidding (that sounds familiar!). Also exciting was my happening to be in on the day of the soft opening of pop-up in-store coffee by Foxy Coffee Company. Great coffee and the best hot chocolate. Look for them popping up all around Portland.
Next up I went to Clever Cycles to meet up with friends. While there I got a Problem Solvers Handlebar Accessory Mount like I’ve seen on a friend’s bars to get her light up above her Paloma bag. It was nice to have it on the mountain bike for this trip, but it’s really for using on my road bike once home.
Kath met me with her daughter on her Bike Friday Haul-a-Day midtail and my best-friend-from-when-I-was-little-who-moved-to-Portland-a-year-ago-yay! Miwa came by bus from her southwest Portland neighborhood. We walked our bikes a couple blocks to Lardo because it has a big heated tent where Pixie was welcome. And it’s delicious!
We left our bikes there and walked a few blocks to Upper Left Roasters (because they’re at the upper left corner of Ladd’s Addition, says Kath). I had the special, a maple turmeric latte, to combat the tiredness brought on by being out in the cold. The cold is really sapping my energy this winter! I don’t remember it being so bad in the past, but I’m sure I’ve just blocked it out for survival’s sake.
Miwa hopped back on the bus and Kath bravely led the way to Rivelo. No falls, but we had to walk in some deep sections and over rails. I love Rivelo. I picked up some more John’s Irish Straps because they’re great for everything, including giving away to friends, so I don’t have enough to hold all my stuff on. They also have two sets of Portland Pogies, the handlebar mittens I like so much. And several signed copies of my book, Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living.
Did I mention the cold makes me tired? I got home at 6 and was done for the day. I thought about calling in a to-go order at bike-friendly (and with dog-friendly outdoor heated seating, too!) Pambiche Cocina & Repostería Cubana around the corner, but I couldn’t even muster the energy for that. Packing light meant I didn’t have snacks for 20, but I still had snacks for me so I survived the evening without outside food.
“Rose City Food Park also welcomes dogs, big and small, with plenty of space for walking, potty break and fresh water bowls.”
It was too cold to stay and eat more than a couple bites on site, but we’ll be back after the thaw.
Since I was close to Velo Cult bike shop/bar/coffee shop I swung by to take a picture of my bike by the mural, even though they weren’t open yet. This would have been the perfect place to bring Pixie Saturday night (with food brought in from a nearby take-out place) had the streets been clear.
Then after packing up and checking out, back to Lardo with Kath–because I didn’t know of a similarly warm Pixie-friendly place, but mostly because I couldn’t stop thinking about the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup Miwa had the day before.
In nice weather I would take one of my favorite two bridges and a trail to get to the train station: either Eastblank Esplanade to Steel Bridge or Tilikum Crossing to Waterfront Park Trail, but I doubted the trails would be passable so I opted for the Hawthorne Bridge and Naito Parkway. It was OK–mostly slush and some ice. The bikeway/walkway over the bridge the salted and clear (well, half of it).
Things were really slushy downtown…from more cars and buses? There were even some proper puddles to ride through.
It was a wonderful visit and this small dose of snow was fun, but I’m happy to be home in warmer Seattle. Next up for Portland is thawing and flooding. Good luck!
So much new! Amtrak Coast Starlight recently started allowing roll-up bike service (previously bikes had to be boxed) and while I’ve heard from lots of people that the Coast Starlight often runs late, I couldn’t pass up a chance to give it a go because all our past trips have been aboard the Amtrak Cascades line. Also, PETS CAN RIDE NOW! Just small pets, but my pet is small! LOOK: Pets are free if you book in the next few days! Otherwise it’s $25. So I packed up bike and dog and headed down to Portland for a weekend recently: Coast Starlight on the way down, Cascades line on the way back up.
|Amtrak Coast Starlight||Amtrak Cascades|
|Usually runs late||Often runs late|
|Loooooooong train||Short and sweet train|
|No Wi-Fi||Patchy Wi-Fi|
|Observation car!||No observation car|
|Stairs!||All one level|
|Restrooms are down a flight of stairs||Restrooms at end of each car|
|Seatmates are traveling to Los Angeles||End of the line is only Portland or Eugene|
|Tons of legroom, seats recline||Bus/airline amount of legroom|
My loaded-up Surly Straggler:
How dogs ride
Pixie was required to be in a carrier while moving around the train, but it was OK for her to sit on my lap–though not directly on a seat–so I used the backpack for boarding and walking around the train (to and from observation car, restroom, and cafe).
The long walk from the baggage car
The first thing I noticed as I wheeled my bike halfway to Tacoma to reach the baggage car at the front of the train was that this was a loooooong train. Amtrak Cascades is short with the baggage car at the back, right by station. I’m not sure this is intentional for passengers with bikes, but I’ve always been seated in one of the closest two cars. I upgraded to business class once when it was really cheap, but after having to lug my heavy panniers the length of the Amtrak Cascades train I realized it wasn’t worth it. This train was sooooo much longer than that. I really don’t like carrying my panniers around, but stronger people, or those with lighter panniers, might not think this is worth consideration.
Coast Starlight only offers Wi-Fi in business class. I’m not sure if Cascades’ patchy Wi-Fi is better or worse, though. I always think I’ll get tons of stuff done aboard the train and spend most the time frustrated at the Internet connection. I’ll admit it was relaxing leaving my laptop off, but it might keep me from using the Coast Starlight unless I’m going farther than Portland.
Look at all those windows!
Amtrak Cascades has additional seating in the cafe and dining cars, but I’ve only once scored a seat. This observation car was huge with plenty of available seating.
It’s like a real train! There are stairs! Very narrow stairs. And the restrooms are all downstairs so you don’t get to stay up top once you’re up. There’s some seating downstairs, but it looked pretty dark and lonely.
Really reclining seats
There is tons of legroom because the seats almost fully recline. There are sleeper cars, too, and were I traveling all the way to Los Angeles with the kids (which I think would be fun, but exhausting), I’d want to splurge on one of those, but a lot of long-distance passengers opted to ride in the cheap seats. It was neat sitting with people embarking on such a big trip. The woman next to me was on her way to LA and said they wouldn’t arrive until 9pm the following night (or probably later considering we were over an hour late to Portland).
One last thing
One cool thing about having the baggage car at the front of the train is that there’s a great view out the back. The view of one’s bike hanging in the dark baggage car at the back of Amtrak Cascades is cool in a different way, but this view is out-of-a-train-movie cool, right?
The weekend itself was really fun and I’ll try to write it up soon(ish), but in the meantime, all my photos are here: Portland with Pixie – October 21-23, 2016 – 269 photos
I hope it’s common knowledge that I love all types of cargo bikes and strongly believe that you can’t go wrong. If you’re drawn to a certain bike–even for inexplicable reasons–go for it! Odds are you won’t regret it, but if you do, bikes are certainly a lot easier to resell and try again than are cars.
That said, I LOVE LONGTAILS. Especially my own Surly Big Dummy. For all the reasons stated in the video. These days, I’m quite fond of their “LONG-evity ;)” referred to at 0:58 in the video. It’s easy for me to fit two (or three if I find an extra) kids on my deck as well as carry along their two bikes. With room for additional stuff in the cargo bags and our doggie in the front basket. That’s not to say longjohns can’t do this, too (especially with the Caddyrack rear rack by Cycletrucks), but longtails are exceptionally good at it.
Like the more-well-spoken version of me in the video says, Clever Cycles has a big selection of longtails and other cargo bikes (and folding bikes…and kid bikes…and plain old regular bikes…and kid play corner…and kid-friendly restroom) if you’re in or visiting Portland.
I’ve traveled to Portland from Seattle via BoltBus before (three round trips!), but it’s been over two years. BoltBus can accommodate a longtail cargobike if there’s room whereas Amtrak Cascades only allows regular bikes weighing under 50 pounds (so my 75-pound longtail would need to go into two separate boxes to travel on the train. And Amtrak Coast Starlight doesn’t allow roll-on service so all bikes need to travel in boxes). But the train takes $5 bike reservations so when I have a choice, I choose to take a regular bike on the train. This trip was originally scheduled to be an Amtrak trip with regular bike, but I ended up needing to bring the big bike (though I was traveling without the kids) so I switched things up at the last moment and did some breathing exercises to prepare myself for the eventuality that there might not be room…BoltBus is awesome, but BoltBus makes me nervous!
And here’s the Flickr gallery of 84 photos from this trip.
Traveling solo meant for a lot less luggage (and a ton less snacks) than previous cargo bike/BoltBus trips: the blue bag on my FlightDeck contains three days worth of clothing, the black messenger bag contains my laptop and rain gear, and the big blue thing in the FreeLoader bag on the side of my bike is my longboard skateboard because why not? It’s hard not to fill up that free cargo space.
Loading went well! The bus was half empty so the driver let me have the middle of three luggage bays to myself (and later had standby passengers fill in around it). I had stripped my bike down of all easily removed bits (Hooptie rails from the sides, two-bike tow hitch from the back) so the widest thing behind the handlebars was my Rolling Jackass centerstand…which scraped horribly as a shoved it into the bus and a kind woman helped me lift and shove–a first! In retrospect, I should have used the skateboard to help roll it in…that’s how I’ve always moved furniture around the house, after all!
Not that I come to Portland for the weather, but I’ll admit I prefer when it’s not wet and not cold. I checked my favorite app, Dark Sky (I don’t usually purchase apps, but this is totally worth $3.99, and no, I don’t want to learn to read a free weather map) and knew I’d have ten dry minutes upon arrival. Unfortunately I wasted many of those minutes loading my bike back up and then posing for my TimerCam Pro app (also worth paying for–$1.99) on my favorite bridge, Tilikum Crossing.
My aim was a bit off–I thought I was pinching the words “TILIKUM CROSSING”. Also, it hailed a little while I was standing there so I arrived to Rivelo quite bedraggled, which isn’t the best way to present oneself the day before a book reading about urban cycling (including lots of information about rain gear!).
I continued my rounds, popping in at Islabikes (such great kid bikes!) and Clever Cycles, where I got my rear brake tightened up and my broken front-wheel stabilizer replaced (with the last Hebie one in America! Well, maybe. Probably.)…which made shoving the bike into the BoltBus on the way home quite a bit easier (no scraping RJ as the handlebars tracked in level).
And then the reason for bringing the longboard…
I met up with Ginger of Biking While Fashionable (psst, they’ve also taken a Big Dummy on BoltBus) to check out PDX Dance Dance Revolution Session #1, a longboard skateboard dance party. They intend for it to be a weekly event, Fridays 5:30 p.m. at Alberta City Park. I got to carry one of the two kids there, which was awesome, because it’s silly to have that big deck with no people or bookcases on it.
Later on, I fetched my Seattleite friend, Alyssa, from the final train of the day–she, too, left her kids behind, but also left longtail behind, thus the train rather than bus.
And the next morning we had SUN! Look at that!
And this was why I brought the big bike…I met with Laura and Russ of Path Less Pedaled to be part of a video about longtail cargo bikes for Clever Cycles. Super fun! I needed multiple takes, but my bike and book got it right the first time. Natural stars!
Last time I was down in Portland with my Surly Straggler (a normal-sized bike I took on Amtrak), I Instagrammed a picture of the bike on Car2Go bike rack because Portland has bike racks on Car2Go and no one else does. The crowd went wild! So this time we took a silly photo of my way-too-big Big Dummy on a rack. Totally doesn’t work.
And then on to the other main purpose of the visit, Urban Cycling book reading at Rivelo! Rivelo is such a cool shop. Lots of my friends ride gorgeous Rivendell bikes and they carry tons of cool smaller items, too. I got my first-ever pocket knife last visit (which I used on a recent bike daytrip I intend to blog about soon) and this time I got a John’s Irish Strap, named after John Bennett of Rivelo.
The reading was fun! And there are signed copies of the book at Rivelo still so go grab one! They make terrific gifts, wonderful for your interested-in-biking-but-not-sure-how-to-get-started friends just in time for spring and Bike Month.
On Sunday, Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League took me on a tour of North Portland (thanks Shawn!). The tour outlasted my Garmin battery by a teensy bit, but here’s 20 miles of NoPo fun, including a little Statue of Liberty, Skidmore Bluffs, Kelley Point Park, the street above the off-road section of 2013 Portland DRT (spot of possibly my favorite photo ever, by @mybagisbigger), Chimney Park/Pier Park, and Cathedral Park under the St Johns Bridge.
The BoltBus trip back to Seattle the following morning was the smoothest one yet. There were a lot of people waiting to board which made me a little nervous, but the bus driver saw my bike and cheerfully told me to load it before anyone else shoved in their bags. Wow, that was a first!
And soon enough I was back home, to a land where the drawbridges raise much more often. Oh, there’s one now…
The kids and I plan to take BoltBus and the longtail up to Vancouver for Easter weekend, but it’s too early to book yet…another benefit of Amtrak and its much more advance calendar. And I’d like to visit Portland during Pedalpalooza for the first time, maybe once with kids and cargo bike on BoltBus and once with no kids and regular bike on Amtrak.