Down Front Street - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

March 19, 2020

Down Front Street

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The morning coffee coursing through her veins, Rocky is alert and ready for our morning team meeting.  She’s been ready for hours really, having arisen early after a fitful night’s sleep because she couldn’t lie comfortably on her injured side.

We have a pair of items to discuss today.  First, we reluctantly agree that it is time to abandon our entire planned tour of the southwest and start cancelling a slew of lodging reservations.  We’ll save the details of our planned tour though.  Who knows?  We could be doing this in the fall, if Europe is out of the question still.

Then, we turn to our focus to the local alternate destinations we’ve been considering: The Dalles, Walla Walla, Pullman, John Day, Yreka.  We have ten weeks to fill before our next booking here in Portland.  We’d been speculating that we might make a loop through all of them, staying about two weeks at each; but that sounds too flighty now.

We narrow our list.  We’re already booked at The Dalles through the end of the month, and after that we decide to stay in John Day for the whole month of April and then move on to somewhere around Pullman in May.   We book ourselves for John Day first because it has fewer options available and we want to claim a place while it’s still available.  We’ll wait for awhile to decide about Pullman though, because who knows if we’ll even be allowed to cross the border into Washington by then?

We’re really warming to this idea though.  A month in John Day sounds like it could be great, and we’ve found a perfect looking cottage with all the essentials - kitchen, W/D, cable TV, WiFi.  Close to downtown, two blocks from the river.  It looks like an ideal place to hide out for awhile.

Then, I’m off for an errand run in the Jetta: I drop off the Straggler at the Bike Gallery for a check-up, and then drive out by the airport to pick up the indoor trainer.  As I drive, I reflect on how grateful we are that Bruce and Andrea convinced us two years ago to keep the Jetta and just leave it with them while we were out of the region.  It’s really helpful to have it available now.

While I’m running errands, Rachael leaves for the first of two long walks she’ll take today.  She’s got a pair of achy, abraded joints but is otherwise feeling fine.  She’ll put in twelve miles before the end of the day.

She’s fine.
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Today’s ride

Today’s ride doesn’t amount to much.  It’s not my fault though; I blame the birds.  I don’t get started until early afternoon and only have about three hours available before I’m due back for Date Night; but when I leave the apartment I get held up immediately when I see the shadows of small birds in flight.  It takes me awhile to see where they’re coming from, but I finally spot some chickadees flitting through the trees above.  I cross the street to get on the right side of them and spend the next ten or fifteen minutes trying to get a decent shot of one.

What an exercise in futility!  Chickadees don’t stand still for long.  They’re tiny birds, and it takes awhile to zoom in on and focus on them.  By the time I finally find one in the frame, it zips off.  A bit embarrassed about making a spectacle of myself I finally give up, make do with what I’ve got, and head down to the waterfront.

Such a delightful bird, but impossible to photograph from any distance. Maybe I’ll get lucky and see one close up one of these days.
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Jen GrumbyThere's a chickadee that has been checking out the birdhouse by our living room window. If it decides to move in, I'll see if I can get a good photo.
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2 months ago

I don’t get far though.  I cross the Hawthorne Bridge and start following the river up the east bank, thinking I’ll bike north toward Kelley Point, but I’m stopped by a cormorant fishing close in to shore.  I pull out the camera but he immediately plunges under.  I wait for what feels like a full minute before he suddenly reappears, tips his beak straight up, and swallows a fish half as long as his neck.

The green eyed double-crested cormorant, on the Portland waterfront.
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Seems a bit silly to hold up traffic and exercise the Morrison Bridge for that little guy.
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The cherry grove is at its peak, maybe just past. This is a four bridge shot. Front to back: the Burnside, the Steel (black, barely visible); the Broadway, and the Fremont.
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At this point, my ride plan has more or less broken down.  I’m not sure if I’ll still have time to ride out to Kelley Point and make it back in time for Date Night, so I decide to just go with the flow - I’ll just keep following the bank of the river for as far as makes sense.  I cross back to the other bank over the Steel Bridge and continue north along the bike path.  Right away, I’m stopped by another silly bird.  This time it’s an English sparrow, bathing itself in dust beside the river.  He keeps rolling over in the dust, righting himself, and beating his wings.  I try taking a photo of this, but it’s all such a blur of feathers and dust that none of the shots really works.  He looks best just lying still between spasms for a moment.  

After that I move on a few more blocks and find a pair of Oregon Juncos hopping about in the shadows, snapping up seeds.  This is another exercise in futility as I keep hoping they’ll come out of the shadows and into the better light.  Finally I give it up and move on.  Almost an hour into the ride, I’ve biked only about three or four miles and have only a few so-so photos to show for it.

English sparrow at rest, briefly.
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A female Oregon junco, a subspecies of the Dark-eyed Junco. The males have a darker hood and browner back than this.
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The next mile is a surprise to me, although Rachael’s been mentioning it to me for awhile.  The waterfront here just continues its new construction, with one new high rise residential development after another lining the river.   As it marches downriver it’s bringing new pedestrian and biking infrastructure with it. There must be almost a half mile of new, attractive, accessible waterfront now.

The newly accessible waterfront north of the Fremont Bridge. Two years ago the riverside path stopped at the other side of the bridge.
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Looking across to the east bank, at the area around the Union Pacific switchyard.
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Beyond that though we’re back into the Port of Portland industrial zone that is gradually giving way to Portland’s fast growing population.  I’ve never really biked through here, but today as I bike north along Front Street I stop along the way to take a look at spots that might disappear in the coming years.

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The Schoolhouse Electrical & Supply Company.
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Imperial Paints
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So naive!
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Below the west hills.
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Looking down the huge factory of Greenbrier Gunderson, one of the leading designers and manufacturers of railroad freight cars in the country.
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Words to live by.
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Finally, I come to the end of the road.  I’ve never biked out to the end of Front Street, and am surprised to see that it continues as far as the railway bridge, just south of Saint Johns.  Along the way there are fractured views of the scenic east bank, with the University of Portland prominent up atop Waud’s Bluff.  But there’s no spot you can get any kind of decent view because it’s all walled and fenced off on this bank by a procession of one industrial scene after another - factories, cranes, rail yards, tank farms.  A pretty polluted, grimy quadrant really, but all this industry has to go somewhere, doesn’t it?  

Finally I reach the rail bridge, take the best shot I can, and head back home.   if you’re at all interested in bridges you might read more bout it in this Wikipedia article.  It has a colorful and interesting history, and you might think differently about it the next time you drive by or ride across it on Amtrak.  

The road continues beneath the bridge, but then immediately is barricaded at the private, guarded grounds of another industrial compound.  A guard watches me with some concern, so I swing by to chat with him for a moment before turning homeward.

Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1. Built in 1908, it was a swing span design, and at the time its swing span was the longest in the world. It was replaced by a lift span in 1989, and now has one of the widest and highest lift spans in the world.
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Ron SuchanekIve ridden across that old bridge many times on the Amtrak, hoping each time that the Cascadia subduction zone would hold out for a few more minutes.
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2 months ago

Date Night

Rachael and I are tired of being cooped up already, and decide to take in dinner and a show - literally.  Portland is rapidly adapting to the closure of its sit-down restaurant facilities, and many of them are converting to take-out services.  Tonight we decide to patronize a fish house we like, and order ourselves a grilled salmon dish for Rachael, grilled chicken for me, and a walnut and blue cheese salad to share.  We were disciplined and passed on the cheesecake, but maybe next time.  When I pick up the order at the bar, I‘m informed that all tips are going into a piggy bank, to be distributed equally to all of the staff once normal business resumes.

When we sit down to our feast, I find that they’ve screwed up my order and we both have salmon.  Fine with me though - it’s delicious.  Halfway through our meal, the phone rings.  It’s the restaurant.  They realized their mistake somehow, and offer to make amends by delivering a chicken dish to our door.  Not necessary of course, but we appreciate the gesture.

We love live music, and patronize local artists whenever we get the chance.  Performing arts are in crisis everywhere now of course, and it’s especially hard for independent artists whose entire source of income has disappeared overnight.

So we were delighted a few days ago to get an email from Tony Furtado, a local musician we like who lives with his wife Stephanie Schneiderman, also a performing musician.  Tony is staging virtual house concerts every Thursday evening for the coming weeks, distributing them live on YouTube, and passing a virtual tip jar via PayPal.  We’re happy to support them, and enjoy hearing some of our favorite songs and see them playing from home with cameo appearances by their son Liam and fat, fluffy Cleo the angora.  Something you might consider supporting yourself, for them or other favorite artists.

Our in-home virtual house concert, with Tony Furtado and Stephanie Schneiderman. Tony looks a bit like our singing, cycling cowboy, don’t you think? Maybe he could stage his own virtual house concert!
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Jen GrumbyThat's so cool! Very nice that you supported both a restaurant and a musician for your date night.

Ron's getting a Chromebook, so maybe he can schedule a Singing Cycling Cowboy performance ..
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2 months ago
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Jen GrumbyHave you 2 been to Spoken Hostel in Mitchell?

If not, please consider a visit during your stay in John Day. They have 1-2 private rooms and since Mitchell is so small, the Brew Pub might(?) be open.

Give them a call first to find out about short or overnight visits. It's a very special place. If you're able to stay overnight, maybe a day trip into the Painted Hills?

Tell the owners, Jalet and Patrick, that Ron and Jen sent you.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyNo, we’ve never stayed in Mitchell. I biked through it about 35 years ago on a midsummer ride from Salem to Baker City - it’s so hilly there, and especially tough on a hot summer day. Rachael and I drove through it on a day trip from Maupin to see the Painted Hills, and we’ve been planning to go back some day with the bikes. This could be the time.

And, they do haircuts! I need one of those anyway.
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyOh, I really hope it works out for you to visit.

Pat is a skilled barber (with a straight edge razor!) and is also the bus driver, mayor of Mitchell, and the pastor.

They have an incredible collection of stories from cyclists who have stayed there. And they were amongst the top 10 most kind people we encountered on our tour.

If you go there, be sure to stop by the church in Dayville to get a photo of the stained glass and to look at their binder of notes from visitors.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI stayed in the Dayville church on that ride! This was in 1986, the year before Rachael and I first met. I pulled into at the end of a long hard day that began in Prineville I think, and someone directed me to the church. I don’t recall now, but I could be listed in their binder. We should go check it out, alright.
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2 months ago