Once more unto the bridge - North to the Balkans - CycleBlaze

April 9, 2018

Once more unto the bridge

Unto the bridge?  A bit wierd, but if it’s good enough for Shakespeare it’s good enough for me:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more  (Henry V, Act III, Scene I)

Well, OK.  Biking over the Ross Island Bridge in the dark again isn’t quite as heroic as charging the gap in the French fortifications at the siege of Harfleur (which reminds me: when are we finally going to tour through Brittany and Normandy?  We’ve been talking up that ride for over a decade now.  I’d better look at that three year plan again).  

Courageous enough though - it’s a pretty scary ride, and it’s a pretty early hour.  Up and mobile at 5:15, I’m feeling proud of myself as I start gearing up for a repeat of last month’s ride to see the illuminated Tilikum Crossing.  As I’ve said before, the color scheme varies with environmental conditions; and I’ve noticed over the past few days that it’s predominantly green now.  Time for a repeat ride, and  the sooner the better - sunrise is at 6:30 now, and I don’t really want to be out so early that the coffee shops aren’t open.

It’s three miles from Amy’s house to the bridge, on an unfamiliar route.  I  leave our home of the moment a bit after 5:30, which should allow me plenty of time to get there before 6 when it should still be well dark enough for a good shot.  It’s quite dark when I go outside, and it takes me a few minutes fumbling around with the flashlight from my phone before I’ve geared up the bike; and then I lose another five or ten minutes when I discover that I somehow don’t have my bike light.  Who knows why, but for now I go back inside and borrow Rachael’s.  

By the time I finally start pedaling the horizon is starting to lighten.  I pedal as fast as feels safe in the dark on an unfamiliar route, and approach the bridge while it’s still fairly dark.  Crossing the pedestrian overpass across Powell Boulevard though, I’m struck by the sight of my favorite mural in Portland illuminated in the distance.  Surely I can afford a few minutes for that.

The five story geisha mural on the side of the SolTerra building is my favorite public art work in town. Painted last fall in just 12 days, it’s themes reference the building’s occupants. Por exemplo, the blue and white bird on her shoulder is a Cuban Trogon, in honor of the new Cuban bar inside.
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Actually, it probably took five by the time I’m rolling again.  It takes a few  to find a clear angle, and another few to realize I’m using the wrong camera and need the zoomer.  Nice though, and worth the effort - I’ve never seen it at eye level before.

But, between the delays at home and for a photo stop I’ve arrived on the scene a bit later than I would have wanted.  The sky is lighter than the last time I was out, and the bridge isn’t quite as sharp.  Still though, worth the effort.  I’m glad I came, and I might even give it another go in midsummer after we return from Albania - I think it tends toward yellow and red in the warmer months but I’m not sure.  The bridge is just as scary and disorienting this time, but maybe I’ll forget how bad it is over the next two months.

I’ve been lucky with these rides - it’s been still enough to give a good reflection off the river.
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I’d like to have gotten here sooner when it was darker, but I find compensation.  Because it’s later in the morning, the aerial tram between OHSU and the south waterfront is active and I get a nice look at it dropping down above the Gibbs Street overpass.  And, a few minutes later I pause to admire the morning’s modest sunrise as the sun breaks through the gap between Mount Tabor and Mount Hood.

A few minutes later I roll up to JoLa Cafe, pleased to see that I haven’t left my pannier behind like I did on last month’s ride.  It was quite a disappointment then to have to return home when I’d been anticipating a nice croissant with coffee.

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One of the benefits of an early rise.
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Mount Hood has a ghostlike aura this morning.
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My just desserts
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With all that excitement behind me, the rest of the ride figures to be pretty tame.  It’s a fine day today and would be perfect for a longer ride, but we have to get home by late morning to deal with yet another issue with our condo sale (more on this later).  With the short while I have remaining, I decide to bike up the ridge a ways to Terwilliger, follow it north to downtown, and then return to Sellwood along the river.

Getting to Terwilliger is my big challenge for the day - I approach it by continuing south on Corbett, which turns very steep for a couple of blocks before cresting out at about the 300 feet above the river.  Not such a big climb, but steep enough that I use my lowest gears; and strenuous enough that I can claim some extra credit later when I compare morning rides with Rachael.

Toward the north end of Terwilliger I pause for another, closer look at the OHSU tram.  It’s an interesting (and expensive) engineering feature of the city, built about a decade back to connect OHSU with the waterfront so that it gained some growing room and living quarters for its employees.  There was quite a bit of controversy over its cost and overruns, but from the way the South Waterfront has exploded since the tram went in it appears to have served its purpose.

The uphill terminal of the OHSU tram
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The tram, the Marquam (I-5 freeway) Bridge, and the south waterfront. This is another urban landscape that is changing rapidly, on both banks.
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Not long afterwards I drop off the ridge and pass the lilac garden in Duniway Park.  Actually, until passing beneath the tram I had been thinking I was done with photography for the day; but suddenly it seems like everything is of interest - beginning with the lilac garden, and its sole plant so far that is just beginning to bloom.  Looking around, I see blossoms everywhere.

First lilac, Duniway Park
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Grape Hyacinth, Duniway Park
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Azaleas, Duniway Park
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Bigleaf maple (I think - I didn’t look closely enough), Duniway Park
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Not sure about this one either. A rhododendron? Andrea will know.
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Moving on, I pass through Lair Hill, a small neighborhood just south of and rather isolated from the core (actually, this is the same neighborhood I skirted this morning above the Gibbs Street overpass).  I don’t come this way often because it’s a bit hard to get to, cut off from the north and east by busy arterials and on the west by the steep slopes of the west hills.  It is an attractive area though that is doing a good job of retaining its historical character.  I’ll have to remember to look here for an Airbnb in the future.

Another tai chi class, Lair Hill Park
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I’ve taken a new route today and have never seen this place. It looks attractive, so I photograph the menu and forward it to Rachael for her assessment.
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This little corner by the bistro features several lovely old Victorian (Queen Anne?) homes.
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In the Lair Hill neighborhood
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Down at the river again, I’m on the home stretch - across Tilikum Crossing, south on the corridor, home.   Only about three miles, but this too takes me awhile.  Who knows why, but the pile driving activity at the South Waterfront catches my attention - loud as I pass it by, and I can still hear it well across the river.

Another new skyscraper takes root on the South Waterfront
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A pile of piles
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Photo shoot, Tilikum Crossing
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At a safe distance the Ross Island Bridge doesn’t look all that scary.
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Finally, just a mile from home I climb from the river through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.  This is a pretty little wetland, and one of the plusses about staying in Sellwood has been the chance to pass through it more often.  A few days ago Rachael and I biked through here and just missed flattening the first young snake we’ve seen this spring.  Today I’m taken by the reflections of the trees in the water, still high from our recent rains.

Unexpectedly, I’m brought back to the present by a familiar voice - it’s Rachael, returning from her own ride!  She reminds me that we have errands to attend to, chides me to hurry it up, and continues on up the hill.  No fool, I follow along close behind.

In the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
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In the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
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Keeping on task
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Steve Miller/GrampiesStay with us guys. In late May/early June we will be circling through Brittany and Normandy on our way back to Amsterdam.
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1 year ago
Scott AndersonYup, I saw that and will be watching. Sorry you’re only circling the Central Massif though. I misread your initial post for the tour at first and thought you were aiming for it rather than evading it. Wonderful region.
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1 year ago