Willamette Bluff - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

March 11, 2019

Willamette Bluff

Three daysin a row, and three Cycle Life Challenge rides.  I’ve been taking advantage of a glorious spell of pre-spring weather, but I think I’d better stop for a pause at this point - there’s no sense blowing through the entire event in just one week.

Today’s weather is the best so far, and almost a shock.  It was just below freezing when I first stepped out this morning, but by the time Rachael and I rolled back home in midafternoon it was an amazing 57 and we were almost too warm even after stripping off a layer or two.

Our first film today isn’t until early evening, so we have time for a real ride.  I want to take my time with the camera for a bit so I get a jump on Rachael, leaving about two hours earlier than her with the plan to meet up nine miles down the road at Cathedral Coffee in the southern end of the Saint Johns neighborhood.  

With multiple choices for crossing over to the east bank, I settle on the Steel Bridge.  While waiting for a film to start last night, I was rereading yesterday’s post looking for typos when my neighbor looked over my shoulder to comment on the Burnside Bridge photos and then asked what my favorite bridge in town was.  Probably dramatic Saint Johns, but it’s a difficult question because several of them have so much character.  The Steel Bridge is definitely one of my favorites.  My favorite new fact about it is that the lower and upper decks can be lifted independently.  I’ve never noticed or thought about this, and I’ll have to look for evidence when the bridge is partially or fully up in the future.

The unique Steel Bridge, opened in 1912, is Portland’s second oldest extant bridge, after the Hawthorne.
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A nice look at the underside of the Steel Bridge
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The Steel Bridge is a very popular crossing route for bikers and peds, possibly because there’s no elevation gain involved. It can get quite crowded and slow going on this narrow passageway.
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One last look
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Rachael and I agree to meet at Cathedral Coffee at 11.  After that we’ll bike north around Kelley Point and loop east and south somehow before ending up home again.  Rachael’s goal is a 45 mile ride, which is fine with me - I could use more of a workout than I’ve been getting on my own.  I know that once she arrives we’ll get down to business and ride  steadily with few breaks, so if I want to do anything with the camera it should happen before she arrives.

Willamette Bluff is a feature that lines the east side of the river for several miles in North Portland.  Beginning just north of the core and continuing until roughly the Saint John’s Bridge, the bluff rises about 150-200 feet above the river.  There are several fine vantage points with dramatic views of the city and across the river to the west hills, and down to the industrial flats and shipyards of Swan Island.

I’m sorry I didn’t plan the day a bit better and get an earlier start to my ride.  I haven’t left as much time as I’d like before Rachael arrives, so I end up rushing through the area more than I would have liked.  I need to come back soon for a longer look, and drop down off the cliff to poke around Swan Island too.  It’s too industrial down there to be good riding but there are a few places worth exploring - especially the riverside path by the Daimler corporate headquarters, and the new foot/cycle path that angles up the face of Waud’s bluff - the last time I biked up through there it was alive with woodpeckers and nuthatches.  I should make it the focus of another Cycle Life Challenge ride before we leave town.

This immense elm in Overlook Park is one of my favorite trees in the city. It’s famous! It was featured on the cover of Fade, an album released by the indie rock group Yo la Tengo.
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Bruce LellmanWhat a beautiful tree! It's a perfect example of how an elm will naturally grow if allowed to live its life without always having to compete for sun or space.
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1 month ago
In Overlook Park
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The capacity of the Vigorous dry dock is pretty amazing. With a length of 960 feet and an inside width of nearly 200, it is the largest floating dry dock in the country. This month it hosts the Grand Princess, a 17 deck leviathan, the largest cruise ship worldwide when it was launched twenty years ago. With its length of 949 feet, it just fits.
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The Burlington Northern railroad bridge is either open or closed at the moment, depending on your point of view.
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It’s been a few years since I’ve stopped in at Cathedral Coffee, even though I roll past it fairly often on the way out to Saint John’s.  It’s a fairly small place occupying part of what must have been a small office building originally.  It’s pretty funky - interesting decor, nice wooden tables, quite comfortable.  It looks like it must attract students from the nearby University of Portland, as well as a fair number of bicyclists.  If this were my neighborhood I imagine I’d be a regular.

I hang out for about 45 minutes, when precisely at 11 the drill sergeant rolls up, peers in the window, and crooks a finger at me.  Time to get to work.

At Cathedral Coffee, enjoying a healthy multigrain muffin that even Rachael would approve of.
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Cathedral Coffee, a small, casual spot on Willamette Boulevard in North Portland, is a favorite biker stopoff. It’s name must come from nearby Cathedral Park beneath the Saint Johns Bridge.
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A cozy nook at Cathedral Coffee
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Bruce LellmanI like this cozy nook but what the hell, has that beautiful chunk of wood on wheels been painted white!? Why do people do such things?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI agree. Bordering on the sacrilegious. Maybe so it’s easier to clean up after graffiti defilement?
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1 month ago
Uh, oh. The fun is over - here comes the whip.
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Jen GrumbyI don't know .. her smile seems to say that the fun is just about to begin.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup. A closet dominatrix.
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1 month ago
Looking past the sprawling Rivergate Industrial District, this overpass on Lombard gives us a nice view of Saint Helens, with Rainier in the distance to the left.
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Biking along Lombard toward the giant CGI grain export terminal. According to the Port of Portland website, 90% of Oregon’s wheat is grown for export overseas, and Portland exports more wheat than any other US seaport.
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