Sauvie Sunday - Winterlude 2021 - CycleBlaze

November 21, 2021

Sauvie Sunday

Spending Sunday riding out to Sauvie Island has become something of a tradition for us.  The island is probably our favorite local riding when we’re back in town, and Sunday is definitely the best time for it.  The bridge to the island is ten miles from home, the last six of which are unavoidably on Highway 30, the busy four lane route that follows the Columbia all the way from Portland to the coast at Astoria.  It’s an important truck route, and even though there’s a good shoulder all the way out to the island it’s hardly a relaxed ride.  Sunday is definitely the best day for the dash to the island and back because the traffic load is much lighter and less intimidating.  Whenever we return home we start watching the weather forecasts, hoping for a Sunday break in the weather wide enough to fit a four or five hour outing through.

We’re mostly in luck today.  No rain is expected, if you discount the cold early morning fog that takes its sweet time burning off.  Last night the temperature dropped to the mid-thirties, and with this fog it hardly warms up at all until mid-morning.  Finally around noon a bit of sun breaks through and we decide it’s time.

With not much more than a four hour ride window remaining in the day, we set a fast pace as we ride north along Saint Helens Road and then the Highway, happy to see that the sky is gradually clearing as we go.  Looking ahead I see the Saint Johns Bridge, a quickly dissipating fog bank behind it that will be mostly gone by the time we reach it.

Not long before the bridge I see an immense ship lining the opposite bank of the river and slow for a better look, trying to find a gap in the trees for a clear shot that I fail to find.  Rachael bikes on ahead, which is part of the game plan for this ride.  She’ll keep a steady pace for the whole ride and get in significantly more miles than I will, stopping anywhere something catches my interests.  There are always many reasons to stop on this ride, especially when we only see it a few times a year now.  We’ll hook up somewhere on the island later in the afternoon and ride home together.

It’s the huge Libra Leader, a vehicle hauler from Japan. If I could have gotten a better vantage point for this shot you’d have seen a few tiers of vast lots blanketed with vehicles waiting to be loaded.
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Andrea BrownWhen I commuted on this section of Highway 30 the occasional car boat was always fun to see. Just to clarify, the vehicles have just been UNloaded and will subsequently get loaded onto trains/semis for distribution around the northern states. I kind of wanted to nip over and see if they had an extra vehicle with a bum paint job or something they'd let me take off their hands.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownI couldn’t tell today, since there was no activity. They go both ways though, so it could be either. I’ve been out there when loading was occurring, with a steady stream of cars and pickups driving up the ramp.
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2 months ago

A bit further downriver I come to the Saint Johns Bridge and once again slow down looking for a spot for a reasonably clear shot.  It’s a frustrating spot - if it isn’t the trees, it’s the industrial clutter below.  You really have to leave the river and climb up the ridge above the bridge to get a full view of it.

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This is pretty good though.
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Jen GrumbyNice work getting to the right spot for a good shot!
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2 months ago

Another mile and I come to the small community of Linnton, a former small riverside town that struggles to maintain its identity as a community, hemmed in now by the highway and shabby riverside industry.  There’s not much here  on the river side of the highway - a few stores, a gas station, a tavern, a weed shop, some houses.  I imagine most of the village’s residents live in the hills on the opposite side of the highway.

Every few years for some reason I’m inspired to turn off and bike down its back streets looking for something interesting.  There’s never much, unless I want to stop and take photos of cranes, wrecked cars, or piles of girders or railroad ties.  Today though there is this one surprisingly well kept house with a bright paint job and a pair of welcoming stuffed  chairs on its porch.

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In Linnton.
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Andrea BrownYou are forgetting the famous Linnton Feed Store, that made the viral Twitter rounds with its billboard saying, "Hay is for horses, so is Ivermectin".
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownHow can I have missed this? Of course, usually when we bike through Linnton we’re mostly focused on personal safety. It’s a busy stretch, with the highway on the left, pickups parked on the shoulder, and cars entering and exiting the parking lots.
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2 months ago
Graham FinchWell spotted!
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyTo Andrea BrownOh, that's a good one!
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2 months ago

From Linnton I pick up the pace and race the remaining few miles to the Island, hoping to close the gap a bit on Rachael, whom the Garmin tells me is about a mile and a half ahead now and moving north at a steady 14 mph.  I’ll never catch her obviously, but we’ll meet up when she’s doubled back from the five mile dead end spur at the north end of Saint Helens Road.

I’d been hoping that the fog would have burned off enough to see any of the volcanoes from the bridge when I get there, but they’re all hidden behind a wall of fog.  Just across the top though, a window of the sun opens up and illuminates the squash-strewn fields on the other side.  It’s a beautiful scene, the multi-colored rows of rotting squash covering the fields like a flag with geese arriving and foraging among them.  I’ve been amazed the last few winters we’ve been here at these vast expanses of wasted squash, and wondered why they’re left like this.  Strange, but very beautiful when the sun’s on them like it is at the moment.

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Snowy Mount Saint Helens is visible straight ahead through the bridge, on the right day.
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And looking north up the Multnomah Channel there’s often a fine views of Mount Hood. Not today though.
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There seem to be more fields left like this in the fall every year.
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Andrea BrownLabor shortage, truck driver shortage, drought (faulty vegetables), pandemic keeping u-pickers at home. Take your pick or all four.
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2 months ago
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I wonder if the farmers get an economic credit for leaving them for the geese and cranes?
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On Sauvie Island.
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It is so beautiful out here at this time of the year. I remember this, but it’s still a shock seeing it.
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Our ride plan for the day is to ride the basic 12 mile loop counterclockwise, and then bike north toward the end of Saint Helens Road for a long as we have time for.  I can see that Rachael’s a couple of miles ahead by now though, so I decide that I’ll bike the loop clockwise instead and cross paths with her up north somewhere.  We’ve never done this before, but we have more flexibility now that we can see each other’s locations and don’t need to worry about missing each other.

About four miles later I see her coming my way, westbound on Reeder Road.  We stop to touch base briefly, but my plan was to just turn around and ride with her from here.  She advises that I just keep going though, because her side of the loop is so amazing today.  She can’t believe the squash on that side either, and she’s been hearing and seeing cranes all along the way.  

So I take her advise and continue east on Reeder.  She bikes off the other direction, planning to bike another mile or so before turning around and catching up with me stopped with the camera along the road somewhere.

On Multnomah Channel.
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Suzanne GibsonWonderful shot! Who needs blue skies...
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonYou’re right of course, but a few degrees more warmth would have been appreciated.
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2 months ago
Off in the distance a cottonwood catches a small window through the fog.
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The first rendezvous, on Reeder Road.
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Really, this is the best time to be out here. It’s all especially alluring on a day with broken fog like this one.
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She’s right about the cranes. I can hear them out in the fields and see them flying in the distance, but mostly they’re too far off for a good look - or her, hiding in the stubble closer to the road.
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On Reeder Road.
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On Sauvie Island.
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Rachael caught up with me again here, spending a few minutes trying to get that perfect shot of this thistle. Close up like this, or one with the whole plant and multiple stalks with the yellowing cottonwoods behind?
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Andrea BrownThis is Dipsacus laciniatus, or teasel. They are an invasive species imported by early textile manufacturers to "tease" or card wool or woolen fabrics.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownThanks! I like knowing this, if only for the interesting origin of its name. Seems like that would help me remember next time I encounter it, but we’ll see.
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2 months ago
The second rendezvous, on Gillihan Road.
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Rachael’s right - the squash here on Gillihan Road are astonishing.  The sun has broken through again and it’s a brilliant scene.  She’s seen it before so she bikes on while I stop and squash-gawk, planning to double back again after collecting a few more miles for the day - by the time we get home she’ll put in 46 miles, 12 more than I will.  I must have put in a full hour stopped with the camera today.

Off again.
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On Sauvie Island.
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Jen GrumbyBehind every beautiful field of forgotten squash is an underappreciated squash-gawker!
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2 months ago
On Sauvie Island.
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Jen GrumbySome squash-gawking worthy of great appreciation!
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2 months ago
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On Sauvie Island.
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Finally I’ve had my fill and start biking again and head south toward the bridge.  I’m tracking Rachael on the Garmin and it says she’s back behind me, and getting further away.  She must have doubled back and passed me again while I was staring at squash without me noticing it.  It means I have a few minutes to stop and admire the line up of pick-up flower containers when I pass them, giving her time to catchup.

She doesn’t though, and it finally sinks in that she’s not moving.  I phone her to see what’s up and after some confusion we discover that she’s ahead of me only a few hundred yards away.  It looks like the Garmin has lost contact with her and left her stuck on the road somewhere up north.  We meet up, check in briefly to confirm we’re both alright, and then head for home.  It’s 3:30, home is still 13 miles off, and we hustle.  The sun has dropped behind the west hills and the temperature is dropping fast at by the time we reach the bridge, so we keep the best pace we can as we race up US 30, wanting to get off the highway before the light gets too dim.  We don’t want a repeat of the scary incident arriving in Viterbo after dark two weeks ago, but we do fine and make it home by 4:30.  Plenty of time.

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On Sauvie Island.
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On Sauvie Island.
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On Sauvie Island.
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Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 205 miles (330 km)

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marilyn swettBeautiful pictures, Scott, but dang, it looks COLD! Glad we're still in AZ, although it was 41 degrees this morning.
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2 months ago