Saturday, December 20, 2008

a week of inclement car-less commuting

SNOW (along with relatively cold temperatures) arrived here in Portland last Sunday (Dec. 14). Even though fairly well-forecasted, it still seemed to catch people by surprise … probably cuz it’s officially not even winter yet.

Sunday Practica

Often, I host the Sunday Tango Practica by bicycle (particularly now since I have help with food procurement). But last Sunday, I knew attendance would be down. My teaching partner was advised not to drive down from Council Crest. The person whose turn it was to bring food declined to come in from Battleground, WA. Nonetheless, I put out an announcement that the practica was “on” for anyone who could safely get there, trusting that spare backup snacks and a little beer would be sufficient enough goodies for those who came.

I also decided to walk to the practica, a luxury that didn’t exist before I moved to SE Salmon St. I didn’t wanna drive, nor bike (cycling looked potentially dicey). So it walked to the Viscount Studios on East Burnside. It took 35 minutes. Not bad.

Yifang and Jeff ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
A critical mass of people showed up … eight for the class … and 20 more during the practica itself. Intrepid biker-tango couple (Jeff & Yifang) rode to the practica on their xtracycle. (Jeff’s spent considerable time in cold climates, and wasn’t too phased by Sunday’s storm.)

Weekdays to Beaverton & back

The biggest storm-related challenges, though (and their resulting scheduling problems) were yet to come. I needed to get to Beaverton by 7:30 Monday morning. And I didn’t wanna drive. (Too late to buy chains anyway.) Nor did I wanna bike. So, I walked to the bus, took it downtown to the Max, which I rode in turn to Beaverton. With all the connections and waits, it took 1 hour 40 minutes, and required a 5:40 AM departure from home.

I keep a bicycle at work for those days I don’t cycle-commute. This allows me to pedal on errands (and to campus) on those particular days. So on Monday evening (the 15th), I rode my Surly (a 29’er with ‘cross tires) home.

eastbound blue line
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
(Well, I rode it to the Beaverton Max Station, and then again from downtown homeward…a total of only 4.2 miles.) The ride(s) were pleasant enough. Not too much traffic. Spun the rear wheel a bit coming up slightly slick SE Salmon St [try saying that multiple times fast], but it wasn’t unmanageable.

I elected to return to work Tuesday morning via bicycle. Even though I started timidly (Salmon St. was slick), I fell down within a block or so of my place. (My hip’s still a bit sore.) But I managed the Hawthorne Bridge and downtown well enough, and actually enjoyed the ride through Beaverton Town Center and Griffith Park at the other end. But the sting of the morning’s fall was still present when I it was time to go home. So I walked home that evening.

This turned out to be the pattern for most of the week. Walk one direction. Alternately ride the other. I ended up with 5 trips using the bike, and 5 trips on foot.

Thursday evening (the 18th), I elected to ride home over Sylvan Hill. ‘Twas kinda spontaneous. When going up 110th Avenue north of Kohl’s, I was faced with the decision to either turn left towards Center Street and the Beaverton Transit Center, or continue riding across Walker, up past Lynne’s home, to the Hwy 26 bike path. I did the latter.

Past Walker, the road surfaces immediately changed, both in color and texture. I actually dismounted and walked on a hilly section of 107th. And I again walked the steep descending part of Melnore St. before Scenic Drive. Surprising, though, I was able to stay in the saddle ascending Knollcrest (leaned back on the rear wheel), and later on during the steep part of Pointer Rd (just before the freeway crossing to the cemetery). The color of all these residential roads north of Walker was white…and the texture crusty. It was like a very thin fresh layer of snow over older chunky stuff.
The descents on those funky surfaces inspired little confidence. So after coming down from the Sylvan overpass to the Zoo, I chose the Max for the rest of the journey downtown. No zoobombing. No descents down Hwy 26 to Goose Hollow. In downtown, it was lightly snowing, as it was in SE (which made it a pleasant and unhurried ride home.)

On Friday morning, Salmon St. didn’t look two-wheel friendly. And since my work bike was now home, I walked…both ways. In the morning I had opportunity to try out an new set of Ice Trekker shoe spikes, which worked great. They actually allowed me to jog to a waiting bus.

One outcome of this week is that I ordered studded snow tires … to arrive Monday. If they work half as well as the Ice Trekker shoe spikes, they’ll be a good investment. They do betray, however, a rather skewed sense of priorities. I have no traction devices for my car (and therefore haven't driven in a while), but I will soon for my bike.

1 comment:

Cecil Anne said...

I did not even try to ride to the Barbur Transit Center to catch my bus to Salem last week. Instead, I walked the 1.5 miles to the stop closest to my home. I have Ice Trekker boot-chains, so I can walk pretty quickly, even on ice. The bus itself, on the other hand, was very slow. The commute took an hour longer each way than usual on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (Wednesday everyone stayed home based on the forecast - it turned out to be the most normal day of the week - go figure).