Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Russian River Ride, circa 1997

I wasn't yet a messenger when I was invited to join my first Russian River Ride, the traditional bike messenger ride to where else, the Russian River.

We met at Harvey's downtown.  Harvey was the entrepreneur of a small convenience store in a ghettoey area of downtown and he generously allowed bike messengers to purchase snacks and drinks on store credit, and consume them in his alley.  He was such a hero to bike messengers, many referred to him as Saint Harvey.

We'd head through Golden Gate Park and across the bridge, down the hill into Sausalinto, out past Petaluma and finally, after about 80 miles, into a big grassy and somewhat muddy area right alongside the Russian River.  I'm still unsure on why we were allowed to camp there, but we were.

I was so intimidated that first year, by the athleticism of the messengers. and by the distance of 80 miles  I put 80 small dashes on a little piece of paper and taped it to my handlebars, so I could visualize 80 miles.
The day went well, and was not without surprises.  One of the best happened past Petaluma, in what felt like the middle of nowhere.  Surrounded by beautiful Sonoma county rolling meadows and farmlands, it seemed pretty far away from everything.  There was a small building on the horizon, and there was a healthy sized bike pile in front, so I pulled over and went in.  Turns out it was a little divey bar, the kind with dollar bills pinned all over the ceiling.  Tradition calls for us to each down a shot before going on our way.
The rest of the ride that day is a little hazy to me, but I made it.  There was a huge group, maybe 100 of us, and we had a really fun weekend.  I'll never forget chewing a huge piece of strawberry bubble gum and swimming back and forth across the river.  I dragged a big innertube and gave people rides to the other shore and back.  I dubbed myself "messenger of the river".

The ride back was easier, probably because we jumped on the Larkspur ferry back to the city.  The ferry folks let us make a giant bike pile out on the bow.  The boat ride was one of the best parts of the weekend, and always made me feel a bit sentimental, even nostalgic, as we came back into San Francisco

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unfinished Business in the Dalles

Like a baby fawn, my legs and knees wobbled.  Delicate and weak, the poor little sticks could barely support the bloated beer belly which Father Winter gifted me.  A pathetic picture, to be sure, but look closer.  There, past the long curly eyelashes, is a teensy little glimmer.  A glimmer that holds promise for the future and the potential to rediscover lost muscle memory.  A glimmer that can see past the cold, dark depression of this most terrible winter, and see into summer.

Nonetheless, the legs fumble.  They try to pedal, try to remember circles.  The brain tries to push them into overdrive.  Just when we're about to fail, a small waft of some heavenly floral scent drifts by.  A glimpse of a blooming daffodil seals the deal.  We (me and my legs) are back!  Or we will be back soon anyway.

The rain started Saturday morning outside of Holstein's Coffee in the Dalles, just as riders were beginning to queue up.  Together, we made quite a rainbow of riders.  We were fat and skinny (although everyone would claim the former), different colors - skin and kits, road bikes with 23mm wide tires, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes, even bikes with full loads - ostensibly for the Dalles Mountain Mutiny.

I read a great quote in an email forum about this 8th annual Velodirt ride that very morning: "If you can't handle it on 28s, you can't handle life".  The 28 is referring to tire width, of course.  Our day would be filled with gravel, dirt, mud, slippery slidey roads that were only more so as the day, and the rain, wore on.

I estimate 150 of us rode out at 10am, but I've been known to overestimate.  I doubt I was the only one who missed Donnie's calm, even quiet, announcement "let's head out".  But, we left just the same.

Thanks to social media, or this blog, or possibly my basket, several riders recognized me and even shouted my full name.  One lovely gentleman exclaimed "BASKET"! and I instantly remembered him as one of my supportive hecklers last 'cross season.  More friends, more hugs, lots of self-deprecation later, we embarked up the first, and longest, gravelly climb of the day.

Unbelievably, I encountered a rider who introduced himself as William.  I took a chance and asked if he was the originator of my new favorite quote about not being able to handle life if you can't handle 28s.  I'm not sure who was more astonished - me or him - that yes, indeed, he was the genius who came up with that little tidbit.

Up, up, up.  Passed by Mielle, who was slowly escorting another rider, and informed me I smell like strawberries.  I won't deny it; it's my natural scent.  An old co-worker.  A couple in t-shirts.  Up, up, up.  Soon, I saw my pal Luke, who had given me a ride to the ride.  I was almost to the top and he was coming my way.

Luke is one of those super fast and fit riders who always describe their riding as slow and their body as out of shape.  I couldn't understand how I could possibly be catching up to him.  He was wearing a blue coat, which matched his skin nicely.  Turns out he was hypothermic and making a smart decision to turn back and get down to a lower, warmer elevation quickly.

He apologized and I pretended not to be thrilled to be turning back, and down we went.  My new brake pads squeal loudly, so my shame in being a chicken ass descender was underlined nicely.  We barely saw a soul on the way down, that's how far back in the pack I was.

The rain and cold continued, the descent lingered on and on, and I finally had to stop for a salty snack.  I ate quickly and sloppily and my mood improved immediately.  Almost to the bottom, I saw Luke again.  Poor guy was freezing his bejesus off.

Back down the hill, back over the bridge, back to town and back to the brew pub.  We passed a few riders who'd completed the ride, which is nothing short of amazing.  Halfway into our first beers, the Texan walked in to the bar.  I haven't seen him in at least a year and we had a jolly time swapping stories and dreaming about future rides.  And, bonus, we now have unfinished business, out in the Dalles.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Oregon Out 'N Back

So, you've always wanted to ride the Oregon Outback, but you're not into the ginormous headwind in the home stretch to the gorge.  Or maybe you just want easy logistics!   Whatever the case, you might consider joining this bastardization of the Oregon Outback, called the Oregon Out 'N Back.

We'll head out from Klamath Falls at 8am on the Friday, May 26th, and spend five or six days exploring the OC&E trail, the Cowboy Dinner Tree, Fort Rock and maybe even the Crooked River if you're fast enough.  Stay tuned for more specifics on the exact depart location.

Speaking of the Cowboy Dinner Tree, you'll need reservations.  Dinner (which they don't allow you to split) includes: salad, soup, sweet yeast rolls, 30 oz (!) steak, baked potato and fixins, desert, coffee/tea/pink lemonade. It costs $35, cash only, and that includes tip.  The atmosphere is authentic old west, the meat is from their own ranch, the service is adorably accommodating and the food is delicious.  To reserve, call 541 576 2426.  My posse is eating at 6:30pm Saturday.

We'll turn back when appropriate to finish at Klamath Falls, enabling us to take the train both ways. Because it's an out and back, riders can choose their distance and turn back any time they like. 

There are two rules. Leave no trace and bring no car.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of following these.  If you'd like to ride the route and have a car meet you along the way, great, just please pick a different week to do it and don't rain on our car-free parade. 

This is a create your own adventure. This is also a SELF SUPPORTED CAR-FREE event. No support is offered, gather all the millions of information available on line so you might survive. Most of all, don't sue me if things go sideways.

Here's a possible route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/17839578

We're planning a shakedown ride the last weekend of April, from Scappoose to Wilkerson:

We've already gotten press!


Sunday, February 26, 2017

French Toast February

A good-sized gang showed up at my place Saturday morning for french toast.  We had a great time catching up, eating toast, drinking way too much coffee and even touring my newly "renovated" basement.

We headed down the hill and onto the path.  Pedaling felt hard and even weird.  My legs felt like they had been moth-eaten while in some forgotten storage outpost.  Anthony captured the feeling, which we all shared, saying these are our "Winter Edition" selves.

Between a depressing and frightening political climate, an unusual frequency of snowmageddons here in Portland, and general laziness brought on by malaise, guts have gotten pudgy and legs gooey.

Luckily, nothing is forever, and we kept pedaling anyway.  We stopped at Linneman station to find the bathroom doors locked.  The too much coffee sensation started to elevate into a where's a potty feeling.  Anyway, I've emailed the city of Gresham and I'm sure they'll get right on it.

A rider peeled off.  The sun shone.  The rain did not fall.  Nor the snow.  The wind did not blow.  It was exquisite to feel that old sensation of hurtling forward through space and smelling nature between giant inhalations of car exhaust.  I wish people would limit or stop driving, but that's a fantasy for another post.

We regrouped at the Sandy River, near the Stark Street Bridge, and split into two groups, reminiscent of when the motley crew of ring questers in the Lord of the Rings had to part ways.  Onward and upward, up and around and down the hill, we regrouped again near the Troutdale bridge.

After a nice bathroom and playground stop, we crossed the Sandy River yet again, using the river valley as our own bicycle playground.  We were lucky to find our way across the new bike path and onto the old secret bike path.

Marine Drive makes my legs itch so I pedaled harder.  Following our theme of regrouping near bridges, we put a foot down at the 205 Bridge before heading south to Velocult, where I pretty much spent the weekend.

After sandwiches and sushi and goodbyes, some other friends descended on Velocult to remind me of our Oregon Out N Back planning meeting.  In case you haven't heard of that, it's a bastardization of the Oregon Outback.  We'll start in Klamath Falls the Friday before Memorial Day, head north until it's time to turn around, and finish in Klamath Falls six days later.  For more information: http://rideoregonride.com/diy-adventure-oregon-outback/

Friday, January 6, 2017


I went to meet Mark for a beer before the ride.  It felt like old times again, except he’s dating someone else now.  We talked about Thursday Night Rides past and present.  I’d be leading tonight’s ride, the last one of 2016.  This urban ride is styled much like Critical Mass, although a bit more peaceful and a lot more party-centric.

This would be the first time the ride would end at a bar, or a brew pub, as it was not meant to be alcohol-centric.  The irony is that my plan to finish at a brew pub was to limit the drinking, not enhance it.  Also, it’s been in the 20s and 30s degree-wise and I didn’t fancy freezing my butt off under the bridge wishing there’d be more pallets to burn.
On to the ride.  The view from the Hawthorne Bridge was spectacular.  The city lights seem crisp and sharp when it’s cold and dark.  As we arrived at the fountain, we could see a good-sized crowd had gathered.  While most are saying Merry Christmas and Happy New Year this time of year, these folks offer a hearty Happy Thursday.

“FIVE MINUTES!”.  I delight in yelling this phrase, and talking loudly to the crowd in general.  Riders ask if those are bike minutes, beer minutes or real minutes, so I yell again, this time “FIVE ACTUAL MINUTES!”, to the seeming dismay of many.  Off we go, on a roundabout loop of downtown, taking the streets where we can and corking intersections when needed.
This is my second time leading this ride.  When I create a TNR route, I fantasize about places and roads I'd like to ride but usually avoid because of cars.  Because the turnout at this ride is reliably large, we can usually mass in the street and take lanes without conflict.  It’s a nice reminder that these public thoroughfares are for all humans to enjoy, not just those who have committed to spend much of their lives in a metal box polluting the air.

We encounter a closed street with a policeman stationed there.  Luckily for us, we respected his directions and detoured, as we learned later that some poor soul had taken to throwing bricks off of the penthouse bar at the top of the Nines.  This was just the first detour of the evening.

Taking the lane on the Morrison Bridge was fun and I yelled at those ahead of me, RIGHT ON WATER.  So much yelling was required all evening, I was hoarse by the end of it.  It would be easier if the half dozen riders and one skateboarder who regularly go ahead would instead follow behind.  A friend coached me a few nights later to be more aggressive and yell more at those passing me, but I just don’t have it in me.  I’d rather lead those who’d like to follow and allow those ahead to run the stale green light that the rest of us will stop at.
Using Ladd’s Addition as a labyrinth was pure genius, if I do say so.  First we rode the big circle in the middle, then split west to ride the neighboring diamond, then back to the middle circle.  From there we split east to ride the eastern diamond, again returning to the middle circle for one last go-round.  Besides being fun, this enables the group to stay together, catch up and generally coalesce.

Finally we exited heading northeast and popped out on Hawthorne, which we were to take to 26th.  This was another case of a handful getting ahead of me, and I’ll blame them for missing the turn.  Luckily the number streets are in order, so we found our way back.  We headed to the Lone Fir Cemetery and stopped in the middle to enjoy the dark solitude.
We lapped the lagging group, then I led everyone into a dead end fenced off area.  Swallowing my pride and dismounting, I turned back on foot, letting the gaggle of bewildered riders know there was nothing to see back that way.

Out onto the streets again, we bounced along to as many beats as a dozen sound systems can create.  I heard some complaints about the hills and explained that the map I had looked at showed only two dimensions.  We circled Joan of Arc at the usually forbidding roundabout on Cesar Chavez and Glisan Avenues.
Then off through some northeast neighborhoods until we found Sandy.  Several weaves later, we had passed our destination, Base Camp Brewing, home of the worst IPA I’ve ever tasted.  Once again, I had to stop in my tracks and turn back.  This time, I told my friends “We’re there!” and headed in for a cold one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dark Days

We had been hoping for bad weather but were disappointed.  Although the great ices of Snowpocalypse 2016 had begun to melt, the streets were still cold and slippery, so I took the bus to our start breakfast meet spot.  After a delicious croissant sandwich, and a respectable amount of dawdling to allow the temperature to rise, we were off.

It wasn't raining, but we couldn't tell because tree branches were melting so quickly.  Some branches lay in the street, others cracked and threatened to fall on our helmet-clad heads.  The whole weekend would be filled with snowballs tossed from trees and snow sabers tossed from power lines.

Our leader demonstrated how icy ice is with a quick fall on a wafer thin footbridge overpass.  We stifled our laughs and carried on, cautiously and always behind our coalmine-canary leader.

Finally arriving in the great state of Washington, we enjoyed a mile or two of new pavement on the Evergreen Highway, until it turned back to its usual cement crap complete with crevasses.  We passed through Camas, with all its special smells, and carried on to Washougal, where we got lost for a minute before finding ourselves at a cozy brew pub.

Two pm isn't late unless it's solstice time, in which case it's almost sunset.  So, we skedaddled east and up and away from downtown Washougal.  A few miles up the hill, the higher elevation had more snow and slush and ice in store for us, so walking became the new way to go.  Luckily, I had worn my special bike cleat walking shoes, which is a lie.

About six miles later, after dark, a car stopped and a man jumped out to ask if we needed help.  We were dumbfounded and didn't answer, so he asked again.  I told him I'd accept a ride.  He asked about my friends and I said "what friends" and hopped in.  Turns out we were just a half mile from our destination, but I had no regrets.  The car was filled with a friendly family, complete with two cheery children and a blazing hot seat warmer.

The destination made it all worthwhile.  It was a lovely castle of a home, packed with big cats and friendly people, delicious vittles, cold beer and a wood burning stove.  We ate, we drank, we stripped our wet clothes off for laundering, and finally, we headed across the street for sauna time.  This sauna was hot!  We took turns jumping out and rolling in the snow, some of us in our underwear.

By the next morning, most of the snow and ice had turned to slush.  There was one slippery patch left, which gave our ride leader another chance to demonstrate his wipe out skills, but otherwise it was pretty easy going.  Back to the pub, back to town, back to life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October Three Speed Challenge - Week Three

Date: Sunday, October 23rd
Time: 1:00pm
Destination: Hardware store
Conditions: Warm and dry
Distance: 5 kilometers (round trip)
Date: Sunday, October 23rd
Time: 4:00pm
Destination:Society of Three Speed ride
Conditions: Warm and dry
Distance: Many kilometers
Date: Monday, October 24th
Time: 8am
Destination: Work
Conditions: Dry
Distance: 16 kilometers (round trip)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October Three Speed Challenge - Week Two

Date: Sunday, October 16th
Time: 7pm
Destination: The movies
Conditions: Rainy and dark
Distance: 10 kilometers (round trip)
Date: Monday, October 17th
Time: 8am
Destination: Work
Conditions: Rainy
Distance: 16 kilometers (round trip)
 Date: Tuesday, October 18th
Time: 7:30pm
Destination: Potluck at friend's
Conditions: Dark
Distance: 5 kilometers (round trip)

Monday, October 17, 2016

October Three Speed Challenge - Week One

Date: Thursday, October 6th
Time: 6pm
Destination: A friend's house for potluck
Conditions: Warm and dry-ish 
Distance: 5 kilometers (round trip)
Date: Friday, October 7th
Time: 10am
Destination: Dentist
Conditions: Sprinkly and warm
Distance: 7.7 kilometers (round trip)

Date: Friday, October 7th
Time: 1pm
Destination: Grocery store and bank
Conditions: Still sprinkly, still warm
Distance: 5 kilometers (round trip)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Society of Three Speeds Challenge

I received this electronic telegram from the Urban Adventure League.  I will be participating, maybe you want to too!
 Introducing a little challenge! You of course realize that I love all things three speed. But here’s the thing: I love three speeds as bikes to ride, as transportation. Not as things to gawk at or pull out just for “special” rides. Nosiree! So to encourage folks to get on their three speeds and ride, I introduce a li’l challenge: THREE SPEED OCTOBER!

The premise is simple: Ride your three speed during the month of October! Here are the basic stipulations of this challenge:

  1. Ride a three speed bicycle
  2. Three times a week during a calendar week (Sunday through Saturday)
  3. At least three miles (5 km) each trip
  4. For at least three weeks
  5. Between Sunday October 2 and Saturday November 5 2016
  6. At least one ride a week should be for utility/errands/commuting

And those of you who successfully complete the challenge will get something! Three lucky folk will win memberships to Society of Three Speeds, and anyone who completes the challenge will qualify for a discounted SoTS membership.

Rides need to be documented! You can document through your blog, or post on Instagram, tumblr, or flickr. (Facebook entries DO NOT COUNT.) Or, you can email me or mail me accounts of your trips. You should include AT LEAST ONE photo of your three speed from one of your trips! In the trip account, you should include:

  • Date
  • Distance of trip
  • Location
  • Describe the trip. What was it like? What did you do? Where did you go?
  • If it was for utility, what specifically? Grocery shopping? Dentist appointment? Ride to work?

Okay, simple enough! But you’ve got questions. You want details. So here goes:

  • Why October? For many in the northern hemisphere, it’s the last good month before cold and unsettled weather really settles in. For some, this will be the last time they regularly ride a bike before spring. Or, if you live in a place like Phoenix, it’s the first tolerable riding weather since April! And if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s spring. In any case, it’s generally an OK time to be riding a bike wherever you are on this planet.
  • Why three speeds? If you are already here do I need to answer that? Okay, it’s because three speeds are totally reasonable and practical bikes for many an application. This challenge is to encourage you to think about them in this way, rather than a “show” bike for your Tweed Ride.
  • Is this just limited to three speeds? Well, yeah. A three speed internally geared hub is what should be ridden for this challenge. We’ll also accept four and five speed internally geared hubs, hubs that were available from Sturmey-Archer by the mid-70’s. But no more or less speeds than that! To be clear, it doesn’t have to be a Sturmey-Archer hub, it can also be a Sachs, Sram, Shimano, SunTour, Hercules, or (insert brand here.) But it can only have three, four, or five speeds!
  • Any exceptions? We’ll allow Bromptons that have that infernal Sturmey-Archer with derailleur combo, but that’s it. And you have to promise to not use that derailleur!
  • What if I ride less or more trips in a week? You’ll need to hit three trips in a calendar week to qualify. If you ride any less, it won’t qualify. If you ride more, great! But you can’t use “extra” trips towards another week.
  • What if I ride more than three miles in a trip? That’s great as well, but all that matters is hitting three miles in a single trip. You can’t use “extra miles” towards another trip. To be clear, you need to ride three separate and distinct trips in a week. They don’t have to be on a different day, but you can’t just do a nine mile ride and take a one hour coffee break at the third and sixth miles.
  • I don’t have a cycle computer/Strava/GPS. How will I know if I’ve done three miles? You can use a mapping program before or after the ride to figure out distance. We recommend using Ride With GPS. If not, just figure out a rough estimate of mileage.
  • What if I try to ride three times in a week, but something comes up and I can’t do it? Can I ride an extra trip or two in the following week to make up for it? For the most part, no. There are five full calendar weeks between Oct 2 and Nov 5, so if you “biff” one week, there is still time to complete three other weeks. If for some reason something happens that you can’t somehow complete three full weeks of challenge in this span, you can file for a “hardship” exception. You’ll need to get it approved by me first though. I’ll only make the exception if: a) Something personal comes up that doesn’t allow you to complete the challenge in the aforementioned timeframe, b) Weather related issues and c) Bike related issues. You won’t get a pass if you forget to follow through or you get too busy with other things in your life.
  • Well yeah, what about the weather? What if the weather simply sucks, we get a blizzard, etc? Yeah, I know that winter can come early in certain parts of the world. For those of you who live in early winter locales (like, say, Duluth), try to do your three weeks of riding during the first three weeks of the challenge timeframe. If something weather related comes up that prevents you from fulfilling the challenge in the time constraints given, contact me and we’ll see about the “hardship” exception. But the weather has to be something real. It can’t just be “well it sprinkled a bit today”. The British rode their three speeds through all sorts of miserable weather, a little rain ain’t going to kill you. Just get out your rain cape and brake before you need to stop!
  • What if my ride starts Saturday night and continues into Sunday morning? Well, then it will be considered for the week that the Saturday falls in.
  • Why the weekly utility trip? Well, we’d like to showcase the fact that three speeds are practical bikes! And it’s easy to take three “fun rides” of three miles in a week on your local bike path. But we want to make you “use” your bikes for good too! So hit up your dentist, pick up your prescription, pick up some WD40 from the hardware store, ride to work, ride to school, ride to jury duty, etc. If for some reason, you can’t do a “utility” ride, don’t sweat it. But at least try.
  • Does the ride have to be a “standalone” ride, or can it be incorporated with another ride? Whatever ride that incorporates a three speed and is at least three miles counts! So if you decide to do a “club” ride or a gnar MTB adventure with friends, or on a 200K brevet, or on a coffeeneuring adventure, it doesn’t matter! In fact, I’d love to see you do the 200K brevet on a three speed!
  • Ok, I completed the challenge successfully! What do I get? Everyone who successfully completes the challenge will get a small award, probably a sticker and/or button. Those folks who are not already members will qualify for a discounted rate for Society of Three Speeds. Three lucky folks will win a membership outright! These three winners will be chosen at random from qualified candidates. If you are already a member, you can’t win a membership.
Okay, simple enough! Really, I tried to make this challenge not that hard. If that doesn’t satisfy ya, feel free to pull three centuries a week on a three speed!

So please let me know if you are participating! Email me at urbanadventureleague@gmail.com and provide links to your rides, or just email me the details. Or, you can write me via post. You can email me as you go along or wait until you are done. If you email me as you go along, please keep count of what you’re doing (i.e. “This is the second ride of my first week of the challenge”) as I may (hopefully) be overwhelmed by participation and won’t be able to keep track!

All completed challenges must arrive in my email inbox no later than 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Saturday November 12.  If you are going to submit by post, the envelope must be postmarked by Saturday November 12. Please submit to
Shawn Granton, PO Box 14185, Portland, OR 97293-0185.

And...stay tuned here as I post my own results.