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Monday, May 28, 2007

photo by Steev Hise

This one comes in from Urban Adventure League member Mykle Hansen, man behind many things such as 48 hour movie projects, various zines, and of course, Lightbar. Listen in as he retells his adventure!


Route: CHETLAND STUDIOS to NE 33rd, over 33rd & Columbia bridge and North to Columbia River bike path, east under 205, down and right and under and across to IKEA parking lot, to Stanley Park & Cascade Station MAX, to Columbia Slough bikeway, through incredible wonder, out on Cornfoot to 42nd, down Holman, back to Bink's.

IMPRESSIONS: A psychedelic experience. A dramatic, limited-time moment in the natural history of an artificial area. Awesome. Not going to last -- go TODAY.

You’ve certainly ridden out to the Columbia River. You’ve braved the one-lane corkscrew over the train tracks and Columbia Boulevard, glided out past Duck Delivery under ascending airbuses, reached the beach, and enjoyed the straight, flat, rollerblade-encrusted riverside bike/pedestrian path that leads from there to the I-205 bike overpass. Perhaps you do this every day, even -- perhaps you are a ‘Couve-dwelling bikopath with the balls to bike to Portland over I-205 every day on on the way to your job in Beaverton. I salute you! But you've been there, done that.

So, what to do when you come to the end of the road? PUSH THROUGH THE CRACKS! If you can squish your body flat like a spider and slither under the notch between the I-205 bridge and the river's edge, you will catch a glimpse of what people once thought was beautiful about freeways. (If they built it today, they would add wood paneling.)

REST STOP! Go fishing, buy a drill, smoke something, whatever. Someday you’ll be surrounded by restaurants here, but for now, pack a lunch.

Wait! What’s that you say? The forward scouts have spied a vast blue rectangular behemoth, packed with sawdust and meatballs?!? The creature sleeps for now, but will soon be awakened. It will filter the surrounding ecosystem through its mazelike interior, and nothing will ever be the same. Ride on, and witness first hand the some- assembly-still-required IKEA store.

THE HARD PART: there is a huge missing bike path here. Instead, you must play toreador with the I-205 on-ramp traffic. In other words, DON’T TRY THIS AT RUSH HOUR! At least I wouldn’t. On your way to the 205 ramp, take the stairs. Hang a right and cross under the freeway again. If you’ve made it to the crosswalk-to-nowhere, take it! Then cyclocross 100 feet to the IKEA parking lot.

Fresh asphalt ... so smooth! So tasty! But, where are the cars? Don’t worry, they’re coming soon. Meanwhile, cue sprockettes and jousting! Wend your way back out, past the semi assembled mall buildings, to STANLEY PARK, in stunning, prefabulous CascadeStation (sic). See the park. Learn about Stanley -- a really nice guy, to hear him tell it. Enjoy exquisite landscaping and urban space design, surrounded by gaping fields of deserted grasslands. But where are all the people? The buildings? The traffic? Don’t worry, they’re coming. Until then, frolic in a land with smooth, clean open bikeways everywhere ... and NO CARS!

ESCAPE OPTION: THE TIRED, THE INJURED, THE ELDERLY, CHILDREN REQUIRING SLEEP and PERSONS WHO COMPLAIN may board the MAX Red line here at beautiful CascadeStationStation, and be whisked effortlessly back to the city and home, or off to PDX airport and far, far away.

But not you. Oh no. You, and your thrill-seeking companions set off easterly from the station, jogging left and then turning right, onto the Columbia Slough bike trail, where the real fun begins. (A big tip of the helmet to Stefan, the local bike-commuter who put us on the trail of this amazing trail. And did you know that Horizon employees get paid $10 per month to bike to work?)

So you're riding down the street, you turn right ... and suddenly, you are yanked out of context and dropped somewhere totally different. I just happened to do this at the height of Spring and the hint of dusk. I was spellbound by natural and organized arboreal wilderness -- fields of wildflowers, pastoral meadows, the quiet but green and shining Slough itself, the hills and hillocks, each scene more lovely than the last, all of them quickly whisking you away from a sense of urban presence ... but then, maybe you’ll see a golf cart, or a horse track, or an identity-free rectangular building surrounded by smooth new asphalt. I was so confused. Two worlds are overlaid here, one pushing out the other, but like oil and water they just don't blend. Swerving back and forth between them, it'll make your head spin.

This area of Portland is undergoing rapid development. The new IKEA store promises to dramatically shift the gravitational center of shopping away from Jantzen Beach -- a place smack in the middle of the tightest traffic jam on I-5 for a thousand miles around -- and closer to Central Portland. This could be a huge win for the appropriate-transport crowd, but will it be? Sure, you can travel to CascadeStationStationMAX on MAX -- or even bike there, as we’ve shown -- but how do you get your bulky boxes of Chinese particle-board furniture home? New technology is needed to bridge the gap. We have cargo bikes; we’ll need a CargoMAX. And it’s not just IKEA that’s going to be out there, oh no. CascadeStation will be the biggest box- mall that ever snuck into Portland.

But can mankind and nature coexist here in harmony? Um, sure, yeah ... sorta. It’s a beautifully manicured dream for the future, a pre-made neighborhood that’s still oddly bereft of buildings, people, much of anything ... and has been since the dedication of Stanley Park in 2000. Is this the mall of the future or a ghost mall of the past? Hard to say, but the haunted sensation is exquisite ... for now. The future is straining at the gates, but it’s not allowed in yet -- they still have to finish the IKEA. Nature, at the moment, is not gone yet, is still urgently present. Nature is standing on the bridge of its departing ship, waving to us on the dock, saying farewell to another small island in the deep, blue sea of humanity. The animal kingdom, in decline, cedes another territory with ceremonious dignity and great pomp. The future, straining at the gates, is not paying attention, is already thinking about where to put that new Blorsk end table. So go now, please, at half an hour before sunset on a warm night, to the Columbia Slough. Romp in the wildflowers. Smell the nectar. Drink up the last sweet bitters of wilderness before closing time.

Anyway ... after you’ve shagged that hippie, you’ll both be wanting a beer. Saddle up! Continue to Alderwood, which you can take to Cornfoot, past ANG and FEDKINK, up to another fun one-lane, uphill, heavy traffic overpass, and on down to NE Portland as we left it. Either carry on to the Spare Room for some classy drinks & snacks, or navigate down Holman, past Ainsworth Park and another, politer, smaller and less scary modern development, to Aladdin’s Restaurant on 33rd for middle-eastern fare and interesting beer. And, because I think there should be, here are some more sentences that end in ‘beer’. Such as, beer. And beer. And beer.

The ride I just described existed on May 24th, 2007, between 7 and 10pm. After that, it’s hard to say. This is a tour of a place in a dizzying moment of change, a historical tipping point. If you do go, go soon, and please think, while you are there, about where Portland is headed and what you want to do about it. It’s our city. -m-


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