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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pseudo-Spring Adventuring on the bike

The last post on this here blog had me lamenting my lack of cycling in the past few weeks, and the "iffy" weather that materialized as a sheet of ice on Tuesday night.

Well, 180's have been pulled, both in my biking, and the weather.

The ice didn't stand much of a chance on Wednesday, as I saw the thermometer push itself into the mid-reaches of the 50's (Fahrenheit, which would be like 13C.) The rain had returned, but so what? I got out on the bike, did some routing of Sunday's forthcoming Palm Tree Ride, and then went on an excursion to our northern neighbor, Vancouver. It was a 13 mile ride from Montavilla to downtown The 'Couve, via the I-205 bike path and Evergreen Blvd. The reason? A pow-wow with Todd Boulanger about upcoming bicycle adventures. We enjoyed ourselves at Niche wine bar (with the best bicycle parking in SW Washington) and busily plotted some fun rides for the spring. More on that soon.

Me in a wine bar? How classy!

Thursday brought a southerly bike excursion, still following the I-205 bike path but this time the destination would be the Clackamas REI. "Clackamas REI?" you may ask yourself, "Isn't there one in Portland?" Yes, Virginia, there is, but I had a special order to pick up at this store, which is only 7 miles by bike (and along a bike path!) from my house. The downtown REI is a bit further away, actually. It was raining but the temperature even balmier, pushing 60F (16C).

I decided to use the all wool strategy, eschewing any "rain gear". All I had on was my old vintage Italian wool cycling jersey with armwarmers, shorts, wool "leggins" and socks. And I managed to do pretty well! Oh of course I was damp, but not cold. Rather just be damp with rain than damp with sweat.

On my return to Montavilla I made a side trip to Trader Joes, where a few commented on my biking in the rain. I know that some believe that we shouldn't make bicycling look any tougher than it should, and being stoic about such things do more harm than good. But hey! I can use a little ego boost every once in awhile! I do have to admit I get some pleasure when people compliment me on riding in the rain, cold, "at all", etc. If people want to think that I'm tough (and/or crazy) for doing these things, then let them. Maybe they'll someday realize that it's not as tough or hard to bicycle in the rain, cold, or at all. But doing new things sometimes requires people to leave their comfort zone, and that's not easy. Choosing not to drive for every trip is, for most people, leaving their comfort zone. But anyways, I'm not done talking about my Thursday!

After returning home, I departed for North Portland and North Portland Bikeworks, where I picked up a whole bunch o' stuff for the Raleigh Wayfarer. I got cream-colored Schwalbe Delta Cruisers (Lovely Bicycle corrupted me!) and tubes (I wanted thorn proof, but they didn't have any.) I also got a new bell, cork grips, seat post, pedals, cables, white cable housing, Sturmey-Archer cable...whew! Even with a discount, this all set me back about $90, which is three times as much as I payed for the bike! Ah well...

Then I went to check out a cargo bike that my friend Steph (no! the other Steph) was selling (more on that soon.) And to round out the evening I met the Cycle Wild* folks to talk about upcoming bike camping trips.

It was about 10:30 by the time I got out of the meeting. I thought briefly about taking the MAX home (as I did Wednesday night), but the evening was beautiful! The temp was still somewhere in the lower 50's, the rain stopped, and the moon and stars even making an appearance! I couldn't not ride home!

On my almost 10 mile excursion home, I contemplated on the weather and seasons. I love how the weather gods of the Northwest will give you a break every once in awhile, like tonight. And how temperate our climate is. It's mid-January and I was riding around in the same amount of clothes I mentioned earlier, plus a vest. And I was comfortable. And this isn't "unusual" weather for this time of year.

In Cascadia we tend to conflate "winter" and "rainy season". While it's true that they run concurrently, they are distinct. Our rainy season runs roughly late October to mid April, and it encompasses late fall, winter, and early spring. And winter really is November, December, January, and a bit of February.

January is definitely in the middle of winter, when we tend to get our coldest weather and most amount of rain (though this year December was the rainier month.) This is the time where we can see snow. This is also when spirits are at their lowest, as the distraction of the holidays is gone, and spring seemingly distant. That's why I have my Palm Tree Ride in the middle of the month, as a way to bring our spirits up.

Through January the days get longer, and February means the first signs of spring flora, and the first real nice weather of the year. We can have several days in the 60's with sun! The rain changes too. Winter rain, dominated by damp gray days with intermittent drizzle to full all-day deluge, gives way to the schizophrenic spring rain cycle of sun, clouds, dramatic downpour in a two hour period, then repeat several times through the day.

March means the deciduous trees start to bloom, along with trilliums! By this point it's hard to imagine snow. As April begins, most of the trees are in full bloom. Compare that to back home in Connecticut, where the buds are just beginning to come about, and snow still a distinct possibility. The trees don't fully bloom until mid-May, which was always agonizingly slow for me.

We've got it good here. The grass is green even in the depths of winter, and you can still garden. While snow is fun a few times in winter, I'm through with cold snowy winters for now. Let spring begin!

*okay, technically this was in NE, but just over the line

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