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Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Wednesday Ride: Crossing State Lines, Wine, New Libraries, Musty Smelling Waxed Canvas, and an unintentional Mia Birk experience

Wednesday November 9. For reasons that take a lot more energy to explain here,* I ended up chaperoning April to The City 'Cross the Columbia, Vancouver, Washington. April needed to meet her friend Coral there, and I used it as an excuse to get a good ride in. And the weatrher was great, high clouds that didn't block the view of Mt. Hood and a high near 60F/16C. We made it to Coral's house just after the meeting time of 3pm. (Better late than never, right?) I bid beautiful April adieu and I was free for the night.

I was going to meet up with Mr. Dutch Bike of Vancouver Himself, Todd Boulanger, but he wasn't going to be available until about 5pm. So I explored some new things in Vancouver's downtown. Vancouver gets a bad rap by a lot of Portlanders, some of it deservedly so. But "The Couve" has definitely improved in the ten years I've lived in the metro area. So what's new and cool?

  • For one, Vancouver finally has a food co-op! It's been around for about a year, but it just moved into new digs on Main St. across from Niche/Angst and the Kiggins Theatre. Central Vancouver is a bit of a food desert, as no grocery store wants to go in there. There's a Freddies and a Safeway about a mile away, and all of the "fancier" grocers like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and New Seasons are far in the eastern hinterlands. So now downtown and "core city" dwellers have a good option for groceries. The selection is a bit sparse right now, but will soon be improving.
  • Speaking of the Kiggins, the classic art deco cinema (originally opened in 1935) just had an extensive remodel and reopening. It now has a bar as well.
  • And my favorite new thing is Vancouver's brand-spanking-new central library. The old one was a 1960's "modernist" building located in a weird zone that, while "centrally located" wasn't really near anything. This one is right in downtown and is fancy-schmancy. It's got five (5!) floors, a wide open interior including a four story atrium, a coffee bar, meeting rooms galore, all the works.
from the City of Vancouver website
Soon it was five and I met Todd at our usual meeting spot, Niche wine bar (which his lovely partner Leah Jackson owns.) Meeting Todd here was part pleasure, and part business. Turns out Todd has a Carradice waxed cotton rain cape that he doesn't need anymore, and I got it from him for "trade". Cool beans! Now I just have to wait for it to rain in order to try it out.

I also learned that Mia Birk was going to be giving a presentation over at the library and Todd was going. Since I didn't have to be back to Portland at any specific point, I decided to tag along.

There was an audience of about 50. Most of the attendees seemed to be members of the Vancouver Cycling Club, as I believe the event was hosted by them. To be honest, I was never that impressed with Mia's presentations in the past, but really enjoyed this one. With the foundation of the presentation based on her book Joyride, she talked tenure as Portland's Bicycle Coordinator 1993-9, personal experience with the bike, how Portland can be better (looking at inspiration from the usual suspects of Amsterdam and Copenhagen), and more. Yeah, all stuff I "know", but I like how she put it all together. It probably helps that she's been touring with Joyride so she's had time to hone her presentation.

It was about 8:30, dark, and a little chilly when the presentation wrapped up. I could have rode home the easier and shorter way by crossing the Interstate (I-5) Bridge, but I was still itching for a ride. So I opted to cross over the Columbia at the Glenn Jackson (I-205) Bridge, six miles east of downtown. The riding through Vancouver was peaceful, low traffic, residential neighborhoods, full moon overhead. The roads were pretty dark but my B&M Lyt Senso Plus headlight did a good job of illuminating The Couve's somewhat bumpy backroads. Soon I reached the Glenn Jackson bridge in all of its two-plus mile glory. Heading this way is mostly downhill, so it was an exhilarating coast downwards at speeds of 20 m.p.h, more exhilarating because one frequently has to dodge raised plates and other hazards in the bike path which is uniquely situated between both directions of traffic. (So 1982.)

I decided to take Sandy Blvd. up and over the Alameda Ridge and then meander back into SE. Starting the climb I noticed that the steering on my front end was getting progressively weirder. Was it the handlebar bag throwing off the balance? No, silly, my front tire was going flat. Amazing--4,000 miles across the wilds of the continent and never a front flat. But it would have to be the Glenn Jackson Bridge where I would pick up a piece of glass. I didn't relish doing flat tire repair on the side of Sandy at 10 pm when a bike stand awaited at the apartment. I decided to just reinflate the tire as needed on the ride home. I had to do it at least three times before I got home, but whatever.

Despite the flat, it was a nice ride. I clocked 30 miles altogether. I need to do a ride like this once a week from now on, rain or no.

*April volunteered to accompany her friend Coral on a drive to Seattle for a show. Coral was going to drive to Seattle in the afternoon, see show, and come back the same night (well, guess it would be morning by then.) She wanted someone to accompany her in order to keep her awake for the drive back. The volunteer would also get to see the show for free. So April volunteered, and then she found out what the show was: Neil Gaiman with former Dresden Doll (and current wife) Amanda Palmer. April wanted to go to the Tuesday Portland show but it sold out fast. So it was a win-win situation for all involved. Of course Coral lives in Vancouver, Washington, hence we needed to ride to The Couve so April could meet Coral.

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