Festive 500 Part 3: Sauvie Island

I woke feeling rested after a good night's sleep on Christmas and was keen to shake off yesterday's poor showing and put on some distance.  Weather looked favorable for an outing to Sauvie Island as the winds were mild.  Gusty days are torment out on the exposed flatlands of the island, situated in the corner of the Columbia/Willamette wind tunnel.  If it's breezy in town, you had better bring sails to the island.  This makes for good training if you're looking to build leg strength and hone your aero position, but I'm not there yet.  Solitude and flat roads were the main factors driving me to Sauvie Island this day.  

I donned an extra layer beyond the kit I had worn the day before, even though the thermometer showed a few extra degrees of warmth and the sky only spat a heavy drizzle rather than the frigid downpour of Christmas.  I was not interested in being cold and intended to keep myself toasty and warm despite the wet conditions.  The blood vessels in my arms stayed much happier with an extra set of sleeves protecting them from the wind chill and I was able to start the ride with a light pair of gloves.  I did keep the insulated and waterproof mitts in my jersey pocket as an insurance policy against frost-nipped fingertips, but was never to need them.  My new tights did an admirable job of keeping the rain from penetrating too deeply into my muscles as I spun out Willamette Blvd toward St. Johns.  The material and construction of these tights could make them perfect for winter training in Portland.  Look for a more through review soon.

 There were plenty of puddles to splash through.  One of these days I'll build myself a proper rain bike.

I crossed the St. Johns Bridge onto old Dirty 30 to find the industrial zone humming with renewed activity after a brief Christmas quietude and pedaled through the blasts of spray from dump trucks and tractor-trailers back on the job.  The peaceful part of the ride began after crossing under the rusty arches of the Sauvie Island bridge.

Sauvie Island is the largest island along the Columbia River (larger than Manhattan, for scale), is part agricultural area, part wildlife sanctuary/hunting preserve and provides enough miles of flat, low-traffic roads for even hardy riders to leave the island with a tired bottom.  The beaches (some of them clothing-optional) are a big draw in the summertime.  This is what the view looked like for most of the southern half of the island:

In addition to flooded fields there are lots of cows, horses, sheep, goats and wild birds to provide entertainment on the completely flat and often dead-straight roads.  I was fortunate that no sections of road were completely flooded on this particular day.

I made the southeastern half of the Gillihan Road loop and turned right onto Reeder Road to make the long out-and-back journey to the beaches on the island's Eastern shore.  The road turns to dirt(!) partway through and was in excellent shape with only a few potholes and minimal washboarding.  I lost no momentum over the smooth bands of hardpack where the car tires pack the loose gravel into the muddy soil and kept a comfortably light cadence with the help of an almost undetectable tailwind.

I came across a huge flock of geese hanging out in a roadside field.  Geese are all too common around the Northwest this time of year, leave their grassy turds all over the riverside roads and paths and are not among my favorite sights, but the size of this flock warranted a stop.  Tack 6 identical frames onto the left edge of the photo below and you'll have some idea of the scale.  This was a lot of honking birds.

I straddled my machine on the muddy roadside, trying to capture the size of the flock in a panoramic photo when - coordinated by some indeciperable signal - the whole crew decided to take off and head on a little farther south.  The rushing cacophony of thousands of beating wings and honking beaks was as loud as a small helicopter and unlike anything I've heard before.

Away they went to brave the hunters' shotguns on their long flight to warmer weather down south. Godspeed.

I headed back down the road and passed this sign, which actually tells the truth unlike most similar signs seen on bike rides.  Never trust a Dead End sign.  

This really is the end of the road unless you have a hunting permit and a good pair of boots.  Sadly, no bikes allowed.

I stopped to eat half of my peanut butter & jelly sandwich and enjoy the quiet.  I couldn't stay long without losing too much body heat, so I quickly resaddled my steed and turned back South for the return trip.

I followed Reeder Road across the island to the west side and its intersection with Sauvie Island Road, which leads along Multnomah Channel and back to the bridge over to Highway 30.

After a quick run South through Linnton on Highway 30 I climbed the ramp to cross under the iconic gothic arches of the St. Johns Bridge back to the East side of the Willamette River toward home.

Continuing the catsitting trend, I stopped through the Arbor Lodge neighborhood to check in on Peanut Butter who told me about his mellow Christmas at home while we did yoga poses and perused the motorcycle accessory catalog that had come in the mail.  Then on home to strip off wet layers, take a warm shower, eat a dinner of Christmas leftovers and watch the Trailblazers in a grudge match with the Sacramento Kings.  

And now - as they say on a particular radio program - let's do the numbers:

Cumulative Totals:
  • 208.6km
  • 10:05 ride time
  • 1,117m climbed
  • 5,785 calories 
Despite the lost kilometers from our Christmas misadventure, I'm on a good pace with five days of riding still to come.  With any luck I'll be over the halfway mark tomorrow and will have at least a couple of recovery days before ending the challenge with a bang on New Year's Eve.  

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