Festive 500 Part 4: Border Crossing

I was up past my bedtime after meeting some friends to watch the Trailblazers game at the local watering hole the night before, so I woke feeling yawny and with a vaguely familiar soreness in my right acchilles, sometimes a sign that I'm trying to push my legs too hard before they're ready.  Honestly, I haven't done a good job of recovering properly after rides during the challenge so far.  The amount of time spent stretching or massaging has been minimal and probably has a lot to do with the twinges in my ankle and low energy levels.

Weather conditions looked ripe, however.  Bands of blue sky were visible between the bands of morning clouds and NOAA predicted only a 24% chance of rain through midday.  Looked like a perfect day for a comfortable 60km and a good stretch and legs-up couch session with a good book on returning home.

 I looked about as tired as I felt on the northbound trip past the Portland International Raceway and Expo Center to pick up the I-5 bike path for a trip across the border into Washington. 

Wetlands on the Peninsula are swollen this time of year.

Handy homebrewed directional markings on the confusing interchange of bike paths.  

After navigating the awkward transition between bike path and road at the Jantzen Beach intersection I reached the foot of the I-5 bridge over the Columbia, ready to make the northbound crossing.

Don't worry, I'll be back.

This particular bridge has been the subject of much political debate in recent years as prospects and ideas for its replacement have been bandied about in governmental chambers on both sides of the border with little consensus or progress and a phenomenal expenditure of funds.  Sound familiar?  I don't consider myself politically active but - at least from my cyclist's perspective - this crossing is definitely broken and needs a proper redesign with non-automotive users considered as part of the plan.  This is what happens when bikes and pedestrians are left out of the transportation plan:

Barely enough room for a pair of 42cm handlebars on the narrow bridge sidewalk.

I've had a handful of difficult interactions with pedestrians and other riders on this stretch of bridge.  The main problems are the narrow space that all users are squeezed into and the fact that it isn't a one-way street.  North and Southbound users share the path on the East side of the bridge.  Noise from heavy car and truck traffic reverberating through the steel beams compounds the problem.  Even very loud bike bells have little chance of being heard over the roar, so there's no good way to inform a pedestrian of your approach without scaring them out of their socks and feeling like a jerk.  

Running the gauntlet...

The view to the East; peaceful counterpoint to the often stressful crossing experience.  Mt. Hood's presence can be felt, even when it's invisible.

This particular crossing was no exception.  I was less than five feet from a nice guy out for a walk in his hooded sweatshirt and headphones when he stopped and reached down to pick up a discarded coffee cup from the sidewalk tread.  I slowed nearly to a halt and said, "excuse me, sir!" in the kindest sub-shout voice I could muster as.  He looked up with a smile, apologized at the same time I did and I squeezed by.  I exited the bridge and headed East along the quiet waterfront road through the light industrial zone of Vancouver.  Where that road dead-ends into a gated condominium development, a waterfront bike path begins.

Empty path along the Columbia.

The bike path ends at a waterfront park with a sandy beach that would make a great summertime destination.  I made a mental note to return on a hot day and turned inland.

This hump up to the railroad tracks was the main climb on this flat ride.

I rode through the neighborhoods eastward toward the Evergreen Highway, a poorly maintained cracked and patched road connecting Vancouver and the small riverside towns of Camas and Washougal.  I didn't need to tally up a huge number of kilometers on this day and my legs were already starting to feel a little heavy so I rode out to Fisher Cemetery where a number of early Washington settlers are buried to enjoy the sun and a snack.  In fact, the sun was warm enough that I was able to take my gloves off and enjoy the breeze on bare fingers; and uncommon pleasure for winter in the Northwest.

Sunshine on the Veterans' monument at Fisher Cemetery.

After my break and snack, I about-faced on the Evergreen Highway, dodged cracks and poorly patched pavement and headed back towards the I-205 bridge to return to Oregon.

Westbound on the Evergreen, I-205 in the distance.

Compared to the I-5 crossing, the I-205 bike patch is certainly less claustrophobic but no less noisy.  Even during times of light traffic, the din of internal combustion (and studded tires in season) is enough to drown out even shouted conversation.  However, the experience of emerging from the under-bridge bike path, up the ramp and into the middle of the bridge deck is exhilarating, to be sure.

The view as you reach bridge level.

Welcome Back!

The view to the East.  Clouds are lighter, but still no view of the mountain.

After riding the roller-coaster of humpy concrete between the highway lanes and making landfall back in the great state of Oregon, I continued South on the 205 bike path where I came across this silhoutte:

I expected the red-tailed hawk to take off as soon as I approached, but the semi-juvenile (according to my sub-amateur estimation) seemed content to sit on his perch and survey the green spaces between road, path and warehouses.

I was able to fire off several photos before the hawk thought about taking flight.  I was more afraid that my camera battery would fail before I could capture an image of the raptor spreading its wings.

Then, away he went.  

I continued on down the 205 bike path and reminded myself why I typically avoid it.  The path is littered with trash, broken glass, discarded clothing and often interrupted by busy thoroughfares heading  West into Portland's city center that can only be crossed by pressing the crosswalk button and waiting for the traffic control devices to stem the flow of traffic.  As I navigated the path and its inhabitants, I wound up distracted from my destination and continued a little too far South.  My powers of comprehension were dulled by my lack of calorie consumption on the day and I only realized my mistake when I started to see signs for Oregon City.  Oops.  I exited the path, turned back to the North and wound my way through the dirty streets of far East Portland, played Frogger crossing 82nd Avenue and picked up Clinton Street to cruise back into town.  

Happy to be back in a pleasant neighborhood after the slums off 82nd.

I refueled with a couple of bags of airline peanuts and the last nibbles of PB&J while cruising on the mellow downgrades of Clinton Street, heading into Southeast Portland.  

Clinton led to the tree-lined lanes of Ladd's Addition.

I was happy to have made it back to town and was feeling much more depleted than I should have after a flat, 60km ride.  The fact that I hadn't recovered properly from previous rides was now abundantly clear and I resolved to take care of my body and legs after this one.  

I'm not sure if I look more or less tired in this end-of-ride photo than the first...

Okay, ride four is in the books.  Let's do the numbers:

Today's Totals:
  • 64.9km
  • 3:01 ride time
  • 447m climbing
  • 1890 calories
Cumulative Totals:
  • 273.5km (over halfway there!)
  • 13:06 ride time
  • 1,564m climbing
  • 7,675 calories

Tomorrow will be a recovery day.  I'm hoping for 40km and a continuing recovery before cranking up the miles for an emphatic end in the final days of the challenge.  

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