Day 1: Portland to Longview

Ceiling

Ceiling of the hotel room.

A man and a woman are sitting side-by-side on the beach. He’s got his arm around her. Her knees are bent. The date is 1958. Skulls smile menacingly. They’re everywhere.  A cartoon man sits in a large easy chair, waiting for his dinner.

I’m at a motel in Kelso, Washington laying on the bed looking up at the ceiling. Or I was. Now I’m showing you this:

Flat!

Thanks for nothing Mr. Tuffy!

My tire went flat one block away from the motel—thank goodness. Frustrating though since I just purchased and installed Mr. Tuffy tire liners.

Addendum, August 16, 2010: The puncture was on the hub side of the wheel. Mr. Tuffy is doing his job.

Accomplished thus far.

Day 1: It was about just getting it done. 50 miles down, 175 more to go. At 6 PM the temperature was 92 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to be hot and then it should cool down towards the end of the week (75 degrees). Today’s heat had me thinking like someone on a sinking ship: what could I toss overboard? I’m traveling pretty light, but could still drop some weight. I’m certainly keeping the spare inner tubes!

In Mt. Rainier I passed a young man riding a BMX bicycle down the bike lane. He was wearing a hoodie or a big over shirt of some sort, a hat with ear flaps and a huge bellowing backpack that looked to be completely loaded with books. How he could stand the heat in those long, baggy pants and with the clothes he had on is beyond me. I passed him and we gave each other a wave because that’s what bicyclists do. I waved to about ten other riders this afternoon.

My bike computer was saying that I’d only traveled 25 miles yet there was a sign for Longview and a huge bridge to my right. I pulled over and tried to get Samantha (the voice inside my GPS) to tell me where to go. The young man passed by and so I rode up asked if it was the bridge to Longview. He made a face and raised up a palm. Then he asked if I had food, at least that’s what I think he said. He had quite a stutter. Three bananas accompanied me on the trip and only one was left. It was sitting on top of my bag behind me. I pointed it out. He suggested we ride together. I was curious about his story so I rode with him slowly, but just for a bit.

I asked where he was headed. He didn’t know, he was just riding. I asked where he came from. He said he left from Tigard, OR. I asked if he had water. He said he did and reached back to touch his backpack, which from the side looked even bigger and heavier than from behind. We rode a short distance in silence and then I wished him well.

There are a lot of roadside memorials. “I’ll love you forever” written in black on white crosses. Plastic flowers surrounding a teddy bear nailed to a pole. Nobody posts such things outside of hospitals. Perhaps it’s just to mark where people’s lives got cut short unexpectedly.

I saw grazing cattle, bikers on classic choppers, power stations and police cars. Mostly I saw the sun. What a difference some shade makes.

Some kid yelled “Go home!” from the passenger window of a red Jeep Cherokee as he passed closely on the Lewis and Clark Bridge. It really startled me.

At the hotel I reached for my last banana, but it was gone.

Video: Traveling up 30 passed the St. John’s Bridge.

Bike Preparation

In getting the bike ready to roll, the Kenda K-Rad tires that have been on the bike for the past two years came off.

K-Rad

The Bontrager Hank tires that came with the bike originally went back on. 

Hank

As a special precaution I put in some Mr. Tuffy bicycle tire liners. The extra $16 is a worthy investment since they will help prevent flat tires.

Mr. Tuffy

When the sound of bike bells ringing and people cheering came through the open window, it would have been a sin to not take a photo of the happy bikers who were for some reason parading past our apartment. There was a huge parade of cyclists and they had a police escort. Some of them were in costume.

Riders

Riding bikes makes people happy.

Portland BridgePedal 2010

On Sunday, August 8, 2010, Gwenn and I participated in the Portland BridgePedal. For those of you who are not from Portland, the BridgePedal is an annual event where thousands of people ride their bicycles over the beloved bridges of the city. The streets get closed and food gets served. It’s a grand old time!

We signed up for the 10-bridge ride but we arrived at the start point at 7 AM only to find the Freemont Bridge was closed. Volunteers said the time was 7:04 AM and by 7:09 AM some cyclists were screaming and angry. We were told to ride to the next starting spot, which was downtown. When we go there we traded our 10-bridge ride tags for 7-bridge ride tags and got in line.

BridgePedal 7-Bridge Start

7-Bridge Start Line

One of the most fun aspects of the BridgePedal is people watching. All kinds of riders come out and hit the streets. From young kids with training wheels to elderly people on adult tricycles, there’s no shortage of interesting characters to look at.

Riders

Riding the 2010 BridgePedal

Another neat thing is being able to ride across, and stop on, bridges that usually prohibit cyclists. 

On the Bridge

Fun on the Marquam Bridge

With the great views, there’s never a better time to take photos of yourself and/or the city.

Taking a Picture

Taking a photo on the Marquam Bridge

What’s usually reserved for cars gets overrun by cyclists on an early Sunday morning only once per year. It’s always cool to ride on Route 405.

Bike Highway

Biking on Route 405

All of the posturing that happens on highways was still there with the bikes. Some people sped along and cut in front of other cyclists. Others were leisurely rolling down the street paying attention only to their conversations.

Imagine how different our world be if everyone rode bicycles.

Freemont BridgePedal

Bicycle Highway on the Freemont Bridge

By the time we got to St. John’s there were hundreds of people eating bagels, bananas, peaches, and Cliff Bars.

Providence BridgePedal

St. John’s

It wasn’t long before everyone was once again downtown at the start/finish line. Thousands of people eagerly ate free junk food and purchased Providence BridgePedal t-shirts.

Finish Line

Finish Line Area

Then they walked or rode to their awaiting parked cars, loaded up their bikes and drove off.

Loading Up

Loading Bikes Onto the Car

Imagine how different our world be if everyone rode bicycles.

Biking Makes You Late

Train

Freight Train in the Pearl District

I’m pretty good at judging the amount of time it takes by bike to get places in town. On my way to Columbia EcoVillage last Saturday, I got caught on the wrong side of the tracks behind a very long freight train in the Pearl District. It set me back about twenty minutes.

I did my best to catch up and rode into North Portland following directions collected from the Google maps bicycle feature only to find I was too far north of Columbia Blvd when I should’ve been south of it and on Killingsworth.

Frustrating!

After calling and getting directions, I hightailed it over to the correct route but was stopped along the way by a red light that didn’t care to sense the motion of a single bicycle.  The only way to get across was to “become” a pedestrian and walk across.

Red Light

Crossing Columbia Boulevard: cars to the left and right!

What made the morning ride even more frustrating was that I had adjusted my disc brakes the night before. I apparently didn’t do a good job—they were rubbing the whole time. Since I had no time to fix them, the result was a 20 mile ride that was basically the equivalent of going uphill the whole while. The only thing to do was to keep positive and consider it training.

There were moments on that trip where I considered bailing out and heading home. Thoughts of car ownership crossed my mind. However, it was well worth it to arrive at the Columbia EcoVillage and examine ways in which people live environmentally sustainable lives.

Columbia EcoVillage

In order to learn how other people live sustainably, I recently visited the Columbia EcoVillage in NE Portland.

Columbia Ecovillage

The entrance to Columbia Ecovillage.

From the street, the Ecovillage appears to be a regular condominium complex, just with a lot of vegetation. You enter by driving (or riding) into a centrally located parking lot to find yourself surrounded by condo buildings. There are 37 units housing 60 people with 10 children under the age of 8. The only requirement to live there is that adults must do eight hours of work per month toward the care of the community.

Bike Parking

The bicycle parking area.

The buildings are painted in an earthy color scheme, which made them fade behind the many flowers and plants that covered the grounds.

Flower Condos

Flowers and Condos.

There were several people watering plants and someone was pushing a wheelbarrow. The setting was relaxing and welcoming, kind of like a friendly suburban neighborhood packaged inside a condo complex.

Because I arrived late, I joined an already existing tour in the farm house, which is an amazingly charming building that acts as common space for all of the residents of the Columbia community. From the outside the house looks plain, but inside is amazing! You can easily imagine yourself living in a simpler time when you see the wooden kitchen shelves, walk-in pantry, old-time music/recreation room and summer sleeping porch.

Farm House

The old farm house.

The tour had six other people and was lead by Barbara Ford, a community organizer for the village. Visitors asked about particular types of sustainable practices to see if they were being employed by the village residents. It’s easy to make suggestions and say, “You should compost. You should collect rain water.” What’s not easy is turning those ideas into a reality.

When the tour ended, Barbara graciously gave me a tour. It is apparent that the residents of Columbia Ecovillage are most certainly active and making their vision a reality. In fact, we bumped into several people who were happily working on the farm.

Pam Makes Compost

Pam, a founder of the village, wearing pink gloves and making compost.

The farm land was partitioned and sold in the sixties and the condos were built in the seventies. Pam was one of the original founders of the village. She was part of the Permaculture Institute, which was located on the farm.

Since the condo buildings are closer to the road, you don’t immediately notice the farmland or the farm house until you walk back from the parking lot. Once there, you’re surrounded by a labyrinth of beautiful trees, plants, and all kinds of country surprises you wouldn’t expect to find within Portland city limits.

Bamboo100 Year Old Tree

Bamboo and a 100 year-old tree.

Several large bee hives sat near the edge of the lot. That coupled with the amount of flowers in the area meant a whole lot of stingers nearby.

Beehives

Bees!

In the photo below I highlighted the bees in yellow so you can get an idea of what it was like to be close to the hives.

Bees

Bees everywhere!

Barbara began bee keeping when she moved to Columbia Ecovillage. She said she wears a bee suit when she works with them, but that some people don’t. I was unnerved just from hearing them buzz near my head. She was very much at ease.

Grapes

Grapes growing.

The grass was speckled with clover and wild flowers which invite you to walk the magical farm.

Flower

Flowers abound.

Everywhere you looked something interesting and beautiful was growing.

Strawberries

Strawberries growing.

The whole place was full of life.

Fruit

Fruit everywhere.

There is a lot of history on the farm. They have a photo from 1913 of the farm family standing on the hand-made, concrete-and-stone foot bridge.

Footbridge

An old bird bath and the little footbridge.

Many of the original structures are still standing and each has a story to tell.

Old Chicken Coop

The old chicken coop.

There were hidden secret areas where kids could hide and play. The Village received a grant to house several vermaculture (worm composting) vats and they now host school children who come to learn about the process.

Kid area

Secret spot for kids.

Everyone I saw smiled and said hello. As Patrick checked the roost, he explained that the doors were low enough that kids could do the egg collecting and packing.

An Egg!

Patrick finds an egg!

Many of the residents downsized when they moved to the Columbia Ecovillage. Instead of getting rid of their gardening tools, they brought them along. Someone even brought a greenhouse!

Tool Shed

A well stocked and very organized tool shed.

The condos are modest but comfortable one and two bedroom units. There are a few rentals, but most of them are owner occupied. Barbara showed me a one bedroom that’s currently on the market. It boasted kitchen counter tops from Sauvie Island, a 2nd floor patio and fresh air ventilation. The units also have a customizable outdoor area.

KitchenView

Inside of a one-bedroom apartment.

Barbara moved to Columbia Ecovillage after selling her house. Everyone in the community contributes in some way and, because she likes people, she prefers to contribute in ways that support community life.

Residents share. When people need something—from a ride to an ice cream maker—they can post to the community email list. The laundry room has potluck sign ups, drying lines, and an area where people can take or leave items they wish to trade or give away. Decisions about the community are made by consensus. While it sometimes takes longer to come to a conclusion, the outcome tends to stick.

The sense of ownership is visible everywhere. Barbara told me about a time when she passed a clogged drain pipe on her way out. By the time she got home, it was fixed.

Barbara

Barabara Ford sitting outside of her Columbia Ecovillage unit.

I asked Barbara about cars. She pointed out the bus stop at the end of the driveway and explained that city code requires one parking spot per unit, thus the large parking area.

There is no specific religious orientation in this co-housing community but there is a collective mission and values statement. Inspired by the sense of belonging, I asked Barbara what makes a community. 

“The people and their desire to live together thoughtfully with care and intention,” she said. “It’s a constant creative connection.”

If you’re an urban or suburban dweller, moving to and living on a shared farm in the middle of a city could quite possibly be a slice of heaven.

For more information about the Columbia Ecovillage, visit: www.columbiaecovillage.net.

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