Category Archives: Portland

New (used) bikes for our next adventure

Back in Portland, Dallas and I spent a few days recovering from our travels from Alaska.  We needed to get moving though, before the weather turned cold and rainy.  It was apparently already too late to miss the rain, so after 2 rest days, we started to get serious about our next move.  Dallas purchased an almost new Kona Honkytonk from our friend Alyssa, and I found an excellent deal on a GT Wheels 4 Life Peace tour bike on Craigslist.  The former owner of my new steed had just finished riding across the US with it – you can see her blog here: www.missionusa2013.blogspot.com

On Friday, Dallas caught up with family in Oregon City while I ran with our friend Kelly in Forest Park.  I spent that weekend testing my bike out on some of John Benenate’s team rides.  It’s heavy compared to everyone’s road bikes, but it will definitely get me out of Portland.  After spending Saturday and Sunday cycling in the rain, Dallas joined me for Tuesday and Wednesday evening group runs organized by other Skora ambassadors.  There’s definitely enough resources to stay active all week in Portland.

My plan was to wait for a few sunny days in a row (which could be weeks here), and get as far south as possible before the rain hits again.  We got lucky on Thursday afternoon when the sun came out (and we got to see our friend Kristina, from Sockeye, who had just arrived in Portland the night before).

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Hoping to leave Friday, we hurried to get everything we needed together for another long bike tour.  Halfway through the day, we decided we wouldn’t be ready and would leave on Saturday instead.  Saturday morning came, and we still had a few last minute things to pack and adjust.  By Saturday afternoon, we were still not quite ready.  Hopefully we haven’t wasted our only two sunny days in Portland.  We definitely plan on biking out Sunday morning!

The plan is to head south as far as Eugene together.  Then, I may cut west to the coast and ride down the Pacific Coast Highway.  Dallas is planning to continue towards Crater Lake (hopefully the National Park will be open again by the time he gets there) and south to visit his dad in Ashland before meeting up with me again in San Francisco.  The goal is to get to San Francisco by October 19th.  Keep checking back for more frequent updates along the way!

Missing: Two Touring Bicycles

I write this post with both sadness and hopefulness.

On our last day in New Orleans last year (in May of 2012) we celebrated by going out to a bar.  Our bikes were just outside and a few doors down.  When I went to check on them, I noticed someone standing over them.  As I approached him, I realized the man was attempting to steal our bikes by twisting a broom handle that he had stuck in between the cable lock and the bike frames.  I confronted the man, who looked both drunk and homeless.

“What are you doing with our bikes?”

“These bikes? These aren’t your bikes.” He lied.

“Ummm…yes. That’s my bike, and that’s my helmet!” I retorted, pointing at the helmet that he was wearing backwards on his grimy head of long, tangled grey hair.

He finally decided against messing with me any further and stumbled away.

Having my bike stolen was one of my biggest fears about living in New Orleans.  We made it until our last night without incidence, and I was lucky enough to divert the one feeble attempt that was made to take our bikes from us.  Unfortunately, it was in Portland that our bicycles were successfully stolen.  Unless of course, our bikes had overheard Dallas considering buying a new bike and decided to run away together before I got the same idea.  I can only hope they are together and being treated respectfully, wherever they are, and that they are not too afraid.

Opus Largo with green frame, brown handlebar tape and saddle and army green handlebar bags, and Bianchi Volpe with black frame, Terry Liberty saddle and white handlebar tape - both bikes have steel frames and spd pedals.

Opus Largo with green frame, brown handlebar tape and saddle and army green handlebar bags, and BianchiVolpe with black frame, Terry Liberty saddle and white handlebar tape – both bikes have steel frames and spd pedals.

We were on our way back home from visiting Dallas’s mom in Oregon City, and stopped at REI.  Our bikes were locked up together on the bike rack outside of REI, and we left them alone for maybe an hour, while we browsed the store and ate a quick meal next door.  Walking back to the bike rack, I did not see any wheels sticking out.  That’s when my heart sank in my chest, and we saw the cleanly cut lock on the ground by the rack.  Fortunately, Portland does have good public transportation, and we were able to get home within 40 minutes and only one connection from the MAX to a bus.  But I felt a bit of shamefulness having to walk to the MAX in our bike shoes, helmet in hand, with no bikes.  I started thinking of all the things that I could have done differently to prevent our bikes from being stolen, and I felt as if it were my fault.  We shouldn’t have stopped at REI.  We should have taken the ride that Dallas’s step-father had offered us back home.  We should have locked our bikes somewhere else, or gone back to check on them between shopping and eating.  But in reality, there’s no way I could have known, and of course it’s too late to change what has happened.

Dallas and I are looking on craigslist, ebay, pawn shops and bike shops in hopes of recovering our lost bicycles.  But in the end, we cannot complete our goals without bikes, and we may just have to break down and get new ones.  This gives us an opportunity for something good to come out of it, and perhaps we can strike up a partnership with a bicycle company that would be interested in sponsoring us.  We are totally open to ideas.  In our current circumstance, we will probably end up riding whatever we can find on a budget.

New Connections

In four months of living in Portland, the only job that I managed to get was a temporary position as a seasonal employee for the Columbia Sportswear outlet about 3 miles from where we lived.  I started working there shortly before Thanksgiving, and quickly learned that retail jobs are not for me.  After the first week or so, I was grateful for the little income it provided, but I was equally grateful that it was a temporary position.  The hours of walking around and being on my feet were not a problem, but the lack of intellectual stimulation and challenge that I normally seek was wearing on me.  I must say that I really liked my coworkers, who were mostly outdoorsy, active, and friendly people – an important element that can make or break job satisfaction.

Knowing that my job would eventually end, but not knowing when Dallas would be ready to leave Portland, I continued to search for and apply for jobs, ranging from bicycle delivery to food service to biological research jobs.  I also continued to work out, despite the dismal climate.  Instead of running or bicycling outside, I was mostly cycling to the nearby community center to go swimming.  I was receiving no positive feedback from the outside world regarding any of my job inquiries and was starting to lose hope about being in Portland.  Then, one night after my swim, as I was getting ready to leave the community center, came a sign that maybe there was something for me in Portland afterall.

A man rolled up in a wheelchair and started talking to me as I was about to leave, complimenting me on my swimming.  My reaction?  Who, me?? This guy must have me confused with someone else.  I’m a terrible swimmer.  Surely, he can’t tell me apart from any of the other women in the pool when we’re all wearing swim caps.   But he insisted that he saw me swimming laps and that I was a great swimmer.  I engaged him in conversation briefly before leaving, and he revealed that he was a cycling coach with a team in Portland that rides every Sunday.  He also leads rides for kids on Saturdays from the Boys and Girls Club in Northeast Portland.  He sounded a lot like my friend, Dick, who started the US Open Cycling Foundation.

I told Dallas about my encounter with John Benenate when I got home, and he was intrigued as well.  We agreed to meet at his house for breakfast that Saturday and join in on the kids ride to see what it was all about.  When we arrived at John’s house on Saturday, we met Cody, who was cooking breakfast, and her daughter, Jasmine.  John had a whole room of cycling gear and apparel that he encouraged us to pick from before we headed out in the freezing cold rain.

Cody, Jasmine, Dallas and I, at John's house for breakfast before the kids ride

Cody, Jasmine, Dallas and I, at John’s house for breakfast before the kids ride

Riding in the rain

Riding in the rain

At the Boys & Girls Club, we met Tim, who was a regular on both weekend rides.  Only two other kids were brave enough to show up for the 4 or 5 mile ride in the cold Portland rain.  John gave Dallas, Cody, Tim and I radios to wear so we could hear him as he directed our ride from his station wagon.  Jasmine, Blessing and Demario were outnumbered by “shepherds” as we all followed John through the city streets.  For a stretch along the river, we rode in a paceline before heading back to the Boys & Girls Club.  It was a slow, but rewarding ride, and the kids were still smiling when we made out way inside to thaw out.

This was the first ride of its kind for Dallas, and he was a natural.  We both looked forward to helping out with more rides like this, and hopefully more kids.  I had to work the next day, but Dallas joined John for the Sunday ride with his race team, Cyclisme.  They rode about 40 miles through cold temperatures and intermittent downpours.  Seeing Dallas’s refreshed face after work that evening, I could tell that these rides would provide a spark of energy for us throughout the depressing winter.

Dallas rides with the racing team

My schedule at Columbia seemed to exactly mirror Dallas’s schedule, in that I had to work during all the times that Dallas did not.  We never really got a day off together, and I never got to ride with John’s team, aside from a Saturday women’s ride that he put together specifically taking my schedule into consideration.  I was relieved to hear that my last day of work would be January 5th, but my outlook for earning any income was bleak.  Spending my weekdays alone in a home that houses 6 other people is a lonely feeling, and having to go to work when my best friend is actually home was wearing on my psyche.  I had spent more of my savings than I was comfortable with and started to think about going back to New Orleans to recover some of my losses.  The Super Bowl was going to be this season, right in the middle of Mardi Gras, and my pedicab license was free to renew – I just had to pick it up at the taxicab bureau.

Happy New Year, from Portland!

Happy New Year, from Portland!

I didn’t have the time or money to visit my family for the holidays, but I did get to meet Dallas’s family on his father’s side.  Unfortunately, we both spent half of our time in California crippled with food poisoning.  Shortly after returning to rainy Portland, I decided to go back to New Orleans.  I would go for six weeks, and Dallas promised to visit me for a week while I was down there.  However, a few days after I bought my ticket, Dallas, overcome with sadness, bought a one-way ticket to New Orleans.  He would meet me two weeks after I arrived, and we would stay until we figured out our next move.  I would have liked to train with John’s cycling team, but the timing wasn’t right.  I am glad to have connected with him though, and plan to ride more seriously the next time I find myself in Portland (hopefully not during the winter!).

XTerra Trail Race Recap

Team Skora the day before the big race

Team Skora the day before the big race

I had seriously underestimated the difficulty of the XTerra Trail Running World Championship Race.  Never had I encountered such steep terrain in a race of any distance, let alone a half marathon.  Before any race, one of two things usually happens, sometimes both in the same race.  1) I have the feeling of total unpreparedness, and my biggest fear is coming in last place, or 2) I feel like maybe I have a chance of placing (and hopefully winning money) in the race, or at least placing in my age group.  After looking at the times from last year, I seriously thought I might have a chance at placing.  Only 15 women had finished in under 2 hours, and the first woman crossed the finish line in over an hour and a half.  It was either a really non-competitive field or it was a really tough course.  I should have known from the title of the race and the size of the prize purse that it would draw a competitive field, but I was in no way prepared for just how tough it would be.

One last group photo before we tear our legs up on the trail

One last group photo before we tear our legs up on the trail

If I do this race again (and I hope I do, some day), I will train by doing hill repeats up mountains at least once a week.  Some parts of the race were so steep, just walking up was a challenge – my legs burning and breathing labored, I had to turn and walk sideways up some of those hills.  The scenery was incredible, but I could hardly enjoy it, since I had to keep my eyes on the ground to avoid stumbling on a root or loose rock.  I can’t wait to see the photos.

Dallas made the rest of us look bad by being the only one to finish in under 2 hours and crossing the finish line almost 20 minutes before anyone else on our team.  Gerrit managed to pass me on one of the hills and beat me by almost 2 minutes.  All six of us finished in under 3 hours, which may not be that impressive for any normal half marathon, but I am very proud of our team after conquering that course.  The official results of the race can be found here: http://www.jtltiming.com/results/x-oahu-21k.html

My feet after the race - that's not a tan line!

My feet after the race – that’s not a tan line!

Needless to say, our Skora’s got us through this tough race.  I wish I could say we remain injury-free, but 3 of us ended up hurting after the race.  However, all injuries were sustained prior to race day and while not wearing Skoras.  Gerrit had stepped on a nail at work a few weeks earlier, and his foot was sore from where the nail had pierced his heel.  Travis had injured his knee the day before while riding the strong surf on Oahu’s north shore.  Upon returning to Portland and visiting his doctor, he found out that he had torn his meniscus and ACL (but will not need surgery).  I injured my hip flexor the night before, just walking to dinner (wearing Vibrams).  Miraculously, the pain disappeared the instant the cannon went off to initiate the start of the race, but it’s back stronger than ever, and I can barely walk now.

Dallas and I break into a run during a hike on the Manoa Falls trail

Dallas and I break into a run during a hike on the Manoa Falls trail

As much as Dallas and I wanted to stay in Hawaii, it was not possible for us to find a way for it to work for us out there in the short time we had.  We both hope to be back some day (maybe for another Xterra race?).  Now we are back in Portland, saving up for the next big adventure!

Thank you to Skora, our first sponsor!

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a photo of my baklava, the way Grandma taught me to make it 🙂

I’ve been feeling inspired to write lately, but haven’t had much time since I finally started working.  Now, I would first like to say that I hope all of our followers had a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it.  I made a broccoli/carrot salad with bacon, cashews, red onion and dried cranberries, Dallas made cranberry sauce, and I made baklava and pumpkin bread to add to the delicious food that the rest of our roommate and guests shared with us.

Meet Tara, the newest member of the household.

I was never a fan of Thanksgiving meals because I never liked turkey and wasn’t too fond of vegetables as a kid – I also think that it can’t be a good thing, environmentally, that every American household has to have a turkey one that one day of the year.  I’m sure lots of turkey ends up going to waste…and the poor (or lucky?) birds are forgotten about for the rest of the year.  However, I do enjoy the time this holiday gives us to spend with family and friends.  While this year I am unfortunately missing my family, I feel incredibly lucky to have good friends and an amazing boyfriend.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to find love when I set out on my bicycle last year, but I couldn’t be happier with Dallas and am so thankful that I get to share my life with him!

Gerrit, Alyssa, Michaelangelo, Dallas, Travis and me at the Skora office with our new gear!

Anyway, the biggest news in our lives since I last updated this site is that we now have a sponsor!  It’s not specifically for our bike tour (although, maybe it could be one day), but it does fit our lifestyle perfectly in that they are a running shoe company.  Skora is a new company based in Portland who came out with their first line of running shoes last year.  Dallas, Gerrit and I came across their booth at the Portland Marathon expo in October, and all of us ended up buying shoes from them.  After further communication with them, Skora agreed to sponsor six of us for the XTerra Trail Run World Championship that we plan to run in December this year.  So last Tuesday, Dallas, Gerrit, Alyssa, Travis, Michaelangelo and I all met up with the guys at Skora, where they fitted each of us to a new pair of shoes and t-shirts.  We’re all very excited to represent Skora at the race, which will be in Hawaii on December 2nd – we also look forward to extending our relationship with them into the future!  They are great shoes – very light and minimalist, and we think they’d be perfect for taking with us on our bike tour.

A much needed update – Portland, Oregon!

A detour through the Tillamook Forest on the way to the Oregon coast

I apologize for neglecting this website for so long.  When I’m not actually bicycle touring, I don’t think there’s much point to writing on here, but I know that some people have been curious about where we are now and what we are doing (and when we are planning to hit the road again!).  I will add some more posts to fill in the details about the summer later, but for now I will write about where I am right now.

After pedicabbing in Newport for the summer, Dallas and I purchased a one-way flight to Portland, Oregon.  We flew directly from Boston to Portland on September 11th, and we plan to stay here until the end of the year.

Camping on Mount Hood

While Dallas was able to get to work immediately on a construction project remodeling an apartment building, I spent the next 6 weeks looking for a job.  It wasn’t easy, but fortunately the weather stayed nice for a while before the rain moved in.  I printed out a bunch of resumes and biked around town for days, dropping resumes off, mostly at bike shops.  I also spent a fair amount of time performing online searches and applying for gigs on craigslist.  It took nearly 2 months before I finally landed a seasonal position at the Columbia Sportswear outlet in Sellwood, just a few miles from where I live (and all downhill).

Dallas crushing the Portland Marathon

Dallas and I ran the Portland Marathon on October 7th, and Dallas impressed me with his time of 3:32:14.  I’d like to see Paul Ryan beat that!  In his first marathon, Dallas ran faster than I have ever run a marathon.  He’s definitely a keeper.

One thing I noticed about Portland, which is one of the only platinum level bicycle cities, is that everyone here is pretty good at bicycling.  There’s a whole network of bike paths and lanes throughout the city, and the local cyclists (of which there are thousands) zip by with purpose at intimidating speeds.  During the morning rush hour, cyclists stream towards downtown dressed in cool rain gear and all carrying some sort of cycling bag either on their backs or bike racks.  I have honestly never seen so many cyclists in this country and so many fast bicycle commuters in any city (including Amsterdam).  I’m not used to being passed on my bicycle by other cyclists, but during my first few weeks in Portland I had trouble keeping up with most cyclists of all ages and genders.

View from the trail that goes up to the top of Multnomah Falls

Aside from the predominantly cold and rainy weather, I have enjoyed living in Portland.  It has a great outdoor culture, and accommodates runners and all sorts of outdoorsy people in addition to bicycle commuters.  Our roommate, Gerrit, has been generous to lend us his car on occasions when we want to get out of town – and usually he will go with us.  We’ve been trail running in Washington and Multnomah Falls, camping on Mount Hood, and most recently ran a trail race in Eugene.

Photo from the dress rehearsal of Marat/Sade

Before I was hired at Columbia, I was in search of gigs I could do through craigslist.  I ended up putting the pocket trumpet I bought in New Orleans to good use and performing in a play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (Marat/Sade, for short).  Having never played trumpet for anything before, I was nervous, but the show went well.  Being part of the play inspired me to audition as a singer for a Winter Solstice performance, but I did not get called back for that.

Also since moving to Portland, Dallas and I decided to audition for the Amazing Race.  We had our friend, Justin, help us put together the video for our application, which you can see here:

James and his mom, Jo, before departing Portland on their bike tour up to Bellingham, Washington

We have had friends visit us here in Portland, which is always fun. Dallas’s friend, Linus, and his friend Vito, came to town for work one weekend and cooked us fettuccine Alfredo with veggie sausages.  My friend, Ashley, came down from Vancouver, BC with a bunch of friends for a weekend.  One of Dallas’s friends, James, who he met while cycling down the coast before he came to New Orleans, was bicycling up the coast with his mom, who was on her first bike tour.  They stayed for 2 or 3 days, and explored the city while it rained the entire time – and James made incredible Bengali lentil soup.

We were all Happy Fangs Stars for Halloween – Jayson, Doug, Adam, Gerrit, Taassin, me and Dallas lying in a pile during our Halloween party

My friend, Adam, from Rhode Island, was visiting during Halloween, and we made him a costume like ours.  We searched for a place to buy cheese curds so he could make poutine, but had to resort to buying poutine at one of the food trucks.  And most recently, Duffy and Kara, friends from New Orleans, stopped in for a few days on their way to a job that was waiting for them in California.  Kara cooked delicious vegetable soup and made salad, which she served with bread and ginger snap cookies for dessert. To any friends who are reading this, you are more than welcome to come visit as long as you give us a bit of notice to make sure we’ll be home – and cook us dinner one night!  (Dinner is not required, but always appreciated).

Happy Holidays from Lowenbad!

Dallas has reunited with his band, Lowenbad, and will be playing a show on December 14th at a bar called Scandals.  I may get to play trumpet or trombone in a few songs!  (We picked up a trombone on craigslist for only $25).  If you are in the area, it’s worth checking out.

We plan to leave in the spring on our bicycles and head for South America.  I will try to update again before we leave Portland, but for now, I think I’ve caught y’all up to everything we’ve been doing here!