Urban meandering

Days 2 & 3, Portland & Seattle layover

I enjoy my day in Portland, before the real cycling begins in earnest, a rare treat. I head out in the morning, riding around town, finding errands to run between visits with friends. I ride over to City Bikes coop to readjust my front rack mount. I later hear the location is destined to close, another core Portland anchor being forced out by gentrification. The locals tell me Portland is changing, changing, and not for the better. It’s still so new to me, finding my way around a city I’d previously avoided. Help having friends and family now in town, and joining the throngs of commuting cyclists who dominate the bikeways in Southeast.

Along the east esplanade, I ride the floating bike path, then cross to REI to replace the water bottles I’d left behind in my haste to leave. Alas, they are out of the “Purist” brand that I want, a tasteless plastic bottle. Maybe in Seattle I’ll find some. Later I meet my new friend Jennifer for a walk in Cathedral Park, underneath the towering St. John’s Bridge. This must be a McCullough masterpiece, or certainly influenced by the iconic bridge engineer. The sun sets over the Willamette and Forest Park, casting a fiery light into the clouds reminiscent of the works by Maxfield Parrish. My heart is singing these days, drinking in new love, looking towards so many possibilities. When I finally return late to bed, sleep comes sweet and deep.

And then I’m up so early, 5am the next day. I want to see Suzanne before she leaves, and I’m excited to board the Amtrak for my next leg north. I chat with Suzanne’s friend Russell, learning about his challenging and rewarding work as a capital defense attorney. We commiserate on the political circuses, glad to find common ground. Then I’m on the road, crossing the Hawthorne Bridge, over to Union Station. But not without a stop for Stumptown coffee and a Voodoo donut. I’m excited to board the Amtrak Cascades. Riding the train is relaxing, watching out the window as we pass the Columbia. I nap and daydream, and chat with my neighbor. The three hour ride passes quickly, then I’m rolling down the streets of Seattle. First time cycling this city. I’ve got hours to kill before the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Or hours to live. Time on tour has a different pace, different feel.

I accidentally cycle up the notorious alley of gum covered walls, then to the Crumpet Shop at Pike Place. I visit the Seattle Center a gawk at the Space Needle, but I’m too cheap to pay the admission to the Chihuly glass exhibit (www.chihuly.com). I ride across town to the Seattle REI, finding a store beyond any I’ve seen, with a roofline like a ski lodge and forested entry with a cascading waterfall. I buy a new spork and two “Agents of the Free” water bottles.

I roll over to the ferry terminal, and wait for Jenny, who has offered to drive me to Port Angeles. We reach her house and Sadie, a white shepherd, is thrilled to see us, with an enthusiasm I completely understand. That’s how I’m feeling too. Jenny and I talk long over a dinner of grains, veggies, and her delicious assortment of ferments, pickles and krauts. The drive ahead to the launch point of my tour will last late into the night. But we’re in no hurry. I’m on a different time frame. A touring state of mind.

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