BSNYC Scrapbook: What I Did on my Autumn Vacation

Yesterday, the Tour of the Gila began in New Mexico, and defending champion Levi "Letle Viride" Leipheimer is already in the leader's jersey. The Tour of the Gila is noteworthy in that top American pros like Leipheimer, Lance Armstrong, and David Zabriskie like to form "ad hoc" teams and ostensibly use the race to fine-tune their form. However, it's readily apparent to even the most casual observer why they really participate, as evidenced by this photo which was pointed out to me by a reader:

When you're based in Europe eating pasta and muesli day after day you find yourself getting homesick for hamburgers and milkshakes. Similarly, when you're constantly getting kissed by spindly European podium girls you find yourself longing for more substantial American fare. So, you head to New Mexico, sandbag, and enjoy the view of the sandbags from the top step. I'm sure if you asked Leipheimer he'd deny it, but his line of sight begs to differ:

(Leipheimer revels in both victory and ample stateside serving sizes.)

Speaking of traveling abroad, last fall I had the opportunity to travel outside of the United States of America by visiting Portland, Oregon. As you already know, I wrote an article for "Outside" magazine about my trip, but there's just something cold, impersonal, and glossy about magazines (at least the non-pornographic ones). Plus, seeing the article in print made me nostalgic. So, since I think of us all as family by now, I thought we could all gather around the coffee table and take a look at some snapshots. Of course, if you hate family (or coffee tables) I won't hold that against you and you're free to visit more interesting corners of the Internet, but for the rest of you who are wondering what Portland looks like in real life (inasmuch as "real life" can exist in a place like Portland) I hope you'll squeeze onto the couch, grab a handful of Ruffles® (I bought Ruffles®), and join me.

When I go anywhere, the first thing I need to know is, "Will there be Porta-Pottys?" Austin had them, and fortunately so did Portland. Here are a pair of them outside the Oregon Manifest Handmade Bike Show:

Relatively unmolested by crime, the people of Portland are free to ride around on all sorts of exotic wheeled contrivances, as you can see above. I know they are unmolested by crime, because every time I withdrew my chain lock in order to lock up the Ironic Orange Julius Bike a bystander would comment on it as though they'd never seen its like before. This happened without fail, whether the person was a porteur bike "palper" outside the bike show or a quasi-homeless guy towing a trailer with a Magna. Yes, in Portland you can just leave Rivendells sitting unattended and locked with a combination of dental floss and goodwill:

Then again, this being Portland, perhaps no thief would deign to steal a bike without bar tape.

Here's the inside of the bike show, where even non-bike dorks came to admire the local handiwork:

The cargo bike is an essential member of any Portlander's stable, since it allows them to help people move by bike, which is part of the "symbiosis of smugness" which holds their society together. I'm not sure what the people in this photo are saying, but I'm guessing the guy in the hat is asking the exhibitor: "I'm thinking of starting a human-powered organically grown fair trade pet food home delivery business. Would this be an appropriate bicycle for me?"

"Yes, it certainly would--though I should warn you that 'Coffee 4 Pets' is already doing something similar. Have you thought of delivering environmentally friendly toilet tissue?"

Also, it took a bit longer than I thought (roughly two hours after my plane landed) but I did finally see someone wearing the hoodie/flannel/elbow pad combination:

This is also known as the "Oregon Tuxedo."

Proportionally speaking, there seemed to be far fewer "tarck" bikes in Portland than in New York City, since the emphasis in Portland seemed to be more on functionality. However, I did see some impressive "fixie" specimens:

Spoke cards aside, that is perhaps the most product placement I've ever seen on a front wheel. I think when you've got more component manufacturer stickers on your bike than your bike has actual components you may have gone too far.

Another thing I noticed is that, in Portland, the saddle is the bicycle equivalent of the automotive rear view mirror in that it serves as a place to hang baby shoes:

Even when Portlanders are away from their bicycles they make sure to let everybody know they ride them:

And they do ride bicycles in Portland. Here's the rack outside of the Whole Foods, where I stopped to pick up some cockles:

Yes, that's another Rivendell (with wooden fenders to boot), which people apparently even use to ride to the store here. I don't think I've ever seen two Rivendells in a single week in New York City, let alone in the space of a day or two, and I've certainly never seen one locked up outside. (Then again, never having encountered a Rivendell, a New York City thief would probably wilt in the face of all that pretension, drop his bolt cutters, and simply run away.) If I ever were to see more than one Rivendell in a day in New York I would just assume some kind of beard convention was in town.

Here are the people who were kind enough to let me join them for bike polo:

(I'm standing behind the camera with the pathetic "Can I play too?" expression which I often wore in my youth.)

Here's me riding a bicycle with a top tube pad for the first time in my life (BMX bikes excluded):

I'll spare you my expression, which is akin to that of a kosher vegan being force-fed pork rinds.

Here's Forest Park, the official slogan of which is "Forest Park: It's Fern-Tastic!"

As a cycling New Yorker, perhaps the most attractive thing to me about Portland was the proximity to a place where you can enjoy car-free climbs, hear gravel under your tires, and urinate in ferns. (I had to urinate all the time due to the richness of the local coffee and beer.)

Not all bikes in Portland are designed for mixed terrain; some are simply built to haul irony, leopard skin, and pirate supplies:

"Where the hell are those pirate supplies?" asks an impatient tall-biker:

Ah yes, freaky forms of transportation abound in Portland. Here's someone riding an athletic field painter:

Some people don't even ride at all; they just stand around looking awesome:

As I mentioned in the article, I also visited the "Bike Shrine" at St. Stephens Episcopal Church. You can see that they spared no expense when it came to signage:

Or art:

If you want a post-nuclear religious-themed painting of your mountain bike, be sure to call Martin Wolfe:

Full of the "spirit" (as well as still more coffee-scented urine), I eventually signed the guest book and moved on...: the Bike Temple, whose headquarters looked creepy in the night:

As much as I loved Forest Park, I can't say that I particularly enjoyed the cold and wet pre-Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships "Ride of Revelry, including feats of strength, daring, endurance, beauty and grandeur:"

This is mostly because I'm a weak and cautious person who lacks stamina and wilts in the face of beauty and grandeur like a delicate plant that's been doused with highly caffeinated urine. Also, I tend to get cranky on rides in which the rollout involves lots of people shouting "Woo-hoo!" as they crash their bikes one by one. And it certainly does take endurance to participate in an Ironic World Championship; in addition to the wet ride consisting of people who were way too excited about canned beer, there was also an ironic debate to decide the host city for 2010:

All of this before the actual race the following day, to which I took the so-called "MAX" train:

In addition to the SSCXWC race, I also participated in the regular Cross Crusade race, and both events were suitably muddy:

As well as muddy:

Here's a spectator dressed as a Venetian blind, which allowed him to fine-tune his irony intake:

Amazingly, though I was filthy by the end of the day, they did not kick me off the MAX on my return trip:

I did flirt with the idea of participating in "Zoobomb" later that evening, though to be perfectly honest the endeavor did not seem in the least bit appealing to me, especially after an exhausting (though thoroughly enjoyable) day of racing. Here's the scene as I approached:

I think it was the sight of the guy in the full-face helmet riding a modified child's bike menacingly around the "Zoobomb pile" that ultimately compelled me to skip the festivity, return to my hidey-hole, and pack my things for the return voyage the next morning:

It was a great trip, though in the end I was a bit homesick and ready to return to the burgers and milkshakes.