A Plug For Sunday Parkways

My daughter Grace and I played hooky from church yesterday and joined thousands of other Portlanders for July’s Sunday Parkways event in NE Portland. What a blast!  We parked at Wilshire Park, I popped Grace in the bike trailer, and we took off on the 7-mile loop of residential streets closed to all car traffic for the day. There were plenty of people to make it fun and lively but it was spread out enough that there were few traffic jams and we kept a good pace most of the time.

The loop connected three beautiful parks – Wilshire, Fernhill and Alberta – and at each park there was food, live entertainment, playgrounds and info booths from various companies and organizations.  Of course we made a beeline for the food booths. Grace and I shared a plate of Nepali noodles (delish!) and a peanut butter cookie. I ate more of the former, she of the latter.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a warm summer morning and I’m so glad these events are once a month in the summer. The next one in Portland is August 16th and will be through my favorite part of the city, SE Portland.  You can join in the fun by bike, scooter, skateboard, unicycle or by foot, basically any mode of transportation except car.  It’s a great way to explore the city in a way we don’t normally get to and discover in a new way how diverse and lovely Portland really is.

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Biking in the ‘Burbs

Me on my 3-speed bike somewhere in the Japanese countryside

Me on my 3-speed bike somewhere in the Japanese countryside

So I’ve taken up biking again. I say “again” because I had just started to bike commute to work 3 years ago when the pregnancy test gave me that little blue line. I immediately gave up biking altogether thinking I was protecting my unborn child, although in retrospect maybe I wouldn’t have gained 50 pounds if I had kept biking. Who knows.

Anyway, now that Grace is 2 and the Portland sun is shining for a few months, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle. I ran out and bought a bike trailer, a bike rack for the car and got our two adult bikes tuned up at our local bike shop.  As you may have guessed, my philosophy of hobbies is the more money I spend, the more likely I am to feel motivated to actually do them. Believe me, it works very, very well.

I’ve been biking everywhere I can and finding it both exhilarating and frustrating. I love the feeling of the wind on my face, of using my own muscles to get somewhere, the looks of awe people give me when they see me pulling the bike trailer behind (believe me people, it’s really not that hard).  But biking in the suburbs is not always the easiest thing, even in the suburbs of Portland, one of the country’s most bike-friendly cities. Somehow the suburbs, at least ours, are still short on the amenities to make biking fun and easy.

For one there are no bike trails to speak of in Tualatin, our southwest suburb.  There are lots and lots of bike lanes but I end up on the sidewalks most of the time, not comfortable with only a thin layer of mesh between Grace and passing car traffic.   I do see other bikers but mostly they are spandex clad commuters, not other moms out with kids in tow. I find myself wondering if I’m crazy to bike to the post office, grocery store or park instead of hopping in my car like everyone else for the 1 or 2 mile drive.

I assure myself I’m perfectly sane by thinking back to the year I lived in Japan 11 years ago. Fresh out of college, I lived in a rural coastal town where the only wheels I owned were my bike. In fact, the first full sentence I learned to speak in Japanese was “I want to buy a bicycle, please” (Jitensha o-kaitai, kudasai). That bike and its 3 speeds took me everywhere and I never thought twice about whether I should bike or drive anywhere. Rain or shine, near or far, if I wanted to get there it was by bike. I was the thinnest I’ve ever been in my life and in the best shape.  Of course, most of the rest of the town was also out on their bikes, not in their cars, so I was never alone on the road.

When I start to feel lonely biking in the ‘burbs, I just remember my small town life in Hagi, Japan.  I remember that even when the roads here aren’t full of fellow bikers, the streets of Hagi certainly are and so I am not alone.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy one of those handy bike trail maps I’ve heard so much about. Surely there are some hidden bike trails somewhere in Tualatin….