Sunday, August 31, 2008
My Bike Commute Challenge
When I worked in downtown Portland, it was easy for me to commute to work on my bicycle. After all, I lived less than two miles from my office and the only hill on the route was the entrance to the building's parking garage. In order to make it a little more interesting, I had worked out several "detours" that would ensure that I got some mileage (and some hills) in before work. These detours ranged from 12 to 25 miles one-way, and they were without doubt the best part of my working day.
But then I got my dream job. The problem is, my dream job is in Salem. I toyed with the idea of a round-trip commute, at least every once in a while, but a dry run proved that unless I wanted to ride the whole way there on the shoulder of Interstate 5, it was at least a 4-hour ride each way (and that was on my "fast" bike with no panniers - not exactly how I would be set up for an actual commute). On my long-haul bike, with fully-loaded panniers, going the safe and scenic route, a more realistic estimate would be 5 hours. So I resigned myself to taking the bus. Sigh. There's a stop about a mile and one half from my house, and so for the first 9 months of my new job I walked to that stop every morning, and walked back home every evening. BORING.
The bus I take is not your average rapid transit vehicle, however. It's one of those charter buses like the ones old people take to the casinos. And starting around May, I noticed that one rider was loading his bike into a cargo bay beneath the bus. I'd thought about those bays, but was concerned that there was nothing to keep my precious Sweetpea from sliding around in there and getting damaged. So I asked him about that, and he said that once the bike is in, and on its side, it really doesn't move. Hmmmm. I began to consider the feasibility of an occasional one-way commute; take the bus to Salem in the morning, with the bike in cargo, and ride home after work
In the interim, a friend at work had scored a secure bike box at the Barbur Transit Center. My bus made a stop there, as well, and so we arranged for me to use that box on the days he had to drive for his carpool. So now I was getting in at least 18 miles a day, which made me a little happier. But I still thought a one-way commute might be fun. So starting about a month ago, I decided that on those weeks in which I did not have a brevet or other long (100+ miles) ride scheduled for the weekend, I would take my bike down to Salem on Friday, and ride home.
I take fairly quiet back roads, and the route is essentially flat until the last 25 miles, when I hit the rollers outside of Canby, and then a couple of long climbs in Oregon City and Gladstone. If I leave the office at 5:15 PM, and if I am not doing battle with the infamous Willamette Valley headwind, I can make it home by 10:00 (if there is wind, we're talking a little closer to 11:00). I've done it 4 times so far - and hope to do it at least twice a month as long as the weather is decent (not raining and above 40 degrees). It helps to have an awesome lighting system.
Here are some more of the sights I get to see while making that trek . . . .