Friday, October 30, 2009

November 1st (a Day of Firsts)

After a lengthy hiatus from the blogosphere, I have returned. Hello. Name's Jon. I'm a carpenter / green builder by trade and have recently re-located to Portland, Oregon with my sister and brother in law. We live in a lovely craftsman bungalow in the city. . .well, we are working on it and its getting lovelier all the time. Restoring a craftsman bungalow has always been a lifelong dream of mine. I am fresh off the boat to the Pacific Northwest with only 4 1/2 months under my belt. I have been thoroughly enjoying getting to know this dynamic city--mostly by bike. It is without a doubt, one of the most cycle-friendly places I have ever been to ( in the United States anyways). There are literally traffic jams of bicycles every morning during the commute hours.

I have always been interested in bikes. From the little Huffy-that-could with training wheels to my beloved custom titanium road bike that took 3 years of parts-scrapping on Craigslist. There have been some crashes over the years, with loads of skin and clothing and one cracked helmet being sacrificed to the bike gods. The low point had to of been when my old Bianchi conspired with my surfboard, futon mattress, loose straps and gravity on Interstate-5 at 80 m.p.h. The memory of epic rides eclipses any scrapes or falls taken. The image of so many beautiful cycle adventures start to stack up in my brain like dominoes. On a bicycle everything is simply in front of you and the rider determines the rest.

For me, cycling has always been about seeing your world at the perfect speed. Getting to school as a youngster, riding the concrete drain channels on a BMX in the hills surrounding my hometown, going to "jump city" at the local park, riding the big beach cruisers with the red foam handles . . .all at your own pace. As a kid, once you were on that bike, you were free to ride how you liked. That was the first real taste of speed, freedom, and movement I recieved. The view from a bike always seems to be slow enough to see things, details, everyday beauty, yet fast enough to get across town in a few heartbeats and drips of sweat. Perhaps this is why I still feel about 9 years old whenever I climb onto the saddle.

I recently took delivery of my new HAUL 2 and after hearing the bike shop tell me over the phone, "It's ready" I instantly morphed into a little boy on Christmas morning. I can't remember the last time I had a new bike, seems like ages. . .certainly the first as an adult. My best friend will painfully remind me of the time I strategically "parked" my crappy K-mart blue-light-special BMX behind my Mom's car in the hope that she would back over it. . . and she did. Thanks Ma. I may have loaded the gun, but she pulled the trigger.

When it rains, it pours. Being a recent California transplant to Oregon, I am experiencing an increase in precipitation--to be expected. But this particular precipitation comes in the form of "firsts" all in the same day:

First new license plate from another state ( no more dirty looks from Oregonians because I have California plates).
First time getting a NEW bike since being an adult (I always built them from left over pieces or bought them used)
First time riding a bike with full fenders in the wet--feels invincible.
First time owning and using Panniers on the back of the bike.
First bike with disc brakes

It seems crazy to actually steer FOR puddles, but with white tires, I have to clean them out every now and again. One thing fenders don't protect you from is soggy leaves on the road. Corners that used to get taken at speed and cranked over with the knee dropping now get the granny treatment. Even fooling around with the rear brake becomes dicey with the leaf slicks--slide stops are not supposed to turn into a 200-degree slide. Some of the leafy mounds are fun to crash through, but on the corners, its best to steer slow and wide unless you wish to slide into oncoming traffic or do a scary 360.

I wonder how long the luster of the new bike will last for? When does one stop wiping off all the dirt particles on every surface? Its difficult not to want to keep something new from looking otherwise. The same goes for this great new city, this great new feeling of place, purpose and belonging.