Friday, October 9, 2009

Temperatures Falling

The temperature has dropped and so has the number of “travelers” camped along the waterfront. Last week they were spread out like a giant slumber party and this week they are gone. Not all, of course, there are some who are sticking it out in the mist and drizzle and low temps.

Under the Burnside Bridge was a popular spot. The city has built a new venue for the Saturday Market. I’d offer up a review of the space but I think I should visit it first. I can tell you a little bit about the part along the waterfront. There is a large open area with a glass cover. In this area and an adjacent circular area there are water features. These are not fountains in the sense of a bowl of water with some cascading tiers. These are the kind of water features that have jets at the ground level and shoot water up in varying displays. I believe that they designed this so that the homeless wouldn’t camp under the glass cover. I will visit the Saturday Market sometime this fall and get back to you about the rest of it.

Another popular camping spot is on the east side of the Steel Bridge, just south of the Rose Quarter transit center. If you are familiar with the area you’ll know that there is a series of paths and view points along the walkway to the bridge. One of these viewpoints was claimed by a group of homeless with lots of luggage. They kept their goods and chattels bundled up and stowed neatly in the overlook. One of the group would always be hanging out with the stuff in the afternoons; presumably the others were off making a living somewhere. They haven’t actually left the area, but they don’t sleep on the overlook anymore. They’ve moved up hill to be under the trees. I guess it’s just too cold on the exposed viewpoint.

I didn’t intend to write a blog post about the homeless in Portland. I was thinking more about the changing seasons but the tides of humanity reflect the weather here. It’s pretty mild in Portland but it does get cold and it certainly gets wet. We are coming to the season when they all move to California.

I was going to write about trees. You know how I love trees! The color change has begun. The native deciduous trees tend to be yellow or brown. Alders, maples – both vine maples and big leaf maples - oaks. We get the dramatic colors from the fancy fureigners. Outside my window at work is one – I can’t tell you what it is (until I walk over and check it out) but I can tell you that it is glorious. It is a ball of bright yellow and pale green. It is some days ahead of the trees around it, as far as changing color. On some streets in the neighborhood there is one tree that leads the pack and stands out in luminescent splendor. My street hasn’t started yet, but by next week I think we’ll see some color busting out. And after that, the yards, sidewalks and streets are filled with leaves. The raking season is just around the corner. More on that soon, no doubt.

Do you have a favorite tree? Are things starting to look like Autumn in your neighborhood?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bicycle Buzz

I have two things to say about the biking.

1) I took a different route home on Monday afternoon. Mostly I took a different route through downtown so that I could observe more of what’s happening in PDX ~ all the better for my reportage. Instead of turning by Terwilliger Plaza and taking 4th through downtown, I went down 6th instead. Thought I’d get a good view of the new Max Green line and see what changes have been made on the bus mall.

Well, that didn’t work so well. The Max tracks are a huge hazard to bicycles and when you are traveling parallel to them, it’s nerve wracking. I could hardly take my eyes off the damn things! I had to get off my bike and walk across them to get off 6th. I turned down SW Market St just to get away from the tracks. Originally, I intended to ride to Salmon and get on the waterfront that way, but I had to escape the hazard and turned right by St Mary’s academy. I took Market down to Second and turned left there. Second is like an alley in size and in repair. Actually, the streets downtown are in terrible shape and it’s a nightmare riding on them.

I will add just one small note of commentary here. This isn’t new but I saw it again and was reminded of how irritating it is: There is a clock by the fountain in the plaza at PSU. The plaza between 5th and 6th, Montgomery and Mill. On the clock are Roman numerals. Now, maybe I’m wrong but I think the number 4 is written IV, not as it appears on the clock, IIII. That bugs me every time I see it. Didn’t anyone proof the design before it was cast in steel?

2) Wednesday was wet! I made it to work fine, dry and cool. On the way home, though, ugh. It rained periodically throughout the day but the afternoon was “supposed” to be clear. Ha! I looked out the window at work about quarter after 3 and thought, I’d better get out of here before it rains. So, I clocked out, got my bike, rode down the elevator and by the time I got to the door, pouring!

I had a choice at that point. Get on my bike and ride or wait to see if it would stop. A toss up. I chose to ride, figuring that I was just going to get wet and so what. I had my raincoat on and that helped some, but my glasses were really wet, my thighs were wet and my butt was wet. The funny thing? By the time I got to the bottom of the hill the rain stopped. Oh well! So, most of me dried out as I rode home… except for my butt. I don’t have fenders on my bike and I don’t have rain pants. I’ll be checking those things out real soon. Maybe you’ve noticed, as you tool along in your car, all warm and dry, that bicycles kick up water from their tires. Well, if you don’t have a fender, all of that water goes right up your back in a dark, oily stripe. Yuck! My raincoat and backpack kept it off my back but my seat area was definitely wet.

I don’t know how much riding I’ll manage to do during the rainy months. It depends on how much I want to invest in gear for me and the bike. I have definitely been enjoying the ride though. It’s good exercise and my pants are fitting better.