Exhausted. Exhilarated. Sore. Happy. That’s how we’re feeling after three magnificent Oregon bike rides this weekend. Three group rides – each completely different from the others, yet all so very Oregon. Three rides to satisfy our appetites for biking, socializing, feasting and belonging. We started with the classy, gourmet Petal Pedal in Silverton, moved on to the chilled-out protest of the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland and ended at the lemonade-stand mecca of Portland’s Sunday Parkways.
The Gourmet Petal Pedal
The Petal Pedal is a fancy distance road ride through rural farmlands around Silverton, Oregon. It starts and ends at the Oregon Gardens, home to the 400-year old Signature Oak and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House. Riders choose from 30, 50, 70 and 100-mile routes and pedal by working farms, old barns, fields full of flowers, over rivers, and for the long-distance pedalers over hills and by waterfalls. We opted for the 30-mile route this time. The route is rolling, up and down gentle hills, through sun and shade. We saw flowers, yes, but also sheep and goats and grass and lots of cool farm buildngs and machinery.
I say the ride is fancy because it’s pricey at $89 a ticket, cheaper if you did what we did and “recruit three to ride for free”. But the perks are so worth it: full SAG support, bike tuneups and repairs at every rest stop, rest stops with strawberry shortcake and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every 15 miles, quiet country roads and scenery to lift anyone’s lagging spirits.
The icing on the cake, though, is the after-party. A catered gourmet lunch of chicken marsala, steak, salads, asparagus, bread and cake. Lots of cake – chocolate, carrot, ginger, German chocolate. Oh my. And did I mention all the beer and wine you want? Plus music, massage, bike jerseys and T-shirts for sale, and free access to roam the beautiful Oregon Gardens all afternoon. It’s a premiere ride – a gourmet ride. No wonder it is voted “Favorite Ride of the Year” by Oregon cyclists.
The Chilled-Out Protest World Naked Bike Ride
After Petal Pedal, we drove home, grabbed a quick nap, switched bikes and headed out to the start point of Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). WNBR is a ride that “highlights the vulnerability of cyclists everywhere and decries society’s dependence on pollution-based transport”. In Portland it has also become a celebration of body positivity where 10,000+ people of all ages, shapes and sizes ride naked or “bare as you dare”. On our 5-mile ride to the start point, we were absorbed into a larger and larger group of WNBR commuters – most partially clothed, some already naked. Along the way we saw people partying in front yards and side yards in anticipation of the ride – or to ogle at participants headed south. The closer we got to Mt. Scott Park the more bicyclists we saw until finally the road was clogged and riding was no longer possible. Walking our bikes into the park was like entering another world.
Masses of naked and near naked people were everywhere. A woman painted gold from head to toe, a man posing for photos in front of a white screen, another painted like a zebra, white with black stripes, hand prints on butt cheeks, the words “F*%k Fossil Fuel” painted on backs. Then there were the minimalists – all naked bodies with no adornments. There were pieces of costumes – headdresses, tutus, briefs, clown masks – but mostly there was a lot of skin – and smiles. Lots of smiles. Smiles bright enough to light the unknown route we were about to take through town to a destination no one knew except our ride leader and a handful of police officers.
The atmosphere was cheerful but mellow. Party-like but purposeful. Watching the crowd was like looking into a microscope at an amoeba. The 10,000+ people moved fluidly through the park, in groups, in singles, one direction, then the other, pseudopods of bodies and bicycles pushing, flowing, anticipating. No one knew which direction we were heading out of the park, so everyone was watching for movement in one direction. Finally, a band started playing and police lights flashed in one corner of the park near us. Everyone headed that way and the amoeba stretched into the street, a throng of naked, happy people walking, then riding, bikes into the cool darkening evening.
People had lined up along the streets to take photos and stare. Some stepped in to give high fives. Some giggled. Everyone smiled. The route took us downhill along Woodstock Blvd. Bicycles jockeyed for space, skateboarders weaved in and out of the throng of cyclists. People waved, shouted, whistled, cheered. We were 10,000 cells in a single organism, bound by a purpose, an experience, a respect for each other and this freedom to be ourselves without judgement. Down that hill we rode, around curves and through neighborhoods, until finally the pace slowed, and we arrived at our final destination – Sellwood Park – overlooking the Willamette River as the last vestiges of twilight sank above the western hills. Someone blew flames of fire in the air. People danced. Music blared. Everyone smiled.
I’ve been told the World Naked Bike Ride is a transformative experience. One of my friends claims he’s addicted to it. I get it now.
Sunday morning we pedaled our clothed bodies way up to North Portland to meet up with friends for one of the City of Portland’s Sunday Parkways rides. Sunday Parkways are traffic-free bike rides in different neighborhoods throughout the summer designed to encourage families to get out and ride, walk or skate in a safe, car-free zone. The routes run through and connect a bunch of the city’s parks. Streets are blocked off. Vendors with free goodies and food and ice cream are set up in the parks. Bands play, city departments and local non-profits give out information, kids play in the fountains and we ride in safe places.
For this ride, we met friends in the rose gardens at Peninsula Park and headed toward Arbor Lodge Park to exchange old cable bike locks for free U-locks being given out by the Portland Police Department. Unfortunately we weren’t one of the first 50 to arrive, so we didn’t score locks, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the day. We rode on. One of the most fun parts of these rides is seeing the different neighborhoods and how residents take advantage of all these people riding through them.
I counted no less than 12 lemonade stands on the corners and sidewalks – kids set up to earn a few bucks off of hot, sweaty riders. Some folks host garage sales or set boxes of FREE STUFF out. One guy had set up a skeleton lounging on a sun chair, sipping a martini. Welcome to Portland!
We bought ice cream, our friends got Emergency Water Containers for when the big one comes. There were hundreds of kids riding, including lots of cute little tykes on their Striders, dogs in carriers and on leashes, families and friends meeting and hugging and having fun. After last night’s ride, it took me a while to stop expecting everyone on a bike to be naked.
We rode and chatted, sharing stories and commenting on houses and bicycles. The day was gorgeous and clear, and coming around a bend on Willamette Boulevard suddenly there was Mt. Hood! My mountain was out and bold and beautiful. I’d ridden that road dozens of times and never seen Mt. Hood there before. It nearly brought me to tears. What a sight!
By the time we got home, my legs were not-so-subtly telling me I’d had enough bike riding this weekend. But what a glorious weekend of riding it was! I thought about these three distinct rides, each with with great friends, each one so incredibly unique yet so uniquely Oregon. And I smiled.