This is what confronted me as I was leaving for work this morning. I realized it is more or less what I feel like on the inside, today. In a good way.

A Nick Drake Kind of Sky

A Nick Drake Kind of Sky

Shortly after I managed to begin putting on distance in my running, I decided that I wanted to complete a route that would take me past each bridge in Portland. I mapped the total distance out at around 12 miles and realized, I wasn’t that far short of being able to do it. I came close to setting out more than once, but fate and bad weather stopped me. Once it got hot enough to justify trips to the Waterfall Paradise, I was more interested in spending my days there and I proceeded to push it to the back burner.

It isn’t lack of ambition that keeps me from completing exotic routes more often, so much as it is the multitude of considerations and constraints my chosen cardiovascular hobby imposes.


I am presented with several limitations running-wise, this is certainly the most pressing. It is aggravated with even moderate increases in heart rate and the medication that best controls this is both prohibitively expensive and causes me to lose my voice. I have learned to take steps which mitigate the worst of my day-to-day symptoms, but running puts a whole different kind of strain on my lungs.

Because of the way my lungs respond to exertion, running fast is more or less out of the question. It wasn’t until I trained myself to move in a slow steady lope that I was able to attain distances in excess of about a mile. Keeping my speed consistent and controlled is the only way I can manage a run of any meaningful length. This is complicated by the fact that even slight elevation changes are also problematic and will set off an attack. As such, any route with elevation change can only include an incline which is either very short or I must plan to take it at a walk.

Joint Problems

I’ve always been hyperflexible. Being bendy is fun for various reasons but also leaves me subject to the woes that accompany this trait (have you heard of anyone DISLOCATING THEIR PELVIS? Well, now you have). I have achy knees, wonky hips, and of late, a screwed up shoulder. These clicks and pains are mitigated, though not solved, by various voodoo taping techniques. But regardless of how much tape of any kind and color combination I may try, there are a finite number of times I can strike the earth with all my body weight and forward momentum before I can feel my joints grinding together to punish me for my hubris.

I have determined through experimentation and experience that this finite number is about 16,000. Once I exceed that, I am in pain; varying degrees – to be sure – depending on how long it has been since my last run, how much stretching I have done, and whether or not I was wise enough to take some ibuprofen beforehand, but pain that will limit my capacity to carry on regardless.

Delicate Flowerhood

I am very heat intolerant and become both nauseous and light-headed if I exert myself in temperatures exceeding about 70 degrees. This means running during the day in nice weather can present a blurk-inducing conflict of interest between enjoying pleasant outdoor weather and not being able to do so whilst I am seized by the overpowering need to vomit.

Thus, my ideal running conditions are:

  • Speed – Slow to Moderate
  • Terrain – Flat and Paved*
  • Temperature – between 45°-70°


This is not impossible to locate, but becomes incredibly boring after 60-70 repetitions. So, I push myself beyond the ideal, and I am usually glad I did.

I thought the day would stay cooler, and determined to fulfill my bridge run fantasy before fall set in. I had long since considered that starting at the St Johns bridge meant the run would be largely downhill to get to the Sellwood rather than running the opposite. The issue then became transportation. I knew I could park my car at Sellwood and either get a ride or take the bus to St. Johns, but because I am both a masochist and a moron, I instead told myself that riding my bicycle the 13 miles uphill would be a great way to be sure I was warmed up for the run back.


Bridge #1: The St. Johns

This is my favorite bridge in Portland. It is graceful, and lovely, both in setting and form. It also reminds me of Batman. Which is just awesome. At this point, I was feeling pretty good; flushed and warm, stretched out and eager to get running.

Bridge #2: The Freemont

I’ve always been fond of the urban-fantasy-curvyness of this freeway. The pillars on the east bound deck look like dominoes to me, and the arch is iconic and appealing. It is also my favorite stop on the bridge pedal.

Bridge #3: The Broadway

I remember when this bridge was brown. I think it looks handsomer, red. The Albers Mill at the west end of the bridge always captures my attention as I cross, because my paternal grandfather was the child model in the ad, back in the day. He was also featured in Modern Maturity in an article about the Mazamas because he was still climbing mountains in his 70’s. He was an inspiration, despite his weird chagrin over his given name being Marion. He liked to point out if John Wayne wasn’t man enough to carry it off, he sure as hell wasn’t going to try.

Bridge #4: The Steel

I run across this thing 3-4 times a week, and I never like it any better. It looks and feels rickety to me. It has the distinction of being the SECOND oldest lift-span drawbridge in use,  and the only double-deck bridge with independent lifts in the world but I think lift-span bridges are nowhere near as charming as the tippy ones. Also, when the trains roll across it is so freaking loud my head is like to splode.

Bridge #5: The Burnside

This one is tippy. It also has operator towers that look like a castle turret. It is also the bridge I personally use the most getting back and forth across town. It affords me a nice view of the White Stag/Made In Oregon/Portland, Oregon sign and of the west hills in general. I am also most pleased with the way this photo turned out.

Bridge #6: The Morrison

I don’t even really have words. I mean, blurring this photo was a huge improvement over how this bridge actually looks. I guess it’s okay when they shine all the different colored lights on it. And, thank god, they finally laid dowh some pavement. Cause, you know, in a place where it rains once in a while it was apparently impossible to predict that a metal span might become SLICK AS LUKEWARM SNOT whenever it got wet.

Bridge #7: The Hawthorne

This bridge used to be a different color, too, but I don’t remember what it was. Another lift span, it remains more charming to me than the Steel, though I couldn’t give you a sound reason why… perhaps it is because, as Mike pedantically pointed out, it is the OLDEST lift span bridge in operation.  It was about this point in my run that the “running” got a whole lot slower. 

 Bridge #8: The Marquam

Another freeway bridge. Utterly lacking the charm of its northern neighbor. Does offer a lovely view of downtown – basically only enjoyable during its frequently intolerably slow afternoon traffic. This always seems like the bridge that’d collapse first a-la the Bay Bridge when the giant earthquake we’ve all heard about finally smites us.

Bridge #9: The Ross Island

Is the gravel quarry named for the island or vice versa? Either way, it seems a rather uninspired combination of terms. This bridge is so tall it doesn’t need to be tippy OR lifty. The area beneath is has been transformed from a wasteland of post-industrial urban blight to a wasteland of post-industrial mod chic tower housing and overtly horizontally oriented pointy places of unclear provenance. It is much nicer to run past, now. Or, lurchingly hobble past, as the case may be.

Bridge #10: The Sellwood

 For most of my life, I have crossed this bridge with trepidation bordering on terror. Virtually every crossing was accompanied by an elaborate fantasy wherein, as I navigate its rickety heights, it finally succumbs to years of hard use and bad engineering to tumble me screaming headlong into the Willamette and I must use all my wiles to escape my plummeting car. Which I know damn well I wouldn’t and so thus envision my watery demise. I’m real glad they’re fixing it.

But not as glad as I was to see the end of this journey. After 26 human powered miles, I needed a sandwich and a sit down. Oof. 

*Other surfaces are kinder to joints but require greater exertion.

Till you go to the doctor and have bloodwork done. But that is a matter for another post…

What I refer to here, rather is the situation in which I find myself, some 130 miles south of where I have spent the bulk of my life, young and recently aging. I have spoken more than once of the privilege  of being a Portland native. I took pride in having spent my life there, of knowing what it was like before the descent of Hipster Blight. One thing I heard consistently, from transplants, was how excellent the food was, and how spoiled I had been by my lifelong access to it.

While I could agree that indeed, most of the restaurants in town had at least one decent thing on the menu, and from time to time my mind and mouth would be blown away by something I encountered, I didn’t imagine that to be all that unusual.

And then, I moved to Eugene.

I thought, originally, how different could the culinary options be, really? It’s a liberal, prosperous college town flooded with vegans and Portland ex-pats. Surely the 2 1/2 hour drive wouldn’t have thwarted a southern migration of decent eateries?

How wrong I was. 

I have been consistently disappointed with the fare I’ve come across in town. Turtles, which is very close to both work and home, and has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive has disappointed me repeatedly. I keep hoping I’ll find something tolerable on the menu since it is so convenient, but they have managed to fail at items I consider nearly unfuckupable; chicken strips? Seriously? How can you screw up chicken strips?? Chicken+breading+deep fry=delicious! Also of note, the grilled cheese sandwich. This is my go-to default can’t-go-wrong option when I’m unsure about a menu. But somehow theirs goes wrong; oh how wrong it goes. Worse than either of these are the nachos. As a lover of all things Nach (including, but not by any means limited to: tot-chos) I am personally offended at the hideous use of alfredo sauce in the dish under any circumstances. By all means apply liquid cheese, but for the love of all that is decent, not alfredo.

The Sixth Street Grill had won me over at first, with its small plate offerings which are generally tasty and reasonably priced, but they betrayed me profoundly by removing the best offering from their menu after I had only been able to have it twice. The Olympus was a grilled turkey sandwich with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and kalamata olives on a toasted ciabatta with a jalapeno cream cheese spread. It was fucking fantastic. Now it’s gone, and all I can do is lament its loss and fail to find anything in the place that compares favorably.

The Beer Stein actually has totally decent food, and coupled with that, they offer a fantastic beer selection. They also always have a mead offering, which makes me pretty happy. The last time I was there I had the Father Guido Sarducci which is thinly sliced turkey, honey ham, pepperoni, red onion, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, olive tapenade and provolone on a toasted hoagie roll. It tasted pretty amazing. However the boyfriend has vetoed any further consumption of the sandwich based on the “vile, repulsive, and persistent” nature of my breath once said sandwich was had.

The only place in town that has fed me something I consider equal to my spoiled rotten Portland expectations is a little place right around the corner from my new office called the Agate Alley Laboratory. The place is just adorable as all get out with it’s laboratory chic schtick. The chemical formulas for Chocolate, Cinnamon, and several other goodies are stenciled on the wall. The periodic table is emblazoned against the side wall of the bar. Beakers and flasks everywhere. Aside from that, though, the offerings are amazing. My Moscow Mule was made with genuine ginger ale and a heavy handed pour. The food is locally sourced, lovingly crafted, deliciously realized. So. Fucking. Good.



So, I was happy to find it, even if it is a bit above range for more than an every so often treat, it’s reassuringly extant at any rate.

Nothing, however, will make me stop missing the taquitos at Pepinos. Covered in the salsa that made me realize I had completely reversed my position on cilantro. Or the Muu Muu burger, crammed onto a crusty roll right along with the fries and that magic crack-sauce. Or the Salted Carmel Ice cream from Fifty-Fifty which I am not kidding you I have fervid passionate dreams about.  And by no means the Squashed from Tin Shed; butternut squash ravioli drenched in creamy mushroom sauce and covered in parmesan. Oh, god. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Eugene has a great deal to recommend it. It is beautiful and friendly and a lovely place to live. I am genuinely much happier than I have ever been before. Yet I long for Portland in this one unexpected inexorable way. When I come to town I think first of who I will see, but only moments before I think about where I will eat.



First let me say Hawaii was beautiful. Unquestionably, utterly, beautiful. And I had a pretty damn good time. There were some… intense moments, but it was a truly memorable and positive experience. More travel for me, yes, that.

There were more shades of it here than e'er I knew

courage is at an ebb. but the sky was aflame tonight as i made my way home. the sherbert colors in the vault bright with promise.

that expectations might be abandoned, truths thought known will be recognized as nothing more than hopeful hunches. roles redrawn, wisdom reexamined. all things taken on faith to be viewed with new skepticism, while things previously accepted only with tactile proof, now embraced without the evidence of the senses.

and perhaps in the interstices there is room for contentment, though i have yet to sense it there.

the light in the sky makes it easier to believe.

last weekend a friend and i went for a hike out in “Stub” Stewart state park out near Vernonia. i picked the hike primarily because i always tend to do gorge hikes, and was curious about the newest state park. of the offerings, none seemed especially difficult or lengthy, so i picked the one that looked to provide the greatest challenge: The Bumping Knots Trail.

it ended up feeling largely like a stroll through a park, and was mostly a pony trail. some elevation change, but nothing more than moderately strenuous. even after the six-plus mile jaunt, i still had the energy to pick up said friend and give him a piggy back ride for a few dozen yards. these feats of strength, i cannot resist them.

there was a nice viewpoint along the trail with a little bench, but nothing to write home about. honestly, the most compelling thing about the hike was the discovery of the Banks Vernonia Trail, a portion of which runs through the park. it is nice and wide and flatish and very beautifully paved. and i suddenly wanted nothing more than to go for ride.

wednesday was my day off so i tossed the old trek up into the rack and motored out to the trailhead. the weather was less promising than it looked from inside my bedroom, grey clouds were in a looming mood. also, i seem to be not so much with the map reading skills, and though i tried to find a trailhead where the path was paved (which it is for all but 3 of its 20 miles) i managed to park in a place that left me 2 miles from the asphalt. to be fair, the trail is still in excellent shape, well maintained and covered in gravel, graded, and still a very good ride. the problem is that i have the narrowest tires in all the land on my bicycle and so there was a serious amount of vibrating, nerve-wracking, anxiety inducing bumpiness on my way.

once on pavement it was a lovely speedy cruise. i think i came up on some horsey-riders a little faster than they would have liked, but i was all ipod and momentum. i think it failed to occur to me at first that i would eventually pay for all of this speed…

the weather remained sort of gloomy and grey for most of the ride, but it was cool enough to keep me comfortable for most of the trip. i went as far down the trail as i could, but some construction on the pathway turned me around at about mile 15. i’m hoping next time i go, i can start at the Manning trailhead, do the entire 20 miles and then come back.

one highlight was the trestle bridge about midway through the ride. if i hadn’t been so worried about the impending rain i was sure would fall at any moment, i would have gone off the trail long enough to get some scenic trestle bridge photos. as it is, i just got this shot of my trip across it. a few more weeks from now i’m sure the foliage will be glorious…

coming back, i was to feel the flatishness wasn’t in fact as flat as i had led myself to believe. there was sweating. oh, yes.

coming back through the unpaved portion wasn’t as tough as going out was, though i did dismount AND carry the trek down the last grade since it wasn’t worth my life to take it on the wheel.

and, happily, the rain did not begin in earnest until i was safely tucked in the drivers seat and imagining with glassy eyed pleasure the turkey burger i was going to get at Burgerville when i went back through Hillsboro. plus also a blackberry milkshake.

and i am pleased to say, even considering the bumpiest portions of my trip, i was decidedly ungimpy after my ride. hoo-ray.

and i for one am delighted to see it. not least because the brutality of the recent heatwave has been totally conquered. more, it is that i breathe more easily once the sky is washed clean. i bundle under my heavy down comforter. the sound of the traffic rolling by outside my window turns from noise to nurture with the addition of the woooosh of wheels through standing water. i make best use of my wardrobe, which is admittedly cold-weather-centric. i think about how in 4 short months this rain will be snow on the mountain.

if only i had some galoshes it would be puddle stomping time.