Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hanami & Mt. Tabor

enjoy cherry blossoms while they last

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom now (or at least a few days ago) here in Portland. Maybe they are just another flower tree for most Americans, but cherry trees may be the most obsessed about flower trees in Japan. I don't know how they got to be so popular, but maybe it has something to do with their fleeting beauty and the timing of the blossoming coincides with the end/beginning of the academic year when lots of people are experiencing major changes in their lives. There is also the tradition of "Hanami" (literally translated as flower watching in which people gather in mass outdoor around cherry trees and watch the cherry blossoms. At least that's what it's supposed to be, but for the most part, it turns into a drinking party. I can't remember the last time I was in Japan this time of the year, but I have done my own Hanami here and there. This year's hanami happened this past mid week. I had some errands to run downtown and on my way back, I rode through the Waterfront park knowing that I will probably see cherry blossoms. I actually fully expected to see it and packed a thermos of coffee and sweets in my pannier bag.

enjoy cherry blossoms while they last

Cherry blossoms were in full bloom and I enjoyed my Hanami with coffee instead of sake.

Today (Sunday) I rode to Mt. Tabor Park. It's a park located in South East Portland. I'm not sure if it's tall enough to be called a mountain, but it is a hill and it's covered with tall trees. It's definitely one of my favorite places in Portland and I have ridden there many times, but this was my first ride there since last year. It's not quite far or high enough for a serious training ride, but it is a nice destination and at least for me at this time of the year, it's plenty.

View Larger Map

I am not one to dress in full cycling gear with no luggage even when I go for recreational rides. I like to dress in normal clothes and do normal things along the route. Today, there were 3 things I wanted to do during my ride; ride, buy grocery, and eat lunch. I think most people will do these things separately, but I'm too lazy to do separate outings, so I just do it all during my ride. The map above shows my route from Trader Joe's (where I shopped) to Mt Tabor Park.(the Bicycling layer couldn't be embedded. I hope they are working on that.) I got some lunch food there as well as some other food items. I kind of have mixed feelings about Trader Joe's. It's sort of fun to shop there and they seem to have pretty good quality stuff at reasonable prices, but a lot of their merchandise comes from very far places. I won't go into the whole "eat local" thing here, but the dried apricots I wanted to get was from Turkey, so I got prunes from California instead. (I like prunes too.)

Before the ride, I was looking at Google Map with the new "Bicycling" feature (isn't it so awesome?) and I found that there is a pedestrian/bike bridge over the freeway just South of Trader Joe's. I had no idea that was there and I would've ridden over the 39th Avenue overpass (where it's full of cars with no bike lane) if I didn't check out the map with the new feature, so thanks to Google, I had a much more "tranquilo" ride. There are so many ways you can go to the park from there. The Google directions will show you a much different, but way more complicated way, but I like my ride simple and without too many turns, so I think my way is much easier. My way takes you South to Belmont St and then East. You can also take Glisan or Burnside, but I found that, going that way, you will run into a series of short but very steep hills. On Belmont, it's not as steep, but it's a long and gradual climb all the way to the entrance of Mt Tabor Park. I'm actually not sure which part is harder, the climb to the park or the climb of Mt. Tabor. Anyway, it's best to take it easy or you will be cooked by the time you get to the park.

Mt. Tabor Park

Once inside the park, you are surrounded with big tall trees and roads inside have less car traffic, so it's much more relaxing. I think when you are climbing under effort, it's definitely better to do it on roads with little or no car traffic. If you have cars going by you, I think it makes it more stressful as you need to concentrate to hold a straight line while you are already hard at work just trying to go forward. I think once I'm in better shape, I would "attack" the climb more, but today I just spun up to the top. I think the gradient there must not be as steep as the climb to Rocky Butte because there I couldn't even spin if I wanted to.

lunch at Mt. Tabor Park

Time for lunch! Just a simple cheese sandwich, prunes and coffee.

I think most people that go on recreational or training rides go ride and then eat when they get home, but I like to bring food and have a little snack at my destination. It's like a little reward for having made it there or something. It started raining though as I was sitting there enjoying my coffee, so I got back on my bike and rode down half way where there is like a big picnic area with a roof and took shelter.

my bike at Mt. Tabor Park

I took this picture there. I made a couple of modifications to this bike since I last showed this bike here. Can you guess what they are? I will write about that here soon.

Before I rode home, I decided to ride around the park. This is where they held the Mt. Tabor criterium which was part of the Mt. Hood Classic a couple of years ago. Last year, the race had finance issues and didn't include this stage, but I hope they will have it this year. I had a great time watching it 2 years ago. Here's a slideshow of pictures I took there.

So, there is this loop you can ride. For a good part of last year though, a part of it was under construction and you couldn't ride through, so I was curious if they had fixed it. I rode there and indeed they had finished whatever they were doing. I rode the loop once. There's always people riding there doing multiple loops, but I didn't want to overdo it this time. I think maybe once I'm in lighter clothing with less baggage (I think my pannier with the grocery weighed like 10 lbs), I might try doing laps. I can't imagine racing like 40 laps of it though. It's hard to imagine now that I was once fit enough to do similar kind of races albeit at the lower end of amateurs.

Anyway, it's a nice place to ride to. If it was a bit further from town and the climb more substantial, it would be even more a popular destination to ride to I think.

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