Monday, July 02, 2007

Dawn (Not Really) to Dusk (Not Really)

Jim Dandy on Sandy

I like to travel by foot. I guess everyone knows that by now (six out of the ten blog posts on this page are about some hike or walk I did or hope to do). While out walking on a glorious fall day last year, I got this idea that I should get up one morning at dawn and walk all day just to see where I’d end up. I happened to mention this scheme to my friend P, and she thought it was a great idea. We officially began planning our Dawn-to-Dusk walk (patent pending).

Not wanting to bite off more than we could chew, we decided that 9:20 AM was close enough to dawn for us. We started out from my house and headed north on NE 33rd Avenue toward the Columbia River. The northernmost part of NE 33rd is not a part of Portland a guide book would ever mention, let alone recommend. It’s the site of several sprawling, no-nonsense businesses like United Salad Company. It’s also part of the route you must take if you’re on your way to jail. The stretch of road is completely unmemorable, I’m sure, if you’re driving it, but if you’re taking the route at the leisurely pace of three miles per hour, you’ll notice not only the massive edifice that is the Oregon Food Bank, but the Food Bank’s lovely community garden, with rows and rows of lush tomato plants, asparagus, and raspberries all being tended by gung-ho (one naturally assumes) early-riser volunteers.

NE 33rd ends at the bike path that heads east along the Columbia. It’s certainly one of the less bucolic bike paths I’ve been on in my life, and, yeah, we walked right by the airport. I've always thought of the airport as being small and cute, but as I was walking along side of it, it seemed more ludicrously tiny and rinky dink than ever. It’s so hard to believe that PDX is actually an international airport. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s small enough and unobtrusive enough that a bike path within long-range spitting distance isn’t 100% unpleasant. Osprey nest nearby, too. We saw one hunting along the river for food for its hungry little ospreylings.

We also saw this meteorological phenomenon. Any idea what it is?

Sun Dog

I have all these random, fragmented oddments of scientific knowledge knocking about in my brain. Usually, they do me no good at all, but I told P I thought that that little blob of rainless rainbow was a sun dog. Totally faking it, I pointed out the cirrus clouds and theorized that the Sun must be hitting the ice crystals just right, blahbiddy-blah-blah-blah to make the light refract and disperse like that. Turns out I was more or less correct! Close enough, anyway, to get credit on a multiple choice test.

We walked all the way to the 205 bridge, turned right and then right again and cruised into Jim Dandy’s for lunch. You can get a cotton candy-flavored milkshake there if you want to (I don’t know why you’d want to). They have something like 30 other flavors of shake there. Also, if you’re there for breakfast, you can order Dick’s Slop (a heap of biscuits and hash browns smothered in sausage gravy)--or not. Not feeling terribly adventurous, I ordered a plain-old burger and a peppermint shake. P had a garden burger and a chocolate shake.

Later, we would regret those shakes.

After lunch we got ensnared in a no-go zone of dueling freeway overpasses and were forced to trek for some time down NE 92nd Avenue (mostly charmless) until we could duck into a residential neighborhood, where we witnessed a woman sitting in her front yard with a tub of water and a dishwashing scrubby. She was individually scouring an assortment of plastic toys and tossing them haphazardly into an enormous pile off to the side of the tub. What was that about?

Not long after that, we noticed that P’s legs had somehow turned Pepto Bismol pink. It was about 3:15 PM. We stopped and put on the sunscreen we'd been carrying with us all along. We also took a few moments to whinge about those milkshakes that were churning restlessly in our stomachs. P said her toes were feeling squished. It looked to me like she was limping.

We soldiered on for a bit until we got to the nightmare that is 82nd Avenue. We sat down on shady patch of way-too-green lawn in front of a pet hospital and pulled out the map. P captured on film our next ignominious move. Note the slogan on the back of my T-shirt. Pretty funny juxtaposition, no?

Yes. We declared dusk to have arrived at 3:45 PM and took the MAX to the Hollywood District where we limped a few blocks to the Laurelwood brew pub and ordered a pint of IPA apiece. Unbelievably, neither of us finished our beer, as those Jim (not so) Dandy milkshakes were still wreaking havoc.

Are we lame-asses for bailing early (like about 5.5 hours early)? I maintain that we are not. As it happens, we summoned enough gumption or mettle (or some such thing) to walk back to my house from the Laurelwood (about 1.5 miles and mostly uphill, I might add), bringing our total mileage for the day to 15 miles.

So, yeah, maybe the walk could have been more true to the name we coined for it and certainly it could have been a bit less trafficky and underbellyish (but we did see red-winged blackbirds, osprey, bunny rabbits, and a great blue heron, all bang in the middle of one of the most urban/industrialized parts of Portland) and a number of other serendipitous, startling, and unexpected sights. We’re totally planning on doing it again—next time maybe we’ll head for the terra incognita known as the West Hills.

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