Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Simple Pleasure of Dry Heat

After a cool and humid summer with a few warm, humid days and a couple hot humid days, we arrive at September when the high pressure finally camps to the east of Portland and the humidity drops like a rock. Today it reached 90F (32C) but the humidity was likely in the teens. It was dry enough to need chapstick and protection against nose bleeds. My kind of day.

It is unfortunate that a few lightning caused fires in the mountains (hey, blame that on humidity) wafted a white plume of smoke over the city for a while, but the wind shifted today and most of it went somewhere else. Hopefully the good folk who fight the fires can get them under control.

I have a group of two or three friends that try to get a bike day in every weekend during the summer. Today we chose the Banks-Vernonia Linear trail for a shadier ride given the forecast heat. The state parks website said it was a 21 mile trail, but I seem to remember passing a 21.5 mile marker on the way, so I will say 22 in both directions for a total of 44 miles (71km). We are recreational riders, so we generally seem to stick to about 10 mph (~15 kph).

The morning was cool and when we started, it was in the low to mid-70s. One of the nice things about a dry September heat wave is that the nights are still quite cool. The ride climbed from about 250 to 950 feet in elevation with changes up and down in between. The shade of the coast range forest augmented the cooling as well. Even though we rode in the heat of the day, there was only about 5 miles of riding under the hot sun with the rest either in shade, at some altitude, or both. If only we could bottle this stuff and send it to the rest of the humid world.

Due to the cool and wet beginning, this summer marked a fairly late harvest of blackberries. For those outside the Pacific NW, the Himalayan blackberry is an invasive species that grows does very well here and produces tons of free food for us. It is a longstanding memory for me to breathe in the sweet scent of ripe berries this time of year. We made a stop along the trail to pick a couple handfuls to enjoy along the way. The scents reinforce this good feeling. If there must be an invasive species, let it smell beautiful and provide good food (I am looking at you, useless English Ivy).

After the ride, the consensus was for burgers and beer at the Rock Creek Tavern. They did not disappoint as we sat at an outdoor table in the shade and enjoyed our meal.

After about 102 miles (164km) in 8 days, I believe I will spend this Labor Day in a more relaxed state. That total included a nice ride along the Springwater bike trail and the Cazadero unfinished extension that was quite nice as well.


Pandabonium said...

Sounds like a great week of bicycling. The weather in Japan is still humid, but the temps are down into the mid 80s. Quite a relief.

I don't ride nearly as far - maybe 10 to 25 kilometers in a day - but I stick to lower speeds too. I can understand riding fast for sport, but for running an errand or commuting for work, what's the point? To get sweaty before entering a store or one's workplace? I cruise at around 18 kph (11 mph) most of the time - whatever feels comfortable.

Berries along the way is wonderful. A nice bonus. Wish I had some around here.

Don Snabulus said...

@PB - I can do the longer rides once a week at max. They usually take a couple days to recover from. My weekday rides generally run about 8 to 13km. I get sweaty just thinking about heat, so that isn't a factor for me. ;)

I think you and K would like a leisurely stop by a blackberry patch...thorns notwithstanding. In my childhood, we called them "stickers" because they gave roses a run for their money,