Avoiding noise and rage in the PNW

My Mechanism of Mindfulness for avoiding Ikon-underuse guilt

My Distraction Device has worked overtime this last week, mainly in service of the ski industry. Frequent alerts and notifications on my phone have been of this ilk: "Are you joining us for the Bonus Weekend" (from Brundage resort in Idaho), "Get ready for closing day," (from Alta), and of course, "Renew your Ikon pass for the 24-25 season." This last one borders on ridiculous—from the megapass overlords already trying to make next year's ledger look good by getting my money before I can blow it on a new mountain bike.  Putting aside my disdain for this trend of using the recurring subscription model for skiing (thanks for nothing Adobe), I can't really fault these ski resorts for their promotional enthusiasm, as manufactured as it seems to be. However, the relentless "stoke" spam I get from the various resorts and ski-adjacent retailers and publishers is now nearly neck-and-neck with the Biden campaign for messages I ignore. And while the "trash can" click sometimes carries with it some pangs of guilt, that wasn't a problem this last week when I was able to dodge these FOMO rollerballs by pedaling my gravel bike through some exceptional Pacific Northwest weather and landscapes. 

First climb of the day on my birthday

Whatever toll the 12-hour drive from Salt Lake to Portland (and eventually Seattle) might have taken on my back was easily outweighed by the benefit of bringing my bike on this trip. After my arrival in Portland last Saturday, I started my vacation in earnest with a Sunday morning ride. Departing from our hotel west of Portland's city limits, I headed to the city center and eventually the banks of the Willamette River. My ride led me on a course utilizing pedestrian trails which paralleled major highways, winding roads through residential areas with slow moving traffic which eventually led to a picturesque ride through Washington Park perched on the hillside above Portland, and finally, downtown streets where bike lanes dominated the road like a green VIP carpet. Clearly, these streets had been designed by people who didn't kneel to the Church of the Internal Combustion Engine. And as my neice, who now lives in Portland, later observed, drivers here show way more respect for riders and vice versa.

Follow the "green" brick road in Portland

On Monday, my birthday, I went polar opposite to the exploratory route into an unfamiliar city. I traded a ride on cycling-specific infrastructure for a journey on two-lane rural roads through the farmland of the Tualatin Valley. After navigating through the Monday suburban commuter traffic in the Portland suburbs of Beaverton and Hillsboro, I emerged onto winding, uninterrupted ribbons of asphalt through sprawling agricultural fields. The ride I did followed a course I discovered on Ride with GPS called What Goes Up... and I could tell that on weekends it's likely a popular ride for many of the Beaver State's cyclists. It curves through occasionally stands of mossy evergreens and climbs multiple rolling hills that you can make as challenging as you want; it even included one climb up Mason Hill! And once again, the Pacific Northwest decided to shield me from their prototypical weather as this the grey skies were high enough that I could still make out the darkened ridgelines separating me from the Pacific Ocean, and those clouds never really opened up with rain, instead just producing the occasional, localized mist. 

One of several PNW forested stretches on the ride

Thanks to it being a Monday, I had to road nearly all to myself, and despite the twisty roads with little to no shoulder, when there was traffic, the ride felt much safer than it would have had it been transposed to Utah. In my home state, most motorists would have used passing me as an opportunity to display their self-perceived superiority just due to the fact that they have a car. By contrast, in Oregon, a majority of the drivers followed this incredibly shocking and tolerant pattern: slow down as they approached me, making sure that I would be aware of their presence (and this was done regardless of whether there was oncoming traffic or a blind curve I might add), and then, once they were comfortable with passing, they passed at a controlled rate of acceleration that was within the bounds of the speed limit. For some reason, I didn't realize you could pass a cyclist without roaring your engine and demonstrating the driver's phallic inadequacy. And you know what, I bet my fellow Oregon travelers weren't a moment later than then needed to be for whatever they were on the way to do.

Imagine the utility of pedestrian corridors that parallel major arteries for convenient commuting

The courtesy shown to me in Oregon really got me wondering, why is this behavior so unusual in Utah? I don't like applying a generalization after such limited experience, but could there be a correlation between cycling friendly infrastructure and peaceful cycling/motorist cohabitation? While my cycling experience in Oregon was limited, my experience in the Beehive state is not, and in my home state, I am pretty comfortable asserting that there is a strong culture of intolerance for cyclists. My very spandex existence is seen as a personal affront to many drivers. To Car Culture in Utah, bikers evoke all the pent up rage may have against outsiders and liberals. They have been conditioned to think every turn of a crank is taking away their lifestyle. "Common courtesy" is a term that makes me cringe, because I think it is a code-phrase for, "make things more convenient for me" (if not being struck from behind and killed can be considered a "convenience"), so in place to "common courtesy", I prefer to use the term "contextual compassion". To me, that phrase acknowledges that context matters; we don't live in a vacuum, and there are countless variables impacting our experience, so cut a rider some slack and they'll likely cut you some slack. In the end, the choice of how to engage with cyclists, liberals, drinkers, etc. should be pretty clear: what are you gaining by being a dick... other than being a dick for dick's sake? 


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