Switching Routes

Since moving to Portland I’ve lived in three different places, each just three blocks from the last. Yet, I’ve found these small shifts have changed which bus route I’m closest to, so I’ve switched bus routes each time. I’ve really enjoyed my newest bus route because my transfer point is much more bustling. I can stop to pick up groceries on my way home without going out of my way. The start of my bike route is slightly different, taking me through new parts of the neighborhood at the beginning of my daily commute, but most of my bike route remains the same.

Last spring I was in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class and my group’s project was to map public amenities and access to them via bike routes and transit. I was not surprised to discover that my neighborhood, Cully, is one of the least well-served neighborhoods east of 82nd Avenue. There are great things happening in Cully including a new park, a farmer’s market, a new business overlay zone, a couple urban farms, and, of course, Cully Grove. There are many large lots in Cully, so there are folks with double lots, big gardens, and backyard chickens. If I were interested in the urban homestead lifestyle, this would be a great neighborhood for me. I think it’s pretty neat that a place like Cully exists within the inner city. But this low level density cannot sustain as many urban amenities as a more compact development.

I’m studying sustainable urban planning, I’m crazy about small spaces, and I travel by foot, bike, transit, and car share, so being in a more compact area is a better fit for me. Besides, I appreciate a lifestyle that involves interacting with my surrounding community. When I visited my little sister last spring I was amazed at how nice it was to walk to the grocery store and the coffee shop in just a few minutes. For my next abode I hope to find a place in a much more dense area. I’m curious to see where it will be!

Route Mapping

My host and some friends of hers built a bike shelter in the yard and we've put it to good use this fall!

Since I don't own a car I get around mostly by bike and public transportation. There are a handful of places I can walk from my house in 10 minutes or less, but since strip clubs, tattoo parlors, and drive-up convenience stores aren't really my scene, I usually take my bike and head on down to the Hollywood District or the Alberta Arts district if I'm going to be grocery shopping or having lunch with a friend. If I'm going further than that I often take transit. I'm glad I bought the student flex pass through PSU. Even though Tri-Met doesn't do a very good job of making their passes more affordable than paying each trip (you need to take transit twice a day at least five days a week to justify the pass), it is much more convenient to have a pass than to keep an two dollar bills and one dime handy whenever I might want to take the bus.

I've decided it's okay to admit that I'm a fair weather biker. Lately, I've been on the bus more than I'd like to confess to my cyclist friends who insist that all I need is better rain gear. And I get it. I do understand that the right gear makes so many things better. That's why I own nice kitchen knives, a fantastic mattress, and merino wool clothing. For several years now I've been intentionally focusing on owning less but better stuff. Living in a tiny space helps reinforce that.

I like my rain pants. I've learned not to leave on my bike without them - no matter how nice it looks or what the weather forecasters say. I'm pretty good at biking when the weather is decent, but when it's not, I give myself a little grace. The way I figure it, if you have a 20 minute bike ride and five minutes in it starts pouring and you're drenched in another five minutes, you only have 10 minutes of misery before you can get dry and warm again. That's totally bearable. If you have a 50 minute bike ride, same situation, you have 40 minutes of misery. I'm just not up for it. So I've given myself permission to take the bus when it's icky. And unfortunately with the days getting shorter and winter approaching, it's happening more and more.

From where I live cycling takes about 50 minutes and transit takes about 55 minutes with one transfer. I have about 8 different transit route combinations that will get me from my house to campus. But they all involve one transfer and take about 55 minutes. I have hundreds of slightly different routes that will get me to campus by bike. I've been trying different ones, tailoring them to my mood: uphills, downhills, flats, old houses, small houses, big houses, parks, waterfront, esplanade, city streets, bike boulevards, cycle tracks, bridges. So many options! Riding my bike is great because I get a work out in, too. I have time to think. I notice things from a different perspective. But I have to plan for time to shower at the gym before class or my internship. Taking transit is a nice option because it allows me time to think. Or text. Or read the news or an article for class or a novel. Or people watch.
I've been riding to campus in the morning, showering at the gym, going to my classes, and then taking transit home (with my bike) at night. It's a bit of a hassle taking my bike home on transit because of the transferring, but I don't feel comfortable riding home at night for 50 minutes just after 9:30pm. Taking a bike on the train is easier than taking one on the bus, but there aren't any train stations close to my house. And unfortunately there don't seem to be any particularly pleasant bike routes to the closest Max station. Besides there aren't any good places to park a bike there and the station itself is a little sketchy. Lately I've been just taking transit both ways, which is really convenient but probably not a good long-term solution unless I figure out another way to get a work out!
I've experimented with options that involve biking part of the way and then locking up my bike and taking the bus at my transfer point. That seems to work okay. It's a way of splitting the difference, using both modes. But if I take a different route home than the one I took to campus or my internship I have to remember to retrieve my bike. Dual mode travel doesn't seem to save me much time and it doesn't really give me a good work out either, so it may be the worst of both worlds!
I figure I can continue to experiment. For now, it's nice having both bike and transit options.

Known By the State of California

The garden hose I'd hooked up burst earlier this week so I decided it was time to hunt for a drinking quality hose. One of the scary things about hoses is that so many of them have a disclaimer that says "warning: contains a chemical known by the state of California to cause cancer." That's the sort of thing that's worth avoiding, so I called around and found that a local hardware store carried drinking quality hoses that are also made from recycled materials. Bingo!

Trouble was, when I stopped by on Wednesday they didn't have them in the right length. So I went back today and picked up the hose they'd ordered in for me. I packed it into my backpack and headed home on the bus. I got it hooked up this evening and it does reach, but only barely.

My host and I have talked about digging a trench to run the water and electricity underground, but for now above ground seems fine. She has decided she might want a drinking quality hose, too, so she'll probably pick one up this weekend and we'll put the two together which will allow us to snake it from the back spigot which can be dedicated for the tiny house. If we get around to the trench later these two hoses can be used in the garden.
So it's taken two full weeks for me to get all the utilities running just right because I've been busy with school and a weekend out of town, but I think if I'd been a little better prepared it would have been a cinch.