I found two reasons to return to my office, once it was allowed earlier this summer. Those of us working as “non-essential” or “telework able” for large healthcare institutions aren’t wanted onsite during these troubled times of infection and overcapacity. One reason I returned at two days per week –although I’m appreciative to have flexible work – is because my home work space isn’t ideal: I miss a printer, sit-stand desk and other modern luxuries of office space. Honestly, though, the chief reason was to reinstitute my commute. Yes, we cyclists are among a small minority of American workers who love their commutes.
After a rare week of vacation, which included my mom’s Celebration of Life, I was eager to get on my bike for my twice weekly voyage into the office. My thirteen mile ride to work includes a trail along the Willamette, and another through Tryon Creek Park. Other than the hell-of-a-few-blocks of Highway 43 as it dodges into Lake Oswego, narrow lanes with rough grates –no bike lanes in this wealthy community–the other part is also enjoyable as I access Southwest Terwilliger’s bike lane, snaking my way up top to OHSU. Although I did this commute for several years by road bike, I’ve previously blogged about my now two-year relationship with my Giant e+2 bike.
So, yes, I was eager to be back on the bike, my laptop, lunch and files tucked into a pannier. A toughest part of commuting between work at home and office is how much comes and goes with me. But….I have an e-bike to power me! On this morning as I powered on my “pedal assist” (not to be confused with Class 2 throttle e-bikes), I noted that my power level was just over half of a full charge. In my return from vacation I had forgotten to charge my battery after my last ride. Full power on my bike is indicated by 5 lighted buttons, and as I hopped on only 3 were lit. Oh, but I needed the ride! I usually consume just under half my charge for my full commute, at least in warm weather, and so I optimistically told myself it would be fine. That optimism faded just a few moments later after descending steep Hidden Springs (i.e., the point of no return?) as my power level dropped to 2 remaining lighted buttons. Oh oh. But, I told myself, I want to ride today.
Yes, I did enjoy pedaling along the Willamette as I rode River Road into George Rodgers Park, peering down at one of my favorite kayaking river channels. Yet, every few minutes I’d sneak a peek at my power gauge and consider my options. Not quite my normal mindful commute. Yes, I could throw my bike on TriMet, but. Boring! I could leave my bike at work and bring in a charger another day. No fun. Oh, and I remembered, I was supposed to meet Russ and a friend or two outside after work at the Rhino down at the bottom of Hidden Springs at the end of the day. Further complications, and a few more extra miles, rather than cutting home my secret up-hill short cut. Now, I do love an adventurous challenge and asserted to myself I’d make this work. I used power to snake through Tryon Creek, following Terwilliger up to the top of where Terwilliger intersects Taylor’s Ferry. Then, I pulled over and powered off my bike, at the time thinking I’d coast down to Barbur Boulevard and then turn it back on. Yet, down at Barbur I thought – what the heck, I can do this to the next intersection and hill climb can’t I? Huffing a lot.
For those not familiar with e-bikes, because of the battery, motor, and in my bike’s case, overbuilt frame – they are heavy! Without that pannier, mine is about half my body weight. On this morning, adding in my laptop, files, (jar of milk for tea and lunch)….it was a heavy load! Pedal-assist, rather than throttle style e-bikes, mean just that: when you pedal you get battery assist (throttles power even if you don’t pedal) when the battery is on. If not, it rides like a normal bike – a very heavy normal bike. With mine, that means the lighting doesn’t work too. Because of its weight, cruising down hills truly isn’t a lot different. On level, it’s manageable as well – which is why I’ve said I personally wouldn’t invest in an e-bike if I didn’t travel a lot of hilly terrain. Slight hills? Okay, I can do this. Much more than that? Yep, huffing a bit. Yet, I reminded myself, I do like a challenge (and in this case didn’t see many likable alternatives) and kept going. I am pleased to report that I made it all the way to my office huffing and puffing, a bit sweatier, without my usual juice. In my younger days I might have felt embarrassed to crawl like a slug of a cyclist on such a cool e-bike. But no. I’m nearing 60. Frankly, I don’t give a crap these days. Far too much else to worry about.
Fast forward to the end of the day, not getting out of the office until 5:30, and heading toward the Rhino. I powered my bike on, having told myself – certainly I have done enough to spare my charge and be able to power myself home? At the top of Tryon Creek trail I found myself second-guessing my plan and decided to turn off power as I rode down to Lake Oswego. Surely, now – I told myself – I’d be fine. Finally, I arrived to join Russ at the Rhino, powered off my bike, now down to one light, and joined them outside, eager to tell them my strange commute tale, certain I’d solved how to make it home. It was then I noticed I only had one bike glove on. Really? Yes, I had been interrupted by a phone call as I left the office. I was confused, knowing how many things we do unconsciously during the day, yet not remembering even putting on the one glove that was on my left hand. How did I not notice this during my ride? Yikes, yes, work was really hard these days but was it messing with my brain? Alas, it must be on the floor at my office? (which it wasn’t I learned the next day). If I was a fantasy writer like my friend Mikko, I’d build a much better story – It was snatched off my hand as I rode through Tryon fantasy forest by the evil wood nymph who demanded my hand or my glove. Regardless, add glove shopping to my list.
About an hour later I powered up my bike to travel the remaining mile and a half home, taking the steep Hidden Springs route that I usually avoid, less because of steepness and more because of vehicle exhaust. No problem, I told myself with pride – until, mid-way up, the last light sputtered a flash before fizzling out. Powerless on a street so steep that, given the weight of my bike, I might roll backwards. I hopped off instead, pride dissipating, and turned off to walk up the steep beginnings of Wildwood Drive. Hopped on at the top and coasted, rode until finally walking my last hill. Whew…what a commute. First thing though, once I parked my bike in my garage, was to charge up for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a great day to ride. It always is. In the meantime, good thing there is always dark chocolate in my house.