The sun has been shining much more than usual during a Pacific Northwest fall; perfect to milk the absolute most out of riding and running in Portland.
I had spent the afternoon grinding gears in the West hills, pretending I was still pulling and zooming through the Spanish countryside with my fellow riders, kicking up leaves as I flew past, enjoying the colors, crisp air, and good sweat I had going as I went. I would lie if I said that my mind did not shift to wish that I could swing past a cafe in the middle of a medival village at the turnaround point. Dreaming of a porro at the top of Germantown Road. There would be no outlays of selected cheeses and olives at the end of this ride – only the leftovers of homemade minestrone. Sigh.
Descending back into our neighborhood is a slow return to urbanity; Cornell Avenue rolls through the tunnels and the forest recedes, the hills end and quiet neighborhoods of Northwest with its craftsmen homes and bungalows begins. Cornell becomes Lovejoy as I roll through the stoplights at 25th, past fresh bagel smell of 24th, slowing slightly at the boutiques and coffeeshops of 23rd. Here, the streetcar tracks weave their way into traffic swallowing up the bike lane. And, it is here that I, looking so snazzy in my matchy bike kit and rose colored sunglasses made such a silly mistake – attempting to hop over the track on a TT bike. Needless to say that the track won, causing me instead to try to jump OUT of the track, which I did….at the cost of a bike spoke. Damn you, streetcar. Damn you lovely meld of urban/nature.
I had to take a detour to swing my wheel past the bike shop; it was no longer true. But, had I not broken that spoke, or taken that detour, I wouldn’t have found Cork, or come to the great realization that a simple, charmed life is not only in Spain, but where you find it.
The porro lined up next to colored bottles drew me first. Then, the selected chocolates displayed in neat rows, beckoned (my sweaty, glory.) The shop keep was quick to direct me to their selection of olive oils, showcasing a nutty one from Spain, a more balanced one from California, and an herby blend from Italy. I tasted, perused, and admitted it was good I wasn’t sporting panniers on my ride. I selected one from Spain – it would be perfect with the Artisan Olive Bread that was set to bake when I got home. Leaving this charming little boutique, I popped the bottle of olive oil in the back pocket of my bike jersey and pedaled the last 5 blocks home and thus, was able to create an unexpected, simple, European-esque and completely special moment in the middle of my own city.
You don’t need cobblestone streets to create charm, a principle that will serve me well if I can keep it in mind as we hop out of this lovely city and into a new one. Seeing, eating, and enjoying the world is certainly one way of living well. But really, a life well lived is where you find it.