Early in the pandemic, no longer did I need to commute to the office every day, yet I craved a purpose to leave the house. I’d get up in the morning and ride my bike. At first, I just wandered around. Then I started to move with purpose.
My bicycle became an urban exploration tool. I combed the streets methodically (mostly) riding up and down each one, trying to pick off roads that I’ve never been on, checking out interesting houses or heritage trees. Then like a real nut case, I got out my paper bike map and highlighted all the streets I rode on. I felt like a farmer mowing wheat; the pink indicating the blocks that had been harvested.
One week it would be Foster Powell, the next Alameda, later over to Woodstock- who knew there were so many dead end streets and country road-like alleys? Out in northeast Portland, I discovered public staircases hidden by bushes. Everywhere there was something new and interesting to see.
I re-discovered 5,000-acre Forest Park and its central, meandering gravel road, Leif Erikson Drive. What was once monotonous tube of trees, suddenly produced a Zen effect. Its length was what I needed to escape; to feel the kaleidoscope of nature close to town.
My awareness of the neighborhoods around Portland changed. Which ones were gentrifying? Which ones did I feel out of place? Which ones did my privilege as a white guy allow me to roll through unnoticed?
The journeying was a way to unwind a coil that was tight inside my body from being cooped up so long. In the past, that itch would have been satisfied by biking back and forth to work or more importantly, by getting into one of my boats and cruising someplace.
My map had crumbled into multiple pieces over that strange year, but something coalesced in my brain. The pandemic shrunk my world, but it also expanded my mind. I realized I didn’t need to go far to escape. My brain turned the movement into therapy, into new stimulation, possibly into purpose. Definitely into satisfaction.