Thursday, September 16, 2010

Portland to Hood River by:

It started off at 10:00 a.m on Tuesday, 14th. Nerves had me up by 7:00 a.m. since this was my first time doing this ride. It was also the longest ride I've done thus far. Oatmeal, coffee, George Carlin stand-up segments on YouTube -- digestin', ampin', laughin.' Decided on a backpack instead of my panniers. I don't know if it was a bad decision or not. I'm used to riding with a heavy backpack; I'm not used to riding with even lightly loaded panniers. As I was pumping up my back tire it deflated -- a rip at the stem. I was briefly thinking "hmmm, this what's to come for my journey?" Not being much for superstition, I just changed the tube and got on my way.

The first leg is one that I'm quite familiar with: my house to Troutdale. I live very close to Marine Drive, which takes you straight to Troutdale. I frequently ride from my house to Troutdale and back, so this was easy enough. Usually, Marine Drive is loaded with cyclists since it is loaded with bike paths off of the road, but this morning there didn't seem to be a anybody out. The weather was a little cold, a little misty, gray-as-shit. In some ways, it was the ideal condition for a long bike ride. However, I had my mind set on 80 degrees and sunny, as all the weather reports indicated. Couldn't see it quite yet, but it was early enough in the day. Arrived in Troutdale where the Historic Columbia Highway starts and made my way into the Gorge.

Though this trip through the Gorge by bike was a first for me, it's not exactly unfamiliar territory. I have taken many car rides through the Gorge with Rich Bachelor, and even the day before we scouted the Historic Hwy and made mental notes of the route. That was possibly the best thing I could've done in terms of guiding my bike route. When you have as poor of a sense of direction as I do, it's nice to have an instructor who has one as fantastic as Rich Bachelor's. Yes, it is a relatively straightforward route along the Historic Hwy, but there are also lots of side roads that could easily confuse unless one was familiar with the landmarks along the Hwy.

Troutdale to Crown Point was a gradual incline. Admittedly, I was having to stop a few times and catch my breath. Sometimes it felt like I was barely moving. I stopped off at the "Womens' Forum." I believe that is what it is called. It does have a pretty fantastic view of the Gorge, so I took a picture:

When I took the picture it seemed like it came out terrible. When downloaded to the computer it seems not so bad. Still, it looks like everybody's Gorge picture. The generic postcard. I continued on up to Crown Point and then started the long descent into the meat-n-potatoes of the Historic Hwy. This was the fun part. Traffic was low-and-slow and there were many sights to see. As mentioned before I have seen these parts before, just not by bike. I took very short stops at each of the main sights: Latourell, Multnomah, Bridal Veil, and Horsetail Falls. I didn't take many good shots of my surroundings, but I found this sign at Multnomah Falls:

The other Prope-Dope? It makes you feel like your head is gonna literally explode, and it burns off all the hair on your face...but it's a sicky high, bro!

Horsetail Falls is almost majestic, and yet I couldn't get a decent photo of it. This is what I got:

The sun was just beginning to break through the gray cloud-cover. And though it can't really be seen in the photograph, it made these falls, in particular, look spectacular. Just beyond Horsetail Falls, the hwy went alongside this amazing little field that was just beginning to get the sun. The forecast was accurate, and now I was beginning to feel it.

After this section of scenic overload, the hwy eventually takes you into Cascade Locks. The 'Locks' is a sleepy little town that connects Oregon and Washington by the "Bridge of the Gods" -- a toll bridge that apparently charges bikes to cross. Underneath the bridge were fresh fish "vendors," who basically had coolers of the catch-of-the-day. Every time I've been through this area I see this patch of fish-pushers. It's probably fantastic. Maybe one day...

After Cascade Locks there are apparently a couple of options for continuing on to Hood River. I took the Herman Creek Hwy route. Unfortunately, I didn't take it all the way because it seemed like it was going in another direction, so I thought that maybe this was the part of the trip where you're forced to get on to I-84 and ride the shoulder for ten miles to Hood River. Well, turns out that I got on the highway prematurely, and I was on it for 16 miles. This was definitely the most unpleasant part of the ride, if not for the trucks riding the white lines, then for the broken glass, ripped tire-casings and other shit lining the shoulder. I briefly stopped off at the exit for Starvation Creek, which is not too far away. Sat at a picnic bench and ate a snack while an older gentleman with a white handlebar mustache stood outside his truck and puffed on a cigar. Got back on the freeway and continued the last five or so miles to Hood River. At this point, I was definitely feeling the weight of my backpack and the way it was forcing my neck into a weird position to support it. I kinda couldn't wait to get off of the fucking freeway.

Got into Hood River at about 3:00 P.M.; the day was just about at its peak temperature. I parked the bike, then had some coffee at a shop that was either called "Fresh Coffee," or "Ground." My friend who works in White Salmon, just across the way on the Washington side, was my ride back to Portland. He got off of work at 4:00 P.M. The perfect amount of time to have some coffee and reflect. The ride took me about 5 hours total, and it was approximately 70 miles. It was fun, glad I did it. I picked the perfect day, too. Yesterday and today decided to rain and it looks like rain from here on till...

In the days before my trip, I had thought that I could maybe just turn around after getting to Hood River and come back to Portland. Well, by the time I got there I was definitely feeling it. I need a few more long bike rides before I attempt to go there and back. Still, I plan on doing it eventually.

Remember: No Smoking Propane.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coulrophobia: awkward sociological experiment

So much for promises to blog regularly this summer...

A couple of months ago I was looking up videos on YouTube under 'Scary Clowns,' or 'Fear of Clowns.' The reason I was doing this was because, when I was a kid,  I used to be terrified of the toy clown in the movie Poltergeist. Something about the demented smile on, what seemed like at the time, a life-sized clown doll freaked the fuck out of me. The feeling was strange because most horror movies didn't frighten me. In fact, my favorite childhood movies were horror films: Creepshow by Stephen King was my all-time favorite; Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead were winners, too. The first couple of Friday the 13ths, the first few A Nightmare on Elm Streets. I watched The Exorcist numerous times at my aunt's house. Along with those, I also watched B-horror films like Maniac, The Burning (a camp/slasher film that featured a very young Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame), Camp Sleep-away, The Gate, etc...The horror section at our hometown video store, I.V. Video, was well attended by me. I used to even request for horror movie posters/advertisements after the store was done with them. Amongst all of these films, it was the discovery of the dead body of Ray Brower in Stand By Me and the clown scene in Poltergeist that actually lingered.

The Poltergeist scene gave me a strange and mild fear of clowns -- or rather, clown faces, since I haven't been to many circuses, therefore haven't spoken with many actual working clowns. This was when I was really young though, and the fear dissipated pretty quickly. By the time the movie adaptation of Stephen King's It came out (featuring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown) I was not bothered.

Anyways, back to my YouTube search. I found a mini-documentary on a woman who becomes paralyzed with fear when she sees a clown. Apparently, the term for this phobia is 'Coulrophobia.' This goes beyond a silly scene in a horror movie; she has a hard time just looking at pictures of clowns. And just to state at the outset of this deconstruction: I am not laughing at her phobia. It's clear that this fear stems from some sort of childhood abuse scenario. I mean, she held onto a stuffed animal from her childhood as some sort of protection during her therapy session. With that being said, the circumstances and the few people surrounding her during a therapy experiment (volunteers from the Sociology Department at some college) are quite funny.

At one point during the video, the woman's therapist informs her that they're to go into a room with four or five people and a clown. She says that she would rather the clown come in after she was in the room. The therapist then says, "okay,...stay put, I'm gonna go tell him. His name is Mr. Giggles." She gives him a strange look and an incredulous "what?!," and he reiterates: "His name is Mr. Giggles. He's a clown." This last part he says with a funny intonation in his voice, as if he meant to say "why else would someone be called Mr. Giggles?" Then, the therapist leads the woman into the room with the other students where she sits and awaits Mr. Giggles.

So, Mr. Giggles walks in while blowing on a kazoo, and I don't know if this was planned or not, but it sure looks like he walks in and immediately spots the woman who is deathly afraid of his mere presence and waves right at her. Of course, she loses it and starts screaming and hyperventilating in the corner. Now, the thing that I find funny is the participant-clown interaction going on around her. I try to imagine how these sociology students were prepped for this experiment? So guys, we're gonna simulate a balloon-animal demonstration from a clown, like what you would've experienced at a circus when you were a kid. The focus of this experiment, however, is terrified of clowns. She's probably going to be screaming and crying and....well, who knows what she's gonna do. She's absolutely terrified of them. What's important is that you maintain your composure. You gotta look like you're having a good time and you can't stare or ask her if she's alright. She'll be alright, just give your attention to Mr. Giggles, and for God's sake keep smiling. When the camera does a slow close-up on the woman, it keeps one of the participants in the frame. The look on her face, I feel, reflects what I'm talking about. She's trying to look like she's having a good time, but you know -- there's a woman freaking out right next to her.

Now, Mr. Giggles is conversing with his audience members amidst this meltdown. If you listen closely, you can hear what he's saying: "Balloon Dog is the first thing they teach you to make when you go to Clown School, kids"; "And, like I tell all the other kids, everything you gotta learn how to do you gotta go to school"; "Anybody here know how many heads a dog should have?...Aww, come on. A dog has one head." At one point, Mr. Giggles says, "Alrighty," but it feels more like a " god. okay. focus." At the end of the video the narrator claims a success on the part of the experiment, but it looks more like exhaustion.

Here's the video:

Anyhow, the vacation is soon to come to an end. School is right around the corner, which is to say that this blog will probably remain neglected. But then again, maybe not?...