2015 Portland Bridge Pedal

To introduce this photoessay, an establishing shot taken from the Burnside Bridge – the Steel Bridge superimposed on the Broadway Bridge and the Fremont Bridge.

Steel Bridge, Broadway Bridge, and Fremont Bridge

 

A little background: I first visited Portland in 2014 and wrote about it in several blog posts and in the “Portland’s Bridges” photo essay. While i was there, i discovered that on one morning every year, all of Portland’s bridges, including the two Interstates, are closed to vehicular traffic and open only to bicyclists for what they call the “Bridge Pedal”. How could i resist making another expedition? Especially since before i finished assembling the “Portland’s Bridges” photo essay, i realized that i did not have decent photos of several of the bridges and really needed to make another expedition.

In 2015, the Bridge Pedal was scheduled for 9 August, so i made reservations at the excellent University Place Hotel nearly a year ahead since every hotel in central Portland is booked up for the Bridge Pedal weekend months in advance.

And then mission creep set in, and i decided i’d also try to get photos of the bridges between Springfield and Portland.

 

Thursday, 6 August

I set out from San Francisco in the morning and ground my way to Springfield/Eugene by the late afternoon. Near the river in Eugene i found a motel from which i could make a photo foray on the Segway.

Luckily, the motel was just a couple hundred yards from the David and Lynn Frohnmayer Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge, which was built to carry a steam pipe, with the bike lane thrown in as an afterthought. Sure looks like it. I could find no vantage from which to photograph this bridge, but i promise you, you ain’t missing nothing.

The next bridge i spotted was the Knickerbocker Bicycle Bridge, originally built to carry a water main and only marginally less ugly than the Frohnmayer, but here’s what it looks like from its best side:

Knickerbocker Bicycle Bridge

 

Next, the first handsome bridge, the Wilhamut Passage Bridge.  And yes, Oregon is experiencing a drought as bad as California’s, so the water levels are low all the way through Portland.

Wilhamut Passage Bridge

 

Here it is from the Knickerbocker Bridge.

Wilhamut Passage Bridge

 

 

The next bridges upstream are the two spans called the Springfield Bridge, the north one being such a boring concrete slab that i didn’t even hunt for a vantage that might make it look good, but the older south span is more interesting.

Springfield Bridge

 

The final Springfield bridge, the first bridge over the Willamette, is the old Southern Pacific Railroad Bridge, built in 1891 and still used by Amtrak. It’s often hard to find a good vantage from which to photograph railroad bridges, and this was no exception. What i should have done was ride out onto the south span of the Springfield Bridge in the expectation of being able to get a good shot of it from there, but by the time i got to it, i was exhausted. Anyhow, here it is.

Southern Pacific Railroad Bridge

 

Friday, 7 August

First thing in the morning i set out north on the bike path down the Willamette, and after less than half a mile came to the Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge and a lovely thing she is.

Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge

 

And a closeup.

Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge

 

And into the mouth.

Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge

 

And finally, from the west bank.

Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge

 

Only 800 feet downstream, the Ferry Street Bridge.

Ferry Street Bridge

 

And from a leafy vantage on the west bank.

Ferry Street Bridge

 

A mile to the north is the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge.

Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge

 

Looks better from underneath.

Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge

 

My final Eugene bridge, the Greenway Bicycle Bridge.

Greenway Bicycle Bridge

 

And then difficulties arose. Well, not immediately. To replace my good camera that i’d left at home, i stopped at the Costco in northern Eugene and picked up a Nikon Coolpix L840 with 38x optical zoom YOW! a worthy addition to my camera arsenal with a superzoom capability i’d long been wanting.

I then drove north and veered west off I5 to Harrisburg to capture the OR 99E Bridge, only to spend quite a while driving around without finding a vantage from which i could take the bridge with the sun on it. So this is all you get.

OR 99E Bridge

 

And then i set out to Junction City to find the two old railroad bridges a tenth of a mile apart, both former drawbridges now fixed in the closed position, one swing-span and the other vertical lift. Alas, after way too much driving around, i couldn’t find either.

After i returned home, i went online studying various maps and discovered that the reason i couldn’t find either bridge was that the closest roads to them were nearly a mile away cross country on private land, so these bridges are effectively impossible to photograph except from a boat or the air although you can look at them on Google Earth.

 

Photo:

 

Then i pushed on to Oregon City, where i managed to get a pic of the handsome Oregon City Bridge.

Oregon City Bridge

 

And a closeup.

Oregon City Bridge

 

A leafy detail shot from the other end.

Oregon City Bridge

 

Then on to Portland, where i checked into the University Place Hotel and treated myself to dinner at Baan Thai, my favorite Portland restaurant.  Hell, i love that place so much it’s almost my only Portland restaurant.

 

Saturday, 8 August

I set out this morning on my first Portland bridge foray, starting with the Fremont Bridge. Here’s a shot from the west end.

Fremont Bridge

 

OK, another.

Fremont Bridge

 

Well, upon reflection.

Fremont Bridge

 

The Master Plan here was to ride along the waterfront to a point much closer to the bridge to get pics from that angle. Unfortunately, for the plan at least, i fell into conversation with a local bicyclist while we were waiting for a long freight train to slowly cross our intersection, and since i found him delightful and he was headed to the official Bridge Pedal packet distribution area over near OMSI on the east bank to pick up his stuff, i fell in with him. Well, he was my age and could no longer ride fast, so i could keep up with him on the Segway while we got to know each other.  Turned out, he had moved here from Monterey only a couple of years ago. The down side of riding along with him was not being able to stop to take pics.

However, once we parted after i realized that i didn’t have my receipt with me so i could pick up my packet, i was free to dawdle and on the way back home managed to get a few shots from the east bank of the river. First, Tilikum Crossing.

Tilikum Crossing

 

And then, the Marquam Bridge.

Marquam Bridge

 

And finally, the Hawthorne Bridge.

Hawthorne Bridge

 

After my mid-day nap, i set out again. First, the Steel Bridge from the west bank.

Steel Bridge

 

Then, looking back south, the Morrison Bridge.

Morrison Bridge

 

A closeup of the Steel Bridge.

Steel Bridge

 

Here’s the bike lane on the lower level of the Steel Bridge.  Hiya, kiddo!

Steel Bridge bike lane

 

And finally, a shot from the east bank.

Steel Bridge

 

Now, moving south, the Marquam Bridge, and yes, that is a submarine on the bank, the USS Blueback.

Marquam Bridge

 

And since i’m passing by, another shot of Tilikum Crossing, this time from the north side of the east bank of the river.

Tilikum Crossing

 

I couldn’t resist this shot of the underbelly.

Tilikum Crossing underbelly

 

Tilikum Crossing, from the south side of the east bank of the Willamette.

Tilikum Crossing

 

As i was headed south toward the Ross Island Bridge, i went under the approach to the Marquam Bridge and discovered this, its only decorative aspect.

Marquam Bridge detail

 

Looking south at the Ross Island Bridge.

Ross Island Bridge

 

And a closeup.

Ross Island Bridge

 

Two more Tilikum Crossing shots, now from the south. The first from the east bank.

Tilikum Crossing

 

And now from the Ross Island Bridge.

Tilikum Crossing

 

Back home via Baan Thai for a great pad Thai.

Baan Thai

 

Sunday, 9 August

Today’s the day of the Bridge Pedal and my papers are in order.

Seven Bridges

 

The official starting time is 8:30, but i wanted to get to the starting line early and set out at 7:30. When i hit the Nieto Parkway just four blocks down from the hotel, there already many bicycles headed north, so i just fell in with them.

What starting line? We were just directed with no fanfare onto the Hawthorne Bridge, and i was so enraptured over participating in this event that i didn’t think about taking pics until we were across the bridge and approaching the Tilikum Crossing, where there was a bit of a jam because the central lanes of the bridge were designed for light rail vehicles, so bicyclists were restricted to the bike lanes.

Bridge Pedal jam leading to Tilikum Crossing

 

But the delay was very brief, and then we were on the bridge.

Tilikum Crossing

 

On the way across, great views of the Marquam Bridge.

Marquam Bridge

 

All the routes for the Bridge Pedal involve riding over the Tilikum Crossing on the north side from the east end and then doing a u-turn at the west end and returning on the south side.  Here’s the Ross Island Bridge to the south.

Ross Island Bridge

 

On the way back up over the Tilikum Crossing.

Tilikum Crossing

 

And back down the Tilikum Crossing.

Bridge Pedal - Tilikum Crossing

 

And then farther south and across the Ross Island Bridge, from the top of which i got this shot of the Tilikum Crossing.

Tilikum Crossing

 

And then back north to the Marquam Bridge.  At the top there was a rest stop where you were offered cups of water and chocolate chip cookies.  I accepted both.

Marquam Bridge rest stop

 

From the top of the Marquam Bridge, you get a good view of the bridges to the north – the Hawthorne Bridge, a bit behind it and to the right, the Morrison Bridge, a bit behind that and farther to the right, the Steel Bridge, and then barely visible back to the left, the arch of the Fremont Bridge.

 

DSCN0130-002

 

Now, racing down the west side of the Marquam Bridge.

Marquam Bridge

 

And then, up to the Burnside Bridge and over it.

Burnside Bridge

 

Then on north to the Broadway Bridge, the west end wrapped for painting.

Broadway Bridge

 

And now, the push north to the final bridge, the Fremont Bridge.  Just beyond the point depicted below was another rest stop offering water, cookies, and fresh fruit.  The banana was delicious.

Bridge Pedal - Fremont Bridge

 

And up we go.

Bridge Pedal - Fremont Bridge

 

And higher.

Bridge Pedal - Fremont Bridge

 

At the top for a rest stop.

Fremont Bridge

 

And some revelry.

Bridge Pedal - Fremont Bridge

 

Great views. To the south, the Broadway and Steel Bridges.

Broadway and Steel Bridges

 

And to the north, thanks to the 38x zoom, the St. Johns Bridge with in front of it the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1 that i caught open last year.

St. Johns Bridge and Railroad drawbridge

 

And then, complications ensued. Throughout the Bridge Pedal i’d been just going with the flow of bicyclists, but somehow as i descended the Fremont Bridge i missed the point at which we puny Seven Bridge riders were shunted off counterintuitively to the right, leaving the Nine Bridgers and Eleven Bridgers to forge forward to the St. Johns Bridge.

As the scenery became less and less urban, i began to suspect that i’d missed my cutoff and was on the way to the St. John’s Bridge.  Acute range anxiety set in, and i calculated that while it was clear i’d be able to get to the St. Johns Bridge, whether i could make it all the way back to the hotel was doubtful.

So i bailed, consulted a detail map, and confirmed that i was going the wrong direction. But i couldn’t just reverse course, as i’d be headed into the teeth of thousands of bicyclists pouring off the Fremont Bridge and peddling furiously for the St. Johns Bridge. So i plotted an alternate route toward the waterfront on little side streets, and sure enough, after only a mile or so reached the foot of the Fremont Bridge.

Fremont Bridge

 

And a closeup.

Fremont Bridge

 

Almost immediately found the Seven Bridge riders.

Bridge Pedal - Fremont Bridge

 

And shortly thereafter reached the Finish line.

Bridge Pedal finish line

 

On the way home got a shot of a different sort of bridge.

a different sort of bridge

 

Also of the Morrison Bridge.

Morrison Bridge

 

And the Hawthorne Bridge.

Hawthorne Bridge

 

Whew. Time to charge batteries, mine and the Segway’s.

And then off for an afternoon excursion. Tilikum Crossing was open this morning only to bicyclists registered in the Bridge Pedal. While the official opening will not be until this fall, it will be open for several hours this afternoon to everyone on foot or bicycle, and i plan to put it to use.  Here is a superb article with breathtaking aerial photographs taken this very afternoon.  If you look very very closely, you might spot me on my Segway.

See, it still rankles that i did not get a decent shot of the Sellwood Bridge last year, and taking the Tilikum Crossing is by far the shortest and most scenic route to get to the east end of the Sellwood. So that’s what i did. Note the cooperation here with the pedestrians on the right and the bicyclists on the left, not that that stripe doesn’t provide a hint.

Tilikum Crossing

 

OK, one detail shot.

Tilikum Crossing

 

Turns out there was a fringe benefit in taking the eastern bike path down to the Sellwood Bridge – by far the best vantage i’ve found for the Ross Island Bridge.

Ross Island Bridge

 

And yes, it’s not a bridge, but i found this warehouseboat very interesting.

warehouseboat

 

As was the aquatic life.

aquatic life

 

Finally, our afternoon destination, the Sellwood Bridge.

Sellwood Bridge

 

And a closeup. This bridge is undergoing a major reconstruction.

Sellwood Bridge

 

A little fringe benefit on the way back from the Sellwood Bridge along the western bank of the river, wild blackberries, upon which i stopped and gobbled until i was sufficiently stained and scratched.

wild blackberries

 

Next stop, the Portland Aerial Tram, where thanks to that 38x zoom i got a good shot into the mouth of the upper station.

Portland Aerial Tram

 

And a shot of the tower and a car.

Portland Aerial Tram

 

That park in front of the tramway?  I’ve had too many delightful encounters with locals to detail, but one of the finest was with a couple of young mothers and their little girls who were out to enjoy this park.  All of ’em tried the Segway, but the champ was the smallest girl, who i’d feared would not weigh enough to ride the Segway.  Silly me.  The little thing was utterly fearless and by throwing her full weight into it, rode the Segway with frightening (to me and her mother) aggression, maxing out the speed and cranking the turns to the fullest.

But back to the tram for a closeup.

Portland Aerial Tram

 

One more.

Portland Aerial Tram

 

And the lower station.

Portland Aerial Tram

 

And since we’re taking a break from the bridges, here’s that magnificent gantry beside the tram station.  I got to see it moving last year.  Oh, and The Gantry is a new food court pod.

The Gantry

 

A last shot of the Tilikum Crossing.

Tilikum Crossing

 

No supper at Baan Thai tonight. They’re closed on Sundays. Instead, i had about a third of the worst gyros i ever ate from a little street stand on 6th Street.  OK, didn’t eat.

 

Off in the morning to get better shots of some of the bridges. Here’s the back side of the Morrison Bridge because that’s where the sun was.

Morrison Bridge

And another.

Morrison Bridge

 

On the west bank between the Morrison and Burnside bridges is what remains of the USS Portland – the mast.

USS Portland

 

Now, the Burnside Bridge.

Burnside Bridge

 

A closeup.

Burnside Bridge

 

And the other side.

Burnside Bridge

 

Next, the Steel Bridge with a train crossing on the lower level and a light rail streetcar on the upper level.

Steel Bridge

 

And a closeup.

Steel Bridge

 

Now up onto it, using the bicycle lane on the upper deck.

Steel Bridge

 

What’s the upper level without a shot of the machinery?

Steel Bridge

 

And the operator’s cabin.

Steel Bridge

 

Looking back.

Steel Bridge

 

Other side, from the east end.

Steel Bridge

 

Into the mouth of the lower deck.

Steel Bridge

 

OK, enough of the Steel Bridge.  This is a good place for a brief break from the bridges for an observation about Portland.  I’d mentioned in blog posts both this year and last my supposition that trash cans cause trash because San Francisco is awash in trash and yet has a trash can at almost every corner in business/tourist areas, while you have to hunt almost as hard in Portland for a piece of trash on the street as you do for a trash can in which to put your empty paper cup.

A corollary observation is that you have to hunt to find homeless people in Portland.  Well, maybe they’re hiding them somewhere away from the river and downtown, but i saw very few.  What’s more, the ones i saw didn’t look as, well, homeless as ours. I spotted only two enclaves, this one near the foot of the Steel Bridge.

Portland homeless

 

And this one near the Morrison Bridge.

Portland Homeless

 

 

Leaving intractable social problems behind us, tra-la, here’s the Broadway Bridge as seen from the Steel Bridge.

Broadway Bridge

 

A closeup of the bascules and their mechanism with the Fremont Bridge aligned behind.

Broadway Bridge

 

Mechanism detail.

Broadway Bridge

 

Once you come off the west end of the Steel Bridge, you get a good view of the Union Station.

Union Station

 

And then you approach the Broadway Bridge, wrapped for painting.

Broadway Bridge

 

And then onto the bridge.  Here’s a detail shot of the mechanism.

Broadway Bridge

 

The operator’s cabin.

Broadway Bridge

 

An arty shot of the Fremont Bridge.

Fremont Bridge through the Broadway Bridge

 

Broadway Bridge from the east bank.

Broadway Bridge

 

The Steel Bridge from the east bank.

Steel Bridge

 

The Steel Bridge, framed.

Steel Bridge

 

Burnside Bridge tender towers.

Burnside Bridge

 

Burnside Bridge from the east bank.

Burnside Bridge

 

Just for a break, here’s the Portland, a sternwheel steamboat tug now a maritime museum and docked on the west bank of the Willamette but still in working order and winning races less than ten years ago.

The Portland

 

The Morrison Bridge with sunny tender towers.

Morrison Bridge

 

An end shot of the Hawthorne Bridge from the east bank.

Hawthorne Bridge

 

Back home to rest and then out for an early dinner at Baan Thai, the Larb Chicken.  A caution here, in Thai cuisine, it’s not considered good larb unless it cauterizes your tonsils, and this is very good larb.  I like peppers, but i nearly injured myself finishing it Medium.

Next stop, the Portland Spirit jet boat for a river cruise.  When i was making my reservation and asked for the tallest boat so as to maximize the number of drawbridges that would have to be opened, i was crushed to learn that the river was so low this year that none of the drawbridges would have to be opened, so i opted for the tour with the maximum bridge count.  For this, they used the little jet boat below.

Portland Spirit

 

First, we headed south.  The Marquam Bridge from the water.

Marquam Bridge

 

An underappreciated aspect of the Marquam Bridge.

Marquam Bridge

 

Tilikum Crossing.

Tilikum Crossing

 

An end shot.

Tilikum Crossing

 

The underside…of both the bridge and the captain.

Tilikum Crossing

 

The Ross Island Bridge.

Ross Island Bridge

 

At this point, we turned back north.  Here’s the USS Blueback, moored on the east bank.

USS Blueback

 

The Morrison Bridge.

Morrison Bridge

 

A Burnside Bridge tender tower.

Burnside Bridge

 

The Steel Bridge.

Steel Bridge

 

The Steel Bridge again.

Steel Bridge

 

The Broadway Bridge.

Broadway Bridge

 

Broadway Bridge again.

Broadway Bridge

 

The Fremont Bridge.

Fremont Bridge

 

The Fremont Bridge again.

Fremont Bridge

 

We’re clipping along at 40 knots here, the fastest i’ve ever been in a boat, and in no time at all we reached the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1, which i lucked into photographing with the bascule open in 2014.

Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1

 

Next, the St. Johns Bridge.

St. John's Bridge

 

From the other side, the east tower.

St. John's Bridge

 

The west tower.

St. John's Bridge

 

Again.

St. Johns Bridge

 

And finally, the whole thing.

St. Johns Bridge

 

Bridge break here for a photo of a crane.

Osprey crane

 

Yes, we know i like cranes, too, but why in the world, you ask, am i giving you a photo of this one since it’s not particularly impressive?  Let’s zoom in for the reason.

Willamette Osprey Nest Crane

 

That’s an osprey nest sitting atop the pulley.  Well, see, a young osprey couple were looking around for the perfect place to raise their children and spotted that pulley.  So they built there.  And since the crane was not in daily use, the operators didn’t see the nest until it was complete.  Of course they destroyed it.

And the ospreys immediately rebuilt it.  And the operators destroyed it again.  The obstinate ospreys rebuilt, but by this time local osprey lovers had seen what was going on and, ospreys enjoying protected status, the huggers got an injunction.  Which led to a court case, the upshot of which was that the ospreys had to be left alone until they departed of their own accord.

Well, OK, thought the owners, we’ll just keep an eye on it until the ospreys have moved on and then reassert our use of our crane.

But it takes patience to outwait an osprey, as that was nine years ago.

 

OK, that’s it.  The expedition is complete.  It was a marvelous adventure, and i hope you enjoyed seeing this record of it.

I do have to add that one of the things that made this expedition so enjoyable was falling into conversation with one delightful Portlander after another.  We agreed that one thing San Franciscans and Portlanders have in common is that we really enjoy being nice to tourists even though we often don’t treat our own locals all that well.

Although idle praise would just go to my head, i earnestly solicit your comments on this essay, most especially if you can call an error to my attention so i can correct it.  You can make comments below or you can click on Contact at the foot of the main menu to send me an email.

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6 Comments

  1. Aidan Hanson
    Posted 23 August 2015 at 13:00 | Permalink

    Zeg nou, hoe mooi zijn die bruggen! Somigen zijn van bouwkunst! Vindt je niet? Je had ook heel mooi weer; blauwe lucht, geen wolken, ja. Ik vond het leuk om zo veel fietsen te zien. Het lijkt op Den Haag om 17. uur. EEn heel uitstekend of voorteffelijke reis, joh!
    Echt aardig dat je me belde gisteren avond. Ik wens je veel success met je verhuizing in “Kippendorf.” Doei,
    aidan

    • Posted 1 September 2015 at 04:55 | Permalink

      Aidan’s praise is so fulsome that it would be an embarrassment to translate it, but i’ll add a little explanation of his last sentence. He’s wishing me great success in my move to Petaluma, which he cleverly calls “chickenville” since it provides much of the fresh chicken eaten in Northern California.

  2. Susan Evans
    Posted 27 August 2015 at 18:22 | Permalink

    Wow! What a wonderful visual treat. Loved your design sense in the photos and delightful narrative. Thanks for putting this photo tour together. Dick’s favorites were the “underbelly shots”.

    • Posted 1 September 2015 at 04:57 | Permalink

      I take great joy in discovering that others have got some pleasure out of this photoessay. And yes, far too many photographers ignore the underbellies.

  3. Laverne
    Posted 20 May 2016 at 05:28 | Permalink

    I felt like I was on the journey with you. Thank you. Great eye!

    • Posted 20 May 2016 at 16:26 | Permalink

      Where i’d really really like to have you on a journey with me is one of my adventures along local creeks and waterways so you could identify the birds for me. Oh, i’m so out of it. I’m sure there were lots of birds in Portland, too.

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