I hadn't tried this 20-mile route since early last fall, when the bridge over the Columbia Slough had been closed for rebuilding. I hadn't known at the time and was forced to turn around and go back the way I came. This time, I checked ODOT road reports before leaving the house, and learned that the construction had been completed in December.
It was raining lightly but steadily when I left the house. I didn't care -- it was in the 50's and I needed to spin my legs. The stress of my work transition was getting to me and I'd had enough of staying indoors waiting for things to warm up. I was conscious of feeling much slower than on previous rides along this loop; but everything felt nice and smooth as I pedaled past Portland Meadows and turned onto the Columbia Slough bike-ped path. Winding my way past Heron Lakes, I saw cormorants, mergansers and a huge blue heron out on the water. A few hardy souls played golf in the rain -- if you don't go outside when it's raining in Portland, you will end up spending an awful lot of your time indoors.
I reveled in the relative silence -- at 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon, almost no one was on Old Portland Road as I crossed and headed into the Smith & Bybee Lakes Wildlife Area. I kept going, and felt myself warming up. Took the loop along North marine Drive, crossed the bridge over the Slough where Marine Drive becomes North Lombard, and followed the long loop all the way around and over the Burgard Street bridge into downtown St. Johns. After stopping for a cup of coffee I rode back along North Willamette and headed home.
This loop used to take me about two hours, including a short coffee stop. This time, with the rain and my lack of training, it took almost three. But I felt really glad for having gone, and will do it again soon.