Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reason To Ride Salem #2: True Colors

It’s showtime in the Willamette Valley. Anywhere you look right now, you’ll see intense bursts of brilliant colors popping up against a backdrop of lush green vegetation. Fields of flowers, local orchards, and native varieties are all starting to strut their stuff like proud peacocks. As you ride by them on your bike, you’ll occasionally feel a warm breeze and then be overcome by the sight and scent of plants that pack a big punch.

Folks in this area understand the value of flower power: Woodburn’s Tulip Festival just ended, and Keizer is only a few days from opening their Iris Festival. Go ahead and chuckle if you’d like, but these events generate big crowds, lots of business, and big dollars.

You can also get away from the “newly introduced” agricultural plants if you pedal out of town a bit more, where farms and fields give way to wetlands and forests. Then you’ll notice more of the ancient native varieties of grasses, sedges, and wildflowers that have largely disappeared from this area over time. Note: wildflowers may just have the powerful effect of slowing your pedals down, maybe even stopping you and your bike for a while. If you look at them for too long they can produce feelings of immense pleasure, even euphoria. Gawk at them at your own risk!

Showtime goes on for months without an intermission. The valley’s colors will change almost weekly as spring turns to summer, and then to fall. Its greenery will continue to grow for the next few months until they get downright shaggy, then start their transformation as the warm days begin to cool and then crisp. They will offer up the golds, yellows, and reds that make late summer and early fall another feast for the eyes. In the fall the evergreens are upstaged by the magnificent colors of the plentiful oak, alder, and maple trees. Then, as their leaves turn and fall, they bring down the final curtain on the valley’s perennial show of colors.

Don’t worry, this year’s season has just opened. There’s really not a bad seat in the house.

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