Sunday, January 23, 2011

Country Roads

Spring Valley, West of Salem

Yesterday it seemed like the whole town ventured outdoors to enjoy the respite from the rain. We squinted hard in the glaring and unfamiliar sunshine. The Waterfront was hopping with folks playing frisbee, dogs walking their masters, and kids on little bikes with training wheels and streamers. Union Street Bridge was crowded enough that it tested a rider’s balance while finding a clear path between groups of people on foot. I didn’t mind waiting my turn, sharing the bridge and the views. Soon enough I would be out on country roads where there would be plenty of open space and fast riding.  Wallace Road did not disappoint.
Mt. Hood from across Spring Valley

Bringing a camera along on rides always turns into a dilemma. Part of the joy of riding comes when you experience every contour of the road. The climb, the fast descent, the gentle turn, and the “what’s around the next corner,” that’s why you ride. The way to enjoy a country road is to roll on it. Once you stop to take pictures, you’ve completely changed the interaction you’re having with your ride. I passed by so many picture-worthy places along the way, but pressed on anyway.

We all have those places that take us back to our past. For me that’s West Salem. It’s comforting to retrace the winding route my grandparents had taken in their Rambler, up to their modest little farm at the top of Brush College Road. They’re gone now; somebody else is tending their little patch of paradise, and it has all changed. Still, memory can reconstruct just how it used to be: the little yellow house, the huge garden, and the old cherry orchard. Grandpa out with his horses, Grandma tending her flowers. I kept rolling by, grateful for a happy recollection.

Passing the farm, the climb was suddenly over, the descent lied just ahead. Now on the back side of the hill where the winter sun never reaches, the colder air was damp and permeated with heavy woodsmoke coming from the old farmhouse chimneys. No cars in either direction, I took my hands away from the brakes and jammed on the pedals. A whole new view unfolded as I entered Spring Valley at an exhilarating speed.  

Spring Valley Church in Zena, est. 1859
This area seems unchanged in recent years. You get a sense that the folks out here have a long history, and that the stories from generations past are still very much intact. The church here apparently has a ghost...visitors often report the silhouette of a man on a bicycle who then disappears. Just to set the record straight for people, that scary man on a bike yesterday at 3:00 was just me.

Coming back into town, even more foot traffic on the Union Street Bridge. “This...this is way cool!” I overheard one man say. He was standing in one of the outcroppings of the bridge, looking directly down to the river below. He’s exactly right...this bridge is cool.  A vintage structure that has been repurposed into something so useful and enjoyable. The folks responsible for turning this dream into a reality have to feel mighty pleased with the outcome.
A great weekend ride.


MLove said...

This country hick loved your post, Mr. C.

Jessica said...

Great... now I have a dumb John Denver song stuck in my head. LOL! Fab pics!

Kelly Carlisle said...

There's not much better than winding it out on a country road! Thanks for the comments, friends!