We can see our breath.
It is 33 degrees.
We’re climbing up Rocky Butte and I’m sucking Sam’s wheel because there is no other way I’m going to get up this hill. I am also sucking air. My nose is oozing snot and I take a moment to wipe it on the absorbent part of my cycling glove. My throat is full of phlem and I try to clear it, disrupting my breathing. I stand up on the pedals and stroke slowly, like working a stair climber at the gym.
My lungs are on fire and just when I think I’m going to step off the bike, the grade mellows a bit and I sit back down to catch my breath. I am trying to get my heart to come back inside my chest.
We head through a tunnel and then round another corner that leads to the final bit of real climbing. I can see that there can’t be that much more because it already feels like we’re at the top. I stand up on my pedals again and accelerate alongside Sam.
“Are we almost there?”
Then I accelerate away from him like he is standing still. Sam could go with me if he wanted to but he decides to sit back and spin it out. To be fair, I am making him carry the Timbuk II with our extra layers and camera. I climb out of the saddle until I reach the castle structure that is at the very top of the peak.
33 degrees and as clear as you are going to get in Portland during December. I have just climbed my mountain and I am staring at three more: Hood, St. Helens, and Rainier.
The vistas are absolutely incredible. We linger for a few minutes, snap a few pictures and then bundle up to descend the opposite side. The cold coming down off of Rocky Butte is painful. I press my fingers as close together as they will go and tuck into my bike, gripping the drops and ducking my head to keep my face out of the wind. It does not prevent it from going numb.
At the bottom we head down Fremont and up 72nd to Alberta. We follow Alberta west until 29th street where we sit outside of the Concordia Coffee House and drink Stumptown coffee from ceramic mugs while a white winter sun heats us up, slowly.
After a quick stop at Cork for two bottles of wine (one a Valpolicella – a new favorite of mine) we head back home, following the most bike-friendly streets and breathing cold air through our noses.
This is how Saturdays should be.