When he's not exploring the backstreets of Portland by bicycle with his wife and daughter, Todd Roll is busy leading tours for his bike tour company Pedal Bike Tours. Todd's new book "Pedal Portland, 25 Easy Rides For Exploring The City By Bike" comes out next April.
My Darling Portland,
I can't stop thinking about you my dear, I absolutely had to write to you, to tell you how I feel about you. I love that you embrace all the things that make life worth living, like your dozens of breweries, wineries and distilleries, coffee roasteries, bakeries, oh just all your delectable food, I just want to gobble you up!
I love your walkable and bikeable streets with neighborhood shopping districts where people can stroll from home for a lunch made with ingredients from local farm and a beer made up the street followed by a honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper ice-cream at the local scoop shop.
I love your street after street of 100-year-old houses, dressed up to match the inhabitants: a fence made from old doors and window frames with homemade stained glass, a yard sculpture fashioned out of bike wheels, a vegetable garden front yard and hand-laid rock wall, chickens clucking in the backyard, a basket of fresh vegetables hanging on the front fence and, on the curb, a free-box of used clothes, household appliances and tools that will disappear overnight, given a home by someone who'd rather own something used but still useful rather than something new.
I love that your most famous citizens are chefs, clothing designers and art film directors.
I love your World Naked Bike Ride, with 10,000 humans, all unashamedly wearing what they were born in - how their mothers and fathers and the moon and stars first saw them.
I love that you are the town where the cliches for the creative, dispossessed and outlandishly outsider cultures of shaggy musicians, wooly hippies, patch-bearing zinesters, pegged-jeaned punks and rain-slickered outdoor lovers have found a home.
I love your gritty, dark, run-down dive bars with a stage welcoming band after band of tattooed store clerks, landscapers, waiters and yes, baristas that share a block with a creperie selling Le Trash Blanc, a bacon and cheddar buckwheat crepe served with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can, while the streetcar, revived after fifty dark years, rumbles past on the street outside.
I love your 5,000 plus acre park where deep silence reigns beneath giant fir-scented boughs and dense undergrowth of a thousand species of dripping ferns, moss and bushes along rugged hillsides virtually untouched by the clumsy and domineering hand of humans. Oh darling, what am I saying! I love all your parks, with their off-leash dog areas, pristine water fountains and sheltering trees.
I love your kilt-wearing, unicycling bagpipe player and your limp-haired, balding, coke-bottle lensed Elvis impersonator.
I love that your donuts wear breakfast cereal and lardons, rabe and Bresaola are topics of barroom conversation.
I love your food carts, started by working class cooks who only know how to make delicious food because they grew up doing it at their mother's knee in the republic of Georgia, Vietnam, Japan, Lebanon, Indonesia, Colombia, Scotland, South Carolina, Chile and a hundred more and who wouldn't know a cordon bleu if it were pinned to them (even though it figuratively has been by their well-educated, well traveled, discerning, shallow-pocketed and above-all hungry customers.)
I love your courteous and slow drivers, quick to stop in the middle of the block, urging a harried biker or befuddled pedestrian to cross.
I love your bridges, hulking or soaring over the river, symbols of your rugged industrial past, present and future. I love to pause my bicycle on your Steel, Broadway, Burnside or Hawthorne bridges to admire the flow of the river, heavy with the torrent of a thousand mountain streams; the downtown with its miniature high-rises, so small you can almost hug it, the cranes of the docks, connecting you to the world and the green hills and tree canopy that shelters your streets.
I love your people, at once dedicated to humane issues and candidates, erecting one of the highest numbers of green buildings in the country, working towards clean rivers, walkable streets, bike lanes and public transportation, while at the same committed to the health and well-being of the grain, steel, aerospace and strip club industries.
Most of all I love to explore you, your secret places and well-known anatomy by foot and bicycle, the better to know you and fall ever deeper in love with you, my sweet home-town, Portland.