Donna had an interesting day yesterday. This is her story – and she’s sticking to it.
I pledged to ride 250 miles on my bike this month in the Great Cycle Challenge to raise money for children’s cancer research. So I was excited to learn that Pedalpalooza was in full swing here in Portland. This is an annual event with three weeks of bike fun and nearly 300 rides on the calendar. Portland is a very bikeable city with well-marked bike lanes, routes and trails, making bicycles a popular mode of personal transport.
On Friday, I checked the Pedalpalooza calendar and lo and behold discovered that there were five Naked Rides on the schedule for Saturday. These rides were all part of The World Naked Bike Ride, a worldwide event that highlights the vulnerability of cyclists on our streets and highways and dependence on pollution-based transport. Dress code is “bare as you dare.”
Anyway, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I opted instead for the Tour de Hives ride on Sunday, a guided tour of area backyard apiaries and fundraiser for Portland Urban Beekeepers. (Bee suits not required, but nakedness not encouraged.) The ride started about 8-9 miles south of our temporary home at the Columbia River RV Park. It turned out to be an excellent ride with a wide bike lane all the way down Vancouver Avenue through shady residential neighborhoods to the Eastside Esplanade.
I was one of many runners, walkers and cyclists enjoying a beautiful, sunny day on the Willamette River. I was surprised to see a houseboat on the river. I think I’d like to live on a houseboat someday – just not this one.
Had I wished, I could have crossed over the Hawthorne Bridge to downtown Portland. Instead I headed east to Bee Thinking for the start of the Tour de Hives ride. Bee Thinking sells bee hives, beekeeping gear and “all things bees.” You may have seen their line of products featured on Shark Tank last year.
About 10 riders showed up for the tour and we got started about 1:30. Our first stop was a tree just around the corner in the beautiful Ladd Circle neighborhood. There are a number of old maple and elm trees here, many with cavities large enough to accommodate a colony of feral honey bees. One of the property owners came out to see what we were looking at – he had no idea that the tree just 50 yards from his front door was the home of neighbors he’d never met!
We rode a short distance to the first of several homes with backyard bee hives. It was interesting to discover that urban beekeepers tend to keep hens and roosters as well.
All of the lovely backyards we visited were planted with flowers that attract honey bees including California poppies, borage and milkweed.
The bees were busy doing their thing.
One beekeeper explained how worker bees, which make up 98% of the colony, take on various roles over the course of their lifetimes. These roles include cleaning house, feeding the brood, caring for the queen, comb building, ventilation (they use their wings to circulate air), honey conversion and packing, guarding the colony and collecting nectar.
Though bees were flying around the hives, we were able to walk freely through the backyards without getting stung. Honey bees don’t sting unless they have to because once they do, they die. That said, bees defending their hives might sting. In the presence of bees, you should not wave your hands or attempt to brush them off – this is a sure way to trigger a stinging reflex. Instead, you should step calmly away from the hive or the swarm. Most of the time, the bees will fly away without incident. Oh, and I learned that you should never blow on a honey bee as CO2 can trigger aggressive behavior. Good to know.
Almost forgot to mention: one beekeeper we met is also an author. She wrote a novel with beekeeping references called Juliet’s Nurse.
Our final stop was Zenger Farm, an urban farm practicing organic and sustainable agriculture. Zenger is the home of the bee hives for Portland Urban Beekeepers.
Some interesting facts that impact us all:
Honey bees and other pollinating insects provide humankind with more than just honey; 35% of all the foods we eat rely on pollination, which is how plants reproduce and survive. In the past few years, there has been a worldwide increase in the deaths of entire colonies of bees, which is reason for concern. Pesticide use, mites, and disease are all contributing factors.
After three and a half hours of the bee tour, I was done in. It was hot and I still had a 14-mile ride home. I texted Mike to give him my ETA. I had to fight a strong headwind on the way back. Mike had pizza waiting for me. I needed that. Total distance: 31.3 miles. I’m not sure if I’ll hit my goal of 250 miles for the month, but I’m giving it my best shot!
*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!