This Space for Rent

Sandy-Kelley Point rambling, with bicycle and el-cheapo camera in hand

The one problem I’ve been having with taking my Pentax when I go out on the line is that it’s a fairly complex production to get pictures onto it. I need to

  1. . stop the bicycle,
  2. . get off the bicycle,
  3. . pull my purse out of the xtracycle saddlebag,
  4. . pull the *istDS out of my purse,
  5. . turn it on,
  6. . focus (I almost never do autofocus anymore, but use M42 screw-mount lenses and rely on a Katzeye split-focus screen to help my indifferent vision. It’s still a process that takes a pair of hands and a not-inconsequential amount of time,)
  7. . take the pictures

This is fine if I’m taking pictures of something immobile or if I’m sufficiently motivated to take a picture, but for the sort of quick snapshot I might want to take while I’m pedalling along, it’s not really going to happen.

I was hoping that I could set up a front rack and carry the Pentax up there, but the front rack I installed (a MEC front rack) only lasted about 200km before the fork crown connecting strap vibrated itself in half (and this after I’d carefully rubber grommeted the strap to dampen vibrations. Sigh) and put an end to that experiment (and it wouldn’t have been the greatest way for snap photos anyhow, because my Pentax is fairly heavy, requires two hands to focus, and is pretty much irreplacable – sure, Pentax released newer cameras before they went out of business (Hoya bought Pentax, then immediately merged the company, leaving nothing but the Pentax name,) but as far as I know the *istDS is the last of the Pentax cameras that still supports TTL flash (which is all I’m going to get from the elderly flash unit I’m using.)

And for that matter, my dream bicycle camera (an Epson R-D1, if I could get it, with some nice super-fast Voightländer lenses) would still require two hands for focusing, which would tend to wave goodbye to snapshots while in transit.

However, all is not lost. One benefit of the ridiculous market churn in the electronics world is that yesterdays expensive toy cameras have become todays cheap toy cameras, and for not much more than the cost of a dozen donuts I can buy a camera that I can wedge into my pocket, operate one-handed, and not care too much about if it hurls to its demise when I’m plunging down some steep hill at 40mph.

The Aiptek cameras are well-regarded by several much-more-serious-than-me randonneurs, so I sacrificed the cost of a dozen donuts to buy one, stuffed it into the convenient cellphone pocket of my pants, then dragged myself out the door at noon yesterday for another inefficient ride to Sandy for donuts…


Getting there is an old familiar route, and it was still cloudy and cold, so I didn’t take very many pictures between home and then end of the paved trail at Rugg Road. The only thing of interest was a flock of guineafowl that was wandering loose at the Portland end of Circle Ave – the pencam is not my Pentax by any means, but the guineafowl were moving slowly enough so I could get a few too many pictures with it as I rode slowly by.


This is what the Springwater Trail looks like most of the time out past Rugg Road. It isn’t paved, but the gravel and ballast is packed down enough so that it’s a very fast and smooth surface, and on this trip I took the 4km from Rugg Road to downtown Boring at ~17mph.

I’m still trying variant routes from Boring to Sandy; yesterday I ended up taking OR212 directly east out of Boring, over OR26 and onward onto Compton Road (aka Dunn Road) all the way to Bluff Road, and then a short sharp uphill to paradise, aka Joe’s Donuts.


Compton Road becomes very rural after OR26


And it abruptly, but scenically, deadends at Bluff Road


A brief jog south on Bluff Road, a brief ride uphill to downtown Sandy, and here’s the promised land!.

I’ve gotten to the point where, if the wind is obligingly downhill, I can reliably make the 82km loop from home to Joes in about 4 hours. Today the wind was coming out of the northwest, so it didn’t help or hurt (until later), but I still made it up there in just a finger over 2 hours (left home at 12:20, got to Joes at 14:25, and this included a brief stop to inhale a cookie bar at Rugg Road. This may not be very fast, but it’s fast enough for me.) I’ve now been in there often enough so that they’re starting to know me as “that guy who rides up from Portland to get donuts,” to which I have to plead guilty.


Loaded up with sugary goodness.


Mount Hood signals that the rest of the day will be clear.

I bought a couple of dozen donuts, ate three, then packed up the remaining 23 and set off on the rest of my preplanned loop. These days, I almost always return via Dodge Park Boulevard, because it’s the old Mount Hood Railway ROW and thus it’s flat and not very curvy except on the ramp up from the ledge that Dodge Park is on. So, after the obligatory stop at the Bluff Road scenic overlook (the morning overcast obligingly evaporated while I was at the donut shop, and by the time I reached the scenic overlook all that was left were scraps of clouds around the north side of Mount Hood,) I turned right – and then d-o-w-n – on Hudson Road and proceeded north to the Mount Hood Railway ROW for my trip into lovely Orient, Oregon.


Mount Hood Railway ROW, 70 years on.


Multnomah county farmlands threatened by suburban sprawl.


Downtown Troutdale, looking east towards the foothills of Mount Hood.

At Orient, I diverged from my traditional Orient Dr->Powell->Springwater Trail route by turning north on to 282nd Ave, which skirts the eastern edge of Gresham before passing through a district of berry farms and nurserys, then abruptly crashing through the southern edge of the Troutdale UGB and then through souless suburban sprawl until I reach the dipped-in-plastic spendour of downtown Troutdale.


Mount Hood from Marine Drive.

From Troutdale, it was a simple (if ugly) route under freeways and along frontage roads to Marine Drive, where I made the horrifying discovery that I’d managed to fill up the memory card on the little el-cheapo camera (and not all by choice; when I got home, I discovered that there were a dozen or so photos of my fingers and the insides of my pants pocket from when I accidentally triggered the shutter when putting the camera away,) and if I wanted to take more pictures I’d have to revert back to the 12-step method I have for my traditional camera. But, fortunately(?), the next 30 kilometers or so was just me, the Columbia River, a nasty headwind, and about a zillion trucks that don’t really believe in the 3-foot-gap traffic regulation – even if the cheapy camera was functional, there was no way I would distract myself from paying attention to the road to whip it out and take pictures. And I would burn the final 30 kilometers or so when I reached it.


The obligatory “a bit deranged” Kelley Point photo.

Going home from Kelley Point includes lots of places where I could get photos, but none that I wanted photos badly enough to actually stop to take them (except for locomotives – after watching the 6:15 Cascades go by, I wasn’t going to just pedal past the NW Portland pumpkin patch.) So down Lombard to St. Johns (with a nice tailwind), across the bridge (with a nasty sidewind and, fortunately, little enough traffic so I could take a lane without stacking 70 automobiles up behind me,) and d-o-w-n the ramp to OR30, where I saw an Amtrak train go by without being able to take a picture and along OR30 into NW Portland, where I zigged and zagged down to Naito Parkway, the east side esplanade, and the rest of the Springwater Trail to finish my loop back home.

134km, ~900 meters climbing, 355 minutes on the bike, 415 minutes door to door. I’m certainly not going to ever break any land speed records on my bicycle, but it’s a good reliable pace that I seem to be able to do until I run out of free time. I’m still not exactly sure what I’m going to do about the toe overlap on my front wheel, but it looks like I might have solved the short-term problem about how to get snapshots while I’m in transit.


There may be an esoteric detail I’m missing, here, but TTL – through the lens – metering is present in pretty much all the Pentax DSLRs. My K20D works fine with various fixed aperture 3rd party mirror lenses, for instance. The K-7 has a new 77 segment system, officially open-aperture, but the open aperture part is true of the K20D, too, and if you set the right custom settings it just meters what’s there, rather than worrying about aperture adjustment.

In terms of MEC front bags for stashing cameras, let me recommend<>prd_id=845524442617987&FOLDER<>folder_id=2534374302693353&bmUID=1243026782058 instead. Mine’s been robust.

Graydon Fri May 22 14:25:30 2009

I had a braino and said “ttl metering” when I meant “ttl flash”, and the rest of that sentence followed naturally along. And, at least as far as my *istDS goes, p-ttl on the built-in miniflash is really sucky on the old manual lenses; when I set the camera to aperture priority, it meters as if there’s never going to be a flash at all and so I have to manually adjust the aperture to keep it from blowing the image completely out when it fires.

I’ve got an old AF280Z flash (the cheapest fully-swivel-headed flash I could find for the Pentax) and that one works properly with all of the screw mount lenses I’ve got. And, as far as I’ve been able to read, none of the Pentax/Hoya cameras after the *istDS even have the little sensor that is used for ttl flash anymore, so I’d have to revert to manually computing the exposure when I’m doing flash work if I had to replace my *istDS with a K7 or some similar Hoya offering.

David Parsons Sat May 23 08:20:39 2009

… and as for the nice MEC handlebar bag, the handlebar bag isn’t so much the problem (I’ve got a sewing machine, a supply of heavy canvas, and a bag about ¼th sewn up) but the front rack to carry it on. The bar-mounted bags crowd the handlebars a bit, and on long rides I tend to migrate my hands from the hoods to the ramps to the drops and to every other position possible to keep them (and my back) from cramping up when the road surface goes to hell in a handbasket.

And the other nice thing about a front rack is that it would give me a place to hang headlights and a voltage regulator from, which would help me keep my handlebars clear of everything but hands, brake levers, and handlebar tape.

David Parsons Sat May 23 08:27:38 2009

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