Winter intrudes


Wow. Wow.

What a couple of weeks.

Those of you in the US, or other cold climates, are you holding up OK? Here in Portland we have finally thawed out, as of yesterday/today, but wow, that was a challenging stretch.

I’m extremely grateful for 1) never losing power, in all four places I stayed during this time; 2) always being warm enough; and 3) kind people—both previously known and unknown to me—who stepped forward to help me when I was struggling to navigate it all.

For those of you who may not know, Portland didn’t used to have very cold or snowy or icy winters. Temps might dip below freezing a bit, for a few days each year. We might or might not get a couple-few inches of snow, which would magically shut things down for a few days… and then we would get back to the rain and highs around 45F/7C.

Now, the new norm seems to be at least one major (at least for us, since we are not municipally well prepared) storm each year.

In this case, temperatures plummeted as low as 15F/-9C, and hovered around there for several days. Then the mercury rose to within a few degrees of freezing, and stayed there for about a week. Meanwhile, we were having various combinations of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and regular rain, which then made all the ice on the roads and sidewalks extra slippery.

I began the storm at the luxury NW Portland apartment of one elderly kitty by the name of Mac, who unfortunately had had a very dramatic gastrointestinal disturbance shortly before my arrival. (His people told me that this happens to him about once a month.) By the time I walked in, a few hours after the couple had departed, he had seemingly purged the contents of his entire digestive tract—from both ends—onto almost every hard and soft surface in the entire apartment. I felt bad for him, of course (and couldn’t find him at first, which worried me, but I eventually discovered him under the bed) but I was also gobsmacked by the breadth of “destruction” possible by one small senior kitty.

I texted his people, and they walked me through a cleanup routine which actually ended up being more effective than I would have guessed. After a few hours—including about 30 minutes of using baby wipes on all hard surfaces, followed by two loads of laundry for the bed and sofa covers—the place looked totally back to normal. And Mac, having literally gotten it all out of his system, seemingly felt fine for the rest of the four days, just relaxing on the bed.

After an initial grocery stockup upon my arrival, just before the temperatures dipped below freezing, I didn’t leave the apartment for the next four days of the sit.

Unfortunately, by the time the sit was over, the weather was still below freezing, and I also didn’t have another sit for another two days. I put out a call to request friends and members of various hosting groups to host me. Several people did offer, but unfortunately all of them were either on the east side of the river or in the western suburbs. I knew I wouldn’t be able to navigate those distances on my bike, and the MAX trains and streetcars—which could have accommodated my rig, unlike city buses—were all suspended from service because of the temperatures.

I knew I had to stay within walking distance of that sit. But that limited me to very few options, and also cost me about $150, which I could ill afford.

Despite the cost, I was eternally grateful that the wonderful NW Portland Hostel was able to make a weather-related exception to their policy of not allowing guests with local ID. I stayed there for two nights, and it was a delightful experience in their vintage buildings.

My walk over there with my rig—about 16 blocks—was surprisingly comfortable, given the 27-degree (-3C) temperature.

There was no precipitation falling, and I even caught a cool reflection shot of myself in front of Portland’s classic old movie theater Cinema 21.

Arriving to my room the first night, I was so grateful for the warmth and coziness! They even provided a free bagel-and-peanut-butter breakfast the next morning.

Unfortunately, however, after that first night, a fire sprinkler outside the hostel succumbed to the temperatures, and stopped working. They couldn’t repair it, because the part they needed to replace couldn’t be procured with all local hardware stores closed for the weather.

Therefore, to be safe they had to shut off the water to the building where I was staying. Fortunately, the neighoring building had open rooms, so they gave me a key to a new room. I was initially reluctant to have to pack up everything and move to the next building on the ice—with a light rain falling—but once I did, I found that the new room was much larger and more deluxe than the original! Cool free upgrade.

After those two nights, the streets were still looking impassable by my rig, and the trains still weren’t running. (And even if they had been, they would have only carried me about half of the 6.3 mile/10 km distance I needed to travel, some of it uphill.)

The hostel folks were kind enough to let me leave the bike, trailer, and even my suitcase in their basement storage room, locked up securely, for the extra two days of my cat sit in SE Portland. I packed a few extra items from the suitcase into my backpack, and set out with the backpack, my smaller hydration backpack, and a few extra layers of clothes on my person—none packed, for lack of space—to catch a couple of buses for about an hour’s journey.

On the first bus, shortly after I boarded I witnessed a tense confrontation, between a slightly built elderly woman in obvious mental-illness distress and the bus driver. The passenger appeared to be homeless. When she boarded the bus, she began speaking and moving aggressively, especially towards the driver. A fellow passenger—a security guard on his way to work—stepped in to help “encourage” the woman off the bus, but it was very tense because he seemed to have little to no empathy for her, and in fact seemed to quietly relish the possibility that he might need to physically remove her. When she finally did get off the bus, he boasted to the driver that he had brandished his knife to intimidate her.

So… back out she went into the barely-above-freezing temperatures. Everyone remained relatively physically safe, but no one really won in that situation.

The bus drove on, eventually depositing me at my transfer point, but we just missed the transferring bus, so I had to wait, with one other passenger, for another 15 minutes, at an unsheltered bus stop, on a solid sheet of sidewalk ice, while rain fell on us. Fortunately, my clothing kept me warm and dry, and I made a conscious effort to keep a smile on my face, knowing that everything was working out for me in one way or another.

We boarded the new bus, which then dropped me off three blocks from the cat sitting house. The walk to the house looked and felt treacherous, but I made it with no falls.

Inside the house, a portly and droll mustachioed feline, aptly named Groucho, welcomed me into the warmth and coziness.

I thawed out there for the next two days, but not without some stress, since my food rations were running low, and getting to the grocery store in those conditions was out of the question. I also didn’t want to order any grocery or restaurant delivery, since that would have put the delivery driver in danger.

I had lined up a welcoming couple, via Host a Sister, to host me just about a mile away for the following two nights, but despite my best efforts to trust life, anxiety continued to gnaw at me for the two days of that cat sit, seeing that the ice out front was not budging.

Not only would I have to travel the mile to get to their place, I would also need to stop for a few essential groceries—including badly needed toiletries—and I also would need to go all the way back to the hostel, across the river, to retrieve the bike, trailer, and suitcase.

How was I going to do this? I guessed that maybe, since I had rain pants and rubber-palmed gloves, I would just need to crawl on my hands and knees—balancing both backpacks and a plastic bag of a few extra items—the two or three blocks to the bus stop. Once I got to the hostel via those two buses again, I expected I would need to order an Uber (a $25 gift card for which Mac’s folks had given me to offset the unpleasantness of my extreme cleanup experience) to drive me and the rig and suitcase back to SE Portland. But would the Uber driver want my grungy belongings in their car? Would they fit? I expected I would need to pay extra for a larger car, but I still wasn’t fully confident that all drivers would welcome my extra “baggage.”


However, after a humorous-but-slightly-pitiful-sounding post I made on Facebook, a miracle-worker acquaintance of mine sprang into rescue mode. She let me know that she lived near the house of the couple who were my final destination of the day, and that she had an AWD Subaru as well as some STABILicer spiked shoe covers she could loan me. She was willing to pick me up from the iced-in house; take me grocery shopping; buy me lunch (she insisted! and the lunch included chocolate, at her further insistence); take me to the hostel; wait while I retrieved all my belongings from the basement; help me to load them into her car; and then carry me back across the river to my new hosts, Hannah and Matt.

Wow. Gratitude does not begin to express how I felt. (And when I messaged her again later, to thank her once again, she made a point to volunteer any future “ferrying” of my rig, if needed. Some people are absolutely amazing.)

I had a great stay for two nights with Hannah and Matt, while the ice and snow slowly melted outside. I ventured out for lunch at a nearby vegan restaurant the second day, and happened to run into a longtime acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years; apparently he has lived in that neighborhood for twenty years!

Today, I made the trek—via my rig, hallelujah!!—from their house to my old friend Alison’s house, also in SE Portland, which she shares with her husband and their housemate, who apparently is also a cat sitter! I will be here for two nights as well.

Meanwhile, as of this afternoon, I have managed to line up lodging and/or cat sits for the remainder of my time in Portland, which takes a big load off my mind.

I have also lined up a couple of confirmed, and several hopefully-soon-to-be-confirmed, cat sits for February and March all around the San Diego area, including—for those of you who know—Escondido, Carlsbad, University Heights, South Park, Point Loma, and Mission Bay.


Magic and human kindness are real, and as long as I can keep my anxiety in check—a work in progress, but I’m pretty proud of how often I succeed these days—I can really enjoy the journey!

I hope you are all staying warm and safe… and joyful!

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