Sarah Gilbert is used to navigating the city from the seat of a bicycle.
As the operations manager for Around Portland Tours, she has spent eight years leading packs of peddling sightseers to the city's scenic bridges, breweries and food carts. But for the past two weeks, her rides have mostly been solo. In mid-March, Gov. Kate Brown's stay-home order shut off the flow of visitors, leaving the tour group's fleet of 45 bikes sitting empty.
But on a recent chilly Saturday afternoon, Gilbert found herself back at work, gliding past empty parks and darkened storefronts, providing Portland residents with a product most consider essential: caffeine.
"People need coffee," Gilbert says. "That's just a luxury we don't want to give up."
As households hunker down, many are opting to have everything from six-packs to groceries brought straight to their doors. But Gilbert noticed that Around Portland—which is connected to the bike repair shop Convenient Cycle—was uniquely suited to convey coffee. Water Avenue Coffee shares its building in inner Southeast Portland, and Trailhead and Elevator are a quick stroll away.
Forty-eight hours after Gilbert's business partner proposed delivering coffee by bike, they hit the streets, bags of beans in tow.
With her disposable black gloves, surgical mask helmet, and heavy-duty, shin-high boots, Gilbert looks the part of a Mad Max extra. Before shoving off on her Saturday run, she drops sacks of espresso and beans from a farm in Guatemala into an unused trash can liner—an added defensive layer—then places them in her saddle bag. The store-to-door service covers 50 square miles. The delivery fee is a mere $3, but anyone who's suffered a coronavirus-related job loss can get that waived.
"A lot of times," Gilbert says, "I have to say I feel guilty for doing something because everyone else is stuck and feels really isolated."
There was no face-to-face interaction at her first stop, a two-story Buckman duplex, but still evidence of humans trying to connect in isolating times: Attached to the mailbox was an envelope addressed to "Coffee Mama" and containing a generous tip.
"At this point, what we're looking for is sustainment," Gilbert says. "The tourism industry basically eats on tips. That's a huge part of our income. It's not going to be quite like it was, but hey, anything in this situation makes a huge difference."
ORDER: Convenient Cycles is available for next-day deliveries Monday-Saturday. See convenientcycle.com to place an order, or call 503-267-8284.