Sunday, December 23, 2007

Beefeaters, Big Ben, and a Bulldog.

Beefeaters, Big Ben, and a Bulldog.

Meet the newest addition to my stable - a single-speed Specialized Langster "London." It is a truly ridiculous bike, from the red-rimmed wheels to the white-painted chain, but I think it will be pretty fun to ride. It has a flip-flop rear hub, so I can run it as either a fixed-gear or freewheel, depending on how much work I feel like doing.

A local newspaper held an eBay auction to benefit a local charity called Sisters of the Road, which provides services to Portland's homeless population. The Langster was one of the auction items, and because I had been contemplating getting a fixie for lunchtime rides in flat, flat Salem, I decided to bid on it.

I did not bid very high, because I don't really NEED another bike, but I still managed to win the auction. I had the option of paying a little more than my bid to get the "London" ediiton, and it made me laugh so much when I saw it that I just had to go for it.

I Agree, It's Ridiculous

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Getting Better All the Time

This weekend I rode both Saturday and Sunday, about 35 miles each day. Still no long climbs, yet, but I am definitely getting back into gear. Literally.

Wastelands and Wetlands

Today Lynne came over to my side of the river for a ride. Sort of like the country mouse cyclist comes to the big city, she said, after I nearly gave her a heart attack with an abrupt turn through a bicycle pass-through she didn't realize existed . . .

Anyway, we got a late start because we wanted to let the temps rise high enough so that black ice wouldn't be a problem. Little did we realize that the temps weren't likely to rise much at all. . . Right when Lynne was about to leave her house for mine, it started snowing.

Spidey Snow

I called her:

"Um, Lynne - it's snowing at my house."

"Yeah, it's snowing at my house, too!"

"I still want to ride."

"I still want to ride, too!"

45 minutes later, my doorbell rang, and there she was, in one of her second-warmest jerseys. A Hanukkah present, I believe. Pink, of course.

And we were off.

I am still not ready to ride up "real" hills, so I chose another of the flattest routes I could find. This one wound through North Portland to a multi-use path called The Peninsula Crossing Trail.

The Peninsula Crossing Trail

It links Willamette and Columbia Boulevards, and then continues on past Columbia Boulevard to some really interesting wetlands, and finally to the Smith & Bybee Lakes wetlands.

Smith Lake

From there, we rode along Marine Drive to Kelly Point Park, the westernmost part of the City of Portland, which is at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

A bit deranged . . .

Lynne Contemplates the Confluence

From Kelly Point Park, we rode through an industrial wasteland characterized by freight shipping terminals, back through North Portland and then through the Alameda district (Stately Mansions "R" Us) to Hollywood.

We stopped for hot cocoa and grilled cheese at the Daily Market,

The Daily Market and Cafe

and then we went searching for the Hollywood Max stop so Lynne could get back over the hill to home. It turned out to be all of about 6 blocks from the cafe. By this time it had started sprinkling again, so it was a good time to end the ride and head home!

After a hot bath and a hot cup of tea, I was thawed out enough to make dinner - Roasted Butternut Squash Soup from the Vegan With A Vengeance Cookbook, and whole wheat "no knead" bread.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Can't Hardly Wait!

There's a rumour going round that a certain frame is next in line for powder-coating and a certain kandy-kolored heliotrope streamline baby may be coming home next week . . . . .

Saturday, December 01, 2007

On the (Slow) Road to Recovery

I'm baaaaaaaaaack.

Well, sort of.

Let's put it this way - by the time I take delivery of the Heliotrope Wonder, I will be ready to ride it. I may not be ready to ride it more than 30 miles, and those would have to be flat, but at least I won't be forced to sit and stare at it with unrequited longing.

Anyway, today I went out for my first REAL bike ride in 5 weeks. I had done 30 minutes on a stationary bike on Thursday with no ill effect, and so figured I was ready to try something short and flat. I considered going out to Hillsboro for the Velo ride, but the forecast was for snow above 500 feet and I didn't feel like driving my car over the SW hills with all the Portland numbskulls who don't know how to drive in snow. Yes, my years of living in Illinois and Vermont DO make me feel a tad bit superior in that arena, thank you very much . . . .

Plus, I know myself too well - if I rode with a group I would kill myself to keep up, even if my leg were screaming at me to stop. So I decided to take a solo ride on the flattest course I know, the
Springwater Corridor, a local Rails to Trails project. My goal was to go to Gresham and then turn around and come back, but I stopped at Paesano Park, or whatever it's called (where the Barlow Century starts) because it was starting to snow and I was getting a headache from bouncing on the chipseal (my favorite part of the Springwater is when it crosses the city line into Gresham and the pavement turns to nice, smooth asphalt . . .). On the way home, the snow started falling fairly heavily, but the ground was far too warm for it to stick. It didn't snow for long, but it sure was pretty while it did - nice, big fluffy flakes.

I decided not to go all the way home on the trail - out and back rides are SO boring - and so turned off about halfway back and took city streets the rest of the way home - it snowed again briefly, but there was very little traffic, so I was not worried. What WAS worrying me was that my hands had suddenly gone completely stiff and numb. I have Raynaud's and cold weather does a number on the circulation to my extremities, and I have yet to find the perfect glove - I had on my warmest, Descente Wombats, but they were not doing the trick. Braking and shifting suddenly became a much more difficult proposition . . .and there was one pretty steep downhill on the way back. Yes, I managed to pick a route with no climbing, yet still got to go downhill fast - my kind of ride!

Checked my stats when I got home - I was out for just under 2 hours and rode 27 miles. Kind of slow, but I expected that - the chipseal certainly didn't help my pace. My leg felt okay. I made sure to stretch well once I got back, and it still feels okay - the torn calf muscle is sore, but not extremely so, and the hamstring seems fine. Of course, the pain in my hands when the blood finally started flowing back into my fingers may have masked any pain in the leg!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part . . . .

After more than 35 years of riding "off-the-rack" bikes, I finally decided it was time to plunk down some of my hard-earned cash for a bike built specifically for me and my riding needs. But it couldn't be just any bike - I wanted something very special. Something I could potentially take to Paris in 2001 for PBP (hey, a girl can dream). I had heard about a woman in town that made bikes just for women - so this past February, I looked her up . . . .

Meet Natalie Ramsland. . . .


Natalie (and her hubby Austin) are Sweetpea Bicycles. From the moment I met Natalie, I knew I had found my builder - and it was time to order a bike . . . .

Natalie worked with a local bike fitter to get all the necessary measurements, and came up with some drawings . . . .

Then I chose components: Brooks saddle (of course), rear rack with built in bottle opener, generator hub with front rack-mounted dual headlights, gearing that can climb telephone poles, couplers so I could take it apart for that trip to Paris (or Connecticut) - the usual stuff . . . .

Now all I have to do was wait. I am not good at waiting.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Volunteering Vor the Verboort

[Click on any photo to go to my Flickr page]

Today was the annual Oregon Randonneurs Verboort Sausage Populaire. Bill Alsup and I had volunteered to staff the first control at Longbottom and then to set up the final control at the Sausage & Kraut fest and hold that fort until Susan could take over. My plan had been to ride out to Longbottom and then over to Verboort and then home, but a false step in aerobics class nixed that plan. Ah well.

So Much For That R12

Instead, I started the day by driving out to the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove to meet the other volunteers for breakfast and discuss our plans. In addition to me and Bill, volunteers included our RBA, Susan France, my friend Andrew Black, and Barb Oliver, whose husband, Ray, would be riding. Andrew was helping with registration at the start and then staffing the Snooseville control with Susan. Barb was in charge of bulk sausage buys. Last year some riders got to the end too late to get sausage, so this year we had a designated buyer.

Andrew Learns the Alphabet

The weather forecast was promising, and the ride had been talked up on a few listservs, so we had a pretty large group -- many of whom had never done a brevet before. Lots of folks on recumbents and tandems, lots of very nice custom touring bikes.

Calling All Bents

Leslie and Pencil

Susan took special care to make sure everyone heard the final instructions.

Come Fly With Me

The ride started off cold. Waiting around for the start was inducing some serious shivers in folks dressed to ride. Lynne had brought her very cool insulated bottle, in which she had hot Gatorade "tea." It fits in a water bottle cage and has a pop-top like a regular cycling water bottle. I am jealous.

Mmmm, Hot

After 100km of riding, and a lot of bright sunshine, however, most riders were down to the bare essentials.

He's a Maniac, Maniac, for sure

The scene in Verboort was, well, a scene. If I had been there to check in riders, I would have stayed very far away - lots of very big people driving very big trucks in search of very big sausages.

The Approach

I arrived in Verboort at about 11:00 - I expected the first riders (who I assumed would be Michael W., Del and Sam) to arrive around noon. I spent the next half hour looking for a place to park that wouldn't require me to navigate a rutted dirt field on my crutches while trying to carry the control sign. I wanted to be near the dedicated bicycle parking, so I asked every festival worker I saw where that parking was. NO ONE KNEW! It was advertised on their website, yet two different workers asked if I had called ahead to make special arrangements. AAARGH! I finally gave up, and with the help of my friends Richard and Nance who rode up at about 11:30, I simply staked out a place by the road. About 15 minutes later, I spied something hidden behind a wall of blue rooms that looked like it MIGHT be a bike corral. I hobbled over to confirm, and then asked a random stranger to help me move the sign to better indicate the location. As it ended up, the blue rooms so concealed the control that we had to stand out by the road to direct riders in. Bill had ridden up shortly after I discovered the bike parking and he and I took turns waving people in. Eventually, he took over control duties and I stood lookout. Susan arrived sometime around 2:00 or 2:30, and it was finally time for me to drag myself home.

It wasn't nearly as much fun as riding (nothing ever is), but it was fun.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So Much For That R12

So Much For That R12
Originally uploaded by cecilanne

I'm told my severely strained hamstring will heal enough so that I'll be able to ride again sometime in December. Whether that means I'll be able to ride 200K or more at a stretch remains an open question. It doesn't feel THAT bad. Except, of course, when I try to walk without dragging my left foot behind me like Marty Feldman in "Young Frankenstein."

It didn't help when the doctor said "This is the kind of injury that keeps a ball player out for the season." At least he didn't say career-ending. . . .

The REALLY depressing thing? I can't even claim a spectacular bike crash as the cause. Nope, just sheer over-enthusiasm during the "rapid repeat lunge" sequence in gym class . . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Verboort, The Pre-Ride

Next Saturday, November 3, 2007, is the Oregon Randonneurs' Verboort Sausage Populaire. Our fearless leader, Susan France, had put out a call for volunteers to staff the first "control," which would be at Longbottom Coffee in Hillsboro, and to pre-ride the course.

I considered the following factors: (1) the weather on October 27, the day set for a pre-ride, was supposed to be sunny and dry; (2) it was not guaranteed the weather on November 3 would ALSO be sunny (last year the ride took place in monsoon conditions); (3) I don't eat sausage; and (4) I do eat scones, and those at Longbottom are gigantic and delicious. Let's just say the decision to volunteer was not a tough one.

Bill Alsup also volunteered, and he and I agreed to set out from the start point at the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove at 8:30 AM on Saturday. My friend Steve asked if he could tag along.

Bill and Steve at Fern Flat

The three of us got to the Grand Lodge in plenty of time for the 8:30 start, but then Steve starting having second thoughts about his rear tire. As well he should have:

Asking for Trouble

After Bill and I stopped laughing, Bill offered Steve a tire off a spare wheel he had in his car. A new tire, some air (hurray for the Topeak Road Morph!) and we were ready to go and only 10 minutes behind schedule.

It was COLD COLD COLD at 8:40, but bright enough for sunglasses. I hadn't bothered to put on or bring sunscreen - I paid for that later. I started off the ride wearing tights under riding knickers, a wool jersey, arm warmers, my Showers Pass jacket, a wool skull cap, wool socks, and Descente "Wombat" gloves. That combination was just right until about 10 AM, at which point I stripped of the arm warmers. By the end of the ride I had unzipped my jacket, but was never too cold or too warm.

The first section of the ride took us from Forest Grove to Hillsboro. It's a left turn out of the parking lot onto Highway 47, which can sometimes take some time to negotiate - traffic there is a bit unpredictable. The route follows 47 for just a few blocks and then turns right onto Martin. Martin is a good road, but heavily traveled. There are two roundabouts on it, which are always fun. After the second roundabout, we ended up on Cornelius-Schefflin Road, which can also be pretty busy. There's a left turn off C-S into Long Road, which is not too difficult, but I get nervous making it now because a member of my cycling club was killed by a reckless driver making that turn last spring.

Ghost BIke for Tim O'Donnell

Long Road itself is quite pleasant. Pretty and quiet, especially in the early morning, with decent chip-seal. A few turns onto a couple more quiet roads, and then a fairly long stretch on Evergreen to the first control at Longbottom Coffee. Evergreen is busy, and there are a couple of intersections where I would advise taking the lane to avoid a right hook, but the bike lane is wide and usually pretty clean. I love Longbottom, but the counter service can be sort of slow when you are on a timed ride. Hence the value of a staffed control. On the other hand, the scones are well worth the wait in line . . . .

From Longbottom, we headed out toward the town of North Plains (if you haven't been to the North Plains market recently, it's worth a stop to just to see its amazing makeover), and then on to Dairy Creek Road. Dairy Creek Road is a really lovely cycling road. There's just the smallest of an uphill grade - just enough to make you wonder if you have a flat tire because the road LOOKS flat, but you sure are going slowly.

The Return from Snoozville

My only gripe about Dairy Creek is that for a road that eventually dead ends, there is an awful lot of large truck traffic on it. On Saturday, we were almost smooshed by a semi when its driver decided to swing out wide to pass the group of cyclists in his lane. It was nice of him to give them room, except for the fact that he almost killed us in the process of swinging into OUR lane.

At the end of Dairy Creek Road is Snoozeville, or "Snooseville" as a poster to one of my listservs insists. (See the comment below as well and let the debate begin!) The route goes left there onto Fern Flat Road for about half a mile, to the second control. There's a rumour that there will be hot drinks and edible goodies there on the 3rd . . . Fern Flat is also quite pretty.

Fern Flat

The New Bike

After stopping for pictures at Fern Flat, we turned around and headed back down (and it really is down) Dairy Creek to Mountaindale, where we turned right and headed on to the town of Banks and the third control at Cedar Canyon, crossing Hwy 26 at "Frogger Junction" along the way. Heading into Banks, the route again follows Hwy 47 for a short stretch, but the shoulders are wide enough that the heavy traffic is not too scary. Turning left to get to Cedar Canyon can be a bit tricky, though.

Cedar Canyon is another one of my favorite cycling roads. A nice gentle climb, followed by some minor rollers for about 3 miles. The trees are in full leaf-peeper fall foliage mode.

Cedar Canyon Colors

The Cedar Canyon info control (and no, I am not giving away the answer) is the last one before the end. Question answered, riders will make a left turn onto Hwy 6, which again can be pretty tricky. Fortunately, the right turn onto Stafford is only about a mile away. After the turn onto Stafford, the route goes uphill for about half a mile, followed by a really fun (at least I think so) descent, with lots of wide corners and hairpins. In dry weather it's a hoot. In wet weather, not so much. Finally, the route once again crosses Hwy 47 and, less than a mile later, ends at Visitation Parish in Verboort, where it will be a sausage free-for-all (okay $15-for-all). Of course, a week before the festival, they were still busy stuffing the sausage so we didn't see any . . . .

Need more info about the Populaire?

OrRando Populaire

Need more info about the Sausage & Kraut Dinner?

Verboort Sausage Mania

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It Helps To Have Gills

It helps to have gills

Ah, Oregon - they say that if we were to let a little rain stop us from riding, we'd never ride. Okay, we would ride, but not nearly as much.

Summer Velo

These guys wimped out (all Mike G., who Lynne and I shamed into riding . . . ). Someone suggested to John that they ought to change their name to "Summer Velo."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bingen Bikenfest Blow-Me-Down

[click on any picture to go to my Flickr photset of the ride]

Welcome to the Fall riding season in the Great Pacific Northwest. If it is not raining, the winds are howling - but usually it is a little of both. Yesterday was the annual Bingen Bikenfest 200 KM brevet and we came expecting rain. Well, to be precise, everyone but me came expecting rain. Cock-eyed optimist that I am, I had read the weather report, which indicated a SLIGHT chance of rain, to mean NO chance of rain. So, apart from my jacket, which I brought more for warmth and visibility than to fend off water, I did not bring any rain equipage (okay, to be entirely precise, I forgot to bring my fenders). Rickey, on the other hand, was so sure of rain that he brought the "rain bike."

Ready for Rain
I no longer even try to count how many bikes Rickey has. . . .

The ride started at 8:00 AM in the hamlet of Bingen, Washington - just across the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon. It's about an hour and a half drive from my home in SE Portland, so I left home just before 6:00 AM to make sure I got there in time to faff around getting my card, checking my tires, etc.

About 5 miles from home, I remembered my fenders. Or, again, to be more precise, realized I had forgotten them. "Oh, well," I thought, "it's not supposed to rain today." Right. As I headed east in I-84, rain started splattering my windshield. I tried to ignore it, but I eventually had to admit it was happening and turn on the windshield wipers. Drat. I briefly pondered turning about to get the fenders, but then managed to convince myself that the rain would pass, even if I had to make it pass by sheer force of will. By the time I reached Cascade Locks, the rain had stopped. Chalk one up for willpower. Or at least slow moving weather systems. In any event, I decided that today I was going to go for speed - I figured the faster I went, the less time I would spend in the seemingly-inevitable rain.

I arrived in Bingen at about 7:20 AM and found the park where the ride was to start. There was no one there, which caused me some concern, but then another couple drove up - they, too, had been to the park and, finding no one there, gone driving around to see if maybe there was ANOTHER park. We finally decided that we had been right the first time (Bingen really isn't big enough for two parks, anyway) and shortly other folks started arriving. Turns out that some of them had been early and had gone to McDonald's for coffee and warmth. By 7:55, everyone had arrived and checked in and it was time for the last pre-ride instructions . . .

Last Minute Notes

Of all the brevets I have done (and this being my first year, that isn't all that many), this one had the shortest cue sheet. With less than 10 turns in just over 125 miles, it was pretty nigh impossible to get lost. I am really good at getting lost, and even I didn't miss any turns. We started with a 34-mile run east on State Highway 14, which runs right along the Columbia River - water on one side, bluffs on the other. We were east of the Cascades by this point, so the terrain was very different from the lush greenery we usually ride through. Here, the predominant color is brown. Many different shades of brown, however, and beautiful in its own way . . .

See the Pretty Colors

Highway 14 is a major trucking route, and we were passed by some major trucks.

Share the Road

Fortunately, the highway shoulders were very wide and, even better, very clean. I was impressed by how little debris there was - just the occasional bit of tire or torn truck tie-on. I wish Oregon roads were so clean. I was also pleased that every single driver that passed us on the whole route was polite and gave us lots of room. Of course, it helps that Washington law requires them to do so . . .

The first 35 miles were a blur - not much climbing and a terrific tailwind. There's a lot to be said about coasting uphill at 20 MPH. Of course, that part of me that still remembers the terror of Sunday School couldn't help but think "This is too good - we are going to pay for this later." And pay we did. At mile 35 or so, we turned north off of 14 onto Hwy 97 and that wind that had been our friend became our enemy. It did not help that we were also beginning a 10-mile climb at that point. My average speed dropped from about 18 MPH to about 7 MPH. Maintaining vertical integrity became a priority. It helped to stop and take pictures. A lot of stopping, a lot of pictures.

Zoom Gully Gully

The Charm Of The Highway Strip

I began to doubt my chances of outrunning any rain that might be coming our way. By this time, I was riding with my friend Andrew, having either passed or been passed by everyone else. Except for running into folks at controls, and the occasional passing pick-up truck, Andrew and I were alone for about 80% of the time.

The first control was Goldendale. In a cruel test of my vow never to set foot in a Dairy Queen again, the stop was a combination DQ/Subway/Minimart. I went in the mini-mart side to get my card signed, but was dismayed to see that I might have to cross the invisible line to the DQ to get to the restroom. Rickey stood there pointing at the DQ and daring me to try. Pressing myself against the far wall, I sidled down the hall to the bathroom . . . whew! Okay, not really - I just held my hand to the side of my face so I couldn't see the Dairy Queen and ran for the bathroom chanting "I can't see you . . ."

From Goldendale, we turned northwest and headed for the second control in Glenwood. The wind was still against us and we were still going uphill. In fact, this would be the case for the next 40 miles or so. There was a brief respite from climbing in the form of a thrilling downhill to the Klickitat River. Or, rather, it would have been thrilling were it not for the diesel mini-van in front of me riding its brakes and puffing out fumes . . .or the truck in front of it that just came to a dead halt in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. Brakes are a good thing but not when you use them for no reason. Especially when you are already being tailgated by an impatient cyclist eager for her downhill payday.

Control #2 was at abut mile 82, at the Shade Tree Inn in Glenwood. Andrew was making noises about wanting to sit down and eat real food, but I was intent on pressing forward - still no sign of rain - just lots of cold wind - but the sky was looking more and more ominous. With less than 45 miles to go, I was in a hurry . . . I gave Andrew 10 minutes. To his credit, he was ready to go before I was (although he was still looking yearningly at the cafe stools . . .)

From Glenwood we finally started to do more descending than climbing. Sadly, because the wind was still in our face, it was about the same amount of work. Finally, at about mile 95, we turned out of the wind onto Sunnyside Road and headed toward the information control at Trout Lake Farm. The question seemed simple enough: What is the third plant on the list of crops. As it turned out, the question required more agricultural knowledge than I had.

Information Control

What the hell is Nurtilite, anyway? And "purpurea" sounds like some nasty tropical skin disease, if you ask me . . . something both scabby and oozy at the same time, perhaps.

From the farm, the cue sheet directed us back uphill, and back into the wind, to the next control at the Trout Lake store. This was an out-and-back spur, and on our way in Andrew and I were passed by two riders headed home, with big smiles on their faces. A customer asked us about the ride and we described the route; he just shook his head and laughed. When we mentioned the wind in Goldendale, he said that he used to live there and sold his house because he got sick of the constant wind. I could relate. When it became out turn to head back out of Trout Lake, we quickly understood why the two riders that passed us were so happy - we finally had both a downhill AND a tailwind. Life was good. As we headed home, we passed Rickey, Lynne and Sal headed up to Trout Lake - later Lynne would say, "We wondered why you looked so happy - then when we turned around, we realized why."

The 25 miles from Trout Lake to White Salmon is almost all downhill. Almost. Again, my Sunday School training to anticipate that every good thing will have a really bad consequence was proven true by the cruel, cruel climb at Husum. My quads, which until that point had been merely tired, announced that this was it, they had had it, and I was on my own from now on. I convinced them that I couldn't very well leave them lying by the side of the road, no matter how inviting that seemed at the time, and they grudgingly agreed to keep going.

Starting somewhere between Goldendale and Glenwood, Andrew had been keeping tabs on our elevation - noting every once in a while that we must have reached maximum, only to shortly declare that NOW we had reached it, and so on. A particularly cruel series of rollers had us ascending 100 feet, descending 80, ascending another 100, descending another 80, etc. We finally topped out at something over 2200 feet, I think . . . anyway, heading into the town of White Salmon we still had about 420 feet to drop and a shorter and shorter distance in which to do so. I began looking forward to a precipitous fall through town to the river. For once, my anticipation was rewarded in a good way: not only did we have a steep downhill, but it was relatively straight, the road was wide, and there was very little traffic. Well, there was that one ambulance in my way . . . but it turned off at the hospital. At the bottom of the hill, Andrew observed that for someone who insists on coming to a full stop at stop signs, I seemed to have no qualms about exceeding the posted speed limit of 35 MPH. Guilty as charged.

We pulled into the end control at almost exactly 6:00 PM (by my watch, at least - I don't know what out "official" time was). At just about 10 hours it wasn't my fastest overall 200K, but given the terrain and the wind we battled, I was pleased.

And best of all, it didn't rain!

I drove home through Stevenson, rewarded myself with a pint of Barefoot Brown Ale and some tasty carrot-ginger soup at Walking Man, and looked back on what was, all in all, another beautiful day on my bike.

Endless Miles of Open Road

Here's the ride profile - did I mention there was some climbing?

Sunday, September 30, 2007



Washington Park is very, very dark at 5:30 in the morning. Especially when it is POURING rain. Only an idiot would be riding her bike there at that time, in that weather.

Well, call me Idiot.

Today was the day for the LiveStrong Challenge, a cycling event put on by the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise money to combat cancer. This is not a ride I would normally do, but my club - Portland Velo - was supplying volunteers to man a rest stop and to ride the course as Ride Marshals. I wasn't sure if I qualified to be a ride marshal, but after answering two simple questions -- Can you fix a flat tire? Can you dial 911? -- I was in. There were a number of routes: 10, 18, 40, 70 and 100 miles. We were supplying marshals for the 40 and 70 mile routes. Needing maximum mileage, I signed up to marshal the 70. Lynne and Jason did too ("But of course," Lynne said when the organizer asked if we would all be riding together). It's amazing we can all ride so well, attached at the hip as we are.

Anyhoo, we need to be at the Nike Campus in Beaverton by 6:45. I told Lynne I would meet her at the top of the hill by her house at 5:45, so there I was slogging (and I mean SLOGGING) up the hill from the Rose Garden to the Zoo, and on over to the Hwy 26 bike path, at 5:30. It was, as I believe I pointed out, BUCKETING down rain. There are no lights on the roads through the park, which are narrow, winding, and poorly paved. Even with my excellent lighting system, I could just barely make out the center yellow line, so I hugged it all the way to the top. Fortunately, there was no other vehicle traffic to worry about. Once I got to the Zoo, the road widened, the pavement got better, and there were streetlights. Whew.

Met up with Lynne, and she and I rode down the hill to Jason's house, where Lynne would be trading her Bleriot for the back seat of Clifford, The Big Red Tandem. We were a wee bit early, and Jason wasn't quite ready yet. In fact, he hadn't even started getting ready. So Lynne and I stood around chatting - fortunately, Jason's porch had a roof to keep the rain off. At about 6:30 we hit the road again and headed for Nikeland. We were supposed to meet our group at the Tiger Woods building. It wasn't hard to find - there's a GIANT banner with Tiger on it on the road leading up to it. We checked in, got our instructions, posed for group pictures, and headed out to the start line, where we waited in the cold, heavy rain for about half an hour before they started letting us go in groups.

Because of the weather, they had decided to cancel the 100-mile route, which would have gone to the top of Bald Peak before heading back to join the 70-mile loop. At first I thought "Wimps! This is Oregon, we ride in crap like this all the time!" But then I took a look around at the riders and so how WOEFULLY unprepared most of them were: no fenders; no rain pants, leg warmers, or tights; summer gloves or no gloves; tennis shoes; non-water-resistant jackets . . . you get the picture. I began to fear that we would be helping a lot of hypothermia victims.

We finally got rolling at about 7:30. The route took us out of Beaverton towards Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Hagg Lake. Many roads that Velo goes on weekly. There was an enormous police presence, blocking traffic on major highways to let us pass - for someone who believes in coming to a full stop at all stop signs it was weird to be encouraged, by law enforcement no less, to run every red light I encountered! We even got to run the infamous North Plains "ticket trap." (although I noted that at that particular intersection it was State Troopers and not the North Plains police waving us through). The route took us on some roads that I would have avoided -- next year we hope they consult with Velo about some safer and more scenic options -- but all in all it was pretty good.

As with most rides of this sort, the rest stops (or "power" stops as the LAF called them) were plentiful, well-stocked and staffed by friendly volunteers. The very first stop was staffed by our very own Velo (the best club in town!), and there we found a secret stash of hot coffee for ride marshals. As Jason has said, I can count on 8 frostbitten fingers the numbe rof times in my life I have drunk coffee, and this was one of them.

The best stop (not counting the Velo stop, toward which I am naturally biased) was without a doubt the Hagg Lake stop, where we were hailed and serenaded by pirates. Pirates who told very bad jokes. Pirate jokes, of course. There was also hot soup and hot cocoa, both of which were very welcome by that point. The rest room had an automatic hand dryer that blew warm air. I tried to crawl under it to dry out.

Leaving Hagg Lake, I was dismayed when my rear derailleur cable suddenly snapped at the shifter end and in an instant I went from 27 available speeds to 3. Fortunately, there was yet another rest stop 5 miles on, and there was a very friendly and talented mechanic who quickly installed a new cable. I was thrilled, because I knew I would have had no time to do it myself or take it to anyone else to do it and I did not want to ride next week's Bingen 200K with only 3 speeds. I hear they have hills out there.

As we came closer to the end, the route took us by the spot where a member of Velo was killed by a reckless driver earlier this year. There was a memorial ride for him last week, and they installed a '"ghost bike" at the site. I wasn't able to do the ride, and I wanted to pay my respects, so we passed the turn to see it.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, standard Velo fare. We never did have to do much ride marshaling. We told people to leave room on the road for cars; they ignored us. Lynne and Jason helped someone with shifting problems. I checked on a guy barfing by the side of the road. He was okay, just reacting badly to a Power Gel he had just downed. I told him those things make me barf too, offered him some crackers, and rode on once he said he'd be okay.

I wasn't looking forward to the ride back over the West Hills to home, even if it was just over the relatively low Sylvan section. Lynne had offered me a ride home from her place, and I decided to take her up on it. Toward the end I was so tired, wet and cold that I was still dreading just the ride up Park Way to get to Lynne's house. So I was elated to hear from Lynne that her husband, Fitz, who had been marshaling the 40-mile route, had called to say that he had finished up, had gone home, gotten the van and driven it back to Nike to pick us all up. Whoo-hoo. I had no qualms whatsoever about breaking my rule of riding to and from my rides.

We finally got back to Nike, collected our free meal and (even better) free beer, chatted with friends, and thawed out. On the way to the bike corral to collect our steeds, we went by a display for the new Nissan mini-SUV, the Rogue. The exhibitors were touting the heated seats, and asked them if we'd like to test them. Hmm, something warm and dry on which to set our still cold and wet bottoms? You didn't have to ask us twice. We jumped in, they turned on the heaters, we locked the doors and refused to get out. Okay, we finally got out, but only because we had our own warm van waiting. No heated seats, though.

Next week, the Bingen Bikenfest 200km. I hope it's not raining.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Wind Blew Out My Perm

Or, "Why Am I Only Going 11.8 MPH Downhill?"

Yesterday some fellow OrRando members and I decided to ride one of the local "permanent" brevets. These are routes that one can choose to ride at any time (as long as you give the club administrator enough notice), and I needed to do it to ensure that I stayed on target for my goal of doing at least one 200K brevet per month (if I do it, I get a cool medal!). Ray, RB, Rickey, Bill and Ken decided to come along. Lynne was observing Yom Kippur and so could not join us. At least that's what she said. As far as excuses go, it was a pretty good one.

Anyhoo, the route I decided to do is called "Prairies and Wetlands" and it is a 2-loop, impressively flat ride out of Newberg. The first loop heads southeast to Mt. Angel and back, and the second goes northwest to Forest Grove and back. Because the route was so flat, I hoped to complete the ride in no more than 10 hours total.

I met up with the guys in Newberg a little after 7:00 AM, faffed around in the parking lot for a while and headed out at 7:30. First stop, the local minimart to get a receipt to show what time we left town (and use the bathroom), and then it was over the Willamette River and into the hop fields of St. Paul.

I had a sneaking suspicion that we had a tailwind. There was no visual evidence of wind - no fluttering leaves or bowing grasses - but I was cruising along at 21 mph with little to no effort. I raised this possibility with Rickey and he said "oh, no, we don't have any wind . . " Uh-huh. We got to Mt. Angel half an hour ahead of schedule, having stopped only briefly for two "information controls," got some Gatorade and another receipt, and turned to the northwest to go home. Into the wind . . . .grrr. It still wasn't too bad though - our average speed had only dropped by about 2.2 mph by the time we got back to Newberg. Besides, along the way we got a stark reminder of the dangers of speed.

We were slowed down again when I got a flat in the middle of the bridge over the Willamette - fortunately it was a slow leak, so I could keep riding to the end of the bridge where there was more room to change it. I am getting much better at changing out tubes. Now I just need to work on getting the wheel back on the bike - Rickey had to point out to me that I had the cassette facing the wrong direction as I started to insert the wheel. I am sure I would have noticed that out some point.

Back in Newberg, we needed some sustenance and another receipt - Rickey talked me into going to the Dairy Queen, forcing me to break my vow to wait another 20 years before doing that again (see my previous post about the Grab Bag Brevet re the terrors inspired by the Sheridan DQ). Once again, as in Sheridan, it was like stepping into some weird vortex in which everything and everybody moved at half-speed. At least this time the Children of the Corn weren't there. At least not yet.

Needless to say, by the time we left Newberg we had gone from being 1/2 an hour ahead of schedule to 1/2 an hour behind. No problem, I figured - we'll just spring on the flats and make it up. Famous last words. The first 20 miles weren't SO bad - a little longer on Hwy 99E than I would have liked (a nice autumn Saturday is not the best time to ride your bike on the shoulder of the main route through Oregon's Wine Country - go figure), but otherwise uneventful.

Our first control was an information control in Dayton - in the park there is a blockhouse from a fort that had originally been built near Grande Ronde but at some point had been moved to Dayton. Our control question was "What year was the blockhouse rebuilt in Dayton." There was hint to look at the Historic Site near the bathrooms for the answer. Problem: there was no such sign. There was a commemorative plaque, dated 1971, so that was my guess, but there also was a sign on the blockhouse itself that mentioned the "fort" being "moved" to Dayton in 1911, and Ray and RB liked that one. But was "moving the fort" the same as "rebuilding the blockhouse"? Rickey, ornery as ever, wanted to use the date the fort was FIRST built - 1856 - despite our pointing out to him that it was in Grande Ronde at that point . . . Much time was wasted by all debating these fine points. I finally went with 1991 AND 1971.

From Dayton we headed out onto Hwy 47, and descended into the 9th Circle of Hell. 20 miles of highway shoulder (and I use this term charitably) directly into an incredibly stiff constant headwind, with the occasional sneaky cross-gust to make it interesting. I was faced with a tough choice. Try to maintain my own pace, which was a bit faster than the boys were going (not because I am generally faster than they are, more that they were riding sensibly and I was not), which resulted in me trailing off the front without a windbreak, or falling in behind the guys and using them to block the wind. I went with choice number one, until I got to the point in which the wind pushed me backward until I was behind them . . . .

By the time we got to Forest Grove (102 miles into the ride), I was whipped. We stopped at a pizza joint - the guys got slices, I wasn't hungry (about 25 minutes later I would regret the decision not to eat, when I bonked on North Valley Road).

By this time it was pretty clear we weren't going to make our 10-hour goal, so we stayed at the pizza joint longer than we normally would have. Rickey had leg cramps, and none of us was all that eager to get back on the road. But we finally saddled up and headed out. After some initial confusion over street names, we made it out of Forest Grove and headed southeast to Newberg. Finally the wind was at our back, and would be for the last 23 miles of the day.

The only real hills of the ride were in those last 23 miles, though; a series of rollers that on a good day can be a really fun roller coaster ride. This was not a good day. I was tired, hungry, and my rear hub had finally given up the ghost. The free wheel was shot, and some suspicious "crunchy" noises accompanied every rotation . . .but we finally made it back to Newberg, and only half an hour outside of our goal. Next up, the Bingen Bikenfest on October 6. Today I bought new wheels, so at least I shouldn't have to hear those crunchy noises.

Monday, September 03, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

[Photo Hint: Click on the pix for larger views]

For the last 8 years, I toiled in the salt mines of private practice, dreaming of the day when I would have a REAL vacation. (Trust me on this, young Jedi, when the on-campus interviewers tell you about their firm's belief in "balance" and the importance of leisure time, they are LYING.) Anyway, this year those dreams of leisure came true, when I left private practice to take a job with the State and used that career shift as an opportunity to take a month off in between jobs. Of course, my idea of leisure may not be the same as yours - here's how I spent my summer vacation:


For the last three years I have organized a book drive for the benefit of the library at a nearby women's prison. Last year's drive was so successful that we were able to stock TWO libraries, and I won an award. Usually running the drive meant spending my evenings and weekends sorting through the donated books and delivering them to the prison a few boxes at a time on those rare days when I could be a little late to the office. As a result, it was often a 4-month period from the beginning of the drive to the final delivery. This year, however, I was able to devote two full weeks to the collection, sorting and delivery process and got it all done at once!


This year's summer crop:
"Purple Romano," "Kentucky Blue," and "Jade" beans;
"Dusky," "Casper," and "Little Fingers" eggplants;
"Pizza," "Holy Mole," "Long Thin Cayenne," "Korean Hot," and "Lipstick" peppers;
"Super Marzano," "Beaverlodge," "Cherokee Purple," "White Currant," and "Saucy" tomatoes;
Pumpkins, Delicate and Buttercup squash


I learned how to make jam and jelly (don't ask about why the strawberry sauce is "sauce" and not "jam") - Clockwise starting from center: blackberry jam, habanero jelly (peppers from last year - it's amazing how well they freeze), candied and pickled watermelon rind, strawberry sauce, pickled eggplant (really more like a tapenade) and dilled beans.


I perfected my "no knead" bread.


I took a bicycle repair class from a local mechanic, Tori Bortman - here she is pointing out the attributes of the hi-tech "poke-o-meter" that she presented to me at graduation.


Greg and I took the dogs to the beach - they played in the water, we hiked and drank beer


12 rides, 732 miles . . . .some with ferries