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