[CLICK ON THE PIX FOR LARGER VIEWS]
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.