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.