Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Year in Review

I was going to do some sort of elaborate cross-referencing post in which I discuss all my various rides with links back to the original posts, and insert representative photos to pique readers' curiosity, but then I decided that would take too long and I've still got to cook our beans and greens for New Year's luck, and the links to all my earlier posts are right there to your left - so, instead, I offer a dry perusal of statistics . . .

Miles ridden: 7,621
Single-day rides over 100 miles: 23
Single-day rides over 200 miles: 5
Randonneuring Awards: R-12, Super Randonneur, 5000 K Distance

Miles ridden in less-than-optimum conditions: most of them . . . .

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hazy Shades of Winter

A few snapshots from our snow event of the past few weeks, with sound . . .

(for the best experience, first activate the "soundtrack" link, then activate the gallery, click on the icon in the lower right hand corner for full-screen mode, and press the play icon in the far left hand lower corner):

The soundtrack:

The gallery:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This Velo-Resolution Will Not Be Televised

But it will be blogged.

I've been tagged by my friend Beth to make some sort of statement about cycling out of 2008 and into 2009. To be specific, she has challenged me to answer two questions:

What didn't you do with your bike that you'd like to in 2009?

What did you do with your bike that you'd like to cut back on, or do differently?

I can answer the first question easily: A 1200 km brevet. Or at least 1000. Preferably 1200. Preferably the Gold Rush Randonnee.

The second question, on the other hand, is not so easy. There really was not anything that I did with my bike that I would cut back on, or do differently. I must admit to being smugly satisfied with my biking this year, and the rest of my life is working out pretty dang nicely, as well. . . .

So, what is my velo-resolution? Just to keep on keeping on, and to have as much fun doing it as possible.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Slip-Sliding Away - NOT!

Ice Trekkers

Right after I grabbed this pair of Kako Ultra Ice Trekkers (and another for Greg) from the rack, the buyer from the Portland Police Bureau came in and snatched up the rest. He looked covetously at mine, and I turned my back and ran for the register before he could commandeer them. That's two officers that will just have to shuffle more carefully after the bad guys, I guess . . .

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What a Difference a Week Can Make

Why I am glad I chose to fulfill my R-12 requirement LAST week:




518 AM PST SAT DEC 13 2008







On the other hand, we could just end up with a lovely Marshmallow World . . .

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This Ride Brought To You By The Letter "R" And The Number 12

As in R-12: A 200 km or longer brevet every month for 12 consecutive months. A goal I have been working toward, well, all year. To be more precise, it is a goal I have been working toward for more than a year, but I sort of got sidetracked the first time around. Yesterday, I reached that goal and could not have picked a better day or better company in which to do so.

I'd been stressing about the ride since Veteran's Day, when Lynne, Bill and I completed our eleventh ride in the series. That day we had endured over twelve and one-half hours of incessant rain and I was not looking forward to what could be even worse weather on December 6, the day we had chosen for Ride #12 (we picked the first weekend in the month on the theory that if we had to DNF, we still had three more weekends in which to complete a ride). So about a week out, I started obsessing over the weather forecasts.

On November 30, the seven-day forecast called for a wet week, with some clearing by the weekend. Susan France, our RBA, sent an e-mail warning that the route we had chosen crossed a flood plain. Sigh. By Wednesday, December 3, however, the forecast was for Saturday to be sunny and cold. Sunny and cold, I can do. Rainy and cold, I can also do, but I don't enjoy it. On Thursday, the forecast began to deteriorate again, calling for light rain in the afternoon. Well, maybe if we rode really quickly, we could beat the rain. Yeah, right. I started to collect my rain gear. Fortunately, we had chosen a route that looped back to the start point midway, so I could take all sorts of gear that I might need for the predicted afternoon rains and leave it in the car.

Friday night I gathered all my riding clothes, equipment, and food together and bagged it up. I put together another bag of dry non-cycling clothes to change into after the ride. I checked the bike and noted that my tires seemed a bit soft, so I pumped them up. By this time it was getting late and I needed to get some sleep. Our start time was 7:30, and it takes me about 45 minutes to drive to Newberg (no riding to the ride this time - I had too much junk to bring along). Adding in another 30 minutes for pre-ride faffing in the parking lot meant that I needed to leave home by 6:15. I usually need an hour or so to gather my thoughts and pull myself together in the morning, so that meant getting up by 5:15. Add in some at-home faffing with the bike, and we are looking at a 4:30 AM wake-up call. So I set my alarm for 4:30, took some Valerian and went to bed.

When my alarm went off, I lay in bed for awhile contemplating just how many times I could push the snooze button and still get everything I needed to do done. I eventually decided I really needed to get up.

I Can't Believe I Am Up This Early

And it's a good thing I did, because when I went to the basement to retrieve my bike, I saw that the rear tire had gone flat overnight. Rats! The last time I had changed that tire it had taken me half an hour just to get it off the rim! Note: Ruffy Tuffies are great tires and can go thousands of miles without a flat, but they are not easy to change. Oh well, there was nothing to do but get to work and hope I had gotten better at it. I was able to get the tire off the rim more easily this time, and yanked out the tube. I could not see any obvious defects, and a scrub of the inner casing of the tire did not reveal anything. When I tried to put air in the tube to find the leak source, I could not get any air to go or stay in. I decided it must be the valve, so I just put new tube in, powered the tire back on the rim and jimmied the wheel back on the bike. The last bit is actually the most difficult - the position of the derailleur hanger and the shape of the skewer cap on the wheel make for a tight fit. Unless everything is perfectly aligned, the wheel will not pop in place. The fates were kind to me this time around, however, and I completed the whole task in less than 20 minutes. Not a bad time in a warm basement, but on a cold wet road that that would be pushing the outside of the comfort envelope, so I prayed that the problem had indeed been the tube's valve and not something in the tire or rim that I had missed!

And cold it was. The thermometer outside my kitchen window showed 32 degrees. It would be at least 5 degrees colder in Newberg. I decided to add a second wool undershirt to my clothing mix. It was also very, very clear (hence the cold). I decided to take all my rain gear with me, anyway. If anything, it would serve as a sort of homeopathic charm against rain.

I Need Another Layer of Wool

I reached Newberg a little before 7:00. My friends John, Joanne, John Kramer, Vincent and Kevin had already arrived at the library parking lot where we would be leaving our cars. I had met Vincent for the first time at the Bingen Bikenfest, and had not known that he was coming down for this ride, so that was a pleasant surprise. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Kevin, who is not yet a randonneur, but should be. He thinks he won't fit in because he doesn't have a generator hub. He does not realize that he has already been infected with rando fever. We'll convert him yet; it's just a matter of time.

Lynne arrived shortly thereafter, but there was still no sign of Sal or Bill, both of whom had also signed up (but both of whom were notorious for arriving late to starts). It was getting close to 7:30, so we decided to make our way over to the market that we had chosen as our opening control, assuming that Sal and Bill would find us there. We like the market because it is open 24 hours and has a clean bathroom, both things that are greatly appreciated by endurance riders.

Bill pulled into the library parking lot just as we were riding out, and Sal was a few minutes behind him. We waited for them at the market, posed for a group photo, and headed out for the first loop of the day, a 70-mile jaunt south to Dallas and back.

A Motley Crew, If I Ever Saw One

The route to Dallas from Newberg begins with a 6.5 (or so) mile run down HIghway 99W. I loathe that stretch of 99W. I despise that stretch of 99W. I ride as fast as possible to get off that stretch of 99W. In addition, it was so cold (28 degrees at this point) that the circulation had stopped to my hands and I needed to get my heart rate accelerated to force the blood back into my fingers. Consequently, I ended up out in front of the pack by a few minutes, and spent much of that segment riding alone. Once I got off the 99W, I was able to relax, and wait for the gang to catch up with me in Dayton, where I stopped to admire the town's minimal approach to holiday decorations. Kevin had dropped off the pack with a flat tire, but he's a fast rider and we figured he'd catch up with us soon enough.

Dayton Holiday Decor

From Dayton we rode toward Amity, where we eventually got back on the 99W. In this area, the highway is much more pleasant, however, and so I did not need to go back into rabbit mode. After a few more miles on the 99W, we turned off on Bethel Road, toward Perrydale. The Bethel/Perrydale Roads stretch of the route is my favorite. The road rolls past farms and Victorian homes, and there is little traffic. Thanks to a Polk County bond measure, the roads are also well-paved.

On Perrydale Road, about 10 miles outside of Dallas, Vincent and I were flagged down by an old man who stepped into the road to block our travel. I thought that he must have some sort of emergency, but it quickly became apparent that all he wanted to do was engage us in an anti-bike argument. He began by asking us what we would think of a law that would require cyclists to ride in the opposite direction of motor vehicles. We told him it would be a stupid and dangerous law. He then told us about an incident when he was driving on some narrow country road and had gone around a blind curve only to discover a cyclist in "his" lane, forcing him to slow down. "Your lane?!," responded Vincent, "It was his lane, too!" "I paid for that lane," was the old man's response. Ah, yes, that old "cyclists don't pay road taxes" canard. I am sick to death of it. First, I pay taxes, and I can guarantee I pay more taxes than that Cranky Old Man (and almost any other anti-cyclist blowhard that makes that argument). Second, those particular roads had been improved through a bond measure, not vehicle taxes. But I digress. Cranky Old Man then went into a diatribe about how he hates the fact that he can't simply turn right across a bike lane but must first wait for cyclists who are going straight to pass. Apparently we, the lesser vehicles, should be waiting for him . . .

At this point I was beginning to lose my ability to be a civil and diplomatic representative of the cycling community, so I politely told Cranky Old Man that I was on a timed ride and simply must get going. As I fumed my way up the hill, I rehearsed all the things I would have liked to say to him if I had more time and patience, but I know that my words would have fallen on deaf ears. He was not interested in a real conversation about sharing the road; he just wanted to complain.

Our first control was in Dallas. In the past, I have stopped at the McDonalds there because I knew it would have a clean restroom, but I don't like to buy McDonalds' food so I was pleased to spot a sign for a Subway restaurant. Unfortunately, I spotted it after I had already committed to turn left toward the McDonalds, so getting to the Subway involved a bit of parking lot and sidewalk cross-country riding. Not exactly good cyclist citizenship there, I know. In my defense, I did feel badly about it. Fortunately, there were no pedestrians for me to inconvenience, but I still should not have done it. (And hold your comments about it being legal to ride on the sidewalk; I know it is; it's just not best practice and should be avoided when possible). At this point I was riding with John, Joanne, Kramer and Vincent, so we had a little Subway lunch party.

Early Lunch

Lynne, Sal and Bill were behind us by a few minutes. As we passed the McDonalds on our way out of town, we saw Lynne getting ready to leave from there. We had not seen Kevin since he got his flat outside of Newberg, but as we pedaled down Ellendale Road toward Rickreall, we saw a rider approaching from the opposite direction who looked a lot like Kevin. It WAS Kevin. He turned around and caught up to us, and explained that he had had another flat, and had taken a different route in the assumption that he would meet up with us as we returned. A few minutes after he caught up to us, he got another flat (#3). John and Joanne stayed with him, and I kept on going. Kramer and Vincent had put on their speedy shoes and were already well ahead of us.

To get back to Newberg from Dallas, we headed northeast(ish) through Rickreall and back onto the 99W toward Amity. In Amity I had two unpleasant encounters with motorists who must belong to the same club as the Cranky Old Man On Perrydale Road. First, I was passed by a carload of inbred twenty-somethings (or was it twenty-something inbreds? The car was awfully full) and as they passed me, the front seat passenger opened his door and swung it out at me as if to knock me off my bike, yelling some misogynist comment or other at the same time. Nice. Shortly thereafter, I was right-hooked by an old man in a very large car who came up from behind me (and, therefore, would have seen me if he had been paying any attention to the road at all) and started to turn right before he had even passed me. I howled. Really loud. He hit his brakes. I hit my brakes. My front wheel was practically touching his passenger side door. He looked at me with utter confusion, straightened out his car and drove forward to the next road where he proceeded to turn right. Without signaling,of course. Ah, Amity. Whatever amistad it may have, it ain't directed at cyclists.

John, Joanne and Kevin had not yet caught up to me and I was on my own for most of the way from Rickreall to Dayton. Bill caught up with me after I stopped in Dayton to eat a sandwich. He then passed me on the 99W (again the loathsome stretch, but at least this time I had the pleasure of passing hundreds of cars stuck in the weekly Dundee-Newberg wine-tasting traffic jam). We stopped at the market in Newberg for our second lunch.

70 Miles Down, 25 to Go

The weather was still spectacular with not a cloud to be seen anywhere. The temperature had climbed to 45 degrees and, if we stood in the sun, it was quite pleasant. If we stood around too long, however, our sweaty wool-clad bodies did start to chill up, so after a few more minutes of chewing and faffing, we set off across the Willamette River for the second, shorter, loop out to Mt. Angel and back.

It was on the way to Mt. Angel that we had our most exciting (and potentially tragic) experience of the day. Just past the Gervais cemetery, a dog (a blue heeler with tan points, to be precise) came charging out into the road at us, intent on attack. At that very same instance, an SUV that had been behind us had pulled over into the oncoming lane in order to pass us. What had been an example of polite vehicle behavior almost resulted in disaster as the dog ran directly in front of the SUV. The driver managed to brake in time and swerve around the dog (and away from us), and the dog continued forward straight for Joanne's leg. My ear-piercing screams of terror and the near-miss with the SUV had not dissuaded it from its mission. Joanne yelled and kicked out at it as John pedaled their tandem furiously to get away. Luckily, the dog was unable to get Joanne in his teeth and we rode on. We stopped a little way up the road to call Lynne and Sal on their cell phones to warn them about the dog. Lynne's voice mail was not behaving but John left a message for Sal. As it turned out, they didn't get the message and they too were attacked. Sal ended up actually hitting the dog with his bike! He was going slowly, however, so neither he nor the dog were injured.

All of us except Bill stopped at the market in Mt. Angel for more snacks. We saw Bill getting a receipt from the local bank ATM, but he must have then turned back to Newberg to get as much riding in while it was still light. Between brevets and my occasional commutes home from Salem, I have stopped at this market so many times in the past few months that the cashier knows me well. He always asks how far I am riding that day, and is always impressed.We were all craving salt and so Chex Mix was the food of choice.

The sun was starting to set (Damn you, Daylight Saving Time!), so we all took the time to don our required reflective gear. We all admired Kramer's vest, with its bicycle graphic and many, many pockets. As Lynne noted, "Just think how much better I would eat on rides if I had all those pockets to hold food!" I foresee a bulk order . . .

And It Has Pockets For Food!

Up to this point, we had all been making incredible time. I was on target for a ten-hour finish, but figured that I would start to slow down once it got dark. In any event, I figured I could get done in ten and a half hours, give or take. I knew that John, Joanne, Kramer, Bill and Vincent would finish well before me, and Lynne and Sal would probably be a few minutes behind, but we were all on track to finish somewhere between nine and one-half and eleven hours. That would leave plenty of time for our planned celebratory meal at Burgerville and still be home at a reasonable hour. We did, however, lose some time taking pictures of the sunset.

Sunset BreakOak Tree Sunset

Ten hours and thirty-three minutes later, I was getting my card signed by Sherry at the Newberg Thriftway. Sherry has been on duty the last three perms that Lynne and I have done out of Newberg. She still thinks that we are nuts, but she is beginning to understand our madness.

Sherry at Nap's Thriftway

I would have been done sooner, but I was delayed by an absolutely obscene excess of Christmas lighting on 4th Avenue. Of course, my camera was not up to the task of recording it, and I wasted precious minutes trying to capture it.

It Looks A Lot like Christmas

After much parking lot rejoicing at being done, we repaired to the Burgerville for massive plates of sweet potato fries and endless rounds of self-congratulation. Kramer and Vincent had to go back to Washington, but Kevin joined us - as it turns out he'd had FIVE flats for the day, but still got in 107 miles. He'll be a rando yet.

Gang of R-12s (and one R-24)

Here's the rest of my photos

Here are Lynne's photos

Wednesday, December 03, 2008



At 6:32 PM, just north of The Chart House on Terwilliger Boulevard, Li'l HW Jr. rolled over her 5000th mile. Not bad, considering I only took delivery of her in April. In the intervening months, I have tested her mettle (and metal) on epic brevets and quotidian commutes. I've subjected her to wind, rain, and a little (very little) snow. She's not quite as shiny as she was on Day One, but I love her now more than ever.

I've Been Homologated

Back in May I participated in a 24-hour cycling event called a fleche. It was, to be blunt, hellish.

But now I have a fancy certificate from France to remember it by (as if the PTSD flashbacks weren't sufficient)

Fleche Homologation #08134

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It could have been worse, I suppose

It could have snowed . . .

Monday night, November 10 - the message light on my phone is blinking. It's Lynne. "Call me," she says. She doesn't sound happy.

Ring, ring . . . "Hello?" She still doesn't sound happy.

"Hey, Lynne, what's up?"

"Have you seen the weather report? Tomorrow is supposed to be the worst day ever."

"Well, I saw one weather report that said that. But I saw another one that said that WEDNESDAY would be the worst day ever, and that tomorrow would just be, well, wet."

This mattered, you see, because the next day Lynne and I, along with our friend Bill, were scheduled to ride #11 in our series of 12 monthly 200K-plus brevets in our ongoing quest for an R-12. Yep, #11 on 11-11. Nothing like a little numerical alliteration to appeal to the OCD crowd. Not that cyclists have a higher proportion of OCD diagnoses than other groups. Yeah, right. It's a wonder any of us can finish a ride we spend so much time double-checking things.

But I digress. Back to Monday night's conversation.

I really did not want to have to reschedule the ride, because my schedule is pretty complicated these days and it's not like the weather improves as the year gets older. I also really did not want to ride in a monsoon. So as we talked, I surfed around the Net checking the various weather pages. All the ones I looked at guaranteed rain and wind (100% chance of rain, winds of 10-20 mph) but not a LOT of rain and wind. Lynne's websites were more dire. Weather Underground didn't look so bad, though, (don't tell Sarah Palin!) and after much hemming and hawing we decided that we would at least go out to the start and decide then if the weather was too bad to go through with it. After I hung up the phone, Greg asked if we were riding - he couldn't tell which direction the conversation was going. "Oh, we're riding," I said, knowing full well that once we have our gear on we rarely turn back. More brawn than brains, sometimes.

We had chosen the "Prairies and Wetlands" permanent, which starts in Newberg, about 45 minutes (by car) southwest of Portland. As Lynne pointed out, if the more dire weather reports were correct, the "wetlands" part of the route could get interesting. In order to maximize daylight, we decided to start at 6:00 AM. In theory that would mean we would have about 1 hour of darkness at each end. Of course, in theory, the day would not be overcast.

I was up at 3:30, and could hear the rain pounding on the roof. Sigh. But by 4:30 it had slacked off to a drizzle, and it's not like I haven't ridden in drizzle before. So I put the bike in the car, checked that I had all my various water-resistant layers, and headed out the door. As I drove south on the freeway, the rain stopped for a brief period but started up again shortly after I turned off on the exit to Newberg. Not too hard, though. I could still see where I was going. Sort of.

I had discovered on our last ride out of Newberg that the Thriftway there was open 24/7 and that it is has an adequate restroom (which would be more than adequate if it weren't quite so hidden away and if the stalls actually had doors on them, but it's clean and warm, which is more than I can say for many of the blue rooms I've used on rides). It also has a hot chocolate machine, fresh-baked bran muffins and friendly check-out clerks. All told, this makes for a very convenient control. So, as agreed, we met in the public parking lot by the library shortly before 6:00 AM, geared up and headed the few blocks to the Thriftway to get our first receipts and signatures on our cards.

It was dark. It was wet. It was also relatively warm. Almost too warm; we were in danger of getting as soaked from sweat as from rain. I was wearing wool S'mittens under my not-at-all waterproof rain mitts from Mountain Laurel Designs (DIGRESSIVE PSA -- DO NOT BUY THE MLD OVERMITTS - THEY ARE AWFUL) and my fingers, although damp, were toasty. I did have to wring the S'mittens out on occasion, but they never got as heavy or cold as my other winter gloves have in the past.

The first loop of the route was the "Prairie" part - a meandering journey through French and Howell Prairies to Mt. Angel, with a stop at the Gallon House covered bridge, followed by a more direct return across Howell Prairie to Newberg. For the first 40 miles or so we battled not only the rain but a stiff headwind. That's par for the course out on Howell Prairie (or as my friend Ray calls it "HOWL Prairie") - no matter which way you go, it's into the wind. I began to despair of ever seeing a double-digit speed again, and we reached the Mt. Angel control with very little time to spare.

In Mt. Angel we found some shelter out of the wind and rain, and ate our lunch. Bill and I had our traditional PB & J sandwiches on Dave's Killer Bread, and Lynne had something rolled up in a tortilla. She was experimenting to see if tortilla wraps were more easily chewed and digested. I never learned how that experiment turned out.

On our way back to Newberg we were disappointed to realize that the wind that had appeared to be in our face all the way out to Mt. Angel was not at our backs but, rather, more of a crosswind. But at least we were not battling it directly, and our average speed had improved from 11.4 mph to 12.1 mph by the time we reached the midpoint control (once again, the Thriftway). A diet soda, 2 small bananas and some cheap cookies from the bulk bin served as a second lunch, after which we repaired to our cars to refill our water bottles and get dry gloves.

The day was winding on, and we still had 60 miles or so to go; the first six of which were on Highway 99W through Dundee, quite possibly the least-enjoyable section of road on which to cycle in the entire state of Oregon. The road surface is crap, and the traffic is terrible. Add to that the fact that a significant percentage of the drivers on that section of road have been wine "tasting" (more like wine-guzzling), and even on a good weather day it's a treacherous ride. In fact, on a good day it's even MORE treacherous, because the sun brings out more wine drinkers and drivers. Needless to say, I try to ride that stretch as quickly as possible.

We stopped in Dayton for another information control, and then rolled on through Lafayette to the longest single stretch of road on the route - 22 miles on Highway 47. The last time I rode this route, we had a significant headwind on Highway 47; this time we had a tailwind, but not much of one. Highway 47 is a very busy road, and there is not always a lot of shoulder room, but it was not nearly as bad as Highway 99W. We rolled through Carlton, Yamhill and Gaston, past many more wineries; a new one seems to pop up each week. How many bottles of pinot noir can this world accommodate? I was beginning to fantasize about the pizza parlor in Forest Grove. I was also beginning to bonk. This was surprising, because I had been eating and drinking more than usual. I think that fighting the wind and rain was taking more out of me than I had expected. If I didn't get something more substantial than an energy bar to eat soon, I was in danger of fainting. I really hoped the pizza joint would be open.

We were not quite sure where to turn off of Highway 47 to get to downtown Forest Grove, and ended up turning one street too soon. Fortunately, that road ended up connecting with the road we were supposed to be on, and soon enough we were leaning our bikes up against the sheltered window of the open (hurrah!) pizza parlor. We dripped our way in, and my glasses immediately fogged up from the warmth of the ovens. I debated getting two giant slices of pizza, but settled for one pretty big slice, a small salad, and a ginormous sugar cookie, instead. I think I took less than 5 minutes to inhale the entire meal.

We had made up some more time on the 47, and were on track to finish the ride in about 12.5 hours if we could keep the same pace, but it was getting dark and we knew we would ride more slowly in the dark. It was hard to leave the warmth (and dryth) of the restaurant, but we had less than 25 miles to go and had dry clothes waiting for us, so we pulled ourselves up, hauled on our wet gloves, and once again hit the road. The temperatures seemed to have dropped slightly, or maybe it was just because the restaurant had been so warm, but either way I was chilled. Fortunately, the next 25 miles or so involved just enough climbing to warm me back up, without being too arduous.

It was getting darker, and I could no longer see Lynne behind me, so I called out to her to switch her head light on. She had been avoiding using it because the additional drag from the generator hub would slow her down. We had a very slight wind assist, however, so switching it on was not as much of a problem as usual. I had left mine on all day, but I don't notice the drag as much, apparently.

It was raining harder now, and there was a lot of oncoming traffic. Many of the cars refused to turn their brights down for us, and so I was often riding blind. I tried staring down at the white fog line, but sometimes it would be covered in mud or leaves, and then it was hard to know where the edge of the road was. The roads we were on were all familiar from other rides, but I still was hesitant at some intersections. Fortunately, Lynne always had a good sense of where we were. Spring Hill Road seemed to go on forever, and when we finally got to our turn-off onto North Valley Road, there was so much oncoming traffic that I could not see the intersection. So I just stopped and waited for all the cars to go away before moving over for the left turn.

There is a one-lane bridge on North Valley Road, with a stop sign at each end. Vehicles are supposed to stop before crossing the bridge, but I have yet to see a car do so unless oncoming traffic is right on top of it. When we got to the bridge, I could see a car coming in the other direction. It was still quite far from the bridge, and so I started to cross over (after stopping first, of course). I was about halfway across the bridge when the car reached the stop sign on the other side and, of course, continued through - I yelled to the driver to stop and she did, but in the meantime I lost my tire grip on the slippery wooden bed of the bridge and hit the ridge in the middle -- the next thing I knew I was going down hard. I managed to unclip, and I didn't hit my head, but I smacked my elbow. Damn! That hurt!

The good thing is that my bike fell on its pannier side, so it was a little bit cushioned. I scooped myself up and hobbled over to the side. My chain was off, and the derailleur wasn't completely cooperating, but with a little help from Bill I managed to get rolling again. Everything seemed to be in working order. We continued on and very shortly thereafter were working our way through a counter intuitive series of confusing turns that would takes us from the Newberg town limits back to the parking lot where we had left our cars. I know that there has to be a more direct route from Tangen Road to the intersection of Blaine and Hancock Streets, but apparently not a shorter route, and in randonneuring it's always the shortest distance between the controls that counts. So we turned left, and then right, and then left again, and then left again, and voila, we were back to where we started. We hit the Thriftway control one more time - Lynne went through the checkout line with the same checker we'd had for our October perm, who thought we were nuts (they usually do). I, on the other hand, had a checker who did not think we were nuts at all. Of course, he told me that he runs marathons, which I think is nuts.

We'd all brought dry clothes with us, and agreed to repair to the local Burgerville to change and chow down on overpriced but tasty fast food. I monopolized the women's restroom and peeled off layer after layer of wet clothing, and checked my elbow - a small set of scrapes, but nothing to worry much about. No bruising at all (and still no bruising as I write this two days later). Warmer, drier, and more presentable, I ordered my meal and it appeared in extremely short order. I ate it in even shorter order. Sweet potato french fries . . . mmmmmm. I should not have gotten the ice cold soda, though. After drinking it, I developed a set of shakes that required an infusion of hot cocoa to cure.

11 down, one to go. Then I can relax. Until January.

Lynne's report is here

Postscript - there are no pictures because my camera finally died after being dropped from the bike one too many times. I have a new one on order . . .

And yes, I realize that I used a Dylan clip the last time I wrote about riding this route. What's frightening is that I did not realize that I had done so until I went back to read that write-up after I had already finished this one! What can I say; the man is a topical genius.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Verboort Repoort

Well, the rains are upon us and the randonneuring season is beginning to wind down. On November 1, we held our penultimate ride of the year, the perennially popular Verboort populaire (try saying THAT three times fast). This ride is timed to coincide with the annual sausage and sauerkraut festival in Verboort, Oregon, a small (VERY small) town in Washington County. Despite a weather forecast that promised rain, 33 riders showed up at the ride start at the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove. Sausage always seems to draw a crowd.

The Riders Begin to Arrive

I broke my rule of "ride to the ride" so that I could give my friend Beth a lift to the start. The ride started at 9:00 AM, but registration began at 8:00 and I had a sign that I needed to deliver to the organizer. So I told Beth that I'd pick her up at 7:00 AM, and she gave me directions to her house. Directions that I promptly put in a place where I could not find them when I needed them. So at 6:55 AM, I was meandering around North Portland (where the street signs are few, hidden, and poorly lit), looking for Saratoga Street. Fortunately, I have some sense of that area, and so did not take too long to find it and arrived shortly after 7:00 (although Beth later told me that her partner was worried I was not coming . . . ). We quickly loaded Beth's bike onto the rack, and then Beth directed me through the maze of streets leading to the freeway. The rain had been holding off, but it started to drizzle as we headed up and over the West Hills toward Forest Grove.

We reached the Grand Lodge just as the ride organizer was setting up shop. Other riders arrived in quick procession, and the pre-ride faffing was soon in full swing. In addition to the general ride prep, there is always the need to check out what everyone else is riding. Mike Johnson showed up with a new bike (a Rivendell model, of course), and so much time was spent inspecting it.

Mike's New Bike!

Then, of course, there were the unicycles . . .

Checking the Wheel

We also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what to wear. The drizzle had stopped, but the sky looked pretty grey. It was also warm, however, which meant that dressing for rain could result in overheating if the rain held off. I decided to ditch the leg warmers, but put on rain booties over my winter riding shoes. On top I had a long-sleeve wool jersey over a thin wool camisole and, of course, my Showers Pass rain jacket.

Thus clad, I was ready to roll. We still had a few minutes before the official start, however, so I trotted on over to the hotel to score a cup of hot tea from the hospitality room (I figure I spend enough money there over the year that one cup of tea is okay) and to make one last use of the public facilities . . .

And then we were off. Full disclosure requires explaining that Verboort and Forest Grove are right next to each other, and the site of the festival is less than 2 miles from the Grand Lodge. But this was a 100K populaire. That meant that we had to find another 60 miles somewhere. We did so by riding first to Hillsboro, then to Snooseville, from Snooseville to Banks and then back to Verboort by way of Cedar Canyon.

The first control, then, was in Hillsboro, at Longbottom Coffee Roasters, which also happens to be where Portland Velo begins its Saturday rides. Because this first control was only about 12 miles into the route, most of the riders were still fairly close together in time and so we descended en masse, creating a little bit of a kerfuffle for the control worker.

Staffed Control #1

I had hoped to get a scone or muffin, because my oatmeal breakfast would soon wear off, but the line at the cash register was too long and I was on a mission to finish the ride in less than 4.5 hours. I figured that there might be snacks at the Snooseville control, as there had in years past, so saddled up and rode on.

To get to Snooseville, we backtracked for a couple miles on Evergreen Parkway and then turned north, toward the town of North Plains. The route took us past farms, fields, and groves of trees in full fall foliage display. In the hills I could see smoke from a fire - it was raining at this point but apparently not hard enough to put out the flames - I was able to watch it spread as we rode along.


Just before we reached North Plains, I reached down for my water bottle and grabbed air. Whoops. Even with all that time at the start, I had managed to leave the bottle in my car. Fortunately, there is nice market in North Plains where I stopped and bought a bottle of water that would fit in the cage. I took the opportunity to powder my nose, as well. The group I had been riding with went on without me, but I knew I'd catch up to them at the next control.

Snooseville is at the end of a long, deceptive climb up Dairy Creek Road. The road LOOKS flat, but has a slight grade. The first time I rode on it, I could not figure out why my speed had dropped precipitously. I quickly figured it out when I turned around at end of the road, and sailed back down. I have since ridden on DCR many times, but the grade still surprises me.

Dairy Creek Road

I reached the Snooseville control to discover that there was water to be had, but no snacks. Bummer. At this point we had less than 30 miles to go, however, and I was not feeling any hunger pangs. I figured I'd just ride faster, get done sooner, and get some cookies on the way home (I doubted that there would be any soy sausage at the festival).

The Snooseville section of the route is an "out and back," so on the way to the next control I passed a number of riders who were taking the course more slowly (just as I had been passed by those riders who were taking the course more swiftly).

The Out and The Back

From Snooseville we rode on to Banks, which required us to cross Highway 26 at Frogger Junction, as my friend Jason so aptly calls the intersection. On this day, however, traffic on the highway was light and we made it across without any wait. In Banks, we turned onto Cedar Canyon Road, which is one of my favorite cycling roads. It has a bit of a climb, followed by a long, smooth descent, and passes a beautiful wetland and fields that, in the spring, are covered in crimson clover. This time of year, the clover is gone, but the leaves on the trees are fluorescent. The wetland was very wet - I could see a number of geese, ducks, and at least one heron hanging out enjoying waterfowl weather.

One more info control (a couple of throughly bedraggled yellow pom-poms left over from February's Snooseville Populaire (which followed pretty much the same route), and then it was onto the final 10-mile leg. We had one more hill to climb, at which point I dropped my fellow riders, and then a mostly flat section. Of course, that mostly flat section ended up being directly into the wind. Dang. But it wasn't raining, the scenery was lovely, and I was enjoying myself, so for once I did not mind the wind. I just geared down and poodled along, admiring the blazing blueberry bushes along the way.

Blueberries Ablaze

Just outside Verboort, the traffic got heavy, but there were plenty of people in Hi-Vis yellow vests making the trucks and SUVs slow down, and I was able to work my way around without too much hassle. I located the final control and checked in. Four hours, nineteen minutes. Not bad. Not bad at all.

There is only one more "official" ride of the season, the Wine Country populaire on November 22, but I will still be riding brevets in my quest for an R-12, so my season is not ending - just getting a little less intense . . . .

More pictures here
Beth's report here
Bill Alsup's report here

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Le Tour des Boulangeries Avec L'Equipe Bag Balm

I confess, I have been dilatory in my blog postings. I decided that I really did need to spend some time on something other than my bike saddle and computer chair. So instead of blogging last weekend's ride while it was fresh, I spent time cleaning out the raised beds and planting the winter crops, cleaning my house and doing laundry. Oh, and spending time with Greg, who was wondering what I looked like these days. . .

But Greg is out of town this weekend, it is raining too hard to garden, the laundry is done, and so, without further ado, it's time to play catch up.

Cupcake a Trois

It had been a while since more than three members of Team Bag Balm had managed to get together to ride - more than four months, in fact. The last time we'd gotten a herdlet together was late June. So when Richard suggested another bakery ride, the response was immediate and enthusiastic. After some calendar viewing, it was decided that we'd ride on Sunday, October 26 - rain or shine, but we hoped for shine.

Sunday dawned bright, warm, and a little bit windy. I decided to ride the Bianchi and took nothing more than a tiny tool bag. After so many thousands of miles on the fully-loaded Sweetpea, I felt like a dancer who had shed her lead shoes. As a result, I wildly overestimated how long it would take me to get to St. Cupcake in NW Portland, our agreed-upon starting point. The idea was that we would meet there when it opened at 10 AM, scarf down some cupcakes and head off in search of more baked goods in other parts of town. I got there at 9:40, and spent the next 20 minutes riding "laps" from NW 18th and Everett to Thurman, and back on NW 19th. By the time 10:00 rolled around, I was ready for a cupcake!

The glorious weather brought out a record number of riders, some of whom I hadn't ridden with in years. We ate cupcakes, gathered for a group photo, and set off. Our next scheduled stop was Pastry Cat in the St. Johns neighborhood in the north end of the city on the east side of the river. About half of us took a route that involved a foray into the west hills and back down to the St. Johns Bridge by way of Cornell, Thompson, Skyline and Germantown Road. The other half opted for a flatter, faster, route straight down Highway 30 to the bridge.

The Herd, Plus

I was in the "hill" group, of course. As we headed up, I noticed that it seemed awfully easy. I then noticed that leaves were coming off the trees in prodigious quantities. Tailwind! The result was one of the easiest climbs to Skyline I've done in ages. The falling leaves made the ride almost magical, as they fluttered and swirled around us. Because I was having such an easy time of the climb, I decided to take a short detour from Cornell onto 53rd Street, which would eventually connect back to Thompson but would give me some extra climbing in the interim so as to justify more pastries.

When I popped back out on Thompson, I met up with Nora, and shortly thereafter we met up with the rest of the climbers at the intersection with Skyline. We then cruised north on Skyline, with the wind still assisting us, to Germantown Road, where we again regrouped before a swift, sharp and technical descent to the bridge.

Nora and Nat

While we were waiting at the top of the hill, we got a call from one of the riders who had opted for the flat route; Pastrycat was closed, and so they would meet us at the Little Red Bike Cafe. I had heard of the LRB, but had not yet been there, so I was not too upset about missing out on Pastrycat.

So it was over the river, and through the strip malls, to the LRB we went. When we arrived, we saw that we were not the only cyclists out enjoying the day and seeking tasty food. Fortunately, the LRB staff are quite efficient. Table space was at a premium, though.

Table Space Was at a Premium

20 Hungry Riders, One Order Taker

From St. Johns, we took the Peninsula Crossing Trail to Marine Drive, and turned east toward the I-205 Bike Path. We also turned into the wind. Ouch. And here I had been worried that I wouldn't be working off the giant bagel I'd chosen for lunch. We quickly realized that the only way to survive would be to paceline; somehow Richard and Nancy got conned into pulling the line with their tandem the entire way. Even with a line, it was a tough go. Cyclists heading the other direction were using their jackets - I hated them.

Marine Drive Shadows

The wind was so strong that even the kite boarders gave up.

Kite Boarders on the Columbia

We finally made it to the end of the Marine Drive path, and turned south onto the I-205 path. The wind was no longer a factor, and we were able to maintain a normal pace. At this point there were 17 of us, spread out over about a mile. The plan was to take the path to SE Division, and then head west on Division to our next bakery stop - Petit Provence, at SE 48th and Division. But you know what they say about plans - the best laid ones aft gang agley.

Our plan ganged agley just east of the intersection of SE Division and 87th, when a careless, thoughtless, brainless driver "right hooked" Richard and Nancy. Because they were the last riders in our line, none of us saw it happen; another driver flagged us down to tell us to turn back. We turned around and blasted back down the sidewalk (no time to cross over to the street path) to the scene. When we arrived, we found Nancy lying on the ground and Richard up and walking, but in shock. The driver and her passenger were still there, as were witnesses who saw the whole thing. Susan O. took charge, calling 911 and making sure that everyone stayed at the scene. Soon we were joined by an ambulance, a fire truck, and two patrol cars.

Crash Scene Investigation

The EMTs talked with Nancy for a while, took her blood pressure, and decided she should go to the hospital, just as a precaution. Richard would go with her, and their tandem would go home in a friend's truck. The rest of us would continue on to the bakery to catch those riders who had been so far ahead that they missed the excitement (we'd called them to let them know what had happened). We were all quite sad that the ride had taken such a bad turn, but were happy that Richard and Nancy weren't more badly hurt. We would learn later that Richard had a fractured finger, and they were both bruised and sore, but we all agreed it could have been so much worse. None of us could understand how the driver could not have seen the large, bright-red tandem and its even more brightly-clad riders. Another instance of willful blindness to cyclists, no doubt. At least she had insurance!

On the bright side, before the incident, we had managed to get in 40 miles of great riding in glorious weather with good friends.

More photos here

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bike Wheels on a Gravel Road

As we stood outside the Thriftway at 7:30 PM, I turned to Lynne and I said, "Boy, it's nice to finally have done ride in which the most 'epic' moment was a kilometer of loose gravel." She readily agreed. We had just finished the "Two Ferries" permanent, a 200 kilometer ramble through the Willamette Valley, thus cementing Lynne's "October 200" for her R-12. I had gotten my October 200 in the previous week, on the Bingen Bikenfest, but Lynne had been unable to complete that ride and so needed a mulligan

But that was the end of the ride; let us now return to the beginning. The ride really began the night of the 4th, as Lynne and I drove home from Bingen. The good thing about having attempted to get the October 200 in so early in the month is that it left us with three more weekends in which to try again if either of us had been unable to finish. So now we began to discuss when we would do a make-up ride. It would have to be a permanent, because there were no 200K brevets scheduled. Lynne's travel schedule for work also created some difficulties, as did my volunteer schedule, but we concluded that we were both available Sunday the 12th. So Sunday it would be, rain or shine. We were praying for "shine."

But what route should we do? There were a number of considerations. For an R-12, you can ride the same routes over and over again, but I am shooting for a distance award as well (5000 kilometers) and for that you cannot repeat a route in a calendar year. There are a number of routes that I haven't done, but most of them are either quite far from our homes, or involve significant elevation gains, neither of which we really wanted to do after Bingen. This late in the year I prefer the flat, low elevation perms. That meant it needed to be something in the Willamette Valley. The only two valley perms that I have not done this year were the "Prairies and Wetlands" and "Two Ferries." Of the two, "Prairies and Wetlands" had the least amount of climbing, and so I was hoping to reserve it for November or December, when bad weather was more likely. The cue sheet for the Two Ferries route suggested an elevation gain of 6000 feet, but I knew that HAD to be wrong, because I had been on almost all those roads before at one time or another, and there simply was no way to get in that much climbing in the Willamette Valley in only 200 kilometers. I guessed it was more likely to be in the 3900 foot range (and my altimeter bore this out - at the end of the ride it showed a total gain of only 3745 feet). So, the Two Ferries it would be.

The next step was to convince our RBA, Susan, to let us do a permanent on such short notice. She prefers to have all the paperwork (this is a French sport, of COURSE there is paperwork) submitted at least a week ahead of time. So I sent a begging e-mail, and followed it up with a whining telephone message, and she relented. I am guessing it did not hurt that Lynne and I are regular volunteers for the season's brevets. We sent in our waivers and fee, got the password for the all-important brevet card and we were good to go.

For the next few days, we were glued to the weather reports - there had been rain earlier in the week, but the trend appeared to be toward sun. The report I saw on Saturday night showed no signs of rain, and high temperatures in the mid-60s. Lynne was taking no chances, however; her packing list resembled something Scott might have taken on his ill-fated expedition. She explained that she would just take everything in the van, and decide what to actually wear at the last minute.

We decided to start at 7:00 AM for maximum daylight. Because the route begins in Newberg and because I would need at least a half-hour of quality faffing time once I got to the start, that meant leaving home by 5:30. Which meant getting up by 4:30. At 4:30, it was raining at my house. Damn. What had I done with those rain booties from last week? Of course, by the time I reached Newberg, the rain had stopped. I wasn't taking any chances, though; I stuck the booties and my rain mitts in my pannier, along with extra gloves and my new Showers Pass hood

We left Newberg heading northeast toward Sherwood on Highway 99W. I despise this highway. The shoulders are debris-filled and the drivers are insane. I was thrilled to get off it, but the thrill quickly turned to dismay when I realized that the gravel road on which we were turning was very fresh, loose, wet gravel. I could not see the end, and checked the cue sheet, which advised that the gravel stretch was about 1 kilometer long. Sigh. Oh well, I thought, I'll ride as far as I can before I get off and walk. Crunch, crunch, crunch - yikes, a downhill - I don't want to brake, I'll slide out!

Gravel Panda

Crunch, crunch, crunch - Yikes, another downhill - steady, steady - hey, is that PAVEMENT up ahead? Yes, yes, it is pavement.! Whoo-hoo . . . .

A Welcome Sight

Having survived the gravel test, we wound our way through Sherwood. The cue sheet was less than helpful here, because it had the wrong street names and had not been updated to reflect some massive reworking of the street grid in Old Sherwood. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to check out the route on g-maps the day before, and knew where to go. Mostly. We still had to ask a passerby of we were actually on Oregon Street. Yes. Okay then. On the bright side, I did finally find a street that I had been unable to locate on a pre-ride last year and decided did not exist. Turns out the street did exist after all; just nowhere near where our cue sheet for that ride had us turning on it.

After Sherwood we passed quickly through Tualatin, across the freeway, up the hill past the hospital and through the new (very new!) roundabout at Wankers Corner (fill in off-color joke here). The roundabout was so new that the bike lane markers were still only stencils.

New Bike Lane Stencil

Traffic on Borland Road was terrible; dozens of megasized SUVs headed for the megachurch between Wankers' Corner and West Linn. Whatever Christian charity those Lexus drivers had, they were not showing it to cyclists. The church had a parking lot as big as the ones at Wal-Mart, and Lynne pointed out that the lot's "streets" were named after books of the Bible.

"Honey, do you remember where you parked the car?"

"Um, I'm not sure, it was either Leviticus or Judges."

I wondered if there were ever fights over who got to park in John 3:16.

It started raining shortly after we passed the church. Not hard enough for us to stop and make clothing adjustments, but enough to make me at least ponder making clothing adjustments. It was less than three miles to our control in West Linn, however, and I decided to just keep riding and make the adjustments there. West Linn was an "open" control, but the only places open were a bar and a coffee shop. We went to the coffee shop, where I had a delightful oatmeal cookie and spent way to much time in the bathroom. Lynne was about to launch a search expedition . . .

Friendly Advice

We finally pulled out of West Linn and backtracked on Borland to tackle the first climb of the day - a steep trip up Turner Road to Mountain Road, which we would then take around the flank of Pete's Mountain to get to the Canby Ferry.

I was happy to be heading east on the ferry, because the climb up from the river on the other side is not so bad. Heading west, the climb is a steep switchback that tops out at about a 15% grade. I don't walk it, but I've come close. As we sped DOWN that hill to the ferry landing, we crossed paths with riders taking part in the Harvest Century, a supported ride that started in Champoeg Park. We called out encouragement as they struggled up the hill, and yelled slightly less encouraging comments at the ones that weren't watching where they were going as they tried to tack up the hill, directly into our path. Sigh.

The ferry was just pulling away from the shore as we reached the landing, so we pulled over to the waiting area to hang out. On the far shore we could see a herd of lemmings, I mean cyclists, waiting to board. The line stretched all the way up the hill and out of view. The ferry docked and the riders packed themselves on like sardines for the westward voyage.

Packed Like Sardines

Finally, it was our turn. We rolled on board, making sure to gear down for the climb up the other side. On the other side it was pandemonium. Well, maybe not THAT bad, but there were cyclists everywhere, paying no heed to oncoming traffic. The line was very long. But at least they had pretty flowers to look at.

Swan Island Dahlias

As we rode into Canby, past fields of dahlias and pumpkins, we saw our friend and fellow randonneur, Sal. We called out to him to turn around and join us, he'd have more fun. He just smiled and kept going. Shortly thereafter, we started to notice a number of riders from the Harvest Century passing us on their way back to Champoeg. I was curious; I had not remembered there being any route option on that ride shorter than 75 miles, and these people could not have done more than 30. I later learned that the wait for the ferry was as long as 90 minutes at that point and a number of riders just gave up. I bet Sal WOULD have had more fun if he'd joined us.

From Canby, we headed southwest toward Salem, by way of Butteville and Champoeg Park. The route took us onto the Champoeg Bicycle trail, which I had never ridden on. It had just been repaved and was a perfectly lovely ride.

Champoeg Bike Trail #2

At one point we came across a mother and daughter who had stopped on the trail. As we started to pass, the mother pointed to the trees and said, "Owl!" We looked, and there was a large Barred Owl perched on a branch just above the trail. Lynne and I whipped out our cameras, but it flew away before I could get a good picture. Instead I got a "See that blurry thing there? That's an owl!" picture.

We Saw Wol, but No Piglet or Pooh

By this time we were running late. The climb up Pete's Mountain and my extended stay in the bathroom in West Linn meant that we needed to start pushing harder if we were going to get to our next control in Independence on time. Don Bolton, a friend of ours, lives on the route (we'd pass right by his driveway) and we had arranged to meet so he could ride with us for part of the day. We had also planned to meet his new puppy, who he had rescued after some evil person had abandoned it. Because we were short on time, we had to pass on puppy play, but I did get to see her through the fence and she was adorable.

To get to Don's house, we traversed our second stretch of gravel for the day.

More gravel

Having collected Don and done a drive-by wave at the puppy, we headed southwest toward the Wheatland Ferry. We had a headwind at this point, but Don offered to run interference for us. We were more than happy to accept the offer, even though it did mean that Don had to ride at a much slower speed than he usually does, so that we could latch on to his rear tire.

When we got to the ferry, we met up with a woman who was standing by her car looking extremely puzzled. She wanted to know if she was going to have to pay to use the ferry. Um, yes, we responded, that's why that sign there says "Passenger Cars $2.00." She was flabbergasted. Did we think they'd take debit cards? She went on to exclaim how she'd never heard of crossing water on a boat before, and wasn't the boat too small?

And yes, before you ask, she was blond. Sigh.

Ferry Crossing #2 accomplished, we turned south on SR-221 toward West Salem and our second big climb of the day: the infamous Doaks Ferry Road. Don't let anyone ever tell you that Salem is flat. Doaks Ferry Road is most definitely NOT flat. On Sunday, though, every time I mentioned Doaks Ferry as a hill, Lynne said, "Yes, but it goes DOWN, I remember it from the fleche!" "But, Lynne, said I, "first it goes UP. Don't you remember THAT from the fleche?"

Once we turned onto the street, it did not take long for her memory to return. With a vengeance.

Doaks Ferry is a weird road; it takes a number of turns, and an inattentive rider could get lost. Lynne pointed out the Mr. Doaks probably could have found a more direct way to the river. To make things even more interesting, in addition to the newly memorable climbing we were treated to yet another stretch of unpaved road.

No Thanks

Yes, I suppose we COULD have taken the detour, but that would have been too easy. Besides, it was actually a much better surface than Don's driveway, and we were short on time. In any event, it was a very short expanse and we were soon back on smooth(ish) pavement and zooming down to the intersection with SR-22, which we would take west for about 1.5 miles before turning south onto the relatively sedate SR-51 to Independence (or "Historic Independence" as the all the directional signs reminded us). By this point Don had realized that he would never get his heart rate above 60 bpm if he stayed at our pace, so he shot off ahead. Although it had taken us a while to climb Doaks Ferry, Lynne and I had made up for much of our earlier time loss and were no longer worried about making it to the Independence control on time, so neither of us sprinted after Don. Not that we could have caught him if we tried.

In Independence we hit up the local convenience store for lunch - yogurt and a banana for me, to augment my PB and banana sandwich (I can never have too many bananas), followed by a couple of packs of "Sharkies." I can't say the Sharkies did much for me. For true "sports food meets Gummi Bears" pleasure, I'll stick with Shot Bloks. We chatted awhile with some Salem Bike Club members out for a Sunday ride: "You know John Henry?" "Oh, yeah, let me tell you about John Henry on the 400K." In addition, Lynne and Don spent some time pondering how to pronounce the name of the market: Mootharts. "Mooth-arts? Moot-Harts? Moose Farts?"

Lunch in Independence

Lunchtime over, we crossed back over the Willamette River (Crossing #3) on the bridge at Independence, and turned north toward Salem. Finally, the wind was at our backs and we moved along at a decent pace. Navigating downtown Salem on a bicycle is never much fun, but at least I know my way around. Don got ahead of me at one point, and missed a turn, but we managed to get his attention before he got too far off track. From Salem, it was back toward the Wheatland Ferry for River Crossing #4 (Ferry Crossing #3). Don left us at the turn-off to the ferry landing, having gotten in a quick 60 miles for the day. Lynne and I still had about 30 miles to go, but had managed to make up enough time that there was no longer any real fear that we would not make it back to Newberg in time.

The last 20 miles of the ride were on very familiar roads through the wine country. As we passed by the Hauer of the Dauen vineyards we noted that they had yet to harvest the grapes. Pushing the outside of the rain/frost envelope, there . . . .

More Late Grapes

I was duly impressed by the vineyard's hi-tech scarecrows: little loudspeakers scattered throughout the vineyard broadcasting an endless loop of raptor calls and fake gunshots. At least I think they were fake gunshots.

Hi-Tech Scarecrow

It began to get dark as we reached Dayton. We still had a dangerous stretch of highway (SR-18 and 99W) to traverse, so we stopped and donned all our reflective clothing and switched on all our lights.

It's Paved!

So bedecked, we set off to see how quickly we could cover the last nine miles. Lynne asked where we would regroup, because she knew I would be riding as fast as possible on the 99W because I hate being on that road any longer than necessary. But the wind was still at our backs, and Lynne was riding almost as quickly as I was, so we did not get separated after all. Lynne commented later that the stretch through Dundee seemed better paved than in the past; I thought it was just as bad as always. But my view may be colored by my loathing for that road . . .

We reached our final control shortly before 7:30 PM, finishing with more than an hour to spare, and Lynne's streak was now intact. 10 down, 2 to go . . . .

More of my pictures here

Lynne's report here

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bing[en]ing in the Rain

"Hey, Steve, what does the 'R' in 'R-12' stand for, anyway?"


Steve Davis had come down from Tacoma to ride in the annual Bingen Bikenfest 200K as the last brevet in his quest for an R-12, and he was calculating that it had rained for most of the brevets he had done to satisfy the requirement. I am guessing that quite a few of the riders Saturday morning were also working on R-12s. Why else would anyone drive all the way to Bingen, Washington for what was guaranteed to be long, cold and wet day of riding? Well, yes, there was the promise of a beautiful (if difficult) course, but beauty can only get a person so far when drowning while riding is a distinct possibility. To be perfectly honest, were it not for the fact that I was three-quarters of the way toward my own R-12, the sound of the rain that was pounding on my roof when I awoke at 4:00 that morning would have convinced me to pull the covers up over my head and go back to sleep.

But going back to sleep was not an option. I needed a 200K for October, and my schedule is pretty crowded - I could squeeze in a perm if I had to, but an organized brevet would be easier. So I hauled my self out of bed, plugged in the electric kettle for tea, and started sorting through my wet weather riding gear.

I had been following the weather reports for the week, and the forecast was for showers. However, the "showers" were linked to a pretty vigorous storm system, so I was anticipating something a little more persistent. I did not think it would be too cold, but then again when I get wet I get cold. This called for a wool undershirt, wool jersey, leg warmers, heavier shorts, rain pants, arm warmers, fleecy gloves, waterproof over mitts, wools socks and booties. I decided I would still wear the Keen sandals, because what water got in could drain out.

Over it all would go a Showers Pass jacket. A NEW Showers Pass jacket, because my old one managed to slip free from the strap holding it to my pannier somewhere on the ten-mile stretch from my house to my bus stop on my morning commute last Wednesday. I am assuming it was spotted and picked up by another cyclist who recognized it for what it was and figured he or she won the cycling gear lottery. One very expensive telephone call to Team Estrogen later, a new jacket was on its way to me, guaranteed to arrive in time for the brevet. I would not be the only one sporting SP, of course . . .

Early Morning Rain

Lynne was home for a brief break between business trips and needed to squeeze in an October 200 as well, so we arranged to car pool to Bingen, which is about a one and one-half hour drive from Portland. We'd take her van because it would comfortably hold both bikes inside, out of the rain. By 5:45 I was dressed and the bike was ready. I had a bag of dry clothes to change into, and extra socks and gloves in my pannier. I debated bringing my winter rain pants, but decided that they would be too warm. Cue ominous music . . .

It rained pretty hard as we drove east, but the sky SEEMED to be a little less overcast the further east we got. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, however. When we arrived at the start point we were pleasantly surprised to see that almost everyone who had signed up had shown up. We registered, signed the obligatory "not worth the paper its printed on" waivers, got our brevet cards (John printed them in pink just for Lynne, or so he said) and cue sheets, and faffed around for a few minutes, per usual. Peter Beeson took the time to campaign on behalf of Eric Vigoren's quest for a seat on the RUSA board, and the rest of us took the time to tell Peter that if he sent us one more e-mail about the campaign we would break his legs. Of course, most of us had already voted for Eric anyway . . .

Seattle Contingent

And then we were off. Last year's Bikenfest was a low-elevation, high wind edition; this year John plotted a route that promised a lot more climbing and, maybe, a little less wind. The climbing started early, with a short steep pitch from Bingen to White Salmon less than half a mile into the ride. Nothing like a 9% grade right off the bat to wake you up in the morning. Because climbing steep hills is one of the few things I can do better than many riders, I was at the front of the pack for about a mile, at which point the bigger, stronger men caught up with me and passed me, never to be seen (at least by me) again. It was also at this point where I lost sight of Lynne, who I would not see again until the end of the ride.

The route was, as promised, beautiful. It was also wet. For a while we rode along the White Salmon River, which was quite high from the recent rains. By the end of the day, I assumed it got higher.

Wet Bridge, Wetter River

It rained intermittently for the first 50 miles or so, but was otherwise uneventful. I was riding with four other randos - Lesli and Tom from Eugene, Paul from Portland and Steve from Tacoma. We were all riding at about the same pace and it was nice to have company. We paused shortly at the first two controls in Glenwood and Trout Lake, but tried to keep moving to stay warm. Occasionally the sun would break through the clouds and we'd start to warm up, but then the drizzle would start again. It never rained hard enough to be disheartening, but I could have done without it nonetheless. At one point Paul and I did see a lovely rainbow, but then the clouds took over again.

The central feature of the route was a 50-mile loop from Trout Lake through the Gifford Pinchot forest. Normally, the roads we followed were probably relatively low-traffic, but it was the first day of black-powder deer hunting season and, apparently, the last day of bow-hunting. Consequently, the woods were filled with potential Bambi killers, and the roads filled with trucks and SUVs carrying the Bambi killers. The woods were also filled with mushroom foragers. All we needed was a little red wine and we could have a venison porcini stew cook-off contest . . . .

Shortly after I left Trout Lake to head into the forest, the rain started in earnest. As we gained elevation, the rain became more insistent and the temperature started to drop. At the top the temperature gauge on my computer registered 42 degrees. I regretted leaving my warmer rain pants at home. It was not so bad while we were climbing, because the exertion warmed us up, but there were quite a few long, steep descents during which the combination of rain and speed made for some extremely chilly moments. Everyone else stopped to make wardrobe adjustments. I was already wearing everything I had brought, and so kept going in the hopes that sooner or later I would reach civilization and its accompanying hot beverage options. Needless to say, I was thrilled to come around a curve halfway through the forest loop and see David Rowe's car, and a canopy set up over a camp stove on which I was pretty sure hot chocolate was being heated.

Sure enough, I pulled up to find David and control-worker Trudy waiting with cookies, cocoa and instant soup. While I waited for the water to heat enough for my cocoa, I change out of my soaking wet socks into a pair of merely damp socks (they'd be soaked through soon enough, but it was nice while it lasted). I still had 50 miles to go, however, and it was getting late, so I gathered myself back together and headed out. There was one more long climb, 10 miles on a beautiful but extremely narrow and not particularly well-paved forest road. The rain had eased up a little and I was feeling pretty perky after the cocoa.

Once again, however, the higher I climbed, the heavier the rain got. In short order I was soaked through and chilled to the bone. Rats. On the other hand, there was very little wind. After the hell that was the Bickleton Plateau on the 600 two weeks earlier, I took quite a bit of pleasure in that. After about an hour more of climbing (which included navigating through some nasty wet gravel patches) I descended to Big Tire Junction and turned left toward Trout Lake. At this point I was fantasizing about more hot cocoa, and pedaled quickly in the hopes that I would reach Trout Lake before the espresso place next to the gas station closed. It was pretty much all downhill at this point, so I made good time.

Big Tire Junction

The espresso joint was still open when I reached Trout Lake, and I quickly procured the cocoa. The woman who served me apologized that she didn't have one of those cardboard "sleeves" to protect my hands from the hot paper cup. "Don't worry about it," I told her, "I am counting on the cup being hot to warm up my hands!" While I was still there, Lesli and Tom rode up and commented that they wanted to eat whatever it was that was being cooked in grease. I would later learn that they spent a significant amount of time there waiting to be served a hot dog. Apparently the waitress forgot to put in the order. Another reason I avoid cooked food on a brevet.

The 25 miles from Trout Lake back to Bingen isn't all downhill, but most of it is. The rain had finally let up, but now the sun was going down and the wind was starting to pick up, so I was still pretty chilled. It occurred to me that my warm dry clothes were in Lynne's car, and Lynne was probably about an hour behind me on the route. Ruh-roh. Oh well, the final control was a pizza restaurant. I supposed I could always try to sneak into the kitchen and stand by the ovens until I dried out.

Like I said, it isn't ALL downhill from Trout Lake to Bingen. From last year I had remembered a steep little climb near Hussum, but I had somehow managed to forget the much longer climb into White Salmon. I had hoped to finish the route by 7:00 PM, but as the minutes ticked by and the road kept going up I realized that it would be close. I finally reached the top and sped down the last hill (the same very steep one we had climbed first thing in the morning) and reached the final control at 7:03 PM, eleven hours and three minutes into the ride. As soon as I smelled the pizza, I realized that I was STARVING. They hadn't gotten the veggie pizza yet, but that was okay, because it turned out that Lynne had given John her car keys so that I could get my clothes from her car if I arrived at the end before she did. By the time I had gone to the car, gotten my clothes, and changed the pizza would be ready. So I followed John out to his car to get the keys.

At that very moment, David Rowe drove up, with Lynne in his car! Lynne, a DNF? Ruh-roh! Something bad must have happened, I thought, and hurried over to find out what was up. David explained that Lynne was caught in a cloudburst at peak elevation and was so chilled on the descent that by the time she got to his hot cocoa control she'd developed a case of uncontrollable shivers and shakes. They'd tried to thaw her out enough to finish the ride, but it didn't work. She very reluctantly, but very wisely, decided to call it a day. So she and I went back to her car together, changed into our dry clothes and headed back to the restaurant for hot pizza. Lynne wasn't hungry, but I ate five pieces. Urp.

And how did it feel to be done? Well, I'll let Tom Waits answer that question . . .

More photos here