Yesterday I drove with my bike out to Battle Ground, Washington to continue testing out the route that my friend Andrew had designed for us to follow on the 180km "Dart" that we plan to ride in March. I'd done a portion of the route last week, but wanted to get a little bit further along this time. We have to submit the route for approval by March 9, and I wanted to have as much of it pre-ridden as I could by then. The section I'd chosen for Saturday's ride was from Battle Ground to Kelso, by way of LaCenter, Woodland, Kalama and Carrolls. The stretch from LaCenter to Kelso would all be new terrain for me, and I had no idea what to expect.
It was sunny, breezy and cold - 34 degrees - when I pulled into the parking lot of the Safeway in Battle Ground, my chosen start point. I had chemical hand and toe warmers with me, and decided to deploy them. I also pulled out the fleece ear warmers and wool helmet liner. I was quickly ready to ride and set off, after first checking that I had (1) locked the car, and (2) not locked my keys in it (I checked on that 4 times - because like all the cyclists I know, I am just a LITTLE bit OCD . . . )
The route from Battle Ground to LaCenter starts on a busy highway, but quickly gave over to farmland. Near Daybreak Park I turned onto the route followed by the Vancouver Bike Club's annual "Ride Around Clark County." Nice, narrow country roads with no shoulders that change their names every time they curve . . . just the kind of thing to give an anal OCD cyclist working on a cue sheet fits. Except for one steep sharp pitch on JA Moore Road, and another steep roller on Lockwood Creek, the route was very flat. I wish I could say the same for the section from LaCenter to Kelso.
I should have known there would be trouble when I was mapping the route out on Friday night and saw that I would be spending a good bit of time on "Green Mountain Road." Keyword: MOUNTAIN. It turned out to be over three miles of very steep uphill. I think that my top speed was about 5 mph, but I spent most of the time down between 3-4 mph. I had to stop THREE times because I was going so slowly that maintaining verticality was a challenge. I kept thinking, "Boy, I'd better get some awesome descent as pay-off for this!" But alas, it was not to be. The road back down (Lane Road - I kept wondering if it had a counterpart called "Road Lane" somewhere) was treacherous; very steep, with tight turns and a fine film of sand and gravel over the entire road surface. I, who rarely use my brakes on descents if I can help it, rode my brakes down the whole way. Toward the end, there is a section where the pavement was gone, and there was just hard pack dirt and gravel. It was only about 3 ft. wide, though, and passable. Whew! The rest of the route had more gentle slopes, but I was climbing for most of the segment. I spent most of my time paralleling I-5 on the old Pacific Highway (aka Cloverdale, 1st Street, Meeker, Cottonwood, Old 99 S, Kelso Drive, etc. etc. depending on what town I was in . . .). The roads were for the most part good, but had little to no shoulder. Traffic was light, though, and most of the drivers polites. I was chased by FOUR dogs at various times - one of them a large and scary Rottweiler . . . that was not so much fun.
It's just over 38 miles from Battle Ground to Kelso, and it took me 3 hours and 10 minutes to cover it, riding as hard as I could and stopping as little as possible (I stopped only to make notes for the cue sheet and to rest on Green Mountain Road). By the time I got to my designated end point, the 3 Rivers Safeway in Kelso, I was so very ready for my PB and banana sammich.
Coming home, I took Cloverdale up to Green Mountain instead of Lane. That was a mistake. The climb was even steeper than coming up the other side, and over two miles longer. At the top, the snow was deep on the ground and the sand was deep on the road. I wasn't able to really open up until I was almost to the bottom. Even so, at that point I still sustained speeds of 38 mph + the entire way down, with a top speed of 45 mph.
I stopped for another snack in LaCenter. I was virtuous and passed up the Girl Scout cookies being sold (I could have eaten an entire box and then later regretted it), and instead had some salty crackers, an orange and some more Gatorade. Back at the Battle Ground Safeway I got some very tasty chocolate soy milk and a Diet Coke, and finished off my salty crackers.
When I got home, Greg had all the ingredients set out for pizza. I quickly assembled it and shortly thereafter sat down to an eclectic but satisfying meal of a baked potato, a baked yam, two slices of pizza and salad. Greg ate the rest of the pizza, but I got his crusts . . .