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

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