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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here's the rest of my photos
Here are Lynne's photos