Thursday, December 31, 2009
This was the year in which I set myself a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, for those readers fortunate enough to have avoided attended the kinds of meetings where people talk about "stakeholders" and "envisioned futures"). Anyhoo, my BHAG was the Gold Rush Randonée, a 1200 km painfest held every four years in Northern California. I met that goal, and it damn near killed me. Whether it made me stronger is still up for debate.
This is what else I did:
Miles ridden: 9407
Hours in the saddle: 717-ish
RUSA Awards: Super Randonneur; 5000 km distance; R-12
Calories Burned: I have no idea
Calories Ingested: Again, I have no idea, but enough to gain 8 pounds despite all that riding
Here's to 2010, and not living up to past accomplishments . . . .
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I had already planned to take a vacation day on Monday and never being one to pass up on a bike ride, especially one that involves leaving my good sense at home, I immediately signed on. As it was, I not only left my good sense at home, but I bound it with duct tape and chains and locked it in the basement.
The plan was to begin riding at 9:00 PM. Redmond is a good three-hour drive from my Portland home, and I would need some faffing time once there, so I figured I would need to leave home by 5:00 PM. We had tickets to a holiday concert on Sunday afternoon, but I figured it would be over by 4:00, leaving me plenty of time to make myself a good pre-drive, pre-ride dinner, load the bike in the car and get going. I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning and prepping my bike -- an astonishing amount of road grit had built up inside the fenders --and packing gear bags. I went to bed at about 10:00 PM, and woke up at 2:30 AM. I lay in bed for three hours before giving up on getting back to sleep. I should have taken it as a portent, but instead I just got up and started to do chores. Sleep deficit, thy name is rando.
The concert was scheduled to begin at 2:00 PM, but it was 2:15 before the Chorus took the stage. The late start, a longer-than-usual program, and a whole lot of speechifying meant that we did not leave the venue until after 4:30. Cripes. By the time I got home and packed the car, I was able only to choke down a cup of left-over plain couscous. Not exactly fortifying. I promised myself I would stop somewhere along the way to Redmond for a "real" dinner. That, of course, was not destined to happen. But you, dear reader, knew that. After all, what news value would there be to my telling you about how I prepared for a bike ride by getting ample sleep and sufficient fuel? On second thought, I guess that would be newsworthy in a "man bites dog" sort of way, wouldn't it?
The drive to Redmond was uneventful, but slow. I had budgeted three hours, but the rain had other plans for me and I arrived at the designated start (Peet's Coffee, near Whole Foods) a little before 8:30, not having any chance to stop for food along the way. Five or six riders were already inside the shop enjoying hot drinks, and more arrived as I was gathering my gear from my car. I was starving, so I trotted over to Whole Foods and snagged the first suitable portable edibles I could find: a banana and two vegan doughnuts. Back at Peet's I asked the barista to put some hot water in my thermos and made some tea, to which I added some Gatorade powder. By this time the rest of the riders had arrived. I never made an official count, but I think we started with 14, maybe 13.
Our friend Vincent was running late, so we faffed around outside the coffee shop for a while waiting for him, remarking on the fact that it was not actually raining on us at that moment and wondering if the dry break would last. I felt a little chilled as we were standing around, and I began to worry that I had not worn enough layers. Oh well, there was not much I could do about it at that point.
Vincent finally arrived and we took off as a group a few minutes after 9:00 PM. All the Seattle riders seemed familiar with the route, so my goal was to try to keep up with at least one other rider so that I would not have to resort to trying to read my cue sheet in the dark. At first this was not a problem, as we rode on some flat city streets. Our pack began to split up, however, as we started with a grinding climb up through Redmond Ridge (at least I think that's what it is called) to Novelty Hill Road. The stronger riders surged on ahead. I did my best to keep up, but the bandanna I'd put on under my helmet started to slip down my forehead, threatening to obliterate whatever slight vision I had, so I had to stop to make adjustments.
As we started down Novelty Hill, I glimpsed a traffic sign that appeared to state that there was a 15% grade. I told myself "Naw, it said 5%, not 15% - 15% would be SILLY," and settled in to enjoy a nice, fast, 5% descent, passing some of the other riders who appeared to be more cautious about hills. As I sped past Mark Thomas, he called out to me that the road could be pretty steep.
Boy, was it. Let's just say it's a VERY, VERY good thing that I had taken the time on Saturday top replace my worn-out rear brake pads. Not only was it steep, but there were some nifty tight hairpins. It would be a tough descent on a dry, daylight ride; on wet night, it was a jaw (and other parts) clincher. Even with working brakes, I came very close to running off the edge of the road more than once. When I finally reached the bottom, I turned to Mark and said, "So, that sign back there really did say '15%,' didn't it?" "Yep."
It was raining again by this time, and I realized that not being able to read my cue sheet was going to be the least of my problems. My glasses were fogged from my exertions and also covered with rain drops, and the refraction of the lights on our bicycles and bodies was practically hallucinatory.
I was also feeling particularly poorly fueled. In my bag I had a few boiled potatoes, a small amount of smoked tofu, the doughnuts and an energy bar, but none of that appealed to me. I was regretting not having stopped somewhere for a pre-ride burrito. It is not a good sign when less than 10 miles into a ride I am already bonking.
The first thirty miles took us through what I think were farmlands (I could smell manure) and up to Snoqualmie Falls (I could hear the rushing water). By the time I reached the Falls I had been dropped by all but one of the group -- Steve Davis was just ahead of me, and he must have been reading my mind, because he pulled over for a rest at the lookout. I happily joined him, pulled out a doughnut and practically inhaled it. We were less than ten miles from a grocery store control in North Bend, but at the pace I was riding, that 10 miles was going to take close to an hour.
After a few minutes of rest and another half a doughnut, I was ready to move on. Steve told me that he had just ridden this part of the route the other day, but that there was a tricky point where we might miss a turn. Sure enough, we missed it, but realized that we had before it was too late (right after we missed the turn, we started going downhill-- have you ever noticed that whenever you go the wrong way on a bike, going back requires going uphill?). Anyway, we were quickly back on route and eventually found our way to the North Bend QFC, where I got a banana and a Diet Coke, which I promptly forgot to drink. My receipt showed my arrival time as 12:01 AM. Everyone else was back by the (closed) coffee station, dripping. It would play out thusly for the rest of the night. The fast riders would reach a control and stand around waiting for the slower riders (um, that would be me) to show up. We would all then start out on the next leg, I would fall behind and meet up with them again at the next control. Kind of like a big Slinky made out of people and bikes. I was never completely alone, however. The aforementioned Steve rode with me for a while, as did my new pals Dan and Dominique.
From North Bend, we wended our way through Snoqualmie, Fall City, and Issaquah to the next control in Newcastle. It had stopped raining (briefly) and I was warming up. All the trees in the town parks had been strung with holiday lights, and it made for some quite beautiful sights, none of which I took a picture of. Dominique played tour guide for me, explaining that this used to be a big coal mining region (hence naming a town Newcastle). I bought yet another banana and ate some potatoes. I still had some hot tea, which was quite welcome. Indeed, other riders were coveting my thermal bottle.
From Newcastle we rode to Maple Valley, where there was an info control. About 5 miles from the control I bonked big-time. Dan and Lyn were ahead of me, and I called out to them to keep going, I was just stopping for a snack. Dan stayed to wait for me, anyway. In addition to the bonk, my lungs were starting to act up and I developed a hacking cough. I was also having difficulty swallowing. The result was that great deal of smoked tofu ended up being sprayed onto the road instead of getting to my tummy. It occurred to me that I had forgotten to take my preemptive Benadryl. This was not good. I have noted that ever since the Gold Rush, my bizarre allergic reaction to exertion has manifested earlier and earlier into a ride. Fortunately, I had some Benadryl with me. When I got to the Maple Valley control, I took some (after Dominique opened the pill box for me, since my cold and wet fingers were not working properly).
I had assumed that everyone else had reached the Maple Valley control before me, but we quickly realized that Lyn was nowhere to be seen. Vincent, Dominique and Robin volunteered to backtrack and look for her. It turned out that she'd flatted not far from where I had bonked; Dan and I must have ridden right past her without realizing it (sorry, Lyn!!). Vincent reported back (cell phones - concept!) that they were fixing the flat and would soon rejoin us. The rest of us decided that we should take off, because we were all starting to shiver a little (or a lot). We figured, correctly, that they would catch up to us once Lyn had two working tires.
At Maple Valley we crossed onto the first of two multi-use paths on the route. This one was the Cedar River Trail, a lovely, wide, well-paved and, at 3:00 AM, empty path that we would follow for just over 10 miles to Renton. From Renton we made our way north along Lake Washington toward the next control in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle. I was bonking again, and wondering how I was going to find another 30 miles in my legs. The sky was beginning to lighten, but the rain kept coming back to remind me that I was miserable (in that happy miserable way that can only be understood by other randos). I am thinking that on a warm, sunny day, the scenery would have been very nice. All I really remember is a lot of gray.
The Leschi control was a Starbucks. I really, really wanted to take a nap. Instead, I drank TWO large soy cocoas and gnawed on a surprisingly tasty eight-grain roll (after asking the counter guy to let me read the ingredients list). As I ate, I eavesdropped on the conversation of two extremely conservative middle-aged men sitting at the next table. Actually, "eavesdropping" would suggest that I had to make an effort to hear them. That would not be the case. They were talking loudly enough for everyone to hear. Their topic of choice: how pleased they were that health care reform might not pass. They do not know how lucky they were that I was too tired to lift my cup of cocoa high enough to accidentally spill it on them. Plus, I couldn't spare the calories.
All to soon it was time to go. Dominique had started from Leschi the night before, and so he split off. Something about a dental appointment. The rest of us swarmed through back streets and alleys toward UW, at which point we picked up the Burke-Gilman Trail, our second MUP of the ride. I was very grateful that Geoff S., the ride's organizer (instigator?), stayed with me to give me turn-by-turn instructions. Otherwise I would have gotten hopelessly lost. Once on the BGT, I began to recognize some landmarks from my past RSVP rides. I realized at one point that I was less then a mile from my brother's house. I fought back the temptation to detour for a nap. The rain was alternating between mist and downpour, but lightening up more and more as time passed. We began to pass, and be passed by, bike commuters. many looking quite grim. At one point we were overtaken by a guy on a training ride who was anxious to get past our little peleton. Robin and Vincent decided to chase him down, just for the heck of it. They gave him a good run for his money until, BAM!, Vincent's rear tire decided it was not interested in racing anymore. Fortunately, he had a spare tire with him.
It was still raining, so it took a little longer to change than otherwise. I didn't mind, I needed the rest. We stood around and supervised the tire change, and took the opportunity to wring out our soggy garments. It occurred to us that perhaps there was a use for all that stored water.
No. He did not drink it. Then again, no one double-dog dared him to, either.
And then we were off once again, this time cutting over to the Lake Sammammish Trail (not to be confused with Lake Sam-I-Am-ish, where they stock the green eggs and salmon), which would take us back to the start in Redmond. Toward the end, we detoured around some road construction, which resulted in cutting off some distance. Consequently, we later took an extremely random circuit around the shopping center while Geoff watched his odometer. Finally, 12 hours and 19 minutes after we started the ride, we returned to our point of departure. I am sure the Peet's Coffee employees were overjoyed to see a dozen or so soaking wet cyclists slosh into their shop; even more so when they saw what their restroom looked like after we used all the paper towels to dry ourselves off.
I was beat. I was also starving. I had made arrangements to meet my brother for breakfast at a vegan cafe he had found near his house. I changed into my dry clothes, loaded the bike in the car and called Kev to let him know I'd be at the restaurant in about 30 minutes. He and I pulled up in front of the place at exactly the same time - a weird sort of sibling connection at work once again. I had the "Seitan on a Shingle": herb biscuits with sauteed seitan and mushroom gravy. It was fabulous! All too soon it was time for me to start the long drive home. I was pretty tired, but felt alert enough. Nevertheless, I found that I had to slap myself hard on the face repeatedly to complete the stretch from Tacoma to Olympia without passing out. From there on, I stopped at every rest stop, got out of the car and did jumping jacks to wake myself up. I finally reached home at about 2:30 PM. Greg helped me unload the car, because I was pretty much useless. I stumbled to the bedroom, crawled under the covers and passed out. Three hours later, I got up and made dinner--pasta with broccolie raab and soyrizo followed by TWO pieces of cake -- and then passed out again. Two days later, my wet clothes are still in a pile on the bathroom floor, and I am preparing the bike for another ride. This time only 100 kilometers, though. During the day. Without rain.
Happy Solstice, Everyone - from now on the days can only get longer, sunnier and drier!
Evidence of My Participation
Originally uploaded by cecilanne
I am trying to finish my blog post about my very wet Solstice Ride, but in the meantime you can enjoy this picture of the medal I earned for completing the Gold Rush Randonnée in July. The medal arrived yesterday, along with my completed brevet card. Was it worth a trip to the emergency room? Oddly, yes.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
As regular readers will know, I have been chasing my second consecutive R-12. I needed one more - December's - to complete the streak. My calendar being a bit crowded these days, it appeared that the 6th was going to be the only day in which I could afford to be on the road for 12 or so hours. So I e-mailed a few friends to see if they would join me. In addition to Vincent, Joanne H., Elise R., Ray O., Ken M. all signed on, and so it looked to be quite a party.
This time of year the weather is less than predictable. Not that PNW weather is ever completely predictable. At the beginning of the week, the forecast was for partly cloudy skies, with temperatures in the low 30s. Not bad. As the week progressed, however, the meteorologists started muttering things about "arctic cold fronts" and "Canadian wind chills." Weather Underground forecast steady NE winds of 15 mph, with occasional gusts of 25 mph plus. I started inventorying my wool layers. Luckily, the annual Bike Craft show was being held on Saturday, and I was able to pick up a new pair of S'Mittens from Natalie and a matching pair of Helmuffs.
When I woke up at 4:00 on Sunday morning, I could hear the wind whooshing through the cedars in my back yard. I looked out the window to see them bending in the wind. Mind you, these are ENORMOUS cedars. If they were bending, then I can guarantee the wind was stiffer than 15 mph. I checked the thermometer outside the kitchen window. 27 degrees. Nice. I ate an extra serving of oatmeal, and filled my thermal carafe (fits in a bottle cage!) with a mix of hot tea and Gatorade powder.
I then proceeded to dress myself for a bike ride of Shackletonian proportions. Starting from my toes and heading upward:
chemical toe warmers
Pearl Izumi Gore-Tex winter boots
Ibex wool knickers
GoreWear leg warmers
Ibex wool camisole
Icebreaker L/S wool undershirt
S/S wool jersey (felted)
L/S Craft winter jacket
Bontrager wind vest
Specialized "Equinox" gloves
chemical hand warmers
It's a wonder I was able to move my limbs freely enough to walk, let alone ride my bike.
Having suited up, there was nothing left to do but load the car and head for the ride start in Newberg. I had chosen the "Three Prairies" permanent route, which is usually a pretty safe bet for a winter ride. It is a double-loop course with very little elevation gain, and the roads are familiar to me. Unfortunately, because it is on the flats of the Willamette Valley, it is not the best route choice when the wind is up. And the wind was most definitely up. I could feel it buffeting my little car as I drove south.
We planned to start riding at 7:00. I got to Newberg by 6:30, and saw two trucks in the parking lot with bicycles in the back. One was Ray's, and I guessed the other one was Vincent's. I could see Ray sitting in the front seat of his truck, but there was no sign of Vincent. I got out of my car and walked over toward his truck, and saw through the rear window a form huddled in the back seat. He was taking a nap. He told me later that he had done the same thing a few hours earlier in a rest stop near Winlock.
It was freaking freezing, so after saying "Hi" to Ray, I got back in my car to try to warm up. I took the opportunity to install my chemical digit warmers, not that I was too optimistic that they would work. It felt about 5 degrees colder in Newberg than it had been in Portland. I drank some tea. That helped. I had brought a heavy wool sweater with me to put on after the ride, and decided that perhaps I should bring it along, so I bungee-strapped to my rear rack.
A few minutes later, Joanne drove up. She got out of her van, walked over and said, "I'm not riding in this." Elise had already bailed, and Joanne did not want to fight the wind. Ken did not show, and Ray began to equivocate about riding, as well. He made it as far the Thriftway on 1st Street, our traditional opening contrôle (a distance of 4 blocks), before deciding that he was not going to ride after all. And so it was down to me and Vincent. Well, that's one more than has been on my last few rides, and I was happy for the company.
Despite the sub-freezing temperatures (25 degrees at 7:00), the first segment of the ride was surpisingly pleasant, because the wind was at our backs. We rode southwest out of Newberg through the Red Prairie to Dallas, passing through Dayton (stopping briefly at the weigh station outside of Dayton to weigh ourselves on the truck scales), Amity and Perrydale along the way.
Our average speed from Newberg to Dallas was well over 18 mph, even though this was the section with the most climbing (fabulous rollers between Perrydale and Dallas!). We made it to Dallas so early that they were still serving breakfast at McDonald's, where we stopped to get receipts and nourishment. Vincent astonished me by drinking a milkshake. Brr.
I augmented my peanut butter sandwich with some hash browns, thus demonstrating why I do not lose weight on bike rides.
We spent more time than we should have at the Dallas contrôle, and our core temperatures that had been so nicely raised by cycling had dropped. In addition, we were now turning into the wind for the return trip to Newberg. What a difference! Not only we were suddenly riding much more slowly (single-digit speeds), but the wind chill was almost intolerable. Both Vincent and I suffer from Raynaud's phenomenon (primary), and the cold wind on our hands quickly became painful. My hands eventually became numb, making shifting and braking difficult. I prefer the numbness to the pain, however. For most of the trip back to Newberg, the wind was directly in our face. But every once in a while we would hit it crosswise. More than once a cross gust blasted me into the traffic lanes. Fortunately, traffic was light. We stopped for a few minutes in Amity to catch our breath and get out of the wind; in protected spots, the sun was quite warm, even if the air was chilly.
We got back to Newberg at about 13:30. I usually use the Thriftway as my Newberg contrôle, but Vincent voiced a preference for a "sit-down" restaurant. The Coffee Cottage is very nice, but it is a time-sucking vortex, so we settled on the Dairy Queen (don't tell Rickey that I was in a DQ!). Vincent got another milkshake, and I got french fries to go along with the other half of my peanut butter sandwich. We were a little worried about our time, because the winds had depressed our speeds so much, so after a shorter rest than we would have like we saddled up for the second loop, which would take us out through the French and Howell Prairies to Mt. Angel and back.
I had thought that we would still be riding into the wind on the way to Mt. Angel, and so was pleasantly surprised to find that we had a tailwind from Newberg until well past Champoeg. At least the surprise was pleasant until I realized that meant that we would be riding into the wind on the way back. In the dark. In colder temperatures. Rats. But we were over 70 miles into the ride, and I was not about to give up. Vincent was inspiring. He had to have been exhausted, yet he kept plugging alone. Indeed, the fact that he was exhausted was the only thing that allowed me to stay with him. He is normally a much faster rider than I am on the flats (I can beat him up a hill, but only because he outweighs me by 70 pounds- at last according to the truck scale).
With the help of the wind, we made it to Mt. Angel by 16:00. The sun was starting to set, and the temperature was dropping. Vincent switched from milkshakes to hot chocolate, and I inhaled a bag of Fritos. The Mt. Angel market has a large Hispanic clientele, and had a number of snack chips in flavors that I had not seen before. But I'd already had my Fritos and could not justify trying the Sabritones con chile y limón.
The sun went down while we dilly-dallied in Mt. Angel, and the temperature plummeted. I pulled on my wool sweater under my reflective vest (which barely zipped up over all my layers) and inserted a new set of warmers in between my gloves and S'Mittens. Once again we were off into the wind. I tried to breath through my nose as much as possible, but my lungs were beginning to react to the cold and I developed an unpleasant hacking cough. My hands began to hurt again, and then became numb. They would be numb for the rest of the trip. Whenever I wanted to shift, I had to look down to make sure that my fingers were actually on the shifter and moving. I was worried that I might push too hard and end up riding a fixie.
The last 28 miles were brutal. Vincent and I rode in silence, concentrating our energies on staying warm and staying awake. The miles clicked by ever so slowly, and all I could think about was how happy I would be to see my car. We rolled into Newberg just before 19:00, and made our way past houses brightly lit with holiday lights to the Thriftway. Vincent's hands were killing him, and so we sat inside the warm store for a while, chatting about how cold and tired we were. But happy, too.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
As regular readers know, I am working my way toward my second consecutive "R-12" award from Randonneurs USA. The R-12 program is designed to recognize those hardy or, to be more precise, FOOLhardy souls that ride at least one approved 200K brevet each month for 12 consecutive months. From March through October, it is pretty easy for me to fulfill the one-a-month requirement by riding a scheduled "event" brevet put on by either the Oregon Randonneurs or the Seattle International Randonneurs. From November through February, I must make do with "permanent" routes, which are routes that another randonneur has designed and which can be ridden at any time.
For November, I decided to try a route that my friend Marcello created. It was an "out and back" that started from his home in Hillsboro, and wended its way southwest through the Willamette Valley to Dallas, and then back to HIllsboro. (Note to self: start creating routes that start at front door of home). An appealing aspect of the route is that the posted elevation gain was under 2000 feet. After October, climbing routes become a little less appealing, especially once the snow levels start dropping. Not that I expected snow. Indeed, after a rather wet week, the forecast for November 1 was relatively encouraging. Only a 10% chance of showers.
My friends John and Joanne were also on a quest for an R-12, so I invited them to come along. Two other occasional randonneurs, Elise and Kevin, also signed up. Kevin also invited a couple of non-randos from his "social" bike group--Peter and Doak.
Sunday morning was foggy and cold as we gathered at Marcello's house. Our announced starting time was 7:00, and we managed to get rolling by 7:05, but only after I rather bitchily pointed out that "Hey, we're on a timed ride here, folks . . . ." The first section of the route was not very scenic. We rode through a quasi-commercial/residential area of Hillsboro toward the Tualatin Valley Highway, passing under Hillsboro's version of the Gateway Arch along the way. The fog was thick and cold, and most of us rode at a fairly relaxed pace. Kevin, still fresh from competing in the Furnace Creek 508, was still in race mode apparently, because he quickly pulled ahead of the group. There were quite a few traffic signals along this part, and at one of them Kevin pulled ahead of us for good. I would not see him again for another 4 hours, when he would pass me outside of Dallas on his way back to Hillsboro. As it turned out, Kevin missed all the fun.
And by "fun," I mean "disaster." Hence the video with which this post led off. Less than 6 miles into to ride, my friend John lost a fight with his cleat at a stoplight, and ended up taking a slow-motion but nevertheless significant fall. As soon as he hit the ground, he knew it was bad. When we asked if he was okay, he very calmly replied that he had broken his ankle. Cue multiple rider freak out. While Joanne called 911, the rest of us tried to figure out how to keep John comfortable (a losing proposition) and how to keep cars from hitting him. He was in a traffic lane, and we were reluctant to shift him too much because we were not sure what else might be broken. A passing driver stopped to help. He was a retired firefighter and he took charge of the situation. The cops and EMTs arrived shortly thereafter and proceeded to load John into an ambulance (and his bike onto the fire truck). The process of treating John was complicated by the fact that none of the EMTs were cyclists, and they were baffled by his Sidi shoes. I was no more help, because my fingers were too cold and stiff to work the ratchet fastenings. Joanne finally managed to get the shoes off him.
So there we were, 6 miles in. One rider down for the count. Joanne was headed for the hospital with John, and Elise was going along to lend support. Kevin was miles ahead, oblivious to the ongoing ruckus. That left me, and the two non-rando riders, both of whom were looking at me with puppy eyes and saying how much they wanted to keep going. "Do either of you have cue sheets?" "No." Crap. "Well, this is a timed ride, and so if you are going to ride with me you need to understand that." "Okay." And so we were off, me and two guys I did not know from Adam's off ox. Not exactly my idea of a good time. I fervently hoped that at some time Kevin would notice that we were not catching up to him and would circle back, so as to allow me to return his friends to his care.
Less than a half of a mile later, Doak got a flat tire. Ten minutes later, as we were still standing at the side of the road while he attempted to inflate a tube that resisted inflating, I'd had enough. "Look, I've got to go. I can't wait here with you." I felt terrible, but I was not the one who had invited him on the ride. Hell, I did not even know him. Peter still wanted to ride along with me, however, and I wasn't feeling quite bitchy enough to tell him no. As it was, I had already missed the time cut off for the first control in Forest Grove by more than 15 minutes. I figured that I could probably get a papal dispensation for that because of the accident, but I needed to make up that time for the remaining controls. I told Peter that we would need to sprint the next 30 miles. Fortunately, the weather was improving and I was on the "light bike.". Peter was game. So from Forest Grove we turned south and hit the gas. Figuratively speaking, of course.
The next control was in Dayton. To get there, we rode on roads that have become so familiar to me that I could ride them in my sleep (although as Lynne would tell you, I sometimes forget that I know them, perhaps because I was asleep when we were on them). Fern Hill Road, Spring Hill Road, North Valley Road, Ribbon Ridge, SR 240, Kuehne Road, Abbey Road . . . the traffic was low, the sun was coming out, and we had a tailwind. My mood began to improve. My mood improved even more when I saw that the slippery wooden one-lane bridge on North Valley Road had finally been replaced with a two-lane concrete structure. Ever since I took a spill on the old bridge in the rain, in the dark, with oncoming traffic, I've been a little leery of it.
We reached the Dayton control with time to spare. I checked in at the market on 8th street and discovered that we could now use the restroom there. No more having to go across the street to the ball-field blue room! The cash register guy was in a joking mood; he kept asking if Peter was taking a nap in the bathroom. I didn't think he was in there THAT long. Receipt in hand, Peter and I set off for Dallas. Again, the route was familiar. From Dayton we made our way to Amity, where we stopped for bananas and water, and then continued over rolling hills to Perrydale. I was relaxing my pace a little at this point, because the sprint to Dayton had given us a cushion.
Most of the climbing on the route is between Perrydale and Dallas. No real grinding climbs, but lots of rollers. I kept expecting to encounter Kevin as he returned from Dallas, but so far he was nowhere to be seen. As we climbed the last hill before Dallas, I saw a large group of cyclists heading toward us from the other direction. As they passed, one of them yelled out, "Cecil!" It was not Kevin, however. I spent the rest of my ride trying to figure out who it was. I later learned it was a friend from high school who now lives in Keizer, with whom I've been in contact through the Internet (marvelous thing, the Internet). I was amazed that he recognized me - it must have been the bike.
Shortly thereafter, we encountered Kevin. He was riding quickly. He waved and kept going, and did not notice that I was trying to flag him down. Peter and I exchanged shrugs and rode down into Dallas. Here, I got a little confused. According to the cue sheet, we needed to ride through downtown and go to a market on the other side. The cue sheet also seemed to indicate that the leg through town was 3 miles long, however. Suffice it to say that we got some bonus miles before I figured out which market I was supposed to go to.
It was lunchtime and we were starving. We went to the Subway, because I knew I could get a vegan sandwich there. Peter got a large meatball sub. I was impressed. Even if I ate meat, I could not imagine riding 62 miles after eating a foot-long meatball sub. A couple hours later, Peter admitted that it probably had not been the best choice.
Lunch downed, we saddled up and made our way back the way we came. Peter was starting to struggle. He was cramping up, so I fed him some Endurolytes. I dropped him a few times, but tried to at least keep him in sight distance. At some point here, he confessed to me that he had never ridden more than 100 miles at a go, and that only a few times. I have to give him props for hanging in. In Perrydale, I stopped to give him time to catch up, and goofed around taking pictures of the train engine there.
The tailwind that had assisted us to Dallas was now a headwind doing its best to sap our will. The eight miles from Amity to Dayton were quite possibly the longest eight miles I had ever ridden. It does not help that there is a stretch of road where the distance signs are whacked; you pass one that says "Dayton 3 miles," and then, a mile later, pass another one that says "Dayton 3 miles." It is the same way in the other direction, except the repeating sign says "Amity 5 miles." Sigh.
Back at the Dayton market, the jokey cash register guy wanted to know if we needed to nap in the bathroom again. Maybe next time. It was getting dark and cold, and I was ready to be done. Back through the wetlands to Forest Grove, where I stopped for an ATM receipt, and then through the residential maze of Hillsboro to Marcello's home.
By the time I was done, my mood was much improved. I was still ticked at Kevin (and let him know it), and was very upset about John's leg, but I was happy to have #11 in the bag and that I had never had to put on rain pants.
Friday, November 06, 2009
"Bikenfest" is my friend John Kramer's annual contribution to the Oregon Randonneurs' brevet season. For the last 4 years he has run it on the first Saturday of October, and for the last three years I have faithfully attended. The first year that I participated, the course was a windblown tour of south-central Washington. Last year, the course was still in Washington, but we traded the wind for hills. And rain. Lots of rain. Cold rain.
This year, John designed a course that started in Oregon, but crossed back over the Columbia to Washington. We had wind, hills AND rain. What more could any rando desire?
The ride started in Hood River. Greg and I decided to make a weekend of it, so we put the dogs in boarding and booked a room at the Oak Street Hotel. The hotel was two blocks from the start line. That is the only good thing can say about it. It was ridiculously over-priced. They like to say that it is "just like home." Well, in MY home, the bathroom has a door.
Hood River is a goofy town. It's a bit like a SoCal beach town has been plucked up and plopped into the Gorge. But it is also still a pretty unsophisticated small Western town. Lots and lots of restaurants, none of which are very good. I mean, I am sure they are good compared with a diner in, say, Pasco. But don't go looking for anything much more sophisticated than edamame appetizers. There is, however, very good beer and the fried tofu at the Big Horse brewpub was quite tasty. So I carbo loaded on beer, fried tofu and sweet potato fries, and went to bed early.
The weather report had been dicey all week. I'd finally decided to bring the regular rando bike, with its fenders and fatter tires. When I woke up Saturday morning, it was dry but I could tell that it had rained overnight. The skies looked iffy, so I decked out in rain gear. The it was off to locate some breakfast. Fortunately, Hood River does breakfast well; just down the street was a diner with early hours and excellent hash browns.
Well-sated with grease and salt, I headed off to sign in and faff around with my fellow riders. I had misread the start time, and so was early. It was chilly, so I decided to ride my bike around town for a while, just to keep my blood moving. Finally it was time to register, so I returned to the start line. About 11 other riders had arrived, and we all stood around shivering, waiting to get the signal to go.
At last it was time. It would not be a Kramer ride if it did not begin with a climb. This time it was not so bad, however. We road up the hill through town, to the entrance to the Twin Tunnels section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. This section of the highway is open only to cyclists and pedestrians (and maybe horses, I am not sure). I was riding with my friends Lesli, Tom and Peg at this point; we would ride together off and on for the first 45 miles or so.
For just under 5 miles, we rolled along a lovely wide paved multi-use path and through renovated historic tunnels. Less than a month before, there had been a large forest fire in the area (the "Microwave Fire" - makes me think that it was started by someone who was not paying attention to their popcorn or something), and the smell of wet burned wood was almost overwhelming at times.
The Twin Tunnels trail ends in Mosier, where we immediately started climbing again, this time up the aptly (and accurately) named "Seven Mile Hill." John had mentioned that there would be extended points on the climb where the slope exceeded 6%. What he neglected to mention was that by "exceed," he meant a double-digit incline. Hurray for triple-cranks and extended rear-cog gear ranges.
We stopped at the hill's summit to answer the question on the control card and to admire a llama with Exorcist-like head turning abilities. Then it was a fast drop down into The Dalles. The road through The Dalles was a fairly busy road, and it was also apparently a killing field for family pets. I passed two dead house cats and one dead dog. The dog had clearly been recently killed, but whoever ht it was long gone. I stopped to check to see if it had tags; I know that if it had been my dog I would have wanted someone to call me. Sadly, although it had a collar, it had no ID. Sadly, I returned to my bike and rode on.
The route passed through The Dalles and headed southeast for a loop through Petersburg, Fairbanks and Emerson. Around this time it started to rain. Hard. Although I had on rain gear, I still was soaked and cold. Sigh. I'd left Peg, Lesli and Tom behind at this point, and had caught up to another rider whose name I have forgotten but whose "International Orange" jersey, helmet cover and booties are hard to forget.
There was an information control at Old Moody Road in Fairbanks, but none of the roads I passed were marked as that. After riding down the road a while, looking everywhere for a sign, I asked a passing driver if she knew where the road was. Of course, it was back about 3 miles. Another sigh. I turned back to go find it. About two miles into my return trip I encountered Peg, Lesli and Tom, who advised me that the road sign was not visible from the direction in which we had come, but that they had managed to locate it anyway.
The four of us rode together for a few more miles, but I left them again as they undertook some wardrobe adjustments in Emerson. Soon I was back in The Dalles, where I stopped at a mini-mart for some snacks before crossing over the river into Washington. Herr Kramer arrived at the market while I was there to fill up some coffee carafes for the next control, which was staffed by Paul Whitney, who had driven west from the Tri Cities to check riders in at Maryhill.
After crossing the river, I headed east toward Maryhill. The landscape in this section of the Gorge is pretty blasted looking. Sometimes literally blasted - I came across the remnants of a tree that appeared to have been struck by lightening recently.
The wind was at my back, so I made good time to Maryhill, where I was greeted by lots of curious peacocks, Kramer, and Paul, who offered me some tasty homemade vegan banana bread. On the way to Maryhill, I had encountered several randos who had already been there and who were on thir way back to The Dalles. Paul told me that I was smack dab in the middle of the pack.
At this point I was beginning to feel kind of sick, in a respiratory, flu-ish way. When I mentioned it, Kramer offered to drive me back to Hood River, but I was not feeling so sick that I would accept a DNF. I had plenty of time left, and figured I could always stop and rest every few miles if I had to. Of course, I was not factoring the head wind that would hamper my progress west. More heavy sighing.
And then it was back over the river, and back through the Dalles (again!) to Mosier, but this time by way of Rowena Crest. Did I mention that Kramer likes hills? The view from Rowena was, as always, spectacular.
I had a little trouble finding the entrance to the Twin Tunnels path from the Mosier side. I ended up at a trailhead a little further up the road, but that gave me a chance to use a restroom, so it turned out okay. It was starting to get dark just as I exited the trail on the Hood River end, but still light enough to allow me to speed down the double switchback into town. One more brevet on the books, one more notch in the R-12 belt. Fun times.
The rest of my pictures are here
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Yes. Well. Here's the thing. As unlikely as it may sometimes seem, I actually happen to have a life apart from cycling. That life includes a workday that, multi-modal commute included, stretches from 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM. It also includes a neglected but still productive garden, meals that must be cooked and clothing that must be washed. And, of course, a husband, two dogs and three neurotic cats. Actually, two neurotic cats and one certifiably psychotic one. So, as you might imagine, when somethings got to give, the blog is high up there on the list of what gives (along with housecleaning). I'm still riding (if not as much as earlier in the year), I just haven't been writing about it.
Until today. Luckily for those impatient readers, if not necessarily for myself, I've managed to come down with what bears all indications of being a mild case of the flu. "Mild" in that it is enough to keep me off the bike, out of the garden and in the house, but not so bad as to keep me confined to bed. So I figured that I might as well catch up on the ol' bike blog. Not that I have much to write about. Since my epic 1200K in July, I've done very little in the way of bloggable riding (I am fairly certain that no one is interested in my daily commute or errands around town). But I do have two rides of some note to report on. The first was back in August (yes, yes, I know, August is soooo two months ago now), the second just last week. After a short break for some coughing, I will proceed directly to relate my August (if not august) Adventure.
Okay. Where was I? Oh, yes. August. For the past 28 years, Seattle's Cascade Bicycle Clubhas hosted a multi-day ride from Seattle to Vancouver B.C. It was originally a three-day ride, and involved Vancouver Island, as well, but after some fits and starts it eventually got pared down to the more manageable two-day version now in place. I participated in RSVP, as the ride is known (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party) for the first time in 2007. It was a memorable, and bloggable, experience. I had to miss last year's edition, courtesy of some really crappy flight scheduling by Delta Airlines (an airline with which I shall never fly again), and so was really looking forward to riding this year - so much so that when on-line registration opened up on January 1, I was ready with my credit card (but not as ready as riding buddy Lynne, who I think signed up at 12:01 AM . . .).
By the time August rolled around, however, I was beginning to wonder if I was yet again going to have to skip the ride. I was still feeling a little under the weather from my brush with exertion-induced anaphylaxis after the Gold Rush, and my friends Lynne and Jason were not going to be able to join me. But after a little waffling, I decided to pull up my big girl pants, invest in a large package of Benadryl and go on the ride alone.
The ride started on Friday, August 14, from Magnuson Park in Seattle. Luckily for me, my brother had just moved into his new house less than 2 miles from the park, so I was able to stay there on Thursday, leave my car in his driveway, and ride my bike to the start. Earlier in the week, the weather forecast had been promising, and I had debated bring the "light" bike (i.e., the one with no fenders), but by Thursday afternoon it was obvious that we might get a little bit wet. So I defaulted to Lil' HW and her beautiful brass fenders. As I drove up to Seattle Thursday afternoon, it started raining quite hard, and I congratulated myself on the choice. I had plenty of time to congratulate myself, because traffic was backed up from Olympia through downtown Seattle by multiple car crashes. I am always amazed by how poorly Oregonians and Washingtonians drive in the rain. You'd think they'd had enough practice by now . . .
Friday dawned cool and cloudy, but not wet. As it turned out, over the two days we would have just a few sprinkles; enough to make me appreciate my fenders (and stay far back from those riders who did not have fenders) but not enough that I actually had to put on any rain gear. Along with about 1999 other riders, I set off up the Burke-Gilman trail, dodging joggers, dogs, tree roots and oncoming bike traffic. Unlike the 2007 ride, I noted that my fellow riders were being much more polite to other trail users. Perhaps it was the multiple warnings from ride organizers that riders caught practicing poor trail manners would not be allowed to ride RSVP ever again . . .
RSVP is a semi-supported ride. It has sag wagons, and each day has one "mini" rest stop and one full-size rest stop, but for the most part riders are on their own for nourishment. That's fine with me. After three years of randonneuring, I have become far less enamored of rides that have a full rest stop every 10-12 miles. Of course, the self-nourishment requirement meant that whenever the route passed a coffee shop, it was pretty much guaranteed that a flock of riders would be surrounding it. The first big coffee stop occurred in Snohomish, a town with a main street almost too cute for its own good.
Just outside of Snohomish, I detoured onto the Centennial Trail. The regular route would follow the main roads for a few more miles before moving onto the CT, but I preferred the quiet of the multi-use path and so moved onto it at my first opportunity. When I finally reached the portion where the ride route joined up with the CT, I was dismayed to see several emergency vehicles, a single crashed bicycle and a rider sitting on a stretcher holding something to his head.
From the placement of the bike on the trail, I knew that the accident had not involved a motor vehicle, and there were no "bollards of death" near by, so I was at a loss to understand what had happened. And I never did find out; I assume if the cyclist had been badly hurt, it would have been the talk of the tour, so I am hoping that the fact that I heard nothing about it meant that he ended up fine.
The first day's route is really quite lovely. There were a few trafficky sections between Seattle and Snohomish, but the roads were otherwise pretty quiet. Lots of rolling hills, but nothing too demanding. In the morning we had a couple of long climbs outsde of Woodinville and Arlington, just enough to build up an appetite for lunch.
The "traditional" lunch stop on RSVP is the town of Arlington, where the main street is lined with diners. When RSVP rolls in, the town takes on the look of a bicycle equivalent of Sturgis. At the time of my last visit to Arlington, I had not yet moved all the way over into Veganland, and so had not paid much attention to whether it was possible to get an animal-free meal there. This time around, it became obvious that the immediately recognizable restaurants were oriented more toward carnivores. I rode up and down the main drag looking at menus and noting the heavy emphasis on bacon. I finally stopped a woman who looked like a local and asked her, with little real hope, if she knew of any place in town with a meat-free menu. Much to my surprise, she immediately directed me to a honest-to-gosh vegan-friendly cafe, complete with LOTR decor and multiply-pierced servers. Yippie! (well, for the food, at least, not so much for the Gandalf candles).
After scarfing down a delightful vegan "gyro," I saddled up and continued the journey north. From Arlington to Bow, the ride was pretty much uneventful. A few sprinkles to make me appreciate my fenders, and a strange encounter with a cramping rider who told me that he'd gone through EIGHT 30-ounce bottles of water in a little over 4 hours. I gave him a handful of Endurolytes and told him to look up "hyponatremia" in the dictionary when he got home. In Bow, I stopped for a good 20 minutes to watch some sheep dog training and play with puppies.
The last stretch of the day was the long (but gentle) climb up Chuckanut Drive, followed by the not-quite-so-long drop down into Bellingham, Washington, where we would spend the night. On the way up Chuckanut, I struck up a conversation with a woman named Susun (yes, two "U"s), who was riding the most incredible orange custom steel bike - a Boedie, I believe. I'd see Susun on and off for the rest of the weekend - it was hard to miss that bike!
Upon arriving in Bellingham, I made my way to Western Washington University, where I had reserved a dorm room for the night. The room turned out to be on the 4th floor of a building with no elevators, which made me take back some of my earlier self-congratrulations for having decided to go with the "heavy" bike for the weekend.
But I managed to haul myself and my gear up the stairs and after a nice long hot shower I headed back out to town for an early dinner. More specifically, I headed over to the Boundary Bay Brewpub, which brews vegan beer and has at least three vegan dinner items, which is three more than most brewpubs (salads and french fries do not count, I am talking about actual meals).
Unfortunately, the first sandwich I ordered did not match its menu description - it was supposed to be a faux BLT made with tempeh (yum) but when it arrived I learned that it had instead been made with Smart Bacon, which is, in a word, horrid. It is what gives meat substitutes a bad name. It is pink cardboard. In short, it was NOT what I wanted for dinner. I am happy to report, however, that the server was responsive to my complaint and brought me a baked tofu sandwich, instead, which was quite delicious.
After dinner, I strolled back through the WWU campus to the dorm. WWU has an AMAZING sculpture collection, much of which appears to have been donated by a single patron. Serra. Noguchi. Naumann. All the big stuff big shots are represented.
I was up early the next morning, and hungry. The student running the check out desk was not sure if any restaurants in town would be open, but suggested I check out the school dining commons: All you can eat for $7. It turned out that I could eat a large bagel smeared with peanut butter, two bowls of oatmeal, a bowl of fruit, a plate of tater tots and 3 cups of tea with soy milk. Oink! As I rode out of town, I noticed that there were quite a few breakfast places open, all packed with cyclists. Maybe next year I'll try one of those.
Less than an hour and half after eating breakfast, I was crossing the border into Canada. There was a special line just for cyclists. A guy a couple of places ahead of me was pulled out of line and told that he needed to go to the "special" section (ruh-roh). Later I heard a couple other riders saying something about him having to explain a DUII on his record. He may have regretted choosing to wear the Deschutes Brewery jersey that day. I, on the other hand, somehow managed to get through. Apparently I am not as much of a threat to World Order as I pretend to be.
For me, the second day of RSVP is really more about getting to Vancouver than it is about sightseeing along the way. Partly this is because the route is not quite as scenic as on Day 1. The roads are busier, the surroundings more suburban than rural. But that does not mean that there was nothing to see. Indeed, since 2007, the route had undergone a major change in order to take advantage of the Golden Ears Bridge to cross the Fraser River from Langley to Maple Ridge. In the past we had to take the ferry, which, although quite fun, added a lot of standing-around waiting time to the day. The bridge is magnificent - the longest extradosed bridge in North America. On first approach it did not seem all that special, because we were going through construction zones. But once we wheeled up the spiral access ramp, its fantastic cable-stays topped with golden eagles became visible.
Once over the bridge, the route became increasingly urban. I skipped all the rest stops, because I was anxious to get to Vancouver, aka the world's coolest city. I could see the skyline long before I was anywhere close; first I needed to transverse Burnaby, by way of the Francis/Union and Adanac Bike Routes.
Once in the city, I picked my way through Chinatown and Gastown and worked my way over to the hotel that served as the finish line. My many walking adventures in Vancouver served me well here, because the route had not been marked with Dan Henry's (or if it was, they were no longer visible) and I'd lost the page of the route booklet that covered downtown. So I just rode the way I would have walked, and got there just fine.
At the finish line party, there were no vegan options; if I wanted just a handful of potato chips, I would have still had to pay for a full meal. So I had a beer, relaxed on the grass, watched a baby raccoon navigate some nearby stairs, and then headed out to look for a real meal.
On the way to the hostel where I had booked a room, I came across a couple of guys decked out like Ash from Evil Dead. Apparently there had been a zombie "flash mob" that had just broken up. I soon started to spot zombies everywhere, as well as bloody hand prints that showed where zombies had recently been.
After two days of riding, I was feeling a bit zombified myself, but still took time to wander all over town. I stopped for a beer in Yaletown, ate some tasty frites, admired the urban garden on Davie Street, and then heaed over to English Bay for the sunset. It was a perfect end to an almost-perfect weekend. The absence of Lynne and Jason prevented sheer perfection, but otherwise it was a great ride.
The rest of my photos are here
Friday, October 02, 2009
I actually started this post back in June. At that time I was simply planning on talking about a part of my daily commute, for lack of anything more interesting. Then I got caught up in things, and this post got pushed to the side and forgotten. Recent developments reminded me about it, however, so I am dusting it off and putting it out for all to see.
Here in Portland, we've got lots of great places to ride our bikes, either as commuters or as weekend road warriors. Riverview Cemetery is one such place. Almost every weekday morning I ride my bike up the hill from the Willamette River through the cemetery to get to the transit center where I board the commuter bus to Salem. The ride through Riverview is the highlight of my day. A mile and half of quiet roads winding through old tombs (cool!) and new flat gravestones (boring!). The grade is a gentle (mostly) 4% or so, with the occasional 11% pitch, and at 6:00 AM the only traffic is other cyclists and the random deer or coyote.
Most mornings on my way up the hill, I meet up with Lee Rogers, the cemetery's supervisor, as he makes his morning rounds. If I have time, I'll stop, and we'll chat about the weather and whatever critters we've seen that morning. Lee thinks it's great that cyclists use the cemetery, because the only other option for getting up the hill is a steep, winding road with no shoulder and lots of car traffic. Lee and I have also talked a lot about certain cyclists who are not content with a leisurely ride through the quiet cemetery hills but, rather, used the cemetery as their own private time-trial course, barreling through funeral processions and cussing out mourners who had the temerity to park their cars in the road. Worse yet are the cyclists that think that graves make good cyclo-cross hazards. Fortunately, the inconsiderate riders are in the minority. Unfortunately, they are ruining it for the rest of us.
Lee had told me months ago that the cemetery management was being pressured by plot owners and mourners to close the roads to bicyclists. Management has resisted those calls so far, but last week they took a step toward controlling speeding cyclists by installing speed bumps in three places. Unfortunately, the execution of this plan was not very well thought out. The bumps are higher and less rounded than your typical speed bump, and for at least one day they were unpainted and had no warning marks. That led to several bike crashes, and an extremely vigorous debate on a local cycling blog. Now the cemetery management is once again considering an all-out closure. Needless to say, that would be a huge loss to Portland cyclists. But I can understand the cemetery's position. It is, after all, private property, and we are trespassers upon it. And even though 90% of us are respectful of both the primary purpose of the land and of the extreme graciousness the owners have shown in allowing us to use their roads, it only takes one moron using a child's grave as a mogul to ruin it for the rest of us. And, sadly, just as in every other population subgroup, there are a lot of moron cyclists out there who treat Riverview as their own private Idaho. Thanks for nothing, guys.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Aside From That, Mrs. Lincoln, How Did You Like the Play? Being Part Two of The Story of Cecil's Great Gold Rush Adventure.
And so I was on my way home. The wind was at my back. Sadly, so was a honking huge semi. Not 10 minutes after I left the Davis Creek turnaround, in a scene straight out of Duel, a truck loaded with lumber came speeding up behind me. The driver started blasting his horn and revving his engine and then began to deliberately crowd me off the road. How do I know it was deliberate? First, because there was no oncoming traffic so he could have moved over into the other lane to pass me. Second, because once he pulled up beside me, he slowed until he was pacing me, waited there until I ran off the pavement onto the shoulder, and then accelerated and sped off, with another horn blast to make sure I got his point. I was too busy being terrified and trying to stay vertical to get his license plate number, but when I encountered a CHP officer a few more miles down the road, I gave him a full description of the truck and the incident, just in case the driver should do the same thing to other riders (I learned later that he had indeed crowded another group of riders, but not quite as closely as he had crowded me). What I didn’t say was that the driver could probably be identified by what I had to assume was an astonishingly small penis, because he was so clearly compensating for it by terrorizing female cyclists. On the bright side, I did not crash and the adrenaline rush woke me up and kept me awake all the way back to Alturas.
In Alturas, I made good on my promise to visit the nap room, but I had barely reached semi-consciousness when a loud “Bang!” from nearby, followed by a rush of voices, startled me awake again. I briefly considered getting up to investigate, but that would have involved, well, getting up. Which I just did not feel like doing right then. I figured that if there were some real emergency, they’d come get me. When, half an hour later, I finally dragged myself back to the land of the upright, the volunteers on duty told me that a dust devil had blown through town, knocking all sorts of things over. Great. Apparently I was now going to have to deal not only with aggressive drivers, but with whirlwinds. Good thing I’d gotten that nap.
The stretch from Alturas back to Adin was singularly uneventful. The expansion cracks on the road did not seem as bad in this direction, but perhaps that was just because I was in a better mood. After turning off Centerville Road in Canby, I made a short detour to the mini-mart for a soda and some popcorn. I chatted with the clerk about the weather—a dust devil had destroyed their sign the day before—and the ride. Another customer came in to ask me why there were so many bicyclists on the roads; he’d been seeing them all day long. When I explained what we were doing, I got the usual “You’re crazy” response. Usually, I respond to such comments by protesting that I am quite sane, but at this point I did not think that I could credibly make that assertion. So I just smiled and shrugged. The other customer, a man who appeared to be in his 60s, then asked “So, you’re mostly college students?” Flatterer. I laughed and told him that most randonneurs were likely to have children in college (or even grandchildren), than be in college themselves.
From Canby, I climbed back up and over Adin Pass and onto the flats, which were as demoralizing in the late afternoon as they were in the morning. The wind had shifted and was once again in my face and despite my efforts the turn off the highway into town was not getting any closer. My average speed had dropped significantly, most likely the result of fatigue and a severe calorie deficit. I’d been snacking on Clif Shots (Margarita flavored) and Gu (Orange-Vanilla “Roctane”), but I really needed solid food. I was hoping there’d be more of the veggie pasta left from the night before (I’d given up on getting any tofu).
I arrived back in Adin just after 6:00 PM, which meant that I had covered 450 miles in 48 hours, for an overall average speed of 9.375 mph. Although that was well under the overall average of 12 mph that I strive to maintain on the shorter brevets, it was still fast enough to ensure that I would complete the 1200 within the 90-hour time limit. This time around, the contrôle was nearly deserted. There was only one rider asleep on a cot, and another eating dinner. Two more were leaving as I arrived. I had my pick of cots and, even better, one of the volunteers had gone out and purchased some hummus for me! Sweet! That, my drop-bag avocado, some tomatoes and a pita bread quickly became the best sandwich I’d ever eaten. While I was eating, another volunteer went out to his car and brought in a sleeping pad and sheet to make my cot more comfy. Sometimes being a slow rider has its perks—I was definitely getting red carpet treatment despite my red lantern-esque pace. After eating my fill of hummus, I washed my hair in the sink, changed into my pajamas and settled down for my first extended sleep (REM state and everything) in three days. Of course, by “extended” I mean two hours. But, oh, what a lovely two hours of oblivion.
But nothing good lasts forever and the persistent beeping of my watch alarm finally forced me back into consciousness. While I had been sleeping, the other slow riders had come in (and some had already gone out) and it was apparent that the volunteers were just waiting for the rest of us to get going so that they could clean up and go home. I changed into yet another clean pair of shorts, jersey and socks, brushed my teeth, applied my various creams, unguents, lotions and goops, and was on my way.
It was just a little before 9:30 PM, and the bright and full moon of the previous night(s) had given way to a not-quite-so bright and full moon. The previously crystal-clear skies had clouded a bit, as well, and so it was darker and the road less easy to follow. I did not mind the clouds, because they would help to keep the day’s heat from radiating away into the ether. As it was, I did not need my arm or leg warmers yet, especially because we had to climb for quite a while to get out of Adin and the exertion was quite warming.
I was once again alone, but as I began the first of the night’s steep climbs, I noticed what appeared to be a bicycle’s red tail light not too far ahead of me. I had not recalled anyone leaving the contrôle ahead of me, so I was wondering who it might be. I then noted that the light did not appear to be moving and thought that perhaps the rider was having mechanical difficulties. When I finally reached the source of the mystery light, I discovered a single cyclist, standing astride his bike in the center of the lane, fumbling with a camera. “Look at the mooooooon,” he said,"‘isn’t it organic-looking?” Um, okay. I’m not sure “organic” was the word that immediately sprang to mind. He went on to tell me, in a “have you ever really looked at your hand” sort of way, about all the shapes he was seeing in the clouds as they passed over the face of the moon. I gave him a quick once over. Physically he seemed fine. He was wearing a jersey from the London-Edinburgh-London 1400K, so I knew he had experience in these kinds of rides. As he started back riding, I could tell that he was steady on the bike because the beam of his headlight was tracking well and not waving all over the road. We rode together for a while, but he kept stopping to look at the moon and, frankly, I was not getting the same thrill out of it as he was. So when he dropped back on the next hill, I did not wait. We were not far from the Grasshopper water stop, and there was at least one sag van driving the route, and so I figured he’d be fine.
When I got to the Grasshopper station, I told Lois and Bill that there was another rider coming, and described what he had been doing. Based on my description (including his dawdling to moon gaze), they said they knew exactly who it was, and did not seem at all concerned about him. That made me feel better about leaving him on his own. I did not spend a whole lot of time at Grasshopper on this pass, but was there long enough to eat what was quite possibly the tastiest instant oatmeal ever. I then grabbed a bag of pretzels for the road and was on my way. The skies had cleared and it was beginning to get cold. I was worried that if I rested too long I would stiffen up.
From Grasshopper, the road descended steeply to Eagle Lake. I had put on my arm and leg warmers earlier, but even so I was a Cecil-Sicle by the time I reached the bottom. I was so cold that I did not warm up even when I began to climb back to Antelope Summit. I was again exhausted, which I expect is one reason I was more susceptible to the cold because, to be honest, it was only cold by California standards. But I was shivering nevertheless. I was also becoming very unsteady on the bike—my headlights were waving all over the place, proving that even though I felt like I was in control of my bike, I clearly was not. By this time I had reached the end of the long plateau that preceded the drop back down to Susanville and I was in no shape for that descent. It was time for drastic measures. I found a wide spot of shoulder, lay my bike down between me and the road (hey, I love my bike, but if a car were to veer onto the shoulder, I would rather it hit the bike than me), pulled my space blanket out of my bag, wrapped it around my shoulders and had myself a little sit down. About five minutes later, a sag van pulled up and the driver asked if I were okay. Yes, I told him, I just decided I needed to get off the road for a while. He wished me well and drove on. I gave myself a few more minutes and then moved on as well.
I reached the outskirts of Susanville just after 4:30 AM. The sun was barely rising as I picked my way through the back streets to the Armory. When I finally reached the contrôle, I was surprised by how many riders were still there, including many that I had thought were significantly further ahead of me. Granted, many of them were on their way out as I arrived, but there were still quite a few in the hall eating, sleeping or otherwise faffing. I think that one or two of them may have been riders that had decided to quit, but most of the others appeared simply to be resting before the next leg.
I once again perused the food options. It appeared that my best (and only) bet in the "hot food" category was a pot of spaghetti with tomato sauce that had a little Post-It note on it that read “Meatless.” There were also some cold roasted potatoes with olive oil and rosemary (yum!) and, of course, peanut butter. After a couple helpings of spaghetti and potatoes, I gathered up my toiletries and proceeded to take a much-needed shower. After almost 60 hours on the road, and despite frequent changes of shorts and jerseys, I reeked. The showers were in the men’s bathroom, so I had to wait until the coast was clear and then set up a little barricade outside the door. Because it was a National Guard Armory, the shower set up was your basic “long wall with multiple shower heads” set up; I hate to think what kinds of bacteria were growing on the floor. Fortunately, I’d packed shower shoes.
After showering, I changed into fresh pajamas (drop bags are wonderful things) and lay down on a cot for another lovely nap. I was awakened by someone yelling something about sprinklers. Apparently, the spot where we had all place our bikes was being soaked by automatic sprinklers. As I started to get up to rescue Lil HW, Jr. (and TRFKAF) from the deluge, another rider who was already up told me not to worry, he knew what my bike looked like and would go get her for me. He shortly returned and pointed to the inside wall where he had leant her and showed me the towels he’d used to dry her off. What a nice guy –I wish I could remember who he was. I felt bad for TRFKAF, who had gotten drenched, but at least he was wearing his Showers Pass jacket.
I had been in Susanville for more than two hours and it was once again time for me to get moving. Ahead of me lay the Janesville Grade, which I had so much enjoyed descending two days previous, knowing even then that I would pay for that joy later in sweat (if not blood or tears). But first I had to get through Janesville, which required a short trip on the very busy Highway 395, and then a stretch of rollers between the highway and Main Street. I stopped at the store for a soda, because I was feeling caffeine deprived and because, I’ll admit it, I was not quite ready to begin the climb up the grade.
I went to the restroom, where I had an unpleasant surprise.
WARNING: Readers who are put off by discussions of the mysteries of women’s health would do well to skip this paragraph.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my story, I am 48 years old. For about a year, I have not had a period. My doctor is not convinced that I have reached what Archie Bunker would call “mental pause,” but considers it possible. She is more inclined to believe that my periods have been put on hold by the stress I put on my body through cycling. Well, if endurance riding was the cause of my missed periods, then there is clearly a tipping point, because I was definitely having a period. It was a good thing that I was wearing the shorts with a dark chamois. It was also a good thing that I happened to be in a market that sold tampons. One unanticipated purchase later, and I was ready to tackle the Grade.
Okay, squeamish ones, you can start reading again. . . .
I had delayed my ascent of the Janesville Grade as long as feasible. Waiting was not going to make it any less steep. Once I started the ascent, I realized that it really was not so bad. Granted, at points it had certain wall-like qualities, and there was one short portion where I had to get off my bike and walk for about 100 yards, but I chalk that up more to my general fatigue. Although there were rumors that sections of the Grade’s incline exceeded 20%, I don’t think it was ever any worse than any other hill that I have encountered. Indeed, I think that the upper portion of the second roller on Cole School Road is probably worse than anything on the Janesville Grade. But then again, I was more exhausted at this point than I’ve been on any other ride, and so any slope was magnified. As it was, my average speed up the hill was about 4 mph - not the slowest I've ever gone on my bike, but close. I even managed to pass a couple of other riders on my way up. I also took the time to look for my lost GPS but, sadly, I never found it.
I reached the top in much shorter order than I had anticipated. Of course, the "top" was that endless series of badly paved rollers I'd been so annoyed by on the way out. They were just as annoying inbound, but at least this time my path trended downhill. It was almost noon, and it was getting hot. And did I mention that I was tired? I eventually made it to the Boulder Creek Work Center, where I caught up with a few other riders, including fellow Or Rando rider Marcello Napolitano
I filled my water bottle, applied more sunscreen, ate some chips and set off around Antelope Lake and down the hill, through the burnt trees and rabbit tobacco, and back into Indian Valley.
I was jonesing for a Diet Coke, and was hoping that the Genessee store, which had been closed when I passed through two days earlier, would be open. As I approached the store, my hopes were raised by the sight of Marcello on the porch—I thought that he had been shopping. But no, the store was closed, and he had merely been resting on the porch. He rode with me for a while, but I was simply too tired to keep up with him, and he dropped me about five miles out from Taylorsville. I poodled along at my own slow pace, knowing that I'd get there when I got there and that when I got there it would be there. Yes, 900 kilometers into the ride and I apparently had turned into Ram Dass.
I finally reached the contrôle, where the volunteers were busy frying up bacon, eggs and potatoes for the 5 or 6 other riders already there. They had recently replaced the floor of the Grange Hall with a sprung hardwood floor, so every time someone trod heavily upon it the whole floor bounced undulated. I started to get seasick. One rider started to try to deliberately make it happen, and I am afraid I snapped at him to stop it. He looked startled by my vehemence and backed slowly away.
The woman I had spoken with on my first pass through was still there and she had saved me an avocado, some pasta and some great vegetable soup. I was starving, and quickly inhaled everything she brought me. After eating, I found my drop bag (this was the last of the drop-bag contrôles on the inbound route) and pulled out yet another clean pair of shorts and jersey. Thanks to frequent changes of shorts and Lantiseptic applications, I was remarkably unchafed and free of saddle sores and I wanted to keep it that way. It was starting to get very hot, so I took the ragged towel I'd brought in my drop bag and tore a square out of it, soaked it in water and put it under my helmet so that it draped down the back of my neck. Then, having somehow frittered away another hour, I worked my way back up and out of the valley toward Tobin,
Once out of the valley, the route turned back onto CA-70 with its narrow shoulders and speeding log trucks. Apparently no one ever educated the log truck drivers on safe passing laws. To add to my discomfort, I was having a negative reaction to the sunscreen I had applied in Taylorsville—my face felt like it was on fire, and no amount of wiping would relieve it. I was also becoming increasingly aware that the shorts that I had changed into at Taylorsville were not going to help me maintain my sore-free status. They were too big and the chamois would not stay in place. The friction was, well, it was not pleasant. Fortunately, I had a pair of shorts in my rear bag that I had worn a couple days earlier that were my best shorts. I turned off the road at the Twain Store, washed them out in the bathroom sink and strapped them to my rear rack. I figured they'd dry quickly enough in the day's heat that I could change back into them before disaster struck. I also checked to see if the store there had a different sunscreen, but they were fresh out, so I was going to have to just risk a sunburn. But at least I got a break from the Mr. Toad-like truck drivers.
Apart from the log trucks, CA-70 is an incredibly scenic road. It runs along the North Fork of the Feather River and there are many cool things like bridges, trains, stamp mills and poisoned springs to look at.
Finally I reached the Tobin cotrôle, which I will say right now wins the prize for the best contrôle for slow riders. At all the other contrôles, the food options available for the slower riders had been, well, sort of picked over. It seemed as if they put out all the foods they had early on, so that when the fast riders descended like locusts, all the best stuff got eaten and we slower folks got the orts. But in Tobin the crew boss had deliberately held back portions of every menu item, so that slow riders got all the same food choices as fats riders. So in addition to the chips and peanut butter, there was pasta, rice, chicken, chili, vegetables and an AMAZING lentil-bean soup.
But as good as the soup was, I had to get going. I still had a long climb on CA-70 up through the Jarbo Gap that I wanted to do in daylight. So I ate one more bowl of soup, changed into my now-dry better shorts, and once again started down the road. Even though it was late afternoon, the sun was still beating down and the road was very exposed, so I was riding more slowly than usual in order not to overheat. I'd soaked my helmet towel before I left Tobin, but it dried out quickly. Of course, the fact that I had now been traveling for 74 hours with little real sleep may have contributed somewhat to my slug-like pace. The climb also seemed to go on for much longer than I remembered from my outward journey. But I finally made it to the top and, after a brief weird detour to check out a dome-shaped grocery store that appeared to be run by meth addicts, I was on the downhill run to Oroville.
Outside of Oroville, I turned off the highway onto Table Mountain Road, which sort of paralleled the highway and sort of didn't. To my right I could see the lights of the highway and, eventually, of town, but the road I was on was itself strangely deserted. I knew that it was the correct road, because it was the same one we had followed to leave Oroville on the the outbound leg, but it was nevertheless disorienting to seem to be ridding away from civilization. Then, suddenly, I was in town and road traffic picked up considerably. After a brief detour to a 7-11 to pick up some batteries for my dimming tail lights, I reached the Oroville contrôle at about 10:30.
As with all the other contrôles I'd hit on my inbound journey, Oroville was not nearly as crowded as it had been when I was thereon the outbound leg. But it was still pretty busy. The food tables had been pretty well picked over, but I rustled up a bagel and peanut butter, as well as some grapes and strawberries, and grabbed a Coke from the cooler. BUt just as I settled down to eat, I noticed that there was a massage table set up in the corner and a sign that said "FREE 15-minute massage." Food good wait, I was going to get me a rub-down! I was not sore or cramping, but I figured a massage could help to dissuade any leg cramps that might be developing. I did feel a little sorry for the masseuse, who had spent her entire day rubbing sweaty biker bodies, but not sorry enough not to force her to work on one more. Fifteen minutes later, feeling much more relaxed, I ate my bagel and fruit and then curled up in a comfy chair for yet another cat nap.
I finally left Oroville shortly before midnight. I had 12 hours left on the ride clock and just under 93 miles to go. Although I was fatigued, I otherwise felt great. No cramps or muscle pain, no joint pain, and, surprisingly, no saddle sores or chafing. I briefly considered applying more Lantiseptic, but realized I had no more with me. Cue ominous music . . .
Getting out of Oroville was itself an adventure. The streets were not well-lit or well-marked, and the turns were not intuitive. It was too dark to see the Dan Henry's, and I could not really on my cyclometer because I had accidentally reset it three separate times as I was trying to use its "navigator" function. Consequently, I kept having to stop and get my bearings, thus slowing my exit from town considerably. But out of Oroville I finally got, and I slowly picked my way through the dark along roads I barely remembered from my passage down them three days previous.
I was in a zone somewhere between meditation and sleep as I passed through Gridley. I was snapped out of my fugue state by the loud growling of a dog that burst out of the bushes beside the road and came tearing after me. It was one of the dogs from the attacks earlier in the week. I began to scream at it to "Go home!," and pedaled like hell to get away. I knew that the authorities had been told about the previous attacks; I was very displeased that neither they nor the dogs' owner had seen fit to prevent further attacks.
The adrenaline rush woke me up for the next few miles; long enough to get to the gas station/mini-mart that served as a "receipt contrôle." I purchased a soda and a snack, and because I was the 95th or so rider that the clerk had seen so far, I did not even have to ask for the receipt—the clerk automatically handed it to me. He then went outside and found me a milk crate to sit on while I dined. Three more riders arrived as I sat there, looking slightly worse for wear. I suppose I didn't look all that fresh, either. They were still eating as I left, but I was pretty sure I would see them again.
I had less than 55 miles to go, and it was at this point that my body began to rebel. My stomach, which had been unusually calm throughout, started to churn, and my left Achilles' Tendon began to feel tender. More distressing, though, was that my nether parts were suddenly beginning to feel sore. It was only now that I appreciated the true magical qualities of Lantiseptic; just 40 miles without it and the skin over my sit bones had burst into flame. No matter how I positioned myself, I could not get comfortable. Then, as the icing on an already over-frosted cake, I fell asleep on my bike. At least I think I did. All I know is that one minute I was at one point on the road and the next I was many yards further down, on the wrong side of the road, without remembering how I got there. How I managed to stay upright and pedaling, and not crash, is beyond me. It was once again time for drastic measures. I rode along for a few more yards until I came to a spot where the shoulder extended into a flat space covered with soft wood chips. I set my watch for 30 minutes, pulled out my space blanket, rolled myself up like a giant burrito, and settled in for the traditional randonneuring roadside ditch nap. Or as much of a nap as was possible when every passing driver stopped and woke me up to see if I was okay.
My alarm went off, and I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and started all over again. By this point my space blanket was shredded, so rather than try to refold it I just wadded it up and stuffed it in my pack. The sun had risen and that helped to revive my spirits. A few miles down the road, I caught up with a group of riders that had passed me while I was sleeping. I was very happy to have companions for a while. Talking helped the time and distance go by faster, plus it helped me to stay awake.
Together we pedaled past the rice paddies on Reclamation and Kirksville Roads, where I spotted not only a snowy egret but also a small flock of what appeared to be cormorants. As we reached the levee, we came upon another "secret" contrôle (actually a fairly poorly-kept secret, since its existence, if not its exact location, had been the subject of numerous announcements). Three volunteers had set up a tent and were dispensing coffee and more snacks. I stopped briefly to use the blue room and eat some raisin bran, but was anxious to keep going and so did not stay to socialize.
After leaving the secret contrôle, I turned left onto the levee road and immediately posted off my saddle in pain. The pavement on the road was atrocious and the vibration was more than my bottom could bear. I quickly realized that there was no way that I was going to be able to stay seated. So I stood. For the next 28 miles. Because it was not just the levee road that sucked, but also the road through Knight's Landing at the end of the levee, and the road from Knight's Landing to Woodland, and the road from Woodland to Davis. So there I was, pedaling standing as long as I could, and then, still standing, bracing my leg against the seat to coast. Pedal, brace, coast. Pedal, brace, coast. Pedal, brace, coast. For 28 fucking miles.
I did not burst into tears at any point, but came damn close.
Two miles from the end, I sucked it up and sat for a final sprint. Those were the longest two miles of my life. When I reached the final contrôle at Tandem Properties, I could not even muster a weak smile. As I turned my card in for the final validation, one of the workers asked if I was elated to be done. Um, yeah, elated. That's the word I was looking for. No, I was not elated. I was too tired and too saddle sore to be elated. But I was done. Elation would have to come later.
And so my adventure was over. I'd ridden 1200 kilometers in 87.5 hours, with no lasting damage. Or so I thought. Cue more ominous music . . .
My friend Lisa had driven out from San Francisco with Greg to pick me up at the finish, and my Dad came out from Sacramento. The four of us went to the post-ride lunch, but did not stay for the festivities because I was starting to fade. I was also starting to lose my voice. I chalked that up to four days of sucking dry high-desert air and the occasional screaming at dogs. My legs were doing their usual post-ride swelling, a phenomena I had noted over the years but which my family doctor had been at a loss to explain. So we decided to bag on the party and head back to the City. Greg drove out car and we followed Lisa to her house in the Sunset District. As the day wore on, I found it more and more difficult to talk, and my stomach, diaphragm and chest felt oddly compressed. But I had been eating a lot of starches and figured I'd just over-stuffed myself. I went to bed and fell asleep quickly.
The next morning I woke up, went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and almost screamed. My face had turned into a balloon: all the tissues were swollen as if filled with water. When I tried to talk, my voice was completely gone. Yikes! My legs were still swollen, and so were my hands. Double yikes! I had a massage scheduled, so I asked the masseuse to see if she could get the swelling down. She managed to get my legs and arms in better shape, but could not do anything about my face. So I went back to the house and lay down with a bag of ice over my eyes.
That seemed to help a little. At least I could open my eyes. So after a short nap, I got up and we all went out to lunch and to see a show by the SF Mime Troupe in Golden Gate Park. I was starting to feel weird again, though, so when we went back to the house I tried to take another nap. But I could not sleep because I was finding it harder and harder to breath. I felt as if all my internal organs were being squashed. After some discussion, we decided that I really should go to the local Kaiser ER/Urgent Care. Greg and I were supposed to start the drive back to Oregon the next day, and I was clearly in no shape to drive.
When we got to the ER, I explained to the triage nurse that I had just completed a very long bike ride in the mountains and was now having a hard time breathing. Within minutes I was on a gurney, hooked up to an EEG machine and having several tubes of blood extracted from my arm, as a steady stream of hospital personnel came in to see the freak who had just ridden her bike 750 miles in less than four days. After the EEG, I was whipped down the hall to X-Ray for a lung picture. Then it was back to ER, where they hooked me up to a heart rate monitor (the alarm on which was promptly triggered because my resting heart rate is 44, and the alarm sounds if the patient's heart rate drops below 50). A few minutes later, the ER doctor came in and said "exertion-induced angioedema." Say what? "Your body is having what, in laymens' terms, could be described as an allergic reaction to exercise." I'm allergic to exercise? "You're allergic to extreme exercise." So what do I do? "Well, you might start by avoiding extreme exercise. And take Benadryl."
So they gave me some Benadryl, and eventually I could breathe again. Talking was still impossible; at best I could get the random sentence out. But I was cleared to drive. It took quite a few days for the facial swelling to subside, and my voice was raspy for almost a week. But now I know what was causing my legs to swell on my "shorter" rides; it just took a 1200K to bring the condition to a head. And that means no more 1200K's. I love long-distance riding, but it's not worth the risk of anaphylactic shock. Am I sad that I won't be doing PBP in 2011 after all? Damn straight I am. But I can't "always have Paris" if I'm dead.
So that's it. I now know my limitations. But at least I can say I've done one 1200K, and it was a hell of a ride.