Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eleven the Hard Way

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.

John gets a lift

Emergency response

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.

Old School and Faux-ld School

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.

And the moon rose over an open field

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 (Belated)

In my ongoing game of blogging "catch up," I present you with a report of a ride I did more than a month ago. Let's see how my memory cells have held up, shall we?

"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.

Ian, Josh, Heather and Peg (riding)

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.

Lesli and Tom

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.

Lightning Rod Tree

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.

Juno and the Paycock

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.

Lil HW Jr at Rowena Crest

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