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

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