Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Human Powered Rollercoaster

Let's take a trip back in time, to the late '90s.  I am a big fat bike messenger and happy as a clam.  I jump on an aeroplane and land in Rochester, New York, my home town.

I ride to my Grammy's house and spend the night.  She insists I bring my bike into her carpeted living room and work on it there and explain every little thing I'm doing.  She makes me feel so smart, even though all I'm doing is putting the wheels and pedals back on and pumping up the tires and adjusting the handlebars.

Grammy was a Great Lady and the result of an out-of-wedlock conception.  My mother told me the story about the big scandal and how my great grandma ran away with my great grandpa to elope and live their lives far away in shame.  She made one last call home and my great-great grandma, her mother, answered the phone and insisted they come home for a proper wedding.

Back to the 1990s and my date with a certain bike race in Toronto.  I take a bus over the border at Niagara Falls, weekend destination of my childhood.  I meet up with friends at the hostel before riding over to the venue - a large warehouse rented by the race sponsors, Dunhill Tobacco and JetFuel Coffee.  Bike messengers from near and far will be racing in this giant space over the weekend, on a thing called the Human Powered Rollercoaster - or the HPR.

I'll never forget my first glimpse of the HPR.  Built out of plywood and two by fours, it doesn't look quite real.  Or maybe it looks too real.  Gritty.  Not polished or varnished or finished really.  hand-built by a team of I don't know who.  Exposed everything.  A figure eight with a bridge and tunnel.  Small, with tight turns.  A plywood tarmac.  My heart started beating very fast.

Inside one loop of the figure eight: a band.  Very loud.  Inside the other loop: spectators, racers, fans.  I found the line for registered riders and queued up.  I was in Canada so I had to queue up instead of wait in line impatiently like Americans do.  When I mentioned earlier that I was a big fat bike messenger, I meant it.  I was pretty hefty at that time, nowhere near the svelte self I've worked so hard to sculpt out of that other big and burly, but powerful, body.
The HPR Alley Cat Scramble jersey, which I still own and even wear occasionally, was quite tight and exposed every little bulge.  Self-consciously, I stripped down and started over, this time putting my jersey and shorts on first, then covering it all with a black jumper dress that was my favorite thing then.

I pre-rode the track, which wasn't really a track.  It was more of a roller coaster.  I was on a fixed gear, as was the fashion then.  The banks and tight turns were unforgiving and my little KHS frame, you know, the one with the curved seat tube, had some pretty extreme toe overlap.  It made for an adrenaline-filled experience.

One of the organizers waved me over.  "You can't wear anything that covers the jersey".  Sentences that begin with "you can't" don't sit well with me now, much back then in my hyper punk rock rebel f the police days.  I asked to talk to the main organizer, head honcho, top guy.  I was escorted to an office in the back of the warehouse.  There was a very official looking official dude, I think he might've been wearing a suit, or maybe it just felt like he was.  He was on the phone and waved for me to sit down.  After a heated discussion with whoever was on the other end, he asked me what the problem was.

I went ahead and tried the honest route.  I told him I felt really fat-looking in the jersey and wanted to wear my jumper over it.  I modeled for him to demonstrate that the sponsor logos still showed beneath the jumper's straps.  He nodded at me and said with a smile "of course you can wear your jumper over the jersey".  Then he asked if I planned to race in the black chunky heeled loafers I had on.  Yes.

One of the other ladies in my heat crashed.  She wasn't badly injured, but it enabled me to move on to the next round.  I won again, but that was the last time and I was happy to get off of that scary track.  Many talented riders ate wood that weekend.  There was blood on the track, and that's no story.  One dude, piled headfirst into the bridge support and was taken out in an ambulance.  He came back later with his jaw wired shut, drinking beer through a straw.
I have been lucky many many times in my life, and part of that luck is getting a front row seat in events that are later heralded as historic.  Months later, someone sent me a clipping from a Toronto magazine.  I was named as having won "Best in Show" because of my outfit.  That was the first I time I had heard of it, but it helped explain the small box of goodies I was given at the event.

An apparent tradition at this event, for this was the second time it was set up, was for the racers to tear down all of the vinyl banners to take as souvenirs after the last race.  A security guard wrenched the banner from my hand, bent my arm behind my back and escorted me outside.  I was enraged, but within seconds, he got a call on the radio.  He let go of me, apologized, and handed back the banner.
A seamstress friend made the banner into a jumper dress to wear in the Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) in DC the following year.  I didn't win anything, but that same friend made the filmy silver supertar dress that won me "Best Dressed Messenger" at the CMWC in Barcelona in '97.  The CMWC continues to this day, in a different country each year.  This race is completely organized by that city's messengers, who volunteer many hours to put on an event that includes not just a race, but alley cats and film festivals and art showings and concerts - all showcasing the talent stockpiled within the bike messenger community.

The Human Powered Rollercoaster, sadly, is no more.  Some sort of Canadian law was introduced that prohibited tobacco companies from sponsoring athletic events, and that was that.

However, not all was lost.  Lifetimes later, here in Portland, Oregon, a local company known as Portland Design Works housed a very tight-turned round wooden track, reminiscent of the HPR but in a figure zero.  They named it Circulus and it was thrilling to watch racers on BMX bikes ride around and around and around this very steep-banked, tiny and tantalizing little track.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Palmer Mill Expedition

There's a riding posse called "Where The Pavement Ends".  The group description reads like a poem: 

Adventure Base Miles
Sometimes hammering but never opposed to the cafe stop
Situations where 28c just doesn't cut it
Racers training and training racers
Roads closed
Hopping gates
Hardpack, singletrack, gravel, pavement
Exploring the back roads of Portland one at a time

The organizer emailed me saying this is not a Velodirt ride.  I'm not sure what to make of that, but I caught his drift when he said they are a group of racers and it's a drop ride.  So, waiting at the Stark Street Bridge to intercept them, I wasn't surprised at all to see a huge pack of cyclists hurtling through space at an unbelievable pace.  It was like the Roadrunner had cloned himself.  

Someone shouted my name and "HOP ON", which I attempted to do from a standstill.  I chased a bit, then some nice person came back and offered me his wheel.  Unfortunately, his wheel did not offer a fender and I was sporting a brand new jacket, so let's just say that's why I let him go.

For almost a mile, I could see them.  A big shadow with a cloud of dust following it, getting smaller at each corner until I couldn't see them anymore.  For some reason, I found this hilarious and was laughing as an unidentified friend coming the other way shouted at me "Maria!  YOU GOT DROPPED!".  

Rolling up to the Corbett store, I spied a small group that I suspected was a splinter of the fast group.  But, no, they were their own group.  I told them my code name was Hot Potato.  One guy, Josh, asked if I'd be writing up today's ride in my blog.  Sometimes I feel like there's nowhere to hide.  I offered this group an opportunity to drop me as well, but they declined in order to fix a flat.
Onward and upward, I stopped for a photo and water at Women's Forum.  A few of the fasties were hangin out fixing a flat at the Larch Mountain turn off and I thought, "ha! slow and steady wins the race" but they passed me again after Vista House and that was that.

A fwe miles later I could see two riders up high on Alex Barr, local legend gravelly grind.  I rode up and up and up, eventually walked for a while, rode again and found myself at the top much later.  I put my jacket on for the descent, but there were a few more curves to climb first.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Phantom Horse Thief Century

Nobody, but nobody, turns down an invitation to a ride by this name.

A good friend of mine had to close his bike shop in San Diego because he couldn't afford the rent.  He mentioned on facebook that he was now afraid he wouldn't be able to afford his personal apartment rent either (in the same building).  Then he went to Tijuana and his laundry was stolen out of his car, which included all of these old collectible bike messenger t-shirts and ALL of his socks.  None of which has anything to do with Sunday's century ride.

Unlike the small story above, Sunday's ride was primo,  We met in the Northwest Industrial neighborhood at a warehouse.  I recall racing a Bike Swam Alley Cat from that same warehouse a coupla years ago.  NW Industrial is a very weird and haunted feeling place, especially at 8am on a Sunday.  
I got there exactly on time because they said they were leaving at 8 sharp and just as I was about to leave, people started to show up.  9 of us altogether.  2 chicks.  If you count me.  The other girl just got into riding and this was her second century and she was super fun and laughed a lot.  We rode up Saltzman, which I spent most of the day Saturday dreading, but then it turned out to be no big deal.  Skyline out to Old Cornelius, Rock Creek, out out out to Banks.  So pretty and gray and a teeny bit damp and really cold but only if you stopped moving.  Actually kind of ideal weather for pedaling.

The leader guy was super nice and thoughtful and kept doing really quick regroup stops to keep us together.  We had our first rest stop in Banks and then got on the Banks-Vernonia bike path, which is pretty supreme.  20 miles of bike path with no angry honking cars, which we encountered a lot on the other parts.
The Mediterranean place in Vernonia that I spent several miles looking forward to was closed until February.  Jerks.  So we went to this Mexican place instead and everyone got big plates of food.  I got the super nachos which were super delicious and I have no regrets, even if I did keep burping super nachos for hours.  From there we started out as if we were going to the Birk.  That route is so familiar to me and it felt really cool to be out there.  It was all so quiet and empty and gray and foggy and there was lichen and moss everywhere.  

Then we turned onto the Scappoose Vernonia Highway, which I've never ridden in that direction before so my mind was a little blown when it turned out to be this massive climb.  I thought it was a massive climb from the other direction but I guess climbs feel massive when you go up them and descents are quick and easy to forget.  
I started to drop back and sing I've Been Working On The Railroad, which soothed my frazzled nerves.  I kept thinking my back tire was really soft.  Finally, around five zillion years later, we made it to the top and everyone was waiting for me and we zoomed down to Scappoose and went to a drive-thru coffee place.  I got a hot cocoa with a shot of espresso in it.  Drink of the gods, I tell ya, wow did that revive me.

From there we slogged back in the dark cold wet with zillions of cars on highway 30 and I was so happy when I saw the Sauvie Island bridge silhouette, then even happier when the St. Johns Bridge sillhouette came into view.  We went to this bizarre brew pub in the middle of NW industrial nowhere and I got a beer and an order of toast and lived the high-carb dream.  Then downtown to the max train and home to my cat and my shower and my bed.  Woke up the next morning as if nothing had happened.  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Twenty Fifteen

Accountability is increased when intention announcements are made, so I'll share.  My theme for Fifteen will be F.

My cycling goals have almost always been numerical.  This many rides, that many centuries, an R12, what have you.  Next year will be different.  I'll still play the permanent game and I already have a big trip planned (hello, Oregon Outback!), but mostly I'm going to choose my rides based on the potential for fun.  Here's the complete list.

   Fun.  I will ride my bike for fun, and fun alone.

   Fat.  I will spend the first four months of the year losing a bunch, 15 pounds to
   be exact.

   Fantasy.  I will visualize what I want on a daily basis.  Some call this meditation.

   Friends.  I will develop new friendships and deepen current ones.

   Five.  One's missing here!  I'm open to suggestions - just leave a comment.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

R12, 2 (F)

I'll never forget the huge surge of emotion that accompanied earning my first R12. What is an R12, you ask?  Well, let me preface my answer by warning you that it's a French phenomena, which happens all over the world.  A regular bicycle rider, who soon loses sight of regular bicycle rides, joins a group called Randonneurs USA.  At the time, it seems like a small commitment - no commitment at all, really - just $20, which gets you a quarterly magazine, an identity number, and a sticker. Soon enough, one has forgotten their name and goes by their number instead.  Just call me 7337.

After thorough review of the rules and expectations of being a "rando" rider, one attempts a brevet, or maybe even a permanent (perm for short, if that curls your hair).  The difference?  I'm still trying to understand.  Brevets are on a calendar somewhere and people seem to show up.  Permanents are arranged by individual riders, and are not on the official calendar, but may be advertised in other ways.

Both rides include receiving a brevet card, which magically transforms even the most dilapidated middle-of-nowhere tavern (in best cases), or busy gas stations (in less than best cases), into a "control".  Each control has a time cut-off, and if you don't make it, not only does that mean you're slow, it means you've been disqualified and can now ride home with your saddlebag between your legs.

So, back to the original question.  An R12 is just one of a long offering of Randonneur awards.  One earns it by riding a 200k (that's 126 miles American) every month for twelve consecutive months.  They must be calendar months.  You can't just go crazy and peel off a 200K every 4 weeks, because that may give you 2 in July and 0 in August, which will get you seriously DQ'd.  I'm not talking about Dairy Queen here, folks - this is the dreaded disqualified, or DNF (did not finish), although I suppose either of those are better than a DNS (did not start).

On that fated frigid December evening two years ago, rolling into the mini mart signified my final control in my final ride leading to my R12 award.  BooYAH!  I did it!  That evening, Rando 7600 and I attended a post-permanent Christmas party.  As the two of us sat across the room from each other inhaling holiday treats, we had a mind meld.  We were both living a double life: one as a Rando, one as a normal person who attends Christmas parties.

A few months later, I received my quarterly Randonneurs USA magazine and quickly flipped to the page listing awards.  All of those miles and late nights and early mornings has added up to this - my name on a list.  I looked with new respect at each and every name there.  Some of these people had probably completed their rides on tandems, in snow, on gravel routes or on fixed gears, but there was no indication of who had done which.  I only knew from articles within the magazine that Randos did these things.

Some of the names had a number after the R12, indicating how many R12s they'd earned.  And there I was!  My R12 also had a parenthesis after it: (F).  "Fred?" I pondered.  No, how could they know.  "Fast"?  Well, that's just not true.  Oh.  "Female".  There weren't any (M)s indicated.  I felt singled out, confused, even upset.  I've learned since then that the intent is to encourage other (F)s to attempt their R12.  Intention is nine tenths of something.

But that was a lifetime and many kilometers ago, and now I've earned my second R12 (F).  This time around, I don't give a Flying (F) what letter they put after my name, I'm just grateful for the accomplishment.  The Portland Society, the bikey ladies professional network I belong to, has assisted me in embracing the (F).  We now use a hand signal to indicate female, the parenthesis around the (F) curving like a lady does.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mill City Coffee Run

"Who's better than us?" asked 9969.  "Nobody, that's who!"

Some days when I get out of bed, I feel like I'm stepping outside of the regular world.  The alarm gongs early, still dark, and I spring up, thinking "Today!  I get to ride bikes all day!".  The enthusiasm wanes, but not for several hours.

9969, aka the Kid, aka the Pirate - my ride to the ride - showed up thirty minutes early and I was still in the bath.  I let him in and got back in the bath.  Things go better if I have a hot soak and mellowing out period to start days like this.

It was 25 degrees as we walked out of the cafe in Wilsonville, ready to jump on the Boone Bridge and get to the Charbonneau District.  Crossing the Willamette River takes you away from suburban sprawl and drops you into a pastoral post card.

Howell Prairie Road was gorgeous and neverending, and also on the route of a new permanent I'm creating.  The Portland-Aumsville-Portland, or the PAP, was inspired by the icy weather creating dangerous areas on higher elevation roads.  I need something flat and easy that starts nearby for days like this.

We rode through Aumsville before arriving at our control in Stayton.  I checked out the restaurant control for PAP and even spied a deli market across the parking lot.  Golden.  On we pedaled to our french fry snack in Stayton.  Leaving town via a circuitous route made sense after we missed a turn and spent an unpleasant mile on the main street.
Soon we were on Old Mehama Road.  The countryside here was so quiet and peaceful, it felt almost haunted.  Even the dilapidated old barn surrounded by sheep and heaps of discarded farm equipment looked picturesque.  Soon we were singing songs about stink and soon after that we encountered an extremely smelly pig farm.  Bacon's revenge.

We were getting short on time as we entered Mill City, which doesn't seem to have a mill and is so small it's barely a town.  After riding in circles for ten minutes, 9969 chimes in with an "I thought you rode this before", I reminded him that was a year and many thousand miles ago, and with seven other people leading the way.  Finally we stumbled onto Rosie's Cafe, our destination.

I don't think they were excited to see us city slickers in our tight pants there at the cafe.  When I asked for my order "for here" she asked if we would be sitting outside.  In the frigid cold.  The muffin and truffle I had were delicious nonetheless, and we enjoyed a friendly conversation with a neighboring table.

Onward and upward, or downward, we jumped back on highway 22.   All morning we had watched the telltales and felt sure our future included a massive headwind on the way back north.  This dreaded hypothetical headwind never did show up until Butteville Road, many miles later.  First we had to get back to Stayton.  We agreed that chocolate milk would make our world a better place and got matching receipts.
Back to Aumsville and back onto Howell Prairie Road.  The sun started to set but the temperature stayed on the good side of forty.  Twilight seems to be the time of day dogs are on guard and we had many run out at us.  We started to be quiet so we wouldn't call them all out.  We saw a pair of boys jumping in a blue barrel to crush down leaves, and I laughed out loud when one of them fell over and out of the barrel.

My back felt sore and pedaling hurt so I slowed way down and watched the red blinking light ahead of me recede.  Soon enough I was at the Angel-Gervais turn, but my riding partner missed it.  I called and voicemailed and texted, then rolled on ahead to Gervais.

A bag of chips and a bathroom break "behind the Gatorade machine" in the Gervais store freshened me right up.  On to Butteville Road.  It felt even longer than Howell Prairie, if that's possible.  My headlight only served to show how dark the world had gotten, and keep me from riding into a ditch.  But the sky felt big and glowed navy blue.  It was the only thing that kept me going for many miles.

C'mon Fargo.  Please be Fargo.  The telltale green street sign would glimmer up ahead, reflecting my headlight and teasing me with the hope that it might say Fargo.  Sign after sign did not say Fargo. The F on the Feller Road sign gave me a momentary flutter, but still no Fargo.  9969 phoned to tell me he'd made it back to the car.  I wanted to beg him to send me Fargo Road.

Finally, lifetimes later, Fargo Road materialized.  Then Bents and Arndt and Boones Ferry.  Only two miles on Boones Ferry, then, onto the freeway and over the bridge and back to the car and beer and burgers and the euphoria of sitting still.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lunch at Nick's III


It was rainy most of the day on my third circuit of this route.  I forgot which gloves do best in the rain so I brought the wrong ones, which are nearly impossible to take off and put on again once wet.  I can't believe Fern Hill wasn't flooded out.  The unfairness of the rain is that it's sunny and dry two days later while I'm trapped inside at work.

The sour weather made it all worth it on Stag Hollow.  Oh man, I could hit the replay button on that one over and over.  That little bit of road was is so enormously cool I could barely contain myself.  I was laughing loudly and the wind was shitting on us so heartily no one could hear me.  A while later, on the way back, it was clear and felt like a different place on a different day.  The orderly lines of yellow vineyards make me buzz.  I felt like a genius for remembering where the jog is and keeping really quiet so that mean dog wouldn't hear us.

The huge colony of geese we saw had us talking about birds for a long time.  I learned how to identify a kestrel and a flicker.  9969 (formerly "the Kid") is a fountain of knowledge.  These geese, gal dang there were so many, were originally heading north, then the front wave turned back and they formed a giant tornado going around in the sky.  

My new Sidis worked out fantastically.  I guess my good shoe karma is #7600's bad shoe karma because he rode a perm the same day and forgot his bike shoes.  My feet never hurt, not for a second, not a numb toe, not a hot spot, nada.  Knees golden.  Shoulders golden.  Back is a piece of crap but I told it to shut up with ice. 

Dairy is my best friend.  I subsisted on lattes and ice cream, except at Nick's Italian Cafe, for which the ride is named, we all enjoyed minestrone and pane and coffee.  They treated us like royalty.  When the waiter saw us leaning our bikes outside, he started setting the front table.  Automatically brought us separate bills and extra receipts.  We were in and out in a half hour.

9669 stopped with me while I photographed a bus stop for my calendar project.  A few miles later, we were turning right, when he said calmly "Maria there's a dog next to you" and sure enough there was a mean-looking german shephard who was all foamy at the mouth.  We turned right and it went straight.  I was really thankful for the warning because that prevented my signature EGADS (early generalized anxiety disorder syndrome) gasp and holler, which most certainly would've triggered the dog into eating me in one bite.

Later on we saw another dog, a bouncy puppy who looked part whippet and part spaniel.  He bounded out to give chase but rider 6229 pointed at it and swerved toward it and oh boy did that cute little mongrel hop away home.  Good trick to remember.

Spring Hill Road and my favorite hill are still there, in case anyone's wondering.  So is Trespass territory.  They never did do whatever they were going to do - make it a reserve and build a parking lot or some such.  I kept thinking about how I got poison oak and 7600 didn't.  I thought of him again when we passed that little area on the east where we ducked into tractor shade one summer day to cool off.

We saw five cyclists all day, including a lady at dusk with a bunch of groceries strapped all over her bike.  6229 said he was amazed we didn't run into anyone I know.  Then we went to Lucky Lab and Edwin was there.  I ordered an iced tea and almost passed out from the effort of not ordering a deliciously rewarding and hopalicious IPA as I had earned and deserved.  Next perm, the beer fast will be broken!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Half Baked

The new way to ride a century is to join the SAG driver for the first fifty miles, then hop out at lunch and pretend you're one of the riders.

Then, with fresh legs, brand spankin' new legs, paint a carrot on each rider's back.  Follow them far behind and size them up.  Stealthily sip on water, shift and accelerate.

Coast, for just a moment, as you pass them.  Don't look back.  Pedal as hard as you can until you're just over the rise or just around the bend, then blow up.

Recover, drink more, shift and relax.  Repeat.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Zig Zag permanent

So...you want to ride my permanent?  

Step 1. Be a Randonneurs USA (RUSA) member.  
Step 2. Review the route.
Step 3. Send me an e-mail and I'll send you the waiver.
Step 4. Return the signed waiver and I'll send you a cue sheet and brevet card.
Step 5. Go ride!
Step 6. Mail the completed brevet card and receipts to me.

Here's a write up about the ride, published in the quarterly Randonneur magazine:



A big part of my identity as a cyclist comes from the two short but influential years I worked as a bike messenger in San Francisco.  During that time, I organized and competed in scores of alley cats - unsanctioned street races meant to simulate a day in the life of a courier.  Racers are given a manifest with a list of checkpoints and off they go.  Sometimes a signature from a checkpoint volunteer is required, other times they answer a question about each destination.  Sound familiar? 

One of the many reasons I love Randonneur riding is that it feels a lot like an advanced alley cat.  I’ll never forget the time I rode Susan’s “Up Yer Ash”, a challenging permanent that climbs up Mt. St. Helens.  I found myself in the ditch, digging in the snow, madly looking for the mile marker so I could count the zip ties.  I felt like a pretty hard-core “rando-cat” that day.

There’s also something about riding a 200k permanent, and doing it consistently, month after month, that really lights me up.  It seems to be just the right distance for me.  Although a lot of my friends are pursuing their ACP Super Randonneur status, many on their way to qualify for the 2014 Paris-Brest-Paris, I have no such ambition – not yet, anyway.  After all, I need my beauty sleep. 

For now, I’m enjoying working on my second R12.  It would have boggled my young messenger self to know that all these years later, I’m not just riding centuries, but “century and a quarters” as some Americans might call them.  It’s fun to get my gear and nutrition dialed, and learn how to pace my stops and gos.  And it’s rewarding that my required recovery time has decreased to a mere night’s sleep.

Recently I decided to create my own permanent route.  Everyone told me it was easy, and they were right.  First I mapped a route.  A beautiful one, comprised of many of my favorite roads and rides.  One that starts right in my neighborhood.  I completed and submitted the application, and voila, the lovely Crista Borras walked me through the rest.

A small group joined me for the inaugural ride of this new permanent, which I named “Zig Zag”.  We met at 6:30am at a coffee shop, but it wasn’t open yet.  Turns out the store manager had overslept.  As registration forms and waivers were being completed, I saw a familiar face headed our way.  A good friend had come out to see us off.  She’d be the first of many we’d see that day.

The store opened and I saw another old friend, who ran up and hugged me.  She’s not a cyclist, but was not surprised to run into me early in the morning hanging around a gaggle of bright-color-clad riders.  Or is it a “rush” of randos?  A “spin” of cyclists?

In any case, with no further ceremony, we were off.  Down the hill to the Springwater Corridor and over to the Willamette (dammit) River.  Along the Esplanade and the old “French Toast” route, which is a ride I led for the Vancouver Bike Club every month for many years.  Up the corkscrew pedestrian bridge, over to the bird circle and on to the Peninsula Crossing Trail.  Man, this town has a lot bike path miles, which make for a very nice warm up.

We dodged a bunny in the bike path on the way to the first control, which didn’t have a bathroom, so I changed it for future riders.  Such is the life of the newly minted perm owner.  We ate and ran, as usual.  The Marine Drive bike path was empty and surprisingly, we still had dry skies.  Or maybe it’s wet skies, if the clouds are still holding their moisture.

Stopping for a potty break past Troutdale, we ran into the Cycle Wilders, a loaded tour group on their way to Cascade Locks.  They shared their VooDoo donuts (a Portland staple), and we went on ahead and treated them to kombucha (another Portland favorite) at a children’s lemonade stand. 

I dared to route us partway up the local legend Larch Mountain, but only to an info control three miles up.  We saw a few Portland Wheelmen riders we knew, who probably assumed we were doing the entire climb.  Instead we enjoyed the first of many fast and pretty descents.  I made a mental note to add some red cautionary notes on the cue sheet for future riders.

Next, we entered the Bull Run Watershed, Portland’s water source, and enjoyed alternately descending into and climbing out of the Sandy River delta.  Trees and views and barely any cars make riding these twisty hills sheer delight.  Up Shipley, then Marmot – two of my very favorite roads around.  While struggling slowly up Marmot, a runner passed us.  He didn’t seem real, and maybe he wasn’t.

Shortly after that, we turned onto the Barlow Trail, and a friend ran out from the Sandy Ridge mountain bike trailhead with handups for the group.  The pioneers should have been so lucky.  I often think about them and their travails and how they would marvel at the ease with which we manage now, and with just human power.  The Barlow Trail was named for Sam Barlow, who blazed that trail with the help of Joel Palmer.  Joe’s 1845 diary included a description of the zig zag descents and climbs they encountered crossing the ravine, which is how the river got its name.      

After an amazing lunch at the Zig Zag Restaurant, seated on leather recliners and sofas, we suited up and headed out.  By this time, the rain had overcome its shyness and was in slog mode.  We lined up and ate some ugly highway miles to make it back to the country roads we love and hate, like Baty and Coalman with their steep little slaps in the face.  I added another info control to defeat the temptation to take highway 26 all the way back to town.

Finally back on the Springwater path, we wrapped up the twenty lonely miles back to town, finishing at the pub nearest my house.  A few beers and several war stories later, heading home, the rain was done fooling around.  It attacked.  It came down comically fast, faster than the tarmac could handle, creating instant little lakes in the bike lane. 


Thanks for letting me share my story.  Thanks to those who have shared their stories and their rides.  And, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to consider sharing some of your favorite roads by creating your own permanent, alley-cat style or not.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Scio Covered Bridges 200K

We started out before the sun rose, which meant we got to watch the sun rise.  A quick hop on the I-5 to cross the Boone Bridge over the Willamette River, exiting as usual at Charbonneu, this time heading west instead of east.

I started seeing bright orange pumpkin Dan Henrys as we overlapped with the Harvest Century for a few miles.  Those riders would have a great day, weather-wise, and so would we.  Soon we were on Meridian, which reminds me of the time we rode out to stash champagne for Tour de Beavers.  Then we were passing the fork to Silver Falls, where I stopped to puke last year.  Or was it the year before?

That morning in the bath, I read on facebook that a steep hill on Cole School Road awaited us.  Some sort of wall of asphalt apparently.  I dreaded it all morning.  Soon, we turned left onto Cole School and went up a modest hill.

Phew!  That was easy.  Then we coasted downhill, headed toward another ascent.  This one was harder, but still, not at all the wall I had anticipated.  Then we went down again, and there it was.  A giant wall of earth.  It looked unclimbable, and because my derailleur failed me on the way up, it was.
After my lonely walk of shame, we enjoyed the view together and munched on our little snacks.  I had a bag of dried apricots and almonds.  Jeff had foil-wrapped rice cakes that I like to call Rapha Cakes.  Soon after, I split off from the group, quite unintentionally, and didn't catch back up until Silverton.

This is about the time my nausea kicked in.  I blamed it on hormones, ate lightly, whined heavily and carried on.  Finally, we arrived at our first control, fifty miles in, at the cartoonly quaint Scio: Covered Bridge Capital of the west.  While my three partners took in well-deserved calories, I forced down a skim milk and a diet coke.  It felt like a girdle was tightening across my middle.

On to Crabtree, and an info-control that the permanent route owner, Susan, asked me to reset.  I relished zip-tying zip ties to the sign, photographed them and pedaled on.  Soon we arrived at the Gilkey covered bridge and my old partner 7600 and I decided to take a break by the neighboring train trellis.

Chris and Jeff pedaled off and left us to chase them.  This was the beginning of the split of the group.  Riding into Salem, I kept catching glimpses of familiar-looking "M" Dan Henrys.  Ah, yes, these were from the Bike MS ride back in August.
We barely caught Jeff before Salem, where he led us through a labyrinth of traffic and ugly streets to a cafe control.  I had skipped lunch, so I skipped snack time too and had a latte instead.

Leaving Salem on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, we traced the Tour de Beavers route.  It was all there, just as I had left it in April.  My favorite "keep out" sign, now covered in vines.  Windsor Island and Simon and the nasty hill up to Wheatland.  Lovely roads I'd ride any day.

By the time we arrived to the patchwork triptych of Fargo - Bents - Arndt, I began to wonder in great detail just why they call what I was doing "blowing up".  I was not exploding.  I was imploding.  Getting smaller and tighter, molecules contracting to nothing as the cramp across my torso took hold.