Saturday, November 3, 2018


I came in third place on today’s ride, which was not a race. Of the three of us, I was wearing the least amount of pink.  The 2011 Verboort Populaire was my first rando ride. 7 years later, I see a Verboort ride on the team schedule, so naturally I feel I must go.

Maybe it’s the perimenopause and hot flashes, or maybe I was overdressed. I just couldn’t get comfortable.My outer rain tights, which have served for many years, suddenly lost their elasticity. Standing on the pedals because the tush to droop down, causing a risk of catching on the saddle.

The other riders rode away. I pedaled and panted, I chased unsuccessfully. This other riders courteously waited for me many times. Although the terrain was beautiful, the company fun, and the distance manageable, I will simply having a lousy day in the saddle. They say that a lousy day and the saddle it’s still a good day.

A man in a station wagon stopped and even reversed, tapping his horn. I circled back and said hello. He asked if we knew the road would soon turn to dirt, to which I replied "yay!". He then explained he wanted to warn us that logging trucks used it and it was quite a mess.
Dixon Mill Road would be more aptly named if it were called Dixon Hill Road. The pavement didn’t and turn to a nice hard packed dirt surface. At the top of a climb, which Stacy said was the top, we discussed if the man in the station wagon would’ve warned us if we had been men.

The best part of the ride came next. Pavement returned and took us on a beautifully scooping descent. Then we climbed again. Stacy and Hazel were at the top of the next hill waiting for me again. Stacy proclaimed that now we actually were at the top.

Another beautiful downhill led us to yet another stuff uphill. I was practically chafed from taking my layers on and off, on and off. I declared these descents should be called Stacy descents. In any case, we finally returned to the huge grassy Maddow where we had parked, along with a few hundred other sausage festival attendees. We headed over to the snack tent and enjoyed delicious sausages while listening to bingo.

I saw some Rando friends, including Graham who had recently volunteered to take over managing two of my 200k permanent routes.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Riding Bikes With Girls

I first heard of this version of Tabor Tuesday, well overheard, at the Harvest Century finish line festival.  The Harvest Century is a pretty amazing ride, by the way.  A lady was enjoying her finish line feast and beer and telling her friends about her Tabor Tuesday ride.  I thought she was talking about the Tabor Tuesday ride some other friends do - complete with an early morning dance party -before heading off to work.

Instead, she was leading this ride as part of Ride Like A Girl, which is a terrific Portland club of lady riders.  Back in my days as event planner for Western Bikeworks, I'd taught a couple of flat clinics for the group, but this was my first time riding with them.

My friend Madi and I had been doing our own weekly rides, which we called "Mondays with Maria and Madi".  We're always a day late, but never a dollar short.  Madi and I did a few rides on our own, then joined the Tabor Tuesday rides two weeks in a row.  The leader is lovely and everyone is friendly.  The pace is relaxed and the distance is reasonable (30ish miles).  After the ride, we went over to Cartlandia for lunch.
For our second Tabor Tuesday, I woke up early, early for me these days, and rode up through the cemetery.  I've always admired the "Wheeless" tombstone and finally stopped to photograph it.  At the top of the hill two riders, including the ride leader, awaited my arrival.  Shortly after, we intercepted Madi on her way up the hill.
I got a flat tire, which will be detailed in my blog post about all of the flat tires of 2018 (it's a doozy!).  After repairing it, we headed over to a Vietnamese place in Sellwood where we could sit on the patio.  

I had populated the next many Tuesdays on my calendar with Madi and Ride Like A Girl rides, but, alas, I've found gainful employment so will gladly be resuming my place in the Cat 6 rat race!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Astoria Stories

The 31st Annual No Sweat Ride went off without a hitch, but not without flat tires.  All told the group had 3 flats, all on Highway 30, aka Dirty Thirty.  That bike lane hasn't been swept since before Lewis and Clark went through.

It's always a relief to take that left onto the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway.  It's a long climb, but beautiful and pretty low traffic.  We stopped by the little store to refill our tanks and were off again in no time.  
Early worries that we'd arrive at the Birkenfield before they opened were unfounded.  After an hour and three quarters, we were on our way up the rest of the hills between us and the coast.
For the first time in the zillion times I've ridden by the Elk Refuge, there were elk!  Or elks.  Lots of 'em.  We stopped to gawk and take photos.
The hills seemed small for me, even though I was the slowest rider in the group.  We all stopped for a beer and peanuts at the Olney Saloon, then headed to our finish line in Astoria.  A great day!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Portland Century, 2018 edition

We arrived at the start line venue to the usual excitement and hub bub of pinning on bib numbers, throwing back coffee and breakfast goodies. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes of these events.  I know the organizers and staff have been hard at work for the weeks leading up to the event, and had their alarms set for 3am this morning.

I rolled out, expecting to take Stark Street down hill to the Stark Street bridge over the Sandy River, but instead we made our way north to Troutdale proper and took the other bridge.  This is what I get for not reviewing the route, but I do like surprises.
The next surprise was taking a left on Woodard Street.  Woodard is the descent after the hill option on my French Toast ride, and I'd never ridden up it.  My legs were fresh, the temperature was perfect, and it was a fun climb.
Soon I saw one of the unobtrusive but widely available SAG drivers go by.  The driver slowed, looking for my thumbs up and was easily recognizable by the black and yellow striped tape on the vehicle. 
Women's Forum made the perfect venue for our first full rest stop.  Fresh fruit, lots of friendly faces and plenty of photo ops!
Quite a bit of Bull Run climbing later, we arrived at this lovely lunch spot.  I enjoyed a cheese and pickle sandwich with a ton of mustard.

More climbing ensued and I encountered a rider whose pauls had been crushed, right near Paul Road!  I called in for SAG relief for the paul-crusher and continued on.

Arriving at the turn off for 75 vs 100 miles, I thought I'd take the short way.  Just then a gentleman I'd met at lunch came along and said "you're not flaking, are you?".  So I took the long way.

Many very trafficky highway miles later, passing through Estacada in the heat of the day, with yet more hills ahead, I decided to call it a day and head home.  I still rode 80 miles, but between the smoky air and heat, I surrendered.

Friday, July 27, 2018

My Ride to Defeat ALS

(Also published on Bike Portland, 7/27/18)

I'm not sure whether to feel terrible for Lou Gehrig because he died young from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or because his name has become almost synonymous with this debilitating and often fatal disease instead of for his illustrious career as a talented professional baseball player.  He seemed to have a good attitude though and is quoted on Wikipedia as having said:
"I intend to hold on as long as possible and then if the inevitable comes, I will accept it philosophically and hope for the best. That's all we can do."
I didn't know much about ALS before joining the Ride to Defeat ALS last Saturday.  75 miles gave me a lot of time to think about the privilege of good health, and the struggle of the folks diagnosed with ALS, and their families.  ALS is a motor neurone disease, weakening the victim's muscles until eventually they're unable to breathe.  A diagnosis usually means the patient will die within five years.

That five year mark is especially meaningful to me.  I'll never forget the day my best friend called to tell me he had tested positive for AIDS and just wished to live five years.  That was the early 1990s, before the HIV-fighting drug cocktail was invented.  He died almost exactly five years after his diagnosis, at age 30.  This may seem like a tangent from ALS, but 22 years later, I still live with the grief of losing a loved one. 

Vision Zero also comes to mind.  Our aspiration to prevent tragic traffic deaths is highly fueled by the fact that these deaths are preventable, and unnecessary.  We all deserve our full chance at hanging around this strange sapphire-colored sphere for as long as we'd like.
This year's local Ride to Defeat ALS raised over $167,000, exceeding their $150,000 goal.  These funds go to supporting programs and care services so they may be provided for free to ALS sufferers and their families.  Pretty inspirational stuff.

I've participated in many charity rides over the years, and of course, they're all worthwhile.  However, the Ride to Defeat ALS really set itself apart in my mind.  First, there was the army of ALS Association volunteers setting up at 5am on event day, so that riders could enjoy breakfast, get a bib number and slather on some sunscreen before heading out into the heat of the day.

The course was planned and marked by our amazing local event organization, Axiom Productions.  These are the fine folks behind our beloved Petal Pedal, Portland Century, Worst Day of the Year Ride, Tour de Lab and many more.  The route was absolutely stunning, featuring those stiff rolling hills and country roads we all love.

On course, one could see several motivational notes.  Each team had a roadside sign cheering them on.  Each huge hill had a series of white signs.  The first said something like "Fighting ALS", then "Is like climbing a hill", finally near the top "Don't ever give up!".  It reminded the riders why they'd worked hard to raise funds, and why they were pedaling all day.
As designated sweeper, my job was to hang out near the tail of the ride and offer medical, mechanical or moral support to any riders who needed it.  The trick here is not to reveal that you are the sweep, as no one wants to know they're in last place in a ride that's not a race.  I had the privilege of assisting one gentleman, who was riding his first event ride ever.  He'd purchased new shoes to try clipless pedals and couldn't clip out on either side.  I was able to catch him, get his cleats tightened and his pedals loosened.  Just a few small turns of an allen key, but he was grateful.

I spied the same farm stand I had stopped at for strawberries during the Petal Pedal, this time there were one pound bags of blueberries on display.  I ate as many as I could without getting sick, and tucked the rest away for later.  Roadside farm stands are a favorite roadie delight.
Hop fields make me thirsty for beer
The finish line offered quite a bit of fanfare.  First you pass through the great red arch, and there's a team of folks ringing bells and whistling and cheering.  You can't help but smile.  Then a nice lady runs up and hands you a cold wet washcloth.  As you enjoy that, another lady approaches and hands you a school-lunch-sized box of chocolate milk.  Finally, they put a small medal around your neck.  
The finish line feast, which was served within the Mt. Angel Community Festhalle, included more dishes than I can recall.  There were at least five types of sausage, and many pickled things.  I ate more bags of kettle chips than I'll admit in writing.  And, of course, there was beer, and souvenir pint glasses, for everyone.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Pedalpalooza 2018

June is a magical time of year in Portland, Oregon, where cyclists own the streets, and can be found roaming them in packs.  June is Pedalpalooza.  Bike fun abounds.  Anyone can organize any sort of ride and put it on the calendar.  Rides range from unicorn-themed to rolling foosball to casual centuries to protest rides - you name it!
I had the honor of leading the KickOff ride this year, which attracted a crowd of 1200 people.  It was scheduled for the day after the Northback ended, so I had to get all of my ducks in a neat little row before leaving for that trip.  It was a good chance to practice my social media pre-publishing skills, creating hype and setting expectations for the ride.

Right off, there were concerns about my route being 15 miles long.  I made it clear to all that there were three rides, and three distances, and three park stops, and three chances to create your own adventure.  The first, "child friendly" would take us seven miles to Normandale Park.  The second, "teenager ride" took us three additional miles to Wilshire Park.  Finally, the "grown up portion" took us to Overlook Park.

I added a tall bike detour, in part because I wanted to give the complainers something obvious to complain about (which worked well), and in part because I wanted to take riders over the cool curly-cue pedestrian overpass that the French Toast ride used to frequent.
It was a special treat to have this huge community trust me to follow me through the streets of Portland.  One of my favorite parts was the heart-shaped loop we took through Ladd's Addition, which led to the head waiting for the tail to cross.  What a delight!

Another highlight was seeing five (!) of the nine Northback riders, one of whom I hadn't seen since the fateful day two.  Yet another highlight was how smoothly the evening went, the lack of crashes requiring ambulance intervention, and how so many riders came to me to say thank you.  My very favorite part was being accompanied by new friend Sole, leader of the Corvidae bike club, and having her in radio contact with the rear guard to ensure all went well.

There's no photo evidence, but I joined the Rocky Butte Sunset Dance Party ride, and that was pretty fun.  One of the best parts is the "race to the top" and I enjoyed going fast up the little hill that is Rocky Butte.  The dance party was fun, too, although I'll admit I really missed the disco ball.

The next Pedalpalooza ride I attended was the Wonder Women ride, which was led by a lady from my bikey networking group: the Portland Society.  Riders dressed as Wonder Women, and there were lots of different versions and interpretations of what that meant.  I wore bike shorts and a red jersey, silver shoes and golden arm gauntlets.  I started out with a black tutu as well, but had to ditch it due to leg chafe.  We rode to several parks, and splashed about in fountains.  At our last park stop, we enjoyed a water balloon tussle.
My eighth annual Swim Across Portland went swimmingly.  Nine riders came, which was a huge relief.  I had worried we'd have a giant number, more giant than the pool lines can accommodate quickly.  A rider from previous years sent me a laundry list of complaints about the ride including that it was too fast and that climbing the biggest hill in Portland wasn't fun.  Considering I'd be climbing up to Silver Falls during a century ride the day before, my sympathy ran shallow.  

It's always a surprise when people invited to a bike ride complain that there's an actual bike ride involved.  Realizing I'd better be very clear in setting expectations, I sent a long list of warnings to potential pedalpalooza riders with items like "sorry we go so fast (10 mph), sorry it's a drop ride (maps provided), sorry there's a 500' hill".  I then invited my personal friends with a completely different warning list "sorry we'll ride so slow (remember it's a social ride), sorry it's such a short ride, sorry it's almost completely flat".  Different strokes for different folks!
Popina Swimwear generously hosted an after party for us, with free beer and a discount on fancy swim suits.  One of the riders asked if I was miffed that there was another swim ride on the Pedalpalooza calendar.  I was the opposite of miffed and excited to hear of it, and we took off to join the Dock O'Clock ride, which took us to three Willamette River swim spots and a beach bonfire party.  All in all, I rode 45 miles that day and went swimming 6 times!  I'm kind of starting to feel ready for my triathlon. 

And, so, that was my Pedalpalooza for 2018.  I didn't attend many rides, because I was off in the valley riding fred centuries a few of the weekends.  And, now, to Afterpalooza!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Petal Pedal 2018

covered bridge from the outside
covered bridge from the inside!
When I first moved to Oregon, I thought the Century Farm was one giant conglomeration of farms dominating the countryside of the rural Willamette Valley.  I learned later that's just what they call farms that have been in business for a hundred years.  Anyway, rode sweep for a century ride Saturday and passed a lot of Century farms.

Sweeping a century, or hanging out toward the back to ensure all riders are doing fine, reminds me of a short story by Stephen King, where time rushes up behind the present to swallow everyone and everything.  That's what sweeping feels like to me.  As I arrived at each (bountiful!) rest stop, they were dismantling the tent, parsing out left over food and getting ready to go home.

The century I rode is called the Petal Pedal, and it took us through the stunning countryside all around Silverton and Silver Falls.  I gasped and wowed as we passed field after field of lavender, searing orange blooms, soft pink patches, pale green mystery blossoms, pear trees, apple trees, orchards of all sorts - all with scents to delight.  We saw raspberries, strawberries, hops on strings, and a giant daisy patch (which I got to pass twice!).  Neatly planted rows of crops dazzled with their orderliness. 
photo credit: Sarah (fog credit: Sarah's sweaty back pocket)
It was mostly cloudy all day, and the climbing didn't feel like climbing at all.  I rode with two of the Swift Summit 200 finishers from last year, and knew the race director would be proud of the community of riders he connected.  We swapped tales of our Swift strategies and I learned that last year Sarah taped a cheat sheet to her top tube with a detailed list of the tops of hills.  Chris shared that he was determined to scratch but the nice people at the control simply wouldn't let him.

I lost them in the afternoon after stopping at a farm stand.  I grew up on a strawberry farm and eating a whole pint of freshly picked strawberries took me right back.  I had an opportunity to chat with the farmer, who told me Oregon is known for its strawberries.  My fingers red and sticky, I continued on.
cemetery rest stop
Two dudes wearing teal were ahead of me, and it looked like they were lying down on the tarmac.  The sun and the miles can play tricks on your eyes, but as I got closer, I could see that they were scrambling up and out of the road.  I pulled up next to them and asked if they were ok.  They were both shaken up and one had a bleeding finger.  An oncoming vehicle was being passed and the passer hadn't seen the cyclists.  The front cyclist slammed his brakes on and the back cyclist hit him.

We ate some berries together, discussing different ways fingers can get dyed red, when the passing driver who caused the crash pulled up.  She was extremely apologetic and concerned that the riders and their bikes were okay.  It was nice to witness some humane treatment from a motor vehicle operator instead of the hateful harassment we are often faced with as vulnerable road users.

I hung back with the two teal guys and played my music loudly, alternating between riding fast and slow.  Some call those intervals, others call me a yo-yo.  Whatever it is, I like it.  I arrived at the finish line just in time to drink one of the last beers and enjoy prime rib with all the trimmings.  Everything was delicious and that's not just the miles talking.  In addition to the finish line feast, each rest stop offered a thoughtful variety of snacks, one with a full lunch of chicken sliders, cole slaw, chips and pasta salad. 
we're not in Portland anymore
The Oregon Garden is likely the very best venue for anything in the whole state of Oregon.  The grounds, the resort, the big festive hall where riders ate breakfast and pinned on bibs and returned to celebrate after finishing - all if it was sumptuous and welcoming.  It was an amazing event with top notch support, beautiful countryside and a fun gang of riders.