Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Soon after, a bicycle with 20" wheels flatted. I have an unsubstantiated theory that smaller wheels flat more often because they rotate more and therefore have more opportunities to wear out and/or pick up glass. Either way, the rider was unprepared for flat repairs, but luckily she was walking distance from Clever Cycles and another member helped her. The rest of us stood in the shade on the Esplanade and waited. It was a hot day, which created the feeling and mood of impending Pedalpalooza events.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Equipped with a new (to me) mountain bike - a GT Backwoods - and crazy fat tires, I learned about the luxury of mountain bike gearing. The cantilever brakes were nicer to my hands and more effective at slowing than my road bike's calipers. Most of all though, those fat Kenda Small Block Eights saved my bacon. It felt like driving a couch!
The ride began at 10am so I left around 9. That first hour of the route is confusing with many false turn-offs. I was torn between not wanting to see any riders and dying to see even one rider. Seeing anyone too soon would mean I was slow. Not seeing anyone for too long could mean I was lost. About an hour and a half after I started, just before cresting the first big hill, a rider quietly passed me by. He was either fast as hell or had also started early because I didn't see anyone else for another 40 minutes.
I started counting bikes. 3 cyclocross and 2 mountain bikes. 6 CX and 3 MTB. Keeping track started getting sketchy when I passed the Jens Voigt Army on their first of many flats that day. The overall estimate was 21 cyclocross and 12 mountain bikes. Pretty soon I was alone again. Then the JVA and a gal on an orange machine with 700x28 zaffiro tires passed me. We leapfrogged several times, me riding slow and steady, them fixing flat after flat and sprinting on.
I rounded a corner and saw fellow randonneur rider Kevin sitting on the side bleeding. A few people stopped to squirt his wounds with water so I just called him a badass and rolled on. The descent is long and hairy enough to make you crave climbing. Kevin caught up with me after a while. He was pretty scraped up and neither of us had a first aid kit. At the sulfur water fill up stop, he rinsed off and I gave him what little I had: an atomic fireball, a tissue and some chammy butter. A few minutes later, a dude with bandages and neosporin rolled up and made Kevin's day.
Kevin and I stayed together for the next few hours. We were very evenly paced, although his wounds may account for that. He would occasionally make a little whimpering sound, I assume from the pain. We enjoyed a quick wade into the reservoir water. He asked if I planned to take bail point three, the short cut back to camp. No way.
But I was quickly running out of water and it was hot. Bail point three started to sound like a necessary shortcut to stave off dehydration. Then we encountered two guys filling bottles from a stream. They had a water purifying chemical and shared it with us, enabling me to make my dream of skipping the bail point come true. Luckily, I carry plenty of candy and was able to thank them with a zot and a jawbreaker.
Alone again, I was able to concentrate on new lyrics for my gravel song and enjoy my special relationship with Puddy Gulch Road. This sucker is steep. Just when you finish one roller, another appears. It felt tortuous after all the miles of gravel and hills behind me. I heard a dog barking. I saw a flash of canine running toward me and yelled at the owner, not far behind him. Am I destined to be fearful of dogs whenever I ride now? Then I looked at the dog. This brown velvety creature had floppy ears and a lolling tongue and is probably next to the word cute in the dictionary.
Finally on the home stretch, Flying M Road felt so out of reach. Certainly I'd gone far enough by now. Maybe I passed the turn? How could they make Flying M Road so far away? Who are they that make things far away? I started swearing. Just then, two riders, who looked fresh as daisies, passed me up. I'm certain they had heard my graceless cursing demands that the road appear.
When I arrived at camp, I learned there was a rumor I had fallen. A few friends worried about "the girl in the pink jersey who went down", but it wasn't me. A handful of other riders continued to come in after me. I felt victorious over the me from last year. I wasn't last! Then the kegs and the steaks and the intimate group of campers sitting around the fire sharing war stories of the ride we'd just conquered. I can't wait til next year.
The next morning, we were awakened by the bee-like droning of old fashioned bi-planes and flying rigs as they flew over the meadow then swept in for a landing. We rendezvoused with the pilots up at the ranch house, where a bountiful breakfast awaited us. Back at camp, just before leaving, photographer/videographer Graham asked to interview me and for a "tour" of my bike. This made me feel special and famous and was the cherry on the cake of the weekend.
Monday, April 29, 2013
My riding partner, who couldn't care less about trophies or status awards, assured me that we could turn back at the first sign of trouble. He also, generously, dubbed the ride as "Maria's perm" and patiently softpedaled while I struggled to keep an average pace of 12.5 miles per hour.
A few blocks from the Grand Central Bakery start, I noticed a broken egg in the bike lane. It reminded me of a story Tyler Hamilton tells in his book The Secret Race. Something about a coach viewing the athletes almost as disposable - toss a dozen eggs against the wall and keep the ones that don't break.
And that's how the day went for me. Riding on eggshells and unable to take a hand off the bars, even to signal, I promised myself I wouldn't break. I tried to use the Wheatland Ferry crossing as a rest stop, but it took halfway across the river just to dismount my bike. Getting back on was a similar challenge. I continued, egged on by any egg references I could get my eyes on. And I took even more pills and pep-talked the crap out of myself.
We'd ridden many of these roads many times, so it felt like home territory. Stag Hollow gravel was fun. That's where the first dog of the day chased us. I forgot where we met the second one, although I recall yelling NO at it. The third one, I'll never forget.
We were on Stringtown Road, in the middle of farm country, coming up a small rise. Two dogs, a pit bull mix and a white lab, came running at us from across the street. I rode my fastest, a paltry 15 miles per hour, but failed to outrun the pit bull. It grabbed on to my calf with its teeth. A stream of swearwords later, we stood on the grass talking with the dog's owner. Molly May was her name. May is short for mayhem, naturally.
The skin was broken and the bite smarted, but my tights escaped without damage. It was almost refreshing to feel pain from somewhere besides my back for once. So, we pedaled on to Gales Creek. Downed cans of (medicinal!) beer at the Shell station before heading back to town. Lots of bullets were dodged that day. With my back in that condition, if I had fallen when tangling with the dog, I don't know if I'd have gotten back up. But I didn't fall. And I didn't break.
Friday, April 12, 2013
We met at 2pm at Tabor. I amazed myself by riding all the way to the pavilion without walking. On arrival, I was delighted to see a swell amount of cutely-clad riders. It's interesting to see each person's interpretation of tweed type apparel. I was most impressed with Kirk, who showed up on a Penny Farthing. This thing makes fixed gears look like a walk in the park.
Kirk's bad-assery aside, a young buck on a sexy little black track bike caught my eye. He had the style down pat and I especially appreciated seeing an old style track bike. Also, not surprisingly, the Self Appointed President for life (SAP) of the Society Of Three Speeds (SOTs) was in attendance. I somehow managed not to snap his photo, so will leave it up to your imagination.
I heard one woman exclaim "I love this town!" on seeing us pass. Another gentleman told his friends "Look, it's the Tweed Ride!". What a thrill to be recognized. Then, the highlight of my day happened. Just when I thought I couldn't get any higher. A friend and customer from the shop saw me and yelled "Maria! You were right about the tires, I loved them at Rickreall!". Are these worlds colliding or is it all one world?
Friday, April 5, 2013
I put a few of the pretty hand painted valve caps I keep in my jersey pocket onto unsuspecting bikes. Then I walked around the cluster of rando riders and stood in front. It's rude, sure, but I wanted to keep track of my place in the pack and that's easiest from the front. Plus, I did it with a smile and that helped.
As anticipated, that first 13 mile ascent was the perfect warm up. I kept it at an easy pace and held back from chasing as my riding partner and many others disappeared over the horizon. I forgave myself for being slow. I looked down at my pretty silver steed to remind myself how much I love this bike and how it will take great care of me today.
Magically missed the turn off into Vernonia, but it only cost a few seconds. Then, skipping the enticing Black Bear Cafe control with its hot drinks and friendly atmosphere and fireplace, I stopped at the less glamorous but much quicker Subway control. I had already started keeping pace with Rando Gary and he enjoyed the free coffee there. Gary has done the Paris-Brest-Paris, successfully, seven times. That means he's done one every four years for 28 years.
Now, to 202. I knew we'd be passing the Birkie this time, it wasn't listed as a control. I reminded myself that this was no regular permanent, no regular bike ride and no regular day of sightseeing and relaxing in the saddle. I was riding this one as a race. The last time I rode the Elsie-Banks route, it took me eleven and a half hours. Of course, I stopped for lunch that day.
Passing the turn off to 103 for the little spur taking us to the Jewel Elk viewing area info control point, I saw my usual riding partner. I scrambled on as I was anxious to see just how many miles separated us. Two it turned out. After a rushed info stop, I jetted back up to the turn-off and to Elsie.
Elsie was a giant pause button on my day. The first thing I saw when I walked in was a bakery case full of cookies. Chocolate! Peanut butter! I knew what lunch I wanted with my milk right away. Rando Graham was ordering pie and telling me a story about rhubarb. The lady behind the counter thought the story was for her and every time he started talking, she'd stop cutting the pie and look at him. She couldn't possibly understand how hurried and harried I felt.
Finally, two cookies and a milk later, I walked outside. Here was a green Surly, the perfect candidate for my final pair of painted valve caps in green. I twisted off the rear wheel's cap and replaced it with my green one. Then I twisted off the front cap. That's when things went bad. Suddenly, a bunch of air was shooting out! The cap had taken the removable valve core with it. I twisted it back on quickly but it was too late.
That's how my plan of a five minute stop ballooned out of control to twenty plus minutes. Crossing 26 to get back onto 103 took another five minutes. Finally, into the headwind, which new friend Graham kept referring to as a tail wind ("if we were going the other way"). On and on into the headwind. Back past Birkie, which had a couple of dozen motorcycles parked around it.
And, at last, Vernonia. Another stop at the quicky control. We enjoyed a short snack and no wait in line for the bathroom. A man eating his sandwich inside belonged to a recumbent parked in front and explained that ever since he crashed on a 400K, his wife won't let him rando ride no more.
Refreshed and ready for some coasting, we got back onto the beautiful Banks-Vernonia trail. This was the warmest ride of the year so far. I wore short sleeves and even sunscreen. We caught back up with Gary and R.B. and quizzed them on Pariisen cycle culture. "Do the French yell CAR BACK the way Americans do?" No, but they'll say VOIT in a conversational tone, meaning CAR UP. The Italians, on the other hand, talk and talk and talk. And gesticulate while talking and riding.
The way back down the trail was perfectly pleasant. No headwind, no ascent, no problem. Except for the little hot foot that was creeping up the ball of my right foot. In a groove with a tight little pack now, I didn't dare stop, even for a second. So, I removed my shoe cover (while riding!) and poured some water down the toe vent. I wouldn't have been surprised if steam came up.
Past the trailhead and into Banks, we headed through the parking lot to the pizza place finish line. Four, yes four, vehicles nearly backed into me on the short little stint through the lot. I weaved around them and handed my card in post haste. 9:46. Nine hours and forty six minutes. 128 miles. My usual riding partner scored 8:56. We were 13th and 15th out of 41 riders, but it's not a race. It's just a ride we ripped the legs off of.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
What is the (f) for, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. It's to indicate that I'm a female. Because it's a big accomplishment to ride a 200K every month for twelve consecutive months, but apparently it's extra special if you have boobs. Sarcasm aside, the men listed for the award do not have an (m) after their name and I am not a big fan or even a small fan of gender splits. I plan to write a letter to the RUSA group and we'll see what happens if anything!
Meanwhile, back to the ride. The weather smurfs promised rain all day, so I opted out of my cute outfit and cute bike and instead went with the trusty wool base layer I've worn all winter, pink Goretex jacket and the SOMA with its nice buddy flappy fenders. As usual, the weather didn't act specifically as predicted, but I was glad to have the gear anyway as sprinkles were plentiful.
We went through North Plains, but didn't stop at the market, which is too bad because I always look forward to owner Kim's no-nonsense checkpoint signing style. But there were three info controls on our cue sheets. Info controls are the rando equivalent to alley cat checkpoints. Often you can learn some little historical nugget or just enjoy the fun of counting zip ties on signs. One of the info controls asked us for the number of the small bridge we just crossed. I never even knew they numbered those little country bridges!
At one point, I believe I spotted the self-appointed president for life of the Society of Three Speeds. He was not riding a three speed, but I spied that same teacup hanging form his saddle bag. He peeled off in Banks for a pastry stop and I didn't see him again. There were lots of other familiar faces, friends, Randos whose blogs I follow, Randos whose wheels I aspire to follow, and even a customer from my work who was telling me how much he was enjoying the tires he bought.
Whether I was over-trained or under-rested or just plain having a slow as mud day, I'm not sure. I was able to keep up with many folks, but it was a battle. The longest stop I took was a ten minute snack break at the Gaston store. I longed to duck into the One Horse and drink beer. Instead the overwhelmed but polite store clerk signed my card and I sat on the curb to enjoy my snacks.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Wyeth hill, Mosier tunnels, up Rowena and back down into the Dalles. Motel Six. Dinner with beer. Beer with dinner? Every decision in a group of eight is by consencus and begins to wear on my easy-to-unravel patience. But, alas, these fall in the category of white person problems. All in all, the group I'm with is super-fun and considerate and ready for anything.
But, all's well that ends well. We scream by stonehenge, over the bridge to Biggs, quick water stop at McD's and into the headwind, taking turns pulling. Working hard for almost ten miles, it's finally time to turn south onto good old Old Moody Road. This road was my first ever gravel experience a couple of years ago. The first quarter mile is steep. Really steep. I still haven't managed to ride that stretch.
Teammate "Fool" catches up with me mid-Moody. We hang out and ride and chat and say hello to the cows in the road. Back to pavement. It almost feels anticlimactic knowing the ride's near its end. The valley is calm and the bucolic views peaceful and pretty. There's barely a car. So much so that I decide to let loose on the double-yellow. Line, that is.
Meeting up with everyone at the start-cafe is pleasant. There's a dude from California giving everyone cans of beer. People share their snacks. We start devising a plan for evening food and drink. We share stories of the ride as if it were last week or last month instead of just now. The evening is a blur of fun at the brew pub and The Dalles' dark streets and our hotel rooms. Face masks and toy cockroaches, zombie games, laughing at everything and nothing, our group feels cemented.
Monday, March 4, 2013
At the top, enjoying the sunshine from the pavilion where the Tweed Ride will be starting this year, folks took out their thermoses and cookies and started heating water for tea. I felt unprepared but put out my trail mix and hard candy to share anyway. Folks even broke into spontaneous poem recitals, each about three speeds.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Several miles on, heading west, we could see a large and ominous dark cloud. Sure enough, sprinkles started up again. Then, while climbing up a little rise, I noticed a small glowing spot on the tarmac. The sun! At first just a bright spot behind the gray, the clouds slowly dissolved around it to expose blue sky.
A few short turns led to those enjoyable country lanes I love so much. The droplets ceased for good and the sun seemed committed to hanging around. Spring Hill Road became North Valley Road, as it usually does. A lone rider could be seen on the road ahead, just after the Flett turn off. His jersey read "Rhinognolo" and he seemed impressed I could pronounce it.
Dayton was a small disappointment. Although it was an open control, there was only one place to stop. But, as they say, looks can be deceiving and the Dayton store, with its sign: grocery. cigarette. turned out to be the perfect pit stop. The clerk was inquisitive and friendly in the way only control clerks can be. They even had pink reflective sunglasses with red flames on the bows for seven bucks, and my snack of choice: necco wafers and strawberry milk.
Now for the back portion of the out and back. North to Dayton. Past the same pretty silos and landscapes to the sweetly curious clerk at the store. I thought she'd come around the counter and hug us, she seemed so happy. She even asked if we'd be back again the same day. This time I bought sparkly pink earrings, as I still had a whole sleeve of thin mints waiting in my basket.
North, north, north. Past the turn off to Gaston, which is hard to skip because I yearn to go to the One Horse. A rainbow. A full moon rising. A pump house in a field that would make an excellent info control for some future ride.
Missing the turn onto Ribbon Ridge Road and riding on the dusky highway with its long lines of cars cost an extra four miles. Strangely, no one honked or even yelled. One driver slowed down, lowered their window and said softly "nice bike lights". It seems a trend of treating cyclists courteously has begun.
Now for the evening home stretch. At around 6:00pm, I marveled at the difference in light from last month - when we had been standing at the top of Timber in the pitch black fixing a flat and freezing. Although balmy and not as dark, this portion of the day seems to be a sort of military training. You push yourself and your body and your machine to the limit. You learn not just how to survive but to carve out some pleasure from the experience.
Friday, February 22, 2013
We both live "far out" but we enjoyed a chuckle together at how very close we are to the Hawthorne bridge - a mere thirty minute bike ride, at a social pace.