Thursday, May 31, 2012

Metaphorical Journey

This year's Columbia Gorge Explorer Tour was my sixth annual.  Four days, forty riders, 230 miles, thirty pounds of crap on my bike - you get the picture.  The entire time I was trying to cook a good blog angle. I fancy myself a writer but sometimes suspect that my brain has mixed up the words writer and rider. 
I started off thinking of the legend of Loowitlakla, which means Lady of Fire.  The story goes that Loowit was an old wrinkled lady who was granted immortality but asked for eternal youth instead.  Wy'East was in love with Loowit but so was Klickitat.  Neither won her heart and eventually they all died and mountains sprouted at their graves: Mount Saint Helens, Hood and Adams respectively. 

Then I moved onto the geography, or is it geology, of the stunningly gorgeous area where we rode.  I know the Missoula Floods carved the canyons along the gorge as the ice age was ending, and delivered the rich soil we now enjoy in the Willamette Valley.  I started thinking about water seeking its level and that I might create some metaphor about cyclists seeking their level. 
Another metaphor started to develop.  Something about losing my gravel-virginity on Old Moody Road last year and coming back this year like a seasoned gravel slut.  That was definitely going nowhere, so I considered listing some great quotes from the trip.  The best one was uttered by Steve, when asked where his bike frame broke: "somewhere outside of Breckenridge". 

Then, this morning, as I mounted my bike, with the rack and load removed, I marveled at how light it felt.  You get used to the heavy baggage you carry until somehow it offers a certain comfort.  When you finally drop that weight, the lightness feels foreign and even hard to handle.  And that's where I ended up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ripplebrook Randonnée

Eclipse means black out.  Keel over, swoon, suppress, smother.  But eclipse also means squash, exceed, excel, transcend.  I did all of these things on Sunday.

The day began with a sore throat, headache and fever, then continued with traffic problems.  A poison oak rash in my finger webs.  Rain.  The disturbing thought, fear even, of the distance and the day ahead.  Doubts of survival.

An innocent question: "why would you choose to ride today?" led to a great deal of introspection.  I chose to ride because I want my R12 (dammit!).  But, no, I didn't choose to ride, I just ride.  It's what I do.  More than that, it's who I am.  Especially on a hard day.
The twenty mile ride from Estacada to the Ripplebrook ranger station was extremely tough and beautiful.  Luckily, the turnaround was a real turnaround for me.  Turns out we had been climbing the whole way out there. Plus, this was the furthest out point of the ride, so I could taste success.

I don't remember how we got from Estacada to Oregon City.  That part of the day is simply gone.  I came to at a tavern with bras hanging from the ceiling and a beer in my hand, so things were going well.  From there, the northward trek remained.  I recall seeing lots of bunnies.  Bunnies.  Back to Broadway for one last signature on the brevet card and we were done.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trespass Tour Twenty Twelve

Top secret tour.  A pink rose.  Wine.  Camping.  Poison oak.  Puking in the bushes.

Gravel.  Dirt.  Grass.  Getting lost.  Fun.  Friendship.  Nature.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tour De Beavers

Three of us set out from Champoeg Park on the same day as the "Monster Cookie" event ride.  We loaded up our bikes and rode south, while the monsters rode north.  It was a new and interesting view on the event ride to see riders cutting each other off, making rude comments and not paying attention to traffic at all (including us!).
We started competing to see who could get recognized the most and that took the edge off.  Stopped for a bottle of champagne, which I had hidden behind a tree a few weeks before.  We ran into a lady dressed like a beaver and deemed her our mascot.
Quite a lot of beer was consumed. Finally, we arrived at our destination - the Hilton Hotel in Corvallis.  We brought our loaded steeds through the fancy lobby and into the elevator.  Once upstairs, we rode our bikes in the carpeted hallway.  Talk about low rolling resistance!
At the hotel, we compared loads and I was deemed "the minimalist".  We practiced our badass faces in the mirror.  We drank (yet another!) beer before heading out for dinner and (even more!) beer.  Day 2 we did it all in reverse.  140 miles, two days, three friends and a barrelful of fun.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Century Surprise

Saturday's special surprise century day
Started at six to volunteer for the bike club.
Rode up to the college to hand out cue sheets.
Time trialed ahead to the rest stop to hand out food.
Saw friend after friend after bike club friend.

Left for a ride with Nick - out Washougal Way.
A big swooping hill invited us up.
At the top a deserted motocross picnic playground.
Back down and to town and a drink.

Then off to explore the Lacamas Lake trail alone.
Running out of time, racing to the pizza party.  Beer.

Exploratory under-construction bike path with randos.
A sprint with Ed to Velocult, beer with Ryan and the gang.
An auto pilot ride back home
And an odometer reading one hundred and eleven.
A good day.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Butter

(Eighteenth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

This bike, covered in the "My Miyata" series of blogs I wrote starting last fall, is probably my favorite.  Like children, I love all of my bikes equally but in different ways.  Don't tell my other bikes, but this one rises to the top of the list.

First of all, it's a Miyata.  I love these Japanese-built bikes from the 80s and 90s.  The steel tubing, the lugs, the geometry - all of them speak to me.

Second, I built this bike.  I bought a frame, put a bunch of parts on it and now I ride it around town as if nothing could be more natural.

Third, although named for its buttery yellow color, butter also describes the super creamy smooth ride this little bike offers me.  I can't help but sigh "oh butter" while riding it.

Fourth, it has a twin.  Yes, two of the same rare bike actually riding around Portland!  It's pictured above, behind my Butter is its doppelganger, a margarine-colored other Butter bike.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rapture Rando Girl

"It's hard".  That's what Charley, the Clatsop tamanawis man, said about crossing the mountainous terrain between the plains and Murderer's Harbor back in 1948.  Trask made the trek anyway. And so did I.

Twenty-five years after Trask's time, the League of American Wheelmen won their fight for the right to paved roads and I revolt!  Here I was, off the beaten track, riding on Trask's tilted mountain by the river he'd have called Charley, experiencing the toughest, loosest, scariest gravel I've ever ridden.

Several hours alone in the woods, scared, having cried a few times from fear and frustration, I experienced epiphany after epiphany.  The first: I suck at this.  Or, more accurately, it's ok to suck at this.  Just suck.  Go ahead and do something even though you're lousy at it.
The Wheelmen eventually changed their name to Bicyclists, possibly due to a feminist revolt.  Feminism.  Oh, how I struggle with the idea of it.  I am a woman, empowered and equal, what do I need with feminism?  I like riding bikes with boys.  I often feel like I'm one of the boys.  So, although I believe in equal rights for all genders and orientations, I don't identify myself as a fighter for these rights.  Again, I revolt.

At the bottom of a long, very long, and frightening descent, I finally see the first female rider of the day.  I had been passed over and over by guys, but here was a chick.  "Girl Power!" we yelled in unison.  Wow, I thought, it's me and that one gal out here - we are some tough mama-jamas!

A little later, I saw another lady rider.  Then another, and another until finally, I lost count, but I believe that they - we - outnumbered the men.   Another epiphany.  Feminist or not, I am not strong because I'm out here alone.  We are strong because there are so many of us.  Women, men, cyclists, crybabies, badasses.

After calculating if I'd make it back to camp by dark and how the others might refer to me (girl with a basket?), I remembered who I am.  I am made of will.  So, I rode right on by as the siren song of "Bail Point Three" called to me. Screw you, bail point 3.  I don't need you.  I will, I will, I will.  That is my spirit animal, Mr. Trask.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Evolution Reflections

I've only ever ridden a track bike in the street but I aspire to one day ride the velodrome.  So I attended the OBRA fundraiser for the Alpenrose Velodrome.  Plus, they had free beer.

A coupla sweaty fixie kids came skidding up, finishing their alley cat race.  So naturally, I pretended to be a race official.  It worked - they handed their manifests over, no questions asked.  I used to race in alley cats in San Francisco for fun, now I steal race sheets for kicks.

Java Joel, of Courier Coffee fame, was there too.  I first met Joel in Eugene in 2001 when he approached me in a bike shop asking if he could organize his own race and would I teach him.  This led to a handful of poorly-attended (but fun!) alley cat races during my first cold, wet, Oregon winter.

Next I saw Bill Alsup, Randonneur Extraordinaire, who came up and introduced himself to me.  Bill is the owner of the Donuts To Domination 200K permanent I rode last weekend.  We had an enjoyable discussion about rando riding - which is very much like a grown-up alley cat race.

The long ride home in the rain felt short and easy on my single speed - now a freewheel and no longer a fixie.