Friday, February 24, 2012

Yacolt Gravel, Second Attempt

After getting lost on the first attempt at this final route in the Randonnerds Brevet Series, it started to gain mythical status in my mind. What happens on top of the hill when you take the left fork instead of the right? I just had to find out, so I roped some other riders into trying it again with me.
Just before we reached the gravel turn-off, these creatures bid us adieu. On the left, we see the bald eagle, which, as an American symbol, foretells of a new Randonneur USA member. Above and behind the bush, we see the lion. Someone suggested recently I change my mascot from kitty to lion as a sign of sheer ferociousness, which would be a requirement in the hour to follow. And, lastly, just peeking out from behind the bush on the right, is our clown-gnome. Clown-gnomes indicate a certain playfulness and folklore-flavored ride in the deep, dark woods. All of this would come to pass.

We made our turn onto 412th or Jones Creek or who knows because there's no signs. We turned left at the fork at the "top of the hill" this time. Of course, that was not the top. The gravel started getting bigger. Rocks as big as my fist made one rider theorize that we were actually getting smaller as we climbed higher. More misleading forks and turnarounds until finally we were lost in the middle of nowhere. That's when the rain started.

Standing around in the cold wet while looking at maps and discussing possible routes was getting us nowhere so we decided to take another left fork and hope for the best. This took us down, down, down and around to the exposed west-facing part of the mountain. That's when the sleet started.
Continuing down on mud and gravel in the wind and snow with numb hands makes it hard to brake. These are the magical moments when you get to have a little discussion with yourself. It goes something like this: "That's right, ride right through it. Suck it up. Keep going. Trust the bike. Go. Go. Go.".

We weren't out of the woods yet, but we were finally back in the woods when the rain stopped and a pinch flat stopped us. It took all three of us to come up with a fix. Twenty cold minutes later, patting ourselves on the back for our teamwork, we were back on the road, if you can call it a road. Another ten minutes and we were back to balmy sea level and smooth pavement. Victory, again.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


(Twelfth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)
Those lucky enough to be granted "Friends of the Shop" status at American Cyclery in San Francisco in the late '90s were welcomed to hang out after hours, explore private areas of the store, drink beer and even smoke joints in the repair shop. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time at the shop and had some great times there.

Their basement had a mythical feeling to it. After ducking your head under the "Friends of the Shop Only" sign, you were treated to a visual sea of bikes. The labyrinth of cave-like rooms was filled to overflowing with old and new bikes in every state of repair and disrepair.

One evening while exploring the contents of the basement, which often required climbing or squishing past piles of bikes, I discovered an ancient Dutch ladies cruiser with a dramatic swooping top tube and an aluminum chainguard with HERMES cut into it. I fell in love with it and begged to buy it.

Henry, my friend and mechanic, gave it a tune up and painted it orange for me. It has 28" wheels, features a coaster brake and a tricky 2-speed internal rear hub that uses centrifugal force. As soon as you reach 10 mph, it changes into the harder gear. You do a quick kickback to reset it to the easy gear.

I recently put new tires and a Brooks saddle on it. It's quite a sporty little showboat, so I'll probably ride it on the Tweed Ride on April 1st. If you live in Portland, mark your calendar for this ride! We'll meet at 1pm at Kenilworth Park and ride about twelve flat miles. Ride your prettiest bike and dress to the nines. We'll enjoy a high tea mid-ride and a party at the finish with free beer, a photo booth and live music.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Activate Hub Launch

We are encouraged from a young age to find our dream and go live it. Simplified, my dream is bikes. Not just riding bikes, but everything bike. They're all vastly different pieces of the same pie - why not taste 'em all? So, back in 2010, when I had an opportunity to work in the bicycle industry, I jumped at it.

Luckily for me, an amazing networking group for women in the bike industry was starting up at exactly the same time. We call ourselves the Portland Society and our mission has evolved to encompass professional women, specifically to"...grow our businesses and careers while making Portland a better place to live and ride."

Last fall I started serving on the Society board as Treasurer. Why do I get involved in so many organizations? Because I like the word "yes" I guess. Seriously, saying yes to even the smallest invitation can lead to big opportunities at the most and more bike rides at the very least.

In this spirit, I initiated a weekly Thursday morning Portland Society ride. Lindsay Caron and I were the only ones to show up to the very first one. Probably because it was darned frigid and the streets were covered in frost. We rode through a dramatic freezing fog and surprised several gigantic geese napping on the bike path. They screamed and flew over our heads, barely missing us.

While we rode, Lindsay told me about the project she'd been working on for over a year. Something about an on-line calendar. Her website would show everything happening in a particular metro area - not just rides or advocacy opportunities or social events - but all of it. The idea is for organizations (or individuals) to submit events or even full calendars onto the site for everyone's use.

As she filled me in on the details, it dawned on me how useful this could be. Not just for me personally, but for the several groups I'm involved with - each with their own very full schedule. I was also excited because Lindsay was "doing it" - living her dream.
When she invited me to the launch party last Thursday evening, there was no way I'd miss it. In the midst of a personal reboot week, (three days off the bike, no alcohol, healthy food, more sleep), I drove my car to the party. And I said "no thank you" when offered delicious free beer, which has no small historic significance in itself.

The party was held in an interesting multi-use space called The Slate, located in industrial northwest Portland. There were at least 50 people in attendance and in addition to the free beer, an amazing spread of healthy munchies for folks to enjoy. A projector cast an image on the wall behind Lindsay showing their new website's main screen while she walked the crowd through the inner workings of the site and gave credit to the many contributors and helpers.
The website is called and it's the beginning of something big. Not just for Portland - there are also sites in the works for Seattle and San Francisco and eventually all major cities will be connected. I look forward to submitting all of my groups' agendas on it and seeing what else is listed so I never have to miss another dance party or bike ride or city hall meeting get the idea.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Peachy Keen

(Eleventh in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)
I really wanted to include a photo of each bike in this series, but can't seem to dig one up of old Peach. So, I'll describe it as accurately as possible.

Peach was an old lugged steel road bike that I converted into a ghetto fixed gear. I spray-painted it peach color, covered it with decals of peaches and letter stickers spelling "PEACHY KEEN". And I gave it bull-horn bars wrapped with pale orange Benotto tape.

It was probably a 56cm frame, way too big for me, and I only put around 500 miles on it altogether. The first time I took it out, it made the most whoppingly loud (and embarrassing) racket due to the rear spokes being dangerously loose.

I don't remember who I gave it to when I moved from California to Oregon but there is a messenger in SF who calls himself Peachy Keen so I like to pretend he has it. If you see this bike around, take a photo for me, will ya?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Worst Day of the Year Ride

As usual, we had a warm and dry day for this ride, bringing out the fair-weather hordes in droves. I had forgotten about the hilly sections and rode my single speed, which may have weakened me emotionally.

Lost my mask in more ways than one. Then too much beer at the end sealed my deal as basket case. Bad times are good for resolving to change, strengthen, renew.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Midnite Mystery Ride

I found my people.
They ride at midnight.
Some on freak bikes. Some on tall bikes. Some on small bikes.
One on a Mercier fixie with BMX styling and a Rando-esque set up.
To an out-of-the-way place to hang around and raise hell.
To race on strange greasy two-wheeled towing rigs.
To watch the moon move across the sky until dawn.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Redland Ride to the River

I first heard about this Vancouver Bike Club ride because the ride leader asked me about how to submit it on the calendar. The Road Captain then stepped in and got her set up. Then our Road Scholar mapped the route and created a cue sheet. With so many people pitching in, I thought - I better go check it out! Unfortunately it’s on a Thursday afternoon during my work hours. Fortunately, I get vacation time and decided to use it. That’s right, I took the day off work to go on a bike ride.

After sleeping in and enjoying a long bath, I rode the 15 miles from Southeast Portland down to the Redland Café. I was early enough to get my grub on at the diner, which was cheap and delicious. Then I went outside to see MaryJean standing alone in the parking lot waiting for me. It was going to be just the two of us. I asked if she was disappointed and she said not at all, she was leading this ride to get at least one riding companion and had been totally successful so far.
Here's MaryJean near where I hit a deer in my car months ago.

Off we rode, choosing the long version of the route. The sky was cloudy and it had been sprinkling all morning but it ended up being clear and dry for us. I enjoyed seeing goats and chickens and horses and cows and sheep. And Victorian homes alongside traditional farm houses and barns. And eventually, the sun!

Our route took us on a bridge over the Sandy River where we looked down at the boat ramp at Barton Park. Down the hill and we were at the boat ramp. Then back up the hill. We went down river from there (or was it up river?) to Milo McIver Park for a stunning view of Mount Hood. Down the hill. Up the hill. Over the river. This fun ride demonstrates that a club ride leader doesn’t work alone and also doesn’t ride alone.
Here's me at Milo McIver Park.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Zig Zag Last Sunday

Over the river, through the woods, over the river again. And again.

Up and up. 100 miles. Beautiful, hard, cold.

Then, homeward, on the Springwater in the dark. Luckily we didn't hit any bunnies.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Caddyshack Ride

In spite of Bill Murray snubbing his own tribute bicycle ride, Caddyshack 2012 was a complete success. Twelve other riders came and soaked up the sunshine. Here are the girls at the Heron Lakes beer stop. I mean lunch stop.

Frank missed coffee at my house but chased us across town until we crossed paths. Then the group turned around, the first of many u-turns, and began touring the seven golf courses near Marine Drive. Here he is practicing his golf swing.

Fifty smooth as butter miles.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Sprockettes

These dancing girls inspire me! They are beautiful, pink, bikey, and imperfect in the very best way.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Number Seven

My long term goal of a seven cycle posse has been attained. Meet bicycle number seven:
The GT Backwoods is my first aluminium bike. I named it Giddy. Tossed some pink stuff and a pretty plastic pony on it to make it mine.

Giddy showed me last night that like an untamed horse, he can buck you right out of the saddle. But, no harm done, I climbed back on and rode.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Whistlin' Dixie

Saturday and Monday provided a dry sunny sandwich around a chilly wet Sunday. Thirty gritty highway miles took us to the climb. Up hauntingly beautiful country roads, winding and hard-packed dirty. To a place called Dixie Mountain.

There were lots of signs reading "watch for ice". I imagine these hinged signs are flipped over to say "watch for rainbows" on rainy sunny days. Or "watch for gnomes" during early morning mists.

No signs to announce our arrival at the top, but lots of birds. And apple trees, which make someone I know happy. And a surreal moment when a bright white horizon appeared close enough to touch.

After the hard part was done, the other hard part began. Climbing Skyline forever. Riders going the other way shouted my name, putting wings on my feet.

Finally, screaming down Cornell, my rear tire slipped a little and I blew a kiss at Death. Shivering over beer completed the day. One I hope to repeat again and again.