Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fire And Ice

The 135 mile Mt. Adams Randonneur Permanent required serious strategy:

Up early.
Coffee & oatmeal to go.
Lipstick.  Get dressed.
Hair.  Vitamins, allergy meds.
Go!  5:10am depart.
Cross at BOG.  Venus Cafe.
Mo-fos.  Mo coffee.  A bagel!
Go.  Enjoy the flat.
Tail wind?  Bingen.
Now north.  Climbing through the forest.
Mile 61 top of main climb.
Feel awesome!
Enjoy the woods.
Gifford Pinchot mo fo.
Mile 100 top, it gets easy.
Enjoy life.  Breathe deep.
Remember my dream.
Eat the right dinner.
Enjoy the stars.

The result: the hardest day on a bike in my entire life - survived.

As we began the main part of the climb, Bingen and a migraine behind me, the landscape looked eerily like my own tan down blanket.  The dream I mention in my strategy was from earlier in the week.  The Gifford Pinchot wilderness and my bed were one in the same.  I rode all over the forest and the bed and the mountain I climbed was myself. 
White Salmon gave way to Trout Lake and a wrong turn led to a road I'd like to try again someday.  There were plenty of signs thanking the fire fighters and some landed crane helicopters and fire camps.  Then we started to see the mountain.  At first it looked like a high, white, cloud bank.  Holding still and watching the clouds move past proved it was a mountain, but it seemed more like the ethereal home of the gods. (It's straight over the source of the smoke in the photo)

The descent was chilly and parts of it were dirt and gravel.  But before hypothermia could set in, there was one more climb to conquer: Curly Creek Road.  Only five miles, then to Old Man's Pass for the final descent.  A lack of clothing on my sweaty body during the twenty mile dusky descent made life suck for a nice long while. 
Then, regrouping, we crossed a tall and elegant cathedral style bridge that makes the Saint John's bridge seem small.  It was dark and narrow by now so we plodded on.  I feared the final descent back to SR-14.  The notorious gorge gusts were sure to toss me, especially as my strength waned.  But down we went on a windless road, my fears unfounded.

Stopping along the highway to snatch the jacket I stashed earlier, I turned my headlight toward the ground.  There, at my feet, was a rotten little doe.  So rotten it didn't smell the way dead things smell anymore.  This sight scared me more than anything all day.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Unicorn Smurf

My day of luxury finally arrived.  Slept in, rode a few short miles over to Linda's house.  She served me coffee, loaded the bikes and drove us to the Wheatland Ferry.  I was privileged to be a part of her Velo Vine Ride research and development project.

We met up with the other riders, boarded the ferry and were off on a pretty wine country ride featuring four winery stops and twenty country miles of rolling hills.  I took the gravel option route, which offered around  five miles of challenging terrain to add to the fun.
My tire flatted and before I could curse at it, I dismounted to see dozens of handfuls of glistening ripe blackberries only a few inches from my face.  I did my best to get my fingers purple and sticky before walking the few steps up the hill to the next winery.
The view was perfect, especially from our sweet little spot on the patio.  Linda laid out a luscious lunch on the picnic table for our little group of friends.  I had an easy time fixing my flat while we ate and drank and took in the view.

From here, a few short miles down the hill, over to the ferry, back to the car and home to Portland.  Thank you Linda for a fabulous time!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Frenchman's Bar Bike Path

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry about a (magical!) day competing in the Vancouver Bicycle Club's scavenger hunt.  I snapped this photo near Frenchman's Bar and wrote:

"Shortly after u-turning to get back to the finish line, some gentlemen stood up and held out a banner reading "Hey Bicyclists" so I stopped.  They gave me a rainbow striped popsicle and asked me to come back after the picnic (which I did, getting video-taped sitting on a couch with my bike in the shot!)."

Today, it came to my attention that OregonLive ran an article on the efforts of Todd Bachmann and Jacob Brostoff to gain support for adding a bike path to connect the existing ones near Vancouver Lake Park nd Frenchman's Bar.  It's a great read - check it out!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No Sweat

"Rides like these bring out negative self-talk."

All was lined up for a luxuriously fast and easy day in the saddle.  A week of restful recovery, healthy habits and a lack of aches could only lead to a superior performance on Saturday, right?  I visualized waiting at the top of each climb for the slow pokes.  Even the invitation referred to me as "the fastest rider".

Instead I started the day with two flats, not enough flat-repair supplies and a stinky attitude before we even hit Scappoose.  The pretty part of the day started there, and things started to look up.  And I do mean up.  Even in my easiest gear, the ride felt like a constant grind.
I abstained from ordering ale at mile sixty, no small task.  I made up for it by ordering ale at mile 100.  The last ten percent of every ride is my easiest and it'd pay to remember that during the earlier part of the day.  Thankfully, I only cried one time and after barely blubbering enjoyed some terrific views and descents.

In the end, I received some special gifts that floated my mood sky-high.  And my seemingly sluggish pace wasn't quite the slowest, although I'm reminded that bike rides and life are no contest and no place to compare.  Finally, I concluded that my sweet little smoothie needs some serious lovin'.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cindi, a lady from my bike club, went on a few bike rides over the summer. She presented us with her ten best stories and a couple of large framed maps of the United States with routes marked in red sharpie.

By the numbers:
* Cindi's sixty
* Fifty centuries
* Fifty states
* Fifty (consecutive) days
* Three friends (four including Cindi)
* One van that drove 12,500 miles
* Four flats (I can't believe she rode gatorskins!)
* Three falls (one was on foot walking down stairs)

She told the group of us that she didn't know if she could accomplish this goal but that didn't stop her from trying.  "Anyone can do anything" she said.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seven Ate Nine

A lot of thinking goes on during a three day tour through beautiful wilderness..  A whole lot.

First, my brain was stretched by learning some American Sign Language during this trip.  Enough to feel like I could really communicate.  More importantly, I learned that this visual language is not a direct translation of English.  It's its own language with its own nuances and slang and culture.  I especially enjoyed the verbal description of the sign for "dislike": if you don't like something, take it from your heart and throw it away.  There's a thoughtfulness that changes your thinking when using this language. 

I noticed how differently I look at the terrain neighboring the road and the little offshoots from each road.   Back when I was (self-)confined to pavement, I wouldn't even think of venturing off the shoulder into pea-sized gravel or dirt.  But now that I've successfully experimented with gravel (meaning I've ridden in it a bunch and only crashed once), the world of many other textures has been opened up.  The lesson here is not to confine oneself.

Another thought I had, or invented really, is a new law of physics that I have named "impact theory".  It had been my regular practice to slow down for passing vehicles to get the interaction over with quickly.  But then I started to think about the speed differential between me and passing trucks.  If I slow to ten miles per hour and get hit by a vehicle going 50 mph, the impact is at five times my speed.  However, if I speed up to 20 mph, that's almost half.  So, yeah, that's impact theory.  Try it out.

I also had an epiphany-sized revelation that is so big I can't write about it here.  But, trust me,  it's good.  Really good.  And, now, onto the regular ride report.

We took the train to the highway to the twenty mile Banks-Vernonia bike trail and up into the wilderness.    Apiary took us up the hill to camp in this so-called Adirondack shed, which could comfortably sleep eight and their gear - much bigger than the genuine "lean-to" one finds in the Adirondack mountains. After a delicious dinner and campfire, we enjoyed a warm evening's rest.

Day two started with an easy and leisurely morning; a shower, coffee, oatmeal.  And more Apiary Road, my new favorite place.  Part of the fun of being a tourist is riding wherever the wind blows you and sight-seeing several times along the way.  I visited a quaint little barn sale at the top of a big hill and even scored three mini pocket knives for our small troop. 
We couldn't have known the Buddhists would offer us lunch, so we enjoyed an impromptu hillside picnic of beans and rice and scallions.  This is where we encountered an alarmingly large and stripey creature.  The monastery we visited was a converted elementary school, symmetrical and huge and quiet. 
Everyone we met offered us lunch.  Instead, we had a tour and tea.  I was delighted to see a bronze Miyata 612 on the way to view their small bike repair shop.  What a gem this place is!  On leaving, we were encouraged to take the "Zen" way to town - a pretty dirt road alongside a dike. 
Less than an hour later, we arrived, ditched our stuff at the Inn, a friendly hostel-type place, and went off to find and fly kites.  Then back to a wood-fired hot tub soak, and dinner and drinks by the river, where crawdads and catfish can be caught.
The next day after a delicious diner breakfast, we dawdled for a castle viewing and another coffee and a sit-on-the-bridge stop.  A few miles more down the road before we split up.  A cramp sidelined me for the first bit of the pleasant thirteen mile climb back up Apiary.  After a rest stop, I saw a flower on the other side of the road that needed to be photographed.
A huge herd of motorcycles roared by.  After they passed, I continued on until things started looking eerily familiar.  I realized I'd never turned back around after the flower photo, so I u-turned around again and enjoyed a do-over of the pretty little hill.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Started Wednesday with a quick ride over to the Nutcase Helmets office, where the Portland Society had their monthly meeting.  These ladies and the cool bikey stuff that comes out of them and this lively lovely little network lights me up.
After work, headed over to a ride I saw advertised on the book of face: the LSFAR.  Lazy Summer....Ride.  We met at Colonel Summers park and the cops stopped by to see us off.

The mobile sound system was incredible.  A ginormous amp toted on a wide bamboo trailer by a tandem.  It's as if the playlist was made just for me - lots of Bikini Kill.  We hopped from park to park, occasionally visiting with the cops, until finally the crowd dwindled and the hour grew late and I rode home to bed.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Suck Hard Hill

I have a fantasy that there's someone out there who would plan a ride or so every month, spend time creating fun and challenging routes, print up cue sheets, invite a list of fun people and even bring bike snacks to share.  But so far I haven't met this unicorn smurf.  Some folks have full lives that include more important things to do than ride bikes. 

It was a very hard day going up Larch Mountain.  But, a hard day on the bike is better than an easy day anywhere else.  I need to learn to lower my expectations dramatically.  Of others.  And of myself.  No matter how great my alleged fitness level is, I climb slowly.  I watch the others disappear effortlessly into the ether while I stop to pant and let my heart calm down.  My stupid heart.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Scavenger Hunt Report

The plan for Sunday morning was to ride 15 miles over to the lake for the Vancouver Bike Club scavenger hunt.  Instead, I woke up only two miles away, covered in sand and hungry.  I got up, shook off, packed up and jettisoned.  As promised, Ayla generously provided bagels, cream cheese, fruit and coffee.  She even set up a toaster.  I was starved so I scarfed while the scavenger hunt instructions were delivered.

We were given two double-sided pages of maps and lists.  This was a complicated-looking contest! A varying amount of points were offered for items photographed at specific locations and for items found "anywhere", like a garage sale selling bikes or a cat on a porch swing.  More points were awarded for each team member included in the photo.
And then there was the bonus flag option.  Bonus flags!  I didn't even know what that meant, but I knew it was for me.  Turns out there were eight locations, each one with a hidden flag worth a bunch of points.  Teams were allowed to stay together or split up and my teammates Jake, Bill and Ann told me right off I was on bonus flag duty.  My responsibility as a so-called "fast rider" would be to race out and gather up as many flags as possible before the return deadline.
First I stopped at the bathroom to wash my face, put on some lipstick and do some damage control.  Then off I flew out of the park, over to Fourth Plain, up Fruit Valley Road.  The first flag was at the Burnt Bridge trailhead parking lot, which is no longer a parking lot.  I stood there and looked around until I spied a bright purple flag.  I grabbed it and ran.

Up to Bortolomi's Pizza on 7th to snatch my second flag.  On the way there, I started reading the "anywhere" list and taking pictures.  Out of state license plate.  Garage sale.  Boat for sale.  School sign.  Banana peel.  Then down to the aptly named Hidden Park for the third flag.
Made a quick stop for an iced Americano and back out to the lake.  On the way, I saw my fellow hustle riders and rode south with them for a bit.  Shortly after u-turning to get back to the finish line, some gentlemen stood up and held out a banner reading "Hey Bicyclists" so I stopped.  They gave me a rainbow striped popsicle and asked me to come back after the picnic (which I did, getting video-taped sitting on a couch with my bike in the shot!).
To my surprise, my teammates were not at the picnic shelter yet.  We would be penalized a point for every five minutes past the deadline, which was only one minute away.  Meanwhile, the picnic set up was in full swing.  There are some people who are tireless volunteers and they just give and give and give.  They put out baskets of fruits and breads and lay out burlap cloths and pretty flowers in jars with bows on each table.

Finally, twenty nine minutes late, I saw my team ragtag in.  Ayla had her hands full scoring each team as individuals showed her their pictures.  The bounty of prizes arranged on the table next to Ayla included such goodies as a bottle of wine, oil & vinegar, kitty cat salt & pepper shakers, gift certificates, a cycling vest and socks.  My team won and enjoyed the prizes and gold medals Ayla gave out.  Everyone won something and was given a medal.  But the best part was the ride itself and the feeling of teamwork.  And the amazing picnic food, games and prizes that followed!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Werewolf Hustle

I've been wanting to do the Werewolf Hustle full moon night ride for some time.  This month's started at Velocult after the Portland Design Works party.  The party was packed with people.  Free beer.  Live music.  A wee bike race.  And werewolves, who informed me we'd ride at 9 and camp overnight, which I hadn't anticipated.  Luckily, I had packed warm clothes for post-ride hanging out and the nice guys at Velocult let me borrow a blanket
A dozen of us rode off from the party in a northerly direction.  There were some road bikes, some touring bikes, a tall bike and a couple of cruisers.  I rode my single speed.  The destination was a secret. Pretty soon we were crossing the I-5 bridge, an especially tricky venture for the tall bike guy because of the way the supports hang low.
We stopped at the store for supplies.  A couple of people peeled off.  And the rest of continued north, north, north.  Out along the water, we were instructed to turn off all of our lights.  We rode on a gravel path and finally a dirt path into the woods.

We stashed our bikes and walked on the beach, barefoot, quite a ways down.  And took our time walking back into the moon and its twins in the sand.  Firewood was plentiful so we enjoyed a nice big fire, passing snacks and flasks around the fire until the wee hours.