Friday, April 5, 2013

Banks - Elsie

The Oregon Randonneurs put this one on their official schedule and it showed.  Over 40 riders were at the Banks trailhead at 7am, ready to ride.  And I was with them.  Really ready.  Two days of rest.  A lot of rest.  A written strategy plan, reminding me to warm up and where to go mentally when the going gets rough.

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.
So, back into the store to find the Surly owner, who would no doubt be surly at this horrible act of vandalism.  I explained to him that I take valve cap beautification seriously and what I did to his tire.  I apologized profusely and promised I would not remove anyone's caps mid-ride (or pre-ride) again.  He accepted a C02 and fixed the problem.  He told me my penance would be 1) tell him my name and 2) give him a hug.  Randos sure are nice people.

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.


  1. Kitty, Thanks for the great description! Sounds like a nice ride. PS: love the idea of painted caps.

  2. And now for the punch line from the non-surly Surly owner. When I was ready to leave Elsie I noticed the front tire was a touch soft, so I took off the new green cap and added a bit more air. Scrambled to get ready and was mounting my bike when I spotted one of the offending, red caps lying on the ground. While picking it up noticed that the front wheel was missing it's new green cap and looked around for it. Finally found it, crushed into the gravel, and totally useless. So I put the snazzy red one back on. Now the caps don't even match.