Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oregon Randonneur Spring Populaire

The sight of so many brightly clad Randonneurs Saturday morning reminded me of my first ever populaire, back during the fall of 2011.  Now, these many months later, I've graduated to become a Randonneur myself, proudly holding an R12 (f) status.

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.
From there, it was only twenty miles back to the finish.  Unfortunately, the start / finish was a restaurant chain I've lately developed a slight distaste for, so we checked in and took off.  Trader Joe's snacks and drinks on the couch made for a nice relaxing recovery from this 100K west side jaunt.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Velodirt's Dalles Mt 60

Took the day off and rode out to The Dalles from Portland Friday.  After some experimentation with the new not-quite-finished bike path, we caught up with the rest of the gang in Cascade Locks for lunch.  Just riding the route eastbound past Crown Point and into the gorge makes me salivate for summer.

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.
Saturday morning we dine at Mama Jane's.  Eggs and toast and fruit.  Then to the meet up cafe, where 100 other riders are milling about.  Things feel chaotic and I'm glad I brought my own cue sheet.  Off we go, over the bridge to Washington.  This is one of the best parts of the event, riding off with the peleton into the day.
Turning onto the gravel hill called The Dalles Mountain Road, I wow at my progress since last year.  Climbing isn't fast, but not so slow either.  I hang on to the main group for the first several rises.  I pass other riders as often as others pass me.  The descent feels much less scary this year.  My odometer reads 20mph and I feel fine and in control on the rocks.
I miss the turn onto the Mary Hill loops.  Like, really miss it.  I ride all the way down the highway to SR-14.  Ticked off, I stubbornly decide I must go back up and get to the loops.  Trying to text and ride - not smart.  Riding back up the hill - dumb.  Every other text fails, which I don't learn until later.  I end up forcing my riding partner to wait much longer than he should ever wait.

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.
Alone for a bit, huffing up the hill, I am thrilled with my fitness level and gravel handling.  So much growth since last year!  Now, if I can just halve my beer consumption between now and the 2014 Dalles ride, I'll be stylin'. 

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.
The next morning, an hour short on sleep due to the time change, we head back to Mama Jane's for a big delicious breakfast.  A small posse of five endeavors to ride back up the hills, westbound to home.  I keep thinking of us as "our gang" with each personality represented. We take plenty of breaks, sight-see, eat and eat and eat, fly kites and arrive back in Portland just in time for dusk. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Society of Three Speeds

Something truly special happened on Sunday.  Shawn created magic.  This magic is called The Society Of Three Speeds.  I first heard about the ride when I came across a small printed handbill at a bike shop I visit regularly.  Always up for a new group to ride with, I dusted off my old three speed, picked out an appropriate outfit and showed up.
I'd never heard of the Society Of Three Speeds before, and for good reason.  This was the first meeting and ride ever.  It was announced that all riders on this maiden voyage were eligible for a free membership, and that we would be receive our membership kits later on the ride. 
Each rider introduced themselves and their bike and talked about why their three speed was especially special to them. A nice gentleman fixed my brakes so they'd stop squealing.  Another nice man tightened my seatpost so it would stop wiggling.  Everyone was proud of their bike and excited to share the story of how they found it and fixed it up.
We queued up in front of the closed off pavilion in Kenilworth Park while Shawn told us the history of the park and its name and quizzed us on who developed Laurelhurst Park (the answer is Miche).  After the photo shoot, we were off.
I was enchanted by the route for two reasons.  One, we were right in my neighborhood but I felt lost.  We took back ways and alley ways, cut-throughs and short cuts.  We rode on unimproved blocks and over the Reed footbridge.  Two, I've planned many rides and it was apparent that a lot of thought and care went into this short but adventurous romp. 
When we reached the foot of Mount Tabor, Shawn stopped and turned around to face us.  "This is the challenge part of the day" he announced.  We rode up the inactive volcano on our less-than-ten-speeds.  Some walked up stairs, others walked up streets, still others simply stood and huffed up the hill. 

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.
After snacks, Shawn, self-appointed President for life of the Society Of Three Speeds asked to step up one by one to receive our kits.  Each person was presented with a membership number and card, rule sheet, two stickers and four buttons, all handily stashed in a tiny bag.  I could barely contain my delight as he swore in the lot of us.
We pledged to ride our three speeds with immense pleasure, to never denegrate these humble bikes and something else which I've already forgotten.  Hopefully it wasn't that the rules of the Society are top secret and never to be shared or blogged about.  We are fifteen strong.  I am number eleven, but I'll never admit to it.