Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sizzle Fizzle

Well, dear reader, my apologies for neglecting you.  As you must know, I've been so busy biking I haven't had time to write.  There's no feeling better than that grateful "winning the bicycle lottery" feeling, of enjoying the privilege and freedom of riding as much as possible.  My summer legs are mean and lean and roll me down the road with a vengeance!  So, here's just some of what's been happening bike-wise around Portland since the STP.

I cooked up a private ride series, named it the Humpdy Rides, and told everyone I know.  The ride features a morning Tabor climb and evening Rocky Butte repeats every Wednesday for ten weeks.  No one but me showed up to the first ride, but I've had company on every other one.  These events add almost fifty miles to my Wednesday odometer.  Please ping me if you would like details.  You're all invited.

Research and development on randonneur riding is on temporary hiatus.  Instead of braving the bureaucracy, applying for a permanent every month, rushing past alluring turns that beg for exploration, and collecting receipts from gas stations, I'll be out riding bikes.  Rando riding will still happen on occasion, but my R-million pursuit is over and I'm content with the accomplishment of riding a 200K for seventeen consecutive months.  It felt freeing to shake greasy donut hands with Ride Partner as we agreed to quit together.   We've made our peace with this style of riding and are eager to move on to the next.

This decision created time and space to ride around Mount Hood again this summer, to the tune of 155 miles and 11,500 feet of climbing.  What a day!  What a long, hard, tiring, inspirational, joyful, scenic day.  Controle-free, the ride divided itself into three simple segments.  The easy, fresh, beautiful morning portion on the Crown Point Highway, the bike path to Cascade Locks and a freeway speed fest to Hood River.  Next up, the climby part.  South to Parkdale and up the Cooper's Spur, which is my second favorite road.  A nap or a beer at the top and more climbing.  At last, the last part, which takes you down the mountain from Government Camp to Sandy, the rising moon at your back, to Gresham and bar-food and a train ride home. 

My next ride, The Rocky Butte Sunset Picnic Dance Party, was an unforgettable one with a great group called the Shiftys.  In contrast to the dozen helium balloons I brought, our ride leader dragged an almost hundred pound mobile sound system on his cargo trailer, along with a ten foot pole tucked down the back of his pants.  The pole's purpose is to suspend the disco ball for the dance party.  Folks gathered around the potluck offerings and cheered on the sunset until dance time.  And the dancing was fantastic.

I could feel the dance in my legs during the next morning's french toast ride.  Fifteen miles in, I tearfully turned back, quitting my own ride.  The muscle strain gave me a sharp pain behind the leg with every pedal stroke. Luckily, early withdrawal from Saturday's ride enabled just enough recovery to survive Sunday's hilly shop ride.  It's fun to see who comes on these monthly rides, sometimes going up past Skyline, other times out around Sauvie Island.

Suddenly, it was time for Mike's Bridge of the Gods Century.  We wondered where The Kid was this year and missed him.  Too many flat tires, learning the lesson again that waiting for a rider doesn't create an automatic unwritten contract that they wait for you later.  My emotions steer me, but often into an interpersonal ditch, especially when I feel ditched.  Enjoyed the bike path to Cascade Locks yet again, then lunch, the bridge and the trudge up SR-14 in the heat.  All of it felt easy.  A dip in the Washougal made it extra fun.

The Bike Farm, where I built my Miyata, is moving to a larger space and put on a pre-move swap.  So I loaded my bag up with parts and headed out.  It was there, in the heat of the day, that I found my freak bike and, in the heat of the moment, bought it.  This gift to self promises to be a pleasant project to work on at the new Bike Farm this fall.  It has a long wheel base, a strangely bent top tube, a purple sparkly paint job and 24" wheels.  It shall be known as...the Vector.

Later on, I spectated the Fiets of Parenthood cargo bike races.  The cargo bikers were required to carry at least one kid, on any sort of bike or xtra-cycle or with a trailer.  They had to pick up groceries, rescue a dropped toy, ride through a tight slalom course, stop for a pedestrian, ride over a teeter tauter and skewer three hoops with a giant rod.  Then a quick visit to the Cyclepedia show, where it was almost impossible not to touch the amazing assortment of bikes on display, and finally, a highlight of my summer, my first ever dip in the Willamette.  I swam and swam and swam and could've kept swimming.  The river never seemed so big.

The events seem to envelope me even as I craft this little blog entry.  There was the crazy Friday night fun of the Cirque du Cycling's cargo races and criterium races and all the friends there.  The next morning, I co-led a loaded tour with Cycle Wild, out to the most beautiful campground in the state of Washington.  We spent time on the not-quite-open bike path, which revealed crowds of cyclists, hikers, families, strollers and dogs.  It felt like the Springwater corridor!  A newbie in our group commented that maybe, just maybe, in fifteen years or so, cycling might get catch on and get really popular.  I recall wanting that desperately in the past.  I know it's good to spread cycling.  But I'm growing wary of the crowds on the bike path.  I'm growing leery of that mall-feeling ruining the special-ness I feel about my sport.  These are likely symptoms of summer, when the empty dark wet ahead beckons with that exclusive feeling of ownership on the byways.