As we left the Marsee Bakery in Sellwood, the sky started doing that underwater blue thing it does just before sunrise. We chatted about what our day would be like. That's when I learned this ride would not be flat, not even close.
Every single route listed on the Randonneur USA website lists elevation gain. But this route was calculated in a different way, different even from routes by the same organizer. The descent loss was subtracted. So, instead of an easy 3000 feet of elevation gain in 125 miles, we had 7300 feet to climb. Most of the climbing was at the beginning and end, creating a nice torture sandwich for my useless hamstrings.
The other thing I learned was that this was the first permanent route I'd ever ridden, back in January of 2012. I didn't recognize it because that route included a descent down an unpaved trail in Forest Park and this one did not. It's amazing that I continued doing rando rides, with this route as my introduction. It's a long, tough day.
But, after all, this was just another bike ride. We pedaled on together and watched the sun rise. Soon, one rando, the same dude who lost his crank on the Mill City Coffee Run, fell over. Turns out he had replaced his crank and pedals and couldn't clip out. He was laughing before he even hit the ground and wasn't hurt.
Soon we were at Clackamette Park and comparing info control questions. That's when crank-lost, fell-over guy announced his rear derailleur was not working at all. Rando-Jeff tried to help him troubleshoot it, but without success. So, this nice rider whose name escapes me, headed home. Rando Laura said something to him that really got me thinking. "Now you have a whole day to do whatever."
The remaining four of us did not have a whole day to do whatever, but instead, needed a whole day, almost fourteen hours as it would turn out, to ride our bikes. Worse problems have existed in mankind. In fact, there is no better problem.
The fifteen minutes lost trying to fix the derailleur seemed meaningless at the time. Onward to the Barton store. This is a nice control stop. There are two bathrooms, lots of food choices, and even a comfortable place to sit. We probably spent close to a half hour there, but that didn't seem to matter.
Up, up, up Highland Butte for an info control we couldn't find. We snapped a picture of the street sign after losing ten minutes sniffing around for a non-existent road sponsor sign. Ah, what's ten minutes. Soon, Laura flatted. Twenty more minutes, tossed into a ditch.
We were hungry for lunch when we passed through Canby, so we spent a good half hour at the Thirftway relaxing and enjoying snacks. It wasn't a control, so that's a shame. Then west, across the valley, and the bike path into Champoeg Park, then Newburg.
North Plains. The Rogue Brew Pub. The guys ordered burgers. We drank beer and told high school stories. Paid our check, had our brevet cards signed and came out to find a dark sky. Only a few cues to memorize before the Old Cornelius Pass climb began. The moon looked down at us as we climbed up and up, passing by the church on Skyline at last.
Many pedal strokes and pants later, we found ourselves at the top of Old Germantown Road. A long steep descent with tight switchbacks, but nicely paved and much easier than the old route's dirt path.
As we arrived back in Northwest Portland, all eyes were on the clock. The race to Sellwood began. One rider missed a light: and then we were two. Sprinting in the dark on the Springwater bike path, up through the nature reserve, then, finally, unceremoniously, anticlimactically, screaming into the Seven Eleven for our final control.