Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beaverton - Bridge of the Gods - Beaverton

Three of us set out from Starbucks into the sprinkly morning.  Two of us were named Chris.  I had initially considered nicknames like "Cute Chris" and "Fast Chris" but, as it turns out, both of them were cute and fast.

We climbed up over the zoo from Beaverton, crossing the green speckled Shamrock Run route twice. There was an atmosphere of excitement in the air as we made our way past the pink cherry trees and across the Steel Bridge.

Routes through Portland are especially enjoyable for me, since I don't have to pay as close attention to cues. Up Wheeler and Williams, then going east on Going.  Past Rando Laura's house.  Past Break Bike Mike's project house.  Past the BikeTiresDirect warehouse. 

Riding northbound on the I-205 bridge is, well, it's better than riding on the freeway itself.  But it's loud and there seems to be a small sandstorm of debris flying up from the traffic on both sides.  Arriving at the other side, we rode on down to the bumpy, potholed Evergreen. 

We enjoyed some Burgerville goodness in Camas before heading east into a headwind on SR-14, our home for the next long while.  The gorge, of course, is gorgeous.  No matter how many times I ride along the Columbia Gorge, I find its beauty breathtaking.  Cape Horn is a particularly pretty spot.

Past the Bridge of the Gods and into Stevenson, which reminds me of a tour I've done out this way.  Several snacks and a few water refills later, we headed back westbound.  Unbelievably, we had a headwind again.  How is it possible to ride east into the wind and a few moments later ride west into the wind?

We rode across the Bridge of the Gods, which usually prompts me to sing my "fear song".  Don't know what a fear song is?  This is a song you sing to yourself whenever you're feeling especially fearful.  I've used mine dozens, no, hundreds of times.  And nothing bad happened during any of those times, so the song seems to gather power.

The new bike path from Cascade Locks to almost Ainsworth is such a gem.  Renovated and rebuilt in a style honoring the original architects of the historic highway (Sam Hill and Sam Lancaster), it's a real beauty.  This is where we started seeing a group that shall be known only as "The Assos Guys".  They were fast and advanced in age and had nice equipment and were wearing Assos jerseys and bibs and even shoe covers. We'd continue to leapfrog The Assos Guys all the way to the start of the Vista House climb.  Past all of the tremendously beautiful and overflowing waterfalls. 

More headwinds along Marine Drive set us into paceline mode.  Until I blew up and fell off the back.  My coping strategy in these circumstances is to take a deep breath, put my hands in the drops, put my head down and pedal.  The 205 bridge looked close, but it took a long time to get there.

All day the clouds and wet forecast loomed like dread in the distance, but so far there had just been intermittent sprinkles and several sun breaks.  Getting into Portland, we started noticing wet streets.  And, soon enough, we were getting more than sprinkled on.  A quick control at the 7-11 on Columbia and off into the twilighty wet.

I started having a conversation with myself in my head.  If I keep going straight, I could be home cuddling with my cat inside a half hour.  No, no, go, go, get that R12 (f) (2).  Broadway Bridge and wind and rain.  The zoo and an info control at a corner with no street signs.  We stood there in the dying light, watching our brevet cards smear as we looked for the answer to the clue.

Onward and upward, and I do mean upward, one last climb for the day.  On the other side of Washington Park lay the descent, which would have been much more enjoyable if it wasn't pouring and chilly.  Strange noises started to come out of each rider - noises I don't know how to spell.

Turning into the parking lot of the final control, a small cluster of friendly faces screamed and waved at us.  "YAY!  Good job!  Congratulations!" they cheered.  One of the Chris's family had come out to welcome us in.  I wish every finish control featured cheerleaders.

I enjoyed my first ever Philly Cheese Steak submarine sandwich and wonder what I've been doing wrong to not try one until now.  Speaking of nutrition, folks often ask, so I'll share my day's diet:
  • oatmeal, grapefruit, coffee (home)
  • coffee, banana (first control)
  • GU (road)
  • small chocolate mint milkshake, banana (Camas)
  • GU (road)
  • atomic fireball (road)
  • peanut butter & jelly sandwich, sunflower seeds, V8 (Stevenson)
  • atomic fireball (road)
  • chips, diet coke (Portland)
  • atomic fireball (road)
  • cheese steak sandwich (Beaverton)
  • electrolyte drink, zotz candies (train ride home)
  • 3 glasses of red wine (home)
Fascinating, right?  Actually, it's an interesting exercise to list all you eat on day-ride day, try it!  Apparently I like a lot of caffeine and sugar. 

Extra hugs and thanks to the Beaverton - Bridge of the Gods - Beaverton permanent route owner, Lynne, who not only created a really great ride but even rode it the week before to check that the cues were updated.  And showed up at the start to wish us well.  And loaned me a reflective sash since I grabbed the wrong (non-reflective) jacket.  Great job!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Velodirt Dalles Mt 60

Let's get in our bloggy time machine, shall we?!  We'll set the dial to May 2011, a big month in my life story.  March's Velodirt ride was over and I'd never even heard of it anyway.  Nor had I heard of Old Moody Road.  I woke up at DesChutes campground.  A handful of us were talked into riding an alternate route to The Dalles, and avoiding riding on the freeway shoulder.

I found a nemesis that day - Old Moody Road.  This gravel and dirt road, although beautiful at the top, is steep going up.  I had to walk, and it wouldn't be the last time.  On my first real gravel grinder ride, the 2012 Velodirt Dalles Mt 60, I walked up Old Moody again.  And I'd continue walking up Old Moody the next several times I encountered it. 
Fast forward to March 2014.  I'm embarking on my 6th Velodirt ride.  The day began with a crowd of 200 riders, and a lot of familiar friendly faces.   Our leader, Donnie, unceremoniously mounted up, saying something about "we're here to ride, let's go".  Even though he spoke softly, everyone heard him.  This man is a clever route finder and planner.  His understated style attracts the best riders - mobs of the best riders.

We rode together as a giant peleton, crossing the Columbia and spreading out along the first dirt climb on the Dalles Mountain Road.  Unlike past years, I kept up with the fast kids.  A few people passed me, but I also passed a few people.  It's not a race and it's silly to compare oneself to other riders, but it sure felt good to ride fast and strong.

Now for the descent.  I wasn't scared at all, not even for one second.  I flew down the hill at 30 miles per hour with complete confidence.  The AX (my new cyclocross bike - the Focus Mares A.X. 3.0) is a dynamo.  The Panaracer T-Servs (32s!) felt like a favorite pair of worn-in sneakers.  Reliable and comfortable.

When the gravel ended, I actually felt disappointed.  But I took comfort knowing the loops awaited.  Unfortunately, access was denied angrily by a selfish hording hillbilly standing in his front yard screaming and swearing and spitting all over the place.  It occurred to me how this poor schmuck and Donnie are the exact opposites.  Donnie shares.  He finds beautiful amazing adventures and tells people about them.
So instead of enjoying the lovely switchbacks on the car-free hill, I screamed down the busy highway, stopping to look at some baby rattlers and eat a PBJ.  Then down to the river, across to Biggs and a quick McDonald's stop.  I saw my pretty young co-worker there, Katie, who said she was having a crap day.  Later we compared notes.  My amazing day still took longer than her cruddy day!  But, then, it's not a race.
Riding along the river, I recalled riding down from the Fulton Canyon on the Stampede last year and how dramatically beautiful it is up there.  Then, the turn to meet my nemesis.  Good old Old Moody.  I rode it.  Yes, I rode up Old Moody the entire way, and I believe I could do that again.  Finally!  All of my gravel practice and suffering have paid off.

Old Moody's beauty cannot be beaten.  From the top of the ridge, you can see forever and forever looks pretty fantastic.  The weather was also pretty fantastic.  I spent the day riding with The Kid, who asked that I change his nickname to The Pirate, and we had a glorious time.

Rolling into the Dalles, I felt a single raindrop on my cheek.  We found a place for a beer and ran into other riders there, two of whom are actual readers of my blog (hi Bob, hi Kevin!).  The drive back to Portland was so wet it was scary.  What a different day we would've had if the rain came earlier.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fear The Cyclist

"I had to steer around two cyclists riding side by side the other day.  I was in a hurry - I had somewhere to be, and it made me so angry!  The worst part is, when I looked back, they didn't even seem to care.  Can you believe it?!".

Yes, I can believe it.  What I can't believe is how often people feel it's appropriate to vent their frustration with cyclists to me.  Me, of all people.  Don't they know I will always side with the cyclist?

I do care about one thing in relation to motorists: that they don't hit me.  That's it.  I don't care about their feelings, or how important they are, or how busy or rushed.  I don't care if their lights are on or what they're wearing.  I don't care if they're having a bad day or bad breath.  And I certainly don't care what they think about me.

I've stared down the barrel of several road raged drivers over the past month.  Maybe tempers are short in the Pacific Northwest because the weather is weather-y and the sky's not always sunny.  Maybe anger flares for some other reason, like living a sedentary lifestyle and experiencing the disappointment innate in driving a car in our urban landscape.

It's usually the same set up.  We are "in the way".   The cycling humans, approximately human-sized, rolling at about 15 miles per hour in our little bike lane have the gall to be in the way of a single human who can't seem to find space in four lanes of asphalt for his or her giant motorized vehicle.  Their solution is to lay on the horn and flip the bird.

It's not my intention to, but I almost always "catch" these drivers at the next red light.  That's their cue to yell angrily, and maybe even lunge at me menacingly.  Although I'm the one at risk, the one whose eardrums smart from loud honking, the one taking up a tiny portion of the road - I don't feel angry during these exchanges.  I feel confused and maybe a little sad.  Often I feel frightened.

I simply don't care what motorists think of me or my bike or the decisions I make in traffic, which I can promise you are always with safety in mind.  It's very nice that they have a picture of a bike on their license plate and a "share the road" bumper sticker, but I don't care.  I refuse to alter my behavior to please drivers or coddle their perception of cyclists.

If they want to judge the entire cycling community by the actions of a single cyclist, and believe me, they do, then my riding around smugly trying to impress all the motorists will do nothing to further the cause.  The motorists' perception of what a cyclist is doing and why is often wrong.   But I don't care.