Thursday, April 10, 2014

Banks Elsie Brevet

Quite a little crowd gathered at the Banks-Vernonia Trailhead on Saturday, all set to ride the lovely out and back brevet known as the Banks-Elsie.  Last year I set my personal best on this route and I aspired to beat it.

Permanent owner and RBA Susan warned us about moss and slippery bridges, called GO and off we went.  It's not a race, but it feels like a race when everyone starts together onto a narrow trail.  I spun out with Chris and Greg (previously referred to as crank-fell-off-guy) and was still warming my engine up when they raced off into the distance.  I'd see Chris one more time, on my way to Elsie and his way back, right after he dropped a cookie in the road.

A quick stop at the market in Vernonia to get my card signed revealed that they have crappy tap water.  I saw orange coat/orange bike/red rim dude there, along with recumbent guy.  Rolled out on the familiar 47, passing Big Eddy and Apiary and headed for the Birkenfeld store for water.  Too bad it was closed.

Bunches of birches past the Birk.  Pedaling hard, head down, into a slight headwind, I looked forward to a tailwind on the way back.  There were sprinkles and an overcast sky and wet streets, but generally it was pretty dry.  My gear was perfectly dialed for once - I never had to stop for a costume change.  A thin merino baselayer and goretex jacket worked perfectly.

I didn't see any elk on the way to the Elk Viewpoint, but I did spy orange coat dude and recumbent guy again.  Then on the way back from the Elk Viewpoint, I saw Jeff and Lynn and others.  They were probably only about 20 minutes behind me, and I shoulda coulda stopped to wait for them to have some company. 

I enjoyed a PBJ, milk and cookie at the Elsie store and shared a table with orange coat dude.  Turns out it was his first brevet.  Bravo!  Someone nearby lit a cigarette, lighting a fire under me.  Rolling down onto 103, I saw two guys turn left instead of right onto 26.  I yelled and hope they heard.

Soon after, I saw Jeff and Lynn and gang.  They looked just like I felt when I was climbing out of that pretty river valley.  Once again, I missed my chance for company, due to the silly quest to beat my personal best.  Plus it felt like good training to ride solo as that's how I plan to ride STP (Seattle to Portland) this year.

The tailwind I anticipated turned tail and transformed into a headwind.  My back wouldn't allow me to ride in the drops so I just sat there and sucked it up.  Since there wasn't any sparkling conversation to distract me, I tried to concentrate on the views. 

The countryside looked like an old fashioned theater background scroll rolling past.  The springtime nature views and scents seemed incredibly surreal.  A hawk caught a squirrel in a ditch beside me and flew off.  No pigs, but ponies!  Goats.  A donkey shaking his tail and doing a dance for me.  A horse rolling around on its back in the grass.  Beautiful dark cows with white striped butts.  A cow licking its own butt.  Yes, you read right.  He (she?) had tilted her back end way to the left and reached her head around.  I've never seen anything like that before.

By the time I reached Vernonia for the second time, I was a shadow of my former self.  Shredded, wrecked, decimated, destroyed, I sat in Subway eating chips and generally feeling pitiful.  An incoming text appeared and renewed me.  Great big wings sprouted and off I flew down the Banks-Vernonia trail.

The quality of light in the late afternoon produces an astounding effect: turning the edges of moss orange.  Everywhere, the moss glowed: on trees, outlining the twenty mile path, covering rock faces and boulders and bridges.  My mind, the only part of me that wasn't tired, flew to my book club book:  The Signature Of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  She's the author behind that other terrible title.  But this book is different and better.

She defines many different types of time.  Divine time: infinity.  Geological time: planetary eons.  Human time: a painful / joyful blink.  Then our protagonist discovers a new time: moss time.  Much longer than human time, quick in its accomplishments compared to geological time.  I propose a new sort of time: bicycle time.  It lands somewhere between human time and moss time.  It passes slowly but marches forward and in retrospect looks fast.


  1. I can't believe you left us hanging like that! Was it a PB or not...?

    1. Aha you caught me. It was NOT a pb, in fact it was +1 hour. But it was windy. And that cow butt licking thing kinda threw me off. In retrospect, I looked fast!

  2. Looking fast counts ! Thanks for clearing that up for
    RAR 1954