Thursday, October 9, 2014

Zig Zag permanent want to ride my permanent?  

Step 1. Be a Randonneurs USA (RUSA) member.  
Step 2. Review the route.
Step 3. Send me an e-mail and I'll send you the waiver.
Step 4. Return the signed waiver and I'll send you a cue sheet and brevet card.
Step 5. Go ride!
Step 6. Mail the completed brevet card and receipts to me.

Here's a write up about the ride, published in the quarterly Randonneur magazine:

A big part of my identity as a cyclist comes from the two short but influential years I worked as a bike messenger in San Francisco.  During that time, I organized and competed in scores of alley cats - unsanctioned street races meant to simulate a day in the life of a courier.  Racers are given a manifest with a list of checkpoints and off they go.  Sometimes a signature from a checkpoint volunteer is required, other times they answer a question about each destination.  Sound familiar? 

One of the many reasons I love Randonneur riding is that it feels a lot like an advanced alley cat.  I’ll never forget the time I rode Susan’s “Up Yer Ash”, a challenging permanent that climbs up Mt. St. Helens.  I found myself in the ditch, digging in the snow, madly looking for the mile marker so I could count the zip ties.  I felt like a pretty hard-core “rando-cat” that day.

There’s also something about riding a 200k permanent, and doing it consistently, month after month, that really lights me up.  It seems to be just the right distance for me.  Although a lot of my friends are pursuing their ACP Super Randonneur status, many on their way to qualify for the 2014 Paris-Brest-Paris, I have no such ambition – not yet, anyway.  After all, I need my beauty sleep. 

For now, I’m enjoying working on my second R12.  It would have boggled my young messenger self to know that all these years later, I’m not just riding centuries, but “century and a quarters” as some Americans might call them.  It’s fun to get my gear and nutrition dialed, and learn how to pace my stops and gos.  And it’s rewarding that my required recovery time has decreased to a mere night’s sleep.

Recently I decided to create my own permanent route.  Everyone told me it was easy, and they were right.  First I mapped a route.  A beautiful one, comprised of many of my favorite roads and rides.  One that starts right in my neighborhood.  I completed and submitted the application, and voila, the lovely Crista Borras walked me through the rest.

A small group joined me for the inaugural ride of this new permanent, which I named “Zig Zag”.  We met at 6:30am at a coffee shop, but it wasn’t open yet.  Turns out the store manager had overslept.  As registration forms and waivers were being completed, I saw a familiar face headed our way.  A good friend had come out to see us off.  She’d be the first of many we’d see that day.

The store opened and I saw another old friend, who ran up and hugged me.  She’s not a cyclist, but was not surprised to run into me early in the morning hanging around a gaggle of bright-color-clad riders.  Or is it a “rush” of randos?  A “spin” of cyclists?

In any case, with no further ceremony, we were off.  Down the hill to the Springwater Corridor and over to the Willamette (dammit) River.  Along the Esplanade and the old “French Toast” route, which is a ride I led for the Vancouver Bike Club every month for many years.  Up the corkscrew pedestrian bridge, over to the bird circle and on to the Peninsula Crossing Trail.  Man, this town has a lot bike path miles, which make for a very nice warm up.

We dodged a bunny in the bike path on the way to the first control, which didn’t have a bathroom, so I changed it for future riders.  Such is the life of the newly minted perm owner.  We ate and ran, as usual.  The Marine Drive bike path was empty and surprisingly, we still had dry skies.  Or maybe it’s wet skies, if the clouds are still holding their moisture.

Stopping for a potty break past Troutdale, we ran into the Cycle Wilders, a loaded tour group on their way to Cascade Locks.  They shared their VooDoo donuts (a Portland staple), and we went on ahead and treated them to kombucha (another Portland favorite) at a children’s lemonade stand. 

I dared to route us partway up the local legend Larch Mountain, but only to an info control three miles up.  We saw a few Portland Wheelmen riders we knew, who probably assumed we were doing the entire climb.  Instead we enjoyed the first of many fast and pretty descents.  I made a mental note to add some red cautionary notes on the cue sheet for future riders.

Next, we entered the Bull Run Watershed, Portland’s water source, and enjoyed alternately descending into and climbing out of the Sandy River delta.  Trees and views and barely any cars make riding these twisty hills sheer delight.  Up Shipley, then Marmot – two of my very favorite roads around.  While struggling slowly up Marmot, a runner passed us.  He didn’t seem real, and maybe he wasn’t.

Shortly after that, we turned onto the Barlow Trail, and a friend ran out from the Sandy Ridge mountain bike trailhead with handups for the group.  The pioneers should have been so lucky.  I often think about them and their travails and how they would marvel at the ease with which we manage now, and with just human power.  The Barlow Trail was named for Sam Barlow, who blazed that trail with the help of Joel Palmer.  Joe’s 1845 diary included a description of the zig zag descents and climbs they encountered crossing the ravine, which is how the river got its name.      

After an amazing lunch at the Zig Zag Restaurant, seated on leather recliners and sofas, we suited up and headed out.  By this time, the rain had overcome its shyness and was in slog mode.  We lined up and ate some ugly highway miles to make it back to the country roads we love and hate, like Baty and Coalman with their steep little slaps in the face.  I added another info control to defeat the temptation to take highway 26 all the way back to town.

Finally back on the Springwater path, we wrapped up the twenty lonely miles back to town, finishing at the pub nearest my house.  A few beers and several war stories later, heading home, the rain was done fooling around.  It attacked.  It came down comically fast, faster than the tarmac could handle, creating instant little lakes in the bike lane. 

Thanks for letting me share my story.  Thanks to those who have shared their stories and their rides.  And, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to consider sharing some of your favorite roads by creating your own permanent, alley-cat style or not.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Scio Covered Bridges 200K

We started out before the sun rose, which meant we got to watch the sun rise.  A quick hop on the I-5 to cross the Boone Bridge over the Willamette River, exiting as usual at Charbonneu, this time heading west instead of east.

I started seeing bright orange pumpkin Dan Henrys as we overlapped with the Harvest Century for a few miles.  Those riders would have a great day, weather-wise, and so would we.  Soon we were on Meridian, which reminds me of the time we rode out to stash champagne for Tour de Beavers.  Then we were passing the fork to Silver Falls, where I stopped to puke last year.  Or was it the year before?

That morning in the bath, I read on facebook that a steep hill on Cole School Road awaited us.  Some sort of wall of asphalt apparently.  I dreaded it all morning.  Soon, we turned left onto Cole School and went up a modest hill.

Phew!  That was easy.  Then we coasted downhill, headed toward another ascent.  This one was harder, but still, not at all the wall I had anticipated.  Then we went down again, and there it was.  A giant wall of earth.  It looked unclimbable, and because my derailleur failed me on the way up, it was.
After my lonely walk of shame, we enjoyed the view together and munched on our little snacks.  I had a bag of dried apricots and almonds.  Jeff had foil-wrapped rice cakes that I like to call Rapha Cakes.  Soon after, I split off from the group, quite unintentionally, and didn't catch back up until Silverton.

This is about the time my nausea kicked in.  I blamed it on hormones, ate lightly, whined heavily and carried on.  Finally, we arrived at our first control, fifty miles in, at the cartoonly quaint Scio: Covered Bridge Capital of the west.  While my three partners took in well-deserved calories, I forced down a skim milk and a diet coke.  It felt like a girdle was tightening across my middle.

On to Crabtree, and an info-control that the permanent route owner, Susan, asked me to reset.  I relished zip-tying zip ties to the sign, photographed them and pedaled on.  Soon we arrived at the Gilkey covered bridge and my old partner 7600 and I decided to take a break by the neighboring train trellis.

Chris and Jeff pedaled off and left us to chase them.  This was the beginning of the split of the group.  Riding into Salem, I kept catching glimpses of familiar-looking "M" Dan Henrys.  Ah, yes, these were from the Bike MS ride back in August.
We barely caught Jeff before Salem, where he led us through a labyrinth of traffic and ugly streets to a cafe control.  I had skipped lunch, so I skipped snack time too and had a latte instead.

Leaving Salem on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, we traced the Tour de Beavers route.  It was all there, just as I had left it in April.  My favorite "keep out" sign, now covered in vines.  Windsor Island and Simon and the nasty hill up to Wheatland.  Lovely roads I'd ride any day.

By the time we arrived to the patchwork triptych of Fargo - Bents - Arndt, I began to wonder in great detail just why they call what I was doing "blowing up".  I was not exploding.  I was imploding.  Getting smaller and tighter, molecules contracting to nothing as the cramp across my torso took hold.