Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Good Day For Knee Socks, or, An Epic Ride

Built in the 1930s, this old Pacific rail line once connected the Oregon coast and Portland.  Flooded and repaired, flooded and repaired, it was finally abandoned and left for nature to grow over it. 

As we set out to ride this future rails-to-trails project that morning, I thought riding on the pilings between the tracks would be the worst part of the day.  I was wrong.  By the end of the day, any section of clear pilings to bump over felt like pure luxury. 

We invented a new term that day: bushpacking.  Our credo: "you don't have to ride a bike, but you must bring one".  The bike was useful in helping me navigate steep climbs on foot, including a muddy cliff with a knotted rope, and it also made a nice water and snack carrier.  Otherwise, it was almost completely useless on this epic adventure. The word epic is often overused, but in the case of this particular adventure, it was perfectly appropriate. 

One rider carried a machete, but the woods were too thick for it.  We scrambled and rested, scrambled and rested.  One treacherous creek crossing featured a deeper than apparent current that almost took my bike away, and gave me a bloody ankle. 

Finally, we could go no further.  We hadn't seen the tracks in some time, and had been scrambling over boulders between a loud rushing river and a steep stone cliff.  There was nowhere else to go, so we turned back. 

We found a gravel road we hadn't seen before and hoped it would take us out of the river valley and back to civilization.  It did, but only after a 45 minute walk up an extremely steep hill.  I had been craving even one solid minute of bike riding all day and was pretty sad when we found a rideable surface that didn't have a rideable grade.

Finally at the top, and nearing dark, we mounted up and rolled east.  Sitting on the saddle never felt so good.  The vistas were incredible and we quickly undid the day's miles in an hour. 

Back at camp, we were glad to have the most ginormous wet wipes you've ever seen - made by Epic, these sponge-bath-quality towels feature natural ingredients.  I'm mentioning them here because they sent me a case with a request to review.  The results?  5 stars and feeling clean after this epic adventure which would've been a great day to wear knee socks.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Steens Mazama 1000


This is the sort of race that I knew I had to do from the moment I first heard about it.  First of all, there is no car support allowed.  This is a rule I can get behind. Second, and even more important, this looks way too hard for me.  So, I'll suck it up and actually train for this one.  A thousand mile loop, visiting the two highest points of Oregon, is no joke and I'd like to do it in style.  Plus, I'll get to sleep every night, which is more than randos can say.

When I described the event to my dad, he said he didn't understand why I'd want to do something so hard that is guaranteed to hurt.  "Why would anyone want to sign up for so much pain?" he said.  Normally very supportive, his feedback gave me pause. 

I used the pause to ask myself the same questions he'd asked me.  Why would I want to do this race?  Bragging rights?  No.  Ok, yes, but also the adventure of it.  The challenge.  The views.  Will it just be all pain all the time?  No.  Ok, maybe, but there'll be breaks between the pain and I'll cope with it. 

The bottom line is this: what if this is my last chance to do something like this?  What if all this global warming or political lunacy or an asteroid or earthquake end everything and I missed a chance to do something amazing?  I don't want to know, so I registered.

Since that moment of publicly committing to compete, it's pretty much all I think about.  I've put together a team of three, because I like riding with friends.  I taped a series of map pages on the wall with the route sharpied in.  I created a day plan.

Unfortunately, I also got sick.  And my knee's been weak.  But I won't let these things stop me, or even slow me down.  I'm still training.  I got a new fit on the bike.  I visited a physical therapist and have signed up for regular massages.  I'm doing it.