Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Russian River Ride, circa 1997

I wasn't yet a messenger when I was invited to join my first Russian River Ride, the traditional bike messenger ride to where else, the Russian River.

We met at Harvey's downtown.  Harvey was the entrepreneur of a small convenience store in a ghettoey area of downtown and he generously allowed bike messengers to purchase snacks and drinks on store credit, and consume them in his alley.  He was such a hero to bike messengers, many referred to him as Saint Harvey.

We'd head through Golden Gate Park and across the bridge, down the hill into Sausalinto, out past Petaluma and finally, after about 80 miles, into a big grassy and somewhat muddy area right alongside the Russian River.  I'm still unsure on why we were allowed to camp there, but we were.

I was so intimidated that first year, by the athleticism of the messengers. and by the distance of 80 miles  I put 80 small dashes on a little piece of paper and taped it to my handlebars, so I could visualize 80 miles.
The day went well, and was not without surprises.  One of the best happened past Petaluma, in what felt like the middle of nowhere.  Surrounded by beautiful Sonoma county rolling meadows and farmlands, it seemed pretty far away from everything.  There was a small building on the horizon, and there was a healthy sized bike pile in front, so I pulled over and went in.  Turns out it was a little divey bar, the kind with dollar bills pinned all over the ceiling.  Tradition calls for us to each down a shot before going on our way.
The rest of the ride that day is a little hazy to me, but I made it.  There was a huge group, maybe 100 of us, and we had a really fun weekend.  I'll never forget chewing a huge piece of strawberry bubble gum and swimming back and forth across the river.  I dragged a big innertube and gave people rides to the other shore and back.  I dubbed myself "messenger of the river".

The ride back was easier, probably because we jumped on the Larkspur ferry back to the city.  The ferry folks let us make a giant bike pile out on the bow.  The boat ride was one of the best parts of the weekend, and always made me feel a bit sentimental, even nostalgic, as we came back into San Francisco

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unfinished Business in the Dalles

Like a baby fawn, my legs and knees wobbled.  Delicate and weak, the poor little sticks could barely support the bloated beer belly which Father Winter gifted me.  A pathetic picture, to be sure, but look closer.  There, past the long curly eyelashes, is a teensy little glimmer.  A glimmer that holds promise for the future and the potential to rediscover lost muscle memory.  A glimmer that can see past the cold, dark depression of this most terrible winter, and see into summer.

Nonetheless, the legs fumble.  They try to pedal, try to remember circles.  The brain tries to push them into overdrive.  Just when we're about to fail, a small waft of some heavenly floral scent drifts by.  A glimpse of a blooming daffodil seals the deal.  We (me and my legs) are back!  Or we will be back soon anyway.

The rain started Saturday morning outside of Holstein's Coffee in the Dalles, just as riders were beginning to queue up.  Together, we made quite a rainbow of riders.  We were fat and skinny (although everyone would claim the former), different colors - skin and kits, road bikes with 23mm wide tires, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes, even bikes with full loads - ostensibly for the Dalles Mountain Mutiny.

I read a great quote in an email forum about this 8th annual Velodirt ride that very morning: "If you can't handle it on 28s, you can't handle life".  The 28 is referring to tire width, of course.  Our day would be filled with gravel, dirt, mud, slippery slidey roads that were only more so as the day, and the rain, wore on.

I estimate 150 of us rode out at 10am, but I've been known to overestimate.  I doubt I was the only one who missed Donnie's calm, even quiet, announcement "let's head out".  But, we left just the same.

Thanks to social media, or this blog, or possibly my basket, several riders recognized me and even shouted my full name.  One lovely gentleman exclaimed "BASKET"! and I instantly remembered him as one of my supportive hecklers last 'cross season.  More friends, more hugs, lots of self-deprecation later, we embarked up the first, and longest, gravelly climb of the day.

Unbelievably, I encountered a rider who introduced himself as William.  I took a chance and asked if he was the originator of my new favorite quote about not being able to handle life if you can't handle 28s.  I'm not sure who was more astonished - me or him - that yes, indeed, he was the genius who came up with that little tidbit.

Up, up, up.  Passed by Mielle, who was slowly escorting another rider, and informed me I smell like strawberries.  I won't deny it; it's my natural scent.  An old co-worker.  A couple in t-shirts.  Up, up, up.  Soon, I saw my pal Luke, who had given me a ride to the ride.  I was almost to the top and he was coming my way.

Luke is one of those super fast and fit riders who always describe their riding as slow and their body as out of shape.  I couldn't understand how I could possibly be catching up to him.  He was wearing a blue coat, which matched his skin nicely.  Turns out he was hypothermic and making a smart decision to turn back and get down to a lower, warmer elevation quickly.

He apologized and I pretended not to be thrilled to be turning back, and down we went.  My new brake pads squeal loudly, so my shame in being a chicken ass descender was underlined nicely.  We barely saw a soul on the way down, that's how far back in the pack I was.

The rain and cold continued, the descent lingered on and on, and I finally had to stop for a salty snack.  I ate quickly and sloppily and my mood improved immediately.  Almost to the bottom, I saw Luke again.  Poor guy was freezing his bejesus off.

Back down the hill, back over the bridge, back to town and back to the brew pub.  We passed a few riders who'd completed the ride, which is nothing short of amazing.  Halfway into our first beers, the Texan walked in to the bar.  I haven't seen him in at least a year and we had a jolly time swapping stories and dreaming about future rides.  And, bonus, we now have unfinished business, out in the Dalles.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Oregon Out 'N Back

So, you've always wanted to ride the Oregon Outback, but you're not into the ginormous headwind in the home stretch to the gorge.  Or maybe you just want easy logistics!   Whatever the case, you might consider joining this bastardization of the Oregon Outback, called the Oregon Out 'N Back.

We'll head out from Klamath Falls at 8am on the Friday, May 26th, and spend five or six days exploring the OC&E trail, the Cowboy Dinner Tree, Fort Rock and maybe even the Crooked River if you're fast enough.  Stay tuned for more specifics on the exact depart location.

Speaking of the Cowboy Dinner Tree, you'll need reservations.  Dinner (which they don't allow you to split) includes: salad, soup, sweet yeast rolls, 30 oz (!) steak, baked potato and fixins, desert, coffee/tea/pink lemonade. It costs $35, cash only, and that includes tip.  The atmosphere is authentic old west, the meat is from their own ranch, the service is adorably accommodating and the food is delicious.  To reserve, call 541 576 2426.  My posse is eating at 6:30pm Saturday.

We'll turn back when appropriate to finish at Klamath Falls, enabling us to take the train both ways. Because it's an out and back, riders can choose their distance and turn back any time they like. 

There are two rules. Leave no trace and bring no car.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of following these.  If you'd like to ride the route and have a car meet you along the way, great, just please pick a different week to do it and don't rain on our car-free parade. 

This is a create your own adventure. This is also a SELF SUPPORTED CAR-FREE event. No support is offered, gather all the millions of information available on line so you might survive. Most of all, don't sue me if things go sideways.

Here's a possible route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/17839578

We're planning a shakedown ride the last weekend of April, from Scappoose to Wilkerson:

We've already gotten press!