This year it was a cold one. Steve B was looking for company on Ray's Banks-Elsie perm, and after much online discussion, it came down to Steve, Graham, and me. Steve wanted an 8am start; we'd DEFINITELY finish after dark.
We met up at the Thriftway in Banks, and headed out at the dot of 8. It was 21 degrees. It wasn't going to rain, it was going to be sunny, and there wouldn't be much wind.
The first 20+ miles on the trail to Vernonia seemed to be a slog. There was one downed tree and one ice patch, but other than that, the trail was fine. We were cautious riding over the bridges. It was just really, really cold.
We stopped at Black Bear Coffee for coffee and cookies. Graham wanted to go on ahead (he's a LOT speedier than Steve and I), so off he went. I think the control had been closed by a few minutes by the time we left. It may have been above freezing by now.
Now it was a bit of rolling, and then essentially flat, all the way to Birkenfeld. We spread out, and I was moving right along (for me), not cold at all. The Birkenfeld Store was closed; no surprise there. All the way from Vernonia to Elsie, the route repeatedly crosses the Nehalem River.
|photo by Graham Ross|
|photo by Steve Bredthauer|
Back the mile or so, and the route turned onto OR 103, a delightful stretch of gently rolling road, with farms and pastures of alpaca, donkeys, horses and cattle. Still crossing the Nehalem River.
A couple miles before Elsie, I spotted Graham headed back. He stopped for a minute, and said he just bought a sandwich and left. He looked a little underdressed for the weather, and was probably on a mission to finish soonest.
Looped up to Hwy 26, and had to wait awhile for a break in the traffic to cross over to the control at Baker's General Store. I got a sandwich, some Gatorade, and refilled my thermal bottle with more hot tea/EFS/Carbo-Pro. As I was waiting for my sandwich, Steve came in, and got himself something to eat as well. Delightful people in the store; we chatted while we were eating.
Steve and I left together, and lucky us, there was immediately a break in the traffic, so we could cross back over. Back on OR 103, then onto OR 202, headed back to Birkenfeld. I don't know what it is, but that 13 mile stretch on OR 202 always seems like a slog. Still sunny, but the shadows were getting longer. I pulled over at Birkenfeld to change to clear lenses and add the missing reflective bits (one ankle band). And take some big bites out of a Payday bar. Hard to eat when the fingers are all covered up, hence calories in the bottle. Steve came up, and got himself arranged for riding in the dark as well. 20 miles to Vernonia.
Darkness fell about 10 miles along. There was a moon, and it never seemed pitch dark. Perhaps the Luxos U contributed :-) We were both passed by a driver in a big pickup hauling a big boat; prefaced by lots of honking, and a very close pass. On an empty road, in a passing zone. I had fantasies of catching him in the gas station in Vernonia and giving him what for (or calling the police), but we were too far out; he'd be long gone, even if he'd stopped.
I made a command decision that we'd stop at the Shell Minimart, and stood by the road so Steve would see me. He noted that we had almost 3.5 hours to finish, and only 2 hours of riding. We elected to warm up some. I went for the cup of noodles and the other half of my pbj. Steve had coffee. I didn't want to leave, because Radar Love by Golden Earring was playing on the speakers.
Steve led the way back on the trail. We weren't in any big hurry, and I knew all the excitement would be done by the time we got to the Beaver Creek trailhead. There was one pause for me to switch gloves; the two layers of wool gloves weren't quite warm enough, so I pulled off one set of gloves and added my lobster claw gloves. For once, they weren't overly warm.
We found the ice patch (careful skitching on my part), and then the tree. After we hefted our bikes over, it was clear sailing the entire way back, with a bit of caution on the bridges.
In some places, the trail and the air were wonderfully sparkly.
Finished a bit after 9pm. The checkers at the Thriftway were happy to see us, and pointed us at the coffee. Such nice people.
So, what does one wear when the temps are going to be below freezing much of the time, and it is going to be dry? I elect for wool layers. Reviewing what I wore on a similarly cold 200k back in 2011, the only differences were one more wool baselayer, one more wool glove layer (mangy old LG Ergo Air shortfingers, Smartwool liner gloves, Descente wool gloves), and, when it got really cold that night, I removed the outer wool glove layer and added my Sugoi Lobster Gloves. And very fluffy wool socks and my new Lake winter cycling boots. I did put on toe covers for the night descent, but no booties.