The Oregon Randonneurs Wine Country 200k was this past weekend. Usually, September weather here is perfect for riding - not hot, not cold, and not wet. We've had an exceptionally hot summer, but temperatures had finally moderated, and we even had bits of rain. Until the day of the 200k.
This route was last run on November 26, 2005. I was riding the populaire version of what was to be my first RUSA ride ever. Result: "Lynne Fitzsimmons & Jason Penney - Medical DNF , tandem, crash near Forest Grove". It was below freezing; there was ice on a bridge, which was off-route, but we didn't realize that, nor did several other riders. We also thought it was weird that we all had to wait and start together. (I have been doing this for 10 years? Who'd have thought?)
Fast forward to now. It was going to hit 90 degrees; the route was through the valleys, precious little shade. No services whatsoever between McMinnville and Dayton, about 45 miles. I planned to tank up in McMinnville.
Michal was riding with me; it would be his first long ride since his successful PBP finish.
So there we were in Forest Grove, faffing around and then departing at 7am. Turned out Michal's GPS was forlornly abandoned back at my house. No worries - although parts of this route were new to me, I had no worries about bonus distance.
Our first control was at the bridge right after the turn onto Stringtown Rd. Clearly, it was going to be a day of colorful ziptie controls. :-)
Michal had a flat somewhere along here (or maybe later on North Valley? Laughlin?). I used the time to pull on my sunskins and apply sunscreen on my face. I may have helped a bit after that. Disk brakes maybe make it a bit tricky to reinstall the wheel.
Then off to Cherry Grove, which is at the end of a road, pretty much nowhere, unless you are a fan of gravel and logging roads. There we met up with three cheerful young guys, but we didn't get around to exchanging names.
Once we got back to Old Hwy 47, it was familiar riding all the way to Carlton. Carlton was a choice of info control or open control; I thought pastry and coffee at the Carlton Bakery sounded much better than a couple of zipties. The Carlton Crush was in full swing, with more traffic in Carlton than I had seen, ever. A woman from Willamette Valley Vineyards was in the bakery at the same time, and I complimented their wine. A few minutes later she gave us a free wine tasting card (!)
It was starting to warm up. From here we proceeded south, to the brevet/populaire route split at Gun Club Rd. We then ended up on the Westside Highway, which is a narrow and high traffic road. I was a little apprehensive, but it wasn't too bad, especially once we entered the McMinnville city limits.
I had scoped out possible open control/food stops, and the Harvest Fresh Grocery and Deli looked pretty good. Indeed they were, although a little bit too organic to be carrying V-8. On that matter, I have been carrying a little bottle of salt, and drinking down a half teaspoon or so as needed. While it grosses out the riding partners, if you drink it down quickly enough, it isn't that bad. This is in addition to drinking EFS or Skratch. I seem to need a LOT of salt. (Hence my non-fondness for riding in really hot weather.)
We saw the three happy guys ride by while we were in there; that was our last sighting.
Now into the lumpy part of the route, Masonville and Muddy Valley Roads. These are featured in the middle loop of the Grab Bag 300. Again, today, it was wonderfully sunny, no freaking out in the gloom and wet. But yes, definitely getting hot. Much drinking.
We did pause for pictures at Pucara Alpacas, because they are so darn cute.
A few more hills later, and, just before crossing Hwy 18, we passed a house with a basket of water bottles, some apples, and a sign inviting us to fill our bottles with their cold and tasty well water. We didn't need to be invited twice. That saved us.
Now across Hwy 18, working our way south and east. The wind had been mostly indeterminate, but now decided to be somewhat of a noticeable headwind. A hot headwind, but not quite the blast furnace effect of the June 200k. We saw a boy riding his bike all over Bethel Rd, with his helmet unbuckled and no apparent adherence to the Rules of the Road. Must be a very safe place to ride.
The heat was starting to get to me. We stopped for a cooling-down pause (with salt and a gel and a banana) just before crossing Hwy 99W.
The traffic on Perrydale/Bethel Rd was somewhat (much!) heavier than normal; traffic was diverted off Hwy 99 for construction. The flaggers let us cross over Hwy 99, and we started winding up to the top of Zena Rd (one pause to recompose). From there, we'd finally turn north onto Spring Valley Rd. Sadly, Spring Valley didn't drop to the valley floor; lots of ups and downs. I wasn't burning any matches, just keeping up a steady effort. Still, there needed to be another sit, salt and gel stop. This could be a long afternoon. Me to Michal: "don't let me do this again." Michal: "I will remind you that you told me to tell you that."
Arrived at Hopewell Rd, where I was under the misunderstanding that it flattened out. Not so much, but when we FINALLY arrived at Webfoot Rd... whew. All the traffic was now somewhere else, and Webfoot is pretty flat. Lots of farms and vineyards. But still extraordinarily hot. I spotted a man outside his house, pulled over, and asked if he would spare some water. Very kind man, he filled our bottles. I think I drank half of a bottle right there.
Dayton and the Center Market were getting closer... Ahh. V-8, Red Bull and Gatorade. When we arrived, we had 3 1/2 hours to ride the last 27 miles. I needed a pause on the sidewalk. The clerk allowed as how they really ought to put in some benches. When I think of all the times I have sat on the sidewalk outside that store, I can't disagree.
Heading north past Lafayette we enjoyed several stretches of pristine new asphalt, and found, turning from Abbey Rd to Kuehne Rd... there was a BIKE LANE! A welcome improvement in what used to be a slightly sketchy right turn/merge.
We were moving along reasonably well until Ribbon Ridge, where a driver felt it was necessary to emphatically inform us that riding two abreast is illegal. Well it isn't, especially when there is visibility ahead for a long distance, absolutely no traffic but for us and him, and in a legal passing zone. After the experience with Mr. Motorcycle awhile back, I can only conclude that citizens of Yamhill County would benefit from reviewing the ENTIRE text of ORS 814.340. Especially subsection (e). Also ORS 814.400 (3)
The headwind really picked up here, which, if it continued, would make finishing in time somewhat of a challenge. Fortunately, it quickly dropped off once we turned into the valley.
After that turn onto North Valley, it was 6:30, when we planned to pull on the reflective gear. Because we stopped, I got wobbly again, and had to stop, sit, and eat more salt and gel. And a banana.
Heading north, as I mentioned, the wind abated, and finally seemed to die down, or perhaps become slightly helpful. The temperature also started dropping. One more brief, preemptive salt and gel stop, and, about a mile or so out, a stop to pump up Michal's rear tire.
Finished at 8:10pm; 13:10 elapsed.
The three happy guys finished about an hour before us; the RBA commented that they looked very fresh, unlike everyone else :-)
With any luck, the weather has turned slightly cooler.
Aside: Many times I mention that our routes here pass by locations from the alternate history Emberverse series. This route in particular went by many "significant" locations. I could figure out a lot of the spots, just based on the description, but a few eluded me. Then I found this map. Cool!