Monday, April 25, 2011

Visiting an old friend

Last weekend, I rode the Banks Vernonia trail with friends.

 Lynne's and Susie's 'Peas in Vernonia

I had never ridden it in the spring, only in the fall, where I could ride my mountain bike and pretend I was mountain biking.  The trail was not finished, mostly not paved (dirt, gravel, sucking mudpit) and in some places, downright (to me) exciting.  Like the descent and ascent at Tophill, with the baby-head-sized rocks on the ascent.  I walked.  Not to mention the memorable ride where we got to Vernonia, had a snack and came out to watch the sun setting.  17 miles back, and between the two of us, a rear blinkie and a faint front blinkie.  In pouring rain. Good times.  My last visit was in 2005.  Since then, there have been floods and major trail washouts, and I just haven't gone back to ride it since.

Friend Susan suggested we ride Ray's North Plains Banks Vernonia permanent populaire.  We weren't clear on the pavement status.  I planned to ride Sweetpea - fat tires, in case of non-pavement.  Fenders in case of wet.  Turned out, there was total pavement, and no wet.

Met up at Susan's, rode in a pack over to North Plains to meet up with Ray to exchange releases and cards, and headed off.  Uneventful zip up to Banks, interrupted by one info control.  Candy bar in Banks, then to the other end of town to hop on the trail.

Start of the trail in Banks

First we rode through a tunnel of trees, then popped out into open farmland.  Then back into the trees again, paralleling Hwy 26.  I was looking for the Manning trailhead (the former start of the trail), but missed it.  No riding on the washboard Pongratz Road anymore - the trail went straight along, south of it.  I did not recognize anything!  Then we crossed an amazing trestle, and the Buxton trailhead.  Locational cues re-established.  Used to have to ride DOWN and then UP (was she going to make it?  or bail?).

Sun! Warming up!

Happy evidence of participation

The Roundhouse turn is now full of trees.  Passed through Stub Stewart State Park (formerly the deep sucking mudpit part of the trail), crossed over Hwy 47, and eventually rode down the drop  to Tophill.  Now all nice and paved and switchbacked.  We had been ever so gently climbing, and after riding up the other side (more switchbacks), it was flat/downhill all the way into Vernonia.

Into the woods...

Susan and I went off to find the info control, and then joined the others at the Black Bear Coffee Company for a lazy lunch.  An hour-long lunch.

Lynne and Susan at the Vernonia info control

This lunch works for a bike ride during Passover

And then back.  After summiting Tophill, it was quite warm enough to remove the arm warmers, vest, and wool cap.  And, after summiting Tophill, it was a 1% descent for miles and miles and miles...

Passing through Stub Stewart, we started running into more trail users - runners, dog walkers, cyclists, horses, and the idiots on the ATV.  Susan called that one in.  The additional trail traffic caught me a few times, and I fell back.  Through Buxton, through Manning (found it going the other way), then the farmland, the tree tunnel (cool) and the trailhead.

One more control before the end, where we all got stuff to drink.  We were warm and thirsty.  How strange.  Then back to the North Plains gas station for the final receipt (and more to drink) and back to Susan's.

75 amazing miles, 14.28mph.  We finished the perm in plenty of time, even with the long lunch stop.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The Eden's Gate 400km brevet and I had some unfinished business.  I was hoping it would be settled to my satisfaction this time.

Bicycles, Gallon House Bridge

Michal and I had planned to ride it together.  In preparation, we both enhanced the mudflaps on our bikes.  I also did a fair amount of stressing, and spent way too much time haunting The weather was going to be Not Good, then it turned to Not All That Bad, and then, finally at 3:30am on Saturday, it predicted a headwind both coming and going.  Joy.

Installation complete

Packed an almost-complete change of clothes, and 2.5 lbs of food.  Joel may have packed more  food, but it was close.

Big gathering at the Wilsonville LaQuinta at 4:15am.  Many riders from Seattle (hi Vinnie!) and the usual local suspects.



A few minutes after 5am, Susan F released us.  South through the industrial park, hop onto I-5 southbound to cross the Willamette River, then south on Airport Rd, passing the Aurora Airport, through Aurora, onto Lone Elder, and then Meridian, where we'd be riding for the next quite a long while.  We passed a group stopped at Meridian and Whisky Hill (If I sound really familiar with the area - I used to ride this area a lot.  I'm good until Sweet Home, and then it is less familiar).  We later found out that a rider had been struck by a car.  I heard the rider will be ok, but that was the end of their ride.

Note to self: continue coming to a full stop at each and every stop sign.

Eventually the sun rose, a bit before we passed the location of the Tulip Festival.  Fortunately, HOURS before it started - cars parked all over, tense parents trying to get pictures of their children in the tulip fields...

Through Monitor, still heading south, eventually turning onto Downs Rd and our first info control, the Gallon House Bridge.  So named, because that's where the bootleggers would leave merchandise for later pickup.  We leapfrogged Sarah, Lesli, Joel, David, and Kevin through here.

Joel, Gallon House Bridge

Michal, David, and Lesli, Gallon House Bridge

Through Silverton, but not stopping, and onto the Cascade Hwy.  Hill after hill after hill, spaced too far apart to be rollers.  Michal: "a roller is supposed to leave you with some momentum to get a ways up the next one".  Removed my jacket somewhere along there, and switched to my mesh shortfinger gloves.  Really, I wasn't THAT cold.

Cascades Hwy

Passed Joel, Sarah, Lesli, David and Kevin while they stopped at the Sublimity convenience store.  South through Stayton (not stopping), and onto Cole School Road.

Was I riding up those rollers or walking?  Out of four tries to date, I've only ridden up the second (steeper) one once, on Lemond.  Sweetpea was going through its chain-throwing stage, and providentially dropped the chain right at the bottom the most recent attempt.

Extremely adorable lambs seen on the first roller.  Then...

Ha HAAAA!  Success!

Down to the Shimanek Covered Bridge (second info control) and off to Scio, our first timed control.  Which we made in plenty of time.  Bought myself a wonderful Nestle Dark Chocolate bar with the cranberries and blueberries.  Oh yum.   Ate a few other things out of my bag, and we were off again, just as Lesli and Co. arrived.

Updated my progress on Facebook.  Found an encouraging text and email from co-workers and friends (made my day!)

Wandered around collecting railroad crossing (Gilkey) and covered bridge (Hoffman) info controls, finally heading to the Larwood Covered Bridge.  Again Lesli and Co. arrived just as we were departing.

Hoffmann Covered Bridge

It started raining again, and it finally got heavy enough that I pulled my jacket on, but did not bother with heavier gloves.

Then, a part of the route that I must have edited out of my head.  The first half of this route really isn't flat.  And there's a few hills between the Larwood Covered Bridge and Sweet Home.  Snow Peak.  Ouch.  Finally though, when it looks like we are going to head up another wall, we turn instead.

I think it is missing some of the not-riding time...
The rain intensity steadily increased.  By the time we were just about to Sweet Home, it was that heavy rain with extra wetting agent.  Into the Thriftway, where sandwiches were ordered, other business taken care of, sandwiches consumed inside (we were dripping on the floor), visiting with Lesli and Co., and then taking off again.

Michal and I winched ourselves out of Sweet Home, and now that we were in his territory, he was the navigator.  More wandering around, another covered bridge at Crawfordsville, then onto Brush Creek, for what would eventually be the major climb of the day.  The rain was refusing to let up.  The climb is really not bad - only 4+ miles, and never more than 5%.  Waited for Michal at the top.

Evidence of participation

Michal summitting Marcola

Then the descent, which would have been MUCH more fun if it had not been raining so hard.

One last covered bridge, and then we headed out.  The wrong way.  Michal quickly realized that and we went back.  Lesli and Co. were entertained.  All of us headed off to the Mohawk Post Store (127 mi).  They have a TABLE and CHAIRS inside now!  We all bought something, got our cards signed, and settled down for a big snack and a short break.  Phone calls to respective spouses were made.  Then, after looking outside, went out and started riding again.  Stopping, even if it is warm inside gets me all chilled and shaking, but I do know that I will warm up in a couple of miles.

The 8 of us headed east along the McKenzie river, headed for Coburg, then on to Harrisburg (150 mi).  If there was a headwind, I didn't really notice.  Rain, rain, rain.

The convenience store in Harrisburg also had a table and chairs, and a clerk who tossed us a handful of bar towels to dry off.  I took my change of clothes and snuck into the bathroom and changed from the waist up, and then came back out and put on dry socks and a dry hat.  I felt EVER so much better.

 More eating.  The clerk caught more folks headed back to the bathroom and told us we couldn't go back there because of all the liquor stored in the back.  Really, we were not interested.  Kevin decided to end his ride here, and offered up his wool baselayer.  Not that we were robbing his corpse for dry clothing or anything...

Now, off to Peoria Road, 19 miles of...nothing.  Flat. Straight.  Last time there was a nasty headwind.  This time, not so much.  We rode as a pack of eight, at least until I really couldn't hang on anymore.  The Starbucks Doubleshot must have worn off.  I was getting really sleepy, too.  Fortunately, it had stopped raining.  We could see sky and sunset up ahead.

Thus started the first of the roadside catnaps.  I'd find myself lurching all over the road, and pull into a handy driveway, sit down, put my head on my knees and conk out for 5-10 minutes.  Then get up and ride some more.  Michal would wait, which was incredibly nice of him.

Conversation when I wasn't trying to fall asleep: geeky stuff (we are both CS, although I went over to the User Experience side almost 20 years ago and Michal is an academic), reading (Ursula K LeGuin and other speculative fiction), other hobbies, travel, etc.

Made it past the turn on White Oak Rd.  Yay!  We made it to Albany and decided to stop at Pop's Branding Iron (open 24 hours) for some hot food.  We split a burger and fries.  Holden and Jeff came in as we were eating.

Jeff and Holden in Pop's Branding Iron

Then, north to Independence.  Another long stretch, this time on Buena Vista Rd, which, in the dark, is pretty desolate.  A couple more naps, at least.  Then into Independence, where the only place open was the bar.  Barely.

We went in, and I put my head down on a table.  The few patrons there were dumbfounded that we were riding to Wilsonville at 2am.  Michal didn't help by telling them we'd already ridden 200 miles...  Coffee (sort of). 15-20 minute nap.  We closed out the bar.  And off again.

Another remote stretch of about 10 miles, then into the outskirts of Salem, and finally into Salem.  After riding out in the sticks in the dark, Salem was pretty bright and distracting.  Through Salem (note: don't obsess over the turns on the cue sheet - the roads are just about all the same road), and out into my reasonably familiar riding territory, although I don't ride on River Rd - usually riding on Wheatland Rd for this stretch.

By now, the temperature had dropped to 35 degrees.  I had put on the Firewall gloves way back in Harrisburg, so I was plenty warm.  Amazing that I could sit down and get a nap when it was THAT cold.

While I was taking yet another nap, Jeff found us.  Holden elected to end his ride in Albany.  Too bad.  We headed north, and found Keene Rd.  We could see the sun starting to rise.  I think I took one more nap, and then the sun came up and I was ok.  Really pretty sunrise.  Best sunrise ever.

Wandering our way north and east; this stretch from Keene Road is always considerably longer than I think it should be.  And... cross over I-5, down the on-ramp, over the river, down the off-ramp (the construction is very messy), north though the industrial park, back over I-5 and.....

400km (250 miles), 26:25 total time.
Cyndi (Mrs. Michal) was there to take our pictures.

(picture by Cynthia Wenks)


Susan F wanted to know why I wasn't taking caffeine pills.  Let me tell you about that...  I'll have to find something.  Maybe choc-covered espresso beans.  Starbucks Doubleshots are good, but not available at every convenience store.

Shower.  Piece of pizza and a soda.  Short nap, then an errand and home.  For another nap.  And then a Portland Timbers game.  Still behind on my sleep, but getting better.

Longest continuous ride I have EVER done.  No numb fingers.  Both arms work.  I haven't ridden or run since then, but I'll be back on the bike tomorrow, and should be just fine.

The Route

David P's pics
Lesli L's pics

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Riding Solo

I don't ride solo much, as I might have mentioned before.  But, with this past week not being a great week for bike commuting (only 1 day ?!?), and a 400km ride coming up in a couple of weekends, about which I experiencing extreme trepidation.. gotta ride.

Rust patterns

There WERE plans to ride on Sunday that fell through on Saturday afternoon.  What to do?  Marcello's West County 100km permanent populaire seemed attractive.  I could ride to/from the start, do the ride, and be home before dinner.  Long before dinner, since I'm the one that cooks it.

Email exchange with Marcello, and all was arranged.

The plan was to depart my house about 9:15, start at 10, and be home around, mmm, 4.  As I was doing the taxes last night (sigh), no ride preparation took place, other than the bike was very clean because I was installing longer mudflaps.  But this is a 100k, with stores very reasonably spaced; no worries.  The weather was also to be decent - the important part - no rain.

Installation complete

Departed around 9:45.  Oops.  So, while the official start was 10am; I started 18 minutes after that.  Ah well.  Nice ride.  Lots of daffodils and flowering plum to admire, a field of alpaca, cows, goats, creeks, rivers, nursery fields...  There was no place on this route that I hadn't ridden before.

Stripey fields on Stringtown Rd

The wind was mostly SSW, so the stretch from Hwy 6/Gales Creek Rd to Gaston had some elements of a slog to it.  My face was so red in Gaston that I thought it was a sunburn, but apparently not; just wind.

The only parts which feel remote are the stretch from Cedar Canyon Rd to Gales Creek Rd on Hwy 6 (shoulder is now nice and clean), and most of Gales Creek Rd.

Started with a jacket, but took it off at the beginning of the route.  Other than a hint of drizzle on Gales Creek, perfectly fine weather, mostly in the mid-50's.

Sweetpea and Little Pink Bear at the Gaston Market

Sweetpea was wonderful, as always.  I really should set up the final fit, though.

My official 100km time was 5:12.  Unofficially, 4:57.
Totals 77.23 miles, 14.44 avg mph.  Not too shabby.
So, what did I think about, all by myself for the 6:24 I was out there?  Not very much.  Or, not much that I remember :-)