Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Chance (Dec 2013) 200k

As in, if I didn't ride a 200k before the end of December, I'd be starting that fourth R-12 over AGAIN.  Which I did not want to do.

Hagg Lake from the dam.  In the fog.

Jason K from Montana was apparently in a similar state, he was in Portland over the holiday, and did anyone want to ride a 200k?  Jeff A thought he'd join us.  Not that he needed a Dec 200k, he'd just finished the local Solstice 200k.

"The flatter the better" was the request.  Nothing is really flat here, unless one rides the Mill City 200k, but I wasn't thinking I wanted to get up so early and drive to Wilsonville.  Better to coast the 1+ mile down the hill to the start of my Beaverton-Hagg Lake-Carlton 200k.  Jason and Jeff were up for that, so 6:30-ish on Sunday morning found us in the Starbucks', dozing over coffee drinks in an attempt to wake up.

It was to start out foggy, and clear off in the afternoon, maybe making it up to 45 deg F!

Dark and foggy when we started; the first 9-ish miles heading west and slightly north to escape the Urban Growth Boundary, getting out into the country.  No traffic early on a Sunday.  Pointed out the local celebrity farm to Jason.  His wife is a fan of the show, so he was delighted to be able to share that with her later.

Many info controls for the first third of the ride, some with interesting historic significance.  We finally ended up in Forest Grove around 11am, looking for something to eat.  I knew Maggie's was closed on Sunday, but figured we could get a slice of pizza.  No, not until noon.  Not anything else obviously open either on Main Street.  I knew there was a burger place "somewhere", so we continued along the route, hoping we'd find it.  As it turned out, we didn't go quite far enough, but we did find the Little Monkey Deli.  No one in there but us, and we were promptly served tasty sandwiches, Coke, and in my case, a pickle.  Jeff bought some killer nut brittle ("the owner's dad makes it") to take along.

(for the record, Scotties Drive In is open at 10:30am on Sundays, and is across the street from the Knitting Store)

Off to conquer Hagg Lake, the most challenging climbing of the route.  It was still foggy.  And cold.  The sandwich did a nice job of powering me around the lake.  For the park being closed, it seemed like the most concentrated traffic of the whole ride, except for Yamhill and Carlton, was at the lake.

Jason in the dam at Hagg Lake

After Hagg Lake, we all stopped to get pictures of the herd of elk we saw on the way in.

Elk on Scoggins Valley Rd

Then into Gaston.  Not a control, but we stopped for supplies, it being a ways to Carlton.  I filled up my thermal jug with a combination of coffee and hot cocoa powder - the checker helpfully pointed me at the tub of cocoa powder and also said we were welcome to fill up out water bottles.  They sell really really good chocolate bars there as well.  A store patron admired the bikes and asked where we were headed.  Weren't we worried about it getting dark?  Not so much.  I have always found the Gaston general store and locals to be a really nice group of human beings.

South on Spring Hill/North Valley, over Laughlin to 240, into Yamhill, then the 3 miles south on Hwy 47 to Carlton.  The guys were a bit ahead (story of the day) and waited for me so we could pick a destination.  We tried the convenience store on Main St, rather than the grocery where I usually stop.  They have remodeled their bathroom - really nice!  Bought some grapefruit juice - tasty liquid sugar.  Off again, still grey and foggy.  I like getting to Carlton (82mi), because it is all headed homeward from there.

Found the three rude drivers on Kuehne Rd, but that was it.  Finally, the drop onto Ribbon Ridge and we were headed north on North Valley.  Over the three big rollers, and that was the last of any real climbing.  It didn't get really dark until we turned onto Geiger, where we admired each other's headlights.  I could clearly see the light pattern of the Luxos in the mist - wide rays and a shaft of bright light out front.  Nice.

My bike computer had long ago given up telling me anything - the display shuts off in the cold although it is still recording.  So no stressing about how fast I was or was not riding.  Occasional time checks on my phone made it clear that we wouldn't have to do any time trials for the finish.  Stopped at the golf course a few minutes too late to go inside (snack bar/plumbing), so any stops would have to wait until the last on-course control.  I did stop long enough to suck down my first-ever-consumed-on-a-ride Ensure.

I was awfully achy.  And I was not alone in this feeling.  Wanted to be DONE.

No traffic on Hwy 219 when we arrived to cross (a gift), and when we rode past the last info control I quizzed them on the details, but we didn't stop.  We'd remember the answer :-)

As we skirted the edge of the Urban Growth boundary, Jason (a city planner in real life) was asking about the mechanics of how it worked.  Actually we had that conversation earlier in the ride as well.

A few miles further and we were back in Hillsboro and civilization, and, a few miles further, the last on-course control.  We paused, ate a little (peanut butter GU, not a flavor I like, but it works), made phone calls, and set out for the final 6 miles.

Finished at the YoPop.  Just to clarify, there are places to get beer close by.  Not sure what quality of beer, but there is beer availability.  But we went to the YoPop, and mixed up bowls of yogurt and non-healthy toppings.  Cards were finalized.  Then Fitz showed up, and got himself some yogurt.

Jason thought the after dark parts of the ride were the most fun.  They were, kind of.  It didn't seem as cold, and, again, almost done and no need to stress about not finishing in time.

And because I was so very tired, I stuffed my bike in the back of the Element (me to Fitz: "so, which car did you drive over in?" Fitz: "yours") and accepted a ride home.  Jeff: "it IS uphill to your house".  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Aftermath: hot shower.  Spaghetti and meatballs.  Bed.  Rode into Portland to meet up with a friend.  Message from Fitz indicated that Rebecca and Asher had stopped by, so took the light rail back (with cupcakes from St. Cupcake).

Reviewing the bike computer data, the temperature never made it to 40 degrees.  It was foggy or grey the entire day.

So, while this year did not go as I had wanted it to go, Rando-wise, I did finish up with over 5000 RUSA km, and kept the R-12 streak going.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Harder Than It Looks

Ray and I set out to ride the Dayton Flyer 100k this past Sunday.  Weather was going to be decent (neither freezing nor raining).  This route has dirt roads, but I'd ridden it before, and despite an overlong stop in Dayton, we made it back in time.


Right.  Clearly it wouldn't take so long this time!  Tossed in a sandwich, banana, and assorted other food objects which I always carry and rarely eat, a hot drink and some water, and drove out to Forest Grove to meet up with Ray.  I didn't see him, so called his home, his wife called him, and we quickly connected up.  And I now have his cell phone #.

Ray wanted to get his starting receipt (I already had mine) at the coffee shop next to the grocery, so with this and that, we didn't start until 14 minutes past when we were supposed to.

At the start

Bit of a headwind, winding our way south and a bit west to the Lake Store, where we got our receipts (note: the store receipt time bears no resemblance to actual time, neither the hour nor the minutes), and crossed the road to check out the newly constructed and newly opened Scoggins Creek bridge.  Oh, lovely pavement!

Nice first day of winter, occasional bits of sun, a pause at the corner of Laughlin so I could gather more material for info controls for one of my perms, then heading up and over Laughlin, to Hwy 240 to Stag Hollow, our first dirt experience.  Road was a bit damp, but packed.  We could see tire tracks from the Solstice Riders from the night before.

Discussion of wrenching at home... Ray says he's got his grandkids on an apprenticeship program, some of them are now up to bottom bracket maintenance.  I am never quite sure when he is joking.  It all sounds quite reasonable, but then goes stealthily sideways at some point.

Then south on Mineral Springs, through Lafayette, south again.  We discussed what we preferred on cue sheets.

/* digression */
I will say right now that I do not like overmuch information, because it takes too long for one's eyes and brain to track across a row with too many words ("turn left on"  turn right on" - these phrases do not appear on any cue sheet I author).

Also, nice straight lines in a table format, again to keep the eyes tracking across.  I even color mine "green bar", again, to keep the eye on the desired line).  Also (we are in violent agreement here) the cue sheet should be all one needs to complete the ride.  Assuming "everyone uses a GPS these days" isn't going to cut it.  I have gone so far as to get my bike computer calibrated with Ride With GPS, because many cue sheets are generated with that website.  Serves me well.
/* end digression */

So, a bit more dirt past the mobile home park, over the nifty wooden bridge, and there we were in Dayton.  We did go into the Blockhouse Cafe, but just got coffee and I added a premade pastry.  That said, perhaps a bit too much time was wasted, but, hey, we'd have a tailwind on the way back.

Ray and red shrubs

A stop in Lafayette (Ray wanted something).  Then we looked up... Clopping down Hwy 99 was a reindeer-pulled carriage.  Well, maybe not exactly real reindeer.  Mules with antlers :-)  I wasn't quick enough to get a picture.

So.  But before the long straight, hopefully tailwind-aided stretches, there was Yamhill Road.  Dirt, of course, and it goes up.  My wheel was making that scratchy leaf sound, and it got harder and harder to pedal.  I finally stopped, and we discovered that the fender was packed solid with clay soil.  So there was another stop, where I pulled the front wheel and the dirt was all picked out.  Mostly.

Clay tile

The road was almost wet, so it started accumulating again.  We got to the steep part, which I walked, bouncing the front end to knock the mud away.  Finally, the first of several false summits, and pavement.


And then down, onto Laughlin, and the "easy" part.  3 big rollers on North Valley/Spring Hill, 3 more rollers past the Lake Store.  But first we had to get there; the expected tailwind was weak.  We did.  On the last minute (!)  Ray got a coke and a candy bar.  I got a candy bar, and prepared to leave.  Ray was SITTING DOWN.  Uh, we have to leave now!  Oh, right.


I set out, and stomped my way up and over the three rollers, and then did what I always do on the Hwy 47 stretch from Old Hwy 47 to Dudney Rd - rode on the shoulder against traffic.  Ever so much more preferable than having to cross Hwy 47 twice.  We'd still be waiting to cross.

Through Dilley, around the nurseries, and finally, the last climb into Forest Grove.  Stood up to stomp up it. Ray: " I hope that makes you hurt".  It did, but missing the cut-off would have hurt more.  Then we were on 19th, and could see the Safeway entrance up ahead.  Whew.

Went into the coffee shop for the finish.  Got our beverages, and a few minutes later they closed and suggested that we clear out. So we did.  End of story.

About 64.5 miles, at a not-impressive pace.

Another Digression:  Over on the Seattle Randonneurs blog, Mark Thomas talks about Maps With Me Lite, an offline mapping app, into which (if you get the pay-for version) you can download .kml files as bookmarks.  He uses it for a gps backup.  I don't use gps, so I thought I'd give it a try if I got a bit bewildered.  There were a couple of missing street signs this ride, and I had loaded the .kml track, and it clarified very nicely.  You can get the .kml track directly from Ride With GPS.  Nice backup to have.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Playing Hooky

Patrick from New York was passing through town, mostly using up frequent flyer miles and riding perms everywhere he went.  I knew of him from Susan and Lesli's LEL pictures.  And, yes, since this job is coming to an end, I figured they could use a day seeing what it would be like without me around :-)

Mt Hood pokes out

The chosen route was Cedric Diggory, because it traveled through both Oregon and Washington.  I have ridden it twice, following the route owner both times.  The part where one is crossing from Oregon to Washington over the I-5 bridge has been known to be a little obscure.  A bit better now, there is finally wayfinding signage.

It was going to be below freezing, but, with any luck, only "occasional flurries".  As long as it didn't ice up, we'd be good.

Found Patrick at Marsee Baking (the traditional start in Sellwood).  We enjoyed some coffee and pastries, and waited for Kevin, who said he'd ride as well.  But right about 10-ish, I looked at my phone, and Kevin was regretfully bowing out :-(

Off we went.  The first part of the route is working one's way north through Portland.  Lots of stop signs and traffic lights.  Once we crossed over Powell it got a bit less claustrophobic.  I played tour guide.  Once we were headed out on Willamette, Patrick stopped to get a picture of Swan Island, because, well, he likes to take pictures. I understand that.

Looping around the furthest west of North Portland, we both needed to stop.  Every public park was locked.  Finally, spotted some facilities behind a fence.  We found the entrance, but they were still behind another fence.  So here we were in this big shipping container yard...  There were some on the far side.  As we were both wearing sufficient hi-vis gear, we cautiously proceeded across the yard.  Stacks and stacks of shipping containers.  No  zombified victims or Wesen, fortunately.

Necessary stop

Columbia River, east of I-5

Finally to the entry of the I-5 bridge crossing maze.  I had ridden over it 3 or 4 times, there is now wayfinding signage, and Patrick had the course in his GPS.  At the first turn, Patrick went left.  Nooo, we need to go right here.  After a bit of discussion ("Vancouver is THAT WAY"), we went right.  The way off to the left was after we'd done the Washington side of the route.  Nah, don't blindly trust that GPS.

Through Vancouver, and finally out to the part of the route where there are no stops until one turns around.  I looked behind me.  No Patrick.  Hmm.  Went back to the last turn.  Looked at the cue sheet.  Not sure if it was the turn; surely didn't look like what I remembered.  I went down it anyway, definitely didn't look right.  Pulled up the Maps with Me Pro on my phone; I had loaded the course track, just to see how it would work.  It told me I was in the wrong place too.  (Shout out to Mark Thomas!)  Went back, looked again back down the road, and found Patrick, just finishing up fixing a flat.

Ok.  Northward again, all the way to the turnaround.  That stretch seems shorter each time, probably because it is getting more familiar.    Bits of snow on the ground there.  We counted up things for the info control, and headed back.  No berries to pick, and too chilly to hike down to the river.

Patrick at the turnaround north of Vancouver, WA

Back into Vancouver, again looking for a stop.  I pulled over to a corner area full of little food shops.  Patrick's tire was squashy, so he pumped it up while I took care of business and bought a croissant to share.

Crossed the bridge and navigated the maze, this time heading east.  After a couple of miles on inner Marine Drive, we hopped on the bike path, which provides some really nice views of the Columbia River.  Pictures taken, of course.

Patrick on the Marine Drive bike path

Me, at the north end of the I-205 bike path

Then south on the I-205 bike path (great views of I-205, and more maze-like navigation).  Patrick paused to pump up his tire again in Maywood Park.  We did enjoy the new SE Division St undercrossing (yay!  no surface crossing!), and finally popped out on SE Harold, to finish up on the surface streets.

Did I mention that time was running out?  Yes, indeed.  East on SE Woodstock, in the dark and rush hour traffic.  Several blocks of narrow lanes and parked cars (eek!), but then it improved.  We turned left on the street which becomes SE Bybee (whoo! almost done!), admired the houses in Eastmoreland, crossed over McLoughlin on the pretty arched bridge, and a few blocks later... Done.

Of course the bakery had just closed - we walked in and they kicked us right out.  Starbucks right across the street, so receipt finish at 5:07pm, 7:07 elapsed.  9 minutes to spare.

Patrick finishes his paperwork

Kevin joined us for a visit, and entered our results right there.  (Hmm.  Maybe a page designed for mobile perm results submission?  I have been known to enter results at the finish as well.)

Overall, great fun, and nice to meet and ride with Patrick!

A few more pics here

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Ride Full of Mechanicals

Ray rounded up Jeff and me to join him on the ever-enjoyable North Plains Banks Vernonia 100k.  Given that the coffee shop in North Plains had closed :-( we were to meet at the McDonalds.

Upon arriving, I hunted around for a place to park - not usually an issue, but the McDonalds seems to be expanding and the parking lot is full of construction vehicles.  Then I had to find a place to lean the bike!

Everything in North Plains is under construction

Bought a hot coffee drink, because it was grey, damp, and chilly.  (I hesitate to type that, because right now it is almost down to the teens for overnight temps here.  Last weekend was comparatively balmy!)  Learned that Ken was also joining us.  Ken: "ok, so I voted for you, what are you now?"  "Grand Poobah".

Once we were all there and paperwork rituals complete we headed out, not too late after our official 10am start.

The ride to Banks is pretty peaceful, with a halt for one info control.  Another pause at the trailhead, and then nothing but trail all the way to Vernonia.  We pretty much had the trail to ourselves this day, because of the weather.  Leaves were mostly still on the trees, but some were blowing off as we rode by.

Ray narrowly avoided squashing a cute little chipmunk scampering across the trail.  After the long gradual (railroad grade) climb to the summit, we dropped down to cross Hwy 47 at Tophill, and then climb back up the switchbacks.  I saw Ray walking near the top.  Strange.

Turned out he'd broken his chain.  He had grabbed the one toolkit which did NOT have a chain tool.  I had a chain tool.  Jeff had a chain tool.  After ascertaining that he had a 9 speed chain, I offered up my spare quick link.  No.  He figured they weren't any good.  Both Jeff and I said that our chains both had quick links on them RIGHT NOW, and, unlike his chain, weren't broken.  After more Luddite protesting, I dug it out and let Jeff take over, because I wanted to eat my sandwich.  Ray was astounded by the ease of installation.  There might also have been some un-installation (also easy) due to chain-threading error.

Ray's broken chain

A couple came by and wanted to know how far to Vernonia.  We assured them it wasn't THAT far, and besides, it was all downhill from here.   Eventually we restarted and passed them a few miles further along.

Vernonia Lake

Into Vernonia and around Vernonia Lake for the turnaround info control.  Ken's tire was getting kind of squashy.  I thought he should pump it up and deal with it at the Black Bear Coffee Company, but the tire had other ideas.  Jeff and I went ahead and ordered some hot food; Ray and Ken showed up maybe 15 minutes later.

Info control, Vernonia Lake

What with all this, when we left, we had 2:45 to get back to North Plains.  Generally not an issue, because the return is much faster.

Back up to the summit in Stub Stewart State Park, then downhill.  Except we were taking it in a much too leisurely pace.  I announced that I wanted to go faster, and moved up to the front, and took the pace from 16 mph to 20 mph without working much harder (downhill!)

Passing by the Manning trailhead, I still remember that Fall afternoon many years ago, before the trail was paved, riding from there to Vernonia and back, except we came out of the coffee shop, exclaimed "what a pretty sunset!", and then realized we had 17 miles back to Manning and one feeble headlight and taillight between us.  And it was starting to rain.  Yes.  Smarter now, about some things, anyway.

So, still hadn't rained, for which we were very delighted, and we arrived back in Banks with 1:15 left and only 9 easy miles.  Finished with oodles of time to spare and enough time for a quick social pause (for me) before zipping home for a family thing.