Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pea Soup Riding: Inaugural Orenco-Gaston 105k

Ray has yet another new perm pop, and he rounded up a group to ride.  It is loosely based on the West County 100, but different.

The draw for this one, besides new roads, is that it starts a block or so from the Orenco Transit Center.

I rode to the start, since it was my old work commute, but a bit shorter.  Found Ray, Adam, Kevin L, RB, and Steve at the Subway.  We were waiting on Jeff, a friend of Steve's.  Got some pre-ride cookies, and, as it was just after 9:30, Kevin and I kicked off, knowing that everyone would find us soon enough.

It was very, very foggy.  So foggy that my lights were on the entire day, and I wore my reflective/neon vest and both reflective ankle bands.  Pea soup.

Until Banks, the route was familiar roads.  For the first control at the Banks Thriftway, we paused a bit (banana), and then I announced we had been standing there a bit too long and started up again.  (There was a "thank you Susan" from the peanut gallery.)  I was cold if we stood around too long, being just on the border of underdressed/exactly right dressed.

But wait!  First big variation - we proceeded west on the shoulder of Hwy 6, rather than Cedar Canyon.  Flatter, and it goes right though the Killin Wetlands.  That was way cool, with the heavy fog and the bare trees sticking up out of the water.

Then up on Stafford Rd/Strohmayer/Kansas City/Thatcher, again, all familiar.  (Lynne consumes a pbj) Then we turned left onto David Hill Rd.  I had ridden up it as far as the pavement went, but never over the top and down the other side to Gales Creek.  Ray said that it wouldn't get steeper, but it did go on.  I was watching the incline numbers tick up on my computer (9, 10, 11...).  Kevin opined that Ray's credibility was dropping.

The pavement did end, and we all (with the exception of Adam, who had gone on after Banks, not to be seen again) helped Ray find a better info control question there for the next time.  We were starting to get above the fog, and after that initial pitch, the well-packed, but wet dirt road meandered along the crest of the hill.  We passed the David Hill Winery, and looked down into a sea of fog.

Gales Creek Rd is down there somewhere

All well and good until the descent.  Still unpaved, and as it got steeper, someone had thought to add fresh gravel.  Right.  I think I scrubbed off a whole set of brake pads with my cautious descent, but I didn't walk any of it.  I am personally just not a fan of descending on gravel.  Dirt, sure.  Kevin and I stayed together, and found the rest at the bottom of the hill, back in the fog.  Ray got a little commentary (perhaps undeserved) for the road selection.  Really, it was pretty, and I am sure minus the fog it is even prettier.  And I did make it down unscathed.  Perhaps on a drier day...

We then proceeded south over Gales Creek/Stringtown (Lynne consumes another pbj) until Carpenter Creek.  I warned the two riders who had never descended Plumlee about the technical turn.  Up we went, above the fog.  But the pretty pond and views from the top were obscured.

We'd been splitting and regrouping.  I mostly stayed with Kevin.  From there we proceeded to the store in Gaston (another banana, some V-8).  As always a cheery and welcome stop.

The last 25 miles was autopilot, with the "pretty route" variation just past the golf course.  Somewhere just before the golf course, I elected to wait for Kevin and finish with him.  I don't much like riding off the back by myself, and figured he'd want the company.  He's not been riding much lately.

We were both happy to turn onto Johnson School just past the golf course; Tongue Rd gets kind of busy.  I was describing all the sights along the way, and pointing out the highlights (Duyck's Peachy-Pig Farm with the fallout shelters and weaner pigs for sale).  Of course, my favorite part of this stretch was obscured by fog, so I was telling Kevin what he'd see if we could see!  While he'd ridden the brevet based on this route, I had changed the routing to Tongue Rd, so as to remove a control.

And now, still mindlessly working our way east and north through Hillsboro (a long town E-W), we were joined by the sun for the last few miles!

We found everyone at the Subway, so went in and joined the second lunch festivities.  Afterwards, both Kevin and I elected to take mass transit home.  I showed him the nifty Tri-Met ticket app on my phone - no worries about broken ticket machines :-)  and we hung out on the platform until my train arrived.

Oh - my new tires arrived, so the rear tire was ALSO new, and no flats!  Quicker than North Plains-Carlton, despite having 500 more vertical feet.  Amazing what the absence of rain and headwind will do for you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Not Entirely Fun, But A Beautiful Route

Ray was rounding up riders for his newest perm pop, North Plains-Carlton.  There was rumored to be a very nice bakery in Carlton.  Every time I have ridden through there, it has been the grocery store or the convenience store.  Adequate, really, but a bakery would definitely improve the ambiance!

Double rainbow, near Gaston

It was going to rain.  Bands of rain, interspersed with no rain.  There would be a 10-15 mile headwind on the outbound leg.  I kept muttering "not as bad as that ride with Theo, not as bad as that ride with Theo..."

Riders ended up being Ray, RB, Chris, and me.  After second breakfast at the Mc D's in North Plains, we headed out.  Strangely, riding west wasn't really an issue.  And it was raining.  At one point, there was a stop to adjust layers, but I kept on going. "I am slow, you all will easily catch me"

Now, after the last ride/flatfest, I bought new tubes, replaced one tire, and moved my front tire, which looked pretty good, and had not yet flatted, to the rear.  You can see where this is going.  About 15 miles in, just past Fisher Farms, I came up with a rear flat.  On a new tube :-(

New cycling supplies bags - one for tools, the other for flats

Pulled out my bright pink flat fixing stuff bag (to some trash talk), and Ray and I set about repair.  Swapped on the spare tire and another tube, pumped it up, and off we went.  I even remembered to wear the gloves, so my hands weren't filthy.  "Aren't you all glad I went ahead?" :-)

The spare tire felt squirmy/weird the entire ride, but it held.

Onward through the wind and rain.  The guys would pull ahead, but occasionally I'd come up on one or more waiting.  Once we got to Hwy 240, the hilly part of the ride commenced.  Usually, unless one is a certain perm owner who always includes a gravel/dirt interlude, one gets to Carlton heading west into Yamhill, then south to Carlton.  It can be shortened by going OVER the hill one is mostly riding around.  The views are great.

So there it was - a climb, and a descent on gravel.  Very hard pack, with loose bits, so I kept the speed way down.  Found the bakery in Carlton (it hides behind a coffee stand, but it is on the left, just around the corner) and everyone else.

Carlton Bakery - almond croissant and Pellegrino

So there was a sit to enjoy my croissant and Pellegrino.  There was supposed to be a tailwind on the return.

Off we went, now climbing UP the gravel road.  No stops.  I am pretty sure there was a tailwind, but I didn't feel the love quite as much as everyone else.  Don't know what it is, other than I am going to the gym 2-3 times a week now, and perhaps my body hasn't quite adapted.  In any case, it is very frustrating to me, and my head was going to really bad places by this point.  Fortunately, the scenery was great.

Ate a banana, half a pbj, some Endurolytes, and a gel, in hopes that it would improve my zip.  And some ibuprofen for the hurts.

North on Spring Hill, eventually turning onto Fern Hill, and, a bit before the water treatment plant, I spotted a cyclist headed my way.  It turned out to be RB, who had come back to see if I was "making adequate progress".  We found the rest of the group at the Fernhill Wetlands, but kept going.

There were some double rainbows.

Double Rainbow, Spring Hill Rd near North Plains

In my head: "Forest Grove to Verboort, 2 miles, Verboort to Roy, 4 miles, Roy to North Plains, 6 miles."  I wasn't feeling quite so bad at this point, mostly because I couldn't see anyone up ahead that I felt I had to push to catch up to.

We had planned to finish at the cafe, and I found everyone in there, already drinking coffee.  My coffee quickly appeared, and the owner already knew what I was going to order.  She remembered from last time.  I think I am now a "regular".

Good things: it did rain a LOT, but my feet did not get wet (Lake shoes with Endura booties over them).  Rainlegs do a dandy job of keeping the "raining on you" feeling away.  And I did finish with 24 minutes to spare.

The new tires arrived yesterday; I'll get them on the bike before the next ride.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Too Many Flats, Or, Bad Day To Be Presta

Steve and I set out to ride the West County 100km perm pop this past Tuesday.  His first attempt was our well-below-freezing night ride, when common sense intervened, and we turned back, rather than risk increasingly icy conditions.

The weather was January-perfect.  High 30's to mid 50's.  Sunny.  There would be an increasing east wind, but we'd deal with that when we got there (the last 20+ miles of the ride).

I was planning to ride to the start, only about 6.5 miles.  But I just couldn't get myself awake, and ended up driving over.

It was all good until Zion Church Rd, where I came up with a rear flat.  And that wouldn't have been a big deal, but my fancy new pump would remove the core of the tube!  Fortunately, Steve had a pump which didn't do that.  (Lynne makes mental note to buy new tubes; these are getting old, anyway).

That taken care of, we pressed on to the control at the Shell Station at mile 25.  We had to push it, and got there with 5 or so minutes to spare (!)  I hate that.

Then we headed off toward Gaston (mile 42), with a longish stretch on Gales Creek Rd.  There were log trucks.  One came up and honked, but I honestly don't know what he thought I could do - scarce shoulder and guardrail (and the creek) on my right.  I did ditch to the guardrail, but still.

Then on to the quiet of Stringtown Rd.  At Stripey Trees Corner (private designation), I could see Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, AND Mt Adams.  This was a first.

South of Forest Grove on Old Hwy 47, Steve came up with a rear flat.  His tire had come off the rim and was fouling the brake pads.  As we were looking at it, the tube exploded.  Well, so much for that.  We got it changed; it didn't appear like the bead was separating.  And with that, there went our nice time cushion to get to Gaston; we made it with a few minutes to spare.  I hate that.

Got some drinks and snacks, and set out into the headwind back to Hillsboro.  As we were passing the water treatment plant, Steve pulled over; his rear tire was getting squashy.  He went to pump it up again, and his valve core vanished into the grass.  Not a good day for presta valves.  He didn't have another tube, and I run a different wheel size.   He suggested I finish.  I thought I'd do that, and drive back and pick him up.  Good thing it was a nice day.

There were 15 miles left to go, so off I went.  Given the wind, I was pretty happy any time I got over 12mph; there were a few times when I was down to 9mph.  I could see all the mountains from Geiger Rd as well.  Nice.  Finished with 15 minutes to spare (I have cut it closer), and loaded up my bike.

Driving west back to get Steve, the sun was at the Exact Wrong Angle, making it a very tense drive.  I stupidly elected to take Hwy 8 (TV Highway) to Hwy 6 to Fern Hill.  Traffic was as usual for that time of day, not light.  Found Steve "I was taking pictures of the dead flowers", and, with some wiggling, we loaded up his bike.  I figured it would be easier to follow the route back, so we did.

Steve was thinking maybe this would be better ridden in the summer, but I assured him that it really isn't that bad!

I quit feeling guilty about driving to the start.

Turns out my RIDING time was less than this past weekend's 100k riding time.  Ok, then.

Aftermath: new tubes which work and play well with the pump.  Discarded the rear tire and spare tire, moved front to rear, new tire on front.  Pulled another spare out of the used tire stash.  Of course, when I went out to get the bike to work on it, my rear tire was flat.  The ride could have been even more exciting, fortunately not!

Faintly Damp

Susan and I were going to ride the North Plains Banks Vernonia perm pop, and it was supposed to be "drizzly".  Maybe.  Given that I have been caught out in some downpours on "drizzly" days, all the raingear was packed on the bike.  I was, however, giving the "layers of wool" technique a go, so had on three wool shirts, a thermal vest and the neon vest, a couple layers of wool gloves, and long socks under the wool knickers.


We met up at the gas station minimart, did the start rituals, and headed out.  Definitely warmer than the Jan 1 expedition, and, yes, it was a bit drizzly, but at least for the time being, not transitioning into "rain".

The trail was unpopulated, but for us, and we made it to Vernonia in good time.  The fallen tree had been removed.  We elected for an expedient stop at the minimart in town, and headed back out.  There were a few periods of "rain", but not enough to pull out the rain gear.  We discussed adding layers at the summit, but never did get around to it.

More trail users on the return; campers from Stub Stewart heading into Vernonia, horseback riders, some family groups.  The drizzle had given it up, and, for a moment there, we might have had "sun".

Once we got off the trail, I got a few pictures of Susan and the berry fields.


Berry bushes

Given a facebook exchange earlier this week, there was a little singing:

"We represent the Muffin-Top Guild,
The Muffin-Top Guild,
The Muffin-Top Guild
And in the name of the Muffin-Top Guild,
We wish to welcome you to RandoLand.
We welcome you to RandoLand, Tra la la la la la la"

We did the official finish at the minimart, and then adjourned to the local coffee shop/diner.  I got there first, and was greeted by the owner (Ray likes to start/finish there, as do I), and got the breakfast menu.  Susan walked in, and I said she'd have the breakfast menu as well.  Mmmm.  Breakfast is good any time of the day.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Starting the Year Right

I have been on bike rides on New Year's Day.  Some have been in pouring rain with dubious braking power.  Others have been in the cold.

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
From Birkenfeld to the Elk Refuge, the road starts rolling upward.  The coast range starts closing in, and there were many spots where the road was still frosty.  About a mile before the next control, Graham passed me, headed off to Elsie.

photo by Steve Bredthauer
The meadow at the Elk Refuge was full of elk.  I searched on the display kiosk for the answer for the info control - oh no, they've changed the display!  So I answered as best I could and took a picture of the new display.  Just as I was ready to head out, Steve pulled in.  I pointed him at the correct display panel and headed out.

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.