Monday, November 20, 2017

Darting into Darkness

Several months ago, we heard that Willamette Randonneurs was planning a pre-eclipse Dart Populaire to Susan and Jeff's property in Willamina, right in the center of the eclipse totality.  Ray and I were in.  It turns out that I live pretty much the required 120km from the finish, following the established cycling routes.  Route design was easy.  Only question was the location of the 6 hour control.

Eventually the sign-up information came out, and I recruited 3 more riders.  Sent a few others over to Holden's team, as I was full up.

The 6 hour control could be in Amity, which would put us 20 miles out, rather further than 25km out.  The 25 km boundary was right at the corner of Ballston and Broadmead, or, as we say... nowhere.  Nothing at that corner.  Fields.  The Ballston Park was just a smidge too close.

Ray's wife Barb offered to lurk at the corner and sign our cards, and, indeed, the cards of any other teams coming that way.  There's only so many ways into Willamina :-)  Settled.

And, it being the day before the solar eclipse, every media outlet was predicting heavy traffic, empty stores, oh, and it was going to be a warmish day.  I could see the Center Market in Dayton being totally out of Payday Bars and beverages.  While our route was small towns and tertiary roads, we just didn't know...  I thought I'd include an extra sandwich and extra bottle of water.  Just in case.

Sadly, Ray had to bow out of riding, because Barb hurt her shoulder and couldn't drive, so they'd both see us at the 6 hour control.  And at the campout afterward, of course!

Four checklists - going on a ride with questionable supply chain checklist, team captain checklist, oh, yeah, we are camping, so camping gear checklist, and clean the house up for the overnight guest checklist.  My brother's big dome tent showed up the afternoon before.  He thought we might have been the last users 20 years ago.  We pitched it in the yard just to make sure.  Nope.  One of the poles was broken.  The last user had generously added a pole repair KIT.   Boy, you drop the elastic and it just zips right down into the poles!  The repair kit was very bare bones - suggested you TAPE the elastic to the metal wire, yet included no tape.  Finally, got the tent up and verified everything was present.

As Fitz was driving over from work in North Plains, all the camping gear and clothing were installed in the car immediately thereafter.  This event would provide all food and beverage, so we didn't have to worry about that.  I was promised endless coffee the next morning.  Fitz did include a few bottles of his homebrew beer (a CDA and a Brown Ale) to share.

Chris T appeared later that evening, and we got all organized.  We had to get her last bag of stuff into the car before Fitz took off, which was duly accomplished.  Her daughter had everything else and would meet her there.

We were up at 7am, had a hearty breakfast (I am a big fan of cooked protein in the morning for rides), and coasted down the hill to the start, Jim and Patty's Coffee.  There was a cyclist already there, and it was indeed David, the one team member I had not met in person.  Kevin B showed up shortly thereafter and we had a great reunion; I haven't ridden with him, or even seen him in a few years; he'd relocated to Washington for awhile, but he's back now.

9am.  Time to go.

Dart into Darkness start photo - Chris, Kevin, David, and Lynne

Beaverton to Forest Hills Golf Course (Cornelius)

This was mostly suburban riding until we got south of Hillsboro on Minter Bridge Rd, although all the streets were bicycle-friendly.  Once we popped out of the Urban Growth Boundary, I could point out all the quilt blocks on barns to Chris - she's from out of town and had never ridden here before.

The snack bar at the golf course was open; I warned everyone about NOT filling their bottles at the outside faucet.  Worst tasting water ever.  I got a V-8, we all had our cards signed, and didn't waste too much time there.  I prefer to have time to waste later.

Dart into Darkness, first control at Forest Hills Golf Course.

Cornelius to Dayton

Again, fairly routine riding.  The traffic was maybe a bit heavier, but it was a Sunday morning, rather than a Saturday, so maybe that's typical.  Couldn't tell.  Got to Dayton, and the Center Market was well stocked.  I went for a big ice cream bar.  We sat on the stoop for a bit and ate whatever we'd bought.    No worries about time whatsoever.

Dart Pop control ice cream pause in Dayton.

Dayton to Amity

Amity is maybe 9 miles along from Dayton.  It isn't a control, but it would be nicer to waste time there than proceed to the corner of Ballston and Broadmead.  We camped out at the gas station convenience store for about 30 minutes.  No shortage of snack foods there either.  I felt rather more overprepared than usual, which is saying something.

Dart into Darkness, chilling in Amity.  Kevin, David, and Chris.

Amity to the 6 Hour Control

I spent this stretch chatting with David, as I hadn't met him before.

5 miles later we were at the 6 hour control.  Ray and Barb had put up a pop-up, some lawn chairs, and had a cooler of drinks and fruit.  Holden's team was already there.  At this point, Kevin pulled out a flask of some sort of whiskey, and was attempting to share it around (!)  The San Francisco team pulled up and joined the fun.  They were planning to ride Michael Wolfe's SR 600 after the event.

Dart into Darkness Dart Pop 6 hour control.  At least 3 teams here now.  Two more showed up shortly.

6 Hour Control to Willamina finish

Promptly at 3pm, Holden's team departed.  We gave them a few minutes and then set out ourselves. The Eugene team was coming up as we left; their control had been further back on their route.  The expected headwind outside of Sheridan failed to materialize.  I didn't miss it.  We toured the Armed Forces memorial by the river in Sheridan, to eat up more time.  Personally, I haven't ever experienced this repeated excessive time-wasting on a team event. :-)

Eventually we continued on to Willamina, with another planned stop at the shiny new gas station convenience store.  A couple of teams rode by, but declined our invitation to hang out.  Finally with only 3 miles to go and about 40 minutes in which to accomplish it, we headed out.  Willamina Creek Rd is very quiet (the c-store guy assured us that there were very fast drivers on that road.  I've ridden on it twice and not seen another vehicle either time).  Turned onto the gravel road, around the corner (there's the pond!), and then lost forward movement on the last steep bit, so walked it.

Dart into Darkness finish.  Kevin in the background.

Done, and still with 15 minutes to spare!  Susan said Fitz had arrived, but I didn't see him around. We signed our cards and handed them over.  I thought I'd get a beer first.  I also attempted to eat an entire bowl of potato chips.  Hand over the salt and no one gets hurt.  The rest of the teams finished in short order.

After that I went in search of our campsite - I had wanted to camp in the woods, so set off following the signs and little flags.  Just like Girl Scout camp, hiking through the woods to one's unit.  Found the woods campsite (I've been here before, but we walked in a different route), and Fitz.  He had just finished setting up the tent, so my timing was excellent.  After a bit, I got my bag and we walked back, him to socialize, me to get a shower.

Post Dart Pop, Pre Eclipse campers.

Dart to Darkness, camping in the woods

Dinner was ready immediately after that.  There were tables and chairs in the yard, with lots of visiting, catching up with folks who hadn't seen each other for awhile, and eating.

Eventually we all returned to our tents (another hike through the woods in the dark, great fun!).  Leisurely awakening the next morning; the endless vat of coffee was as promised.

At some point, I pulled on my eclipse glasses and looked up... "it's STARTING!".

Most of us relocated up the road on the hill with our camping chairs, fancy cameras, eclipse glasses, colanders and pinholes.

Eclipse Viewers, Chez Mendenhall, Willamina

There was watching through the eclipse glasses, watching through the colander projected on a piece of white foamcore, watching the temperature slowly drop (there was also a thermometer).  I noticed the temperature dropping, and then, suddenly, the light changed.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting...

Diamond ring!

And then, totality!!!!  This was indescribably cool.  Accept no substitutes.  We could see contrails from all the planes flying around, and a 360 degree sunrise.

And then diamond ring again, and it was over.  Well, not really, but we did start heading back down to the food and drink, and breaking down camp.

Given the traffic, Fitz and I stuck around until 3pm, and headed out.  It only took us 2 hours to get home, rather than the usual 90 minutes.

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