This Space for Rent

Going nowhere fast


It had been nearly a month since I did my last bike ride of any reasonable length (a Vernonia loop via Scappoose, returning on the ex-United Railways bike path & Baseline, et al.) so I was starting to get ancy to do something more extravagant than shoving the trek up to Sandy to get donuts (82km, which isn’t chicken feed, but if I can get there and back in 4 hours it’s not really that much of a death march, is it?) and for the past couple of weeks the long range weather forecast had been promising that March 20th would be warm and sunny.

So, with having several long loops under my belt without DNFing in various amusing ways, I was able to sign up to ride yet another insane loop out of the conveniently located (but not for me) McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.

So when friday rolled around without a weather prediction for rain, snow, or locusts, I boiled up some potatoes, sorted out a couple of layers of clothing, crammed everything into the front bag of the midlifecrisismobile, then set the alarm for the ungodly hour of 4:45 and went to sleep (at 11pm.)

At 4:45 (after a series of interesting nightmares involving trying to ride out to Forest Grove. The first one was solely about trying to ride through riverview cemetery and reaching the top of the hill at 6:30, which woke me up when I realized that there was no way in G-ds green earth that I’d be able to make the next 24 miles out to Forest Grove in the next 30 minutes. The second one had Forest Grove in Canada, I think, and involved a shipping service losing the midlifecrisismobile while I rode up with the ride organizers. Fortunately I got 20 minutes of sleep after that that didn’t involve any dreams, just blissful unconciousness) I dragged myself out of bed, guzzled some stone cold tea and a cookie bar, checked the weather (50°F at 4:45!), put on a second layer of gloves anyway, then rolled out the door at 5:07am to gallop out to Forest Grove.

Climbing through Riverview Cemetery was slow, but only 20 minutes worth of slow, and I made really good time the rest of the way out to the start of the brevet, with only two incidents marring the trip (the first being that I dropped my chain when I went bumping over the ex-Red Electric mainline in Beaverton, and the second being that it was not 50°F in Forest Grove, but 35°F – I reached the Grand Lodge at 6:56, which normally would have been enough time to pay, fill out the ORR membership card, sign the waiver, and get myself into the mob for the start. But, no, my fingers were frozen stiff and I was laboriously trying to write my name when the rope dropped and everyone else went scrambling away like very cold bullets from a gun.

But never mind that (nor the poor midlifecrisismobile, which I bumped into and toppled over onto its driveside while I was attempting to write my name) – it wasn’t more than about 5 minutes later that I rolled out of the parking lot, turned onto Pacific Ave, and bolted northwest as fast as my (chilled and sleepy) legs could push me. My plan was to get as far up towards Timber as quickly as I could before the grades slapped chains on me and forced me to slow down, and I did managed to catch up to and pass many of the riders (admittedly a huge subset of the faster riders had obligingly stopped in Glenwood, so that feat is not quite as impressive as it might seem) before I dropped the chain again on the initial climb away from highway 6 on Timber road and, while I was unwrapping it from my pedal (MKS Silvan pedals have little prongs facing inwards which are just the right size to trap chain, so rewrapping the chain involves some careful pedal rotation to untrap the chain before I can hook it onto the chainwheel again) got to see the entire fast pack go zipping on by, never to be seen again except going the other way.

Not that I didn’t expect this would happen; I am not the fastest climber around, and a few other people would pass me by as I wound my solitary way up to the summit. The descent was equally uneventful (aside from a brief detour to photograph POTB 6164) except that I was passed by Peg & Lesli, who, happily, were riding at about the same speed as I was and, even more happily, were willing to allow me to merge into their little group for what turned out to be the rest of the ride.

Timber Road, particularly the part from Highway 26 up to the ballpark of Vernonia, was fairly impressively bumpy, but it followed the Nehalem River gradually downhill the whole way. Still cold, of course, and we rolled into the control in Anderson Park it was somewhere in the ballpark of the mid thirties. And this time I actually managed to see (but not photograph because my fingers were still cold) Oregon American 102, which I had completely missed when I went through Vernonia in February.

After a break (20 minutes?) for muffins, sweetrolls, and some hot coffee, we were off up Keasey Road for a informational control, then over a short hill to return to the the Nehalem Highway (SR47) for the 18 or so miles up to Birkenfield.

18 scenic miles up to Birkenfield, but also 18 bumpy miles up to Birkenfield. So I was not the only one happy to take a leisurely half an hour (which was enough to gather in almost everyone else who was behind us. I think that only Marcello Napolitano and his extremely low-slung tadpole trike were still out on the line when we three pulled out of town for the return trip (which I announced by “well, this is too hard. I’ll just abandon and ride back to Forest Grove” [which I did, modulo the abandon part])) before turning around to continue back to Vernonia and points south.

Around Apiary, I found myself (a) in the lead and (b) a good ways ahead, so I decided to stop and take a picture of Peg & Lesli as proof that I was not doing this whole thing alone. But when I pulled the bicycle off the road and grabbed my Pentax out of the camera bag, it dumped batteries all over the ground because the wonderfully surfaced road had shaken the battery bay door loose. *sigh* I could have stayed there and tried to piece it together, but then I would have been a long ways behind, so I stuffed everything into my handlebar bag and “sprinted” after them, catching up after not more than a mile or two.

And in no time at all, we were back in Vernonia (at ~1:30pm, or about 6½ hours after I rolled away from the Grand Lodge.) And it was warm and sunny, and in the high 60s, which was quite a welcome change from the somewhat colder morning. So we parked ourselves at the Black Bear Coffee Company, and settled in for another nice long break (joined fairly quickly by Lynne and Holden, and then, after 15 minutes or so, four of the slower group) where I managed to reassemble my poor camera (but not to go up the street to get pictures of the shay) in between repacking my handlebar bag, chattering about handmaking a saddlebag support, and generally relaxing in an extremely slothful manner for having already ridden 110 miles that day.

And so, after another nice long pause, we got back on the bicycles and rolled off towards our second climb up to Timber for the day. A bit slower than the trip up, but still at a pretty good clip. I found myself wanting to ride faster than either Peg & Lesli, so after finding myself a little bit ahead again I pulled off to the side of the road and managed to snap a couple of (out of focus, alas) pictures proving that I was not out there by myself. And then I wedged the bicycle back into my handlebar bag and bolted up the road after them, catching up on a small bump in the steadily uphilling road up to Highway 26.

Highway 26 was busy. Really busy. We ended up standing there for what was easily 5 minutes, waiting for a gap in traffic. And no gap appeared until a state patrolman (who had been sitting about 1000 feet west writing a ticket for a speeder) drove up and blocked the eastbound lanes so we could continue. And the feared climb up to Timber? It’s not so bad from the north; it’s 600+ feet up from Highway 6, but only 300 feet from Highway 26. It took 20 minutes to climb up to the summit, and about an equal amount of time to drop down to Highway 6, which was even busier than Highway 26, and which was extremely unpleasant to ride alongside down to Glenwood, where we stopped briefly at the Shell station for the penultimate control.

One pleasant thing about Glenwood was that a strong tailwind was blowing down from the coast ranges, so when we finished up there (Lynne and Holden caught up to us soon after we pulled in, and coalesced into a larger group for the final 13 miles into Forest Grove) we were blown down Gales Creek Road at an average speed of somewhere in the ballpark of 18mph.

We tried to run a paceline for the last 8 or so miles into Forest Grove, and aside from my tending to shoot off the front of the line despite downshifting so I’d have to spin like crazy (fsvo “crazy” – I’m a fairly slow pedaller, so my idea of spinning like crazy might be everyone else’s idea of a regular old cadence) to go too fast, we stayed together until we crested the hill into Forest Grove, where it became a disorganized scramble for the end of the line which we all reached at 5:27pm, or in 10h27 after the official start of the brevet.

And the weather? Clouds started to move in as we went over the hill at Timber for the second time, but aside from that it was clear as a bell all day and the promised evening rains didn’t even materialize until after 8:30pm (which is when I finally crept through the front door, after 177 miles and an unfortunate detour up Canyon Road than resulted in my climbing another 1000 feet or so before I got home.)

My GPS claims that I was moving for 8h31, so that means we spent almost 2 hours at controls or stopped waiting for traffic on Highway 26. My moving average on the brevet was 14.5mph, which is 1.4mph faster than the best speed I’ve gotten on the xtracycle, and is exactly the slowest speed I can average if I have any plans to ride anything longer than 200km.

Alas, the Pentax disassembled inself again somewhere between Highway 26 and Forest Grove, so the next prototype of the handlebar bag (or generic front bag, if I can sell enough stuff on ebay to pay for a brazing torch) will need to have a dedicated Pentax compartment that’s suspended in such a way to keep the camera from being rattled too badly. And, also alas, when I tipped the mlcm over in Forest Grove, I think I managed to trash yet another one of the little handlebar end taillights that I’ve installed on my bicycles (I’ve purchased on set of Soma road flares and two sets of Trek-branded clones; two of the Trek-branded clones, and one of the road flares, are now dead. I’m going to have to build a taillight circuit and run them off my generator, and that way I’ll be able to move the circuit block to someplace (the head tube?) where I can suspend it and reduce the vibration damage from clattering over (and crashing sideways onto) rough roads.

The grand total of 177 miles was supposed to be 184 miles, except that instead of taking the Beaverton-Hillsdale highway through Bertha & looping through downtown, I took the Canyon Road branch in downtown Beaverton and didn’t realize it until I was high enough to make me not want to try and navigate my way south to my preferred route. And by the time I reached Skyline Blvd my legs were unhappy enough so I didn’t even consider doing my traditional Clinton/41st/39th/Crystal Springs loop to try and get me over 300km for the day.

If I do that, I guess I’ll just have to ride an actual R300.

Too bad the Three Capes loop starts in Forest Grove :-(