This Space for Rent

May 31, 2011

Railroad picture of the day

EPT rolling stock stuffed into a disconnected siding next to what used to be the Sellwood Carbarn

EPT’s ex-GN NW-5 sits alongside a couple of cars on the now-disconnected siding immediately north of the remains of Golf Junction.

1 comment

May 30, 2011

I am so very very sorry…

it's wrong

(Apologies to The Comics Curmudgeon and the artists who draw Mary Worth)

May 28, 2011

A quick morning ride to Snooseville and points west

Snooseville Populaire (28-May-2011)

Now that the Portland(ish)-based spring series (200km,300km,400km,600km) of long rides is over, there aren’t very many loops based out of Portland planned. One of them, the Snooseville Populaire, was scheduled for this morning, and since I had no other plans for this weekend (it would be unseemly to ride the Hills to the Yeah! loop again when I’ve not even submitted the paperwork for the first loop yet, and I’m getting a little bit tired of riding loops by myself) I thought it would be lovely to run out to Hillsboro, zip around the loop, then come back and still have some time left in the afternoon.

So, at 5:30am, the alarm clock went off and I got ready to go out. I’ve gotten shamefully lazy about preparing for short (<300km) loops these days, and the extent of my advance preparations this time around were to do my laundry so I could have clean clothing. I ate some breakfast, fired up the computer to deal with spam, hurtled some extra clothing, a pen and notebook, and a collection of science diet into my rando bag, then scooted out the front door to catch the 6:35 train to Orenco.

It was raining when I went out the door, so I wore a rain jacket (the faux-waterproof Cannondale jacket had the stupid zipper fail yesterday when I was caught in a sudden storm, so I had to drag out the neck-abrading O2 jacket that I tried to retire after this spring’s running of the At Eden’s Gate R400 and wear it instead) but by the time I made it down to the trolley station at 2nd & Morrison it had stopped raining, so I wadded the jacket up and stuffed it into my bag, never to use it again.

Orenco is only about 2 miles away from the start of the loop, so I ended up getting there about half an hour before the ride started, and then filled in the time eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. It was cold out, but the cold in May is not quite the same as the cold in February, so I didn’t have to layer up to keep from freezing my butt off.

And at 8am(ish), we were off. As usual, I did my routine for the year of stomping on the gas right off the bat and seeing how far I could go before I blew up. (With the thought in my mind that if I could keep my starting rate going for 30 miles, then pick up a “ride is about to end” second wind soon thereafter I could make it back in an unreasonably fast time.) So I drifted forward through the small group (only 9 riders today) and within a matter of 1-2 miles found myself ping-ponging the lead with Tom Durkin, which we kept up until about a mile past North Plains, when I bounced myself over a couple of rollers and left him behind.

The weather forecast claimed a high chance (70%) of rain and/or thunderstorms, so I thought it was just the weather taunting us when the clouds opened up enough so we started casting shadows on Jackson School Road, but by the time we rolled into North Plains the clouds were beginning to gap open enough so that the patches of sun, though still small and separated, were starting to consume a noticable fraction of the sky. This lagniappe cheered me considerably (I got rained on every single ride of the series, and even though 100km isn’t nearly as long as 600km, it still would have been 5 hours of squelching along in the damp) and I hit the 8+ miles of false-flat city that is Dairy Creek Road with a 17.1mph brevet average pushing me along.

Gravity pulled me back, and I was down to 16.5mph average by the time I pulled into downtown Snooseville to answer the info control question there. And then back down Dairy Creek Road, faster but, alas, not quite fast enough to make up for the grasping claws of gravity on the way up (I was back to a ~17mph average when I reached Mountaindale, but the collection of short hills from that point on ate relentlessly away at my average speed.) And then I zipped, in the increasing sunlight, along Mountaindale to the US26 crossing (there was almost no traffic on US26 that time of the morning,) then across to Banks and onto Cedar Canyon Road.

Cedar Canyon road comes with a series of speed-sapping ramps, and also at this time of the morning it came with a gaggle of birdwatchers, who had just pulled up to a good stopping point about 5 minutes before I came by, and were in the throes of ambling down the middle of the road, with occasional jumps off to one side or another, as I attempted to make my way through them. I was ringing my bell almost continuously, but it was painfully obvious that even though they may have been hearing it they weren’t actually recognising it, because several of them started walking across the street into my path and didn’t even realize I was coming until I stomped on the brakes and waited for their heads to eventually pivot around to the point where they could see me (at which point they said “Oh, a bicycle! I didn’t know there was a bicycle here!” – the mlcm has a very powerful headlight which is always on and a loud bell; I’m not sure what I would need aside from a klaxon to be make it more obvious.)

I reached the info control at the end of Cedar Canyon Road just ahead of Steven K., who overhauled me a little while later when I reached the last big ramp at Stafford Road, and who then remained a tantalizing ½ mile ahead for the rest of the way into Forest Grove.

At the control in Forest Grove (the traditional Forest Grove Control – Maggie’s Buns – is closed for Memorial day weekend, so I used a little deli on Main St) my average speed was 15.8mph, dropping to 15.3 by the time I got back on the bicycle and headed east. But Steven K and I coalesced together here and did a halfhearted, but very fast, paceline all the way back into Hillsboro.

Most of the roads through here are fairly familiar, but there are a couple of new ones; from Verboort Road, the route goes south on Cornelius-Schefflin Road, then across to Susbauer on Long Road, which is a tiny tertiary road which is very pretty, particularly when it’s nice and sunny like it was today. And from Susbauer Road, it’s all “I can do this in my sleep” from Hornecker through Evergreen (which goes by a lot faster when you realize that if you move along smartly you can get to the end of the line in less than 4 hours) and across to Imbrie Road to the last control.

And then, for a change from my traditional “okay, gotta go back home now!” end of ride routine, I sat down and chatted for a hour and a half before I got up and rode back home (for the first nine miles I rode along with Lynnef, then diverged to climb over the hill on the US26 bike path, then into town past the Zoo (where I heard, but did not see, the steam engine pulling a passenger train up from the Rose Garden station) then across the Hawthorne Bridge and down the Springwater Trail to the vicinity of home.

The gory details of the trip are

  • 62.2 miles in 3h41 (16.9mph, unless that time is wrong, then it’s 3h50something and 15.8 mph)
  • about 3500 feet of climbing when I add in going up over the hill by the Zoo.
  • 6 interurban trains, one pair of light engines, and the smoke from a steam locomotive.
  • 3 sodas, 3 containers of science diet, ½ pint of beer, and a large pile of tater tots.
  • ~95 miles door to door.
  • On 6 hours of sleep :-)

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Someone’s got to be the fast boy. Today it was my turn.


This morning – despite ominous predictions of rain – I woke up at 5:30 and took the train out to the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse to ride the Snooseville Populaire. And it didn’t rain, so I stretched my usual “go as fast as I unreasonably can until I start to blow up” out to 62 miles, and made it to the end in less than 4 hours, at a brevet average speed of either 16.9mph (if the time on the brevet card is accurate) or 15.8mph (if the time on the gps is accurate.)

And while I was doing this, I took a few pictures as I flew down the road.

May 27, 2011

You can never have too many pictures of EPT 100

EPT 100 sits in the sun

The working Eng! sits in the sun while stormclouds gather to the north.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite Lamp

Dust Mite rests on top of one of my old lamps.

May 25, 2011

Trolley picture of the day

The western end of an eastbound Clackamas train

A Clackamas-bound train comes off the Steel Bridge & approaches the Rose Quarter station (with our car following closely behind.)

May 22, 2011

Domestic vermin picture of the day

Cat & Pillows

Mavis naps on the loveseat

A slight change of plans

A hairpin on Bull Run Road

On Friday, my plans were to wake up earlyish on Saturday morning, then go out for a leisurely 200k up to and around Sandy (perhaps the Sellwood->Devil’s Backbone populaire I’m building, with an extension out to Zigzag to push it over 100 miles, then some fiddling around closer to Portland to pick up the last 20 or so miles.)

Unfortunately I’d been running so short of sleep all week that I didn’t wake up until 11am, and then didn’t stop feeling like a stunned ox until almost 2pm. So that killed that plan deader than a doornail (I’m faster than I was a couple of years ago, but I’d need to do a 7 hour R200 to get back home at a reasonable time, and I don’t have either the body or drugs needed to get to that pace) and I had to throw my plans out and make something up as I went.

Donuts are, of course, an essential part of any ride up towards Sandy, so I had to pack very lightly to leave room for cargo; I tossed on a tee-shirt and jersey (actually a “jersey-ish”; I wore my now ancient and somewhat tattered Ibex shak jersey which doesn’t have the back pockets you’d expect to find on something you’d call a jersey), stuffed one of my only waterproof in my dreams vests into the rando bag, then filled one of the side pockets with science diet and the other with my smallest CBC (a Kodak C763 which used to be Silas’s before the lcd screen was cracked, and which further got battered when I hit a deep pothole on Powell one afternoon, which ejected the camera right into the path of the bicycle. The optics survived that crash, but not the lcd screen. Whoops!) and wandered out the door with little in mind aside from getting up to Sandy.

One of the things I’m working on right now is building up a from-my-front-door populaire to go along with the stack of longer permanents I want to do. I’d ridden it a few weeks ago (before the flèche, the 600, and the 200) and found a few places where I wanted to investigate alternatives. On the outbound leg, I wanted to see how it would work if I extended the leg on Waybill Road out to Revenue Road (just because of the name “Revenue Road” :-)) and on the inbound leg I wanted to see if there was any way I could avoid the approximately 95 million stop signs on the Davis greenway between 70th and 15th. I can alway just ride out to Davis & 70th any day, but Waybill & Revenue is well suited to combining with a donut run.

Looking south on Revenue Road

So out I went, following almost exactly the route of the Sellwood->Devil’s backbone populaire until I reached the intersection of Waybill and Orient, at which point I just continued east until Waybill dead-ended into Revenue. It’s much nicer than Orient through here; the road travels through much the same countryside (it’s at most a mile east of Orient) but it’s a tertiary road with quite a bit less traffic. It does dead-end into Orient, but it does that just north of Compton Road, and from there it’s only a couple of miles up to Kelso, where I switch to Kelso road for the run up into Sandy proper, where I made another little detour from the route onto newly built residential streets that loop through a new housing development (densely packed houses – more densely packed than most of Portland – crammed onto a hillside just south of the new Sandy High School) and drop me off on Bluff Road just south of the old Sandy High School. Don’t look for these streets on g**gle maps – they’re new enough so that the map just shows dead-ends and empty fields with my gps track wandering through them.

And once I’m in Sandy, what do I do? Bumbershooten! And then after that I needed to figure a way back.

I’d thought that I would just trim the route short here by dropping down Ten Eyck to Dodge Park, then climbing the Lusted ramp and taking the Mount Hood Railway back into Orient, but as I was dropping down into the Sandy River gorge I decided that I would be better off returning via Bull Run Road, and then, after crossing the Revenue Bridge (I wonder if it’s the same Revenues who named Revenue Road?) and approaching the junction with Marmot I thought that it would be a shame to come out this far and not loop up to Shipley Road.

Looking back down Marmot Road

It’s only about a mile from Ten Eyck to the upper end of Shipley, though you can’t really tell when I’m creeping up the ramp. But at least from the creepy snail on a bicycle viewpoint I’ve got, it’s shorter today than it was a month ago, and the descent on Shipley is gradually graded enough so I can actually clatter on down it without needing to lean on my brakes excessively. And after Shipley road comes Bull Run Road, which gives up a couple of hundred feet almost immediately, then demands it back with interest in one lump sum payment of 7-800 feet.

A barn at the top of the Bull Run ramp

A lump sum payment which is getting easier, if not any shorter, to pay. These days I’ve actually got enough energy to climb that ramp in something other than the absolute bottom gear on the mlcm even if I’m pushing a dozen donuts up the hill with me. I did stop about 2/3rds of the way up, but that was because I wanted to take a picture of the hairpin curve there, not because I was about to die.

And from the top, it was all downhill (mainly) though woodlands and farmland to Oxbow Park and the 400 foot climb back out of the gorge. About a quarter of the way down, I was passed by a bunch of motorcyclists on their Harleys, then about halfway down I had to stop because there were a couple of Multnomah County sheriff’s cars blocking the road where one of the Harleys had dumped, then slid off into the ditch (without injury? Nobody was down and the body language of the sheriffs were not the sort of jittery thing I’ve seen when police are trying to guide traffic around a bad accident.

Sunshine on the Sandy River at Oxbow Park

The sun came out when I reached the descent down into the gorge at Oxbow Park, which didn’t make the climb out of the gorge seem any less steep, but certainly made it more pleasant (but not for my legs; by the time I’d made it up to the top of the Oxbow ramp my legs were feeling pretty rubbery, so I decided to follow Hurlburt into Springdale instead of climbing Evans up to Corbett and the Women’s Forum) and, by the time I descended into Springdale I had recovered enough to take Woodward across to Troutdale instead of following the Columbia River Highway back down into the gorge. Woodward is shorter than taking the Columbia River Highway, but it also climbs a lot more going out of Springdale, so any benefit I might have gotten from it was rudely taken away by having to claw my way up onto the point of land above Troutdale. But at least there’s less traffic, and the part where it cuts along the hillside has a somewhat more comfortable shoulder (I’d needed to ride this anyway, because it’s part of Piled Higher & Steeper! and we’d missed in when we cut the route short on the last preride.)

And then I was back in the city, winding along the Columbia River Highway into downtown Troutdale, then up Halsey to 238th, where I cut over (and up the bluff through Wood Village) to Stark Street, and from there over to Burnside for the long ride into town.

Two trains at 181st & Burnside

One nice thing about riding along Burnside, of course, is that it follows the old Mount Hood Railway route from Montavilla out to Gresham, and that route is now being used by the Tri-Met Gresham-Hillsboro interurban. There are a lot of trains running on that line; it took me about 25 minutes to go from the intersection of Stark and Burnside to 122nd (where I turned south to go down to Market St) and in that time easily 7 trains passed me going one direction or another. Not a good sight if you’re an auto über alles faux-libertarian, but I was happy with it :-)

I went down to Market Street on 122nd because I wanted to see how it would work out for the return leg of the Sellwood->Devil’s Backbone populaire. There are fewer stop signs on it, but once you get west of 92nd Market street pretty rapidly diminishes to being nothing more than a badly paved alley before (if you miss the jog south to Mills) ending alltogether and forcing a jog north to Clay Street before running into an unsignalled intersection with 82nd. Pity, too, because I’d rather route people along Market than along Davis, but an unsignalled crossing with 82nd is much worse than stop signs, because 82nd is likely to be physically dangerous .

Lincoln St summit on Mount Tabor

And then I went home; I zigged down to the Lincoln Street greenway, which took me over the shoulder of Mount Tabor, then down into Ladds Addition, where I then made my way down to the Springwater Trail to loop down to Spokane and then go up 17th to my front door. Despite the 30% chance of rain, the showers held off until I was about halfway between downtown and Spokane, when a light drizzle started and kept going until I picked up my bicycle and carried it in the front door.

And then I ate 3 more donuts. Yum!

40-odd photos in 70.75 miles & 4100 feet of climbing @ 12.9 mph semi-brevet time (I turned the gps off when I was in Joe’s Donuts.) The CBC, despite not having a viewfinder or working lcd screen (about all I can use the screen for is an indication of whether it took a picture or not; the screen flashes when a picture is taken) is easy enough to point so that most of my photos actually turned out to be photos of the item I was intending to photograph. The light balance sucks, which is to be expected from a cheap point-and-shoot that has been run over by a bicycle, but some of that can be corrected by brutal photo retouching.

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I do not believe this map

Online road maps lie to you.

Despite what Google is trying to tell me, I do not believe that QC366 comes this far west or that it is an international highway.

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May 21, 2011

“Can you see anything?” “Yes, wonderful things!”

A dozen donuts in the rando bag

I went up to Joe’s Donuts for donuts this afternoon, but instead of taking the trek I took the mlcm (I wanted to see if I could actually fit a dozen donuts into the big rando bag, and it turns out I can.)

I took the scenic route coming back (Ten Eyck -> Marmot -> Shipley -> Bull Run -> Woodward) and despite 3000+ feet of climbing during my 44 mile return, the donuts made it back in excellent shape.

I actually bought a baker’s dozen, but, alas, I ate one of the donuts before it could be packed into the rando bag.

May 20, 2011


A practical use for a rando bag

If it’s big enough to carry a dozen bagels, it’s certainly big enough to carry 3.5 quarts of ice cream!

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite & tool roll

A new maxi-sized tool roll, but, alas, it’s not maxi enough to properly fit a Dust Mite.

May 19, 2011

The photographer

Compact bear, compact camera

Silas takes a picture.

Railroad picture of the day

EPT100 from a siding along McBrod Ave

EPT 100 rests on the McBrod Ave switching lead.

May 16, 2011

Railroad picture of the day

OPR 1202 pulls a short train towards East Portland

I was coming back from Noah’s with a dozen bagels when I spotted a suspiciously high headlight coming towards me on the Springwater Trail. I pulled out the camera and then, happily, my suspicions were confirmed.

May 15, 2011

doing it for extra credit

A permanently deranged MLCM

A couple of months ago, I submitted my Hills to the Yeah! loop to RUSA as a permanent route, and a couple of weeks ago it was finally approved.

Alas, I couldn’t actually ride it at that time, due to pesky flèches and 600s, but this weekend had nothing planned and I was ready for another short loop around East Portland. I asked some of my friends if they’d be interested, but, alas, they either had to work or already had other plans. But this was not a problem; 200km is a short enough loop so I can do it by myself, and given the choice of riding by myself or blowing it off until I had a chance to be social, riding by myself wins (I can already ride it again with other people.)

I wanted to do all of the paperwork by the book, so I printed out a copy of the RUSA application form & waiver, put on my rider hat, signed it, then took off my rider hat and filed it away. When I filled it in, I was planning on leaving the house at 8am on Saturday morning, but then reconsidered, crossed that time out and wrote in 9am.

And then I got out the door at 9:40. Oy.

I wasn’t exactly hurrying along today (I think I may have torn my left side lat, so I’m not exactly leaping up and using my arms to pull my bicycle up hills) but neither did I tarry, and so I managed to make it into the first control about 5 minutes before it closed (the route from Sellwood to Canby is fairly routine; you spend the bulk of it travelling through the suburbs along River Road, then up through Oregon City, and only end up spending about 6 miles out in the countryside after Central Point Road spits you off the edge of the Boring Lava and before Territorial drops you into the developments at the edge of Canby. Not really anything worth mentioning here.) I actually had time to get a couple of sandwiches, then ask the cashier at the Thriftway if she’d sign and date my brevet card (I was going to try and do this loop as close to the books as possible and get receipts and signatures from every control) before I hopped back onto my bicycle and headed off to the east (and into a gentle, but noticable, headwind.)

It’s obvious that I’m getting more comfortable with climbing. I’m not getting any faster at it, but I found myself grinding first up to Central Point Road, then further up the lava on Union Hall Road, without the usual internal wails of despair that usually accompany each ramp. Perhaps I was distracted by the relentless ticking of the brevet clock, or maybe I was distracted by the stupid front derailer rubbing against the crankarm after the first shift into my alpine ring, then back out. But in any case I worked my way up onto the lava without stress, then, after plunging down into the Buckner Creek valley, back up on Buckner Creek Road without even close to as much annoyance.

But what did become an annoyance was that, after I stopped to try and adjust the front derailer to stop it from rubbing, that it instead decided (after the first stage of the Buckner Creek climb) that it would just stay in the alpine ring and not bother to shift back to what I call (for lack of a better description for a 42t large ring) my running ring. This necessitated several stops for me to sit down and adjust the derailer, finally ending up with the horrible kludge of me setting it so that the shifter would deliberately pull it into the crank for upshifting, and then I would manually trim it down into a non-rubby position (I have a 3-speed brifter for the front derailer; I was running it so that top gear == top gear, and bottom gear == middle, but I have changed it so that bottom gear == bottom gear, top gear == middle, and scrapy == top gear. I don’t shift the front very often, so I may be able to get used to this behavior before I can sell enough junk to get a somewhat more relaxed crankset.)

And then after that, and then the climb up past where I’ve spotted coyotes in the past, past the emu farm, and onto Windy City Road, my ride was further interrupted by an encounter with a bee, which decided that it would fly into my ear just as I was trying to fly through a roller. It is difficult to brake when a tiny insect is buzzing like mad in your ear, but I did it. It is difficult to swerve onto the shoulder so that oncoming traffic won’t run you down (there’s not much traffic here, but there is some,) but I did it.

Regrettably, it is also very easy for the bicycle to wash out on the gravel on the shoulder and cause me to pitch headfirst down into the ditch, fortunately missing the clumps of nettles that were alluringly placed all around.

At least the crash shook the bee out of my ear, so, after I scooped up the stuff that spilled out of the rando bag and shoved it back in I was able to get back onto the bicycle, rerail the chain, and be on my way without more than a 5 minute delay. (Which was not enough to blow the Estacada control. I’d crashed at ~1000 feet, so I only had 200 feet to climb, then 200 feet on OR211, then another 300 feet on OR211; in any case, I made it into Estacada with about 25 minutes on the clock, which is better than my traditional loss of ground when crawling up those hills.)

East of Estacada was a little more difficult, oddly enough; the climb up Coupland Road seemed to take longer than usual, and the plunge down Snufflin Road seemed steeper and more hairpinny than usual. But that was made up for by Kitzmiller seeming to be much shorter than usual, and then the ravines up on the top of the hill seeming to be a lot shallower, even if I kept putting on the brakes as I plunged down into them.

I made one small route variation in Sandy proper; the route takes you on Langensand Road all the way to US26, then looping west to Meinig Ave and thus into Joe’s Donuts (and then along 26 to the turn to Ten Eyck.) But if you turn left onto McCormick Dr, that feeds you directly into Meinig Park, and then you can turn right and take a path uphill into the parking lot that’s directly behind Joe’s. And, similarly, after you leave the control, you can take Meinig across 26 to a right turn on Pleasant Street, which will drop you onto Ten Eyck without having to touch 26 at all.

And then it’s down into the gorge, past Roslyn Fen, and down into the Bull Run valley, and up and up and up and up along Bull Run Road to the heights above the Sandy River Gorge, followed by (after a few bumps) a long fast descent to the east side of Oxbow Park, then a grind up to Springdale, and then finally a descent down to (eventually) Marine Drive, which, if the wind is right (and it was right) is an extraordinarily fast run all the way up to Kelley Point Park and the info control there.

Unfortunately, Marine Drive is closed just past Kelley Point Park :-( There’s a big resurfacing project going on on the other side of Columbia Slough, and so the city is taking the opportunity to remove the bridge over the slough.

I was able to cross, but the bridge removal equipment was in place and by tomorrow there won’t be enough bridge left to cross unless you’re much more foolhardy than I am.

But, after crossing, it’s only about 15 miles from Sellwood, so I put my head down and zipped on home, stopping only once or twice to try and take pictures, and arriving just before 9pm (11h50 brevet time; 11h10 my time. It may have felt faster today, but it certainly wasn’t any faster.)

This was a marvel of unpreparedness. I just chucked a bunch of science diet into my rando bag, then grazed at the controls as I went. I hadn’t even gotten around to changing out my rear wheel yet (and by the end of the loop it was making interesting thump! noises whenever I would forget and brake it) because the extent of my limited concentration was eaten up by making up a brevet card and tweaking the cuesheet so that it would fit onto one piece of paper. I guess that riding much longer loops makes the whole business of riding a 200km loop seem fairly sedate, even if it’s an annoyingly vertical one.

At least I remembered my bicycle and camera!

Trolley picture of the day

A westbound train crosses the Steel Bridge

An downtown-bound airport train crosses the center span of the Steel Bridge this afternoon.

May 13, 2011

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite and Permanent paperwork

I’m planning on riding the Hills to the Yeah! permanent tomorrow (I want to run up to Sandy for some donuts, so why not take the scenic route?) so Dust Mite is reviewing the paperwork for me.

A proper modern house design

A modern house on Rex & 21st

Down at 21st & Rex, a couple of old bungalows were scraped and replaced with a pair of huge modern houses (the bungalows were in the <2000 ft2 range, these new houses are, um, much larger.) The house that went in first was an historical reenactment house that leaves me absolutely cold (it has that sort of waxed and polished Architectural Digest look to it which says nothing to me except “we spent a lot of money on this house!”) but the second one, which replaced a mid-century bungalow, is a lot nicer.

Yes, it’s shriekingly modern, but the lines of the roof (a two-piece stepped roof, yes, but it’s not actually flat but was designed by an architect who realized that it does occasionally rain in western Oregon) and the way the front porch is fitted to the house look like a direct descendent of many of the craftsman houses that infilled many of the neighborhoods here 85 years ago.

I could easily see living in a house like this. Nice generous eaves (in the context of modern structures, which have a pathological horror of having the eaves actually shade the structure even if a lack of eaves means that rain will blow into the top story windows if there’s any sort of breeze at all,) the windows are (slightly) inset so that they won’t be rain sponges, and a refreshing lack of modern ornamentation for the sake of it being modern ornamentation.

More new houses like this, please.


May 11, 2011

It’s like a giant model railroad

A very model-railroadish looking photo

The working Eng! sits in the new East Portland yard, looking for all the world as if it was a model.

May 10, 2011

The new mix in one go

Riders gather in the Grand Lodge parking lot

Last year I didn’t ride the Oregon Coast 600 for a host of reasons, not the least was the teeny detail that it was scheduled for the exact same weekend as Pacific University’s graduation, so unless you jumped on the room reservations early nothing could be found for love and/or money.

This year I didn’t have that excuse; room space was offered at the start (I couldn’t stay over at the end because I have to be home on mondays for morning bear herding) so all I needed to do was to load up and get out there on friday for a relaxing loop around NW Oregon. And my friend Ed had worked out a bunch of group rooms at the ~2/3rds point in Lincoln City, so people who wanted to crash for a while in the middle of the loop (and, really, who wouldn’t?) would be able to do so for cheap.

So on Friday morning I made up a list, baked a fruitcake, then packed everything on my list into the rando bag and a backpack that I was using as a drop bag. Normally I wouldn’t worry about a drop bag, because I’d either be riding the loop or riding home, but each of the 400s I’ve ridden were made much less painful by being able to crash for 2-4 hours between handing in my brevet card and riding back home from Wilsonville, and I thought that being able to do something like that in the middle of a loop and being able to get new clothes would be a very good thing indeed. Oh, and there was the teeny detail of the weather forecast for western oregon being universally “cloudy with 70% chance of showers” – and in my experience in this state, “showers” includes torrential downpour, hail, sleet, or a combination of the three.

So I had the rando bag full of fruitcake, baked potatoes, science diet, and a couple of spare pairs of socks, my pitiful excuse for a rain shell (a Cannondale shell that’s nice and light, doesn’t have neck-scraping junk at the neck, but which makes up for that by not actually being rainproof at all) and a sash that I threw together so I wouldn’t have to bring the over-the-head emergency spare one (my mesh vest had been left in Wilsonville after the last 400, and Lesli L was going to bring it along to return to me, but paranoia easily covers 90 inches of reflective ribbon and a couple of 6×1 strips of velcro. And the drop bag had an entire set of clothing (except for the +4s; the Chrome ones I’ve got get really wet really fast, but are thin so they dry just as quickly) and a pair of shoes (I wear five-ten “Guide Tennie” shoes when riding, and they’re very nice – they’re solid enough so I don’t feel every part of the pedals through the soles, and they’re 95% waterproof (the non-waterproof parts are where I stick my feet in, of course – wool socks do a very good job of wicking water into them – and the tongue, which is, mysteriously, made of a very waterphiliac material) – except that when they get wet, they stay wet,) plus some more fruitcake, a charger for the GPS, and a toothbrush.

Oh, and I went by Staccato Gelato and bought a hideously colo(u)red bike cap (my cotton one, which is being sacrificed to be a master pattern, is a stench magnet and wants to be washed after every time I wear it) for luck.

So I was ready to go. And at 5am on Saturday morning, I fell out of bed (I was offered the upper berth in a bunk bed, so my extraction was awkward,) put on my regular clothes (I wear +4s all the time these days, and wool shirts and sweaters don’t look so much athletic as geeky,) and dragged the mlcm out to the parking lot for the 6am start.

After a brief round of route announcements, the organizer asked if anyone was planning on riding through, and when some people said yes gave some recommendations about what they should do at some of the night stops. I didn’t pay much attention to this, because I wasn’t planning on riding through, and was simply waiting for the ball to drop so I could head on out.

These days the start of an organized brevet is becoming a bit of a routine. I sit near the back of the pack, the fast riders evaporate with the traditional *pop* of imploding air collapsing into bicyclist-shaped vacumns, then almost everyone else rides out into the street, and somewhere between “almost everyone else” and “the last stragglers” I drag myself into action.

And when I’m moving, I find a good natural pace, bump myself up a little faster, then run ahead for as long as I can before I reach a control or blow up and am overhauled by other riders. Today was no exception; I started accelerating up to somewhere in the ballpark of 20mph, then just went charging forward until the climb up to Tophill (on the Banks-Vernonia trail) brought my average speed down to ~17mph and made me easy to catch when I brought my headlong rush down to a slow creep when looking for an information control on the path (I’d actually thought I’d missed it and was about to turn around to retrace my steps when I was interrupted by a huge mass of fast riders charging down the trail at me, calling out “have you seen the info control yet?”)

No. But I’d be happy to jump into your pacemob and help you look for it, then proceed down to Vernonia at speed (easer said than done; the Vernonia end of the Banks-Vernonia path is older and somewhat more sketchy. The occasional right-angle zig in the path is almost as good as the pavement buckling over tree roots to slow you down to a crawl.)

In Vernonia, the paceline disintegrated as people bolted for the coffeeshop and the gas station to get fud and to get their brevet cards signed. Ed G. and I were both at the Black Bear coffee shop, and we both got in and out of there fairly smartly because (at least in my case) our legs were starting to realize what was going on and were trying to prevent it by freezing up on us.

And off we (and by “we”, I mean that Ed shot off down the highway like a rocket and I had to ride like mad to actually catch up with him) went to the north, winding up highway 47 at a satisfactorily ridiculous speed until about a mile south of Birkenfeld, when Ed’s bicycle ate a nail or something, which had the desired effect of flattening his rear tire and stopping us dead. And while we were stopped doing the replacement, bunches of riders were shooting past, asking – en passant – whether we needed help or not. We didn’t, so most of them didn’t stop. Asta C. and Theo R., on the other hand, shot by with the usual exchange of “need help?” “no, just a flat!”, followed about 10 seconds later by “damn! Now I’ve got a flat!” and a screeching stop so they could sit by the side of the road (350 feet north of us) patching their own flat.

After a few minutes of this, it started to pour down rain, and I eventually had to abandon Ed and run up to the Birkenfeld store because I was starting to chill thanks to the nonwaterproofedness of my rainshell (I promised to wait there, which was not quite as selfless as it might seem because the Birkenfeld store is considerably warmer inside than it was outside.)

And up I went to the Birkenfeld store, where I said hi to Lesli and Kevin B (who’d I’d ridden with on the 400), but they were about to leave and departed before Ed rolled up and we headed off into terra incognito (for me; I’d never been north of the Birkenfeld Store before this) and down into the mountains (for we were following the Nehalem River, which winds down from the neigborhood of Timber in a large loop that ends up dumping into the Pacific Ocean near Manzanita) for a considerable amount of time before diverging at the remains of Jewell and climbing abruptly 1000 feet up to the summit of the Coast Range, then dropping (in a very satisfactory manner; the summit of the Coast Range here is crossed by a road that climbs along a ridge, dips into one or two small valleys, then plunges down from that point all the way to the ocean. Ed was about 250 feet in front of me when we summited (the climb, although steep, was not steep enough to completely kill me, and I only started to fade near the top) but by the time I’d made that 250 feet he was already half a mile down the road and accelerating. I didn’t catch up to him until we were almost down to Olney, where there’s a store and a control. Lesli and Kevin were finishing up there, but Ed was on a mission and we rolled into and out of the stop in no time flat, then flying ahead to the next destination.

Ed was moving along at a pretty relentless clip, and I was getting kind of hungry (and was staving it off by science diet, so even though my stomach was unhappy it wasn’t suicidal,) so when Theo and Asta caught up with us (taking longer than I thought they would; apparently they’d had two flats and decided to time-trial their way up the mountain(!!!) to run Ed and I down) and almost immediately mentioned that they were very hungry and needed real food, I said I thought that was a splendid idea and said I’d join them if they did.

And they did, in a little diner along highway 104, and it was lovely to have some nice hot food to make up for the rainshower that had just gone by while we were looking for this restaurant.

And while we were eating, I asked them if I’d heard right and they were indeed planning on riding through, and, yup, they were. Would I like to join them?

Now if I was sensible (or had the sense that G-d gave a rock) the story of this loop would be a bit different. But I was not, and I had to admit that riding it all at once sounded like it would be fun, so if they’d stop and wait for me after dropping me on hills I’d be delighted to do so.

So, after a leisurely lunch, we got back on the bicycles and rode out to Fort Stevens for an info control, then turned back and headed into a disappointingly strong headwind for the looooong ride south to Lincoln City.

Scott P. (on his recumbent again) joined us at Fort Stevens and rode south with us until Manzanita, where the combination of steep ramps and icy rain knocked him out of the ride.

And south we went, upping and downing a bunch of small capes (each of which would see Scott and I dropping back on the climb, then each of which would see Scott rocketing ahead at 50-60mph on the descent) while the pouring rain played hopscotch with brilliantly sunny skies.

I’ve not ridden south of the US26 junction on 101, so I’d never had the non-automotive experience of climbing Neahkahnie Mountain. It’s, um, interesting. It starts by climbing through a tunnel (with a special “there are bicycles on this road!” flashing light) then continuing on for another 150 meters or so, where you then turn around and drop into a small valley before turning around and climbing ~300 meters up to a long ledge carved into the cliffface for US101 to cling to. It’s a lot of climbing to happen ~250km into a loop, and when I was on it it felt like it just went on and on and on (and I really didn’t notice much of the scenery until the grade had started to level out along the cliffside north of Manzanita. It’s quite impressive there.)

Ocean clouds from the Manzanita lookout

Theo and Asta were waiting in one of the scenic overlooks, so the three of us waited for Scott to arrive. He was completely smashed by the time he rolled in, and decided that he was going to stop in Manzanita for food no matter what (the next control was Tillamook, another 20orso miles down the road, and Asta, Theo, and I were thinking of just killing two birds with one stone there) so we arranged to part company there unless he overhauled us between Manzanita and Lincoln City (alas, no, he didn’t; he was flattened badly enough that even food didn’t help and had to DNF there :-( )

So here we were in Manzanita, rolling south towards Tillamook and about to turn upstream along the Nehalem River (which took a somewhat more direct route to the Pacific Ocean than we did) and then onto the Miami-Foley Road, which isn’t any longer than highway 101, but which is much more scenic. The Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad along here is starting to develop distinct signs of being an abandoned railroad (weeds growing between the rails, small landslides starting to encroach on the ROW – the POTB claims that the line is just embargoed, but the facts on the ground look very different) but I was unwilling to stop and drop out of the group to take pictures today.

I was feeling in good spirits, but very very hungry. I was hoping that we could have made it to Tillamook in time to stop in at the cheese factory and have a little something including ice cream, but, alas, we rolled into Tillamook a little before 8pm (overhauling Ed just before the factory; but we were dead set on stopping at a restaurant with tables while he wanted to pop into a grocery store and get food there, so we split off pretty quickly to stop – for about a hour – at a pizzaria where we had sandwiches, coffee, and soda (all of which, including the soda, was liberally salted.)) And then, after a brief discussion with a drunk who wanted us to loan him a bicycle so he could ride it home along 101, we put on all of our reflective gear and set out into the evening dusk.

And then it rained on us most of the way into the control at Pacific City, only stopping just before we turned onto Sandlake Road to climb Cape Kiwanda (the road was wet enough so that I managed to not see at least one bicycle component eating pothole) and down into the city, where we found Ed and Joel Metz at an oceanside bar that was about to close (Ed was drinking decaf, and obliquely warned us that this was all they had. We ordered regular coffee, which was served to us without complaint, but we ended up getting it for free (which was probably a sign; I’d commented while we were drinking it that if it turned out to be decaf I’d know because I’d be sobbing by the side of the road by the next morning; I did not actually end up sobbing by the side of the road, but I certainly thought about it after the promised caffeine did not materialize in my bloodstream) and, after a considerable amount of time, we rolled out the door and towards Lincoln City and into the teeth of another bout of torrential rain.

Oh, but did I say “towards Lincoln City” but forgot to mention one teeny little informational control that is conveniently located at the top of a ~800 foot ramp up a little poorly maintained forest road called Slab Creek Road.

It stopped raining just before we reached Slab Creek Road, but I still thought I was going to die. I seriously considered just DNFing at several points just so I wouldn’t have to climb up to that effing info control. I was positive that I was going to abandon riding through and just stop in the hotel at Lincoln City for a long nap before continuing. But in any case I clattered up this horrible little road, trying to dodge potholes but not succeeding enough to avoid shaking loose both derailers, my front rack, and getting the front shifter’s cable housing to punch through the end of a cable stop and into the guts of my left brifter.

Fortunately the road got better on the other side of the info control (the cue for the info control should have been “if the road becomes passable, you’ve gone past the info control. Turn around and look for the wumpus here”) so it was only the matter of climbing another couple of hundred feet, then plunging (through the cold damp coastal air) allllll the way back down to 101 and then into Lincoln City and another torrential downpour (at which point Theo, when we were approximately 200 feet from the hotel, hit a pothole which caused the contents of his rando bag to all spontaneously eject onto the street. *sigh*)

And then we were in the Lincoln City control, where the organizer, a large variety of snacks, and our drop bags could be found. I walked into the room fully expecting that I’d be sleeping at this hotel tonight, but after warm food (including tea!), a nice long warm shower, and a complete change of clothes (including shoes) I felt back to normal (which is to say “normally insane”) and was actually eager to roll out the door and continue the loop.

Note to self: I need to carry more layers, and find shoes that are drier after being rained on.

While we were going out the door at 3:30ish, Michael W was getting ready, so we said “hi” as we left (we’d not see him again for another hour and change, when he blew past us on a level spot on the climb up to the summit of the Coast Range) and rode off to the Siletz highway and the land of hallucinatia.

At 4am, the Siletz Highway seems like it’s climbing very steeply, but perhaps that was the hallucinations. Up we went, in a sort of sleep-deprived haze, each of us grimly hoping that we’d stay awake long enough for the sun to start brightening the sky. When we were close to Siletz proper, my front tire, which had been punctured by a fine pointy thing several hours ago (possibly on Slab Creek Road?) finally deflated to the point where the sidewalls started to buckle as I pushed along upgrade.

I’m not sure just when I picked up the puncture. I tend to let the tires on the mlcm drop air until the ride quality starts to deteriorate, and I’ve had them down to about 30psi (on 26mm tires rated at 100ps) before I’ve noticed handling and/or speed problems. But when the sidewalls started to buckle, I had to pull over to see what was wrong, and then pump up the tire so I could proceed to the next town, find a shelter (because, surprise, just as we stopped it started to rain again!) and then change the tube out.

The next town was Siletz, it was only about a mile down the road, and the Siletz cafe was open when we got there. I sat down in the shade of the roof at the bank next door to the cafe and worked on my tire while Asta and Theo went into the cafe to get food and coffee. I pulled the punctured tube, felt inside the tire for pokey things, didn’t find them, then put a new tube into the tire, pumped it up, patched the now-punctured tube just in case, put everything away, and went into the cafe myself to finish my coffee and have some hash browns (which had been sitting out for a little while and were not piping hot, but were more than hot enough for me, particularly when smothered in catsup.)

Michael W, Vincent M (one of the very fast riders; he’d spent the night in Lincoln City, and had passed us around the time I stopped to pump up the tire for the run down into Siletz), and John P were in the cafe as well, but they left before we did, and when we finally left the cafe and headed east we were by ourselves again.

A turn onto Logsden Road and we left the Siletz River valley and proceeded into some steeper climbing. Asta’s knee decided to go on strike somewhere in here, which was very unfortunate because Logsden Road comes with a “nice” gravel section where the county decided to stop maintaining it. That gravel section includes a 300(400?) foot climb that’s very twisty and, of course, gravelly, followed by a slightly longer and even more twisty descent down into the Yaquina River valley.

In its favor, it’s a nice quiet road. Not more than 6 SUVs came barrelling by us while we were climbing, and the countryside is very pretty out here. But the grades suck, the twists suck, and the gravel sucks, and we ended up walking part of the little hill (50" climb, maybe, but we were done with it until the road paved itself again) that separated that big climb from the paved road.

And then, after reaching a paved road, we continued into the tiny town of Nashville, where we turned onto the road to Blodgett, which said “hello” by immediately putting us onto a loooooooong climb up out of the valley. I needed to stop for a bathroom break about a third of the way up, so I did most of the climbing by myself, then met up with Theo and Asta at a flat section near the top. Michael J. came by while we were recovering and cheerfully claimed that the climbing was over. Do not believe his lies; you end up climbing basically the entire way up to the Blodgett Store (on highway 20 at the end of Blodgett Road.)

Another rider approaches the Blodgett Store

The Blodgett Store is pretty much the end of the serious climbing. There are a couple of unhappily steep ramps between it and Forest Grove, but that 95 miles are optically flat compared to the previous 95 miles, and we could (now that we had restocked with ice cream and painkillers) open up the throttles and move along at a faster (fast enough to be at the limit of my speed; a slightly faster group came by and we tried to latch onto it, but I kept rubberbanding off the back of the group until Theo and Asta also called it quits and dropped down from 18-20 to 16-18mph) clip all the way back to the end.

We stopped a few miles out of the Blodgett Store to delayer. And then almost immediately got rained on, so I had to stop again to relayer, then hustle to catch back up.

And then we encountered mile upon mile of rollers, which I never got the knack of until this year. But this was a day where I did get the knack of them, so I spent the next 46 miles zipping up and down the rollers as if I’d not already ridden 290+ miles that day.

This, alas, was rudely punctuated on Hopewell Road, where the front end of the mlcm started to flop alarmingly from side to side when I stomped on the gas to climb a long roller. Whoops, guess that means I’ve got another flat! But I didn’t want to stop for it until we reached Dayton (only ~11 miles away at this point) so I stopped playing the roller game and proceeded more sedately until Theo took a look at my (now almost completely flat) front tire and suggested in a fairly urgent manner that we should stop right now to change it.

Okay. Off to the side of the road, off with the wheel, off with the tire, feel around for a pokey thing, find nothing, put in the new tire, pump it up, and turn around to discover that it had gone completely flat while I was packing things away. Theo offered to try the next change, and he actually found the pokey thing, so when I pumped it up this time it actually stayed inflated (at about 45psi. I love being able to ride narrow tires that aren’t fully inflated) and we could continue on (after a couple of emergency stops first to close the brake quick release, and then to reclose the wheel quick release, which I must not have closed properly because when the front wheel started making washboardy vibrations on smooth pavement I looked down to see the quick release flopping in the wind. Sigh) onto Webfoot Road, then into Dayton for the final transit control.

Webfoot road is pretty flat, but there are a few rollers. Theo and I were feeling fairly punchy, so we raced several of these rollers, laughing hysterically as we did it. Asta, sensibly, stayed well away from the crazies.

And north of Dayton is Lafayette, and then it’s all roads I know. Lesli, Kevin, and Michel Y. had overhauled us when we’d stopped for my last flat, but we caught up to them at Dayton and rode together up through Lafayette to Abbey Road. But then I decided that I would stomp on ahead to get an over the shoulder picture, then Asta & Theo decided they would catch up to me by stomping on ahead as well. And then the three of us flew through the last 23 miles up to the Grand Lodge; I kept putting on the gas, dropping Theo & Asta, slowing down so they could catch up, then forgetting and putting on the gas again, and finally decided at Fern Creek Road that what I’d do was to just time-trial my way into Forest Grove, but then wait for them so we could turn in our brevet cards en masse.

I was in no hurry, but I only had to wait a couple of minutes (2-3?) before they rolled up. 37h43? 37h34? I didn’t take a picture so I’m not sure; we got in before Lesli, Michel, and Kevin, and they made it in at 37h44, then Ed and Joel appeared soon thereafter. And then, after inhaling a couple of pieces of pizza, I shouldered my drop bag, jumped onto the mlcm, and rode back home, where I managed to pull my pictures off the camera and get them uploaded before falling asleep in front of the computer.

And by the time monday rolled around, rando amnesia had set in. When’s the next 600?

The gory details of the trip are sketchy; the GPS ran out of power 330 miles into the loop, and it exhausted internal memory before that, so the first 25 miles of the loop (where I was averaging 17mph including climbing the United Traction line up to Tophill) were lost, but what I do know is

riding distance : 385 miles average brevet speed : 9.9 mph average moving speed : 13.4 mph elevation : 15,000 feet time on bike : 28 hours max speed : 37 mph kcals burned : 29000

What worked? Almost everything. The only things that didn’t work were the p-clamps for the front rack, which shook loose, the stupid Delta bottle cage which snapped, and all of my battery-powered accessories, which ran out of power. My handlebars need to be rewrapped with another layer underneath to fatten the grip areas out, because when I’m tired I tend to lean on the handlebars and that makes my hands (particularly when I’m wearing insulated/padded gloves) go numb (the big and little fingers on my right hand are still numb two days later.)

… and I also need to get waterproof shoes (or spats), better fenders (the SKS fenders have the strut attachment points inside the fender, so water pools up beside them, then spills out directly in front of my shoes), and, just as a change, a rain shell that actually keeps the effing rain away from my body.

Oh, yeah, and now that I’ve finished this 600k it means I’ve done a full series (200, 300, 400, and this 600) each one in order, and each one without sleep (or sanity.) If I had more money, less sense, could deal with the crowds, and could afford to take my family to Paris I could actually try to register for the traditional epic death march this fall.

Also see:


May 09, 2011

Not matchy-matchy

Not even close to matchy-matchy

One fluorescent green bottle cage, one bright yellow bottle cage? What could match better than that?


Crappy Delta bottle cage #2

Late saturday night, as I was approaching the Pacific City control (for the Oregon Coast 600k,) I ran directly into a big pothole that made a metallic snap noise come from the mlcm.

I though it was something being ejected from my rando bag but everything was present for investigation. I didn’t realize it was the stupid bottle cage (the second of two Delta cages) breaking in exactly the same way as the other did.

Imagine my surprise at the Lincoln City control when I pulled the (empty) water bottle out of the cage and saw this loose end just hanging out.

1 comment

May 06, 2011

Railroad picture of the day


The new GMD-1 idles in the shop yard this afternoon.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite & Rando Cake

Dust Mite helps me prepare footstocks for the Oregon Coast 600, which I’m going to be chained to all weekend (and will thus need fruitcake to help keep me alive.)

May 05, 2011

Life on the river

The RossIsle steams south

The RossIsle steams towards the Ross Island lagoon.

May 04, 2011


There used to be a wear notch on this rim, but there's not much left of it after 8000 miles

The rear wheel on the mlcm appears to be approaching the last roundup a little bit faster than I’d like it to be. The rim wear notch is, as you can see, worn down to almost complete nonexistance, so I’ll be needing to get a replacement rim (another Open Sport, or a generic TB-14?) before I put too many more miles onto this thing.

Hopefully it will outlast the 600 that’s coming up in 2 days. I’ve got an alex rim I can relocate over to this wheel after that’s done with, but riding a R200 on a shiny new handbuilt wheel is far less stressful than riding a R600 on one.

May 03, 2011

Cute baby picture of the day


Russell and I went out for a short loop this evening, but when he saw this cat he had to stop and pet it for a while.

New Code!

Discount has been put up to version 2.0.9 with what may count as the most trivial update I’ve ever done. After a couple of months of 2.0.8 floating around uneventfully, I got a bug report that was unable to detect scalar sizes on what turned out to be a standard linux x86_64 platform.

Now, given that discount has been working on x86_64 for quite some time now (and I’ve actually built it up on one of them and tested it, too) this was an unexpected result, and upon further investigation I discovered that was unable to detect scalar sizes because it couldn’t run the test program, and it couldn’t run the test program because /tmp was mounted noexec by default on whatever virtual hosting service the user was using.


Now, the chances of my complaints changing the now-traditional Linux CADT security process are about as good as the chances of my complaints changing gcc so it’s actually a C compiler (which is to say: not at all, if I’m lucky) so instead I needed to put in another workaround to get around this feature, and I did that by having write executables that I intended to execute directly into the working directory instead of /tmp, and that leads directly to this New Code! which may fail during configuration, but will at least fail somewhere else.

May 02, 2011

Theropod picture of the day

Tastes like tyrannosaur!

An red junglefowl (more commonly known, at least for the last 6,000 years, as a chicken) that I spotted walking down the Springwater Trail this afternoon (it was walking down the trail; I was, as I usually am, out on my bicycle.)

May 01, 2011

A long nights journey into day (Flèche NW 2011)

I’m riding a lot this spring. I’ve got the mlcm knocked into a nice comfortable shape, I’ve gotten it racked and bagged to my satisfaction, it’s well-lit, and I’ve got the handlebars into a shape where I can ride them for hundreds of miles barehanded without any unhappiness. So there’s not much (aside from the rain, and that doesn’t seem to be enough to drive any sense into me. Cold still drives me away from riding, but that’s mainly a feature of not having found appropriately windproof shoes and/or shoe covers) to keep me from riding.

A few weeks ago, I ran into my friend Ed when he was on his way home from work, and as we wandered around chatting about various things he mentioned that Flèche NW was coming up and was I planning to ride in it? I said I’d like to, but I hadn’t planned anything nor did I have a team, so I’d have to try to graft myself parasitically onto someone else’s team. One thing led to another, and almost before I knew it I’d been asked to be a member of Bill A’s team (Bill, Ed, Theo R, Asta C – all faster than me, but not by very much these days) for an almost-direct run up to Olympia on Friday (the 29th of April) afternoon.

So on Friday, after a day starting at 6:30 (I wake up early so I can get tea into me before getting the bears awake, dressed, and off to school) I baked half a dozen potatoes, packed half a dozen hard boiled eggs (we had 36 easter eggs, and I’m doing my part to make sure they don’t go to waste) into an egg carton, loaded all this plus clothing, camera, alarm clock, Amtrak tickets (I needed to get back from Olympia, and the bike did too) and some science diet into my rando bag, showered, remembered that I was going to deliver a mapcase to Ed, loaded that, remembered that I’d forgotten to load water bottles, loaded them, and rolled out the door at 3:45pm for a scheduled 4pm arrival at Bill’s house (which conveniently was the start of the flèche, but we wanted a hour or so to compare notes and have a little snack before heading north(ish.))

The route out there is pretty simple; it’s the start of the one I use whenever I ride out to Forest Grove for a brevet. I ride down to Tacoma, across the Sellwood bridge (in traffic – there is no bike lane, so you can be guaranteed that I’ll be in the middle of the traffic lane as I zip across the span), dodge north to Taylor’s Ferry, zig onto Laview, wind my way up to Barbur, then ride the Red Electric (aka Bertha + the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway) out to Beaverton. I arrived there at 4:30, just as Asta arrived (she’d taken the trolley out to Beaverton, but got jammed up in traffic lights; Ed and Theo were already there sensibly taking naps) and settled down for the promised snack and pre-ride planning.

We didn’t get out the door at 5pm; it was closer to 5:20 by the time we hopped on our bicycles and headed south for the Oregon Electric (the Fanno Creek trail, then Multnomah Blvd) for the trip out to Portland Traction’s Bellrose/Gresham line (the Springwater Trail.) There’s not much to be said about this loop; the Fanno Creek trail was put in long enough after the Oregon Electric abandoned their branch from Portland to Beaverton so that the ROW has been gnawed upon by property developments, and thus the path lunges erratically from one side of the ROW to the other instead of sailing stately forward like it does on (most of the) Springwater Trail, and the streets in SW Portland are still a shrine to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The descent through Riverview Cemetery is awfully nice, as usual, and the cemetery ownership has reshaped the speed bump at the throat of the road so that it’s a little less spectacularly jarring than it was when it was first put in.

Everyone else spent most of this part of the trip zooming ahead enthusiastically. I, however, stayed at the back and took the opportunity to take some pictures, because even though it was sunny then it was still late in the afternoon, and I was unsure about how the CBC would handle nighttime photography.

After a stop at the Bell Station convenience store (the first control; the Springwater Trail is not overly crowded with stores and if there wasn’t a control there you could short-circuit the loop by half a mile by simply going across the Sellwood Bridge and cutting north to Woodstock) we proceeded north along the i205 path, across the i205 bridge over the Columbia (a nasty crossing as usual; loud, windy, and the path is littered with cracks and debris,) then northish and eastish to the second control in rural Camas (a convenience store where Brunner road turns south and is renamed into one of the millions of numbered streets,avenues,lanes,and whatnots that litter the Vancouver submopolitan area) where night fell with a resounding clank and rendered my camera absolutely useless for the rest of the night.

And then, in the dark, we waded north. Through Battleground, stopping at a safeway for a late evening control and snacks, then east along the Lewis River into Yacolt, arriving at the strike of midnight (where we had to sign our own brevet cards, because nothing is open in Yacolt at 00:00 on a Friday night), then piling on all of our cold-weather gear, turning back west and climbing slowly up the hills that stand east of the Columbia gorge here.

We did a lot of leapfrogging here. Theo spent a goodly portion of this part of the ride up in front of everyone else, and the rest of us drifted back and forth within a ~1 mile window of him. We were all gathered together fairly closely (after a series of short upanddowns that I tried my best to zip up at top speed – I’m fairly fast at short climbs where I can burn short-term energy) when we reached the top of the gorge, but I fell quite a way back during the screaming (and cold) descent down to Woodland where we had yet another control before going back on the road and encountering the first unhappy surprise of the night:

For most of the way between Portland and Olympia, you can travel along secondary roads that hug the river valley and don’t climb steep ramps just because they’re there. True, many bicyclists will cheerfully diverge up to the steep roads for the fun of it, but if you don’t want to climb you can get away without climbing. Except in one place. Just north of Woodland the Old Pacific Highway is absorbed into I5, and if you’re on a bike, you’ve got to ride Green Mountain Road, which has this name because it goes 750 feet or so up the steep side of Green Mountain in one swoop.

Theo hit this ramp and teleported to the top almost too fast to see. Asta followed Theo at almost the same speed, and I put my head down, stomped on the gas, and tried to keep her taillights in sight.

I didn’t lose sight of her taillights (which were at that point looking like they were floating in space 100 feet above where I wished the road would be if it was sanely graded) until I was about 600 feet up from the valley, which is something of an accomplishment. Even more of an accomplishment is that I never got out of breath, and I know this because I was making up imaginative commentary involving sex and chainsaws for much of the increasingly slow creep up the ramp.

When I reached the top of the ramp, Asta was there, but not Theo (he’d dropped down the other side of Green Mountain Road and we regrouped with him there) and the two of us waited for Ed and Bill to arrive before plunging back down into the valley.

I thought that Green Mountain was the last surprise, so I was in pretty good spirits as we wound our way along the valley to Longview. It was about 4:30, and I was starting to feel a little tired, but I knew that sunrise was coming and my tiredness subsided when I started to see the dawn light appearing in the patches of sky between the clouds as we passed through Pleasant Hill, then turned east and crossed over the highway on (Weyerhauser) Headquarters Road.

It’s about a 1000 foot climb up to the top of the bluffs here, but Headquarters Road isn’t that steep (4-5% grade, maybe?) so you’d think that it would be, if not fairly easy, at least not terribly hard. Well, no. It’s 4-5%, but it appears to be evenly graded, so it’s 4-5% all the way up the ramp; Theo, Asta, and I had stopped at the foot of the grade to wait for Bill and Ed, who came screaming by at top speed to make a run at the ramp, and then they (Theo and Asta) redshifted away, and I pretty rapidly ran out of steam and got to watch, as I rolled down to a sustainable climbing gear, the whole lot of them (for it was now dawn, and I could see more of the damned road than I ever wanted to see) advance steadily ahead until they disappeared around a corner never to be seen again (until I reached Silver Lake Road; Theo had run ahead of everybody else and was waiting for them. He congratulated me for dropping them [sfx: high pitched hysterical laughter] until I told him I’d not seen anyone on the way up. It turns out that there’s a sideroad called the Davis Spur that connects Headquarters to Silver Lake Road, and Asta, Ed, and Bill had taken advantage of that instead of the (not quite correct in some places) cuesheet. But neither Theo and I knew this, so we waited around for 10 minutes, then decided to head on into Toutle in the hopes we’d find them at the next control. Imagine our delight when we passed the lower terminus of Davis Spur) until the control at Toutle.

So Theo and I stomped on the gas and went plunging down Silver Lake Road. Theo has a working cellphone, as does Asta, and we were about a quarter of the way down the road when his cellphone got a signal and a voicemail from Asta asking where we were. He called back and left a voicemail asking where they were, and then he got an actual phone call saying that they were at the Toutle convenience store, which by happy coincidence is where we were going.

I was quite hungry by this time. Climbing Headquarters Road took a lot of energy, and I certainly didn’t want to stop to unwrap a potato or egg, so I kept myself running by eating science diet (Clif shot bloks with caffeine, Clif shot goo with caffeine) which may be enough to keep me from collapsing in a sobbing heap by the side of the road but isn’t enough to keep me from wanting to collapse in a sobbing heap by the side of the road. But instead of collapsing in a heap Theo and I spent the 10 miles from Headquarters to Toutle moving as quickly as we could, speeding up as we got closer to our destination, where I had the best horrible convenience store sandwich and hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life.

The sandwich was actually pretty good. It was certainly calorific enough, because about 30 minutes after I ate it (we stuck around the store for a while after eating, because we weren’t sure if we’d actually finish the flèche in time and were wondering if we should instead continue at a more leisurely pace and decide whether to actually finish at the 22 hour control. I thought we were on time to finish, as did Theo, so we put off any decisions until later) just about the time we’d crested the first small hill on WA-505 (we’d ridden east on WA-504 to the junction with WA-505) I all of a sudden had energy to burn, so when Theo and Asta split off from the rest of the group on a hill I downshifted, spun myself up to 100orso rpm, then upshifted and shot ahead to catch up with them.

Jackson Highway MLCM

But when I reached them I was still accelerating. Uphill. And I rapidly dropped everyone and ended up sailing north(ish)by myself all the way up to Toledo and the next turn onto Jackson Highway, where I ground to a stop, ate the last bits of the sandwich, took a few pictures, and otherwise waited around for something on the order of 10 minutes before they caught up to me.

When I reached Jackson Highway, I’d gotten my trip average speed up to ~10mph, and it had only dropped to 9.8 by the time everyone else reached me. This was comfortably enough to complete the ride; we needed 9.6mph to make up for our late start and this gave us about 25 minutes of breathing room. So we were in pretty good spirits now; it was daytime, the sun was coming out, and the last of the sustained nasty climbs were over; we pacelined down Jackson Highway to Tucker Road, pacelined down Tucker Road to the tiny community (with a convenience store) of Ethel, and then after getting our brevet cards signed we went back to Jackson Highway and headed on towards Centralia and the north.

The section of the trip between Ethel and Tenino was fairly uneventful. Chehalis had a “WTF? WTF-F?!?” moment when the cuesheet pushed us off Jackson Highway onto Washington Ave, which sat at the other side of a 40 foot ramp that must have been 25% at the least, and which deposited us back onto Jackson Highway (which had changed its name going through Chehalis – between Chehalis and Centralia it’s known as Kresky Ave) at the other end of town, and we also had a moment of cuesheet confusion in Centralia because Pearl Street (aka WA-507) was two-way NORTH of our turn, but one-way SOUTH of our turn, and we read the sign and though it meant one-way everywhere.

The southbound Coast Starlight
approaches Centralia

WA-507 parallels the BN/SF mainline north of Centralia, so I had to stop abruptly to take pictures about a mile north of town when a southbound Coast Starlight (with a Cascades-painted F69 as the second Eng!) shot by, and then I had to take more pictures when a northbound freight thundered by a couple of minutes later. Fortunately everyone else had stopped for a bathroom break so I didn’t have to bolt to catch up here.

In Tenino, we switched over to a rail-trail built over an abandoned BN branchline. But before we got there we were toodling along Crowder Ave (Asta, Ed, and I in front, Theo and Bill in back) when Theo decided he’d make a run for it and shot by us at 22-23 mph.

I watched him go by and did nothing. Ed watched him go by and did nothing. Asta watched him go by and took off like a rocket.

Oh, what the hell. Shift down, spin up, shift up, and I’m off to the races. First catch up to Asta, then dodge around her, spin up some more, and catch up to Theo, who responded to my move by also shifting up and accelerating away. Or trying to accelerate away; I matched his acceleration and we both went screaming down the road at 25(26?) mph until Crowder Road turned sharply left, then deposited us into the town of Tenino, where we had to stop and wait for Asta, Bill, and Ed to catch up.

And then Ed got a flat. So while we were changing it (Ed changed the flat, Theo patched it, I flattened out the old tire, rolled it up, and stuffed it into a protective plastic bag) Bill decided to ride on ahead under the not unreasonable assumption that we’d catch up.

After the tire was fixed, I jokingly said to Theo that we’d need to time-trial to keep up. I should have kept my mouth shut, because he was off like a shot and it didn’t take much more than a mile and a quarter before I had to give up the race. But then Asta and Ed (who had been following along in my slipstream) shot around me and continued the chase, but at a somewhat more relaxed speed (19mph instead of the insanely fast at this point of the day 20mph) which I could sustain, particularly when I was in someone else’s slipstream.

And soon we caught up to Bill and Theo, and were looking at getting into the 22 hour control with a hour of spare time, when suddenly we were surprised by the dreaded™ secret control:

Secret controllers (Carol Nussbaum) Secret controllers (Amy Piper)

Carol Nussbaum and Amy Piper (both, not surprisingly, SIR members. This flèche is a SIR joint after all) were waiting at a grade crossing to sign our brevet cards and offer us coffee, chocolate coated coffee beans, and other equally healthy fare. We stopped, chatted, had pictures taken, and otherwise burned off time until we finally headed off, now with only about 35 minutes of projected time at the 22 hour control in Yelm.

Which we got to, had a little snack, then headed out at pretty much exactly 3pm for the 30km in to Olympia. We sailed out of Yelm, then down the gradual slopes of the Cascades into the outskirts of Olympia, and then into town where we started to look for the “Woodland Trail” (another abandoned BN branchline; part of it was taken over by the City of Tacoma, and part of it was trailised in an amazingly incompetent fashion.) The cuesheet said “go left, then right and you’ll be on the trail” except that the trail runs, poorly marked, through a roundabout and we ended up going the wrong way for about a mile and a half along this trail, only stopping when the trail ended. And then after turning ourselves around, we found ourselves back at the roundabout where there was a teeny little sign pointing to the other side of the trail, which was cut into handy block-sized chunks for the next mile and change, each block being punctuated by traffic filled streets and bicycle signals that appeared to do nothing other than start a recorded voice saying “crossing traffic may not stop!” (which we could have figured out from context, though at least the crossing traffic did stop. Not that this was guaranteed; the closer we got to Olympia the ruder the traffic got; many many SUVs got their kicks by brushing by us, and several of them actually went out of their way to roll down their windows and yell incomprehensible insults in our directions.)

Eventually the Woodland Trail became an actual trail winding down into the old city of Olympia, and we shot down the hill into the old city. Where we got lost again – the cue sheet recommended that we should turn “toward Deschutes Ave”, which was inconveniently on the other side of a park – so instead we went UP a really steep hill before realizing that we’d gone the wrong way. And then we routed through that city park, first the wrong way for a quarter mile, then back the other way to, finally, Deschutes Ave, and the last turn onto Evergreen Park Drive, which we reached at 16:55. The turn onto Evergreen Park Drive was ½ mile from the end of the loop, and we had five minutes, so no worries, right?

Wrong. The very last surprise on the loop was 200 vertical feet of 15% grade. Which took 4 minutes, leaving us a grand total of a minute to stagger 500 feet over to the ultimate control which we reached just as the clock struck five.

And then, after chatting for a little bit, I got a ride to the Amtrak station and caught the 18:43 Cascades back home (the standard assumption was that the riders would hang around until sunday morning and have a group brunch. I had to bow out of this because it would cost more money than the entry fee for the upcoming 600km loop, plus it would take me out of the house for all weekend two weeks in a row. So I just took the last train home instead.) I’d taken my alarm clock (remember the alarm clock; I put it in my rando bag) under the assumption that I’d fall asleep as soon as I got on the train, but, no, I stayed awake all the way home (except for maybe 10 minutes of napping? I closed my eyes for a little bit south of Woodland, but then a bunch of northbound container freights passed us and attracted my attention) and managed to eat a stack of food, then copy a bunch of pictures to flickr before I finally fell asleep.

24h00, 227 miles, 11000 feet of climbing. It was fun, I’ll have to do it again.

I can hardly wait for the 600k next weekend.


Obéir c'est trahir, Désobéir c'est servir


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