This Space for Rent

Out on the line

My plans for last weekend, because it was a no-school-on-friday-so-the-bears-went-to-my-parents-on-thursday week, was to go out for a run up to Ripplebrook Ranger Station to recheck the route for the Portland-Ripplebrook 200 I’m trying to build up (it’s only about 195km outandback from Kettlemans bagels on 12th; I may have to put the starting point at the Kettlemans on Broadway to scrape up that last 5 km) but I woke up on Friday morning with a blinding headache and scrubbed the ride for that day. So instead I got in touch with Ed and arranged to give him the born-again rando bag, and when we were parked at the Ugly Mug I mentioned my thwarted plans and said I’d probably try to do it instead on Saturday.

Ed had a better idea; he and Theo (and a couple of other people) were planning on riding out to the coast for the weekend, and he mentioned that going from Portland to Birkenfeld and back would be around 200km, so if I went out with them in the morning, then turned back there it would be a somewhat more social way to have a long day out.

I’d done a largish chunk of that loop a couple of months ago, and, of course, it’s on the west side of Portland so it’s the stomping ground of many Orrando rides, so it’s not as if there would be any surprises waiting for me, so I (after waking up at 1am – too early! – and 3am – still too early! – and then finally 5am) dragged myself into action and wandered up to North Portland to meet up with Ed, Theo, David (not the narrator), and Ryan for an allegedly 7am departure for points northwest.

7am came and went without notice, but we still managed to get our acts in gear and head out around 7:30. It wasn’t raining, thank goodness, but it was still damp and cold, and it took until we reached the St Johns Bridge before I started to warm up. We were moving along at a fairly smart pace, and made it down onto highway 30 and up past the bridge to Sauvie island without incident, but then Ed stopped to hurl a large chunk of retread off the road, and then to deal with the call of nature, so after slowing down briefly I accelerated ahead and caught up to everyone else approximately at Burlington, where Theo and David had stopped to wait for everyone else to catch up.

So we stopped and waited. And waited. Ed was not appearing, so we gossipped about bikey stuff, I took pictures of bicycle luggage, and we otherwise wasted time (and body heat) until Theo first got a text message from Ed that he had stopped (again) to fix a flat tire, and then, after a long period of time, another message that Ed’s tire was dead and he was looping back home to get a replacement one, and would meet everyone (but me) out at the coast in the evening.

So there were only 4 (3 if you’re counting going to the coast) left, and we headed off into the gloom. It wasn’t completely gloomy, though; when we left Burlington,there was a thin strip of blue sky visible over the Nehalem divide, and when we turned off highway 30 and started winding our way up along the Scappoose-Vernonia highway, it started teasing with us by giving us little fragments of sunshine as we climbed up the ramp.

A thick band of fog greeted us at the top, so we descended (at high speed; the traditional compact double crankset I’ve got on the mlcm these days is very good at helping me keep up with Theo on this sort of descent) through a cold damp murk that didn’t start clearing until we’d almost reached the junction with highway 47.

And from that point on it started clearing with great enthusiasm; it was still cloudy when we reached Birkenfeld, but the sunny stretches were getting longer and longer, and by the time we left the Birkenfeld Store and I turned back, it had switched from cloudy with some sun to sunny with some clouds.

Which was good, because sometime during the last 15 miles into Birkenfeld my left side pedal started making *click* *click* noises at the top of every pedal stroke. Was the crankarm loose? No, it didn’t look that way. Were the bearings in the pedal failing? Not in such a way that I could notice when I rotated the pedal by hand. Oh, well, at least the weather was improving and it didn’t *click* quite so aggressively if I softpedaled on that side.

When going south through Vernonia, I usually stop at the Black Bear Coffee Company for a little something, but today I was feeling fretful about the amount of daylight left in the day, so just rolled right through town and onto the Banks-Vernonia linear park without stopping. And then up I went to Tophill, not too fast but not too slow, and, just like I did the last time around, I just stopped pedalling and coasted all the way down the hill to Pongratz Road, where I was once again stopped in the graded field that used to contain the railroad embankment.

And then I *click* *click*ed my way on towards home, stopping briefly at the Banks end of the trail to refill water bottles, and then briefly on Helvetia Road to give the best a progress report before climbing up to Skyline Road.

It’s certainly becoming winter now; I rode past Skyline School at ~5:45pm, stopped about a mile further down to add on some additional layers, and then realized at ~6:40pm that it was absolutely pitch black in the woods around the road and I’d have to get off the hill via Germantown Road instead of my preferred route down Saltzman Road.

When I reached Germantown Road, there was still a teeny bit of light in the sky, but once I started dropping down the hill I fell into shadow and it was really close to pitch black as I plunged down the twisty trafficy road. I was quite happy to reach the bottom of the ramp at Bridge Road, because that meant I’d be riding along highway 30/St Helens until I got close enough to the center of Portland for the lights of the city to show me the way.

I got home somewhere in the ballpark of 8pm, 143 miles and ~14 hours after I left home to ride up to NE Portland (I don’t count the time I spent at Theo’s as part of the ride, but even if I did it’s still faster than brevet minimums.)

And it struck me that this would make a lovely permanent that pretty much doesn’t need anything in the way of controls. If I put one in Scappoose (to force the outbound route up highway 30) and one in Vernonia (10 miles out of the way if you want to return via highway 30 instead of the much less trafficked rail trail) along with endpoints in Sellwood and Birkenfeld there really don’t need to be any info controls that need to be periodically refreshed. So I cranked out a route and have submitted it to RUSA, so hopefully the next time I do it I can do it for their records.

Oh, and the *click*ing crank? I took the pedal off and repacked the bearings, because they were running almost grease-free, but that’s not what was the problem. No, the problem is that the threads on the crank were disintegrating and the pedal was being held in by one remaining thread (which popped out when I screwed the pedal back in to see what would happen if I did.) Well, shoot. I do have a spare NDS crank, even though it’s got a wider tread than the super-narrow noname Sugino crankset I’ve got :-( and I suppose I can alway go up to the Community Cycling Center to scrounge through their partsbins to see if they have any close matches to the offending crank. Until then, I’m just going to have to live with a NDS crank that’s 10mm further out than the drive side crank.