This Space for Rent

Not much changes over the course of a year, unless you have to make a detour

Just as we did last year, Ed, Theo, and I volunteered to organize the yearly running of the Verboort Flat Tire Extravaganza!, so, just as we did last year, we needed to preride it to find good control questions and ensure there were no unhappy surprises along the way.

As it turned out, there were no new unhappy surprises along the way. Some of the old surprises are still there (there are a pair of open valve/inspection vaults on Wren Road that have been opened every time I’ve ridden through there over the past three years; I guess those aren’t really surprises anymore as much as they are county-mandated bicycle deathtraps) but we did have to do some route checking because one of the roads the VFTE! normally uses – Meek Road, which was spectacularly unkind to my rear tire the first time I tried to ride the loop – is going to be closed next week for some sort of road/sewer/something work.

We’d batted around a couple of route variations to get past the Meek Road closure. All of them avoided Evergreen Road as much as possible, by continuing up 235th/Huffman road past Longbottoms, then going north across highway 26 on Brookwood/Helvetia, and then either

  1. continuing north on Helvetia, then returning to West Union on Jackson Quarry, and proceeding on to the traditional turnback at the north end of Jackson School,
  2. continuing north on Helvetia, then going north on Jackson Quarry and cutting back south on Mason Hill until it joins Jackson School Road about halfway between West Union and the eponymous school,
  3. taking West Union west to Jackson School Road, but then at the north end of the road continuing northwards on Dixie Mountain Road until the junction with Northrup Road.

In mail, we’d gone over this a bit and decided that choice (a) wasn’t good because it would require a control in the Helvetia area so you didn’t just shortcut 3 miles out by going down West Union, and to add insult to injury it’s a fairly honking climb up to the top of the ridge behind Helvetia, and choice (b) wasn’t good because of that same honking climb, even though the Jackson Quarry -> Mason -> Jackson School routing was the most direct route to Jackson School Road if you were already up into Helvetia. (I was still inclined to ride Helvetia->Jackson Quarry->Mason Hill, but Theo and Ed thought it was a hill too far and so we scrubbed it) So it was going to be choice (c), except that as we rolled down West Union I was far in the rear (I have not been riding many long loops this fall, so this is my punishment) and wasn’t able to call out “you’re making a wrong turn!” when they turned off West Union onto Jackson Quarry instead of Jackson School.

Jackson Quarry Road climbs up a pretty good distance, but not as far and certainly not as steeply as Helvetia does (and it does it much more prettily than the more heavily trafficked West Union doesn’t) and almost before we knew it we’d reached the summit before dropping down to the (unmarked) entrance to Jackson Quarry, and then back up a shorter, but only slightly steeper, ramp to the junction with Mason Hill Road (where Ed was greatly confused because he didn’t realize that he’d taken a wrong turn; fortunately I’d ridden this once before, so had it memorized – and since the last time I’d come through Washington County had replaced the road sign at the junction so now people will know where they are!) and the very steep descent down to the junction with Jackson School Road.

Looking across the valley along Northrup Road

(We did ride up Dixie Mountain Road to the junction with Northrup, and picked up some info controls for that possible turnaround, but it added 4 miles to the loop and we decided that even though it was pretty, the climb up Jackson Quarry Road was just as nice and it didn’t add a bunch of miles to the route. If you want to detour up there, it’s quite nice and pretty much level, so those bonus miles would be (just about) free.)

And on the other side of the Jackson School/Shadybrook intersection it’s all pretty much the way it was last year, up to and including the lack of water at the park in North Plains (so if you’re running short on water, it might be a good plan to stop at a store in North Plains to buy some. It is about 10 miles, all uphill, to Snooseville, and I don’t know how the farmers along Dairy Creek Road would feel about you knocking at their doors asking for a cupful of water.)

We did resist the temptation of adding some gravel road sections into the loop, even though there are some roads that we could tweak the route onto without too much pain. But we did ride those roads on the way out to Forest Grove (we came in from North Portland via Germantown Road, which would have been nice and fast except that it dumped down rain starting about halfway up the climb to Skyline, and not stopping until we rode into mountaindale, and that when we finally reached the Grand Lodge the dining room was woefully understaffed and it took us over 90 minutes to get a little something before heading out again) and then on the way back to Hillsboro (where, after ~100 miles, the three of us decided it was time for a 15 mile ferry move. I probably should have ridden home from there, because it takes about as much time to ride from Hillsboro to home as it does to take a trolley.)

The gory details, in list form

And about the only thing that didn’t work is that as my big rando bag ages the elastic latch strap on the front pocket is pulling the lid forward enough so that the (too short) lid flap doesn’t completely cover the top, so that when I’m riding uphill in heavy rain (like I was when I was climbing up Germantown – heavy rain and heavy fog equals getting soaked from head to toe) water starts to intrude through the back corners of the bag. I need to rip the elastic strap and button off the front of the big rando bag and use webbing and a sidelock latch instead.