This Space for Rent

SEP (Someone else’s populaire)

Winding north through Vancouver, WA

Summer has started to run abruptly down, and my summer routine of riding two permanents a week is starting to be severely crimped by the increasingly complex schedules of everybody else in the family.

This week, for instance, saw my plan of riding a wednesday permanent downgraded to riding a wednesday populaire because I couldn’t get out of the house until 10am and needed to be back home by 5pm (it is theoretically possible to ride a <7hr 200k, but at this point in my life it’s not theoretically possible for me to ride a <7hr 200k – I’m trying to clean up my climbing speed so I can get a <8hr solo 200k, but that’s a loooong ways away from 7 hours.) I don’t have any traditionally populaire-length (100k) popularizes, so instead I arranged with Kevin Brightbill to ride his Luna Lovegood 105k loop from Brooklyn up to La Center and back. Tony Wittinger had arranged to come along as well, but at the last minute Kevin realized that he had a huge stack of errands to do, so he couldn’t come along, so it was just Tony and me on the ride.

I tend to ride south and east of Portland, because Oregon cities are generally compact enough so you can get through the city and the suburbs into the country in finite time. But that’s an artifact of having an urban growth boundary (not putting subdivisions over farmland is a radical socialist idea for the United States and as far as I know Oregon is the only state that put meaningful restrictions on sprawl in before every large urban area became riddled with incurable metastatic suburbian growth.)

Washington, alas, does not have any sort of anti-sprawl restrictions, and the area around Vancouver is gradually being built over with freeways and expensive tract houses.

And that’s where we went. First 11 miles through Portland to get up to the Columbia River and the Interstate Bridge(s), which are pretty grim because they’ve got teeny little sidewalks along the roadway that are expected to carry bicycles and pedestrians. There aren’t many pedestrians and bicycles along here, but there are some (both Portland and Vancouver spend a considerable amount of energy setting up bike infrastructure, which is probably a horrible shock to out of town riders who follow the good bike routes up to the Interstate Bridge and are then dumped into what is obviously a contemptuous scrap thrown to those Communists who don’t drive SUVs like G-d Himself Intended) and we had to squeeze our way past a couple of people walking from Hayden Island over to Vancouver before we worked our way through the last hazardous pinchpoint and were spat out onto the bike routes through Vancouver.

The outbound route more or less follows the BN mainline (and, ugh, I-5) up towards La Center; Columbia to Fourth Plain, Fourth Plain to Fruit Valley (which goes through a baffling number of name changes in the 12 miles we were on it) and then a collection of shorter segments (including some that were in the throes of being rebuilt to accomodate more suburban sprawl between Ridgefield and La Center; this, combined with an attitude towards signage that makes Portland look anal about it, gave us a couple of bonus miles when we made wrong turns and were only saved by Tony knowing which way various towns were) that eventually popped us out into undeveloped countryside for the last 5-8 miles into La Center.

A barn and a small copse of trees

The suburban areas were colourless enough so I put my head down and put on the gas for much of the outbound ride, only slackening when we got into the really hilly area around La Center. And there are a lot of deceptive hills up around La Center, too – you’d not think that there’d be false summits on a 100 ramp, but Royle Road has them and I found myself, more than once, accelerating up what I thought was a short ramp, curving around a screen of trees, and seeing twice as much elevation ahead of me just as I exceeded my 30 second horsepower rating.

But after a bunch of these hills (sprinkled with flat sections that were undeveloped enough to be pretty, and the occasional construction zone where the paved road had been replaced with washboarded gravel) we finally reached La Center Highway, and sailed past the casinos into downtown La Center for our first control.

A nice long lunch wrapped in a populaire

We’d taken about 2h20 to get here, which wasn’t bad considering some of the slow speed zones we had to transit (the Interstate Bridge, yes, but we were also batting about 950 on reaching stoplights just as they went red.) and decided that this would be a good day for a nice sit-down lunch.

A nice long sit-down lunch; by the time we finished and paid, we’d gone past the closing time for the control (the control closed 3h44 after the start of the ride, and our receipts were dated exactly 3h44 after the start of the ride) so we had to move pretty smartly to get back to Brooklyn before the timer ran out.

Heading south through farmland

It didn’t help that we’d just had a nice long lunch that was happily metabolising away in our stomaches. I’d been trying to run quickly up hills, but the first few ramps (and, boy, there are a lot of hills around La Center) saw me wallowing up them as if I was riding my trek with a full load of groceries, but by the time we transited a routing control a few miles east of La Center enough food had digested so my body was more willing to put effort into forward motion. Which was good, because we were about to reach 72nd for a 7 mile run down a busy suburban avenue, and I didn’t want to spend more time than I needed there.

I took the lead coming up a ramp on 259th St (which becomes 72nd Ave when it curves left at the head of the ramp) and then put on the gas when we hit the long tangent running south into Vancouver and did that segment at a somewhat more than 20mph average (slowed down a bit by, you guessed it, a bunch of stoplights that we reached just as they turned red.) And then left onto St Johns (which becomes St James, then St Johns; the cuesheet actually had turns for those renamings, but in reality there were no turns but instead the road would curve, then rename itself) which we used to cross into Vancouver proper at a much more sedate 18-19mph.

St {Johns/James/Johns} dead-ends into Fourth Plain Blvd, but on the other side of I-5 than the Fruit Valley intersection. The Fruit Valley side of Fourth Plain has bicycle lanes, but not this side; it’s only a mile back to Columbia St (how we got through downtown Vancouver, and also how we get back to the bridge) but it’s a mile that starts as a narrow 4 lane road w/o bike lanes, and then says “I hate you” by dropping you onto a junction with I-5 where lanes magically become on and off ramps, and the offramps are nice wide banked curves w/o stop or yield signs for better bicycle splatting when someone comes off the freeway at 70mph and doesn’t get down under 50 until they’re at the first stoplight on Fourth Plain. Getting back to all of the red lights on Columbia was a bit of a relief compared to this part of Fourth Plain.

The towers of the Interstate Bridge(s) appear before us

And then back to Brooklyn via the Interstate Bridge, a longer-feeling-than-it-actually-is crawl through the industrial district in the Columbia river bottoms, and a long ride south on Vancouver (which, now that N Portland is being gentrified, has nice wide bike lanes) followed by the traditional maze of twisty passages to get into SE Portland.

6h04 trip time (2h20 up, 2h20 back, with, ahem, a nice long lunch in the middle :-) We could probably have carved half a hour off if the lights were green, and 1h20 off if we’d not stopped for lunch, but we’re both fast enough so that we can actually sit down for a nice lunch and still go faster than brevet minimums.

I didn’t take very many photos, but the ones I took are on flickr.

(And now I have to decide whether I can do the Zigzag 160 with a 14:30 start time. I’m hoping that my grandparents will want to pick up the bears today so I can get myself up to ~6500 RUSA miles before August is over, but I don’t have any short populares and the Zigzag 160 is the only one I think I can safely do in < 8 hr these days.