This Space for Rent

Playing in the snow

There's more and more snow on the road as it continues upgrade

My friend Stasia was spending the weekend in Astoria, and texted me before coming back to ask about the weather conditions. As a postscript to this inquiry, she suggested the idea of me riding out to meet her halfway, then returning as a group. This sounded good to me, and the weather certainly looked like it would oblige (cold, yes, snowy, yes, but only snowy above 1700 feet with the snowline going up from there during the day) so I agreed to the plan and starting making plans for riding out to the neighborhood of Birkenfeld.

This morning was not the greatest weather. Chilly (low 40°F’s) and dumping down rain, but I wanted to test out my latest try at waterproof gloves and waterproof shoe covers anyway, so I got everything ready and headed out the door at somewhere in the ballpark of 9:30 (I was guessing I’d get about 45 miles out before coalescing and coming back, so leaving at 9:30 would get me back into town somewhere in the ballpark of 4pm) and squelched my way up to Scappoose and points west.

Lots of rain, but a fairly stiff tailwind, so I flew up to Scappoose, doing the 24 miles up there in 1h20, and then turned onto the Scappoose-Vernonia highway for the 1500 foot climb up to the Nehalem divide. The climb did what the rain had not done and slowed me down to ~13mph as I worked my way up into the hills from Scappoose. Approaching Chapman (~500 feet ASL, near the first ledge on the climb) I started to notice little bits of snow alongside the road, and by the time I made my way up onto the ledge the roofs of houses, sheds, and barns were liberally coated with snow and fields were starting to look slightly snowy.

And it had gotten somewhat colder as I climbed, too, which meant I was riding a little more carefully in case I hit a patch of ice.

But what the colder meant, as I left the first plateau and headed up for the saddle that divides the second long climb into a pair of 400 foot ascents, was that the snow got heavier alongside the road and started to creep onto the road surface until I was riding down a wheel track in the snow. The snow got a little lighter on the saddle, but when I left it for the last ramp to the top it came back with enthusiasm.

I made it about 100 feet past this truck before the project bike started sliding sideways on the ice

About 100 feet up the first ramp I came upon the signs of a automotive incident – there were tire tracks fishtailing all over the road and off into the gravelled shoulders, then finally off the edge of an embankment to where a pickup truck sat, nosed down into a copse of trees. I slowed down a bit and kept climbing, but wasn’t more than about 100 feet further on when I heard vehicles approaching from behind me, veered a little towards the side of the road to give them room, and went *flop* onto my side as the rear wheel of the project bike just kept on sliding until it was no longer under me.

And the road didn’t look like it was getting any less snowy as it went uphill.

So I decided on the spot that perhaps this was not a good day to ride over to the neigborhood of Vernonia, turned around, and zipped back into Scappoose for a cup of coffee and an urgent text message saying “DON’T GO ON THE SCAPPOOSE-VERNONIA HIGHWAY BECAUSE IT IS COMPLETELY SNOWED IN” and then a somewhat slower (due to a stiffening headwind) ride back up highway 30 to Portland.

It’s 72 miles, more or less, to go up to 300 feet below the Nehalem divide, then turn around and retrace my steps back to Portland. 70 miles of that was in the rain (it stopped raining on the last half mile up towards the Nehalem divide, and then it stopped raining again when I entered Sellwood on the last leg of the trip back home) and I came home soaked to the skin and filthy with road grime.

Great fun, though. I’ll have to do it again, hopefully without the sliding sideways on the ice part :-)


heh. Fun to hear about this ride from the other side of the hill:) Glad it was a good ride for you–I would have felt bad if you’d come all the way out and it sucked;)

stasia Tue Dec 18 21:27:14 2012

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