This Space for Rent

Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess


I was planning on riding the Mount Hood 217k this month, but it was nixed by the combination of snow in the passes (not a very serious problem, because the roads were plowed and most of the snow melted by this weekend) and ODOT going into a highway construction frenzy on i84 through the gorge (BIG problem, particularly the chirpy “16 foot width” and “single lane” comments about the part of i84 that bicycles have to use to get from Troutdale to Hood River. Snow is one thing, but being splatted by 75mph semi-trucks is another.) So, instead of just doing nothing, I looked back at the UGB 200k which was slightly marred by it dumping down rain for the first half of the loop last time. The long-range weather forecast had been saying “sunny” for this weekend, so that would give me a chance to actually see the scenery on the first half of the loop instead of peering through fogged and rained-on glasses.

So I asked to ride it, was given the ok, and headed out this morning.

The executive summary is that the climb up to the top of the Boring lava lobe from Fischer’s Mill to Highland Road is extraordinarily pretty, starting with farms (and the teeny village of Fischer’s Mill), then winding up through beef cattle and horse farms into timberland which is punctuated by a collection of summer cottages and country houses ranging from honest homes to the sort of ridiculous temples to excess that blight the suburban landscape. And there were no flats, no humanitarian emergencies, and even with a nasty ENE wind that managed to be a headwind for 70% of the loop I still got back around to the start in 11h10 minutes (plus another 3 minutes sitting in line waiting for the people at Burger King to explain the difference between “value” (==small) and “small” (==large) to another bemused customer.

When I loaded up to go this morning, I brought along two spare sweaters (I call them jerseys, but they don’t have those back pockets so they don’t count) & a spare baselayer, because the last thing I wanted to do was to freeze my butt off like I did on the last few miles of the Barlow 300 a couple of weeks ago. And it was good that I did, because I overcompensated for the morning cold and ended up having to strip off and replace /all/ of my shirt layers on Highland Road because by the time I’d clawed my way up there they were soaked all the way through.

The xtracycle still slowed me down on uphills, but it didn’t slow me down as much as the headwind did. After crawling up to Highland Road and then screaming down the other side of the Boring Lava, I managed to make it into the Canby control with 67 minutes on the clock. “Great!”, said I, “I might be able to roll the rest of the way around the loop in 10 hours!” And despite being worn down quite a bit from fighting headwinds all the way from Sellwood to Boring, I made good enough time into Newberg so I thought that I might be able to do that, until I rolled out of town and back into the headwind, which slowed my forward progress to a creeping stagger (I was actually more than 2 hours up when I hit Newberg, so I stopped in a park, called home, and ate lunch. I never made up that 20 minutes :-() and made the rest of the loop up to the Rock Creek Tavern a grimmer (but still very scenic!) scrabble for extra minutes (I consider it a triumph that I didn’t manage to lose time at any of the controls; the worst I did was only gaining a minute between Rock Creek and downtown, and that included several stops for clothing changes, one stop to put the chain back on the front crankgear [after one of my “shift into my go-nowhere” shifts] and the time waiting in line at Burger King.)

And I really wanted to get home before nightfall, so the option of just slowing down didn’t even enter my mind. I think that this 200k loop ended up being harder than the Barlow 300k (modulo the DNF) because when I’m climbing a mountain I can see the road going up, but all I can see of a nasty headwind is the level road before me. (And I did get home before nightfall; I rolled in the door at about 18:30, and it didn’t get pitch black until about 19:00.)

No pictures, sorry; I didn’t bring the el-cheapo pocket camera (no batteries for it!) and I didn’t want to do the whole “stop, unpack the pentax, then take a picture” routine when I was moving (and I forgot to take a picture when I was stopped in Newberg.) It’s another point in favor of the midlifecrisismobile (which, when built, will require another loop of the UGB 200k so I can see if it’s any faster than Pete the xtracycle.)