This Space for Rent

A highspeed scamper out to the coast and back

Looking towards Cape Mears from Cape Lookout


Yesterday, Orrando put on the yearly running of the Three Capes R300, and despite a weather forcast that varied between 80% chances of rain to 80% chances of showers, I took leave of my sanity, went out to Forest Grove, and joined the mob.

Last year, I rode out to the start of the loop (waking up at 3:30am and riding the ~25 miles from home out to the Grand Lodge, then looping around in one fell swoop. This year I also rode out there, but I did that on friday night because I’d arranged to share a room with a few other fellow lunatics, which meant that I was a little fresher when 6am rolled around and the lot of us (70? people thanks to the lure of it being a death march year) wound out into the rain.

(no picture of the start; the CBC doesn’t do low-light photography. But I did get some others)

Just as it was with the equally wet Birkie, I hadn’t made any arrangements to ride with people, so I just picked a comfortable pace, then dialed it up about 10% to try and keep up with some of the faster riders. This worked better than it did last year, because I managed to keep up with a few of my faster friends across the Gales Creek valley (on the Forest Grove version of Stringtown Road) and a little way up Gales Creek Road. I kept up with Mike J. and Joshua B. for maybe 6 miles before they turned on the gas and pulled away into the murk, never to be seen again; after that, I stuck myself to a group of people who I mainly don’t know (Asta C. and Jeff M. were the only ones I recognised) up until the (allegedly;it was actually manned) info control partway up the ramp on Timber Road, where I got my card signed, turned myself around, and was out of there before the rest of that group unravelled themselves.

I'd forgotten that the summit of highway six was almost 1600 feet

And then, in the pouring rain, I went back down Timber Road, then turned west and started winding up Highway 6. Due to the road increasingly pitching up, I managed to catch up to Susan O. (of Team Estrogen fame) before the increasing grade sucked me back.

I finally passed Susan at the summit (which I’d managed to convince myself was at 1200 feet, so the actual 1586 came as an unexpected surprise that forced me to stop and take a quick photo before pushing off for the long plunge down to Tillamook) when she was relayering, but was not tremendously surprised when, 12 miles east of Tillamook, a paceline consisting of Susan, Asta, and a fellow from the Seattle Rando mob came screaming by me as I was pulling my heavy cold-weather gloves off. And since I didn’t want to let an opportunity pass me by, I jumped for the end of the line and proceeded, at a high but sociable speed, the rest of the way into Tillamook, then around the north end of Cape Mears.

While this was going on, Asta and I did an unofficial test of the spatter-generating abilities of our rear fenders and (in my case) mudflap. Not having a mudflap turns out not to be much worse than having one; Asta won the vertical throw part of the competition, but it was a narrow vertical spray that I could avoid by riding a foot to either side, while my mudflap diffused the spray from my rear wheel so that she couldn’t escape from the roadmuck of doom unless she rode about 50 feet back. And this meant that by the time we reached Tillamook we were both pretty mud-splattered.

I made one unfortunate tactical decision in Tillamook. Susan, Asta, and I had all made a very quick run into the Safeway there to get our cards signed and to get something to drink, so when I left I saw the two of them about a block and a half away and scampered to catch up. This was good in that there was a nice north wind blowing us up to the north end of Cape Mears, but it was bad in that they were going just a little bit faster than my sustainable cruising speed. So when we rolled around the end of Cape Mears and started going up the “paved” (it is paved, but the entire north end of Cape Mears is on a slowly moving landslide) Cape Mears Loop Road, my forward movement dropped to a crawl and the two of them vanished into the distance.

And at the top of Cape Mears? Headwinds. Asta and Taylor T. were at the top delayering, but they pulled out as I approached and vanished into the distance after no more than 3-4 miles. And then I wound along Netarts Bay Road and Whiskey Creek Road by myself, seeing no other cyclist except for tiny dots faaar ahead (thankfully there had been some roadwork done on Whiskey Creek Road; some of last years tire-destroying potholes had been patched enough so they could be avoided.)

Looking south towards Cape Lookout

As I proceeded southwards along the edge of Netarts Bay, I could see what looked like a storm covering the summit of Cape Lookout, but when I reached the end of Whiskey Creek Road there was nothing left up there but scattered clouds and sunshine.

The long climb up Cape Lookout

Scattered clouds, sunshine, and the teeny detail of a two mile long 900 foot elevation ramp. Which I climbed at an average of about 3mph (4mph moving, but I stopped twice “to take pictures™”) and was overhauled by first a fellow (from Seattle, I think) on a Surly Pacer, and then Ed Groth and Jeff, who I ended up sticking with for the rest of the loop.

If not for the headwind, the trip down to Pacific City and the Little Nestucca River highway would have been very pleasant.

Actually, let me correct that. If not for the headwind and the tiny detail that the downpour on the east side of the Coast Range had washed every bit of the lubrication out out of my chain the trip down to Pacific City would have been very pleasant. As it was every time I tried to stomp my way up a grade the chain would start skipping as if was trying out for the state jumprope competition, and when it wasn’t skipping it was sounding like 96 agitated baby mice. So the only way I could build up any sort of speed would be to slowly and carefully accelerate, because any energetic jump meant that the chain would climb up to the summit of the gears and either bound energetically from tooth to tooth or just derail, leaving me coasting slowly to a stop (I really like having a 1×9 transmission, but one bit of lagniappe that a front derailer brings to the table is that it helps enourage the chain to actually stay in the neighborhood of the chainrings.)

So by the time we rolled into Pacific City were were well ready for a break, which came in the form of a coffeeshop where we parked ourselves for half an hour to eat pastries and coffee.

And then south for a couple of miles, followed by a turn to the east and 85 miles of either sidewinds or tailwinds. The trip up the Little Nestucca River was not very eventful, being unmarred by emergency stops for food or to reseat tires, and the descent down into Grand Ronde was unmarred by the nasty road grooving that was there last year (the road department there must be fairly severely pressed for money, because the repaving job appears to be mainly large patches of new asphalt with a cursory rollering, but patches of new asphalt are much better than having to ride right along the verge to try and keep your bicycle from being eaten by grooved pavement.)

A tiny bit of rainbow north of Ballston

And, finally, we rolled out into the valley, where we saw the most happy sights of all; it was sunny, ALL of the flags were stiffly pointing north, and Aeolus’s hand was pressed to our backs not-so-gently encouraging us to fly north as fast as we were capable.

And we flew, only slowing down where the route dodged east or west to get around obstacles. Joshua caught up to us for a while (but Ed & I were flying along at the front (chatting about whether to organize the Verboort populaire again this year [yes, if we can] or to organize an August R200 [ditto]) so I didn’t actually see him) but fell off around North Valley Road.

The sun went down behind some clouds about the time we passed Gaston, so we almost finished the ride while it was still daylight. As it was we walked into the Grand Lodge 14h23 (exactly three hours faster than last year) after we departed from the east parking lot, which isn’t quite as fast as I was running in the Birkie but which is still shockingly fast.

And then I hung around the Grand Lodge for about 20 minutes, then joined a small group of Portland-bound riders (Asta, Ed, Jeff, Theo R.) for a run into the Hillsboro terminus of the east-west interurban, and from there rode home and tried to get a good nights sleep.

Things that didn’t work:

Things that did work:

And, shockingly, despite going around the loop at an average rate of only 3% slower than Birkenfeld, I’m not dead. (Which is good because I need to take the trek out shopping this afternoon, and it would be difficult to do this if I was dead.)

All in all, an excellent loop. A++++, would ride again. But perhaps at a somewhat more leisurely pace.

All the pictures can be found here.