Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rapture ride!




After missing the inaugural VeloDirt Rapture Ride in 2011 because of a sprained ankle and the 2012 version for some completely lame and unremarkable excuse, there was no way I'd be left out of the ride when it came back around for this year.

So, I met up with Jennifer for a carpool at 8 and, only a few minor wrong turns later, we were pulling our bikes off the rack and assembling everything we'd need at the start point, the Flying M Ranch a few miles west of Yamhill. There was a decent group of riders -- three dozen, maybe -- with probably 75% cyclocross bikes (or similar), plus a handful of hardtail, FS, or rigid mountain bikes.

Out of the gate, I found myself on the tail end of the "lead" pack, a handful of fat and fist dudes wearing kits from teams they actually belonged to, on fancy and fast-looking modern bikes.

Then, of course, the first hill came, and I got passed and passed and passed and passed. Didn't fall off the back by any means, just firmly settled into somewhere around the 70th percentile of riders. I also stubbornly tried to get up in my 39T middle ring and avoid the smallest ring of my triple, which meant at one particularly bad ramp my cadence halted to a near-stop, and I barely unclipped in time before having to walk my goddam bike at mile four.

The terrain for this first stretch -- which gained 2400 feet in about nine miles -- was some of the worst on the ride, with a bunch of golf-ball sized rocks in place of more traditional "gravel". Here and there you could find a worn-down truck path to follow and ride more smoothly, but those had a bad habit of starting and ending abruptly, leaving you to swerve across deep chunky sections in order to find the next more rideable portion.

The road rolled up and down a little bit for a while, and I got to the top of a big descent at mile 14 after a little less than two hours. Yep. Still, the hardest part of the ride was done; the next dozen miles were almost all downhill towards Trask County Park, then the "summit" of the return trip over the coast range was over a thousand feet lower than what I'd just done.

For the first mile or so of descent, I rolled down cautiously and conservatively, as the road surface stayed fairly poor (though much better than some portions of the climb). After lifting my Trek up and over a second gate, though, things took a turn for the better -- the road turned into softer and smoother dirt, and I let myself pick up more speed as I started to lean into turns, pass the more conservative (i.e., smart) riders, and bunny hop (I know, it's not really a bunny hop if you just lift up on clipless pedals) some potholes and other debris.

Then -- unsurprisingly -- that whole coming-in-hot thing bit me in the ass. At a 130-degree turn at mile 20, I low-sided and went down fairly hard on my left side.

Instead of bitching about that too much, though, here's a handful of optimistic ways to view that crash:

-Gravel and dirt is much softer than asphalt
-It was an "inside" corner so I wasn't at risk of sliding off the side of the road
-I didn't actually slide at all, basically stuck in one spot
-Nobody was following too close and I wasn't run over
-Other riders WERE close enough to quickly attend to me, one kind guy hosed out my wounds with his Camelbak
-I generally avoided breaking valuable bike parts by taking most of the impact with my body

I wound up with a nice scrape on my knee, some smaller scratches on my arm, and -- most painfully -- a gash right where the pinky meets my palm. After making sure I could walk and the bike could roll, I waived on the few people who had stopped behind me, then gingerly re-mounted and rolled super-cautiously down the last couple of winding turns before reaching Trask County Park and cleaning off my wounds (with the only tap water available anywhere on-course!).

I first fashioned some first aid with chamois cream/kleenex/armwarmer (instead of bacitracin/sterile pad/gauze); but a few minutes after that, an AWESOME rider whose name I forgot rolled up with an actual first aid kit and I got myself properly wrapped up and felt a big mental boost for the last 38ish miles back to the ranch.

The tap water at Trask is super sulfuric (i.e., rotten eggs); I figured I'd just make some tripe-strength Gatorade from powder mix to mask it. And, it mostly worked (if I took care not to breathe in while drinking it), if it was sickeningly sweet and almost syrupy. Oh, and a bit of the powder blew into the cut on my hand... citric acid and (trace amounts of) salt, not a good feeling.

I was briefly tempted to bag the rest of the ride and instead go see my grandma in Oceanside, but I realized that I'd have no way to tell Jennifer that I was abandoning her carpool; and, for that matter, her house was only about ten miles closer than the endpoint back at Yamhill.

So, it was back onto gravel, and back into a climb. I had met Maria shortly before my crash; we relaxed together for a bit at the campground, then wound up riding together for nearly the rest of the way home.

Like I had expected, going up along the Trask River was much nicer than our initial climb out of the ranch. It had turned into a legitimately warm day, but we enjoyed fairly thick tree cover and abundant shade.

My minor crash wounds quickly moved to the back of my mind; instead, though, I started to get just plain tired. Maria and I rolled up the hills at a less than brisk pace, and I made liberal use of my 30/32 low gear. At mile 46, we came upon the Barney Reservoir; Maria had a story or two about getting giardia from drinking dirty water, so I held back from scooping handfuls of the lake straight into my mouth; I did, however, thoroughly douse myself to at least cool off. A short bit later, though, we came across two of the organizers from 21st Ave Bicycles using a chemical water treatment on a little roadside stream. We each had about ~6 ounces of water left at that point, so they were kind enough to mix up a potable bottle for each of us to help bring us home.

There was a little bit of climbing left; by mile 50 or so, we'd gained probably 6500 feet of elevation, which basically marked the end of the day's hard work. I was weary enough (and still slightly bleeding) to take the last descent back down to valley level at a fairly cautious clip.

The ride's last "bail out" option was at mile ~57 -- a direct turn towards the ranch would end my day in five miles, or the "official" route had an extension for another 700 miles with some nasty little hills. I didn't hesitate, immediately deciding to take the easy way in.

Rolled into the start/finish area just before six: 7:39 total elapsed time, and about 6:30 riding time, good for a moving average of just under ten miles per hour.

I pulled off my socks and shoes and bibs, made a bee-line for the Base Camp kegs, and stuffed myself with chips and salsa, and bullshitted with my fellow riders for a while 'til the 21st guys got the grill up and running.

I think I went though five or six beers, a good half-dozen tacos, and another 30-40 ounces of water in two-ish hours I spent at the endpoint before we drove back... and somehow I was still hungry and thirsty by the time we reached Hwy 26.

I'll definitely be using North Fork and Turner Creek roads again -- as a highway-free route to get into Tillamook. Toll Rd & Murphy Camp might have to wait for next year's Rapture event. Oh, and then there's my nascent idea to find a similar logging route between Timber & Foss... it's gonna be a fun summer, at least if I can keep the rubber side pointed down.

(photos to be added later)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Went down to the valley and it was, like, you know? Totally.

Seized the opportunity of a totally free Saturday with a not-terrible weather forecast to go ride a new 300K with David, down through Aumsville and Jefferson and Scio and such as.

Ta-da, on Strava, with four phone photos.

The pace/result was somewhere in between the last two 200's I did with David (a 13-hour slog through Scappoose/St Helens hills, and a 9-hour attack of Ripplebrook). With a handful of lazy convenience store snack stops and a shifting fairly stiff wind that only occasionally pushed at our backs, I wrapped up the ride in 15:54. Got back into inner SE in time to head over to Sparky's for a huge greasy slice of two dollar pizza (or, you know, four slices for eight bucks), but couldn't quite bring myself to ride past Boise St and just flop onto couch then bed.

Other than providing a faceful of wind for several hours, most of the outbound leg was great -- Boones Ferry and Howell Prairie, then Liberty and Lake and Ankeny Hill. Coming back was much more familiar territory, dating back to my one-way rides to Salem or Corvallis or Eugene from the last few years, but the Canby-Boring connection was excellent, especially a steep descent down Henrici in the last remnants of daylight.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gravel ground-up

David Parsons and myself went out on Saturday for an inaugural running of my new 205K Irma Pince permanent and, well, it was indeed a bike ride.

A handful of thoughts:

  • There's no (legal) way to connect the far end of Pumpkin Ridge to anything. Burgdorfer, on Google and other maps, is a gated driveway. Murphy Rd works, I think, to go back to Greener/Dairy Creek, or of course there's Smoke Ranch heading east.
  • I misread my own directions and took the first left after the Smoke Ranch gate, onto what turned out to be Wilderness Rd. You can take a right turn shortly after that to get onto Tupper Ranch and, in theory, over to some of the Pisgah/Bacona roads, but the way we went just became a dead-end. Fun riding for a couple of miles, at least.
  • The extension into Scappoose is definitely needed, you'll want full water bottles for the climb ahead...
  • Speaking of which, Mountain View Rd is ridiculous. A couple of 10-14% grade ramps to net you almost 1,000 feet of climbing in under three miles. Ouch.
  • And after that hard work has you hating life, the "reward" descent on Pisgah-Home is about as bad. Gravel, potholes, more double-digit grades, and tight turns. Yikes.
  • Everything from this point forward, though, is great -- three miles on Scap-Vern (or the dirt trail which parallels it), then an awesome romp around Yankton. More climbing, but all at a gradual grade, lots of actually enjoyable descents, little or no traffic (on a Saturday afternoon).
  • The Yankton general store is about a block off-course, and I'd probably recommend it to most riders rather than going from Scappoose to Deer Island without any available water. It was a mild day with some slow riding, but both David and myself were completely out of fluids by the time we reached Hwy 30.
  • The last 45 miles are mercifully flat. I'd actually never ridden in to Portland from that far out on Hwy 30, so... a token amount of new roads. Plus, a nice backside Scappoose loop for extra mileage to make it a legitimate 200K.
A couple of photos:






We took a whopping 12 hours and 59 minutes to finish -- by pace, easily my slowest ride ever that didn't involve stopping to sleep somewhere. I guess that's some motivation to get out and try again, aiming for a better time. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Seattle A-Go-Go

Two weekends ago, I undertook my first semi-sizable (relatively speaking) bike adventure -- a 200-mile ride from my house to the U district in Seattle, then a 130-mile trip with Seattle Rando the next day.



Despite facing 17 hours of headwinds (or 14 hours of headwinds and 3 hours of snack stops), Friday was a blast. I can see why you'd be meh on the route, but there's enough nice parts to make it a fun trip nonetheless... at least when you're doing it months away from the giant shitstorm which is the actual organized STP ride.



After not enough hours of sleep and a 3am rush to the restroom to purge a QFC panini (never again!), I rode to the startpoint with Susan and Asta, met ~50 new friends (and a few semi-familiar old friends), then took off.


After an early fiasco with a wrong turn and a loose rack bolt, Susan and myself were dead-last by a mile or two, not even two hours into the ride. Whoops. So, we rode on as a pair for a while; not too long later, we started to pick up some SIR company, and, even better, the sun broke through the clouds.


My knowledge of Seattle geography can generously be described as "bad" -- thankfully towards the end, we had a nice small riding group led by a couple of locals (and Susan's GPS) to get us safely to the finish point.


And, that point had free chili and beer!

The Saturday evening was a rather dull one -- after threatening to make plans and socialize with some local friends, I wound up asleep before 9pm. Oops.

We had a nice breakfast on Sunday morning, checked out a huge Seattle bike expo on our way out of town (totally lusting after a hot pink Rudy Projects helmet now), then drove back down I-5.

Anyway, it was early enough in the year that the 300K/200K combination was more than enough work to leave me sufficiently exhausted -- it'll be a little while before I'll try doing a 400/200 combination with one of my alternate Portland-Seattle permanent options.

Permanent #1894 -- Irma Pince




Surprisingly, my 19th registered RUSA permanent is my first which comes close to be a "true" 200K that both starts and ends in Portland.

Also surprisingly, none of the previous eighteen routes took advantage of perhaps my single-favorite stretch of road in the greater Portland area -- Pumpkin Ridge to Smoke Ranch, as seen here from a ride report a while ago.

As you can see, the best parts of the ride are unpaved; on this route, about 20 total miles on either gravel or dirt. You can certainly navigate everything on a road bike with narrow tires, but you'll have a better time with some wider rubber between your legs.

It's also a damn hilly route, with a handful of climbs competing for the title of "best part of the ride". Going up a furlong (which I learned was an eighth-mile at bar trivia yesterday) of loose gravel at 12% on Pumpkin Ridge might be a good pick, or there's a similar stretch on the paved Mountain View Road which is particularly painful since it comes just two miles after a quick control stop in Scappoose.

After Canaan Rd spits you out on Highway 30 at the Deer Island mini-market, your last 45 miles of the day will all be dead-flat. A loop around the east backside of Scappoose gives you some lovely quiet miles instead of the usual bustle of 30 (and is needed to put the route over 200K), but then it's back on the highway and returning to SE Portland.

Permanent #1893 -- Stan Shunpike




Sometimes a 100K is too short of a ride, but a 200K is too long. Oh no!

Thanks to years of hard science research, I've unearthed a solution -- an in-between distance!

This one is 133K, or 82 miles. About 35 of them are on the Springwater Corridor, so if you do this ride on a sunny weekend afternoon, expect a variety of dogs, bikes, and walkers as company.

The real heart of it, though, comes from two hilly loops east of Estacada and south of Sandy. The first takes you out on Wildcat Mountain Rd -- a lovely road which continues into the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness south of Mt Hood -- on mostly sustained medium-low grades until a final little 10% kicker gets you to the info control at 452nd Ave.

From there, you get to rip down the Kitzmiller Rd descent into Eagle Fern Park. Southeast of there you make a loop of George / Clausen Rd, with a 1300-foot climb in about seven miles.

Once you leave Boring, the route is minimally serviced -- Eagle Fern Park should have running water, although I've been bitten too many times by unreliable parks dept. maintenance.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Permanent #1877 -- Viktor Krum

On the opposite spectrum of hilliness from my PDX-Bremerton route, this one starts and ends in roughly the same area, but goes up and over Mt St Helens rather than the flat Washington coastline.

Wind River Rd and NF-25 provide the most gorgeous (and challenging) portions of the ride, cutting through Gifford Pinchot forest as you ride between Carson and Randle. These roads aren't maintained for winter riding -- which, depending on the year, might delay its opening all the way until June or even July.

When they are open, though, it's gorgeous... and hard. I'll spare details from the elevation profile and just say there's a big volcano there, and you ride up and over it.

The latter half of the ride is a bit more relaxed, but you still have some pleasant roads (and a bit of climbing) after Randle, going up towards Orting. The last forty or so miles uses the Interurban Trail then a variation of the official STP route to wrap up the ride in the University District.

This, of course, is also available to be used in the opposite direction (and again, no cue sheet for that way yet). There's two or three campgrounds with drinking water available as you ride through Gifford Pinchot, and a not-entirely-reliable grocery store near Swift Reservoir. For the northernmost parts -- the ones you'll likely face in the middle of the night if you started in PDX -- I'm not sure of many 24-hour food options, so pack plenty of snacks and probably a third water bottle.

I'm toying with making a Cyclos Montagnards-esque unofficial medal for Oregon or Seattle randonneurs who complete both #1876 and #1877 in a span of a couple of days, with a brevet or permanent in the middle -- maybe call it the lazy man's 1000+K. Check back later.