Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2012 Flèche NW

Or: biting off more than might be reasonable chewable.

Our team was hastily assembled near the registration deadline, then nearly collapses for a variety of personal reasons. Thankfully, though, we salvaged the minimum three-man team -- myself, Michal Y., and Dylan P. -- for the  plotted Eugene-to-Olympia route.

I took an Amtrak Cascades train south, meeting my two fellow riders in their hometown for a 10pm start.

The first stretch was fairly straightforward, the oft-traveled Eugene-Coburg-Brownsville corridor with a nice little warm-up climb on Gap Road.

Traffic was nonexistant, weather was fair with a big orange moon hanging in the sky, and no businesses were open to offer a distraction as we headed into Salem for the first control.

I harvested a superfine 4am meal of Doritos, Gatorade, and cherry Pepsi, and we headed out north again.

We hit sunrise somewhere near Lafayette, and were treated to hours of early morning sunshine on the familiar roads leading into Forest Grove.

I enjoyed my first use of several new toys; first, a Velo-Orange handlebar bag (showed up cheap on Craigslist, couldn't say no despite my fondness for the DIY camera bag I had been using previously).

An old handkerchief, but now more readily accessible thanks to honest-to-god REAL PANTS WITH POCKETS worn over my usual Ibex bike knicker tights:

And, in a moment of brilliance, the combination of previously mentioned Gatorade and cherry Pepsi into one superpowered, caffeine-and-electrolyte-tastic energy drink.

Forest Grove came at mile 125 (out of approx. 277 needed to get to Olympia), and we set aside a solid hour to eat well at Maggie's Buns.

Lynne F. couldn't participate in the flèche, but she was able to plan a shorter Saturday ride and meet up with us for our breakfast. She provided some awesome amaretto-Nutella cookies (which I forgot to eat until I got back to Portland, but they were utterly amazing), and sent us away with her blessings and encouragement.

The roads towards Kansas City saw the temperature climb all the way into the high 60s -- I ditched my jacket, grabbed my ten-Euros-in-Greece "Wayrafer" sunglasses, and was generally loving life.

Bike check at the start of the Banks-Vernonia trail (hankie was washed in Forest Grove and tied to my Carradice to sun-dry while another one was rotated into active use):

Ah, the good old trail:

Hamming it up:

After the usual Vernonia Shell Station stop, it was out of town on Hwy 47, before turning off to Apiary Rd for the biggest ascent of the day.

A couple hours of slow climbing and brisk descending later, Washington finally came into view:

The Lewis & Clark Bridge itself is a necessary evil -- busy, full of debris, narrow shoulder. Still, Longview meant mile 192-ish, and just eighty miles to go until Olympia.

The bridge itself is a pretty cool piece of construction, though:

We stopped at a Subway just on the other side of the bridge, and it had warmed up the point that I could pull off my baselayer and add it to my growing pile of currently unneeded clothing on/in my saddlebag.

Lots of scenic mileage, and I opted for a photo op in front of some dumpsters and a casino billboard:

Per flèche rules, we needed to cover at least 25km in the last two hours of our ride -- so at around 7:30, we came into Toledo, had a pizza dinner, and checked our map to see where we could officially end our 24-hour period.

Chehalis turned out to be a perfect option -- we might not have moved much faster than 12mph for that last stretch, but thankfully that was more than enough to be rando-legal. I think we wound up with about 385km at that point -- well short of making it fully to Olympia, but also more than enough to be official finishers.

By then, I was ready to throw down my bike and its paraphernalia -- unfortunately, it was still 33 miles to Olympia, so the best I could do was a short respite from my hat, helmet, and gloves:

At that point, allergies were taking their toll:

But, hey, what's 33 miles among friends? We got into a bit of a mishap in Centralia and had to portage our bikes over some railroad tracks, but got back on track (thankfully, SR 507 runs straight from Centralia into Bucoda and then Tenino -- hard to get too lost.

And then, this:

Hooray! Into the hotel by 1:30, asleep by 2:00, awake by 8:30, and stuffing my face at the traditional Easter Sunday rando brunch by 9:00.

Got to catch up with a few other OR folks, meet Jan Heine for the first time, eat and eat and eat and eat and eat, and share stories of our travels into Olympia.

And then I did something REALLY stupid...

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