Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts from a ride

5pm Friday / Bybee Blvd / mile 0

Overpacked, anxious, resolved to get the hell out of town and not come back for an unreasonable amount of time. We head south on 17th then River Rd at a moderate pace, into a headwind and light rain.

6pm / Linn Ave / mile 10

There's two bike-friendly eastside routes to get from Oregon City to Canby, and we wind up on the one that has the high school homecoming parade. Teens perched in the backseats of convertibles pelt us with small objects and I wonder why nobody is preventing this boorish behavior, then I realize it's candy. I pick up a box of Dots off the asphalt and eat it, and we continue our climb on the shoulder against the oncoming parade traffic.

7pm / Territorial Rd / mile 19

Torrential rains, thankfully the kind that never last more than a few minutes at a time in Oregon. Those few minutes are enough to completely soak my socks, and I harrumph because there's 250 miles until a washer & dryer and I only packed two spare pair. David later remarks that our speed dropped 2mph during this downpour and never really recovered.

8pm / Butteville Rd / mile 33

Flat tire.

9:30pm / River Rd / mile 50

First prolonged stop at the Keizer Safeway. Crappy premade deli sandwich and Mountain Dew. Cell phone is dead, so I call Sarah from David's. We have another five miles of boring riding south through Salem ahead, then a long overnight with no supplies or services available. Not raining too hard now, so I make a sock swap.

11pm / Independence Bridge / mile 65

Cross the Willamette going west, knowing we won't see it again for another 375 miles.

1am Saturday / Kings Valley Hwy (OR-223) / mile 85

Duck into the Ritner Creek Covered Bridge for a little sit-down rest and snack, but no snoozing. We're seeing about one car per hour. Small wrong turn on our way out of Independence, but no major damage done or mileage added. This is a pretty boring road during the day, but it makes for great, reliable night riding. Mostly flat, mostly straight, just keeps going. Almost unfortunately, we turn off for a more... interesting stretch of road.

2am / Hoskins Rd / mile 95

First gravel of the weekend. Up and up for a while, then down (tends to be the usual behavior of hills). I blast ahead of David on the descents, emboldened by sleep deprivation and wide tires. As far as gravel goes, this is pretty cushy -- finely ground, relatively few potholes, some steep grades but no hairpin or off-camber turns. Certainly a candidate for re-use on future rides. Some starlight overhead means we'll get a few more hours of mostly dry riding.

3am / Logsden Rd / mile 110

A shorter stretch of gravel marks the quarter-way point of the ride. No rain, just cold. After the high point on this road, it'll be almost entirely downhill until we reach the coast. We're a few hours too early to warm up or stock up at the Logsden grocery.

5am / Siletz Hwy (OR-229) / mile 125

Little country diner keeps trucker/logger breakfast hours, which works perfect for us. I get a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy, with an appropriately generous amount of cheapass sausage. Odd glares from the locals, but service is excellent. Since midnight, we'd seen four vehicles and six deer/elk. Traffic picks up a little bit between here and 101, mostly boat-hauling trucks hitting the river/bay at dawn.

7am / Hwy 101 / mile 149

Almost, but not quite, at the ocean. Siletz Bay is good enough. A little bit of blue sky remains over the water, but dark gray clouds guide the roads ahead of us. Just a mile on the already-busy highway before taking an inland detour.

8am / Schooner Creek Rd / mile 159

Surprise! Gravel! Guess that's what I get for routing onto a new road simply because it shows up as yellow (i.e., relatively prominent and well-traveled) in Google Maps. Rather rudimentary -- a lane-and-a-half wide, loose and sloppy surface. Starting to rain again. It could be quite a gorgeous road, just a few feet away from a small creek, in different circumstances.

9am / Salmon River Hwy (OR-18) / mile 166

Still cold and damp, so we jump at a chance for warm diner breakfast #2. I get marionberry pie, which comes with unexpected ice cream. Cold, delicious, full of calories? Two out of three isn't bad, so I eat it voraciously. Lots of fishing in the river, and the shoulder on the 18 was quite a bit better than I expected from the various times I'd driven it to Lincoln City previously. About a hundred miles from our overnight stop, I go for pair of socks #3. There's some Trivial Pursuit "RPM" (music edition) cards on the table, and I get a Jethro Tull question correct.

11am / Hwy 101 / mile 176

I go over Slab Creek Road for the second time in my life, and the first time in daylight hours. It's gorgeous, mildly graded, and fully paved. We're warmed up in a few spots by direct sunlight and see a pair of roadies coming the other direction. We hit Hwy 101 and get a decent tailwind for the nine or so miles into Pacific City, bumping up our measly speed from ten to around fourteen mph.

12pm / Brooten Rd / mile 187

Refueling at the Pacific City Shell Station. This would be a decent place to say "fuck it" -- could skip the whole Willamina thing and just continue north to Oceanside, relax for the afternoon and evening, then pay $10 to put ourselves and our bikes on a bus from Tillamook to PDX on Sunday. But... we press onward. Three bike tourers are also in the Shell parking lot, we make a little small talk, then take a U-turn to get back to 101 and then head inland towards Grand Ronde.

2pm / Hebo Rd (OR-22) / mile 205

A stiffer climb on this stretch than I remember from the 2011 brevet, and David puts a few hundred meters between the two of us before stopping at the elevation marker at the pass.

3pm / Willamina Creek Rd / mile 220

Living up to its name, Ray's Food Place in Willamina is indeed a location or position which sells tasty vittles. I get some heat lamp mac-n-cheese, a chicken strip, Dots, and some Gatorade. Decent haul for six bucks. The town advertises itself as "Timbertown USA". Almost exactly halfway through our ride, with the worst climbing of the weekend directly ahead.

4pm / Gilbert Creek Rd / mile 226

Forget that part about "of the weekend" -- mile-for-mile, I'd say this is the toughest climbing I've done in my bike riding lifetime. Old logging roads that got thrown down haphazardly with no thought for grading. Fuck. Lots of short 15% pitches, then you level out... only to gain a few hundred more feet at 8% or so. Fuck.

5pm / Bible Creek Rd / mile 230

The reward for the worst climb of my life is a spell of freezing rain just in time for what could have been an awesome descent. I clutch the brakes with whatever stretch is left in my hands, pull my cap visor as low as possible to keep myself from flying completely blind, and hope for the best 'til we meet up with Nestucca River Road. Thankfully, "the best" turns out to be a bitterly cold and miserable stretch of riding that was at least free from crashes. I wait at the bottom for a minute or two for David, then ride off shivering in the direction of Beaver.

7pm / Blaine Rd / mile 252

Good ol' Shell Station. A local kid cruises up on his Huffy and I share some Dots with him (yeah yeah, something about strangers with candy). Just twenty-five miles from Oceanside. Soaked, and nothing I can really do about it.

8pm / Cape Lookout Rd / mile 264

Last climb of Saturday finished. Unfortunately, the northside descent is particularly shitty and potholey. Damp, dark, and uneven pavement, so I grind through a little bit more of my already-exhausted brake pads. Another success, though, as we're down at water level without incident.

9pm / Crab Ave / mile 272

Hail and sideways rain bring an abrupt end to the few hours of mostly mild weather we enjoyed between Nestucca River and Cape Lookout. Just two miles til hot food, showers, and laundry, though. David has cell service, so I call ahead to let everyone know we're still alive and will be at the front door shortly.

10pm / Portland Ave / mile 275

Grandma's house! Everything wet goes in the laundry, we shower and get some spare sweats then eat voraciously. Well, I inhale a 6"x6" piece of lasagna, David more carefully seeks out vegan-friendly food. Sarah calls, I let her know I'm alive in some sense of the word. We hit the downstairs bunk beds, set an egg timer for two-ish hours, then get nowhere near enough sleep.

1am Sunday / Portland Ave / mile 275

Up and into wonderfully dry bike gear, then upstairs to an awaiting pile of snack goodies. Thanks, mom! I fix up a wondrous bottle of goodness -- apple juice, orange juice, pomegranate juice, a pinch of salt, and the contents of an off-brand knockoff of 5 Hour Energy. Our Sunday begins with a climb up Cape Meares (then another iffy descent similar to Cape Lookout), and it's surprisingly and pleasantly dry.

3am / 3rd St / mile 285

The 24-hour Safeway is a lie -- thank god we left Oceanside well-packed. Still dry for now.

4am / Hwy 101 / mile 293

We're caught in the worst hailstorm I've ever seen. When we turn onto Miami-Foley, it changes to just be another stretch of impossibly heavy rain. Miserable. No convenient place to stop, other than making a U-turn back to Oceanside, so we stubbornly ride onwards.

5am / Miami-Foley Rd / mile 305

David says he's starting to feel hypothermic, so we walk our bikes for a couple miles (less efficient mode of travel = better blood flow, and the trick works surprisingly well). Our eyes hunt for anything sheltered that isn't a house's front porch, but this area does not believe in little roadside school bus shelters. Alas. Eventually, there's an open farm/garage not long before the turnoff for Foss, and we spend an hour in there feeding and warming before crawling out.

8am / Foss Rd / mile 320

And, damn it, it's all worth it. Foss is easily the highlight of the ride -- after a couple of groggy paved miles, we cross the recently-repaired bridge over the Nehalem River and began fifteen(ish) miles of wavy, rolling, glorious riverside gravel. There's potholes and chunks of dying pavement, and I giddily feel like I'm playing a randonneur version of SkiFree during short, zippy descents. There's one nasty little uphill that we have to walk, but only for a few hundred feet.

10am / Sunset Hwy (US-26) / mile 336

The Baker's General store requires a little more work to reach than I had expected -- about 200 feet of elevation in half a mile -- but the highway is still quiet enough on a Sunday morning that it's tolerable. David again drops me (a recurring theme on the last 150 miles of the ride) but waits up at the store, then we ride off to Birkenfeld together.

12pm / Nehalem Hwy (OR-202) / mile 356

We ride the nine mile entirety of OR-103, the last bit of "new" roads before finishing our weekend on about a hundred familiar miles. At Birkenfeld I grab a Mr. Pibb, down half of it and pour the other half into a water bottle, then we leave again. The trek into Vernonia passes without event -- I put my head down, find a rhythm, and pedal mindlessly at ~12mph for two hours.

3pm / Timber Rd / mile 382

Flat tire for David, and I sprawl out in a golf club parking lot as he does the repair. Starting to feel like we're home, though there's still six hours of riding left.

5pm / Wilson River Hwy (OR-6) / mile 403

Fried food extravaganza at yet another Shell Station -- chicken sandwich with generous mayo, some sort of Hot Pocket-esque creation, plus more Dr Pepper and a bag of Chex Mix. Fuel for the weary rockets which will take me home. Clapshaw Hill is rather brutal to go up, but the east side of it going towards Kansas City is my favorite little bit of farm riding in that area, so it's worth it.

8pm / Thompson Rd / mile 433

Worked up this last hill in my big (46) ring, because... I could. Barely. Then back down to Cornell, with its two tunnels providing a nicely cinematic ending to a rather intense weekend. Home, shower, scratch pasta and caramelized onions with feta, then a lot of sleep.

442 miles in 52:11.

1 comment:

  1. Woohoo! Thanks for the wonderful report! You could have said "fuck it (I'm ending this ride)" and instead you said "fuck it (I'm doing this ride - cold and wet stretches and 15% pitches be damned). Love the food/drink descriptions - strangers with candy, Mr. Pibb in the bottle, off-brand 5rh energy... Congrats. - Oliver