or … my 2nd bike ride to the coast in two weeks!
But the question that was asked was “Are you interested in doing a flèche?” Or more precisely, “Are you interested in joining a flèche team? … something that includes a bit of elevation gain but a moderate pace … thinking 375-420 kms, keeping stops brief (30 mins or less and infrequent).” To which, I answered … “yes!”
The main differences between the two are 1) a flèche has time constraints, and 2) you’re expected to meet those time constraints with you compatriots. Or as Susan France put it last Sunday, when you’ve given up on the flèche, but still riding, it’s called touring.
Joshua Bryant designed a lovely route with lotsa backroads with minimal traffic. The team was good, too. Ray Ogilvie and RB Buschman are veterans of other flèches. Joshua is a strong yet easy-going rider. I was the slow one of the group, and was happy there were four of us, just in case I didn’t maintain the required pace.
The ride started at the Hopworks Urban Brewery in SE Portland at 7:00 Friday evening (April 24), and headed out Woodstock and Foster Roads to the Springwater Corridor. It got dark at about the 30 km point in Boring. Between there and Silverton, we enjoyed star-filled rural skies and some challenging hills.
Silverton was where the ride went awry. Right away it was a challenge to find a business that was open at 1:00 am that wasn’t a bar. It’s even bleaker at that time of night than Independence. (I know, cuz two years ago a curious policeman in Independence signed Ken Mattina’s and my brevet cards at the same hour.) While I put in an extra mile in Silverton looking for an ATM, Joshua, RB, and Ray entertained (or were entertained by) the local inebriated rowdies. And then while Joshua changed batteries on his taillight and I put on my gloves, RB and Ray took off. It was the last time Joshua and I were to see them for the next 32 hours.
The route out of Silverton is obvious (so I’m told) if you’re familiar with that town. But Joshua and I stayed on Hwy 213 too long, while RB and Ray did something else. Consensus was everyone made wrong turns. But as RB pointed out last Sunday morning, it only takes 50 feet and a turn to lose someone.
With help from Joshua’s iPhone mapping function, he and I got back on track a few miles out of Silverton, and after some deliberation, continued on to Salem. The problem with Salem is that there are many all night businesses that can serve as checkpoints. We chose an AM-PM market on Market St … waited an hour … exchanged cell phone numbers (the obvious omission between the four of us six hours earlier) … then split up looking for RB and Ray. By the time we finally left Salem, we were well behind schedule.
In the meantime, Ray and RB had continued to McMinnville. Of course, I would not learn this until eight hours later. The hardest part of the entire flèche was not knowing where RB and Ray were … for nine full hours. When Ray finally called me (I was on Little Nestucca Road approaching Pacific City), my heart sank to learn that he and RB had abandoned in McMinnville after waiting for Joshua and me for nearly two hours. After all, they had waited well beyond the printed closing time.
It was well into daylight by the time Joshua and I arrived in McMinneville. After Willamina, Joshua went on ahead to try to reel in Ray and RB. When I got Ray’s phone call, I in turn called Joshua. By the time I got to Pacific City, Joshua was already considering alternate plans.
Joshua’s wife Britt offered to drive out to the coast and pick us up, but Joshua and I really wanted to ride Nestucca River Road between Beaver and Carlton. Neither of us had ever been on that road; it was one of the main attractions of the flèche route. On the other hand, we were already familiar with the roads from Carlton to the Forest Grove. So Britt planned to pick us up in Carlton eight hours later.
This allowed Joshua and me to enjoy a relaxed meal at the Pelican Brewery in Pacific City before heading back out over the Coast Range. One beer sampler later, the significant disappointment of getting separated from Ray and RB, and in not finishing the flèche, washed away. The tour was still on!
I spent so much energy pedaling up along the Nestucca River, my legs had little gas for the descent into Carlton. By the time we arrived (about ½ hour later than forecasted), Britt was waiting for us … in front of a closed Ken Wright Cellars. I was grateful for the fig newtons she brought along; they ended up being my dinner, as I wasted no time falling asleep once I got home.
‘Twas a good, difficult, and memorable ride, or tour. Next time, cell phone numbers all around!
photos of the fleche-attempt / tour are here on Flickr.