Friday, August 21, 2009

vineride century

Hadn't done a supported bike ride in a year. In fact, RSVP 2008 (Seattle to Vancouver, BC) was the last time (almost exactly 12 months ago).

As this 100-mile ride on August 15th was supported (and therefore more expensive than what I’m used to), I made a point not to bring anything but the bare essentials. I would not make any convenience store purchases, I’d leave the energy bars, sandwiches, gels and supplements at home, and I’d eat only what was provided at the rest stops. With this strategy, I didn’t mind the $52 registration cost, as the ride was basically a benefit for the Children’s Cancer Association (a group I’m happy to support).

witness tree
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
This was a good ride to do after the previous weekend’s Alsea Falls 400k. It felt easier than most centuries I’ve done (my last one being the Ride Around Clark County [RACC] in May 2008). The Vineride traversed some of the same roads around the Eola Hills portion of last week’s Alsea Falls 400k, and introduced some new-to-me roads as well.

My main disappointment during this century was mechanical in nature. My rear derailleur started going AWOL, popping out of gear(s), not up-shifting, and not moving over to the largest or smallest cogs (quite inconvenient on hilly Eola Hills Road).

But the two highlights were:
  1. Mechanical support in Dayton.
    The mechanic from Lakeside Bicycles diagnosed my shifting problems and replaced my rear derailleur cable, which had both stretched and frayed beyond use. Now here’s a benefit of a supported ride!
  2. Winemaker Felix (of Carlos and Julian Winery in Carlton) looking at my bike and saying/pronouncing “Ah, LeMond Buenos Aires” as only an Argentine can do. This was after I briefly tasted his Pinot Noir, Tempernillo, and Malbec.

The route passed by a lot of familiar (and not so familiar) wineries, including Willakenzie and Patricia Green during the last leg into Newberg. The finish was well stocked with turkey and ham sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit, cookies, and ice cream. A number of riders hung around for a raffle (a bike from Lakeside). It was nice for me to finish while still daylight, and not be totally exhausted.

Pictures are here on Flickr.

Friday, August 14, 2009

basket case completes SR* requirement

an Alsea Falls 400k brevet report

*SR = super randonneur

I’m getting kinda known for my late starts at randonneuring events. (Lord knows I can ill afford them.) But for the Alsea Falls 400k, I was totally on track to arrive ½ hour early. Got some coffee in Newberg ‘round 5:00 AM, approached McMinnville about 5:30, went all the way through town (so I thought), but saw no Best Western, and nothing resembling the address “2035 S Highway 99W.” I made two more passes from the eastern edge of town to the western end of the one-way streets, the first time consulting a gal at McDonalds, and the second time a gal at Dutch Brothers. It never occurred to me, even when viewing Google Maps the night before, that there was anything to McMinnville beyond the one-way streets. But the gal at Dutch Brothers had an iPhone with a map function and let me know I hadn’t gone nearly far enough.

I finally got to the Best Western at 6:10 AM, and even though I had laid everything out and deliberately packed the night before, I discovered my pannier neglected to make the trip. Unplanned lateness plus a missing critical piece of equipment turned me into a less-that-fully-functioning basket case. I couldn’t even unbuckle my bike shoes! Michael and Philippe were patient, the latter loaning me some old leather toe straps to secure my improvised duffle bag to the rear rack. Michael called out my actual departure time as 6:33 when I left.

them thar hills
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
According to Michael, the first part of the ride (up to Bald Mountain) would be the hilly part, and the rest of the ride would be relatively flat. And while the first part of the statement was true, I think Michael defines “hilly” a little differently that some of the rest of us. The initial hilliness started about 10 or so miles into the ride on Meadow Lake Road, and continued to the first contrôle at Bald Mountain Lookout (manned by Philippe and Michael). From there, it was a fun descent towards Willamia.

The roads from Willamia to Sheridan and Ballston were familiar from other brevets, but Broadmead Rd. linking Ballston to Perrydale Rd. was new to me. Perrydale Rd. essentially runs into Dallas, where I stopped at Santaim Cycles for a tire pump, as mine was in the pannier that got left at home. Salesman Dan was quite intrigued with my Stumptown (he seemed to know the guy that designed it for Mountain Cycle), and with my generator light setup. I guess not too many randonneuring types frequent that establishment.

Falls City struck me as a town hard hit by the economy. Or maybe it was already hard hit before the downturn. I dunno. The ladies behind the counter let me know that the previous rider been through about ½ hour earlier. So I wasn’t gaining time on anyone.

What would a Philippe/Michael brevet be without a gravel section? Well, the one between Falls City and Kings Valley Road was fairly tame as gravel roads go … quite hard-packed. ‘Twasn’t necessary to deflate the tires.

Seemed like there was an inordinate amount of roadkill on this ride. Quite a few deer … running the gamut from freshly extinguished to thoroughly decayed skeletons. There were rodents, felines, and even a colorful bird that had met untimely roadside demises. Made me wonder if Polk Country has any sort of clean-up program for deceased roadside animals.

colorful schwinn
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
One of the prettiest roads of the day was the Alsea Highway. It’s funny how “pretty” and “steep” often go hand-in-hand on a ride like this. An unfortunate part of that 16-mile ascent was all the litter along the side of the road (quite noticeable at my slow uphill pace). The main culprits appeared to be consumers of Dutch Brothers Coffee and Corbett Canyon wines. (Corbett’s 1.5 liter bottles have a distinctive shape.) I got to thinking that this is probably a result of a large portion of society that says (from the top down) “it’s okay to do whatever, as long as you’re not caught.”

Shadows got real long riding from Alsea to Alsea Falls, and by the time I descended down to Monroe, it was totally dark. I couldn’t find West Ingram Island Road out of Monroe until after I rode up the down the main drag a few times and then got help from a Dari Mart employee. Then before Harrisburg I failed to see McMullen Lane, even after a local kid in a driveway told me “it’s right up there by the stop sign.” Never saw a stop sign till a mile or so further when I got to Highway 99E. Chalk up another bonus mile or two.

brownsville contrôle
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
It was good to see cheery Keith and Alex signing cards and offering refreshments in Brownsville (a town I’d never been to before). At that contrôle, I topped off my Coke-filled water bottle with more Coke, and my water-filled water bottle with more water. But it was the can of V-8 that was most refreshing there at 12:30 in the morning. And then it was time for the Kohans to finally close up shop and head back home to Salem.

I too was headed to Salem … via Jefferson … then some challenging hills along Parrish Gap Road (I actually ended up walking one of those hills) … then Turner. Lo and behold, guess who appeared in Turner? Marcello! Turns out he did this ride on significantly less sleep than my insufficient amount, and chose Turner (about 8 miles shy of Salem) as a napping place. We ended up riding the last 35 or so miles back into McMinnville together.

It got light shortly after leaving Salem. Again, there were more rollers through the Eola Hills (premium pinot noir country) as we foraged our way back to McMinnville. And then a funny thing happened as we were minutes from the end (according to our cue sheets and computers). We missed a turn! All of a sudden we found ourselves in downtown McMinnville asking directions to the Best Western. Add another 30 minutes to our times. It was déjà vu all over again. The Best Western and I were not on the same plane of consciousness this weekend. Might has well been on different planets!

Originally uploaded by tangobiker
But when Marcello and I finally got there, Philippe greeted us and checked us in. Marcello then elected to drive straight home, while I took a bath and a half hour nap before heading back to Portland (where a tango lesson, class, and practica awaited). My official time was 26:30, but my actual riding time was at least a couple hours less.

Thanks to Michael and Philippe for an excellent, challenging route. And also for putting up with such a basket case!

Photos are here on Flickr.