Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tigard-Albany-Tigard 225k Permanent #1217

Starting at the Sesame Donuts at Hall Blvd & Hwy 99 in Tigard (not the one in Raleigh Hills), this 140-miler does a counter-clockwise loop from Wilsonville to Salem and Independence (southbound) before checking in at Calapooia Brewing in Albany (or a nearby convenience store if you prefer), then returns mostly East of I-5 to Wilsonville, then Tigard. Elevation gain: 3058 feet.

The route sheet is here on Google docs. Email if you're interested in riding this for RUSA credit.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eugene to Beaverton 200k Permanent #1177

Starting at Full City Coffee Roasters in Downtown Eugene (or nearby Starbucks for a slightly earlier start), this 126-mile route stays mostly East of I-5 through the towns of Brownsville, Lebanon, Scio, Stayton, Woodburn and Tigard (including the Fanno Creek Trail) before its terminus at the Beaverton Town Square. The Beaverton Transit Center is less than a mile from the end for easy access to much of Greater Portland. Total elevation gain is 2277 feet.

The route sheet is here on Google docs. Email if you're interested in riding this for RUSA credit.

SW Portland to Eugene 200k - Permanent #1176

"Donuts to Total Domination" is the nickname for the 200km bike route ... from Sesame Donuts in the Raleigh Hills neighborhood of SW Portland ... to Ninkasi Brewing in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. The route passes through Tualatin, Wilsonville, Salem, Independence, & Harrisburg.

This route involves a minimal 1339 feet of climbing. The route sheet is here on Google docs. Email if you're interested in riding this for RUSA credit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oregon Coast 600k (2011)

Six hundred kilometers on a bicycle within 40 hours is a challenge, no two ways about it. Sure, there’s the opportunity to take a nap in the middle of the route. Sure, this course in question didn’t include three or four mountain summits over the Cascades. But nonetheless, 600k’s need to be taken seriously. Can’t fall out’a bed with minimal sleep on the front end and expect to finish. At least I can’t.

Last year I DNF’d the Oregon Coast 600k (my only DNF of the season). I went on later in the year to finish the Oregon Blue Mountains 1000k (barely), plus two other 600k’s (one in Washington, the other in California). But this year, I was determined to return and conquer this particular brevet.

I was a little bit at a disadvantage from having completed a 360k flèche the weekend before. More significantly, though, my knees weren’t being terribly cooperative from this season’s Three Capes 300k and Eden’s Gate 400k onward. As a result, my goal shifted from “setting a really good time,” to hoping for more than a minimal sleep at the overnight contrôle.

I had three houseguests (Theo, Asta, and Taylor) on the eve of this year’s 600k, all of whom pedaled to Forest Grove from my place in Beaverton (about a 17-mile journey) in the early AM hours of the start. Even though I don’t ride as fast as those three, I too rode to Forest Grove (a bit later on), but with a little help from Trimet’s line 57.

nehalem hwy by tangocyclist
nehalem hwy, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

The brevet started promptly at 6:00 AM from McMennamin’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, and soon traversed the entire length of the Banks-Vernonia Linear Park/Trail. After getting a quick ham and egg muffin at the Shell station in Vernonia, I rode mostly with a group that included Lesli Larson, Michal Young, Kevin Brightbill and Dan Jensen. I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry in Birkenfeld, so I continued 30 more miles to Olney before refueling. The above-mentioned quartet passed me during that last section. Nonetheless, I still managed to ride the first 100k’s in 4 ½-hour hours.

The second 100k (to Seaside…via Ft. Stevens) took an hour longer. Even though I was gravitating toward the back end of the riders, I was feeling relatively okay. But then there were coastal hills, in particular, a couple big ones between Cannon Beach and Manzanita. While I actually managed to pass a couple riders on one of them, the toll on my left knee would manifest though much of the remainder of the ride.

Steve Williamson (with his nice 650b Periera) and I ended up riding significant portions of the 600k together, including steep/messy/rainy/dark Slab Creek Rd (before Lincoln City) as well as much of the route between Siletz and Dayton on the second day. After Slab Creek Road, we arrived at the overnight contrôle in Lincoln City at about 2:30 AM, where I slept about half of a 2 ½-hour layover.

steve by tangocyclist
steve, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

I was passed the next morning by the speedy Del Scharffenberg in route to Siletz. Turns out he had an eight-hour layover in Lincoln City! (Del’s sister lives there.) When I conveyed that information to Joel Metz at the Logsden contrôle, he said something like “I hate Del. He’s too *** fast!”

Ed Groth and Joel overslept in Lincoln City, caught Steve and me in Logsden, then dropped us on the gravel road towards Blodgett. I was working really hard on this segment, knowing from last year that getting to Blodgett before closing would be essential to finishing this brevet. (That’s where I abandoned last year because of being way behind the clock.) This time I made it … by 25 minutes. Ed had already moved on; Joel was still there, right on schedule for his 38-hour completion goal. Steve and I enjoyed a slice of pizza while talking about some of the crazy weather we were experiencing.

I was under the misguided impression that things would be easier from Blodgett on out, and that the roads would all be more or less downhill. My knees knew otherwise, though, and became steadfastly displeased with the ascending halves of all the rollers between Kings Valley and the Eola Hills.

Organizer Susan Otcenas provided some impromptu and welcomed roadside encouragement along Hwy 223 before Dallas. Once in that town, I got a little turned around before finally finding the Safeway with the singularly friendly Starbucks inside. After downing a shot of espresso and getting one of my water bottles filled with Frappuccino, I dealt with the stiff side-winds and rollers of Perrydale Rd. Did I mention that my knees were not happy with rollers?

Bethel, Zena, Spring Vallley and Hopewell Roads through the Eola Hills wine region reminded me of Joshua Bryant’s flèche route of 2009. Oh yeah, he did design this route last year. Didn’t he? I particularly liked the “back door” approach to Dayton via Webfoot Road.

Steve Williamson and Will Goss were in Dayton when I arrived, and hoofed it outa’ there while I was fueling up. There were almost three hours left to ride the last 27 miles; under normal circumstances would be quite doable. But did I mention my knee?

With the help of a lot of ibuprofen, I actually rode pretty hard to Lafayette, and then again on familiar North Valley Road towards Forest Grove. Once at the finish at the Grand Lodge, Susan France offered me pizza and checked me in with a time of 39 hours and 35 minutes. While I was a little discouraged not to have made up any time on the second day, I was happy to have the last piece of PBP qualification out of the way.

Now I’ve got three months to get this knee thing figured out!

More pictures from the ride are here on Flickr.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Asta y la Vistas" conquer 2011 Flèche NW

Last year’s (2010) NW Flèche with Marcelo Napolitano, Ed Groth, and Theo Roffe was fun, so much so, in fact, that when it came time to decide whether or not to do the event this year, there was a lot of interest. However, the 2011 version was scheduled the weekend before Oregon’s PBP-qualifying 600k, which thwarted some enthusiasm (unless the route was gonna be really flat and not a kilometer over the minimum 360).

A bigger challenge, though, would be designing a route. On my previous two flèches, I more-or-less tagged along on teams that Joshua Bryant or Marcelo had put together. But this time ‘round, it appeared to be my turn at route construction. I happened to be in Seattle in February when Ralph Nussbaum conducted a pre-flèche informational meeting. But I really didn’t get the impetus to design a route until hearing about Ed’s and Theo’s train ride home from the Three Capes 300k brevet in late March, during which they laughed themselves silly coming up with team names.

The deadline to register and submit a route was April 1st. I talked with Ralph and managed to get a few days extension, then burned some midnight oil designing a route from Beaverton, OR to Olympia, WA. I thought it would be interesting to go inland (as we had gone to the coast doing the Astoria/Raymond thing last year). By inland, I was thinking east of I-5. Ed and Theo seemed to concur. So I put together a route that headed up into rugged hills northeast of Vancouver and Camas, WA, and then later wound through unmarked roads in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. (By unmarked, I mean the Google Maps showed their existence, but didn’t name them.)

Fortunately, I did two all-night reconnaissance drives that resulted in major route revisions. On the first, I found the roads in the rugged hills NE of Camas passable (before they descended to Yacolt), but they were gravelly and steep … probably not the best combination for riding at night towards Olympia. On the second drive (on which Ed accompanied me), we nearly got stuck on snow-banked fire, logging and 4WD roads northeast of Cougar, WA. Again, not good terrain for spending the nocturnal hours of a long bicycle ride together. Several miles and hours later, we figured out that roughly paralleling I-5 between Woodland and Castle Rock would be unavoidable.

In the meantime, our team had grown to a quintet with the addition of riders Asta Chastain and David Parsons. In fact, Asta became our namesake. We would be called “Asta y la Vistas.”

toutle, wa (2) by tangocyclist
toutle, wa (2), a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

The team met at my place in Beaverton on Friday afternoon (April 29th) in time for some homemade borscht, cookies (thank you Amy!), and a 5:00 PM departure. Ten miles later we were on the Springwater Corridor, another 15 and we were in East Vancouver, and at about sunset (58k into the ride) we arrived at the Fern Prairie Market on the outskirts of NE Camas.

Our next stop was at the Safeway in Battle Ground, WA, where we stocked up on enough supplies to weather a few hours of nocturnal riding. Yacolt was buttoned up by our midnight arrival time, so we took photos in front of the local barbershop to document our having been there.
yacolt proof by tangocyclist
yacolt proof, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

Between Yacolt and Woodland, though, we encountered a lot of taxing rollers that weren’t apparent on Google Maps.

After Woodland, there was the predictably steep Green Mountain Road, a portion of which I walked. Ed’s and my homework made our early AM passage through Kelso relatively efficient. Then about 6 miles later, we hit Headquarters Rd…four miles of relentless uphill…on which I began to falter, and worry about making it to Olympia on time. It was on this road that Ed ended up pushing me quite a bit, thus increasing my speed from 4-5 mph to closer to 8. We were quite the two-barreled huffing-puffing machine. I was simultaneously humbled, and impressed by Ed’s gallant show of team-man-ship.

It was light by this time, but the five of us broke up a bit on the descent towards Toutle. After reconvening at that contrôle, we continued to the small town of Ethel, then headed northwest to Chehalis and the back roads of Centralia. After a stretching/food stop in Bucoda, we hit the Tenino-Yelm Rails-to-Trails bike path, upon which we were greeted by Carol Nussbaum and Amy Pieper, the roving secret contrôle operators.
secret controllers by tangocyclist
secret controllers, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

We arrived at the 22-hour contrôle in Yelm with a luxurious 45 minutes to kill, which got promptly eaten up by the most inefficient excuse for a restaurant I have ever encountered. But at 3:10 PM, we were back on the road again, with what we thought was plenty of time for our arrival in Olympia.

Unfortunately, our Google-Maps-influenced route took us on many segments of a “Woodland Trail” in and around Lacey. We took just enough wrong turns and were confused enough to make our arrival at the Red Lion Inn really tight! The take away from the last two hours: “Know your end game.” (or pre-ride that section).

After a difficult final ascent to the hotel from Olympia proper, we were greeted by Robin Pieper, quite a few other randonneurs, and plenty of beer!
finished (2) by tangocyclist
finished (2), a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

David then immediately headed to the train station (for a same-day return to Portland), while Ed, Theo, Asta and I checked in to the hotel, ordered pizza, took our showers, and promptly fell asleep.

Brunch was served to the eleven teams the next morning. We saw maps of everyone’s route, listened to everyone’s stories, and were grateful that our route didn’t encounter a disorderly car rally on remote rural gravel roads. We ended up getting a couple awards, including “Lowball” (shortest distance closest to 360k), 2nd place “Drunkard” (most circuitous), 2nd “Youngest” (average age), and 2nd “Largest Spread” (I’m 31 years older than Asta). We also managed to compress the 3rd most elevation gain in our Lowball distance.

The four of us rode about 9 miles to the Olympia/Lacey Amtrak station after brunch on Sunday, and reminisced on the excellent event on the train ride home.

‘Twas lot of work to put the route together; a lot of work to ride those hills; and a lot of work for the Nussbaums to organize. But it was worth it. Excellent camaraderie, not only within our team, but with the other participants as well.

My photos of the flèche are here on Flickr.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eden's Gate 400k (2011 version)

400k isn’t really my distance (on a bicycle) … at least not at this time. While I have never DNF’d that distance, I have been the last finisher or co-finisher on all five 400k’s ridden prior to last Saturday (April 16). It’s a weird distance that feels disproportionally longer than 300k. On the longer 600k distance, there’s usually a rest/sleep stop near the middle. But the 400k generally goes straight through. Tough on those who haven’t gotten full night’s sleep beforehand.

On my previous encounter with the Eden’s Gate 400k (in May of last year), I simultaneously PR’d and co-lanterne-rouged. This year, though, I did neither, even though my finish time was very close to the time of my very first 400k ever, the “Covered Bridges’ back in May 2007.

Here’s my 400k history:

~ May 2007, Covered Bridges 400k, 24 hr, 50 min
~ May 2008, Three Passes 400k (SIR), 26 hr, 52 min
~ August 2009, Alsea Falls 400k (ORR), 26 hr, 30 min
~ May 2010, Eden’s Gate 400k (ORR), 23 hr, 28 min
~ October 2010, Columbia River Run 400k (SIR), 23 hr, 59 min
~ May 2011, Eden’s Gate 400k (ORR), 24 hr, 45 min

I could tell at the outset of this year’s Eden’s Gate 400k that I wasn’t setting any land speed records. My thighs and knees were sore at the very beginning. My 100k splits neared the 6-hour range. (I have managed two 200k’s and one 300k with 5-hour 100k splits, but they’re rare.) And it rained ALL afternoon.

About 40 riders started out from Wilsonville well before sunrise (a number having come down from Seattle). Within one hour I came across a bunch of them standing at Meridian and Whiskey Hill Roads (East of Hubbard). In their midst was Jennifer Chang (a consistently cheerful randonneur from Seattle), who had been hit by a car. Fortunately, she was talking coherently, and her limbs moving. Seeing how she was getting plenty of care and attention, I eventually moved on, to the accompaniment of distant sirens. The incident, though, provoked a sort of melancholy pause for much of the ride. So I was glad to learn later she’ll be fine … badly bruised … but okay … as her helmet and bike took most of the brunt.

david by tangocyclist
david, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

Early in the ride, my rear fender started rattling. (It had been quiet during the previous two brevets.) When I got to Sublimity, though (by which time the rattling had gotten really loud), I discovered the fender had broken in two, severed right behind the upper mounting bolt. I purchased some shoestring and duct tape from the local convenience store, and did what I could to mitigate the noise coming from the rear half. It kinda worked for most of the rest of the ride (till about the last 40 miles, from Salem on).

I rode mostly solo from Stayton to Scio, surviving the steep rollers of Cole School Road and passing through the Schimanek Covered Bridge. Once in Scio, I opted for the local coffee shop, where the “barrista” hadn’t heard of an espresso macchiato per se. (Silly me, did I think this was Portland? Or Italy?)

For much of the rest of the ride, I saw quite a bit of Joel Metz, Lesli Larson, Sarah Tripodi, David Parsons, and Kevin Brightbill, plus some of Lynne Fitzsimmons and Michal Young. Typically, they would all arrive at each covered bridge or contrôle ahead of me, at which point I would catch up. This happened in Sweet Home, Mohawk Post, Harrisburg, and then again later on (with Joel, Leslie, Sarah, and David) in Independence and Salem.

hoffman covered bridge by tangocyclist
hoffman covered bridge, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

At the very wet Mohawk Post contrôle (about half way into the ride), Jeffrey Arrasmith and Holden Hughart arrived just as I was leaving. I had spotted the afore-mentioned septet (J, L, S, D, K, L & M) about 20 minutes, and found them 24 miles later in Harrisburg. One bag of corn chips later, we all (except for Kevin) headed out on very smooth Peoria Road (the smoothness placating my patched rear fender). This was the segment on which I felt strongest. Lynne and Michal eventually dropped off, while the remaining five of us continued through Albany to a shopping center off of Springhill Road. The shopping center was all buttoned up for the night, so we just ate from our stashes at an outside table.

After pulling ahead, Joel, Lesli, David and Sarah were leaving Independence as I checked in at a local ATM. Eleven miles later, I caught up with them on the outskirts of Salem, then once again they took off ahead. Fourteen miles after Salem, the four of them missed the right turn onto Keene Rd. After making their correction, they passed me somewhere around Arbor Grove or Butteville Roads. By this time, I had more-or-less run out of gas. Plus my rear fender had gotten annoyingly noisy again.

At 5:45 AM (24 ¾ hours after the start) I arrived at the finish in Wilsonville, where Susan France and Amy greeted me in the hotel lobby. Amy drove me home afterwards, noting later that I fell asleep about three times while trying to text my status update to Facebook.

Aside from the fender issue, the Ahearne itself worked fine. The wider and more upright bars seem to help upper body tension issues (particularly after 300k).

And now the 600k, coming up on May 7th. Why did I sign up for the Flèche Northwest between then and now?

(Pictures here on Flickr)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Three Capes 300k

My 5th annual ride of the 3 Capes 300k occurred on the 26th of March. Even though I have finished all five of ‘em, each attempt has produced a much different result:

 2007: 16 hours, 41 minutes
 2008: 19 hours, 5 minutes
 2009: 17 hours, 55 minutes
 2010: 14 hours, 53 minutes
 2011: 15 hours, 50 minutes

This year’s 2011 edition started familiarly enough … Westbound in pre-dawn Forest Grove. I stayed up with some faster riders (a number of them from Seattle) out to Stringtown Rd, but once again fell off their pace up Gales Creek Rd. I was passed by a few more riders going up to Timber Road, but didn’t dawdle at the turnaround contrôle. Ascending up the Wilson River Hwy took longer that I anticipated. And then I struggled on the long descent to Tillamook. Last year I was able to catch John Kramer’s and Mike Richeson’s wheels during that segment, but this year I couldn’t keep up with anyone, and was in fact passed by about a half dozen riders.

Once in Tillamook, I made relatively quick work of the contrôle at the Shell station (less time-consuming than Safeway), opting to eat a micro-waved burrito on the run rather than waiting in the store for it to cool.

clara at the coast by tangocyclist
clara at the coast, a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

I heard it was rainy in Portland that day. The Oregon coast, however, was only intermittently drizzly, and actually quite pleasant. It was my Ahearne’s first trip to the Pacific Ocean, and she did quite well.

‘Round Netarts I rode some with PPB veteran Joel Metz, then closer to Pacific City I was joined by Lesli, Sarah, and John Henry. They eventually pulled ahead, and by the time I arrived at the Stimulus Espresso Shop, a long time-sucking line had formed between them and me. I forged ahead (falling down in the sand on Pacific City’s main drag), and once again did the quicker Shell Mini-mart contrôle thing.

On Little Nestuca River Road, I enjoyed the company of Seattle Randonneur Noel Howes (riding a pretty 650b Belinky), then forged on ahead to Sheridan before stopping for fuel (which included some Muscle Milk … closest thing there to Ensure). Stopped to take a picture at the Ballston contrôle of three faster riders (John Henry, Tim and Bruce) who had a real good paceline going. Then my last stop (before the finish) was at my favorite porta-potty in Dayton, where I added a layer of clothing and reflective gear.

Again, last year I was able to catch a wheel (of a nice SIR rider) almost all the way from Sheridan to Forest Grove. But this year, it was all solo. Soreness in my left knee kept me from pushing very hard. But I did keep pedaling, and managed to finish well under 16 hours. Only about one hour of that time was off the bike.

My photos from the ride are here on Flickr.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Birkie 200k Report (2011 Edition)

The Oregon Randonneurs regularly put on the “Birkie 200k” near the beginning of each season. The organizer(s) change(s) from year to year, the refreshments at the first contrôle in Vernonia vary a bit, and the weather is inconsistent at best. But the route always stays the same: Forest Grove – Vernonia – Birkenfeld (via a detour to Keasey Rd) – Vernonia – Forest Grove. This year’s version was my 5th Birkie. Last year I pre-rode and organized. This year (on March 12th) RBA Susan France did all the hosting duties.

There seemed to be a little more “energy” this time ‘round, perhaps because it’s a PBP year, with a corresponding number of riders you might not see otherwise. But what made this ride special for me was that my coach decided to come along. Mr. Brian Abers is not a randonneur. In fact, his email address has the word “kilomonster” in it, with no reference to multiple k’s or anything of the sort. His main bases of operation are the gym and the velodrome. Nonetheless, he was determined to get a firmer grasp on the nuances of long-distance cycling. Thus, he signed up, joined RUSA, and rode 200k with me.

The weather this year was a bit on the wet side … not oppressively so … but wet enough that Brian was wringing out his gloves after the first 36 miles to Vernonia. I was wearing a pair of SmartWool liners underneath mine, so that while my hands were wet, they were still warm enough, and I could still reinsert my fingers into the gloves as needed. In addition, I happened to bring a backup pair just in case the first pair got unmanageably wet. I gave those gloves to Brian for the remainder of the ride. Evidently, they did the trick.

cruisin' by tangocyclist
Abers cruisin' a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

I was able to give Brian a running commentary about various riders and bikes along the way. “Oh, there’s Ed. He rode out to the start from St. Johns; last year he rode his cargo bike out here and served everyone fresh French press coffee in ceramic mugs.” Or “There’s Joshua. He built that nice traditional-looking bike with 650b wheels.” After Vernonia, we rode with PBP veteran Joel Metz for a while, listening to his 2003 PBP hallucination stories about being chased by dinosaurs. And a few miles out from Birkenfeld, “Oh, that must be Ken Bonner. He came down from Vancouver, Canada. He’s really fast.” (Of course, Brian’s really fast, too, but on a very different playing field.)

After a couple small purchases at the Birkenfeld General Store, Brian and I headed back along the river-hugging Nehalem Hwy towards Vernonia. As we approached the town, we agreed stopping at the Black Bear Café would be prudent. Inside, Joshua B., Michael J, and a few others were seated down for a proper lunch. After a couple futile attempts at using Brian’s and Joshua’s phones (I had left mine, complete with un-memorized phone numbers and email addresses, at the start in Forest Grove) and two cups of cappuccino, we were on the road again. The temperature in Vernonia at this time was 46 degrees, only 6 degrees warmer than four hours earlier.

Brian and I tagged along with Joshua’s and Michael’s group for a while on Timber Road. This was probably the most pleasant part of the ride, particularly when the sun finally came out. The group gave some nice protection from the wind, and also offered some nice eye candy (in particular, Jeff Moore’s new Ira Ryan). It seems as though more and more randonneurs are investing in beautiful purpose-built bikes.

A Rare Dry Moment by franco650b
A Rare Dry Moment a photo by franco650b on Flickr (used with permission)

At some point on Timber Road, Joshua and his group momentarily pulled over while Brian and I forged ahead. We caught up with Mike Richeson of West Seattle, with whom we hop-scotched the rest of the way back to Forest Grove. Brian was quicker up the hills around Timber than me, or more accurately, he was physically unable to ascend as slowly as me. But aside from the hills and a few pulls, Brian was basically on my wheel the whole 200k. (He’s really good at that.)

We made relatively quick work of the Glenwood contrôle on Hwy 6 (as did Joshua’s and Michael’s group a few minutes later). Then it was Gales Creek Rd back to Forest Grove. Brian and I shared pulls for the last dozen miles, with Mike R. in our wake. According to Brian, I really pushed hard for the last 3 or 4 miles. Guess I could smell McMenamins Grande Lodge, and on some level, knew exactly how much energy there was to expend. Brian would say later that I was spinning fine, but that he had to resort to mashing a bigger gear in order to maintain speed on that last leg.

Cards signed, ride done (in 9 hours, 50 minutes), bikes put away, it was time for beer, food, and an assessment. In the McMenamins bar, Brian shared some good observations, notably with regard to my shifting, the way I approach hills, and my tendency to periodically surge.

As it turns out, this was my fastest 200k, and only my second one under 10 hours. (Actually, I did a 213k out of Olympia, WA last July in 9 hours, 54 minutes. So that one’s average speed was slightly higher.) If Brian hadn’t come along though, I’m sure my time on this Birkie 200k would have been significantly more.

And the reason for this madness? I wanna finish PBP! Preferably with some sleep! And also without the hallucinations of last June’s OBM1000k.

More pictures here on Flickr
Lynne's report
Lesli's pictures
John Henry's report
Tom Quinones's report

Saturday, March 12, 2011

lanterne rouge in the dirt

I first heard about the Dalles Mountain 60-miler (which happened on March 5th) from Ed Groth, who was organizing carpools and sleepovers for this fire-road-populated cycling event about 90 miles East of Portland. But if I was gonna do it, it would be spontaneously. After all, with hernia repair recovery going slower than anticipated, and a “Bike Tattoo Day” (put on by my cycling team) supposedly happening the same day, my options were staying open.

Well, “Bike Tattoo Day” got cancelled, and the hernia irritations were being mitigated by ibuprofen. So I managed to get my ‘cross bike somewhat prepped and out to The Dalles in time for the 9:00 start. The only thing I neglected was swapping the 32mm slicks for some cyclocross tires.

announcements by tangocyclist
announcements a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

The Dalles Mountain 60 was put on by VeloDirt, apparently a loosely organized trio of Portlanders who like to ride their bicycles on dirt roads throughout the rural Northwest. What I mean by loosely is that there was no sign-in sheet and no registration at the local coffee shop in The Dalles from whence the ride started. However, there was a riders’ meeting to describe various aspects of the route, and there was a stack of cue sheets pre-stuffed into plastic baggies!

In addition to Ed, some other people I knew at the start were his friend Steph (who didn’t ride this event), Theo (a randonneuring fleche teammate last year along with Ed), Rob A. (another friend of Ed’s who I’ve rando-ed with), and Nathan (the trainer with Brian’s House of Pain, where I work out). ‘Twas looking like quite a diverse group of riders, most of whom I didn't know.

After crossing the Columbia and heading East on Washington State Hwy 14, the route turned up Dalles Mountain Road, which was the first big gravel road climb of the day. I had fallen behind most of the riders a few miles up when my rear tire flatted. Local Portland bike builder Rob Tsunehiro and a friend stopped to make sure I was okay. Sure wish I’d taken a picture of his bicycle with a really nice front rack and headlight mount. Farther up the rode, a rider on a Salsa ‘cross bike had broken his rear derailleur, and was fixin’ to coast/limp back to The Dalles.

rob by tangocyclist
rob tsunehiro a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

If I was slower than the others uphill, I was much slower on the rutty, muddy downhills. I’m sure those wide-ish slicks didn’t help. Ed later noted that the while the roadies had a speed advantage going uphill (cuz of lighter weight), the mounting bikers could descend considerably faster. Meanwhile, my descents on the muddy roads were super cautious and hardly any faster than my ascents.

Things flattened out on the back side of the mountain, and after a combination of some more gravel and pavement, I turned onto Hwy 97. A few riders (including Rob T.) were doing a return chug back up Mary Hill Loop Road, having found the road closed further down because of an un-forecasted car event. I joined these riders on the descent down Hwy 97 to the Shell station near Hwy 14. At this refueling break, I bought batteries for my camera and was able to take my first pictures since the start in The Dalles.

In anticipation to the possibility that Mary Hill Loop might be closed, there were alternate directions from Hwy 97 on the cue sheet that directed riders East out to Stonehenge Dr. But none of the riders that I left with from the Shell station went that way. Instead, they flew down Gore Rd. for a shorter trip to the bridge crossing into Biggs.

I, on the other hand, visited Washington’s version of Stonehenge for the first time. It’s a miniature version of prehistoric monument found in England, and built as a memorial to World War I casualties. The road from there is also a nice descent to Maryhill, then Biggs Junction.

end of old moody rd by tangocyclist
end of old moody rd a photo by tangocyclist on Flickr.

The next gravely ascent was up Old Moody Rd, which starts where the Deschutes River runs into the Columbia. There were sections where I was barely able to keep pedaling. But pedal I did, until able to coast down to Fifteen Mile Rd. From there, it was mostly rural pavement all the way back to The Dalles.

At 4:00 PM I arrived at the coffee shop from where the ride started. There were no other cyclists, nor cyclists’ cars, nor evidence of any cyclists having been there … except for one passerby who asked me, “Was there some bicycling event going on here earlier today?”

On the drive home, I stopped half way in Stevenson, WA at the Walking Man Brewing, where I was serenaded by bagpipers during a well-lubricated dinner.

More photos are here on Flickr.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grab Bag 200k, + Ahearne Update

The first weekend in February would be my first attempt at a 200k since the hernia repair surgery 9 ½ weeks earlier. It would also be Clara’s (the Ahearne's) first brevet.

I joined probably three dozen other cyclists in the pre-dawn hours of February 5th in Newberg. Some of them would ride 300k (on 3 different loops starting and ending at the local Travelodge). But most of us were content to ride “only” 200k.

The route started out in a northwest direction. I managed to stay up with some fairly fast company for about 10 miles (till around Patricia Green Cellars on North Valley Road), but then faded to a more customary pace the rest of the way to Forest Grove. I missed one turn in FG (didn’t recognize Main St at the

Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
appropriate time), and ended up riding a bonus mile or two. But it was still early enough for Maggie’s Buns not to be too busy. Considering all the food I packed (the Acorn Rando Bag has more capacity than what I’m used to), I bought only an Odwalla smoothie, mixing most of it with the orange juice/Emergen-C in one of my water bottles.

Rode much of the next section to Sherwood with Lonnie Wolff (from Utah, with family in Oregon), and listened to some of his PBP stories. At one point, my front wheel started to wobble, and I discovered the skewer had come loose. Lonnie forged ahead while I investigated a few new noises on my bike.

Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
Once in "downtown" Sherwood, I was happy to find a new Sesame Donuts. Evidently, they’ve expanded their family business from Raleigh Hills to Tigard and Sherwood. (They still do all their baking in Raleigh Hills.) I was particularly delighted when the guy behind the counter made an authentic Italian espresso macchiato. This made for a rather extended break in the ride, as there were also riders to talk with, and pictures to take.

The hilly rural roads between Sherwood and Newberg were new to me. And steep. The lower gears of the bike seemed to help, though, as I actually passed a couple riders heading up Kruger and Chapman Roads. After stopping for another photo session at the cemetery at the top, I headed back to Newberg and tried to make relatively quick work of the half-way contrôle.

Back out on the route, I rode quite a bit again with Lonnie Wolff. Turns out we have common interests in motorbikes as well as pedal-bikes. We chatted for most of the way to Gun Club Road (past Lafayette) until my fender started rattling so much that I got off the bike in order to inspect things. Couldn’t find anything, but boy did coarser pavement make things noisy. It was about this time that I also discovered the wire from the front generator hub had severed. Not good! This meant I would have to hustle for the rest of the route in order to get back to Newberg before dark.

This part of the ride in the countryside around McMinnville was new to me. I saw signs for quite a few unfamiliar wineries. [Note to self: Must return here with pinot-friend Barbara.]

greg & taylor
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
There was another contrôle at Muddy Valley Road, where I was caught by late starter but speedy Greg Olson. We rode to Sheridan together, got our cards signed at the local Dairy Queen, then started back towards Newberg. Once on Bellevue-Hopewell Hwy, Greg offered to stay with me so I could see once it got dark. But by now it looked as though I would make it back by dusk. And if I didn’t, I could just wait for someone with lights. I bade Greg farewell, and he sped away on the remainder of his 300k ride.

Worked pretty hard through the debris-strewn shoulder of Highway 99, made it through Dundee, and then finally reached Newberg (still able to see…barely).

Marcello and Kathy had tasty lasagna, hot soup, and cold sodas waiting at the finish. Very nice indeed. But what I was really craving was … a beer. A nice craft brew. For the last half hour of so. Nonetheless, I partook of Kathy’s excellent food, then considered stopping at Max’s Fanno Creek Brewpub in Tigard on the way home. But by the time I passed through there my craving had abated, so I ended up driving the additional 10 minutes straight home.

I dropped off Clara with the mechanic the next day. When he finally had a chance to look at her, he commented “you pretty much shook loose all of the fender and rack fasteners, I’m now concerned about the type of blue loc-tite I’ve been using…you are riding the hell out of your bike!... you shook it up real good…Also, how many miles have you logged on your bike so far?”

The answer: 423.

A few more pictures from the ride are here on Flickr.

Monday, January 31, 2011


first day
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
On December 9th (2010), I took delivery on a new handmade bicycle, one made by Joseph Ahearne here in Portland. I had been on a wait list for a couple of years. It could have been longer, except that I wanted it by the beginning of 2011 in order to prepare for Paris-Brest-Paris (which happens in August). Joseph was interested enough in having one of his bikes in PBP that he agreed.

Joseph actually started the build in September, after I was fitted by the well-known Michael Sylvester. Joseph didn’t cut the tubes until Michael sent him dimensions. This bike was to be built for comfort, made entirely of steel, with randonneuring in mind. I wanted the bike to be durable and stable (not twitchy), carry a front bag, but also be as light and fast as all those other long-distance considerations would allow.

The bike acquired a name (and gender, I suppose) during the build. I chose the name “Clara,” after pianist Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann, and friend of Johannes Brahms. Clara Schumann, besides basically being the breadwinner of her family (though her concertizing), also mothered eight children. She also championed Robert’s music after he passed away, which probably contributed to his eventual and long term fame.

Ironically, my relatively spontaneous hernia repair surgery was scheduled during the month Clara was finished. That made the actual delivery (nine days after surgery) oddly surreal, anticlimactic, and ultimately frustrating. Recovery took longer than I was hoping, so that while the bike was pleasant to look at, I was only able to ride it about 24 miles during the first month.

video drop-off
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
After a follow-up fitting with Michael Sylvester, I returned the bike for a new shorter handlebar stem. (Evidently, the Campy levers pushed my hand position out farther than calculated.) My first “real” ride on the bike was 25 days after initial delivery, when I rode from Joseph’s shop in close-in North Portland out to Movie Madness (on SE Belmont…returning a holiday video), then all the way back home.

Clara is my first bike with Campagnolo shifters. So while they feel great, they still take getting used to. But I love the little thumb levers for shifting to smaller gears, plus the absence of cables sticking out perpendicularly from the shifters.

I anticipate that Clara will take some growing into. I trust she’ll be comfortable in the long term (as I’m not particularly confident of my body’s ability to know that based on here-and-now comfort).

I rode Clara about 280 miles in January, the most significant day being a 58-miler, part of which included a 47-minute time trial ‘round Sauvie Island. (Yes, I removed the Acorn front bag for that part.) I’m still not up-to-speed after so much time away from cycling. But hopefully that will change.

My Ahearne photo set is here on Flickr.
Joseph's pictures of the bike are here on Flickr