Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Banks - Elsie 200k

With finals almost over, my first board exam out of the way and my 100k completed two days earlier it was time to do my 200k for the month.  I would have preferred to wait a few more days to do my 200k but I have lots of travel setup for spring break and would probably not complete a 200k by months end.  My choice for this month was a 128(ish) mile adventure leaving out of Banks Oregon through Vernonia past Birkenfeld with a turn around near Elsie Oregon.  A route that should be mostly flat...with a weather report for clear to cloudy skies I felt this ride was going to be perfect for this introvert to recharge and regroup after a long term of school.

Sunrise on the trail
I arrived at the start point at just after 07:00, used the restroom and got ready to head out.  The temperature was a balmy 36 degrees with no wind and a tiny sliver of sun peaking through the clouds in the east.  Stopping at the ATM to get my official start receipt I was on my way, assuming the cold morning air would give way to warmer temps I rode with fewer layers than I usually do, but was prepared with rain gear and an extra shirt just in case the Oregon weather folks screwed up my "day of nice weather".

Facing Northwest on the trail 
Meeting up with the Banks Vernonia trail I headed northwest towards Vernonia enjoying the quite morning.   Once getting into the actual forest I was surprised to feel moisture accumulating on my face, legs, glasses and jacket, must be the morning dew...Plodding up the 2% grade towards Vernonia the air stayed cool and the moisture increased, knowing that the weather reports are always accurate I stayed the course and rode to Vernonia, feeling a little chilled and fairly damp when I finally arrived there for the first control.  The first control, which I have used on one other ride, is actually a hidden gem of stops.  You are probably holding your breath wondering "well what is it?" Subway, yes Subway why?  Because only in Vernonia do they not charge you for the coffee, Seattle's Best Coffee to be exact.  Yes folks Small Town USA is alive and kicking right here in your own backyard, if your out riding stop in and get a couple of cookies and some coffee (the cookies are fresh in the morning).

Gearing up in my rain jacket because I was finally feeling the chill of the morning and the dampness was not helping my body warm up I headed on to Bridge Street to finally get the the meat of the ride, Highway 47/202.  Having rode this part of the route in February I was well versed in my water stop/restroom break area (Big Eddy County Park), which, like last time also served as my put on the rest of your rain gear because the weather folks screwed the pooch on their prediction again spot.  Well the first part of my hope for this ride had fallen apart, dry weather ... poof gone, let the Oregon rain begin.  Ironically this county park is about 10ish miles outside of what should be Oregon's nickname city Mist, Oregon.  Well played weather gods, well played.

Sore Donkey chilling in Birkenfeld
All bundled up in my rain gear and spinning towards my next stop, Birkenfeld, I was treated to on and off rain, suffocating mist and rogue wind blasts from the north and south, all in all not too bad.  Spinning along the Nehalem River enjoying the somewhat quite road, except the bazillion log trucks that were blowing past me in both directions showering me with road grit and grime.  I rolled into Birkenfeld to discover the general store, my second control, was closed until Thursday.  Eating one of my many sandwiches I rested and got ready to head back out, with the hope that the current sun and cloudless skies would hold out long enough for me to dry out a bit.

Somewhere on HWY 103
Moving on from Birkenfeld I was treated to about 2 miles of clear skies and no wind, but around every turn something has to change, for me it was the weather.  As I came around one of the many curves on this route I rudely interrupted a downpour that was in progress, deciding not to wait for this one to end I stopped and suited up again.  Enjoying the raindrops on my head I continued on to what would be my 4th turn on this route (if I counted correctly there was 7 total turns each direction) on to highway 103.  This particular section of road takes you through a gem of a town, small and quaint, Jewell Oregon.  Observing the school zone speed limit (small towns can be unpleasant for cyclists) I plodded through the town and back out to the wet but refreshing rural country.

General Store near Elsie
Still dealing with the log trucks about every 15 minutes, which I do have to say they gave me more space than the other traffic and never honked, Jake braked or gave me the finger, I cruised the last few miles, through some rural township, and up a fairly punchy climb to get to the turn around control stop.  The stop was much nicer than I expected, seated directly on highway 26 with not much else around is a newly remodeled general store that among flush toilets has a bakery, deli, hardware section and just about everything you ask for in the middle of nowhere.  Refueling with some coffee and potato chips (and another sandwich) I hung my rain gear on the chairs to dry and switched to a dry shirt (so glad I am mister over prepared).  Dry shirt you ask, but you had rain gear.  Rain gear keeps the water out, but also only selectively lets about 1/10th of your sweat out thus equaling a wet shirt, eVent fabric is nice, but "breathable" still has a long way to go.

Feeling good that there was no rain while I was stopped I neglected to put the rain pants back on in hopes that the weather gods would provide me with less rain and more sun.  Not to say that I was wrong, but I did have to put my rain pants back on 4 miles into the return ride.  Since this is an out and back route I got to encounter all the same features that I did the first time through, only this time there was more traffic.  Spinning back through Jewell and turning back on to HWY 202 I headed back to my next stop, the same closed general store in Birkenfeld.  Again taking a short break there to strip the rain pants off, I know I really should have learned by now, I was back on the road...and shortly back in the rain.

Rolling into Vernonia I swung into Subway again to get a bite to eat and hopefully warm up a little bit.  I was successful at both, although the sandwich I ordered was really not that great (mostly due to the fact that I ordered gluten free bread, which should just be called crumbly breadlike option for suckers). I packed up and headed back on to the trail to blast back to Banks and finish this ride.  Oh, and yes I removed my rain pants while in Vernonia, and this time was successful in riding rain free for the last 20 miles!

The trail home was really nice, there was sun breaking through the trees, I was cruising at a moderate pace of 18+mph and just enjoying the last remnants of my ride.  I also had the pleasure of riding with a roadie all kitted out and amazed that 1. I had ridden 120 miles at that point, 2. was on a single speed bike keeping pace with him and 3. still smiling.  I typically smile when I ride, because there isn't much of a point to riding if your not having a good time...
The rest of the ride into banks was quick, its easy when its all down hill!  Pulled into the credit union to get my ATM slip and close out my ride at 18:08 just under 11 hours, and in daylight the whole time.  Even with the poor weather it was a great ride, everyone who gets to ride it on Saturday March 30th will enjoy it!  Until the next adventure...
Still Smiling at 120 miles 

Rickey's Populaire 100k

Saturday, March 16th, was the first series ride with the Oregon Randonneuring crew for 2013, a nice mostly flat 100k that wandered through Washington County.  Knowing that my days were limited on when I could ride for my 100 and 200k's this month my brother (Eric) and I pre-registered and showed up at the Cornelius Road House pub at 08:40 for the 09:00 start.  With 55 cycling companions ready to tackle the ride we waited for the start in the parking lot, realizing that we appeared to be the only ones on single speed (ss) bikes, we hoped that our decision was going to work out for us.

At 09:00 40+ cyclist bolted out of the parking lot and onto the route, Eric and I hung back a bit to let the masses move forward and give ourselves a little more space on the road.  Spinning down to the first rural road we passed, and were passed, by several other riders who had the same idea as us, letting the masses trudge forward.  Riding this route was a bit like riding every route that I have done so far, it included parts of every ride I have done over the one and a half years randonneuring and a few parts that were new to me.  Our ride was going stellar until the curse of the Wittinger bladder kicked in, which is a common issue that I often don't write about, where either Eric or I, or both, have to take a bio break.  Holding out for 13 miles was almost a record for both of us, but alas we had to find a cozy patch of blackberries to water.  Moving on from the bio break we wandered toward Banks along the same roads that always take us to Banks.  Rolling through Banks we turned left onto Cedar Canyon road which takes us out towards highway 6 and our first large hill of the day.

Before turning onto HWY 6 we changed our layers in anticipation of the downhill that will freeze us if we don't prepare ahead of time.  This stop also allowed about 6 cyclists to pass us...When we turned onto the highway we were greeted with a fairly nice shoulder and the view of a long slog ahead, with many other cyclists already attacking the hill.  On we go, with a single gear, and ultimately a mechanical advantage, we passed cyclist after cyclist greeting and encouraging each one along the way.  After passing the 6 cyclists who passed us and then a few more we hit the descent which hit back with some rain, boo.  Getting to the bottom of the hill we made our turn for the first info control, this little stop allowed everyone to catch up and for us to eat a little snack.

Riding on from the control we were treated to on and off again rain, a couple of narrow shoulders and a little traffic.  Plodding along we caught up with Ray and I got to chat about my upcoming 200k that was one of his routes, getting the subtle details of that route and having a good chat it was time to catch back up with Eric and hit the next control.  A easy turn onto a very rural road, which reminded me of much of the eastern United States I had ridden through in 2010, we came to the control.  Reading ahead we saw there was one more info control until we came to the actual signature required control.  Heading on we encountered the second large hill, which was much harder than the first with lots of twists and turns but zero traffic.

After a lovely descent through beautiful farmland we rode on to the last info control, a grocery in the middle of nowhere. Quickly moving on we rode the next few miles along quite country roads to our signature control, where we met up with most of the cyclists who had left ahead of us.
Eric and the line o' bikes
At the store we were able to get some essential items for the ride back to the start, Necco Wafers being the most essential of all the items.  Eating the sandwiches that we had packed and some chips and drinks we saddled back up and headed back out to complete the loop.

Sore Donkey made an appearance!

Riding down familiar territory we enjoyed a lovely tailwind that helped push us through the Forest Grove area and back out into the rural areas of Washington County.  The country roads were soon coming to an end however, as we approached Glenco Road and eventually Evergreen Parkway for our straight shot back to the Road House.  Where we were logged in for a 62(ish) mile ride at 4:44 minutes, not too shabby for single speed riders.

Overall the ride was great, the roads were fairly quiet and had excellent surfaces, the controls were easy to complete and the general attitude of the day was "enjoy the ride".  We were not on a mission to finish as quickly as possible, or to pass as many people as we could, we simply were out to ride, enjoy the company and conversations with others and ourselves.  Mission accomplished!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cutting it Close...Again

It's taken me a few weeks to get the most recent ride report posted, its been a busy couple of weeks which kind of eased up last Saturday when I passed my first National Board exam for Acupuncture (only 2 more to go).  The last 100k snuck up on me and I almost missed riding it, thanks to studying, a shorter month and just general business.  I did however complete the ride a sort of repeat of what I did on the 200k earlier just much shorter and quicker.

I chose Ray's Banks-Vernonia 100k for several reasons: 1. I have ridden it before and would not need a cue sheet 2. Ray responded quickly and got me the info I needed even on short notice (thanks Ray!) 3. It should be a quick easy ride mostly on paved trail with little to no traffic on the roads I would be on.  All three made for an awesome ride.  There is something to be said about not having to use a cue sheet, it feels so much more like a spontaneous ride than an event you scheduled.

Starting at the McDonald's in North Plains at 07:27, I had a light misty drizzle that forced me to wear my rain gear to start, I head out through the old part of North Plains that I have become so familial with over the last 2 months.  Heading through the back roads and over to my first info control at the church in this small village on Roy road (I can't remember the name of the village but its small, real small). From here it was a nice little plod to Banks and my favorite ATM at the credit union on the main street for my next control.  Which I almost missed because I was slow to actually start from McDonald's by about 12 minutes for actual receipt time.

After getting my slip from the ATM I headed over to the Banks-Vernonia Trail, one of my favorite trails because of the low foot traffic and smooth surface in the middle of the woods.  Once on the trail I had to stop and dress down a little bit as the layers were getting to be too much, and I didn't want to be complete soaked on the inside of my rain jacket, which is not uncommon if you have ever ridden with a "breathable" rain jacket.  Layers removed, but rain gear still on due to the dreadful Oregon mist I headed deep into the woods.  Speeding along the trail I only encountered one person heading to Vernonia, a jogger, who I'm pretty sure almost died when I said "on your left, good morning" oops sorry my bell is on my single speed.  Racing along the trail trying to make good time I got to Lake Vernonia and the second info control.  It was raining in full earnest now and I took a few minutes to let the storm pass while I ate some snacks.

Heading from Lake Vernonia  I meandered into town and found a Subway to get a coffee and to warm up.  After getting a coffee and a cookie (apparently coffee is free at this Subway so I bought a cookie to get a receipt) I mounted up and headed the same way back home.  Which turned out to be a real thigh burner until the downhill in the last 8 or so miles of the trail.  I was also lucky to no longer have rain/mist/drizzle yay!  Instead I traded that in for a headwind boo!  Which went to help explain the thigh burner part of the ride.  Dropping back into Banks the winds changed and I all the sudden had a stonking tailwind yay!

Blasting through town on the winds of change I headed back out to the nice quite country roads and enjoyed the boost to help get me back to the start.  Riding with a tailwind makes you feel like you are a superstar Lycra-clad Kit wearing racer boy, its impressive how fast you feel and go!  I rode the last 8 miles back at a pace that I could have never kept 50+ miles into a ride, my average speed on that section was 19.5 mph (ish).  I cruised into McDonald's feeling great and even went so far as to partake in a order of small french fries...they were delicious!

The ride was great, one that I will probably end up doing again, I suggest to all you non-rando folks who like to ride to take the short drive to Banks and get on the trail, they have parking at the trail head!  I was also focused on getting this ride done quickly so I neglected to take any photos, I'll get some from my next adventure though!