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 

1 comment:

  1. Racking up the mileage. But if that last picture has a smile, I'd hate to be a log truck driver that sees your un-happy face!