Thursday, July 31, 2008

Now I'm It, Apparently

Michael tagged me.

If you could have any one – and only one – bike in the world, what would it be?

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?

I own eight bikes, currently. I love bicycling, and whatever I'm going to do, I will find some way to do it on a bicycle. So specialization is the reason for that high number of bikes. Because there are always trade-offs in bicycle design (e.g., a bike built lightly and responsively enough to race probably won't carry a load very well), the first question is basically asking me what I would stop doing on a bike.

Having said that, if I had to live with just a single bike (...with just a single limb), I would choose my Ti Bacchetta Aero. It is the best tool for facilitating the type of riding that is the distillation of what I love best about it: exploring remote, quiet, and beautiful roads. The aero features a sublime combination of speed and comfort. It is equipped to protect me from rain (with fenders) and dark of night (with Schmidt hub and E6 lights). I can load it down with enough baggage to undertake short tours without complaint. There is not another bike made that I would rather ride.

If you had to choose one – and only one – bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

This is a working definition of hell. Riding for me is, at its best, about exploration. Pedaling through an area that I was previously unacquainted with exposes me, unmediated, not only to its sights, but its sounds and smells. The fact that I'm being conveyed by my own muscle power communicates to me exactly what the terrain feels like. I absolutely crave that kind of intimate introduction to the world around me. They say that you never step in the same river twice, and that's fine when you're talking about rivers. It's bullshit as far as roads go, though. If I could only ride one ride every day for the rest of my life, I'd quit riding -- might as well be on a stationary.

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride to do for the rest of her / his life?

Well, that's my sentiment exactly. What kind of person are you, oh mysterious interlocutor?

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded?

Ostensibly, I ride both. However, the Santa Cruz doesn't see much action these days. Being car-free in Portland is a fine thing, but it definitely limits your opportunities to enjoy good single track.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent.

Up until about 3 months ago, I liked to kid my diamond frame riding brothers by asking, "Can those things go downhill? It seems like you'd catch a lot of wind." Now I have a road racing bike of my own and my respect for folks who can ride them fast and far has gone through the roof. Riding an upright is hard work. It's a fun toy, but it'll never be my chief conveyance. I certainly won't be doing anything longer than a 100k populaire on it.

If it ain't bent, it's broken.

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?

No, I've never raced a triathlon. I also grew frustrated with neopolitan ice cream at an early age: why dilute perfectly good chocolate ice cream by adding bland strawberry and boring vanilla?

My overindulgence of choice is in ultra-cycling.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?

My my, you're all about limiting options, aren't you? If you're so diabolically clever as to be able to conceive of and implement a scenario where I would be forced to give up either ice cream or bicycles for the rest of my life, why not use your awesome powers for good, rather than to make me miserable?

Oh, if you must know, I'd give up ice cream over bicycles. Obviously. But what would I put on my pie? Tri-flow?

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it.

In what part of your bicycle enthusiasm would you say that you are the most "faddish"?

Well, I don't race cyclocross, and I don't ride a fixie or a single-speed. I guess it would have to be my general BOBish-ness. I like wool, wide tires, Carradice bags, and Brooks saddles. It's amazing the extent to which all that has permeated hipster bike culture, at least in Portland. It's also ironic, because Grant Peterson started the whole thing as a sort of "anti-fad" response to carbon fiber, integrated shifting, and suspension forks. It'll be fun to see how it all plays out.

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do?

I'd start singing. "The other day... I met a bear... a great big bear..." If it joined in, I'd know I was in trouble, because then it would have known to bring its tennis shoes.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.

Nah. If you're a biking blogger and you're reading this, go ahead and answer if you want. Or if you're procrastinating (like I am.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Silver Falls 300k Pre-Ride Report

I'm awake at 3:30 in the morning, an hour and a half before my alarm was set to go off. I'm not getting back to sleep, so if I'm awake, I might as well be pedaling. I hit the road from my house in Southeast Portland at 4:30, and point my bike in the direction of Canby.

Canby is where the Silver Falls 300k starts, and I get there at 6. The Thriftway right by the start has just opened, so I go in to get a chocolate milk and have a pit stop. I'm rolling again by 6:30, heading south on Ivy. Across 99E, and my left turn on Township Road follows quickly.

The first section of the ride, from Canby to Estacada, involves crossing 4 (roughly, depending on how you count) big drainages. The climbs involved are bigger than rollers, but smaller than mountain passes. Most are between .5 miles and 1.5 miles long, and they can be steep. Township has a few regular sized rollers before it T's at Central Point road, a left and a right puts you on Carus Road. Another quick right and you're diving down Casto Road, and then just as quickly you're winching your way up out of the first drainage. This pattern repeats a couple times in this part of the course

The scenery for this section is lovely. A mixture of pastoral landscape, interspersed with fir forests -- very much the picture of rural Oregon in the foothills of the Cascades. The volcanoes -- Hood, Adams, and St. Helens -- are visible as silhouettes in the distance in the overcast morning. Just after I turn from Lower Highland Road onto Ridge Road, I look off to the left and see downtown Portland far distant, which takes me by surprise, because it's easily 20 miles away as the crow flies. The roads are all well paved and quiet early on this Saturday morning.

Finally, I crest Redland Road just past Viola, and turn right on Jubb Road. From here it's a flat mile or two on Springwater Road before I bomb down to Estacada on Hayden Road and Highway 211. I arrive in Estacada in 8:12 and eat a banana.

I leave Estacada on Highway 224, going up the Clackamas River. Just a mile out of town, I turn right onto Faraday Road (PGE's Westside Hydro Project) to bypass the big hill and enjoy a couple quiet miles with the road to myself. The route gets back onto 224 in a few miles, but past Promontory Park, the traffic thins out to almost nothing. People who were on the Timothy 200 will already be acquainted with this stretch of road, and those who were not are in for a treat. River grade until just before Ripplebrook should provide a nice opportunity to get your legs back after the Canby-Estacada section.

I get to Ripplebrook and fill my bottles from the hose bib, which offers the last potable water until Detroit, to the left of the store entrance. The store is open from 9 to 5, and is also the last chance to buy calories before Detroit. I buy a Dr. Pepper to have with my sandwich, and sit in the sun. The day is still cool, and simply perfect for a good pedal. The forest and river provide a nice buffer to keep the temperature mild.

Leaving the ranger station, I pedal through the rollers over the next few miles to the intersection with NFD 63. Right at the junction is Riverford Campground, which is the very last official campground for at least the next 35 miles. Beyond that, the road continues at river grade, but it's a rather aggressive river grade. I feel slow in this section, but it's just that it's steeper than it looks. Over the flood plains of the Clackamas, I make my way with the hill on my left, and alder stands intermittently standing between me and the river on my right. The river is less and less in evidence, and by the time I reach the junction with NFD 42, I've seen the last of it. It's long corridors of fir trees for miles and miles.

The climb to the summit above the Breitenbush River creeps up on me. The Clackamas River grade early on is steep, but intermittent. Sometimes the road flattens out, or the grade slackens enough that it feels flat for a while, only to pick up again. In this way, the road stair-steps up towards the summit. About 21 miles from Ripplebrook, someone has painted a sign on the pavement pointing towards the turnoff to Ollalie Lake, and just beyond that point the climb stops messing around and really hits me with everything. Fortunately, I've got enough elevation in the bank by this point that it's not too much further to the top. At the top there is no elevation marker, alas. There is a mile or so of rollers before I come around a corner and get a spectacular (if slightly occluded) view of Mt. Jefferson, followed shortly by a truck on a triangle that indicates that I'm due for a much-deserved descent.

The top is fast, there's a U-turn to the right, and then rest of the descent is brake-free. I soft pedal on the way down to Detroit, as I'm feeling the effects of my exertions on the climb. The descent is cool and sweet, but not exactly rip-roaring, as the afternoon wind has picked up and it's blowing upriver. Just before I get to the reservoir, I notice a car stopped in the oncoming lane. He's waiting for a family of geese to cross; goose, gander, and goslings all in a row. I'm just about to swoon from the cuteness.

I arrive at Detroit at 1:02, and take another break at the gas station at the intersection with OR 22. I eat my second sandwich accompanied by an incredible raspberry milkshake that I get there. Their deli-restaurant has an extensive menu that you kind of have to read in 360 degrees.

There is a good amount of traffic around the reservoir (as befits a lovely summer weekend), but not as much as one might expect. The shoulder is mostly good, but it does disappear at times. I don't encounter any impatient or overly aggressive drivers. The terrain around the reservoir is rolling for several miles before the road passes the dam and drops away. A mile of screaming descent brings me to the edge of another reservoir. Another drop, and a few more easy miles down the Santiam River and I'm in Gates.

In Gates, I turn off of OR 22 and onto back roads. There's a short steep climb near Gates school, but beyond that I enjoy cycling on quiet, flat country roads from Gates to Mill City to Lyons (with services available in all three.) I arrive in Lyons at 3:08 and take a break to have a V8. Then it's back on the bike, across the Santiam River, onto Ferry Road, and Old Mehama Road not long after. I'm in Stayton at 3:50.

I take a break at the Safeway, imbibing a Dr. Pepper and an Odwalla to buffer the Dr. Pepper. I call Allison to check in, and then I saddle up again, turning north. On my way out of town, I note the Dairy Queen just before I cross OR 22, which would make a nice control checkpoint for randonneurs next week. I go through Sublimity, and on the other side make my right turn onto Triumph Road. Triumph Road has some pretty tough rollers, but also some amazingly hued earth, gold and green, and some black where grass farmers have recently burned. The surface is chipseal, and slightly rough, but the road is very quiet. Right in the middle, there's a roller that rivals the ones on Cole School Road. In a few miles, I meet up with Silver Falls Highway, OR 214, and begin the climb up to the park.

OR 214 isn't a bad road. The traffic picks up over the back roads that I've been on for much of the day, but the surface is good and the grade is middle ring stuff. It is long, however, and the views out over the neighboring hills and valleys are dramatic. After winching myself up over several miles I reach the top of the hill, where there's viewpoint/parking lot with a sign indicating the entrance to the park. I pull myself over the top, and let gravity do its thing.

Silver Falls State Park is densely forested, and the air in the hollow is delightfully cool. The descent is like biting into a York Peppermint Patty. The road nicely layed out, a slalom of 40 mph curves: to the right, to the left, etc. I pull in to the day lodge at 5:22.

One last leg to go, with a net elevation loss. First, though, I have to climb up out of the park. As it turns out, it's a pretty simple proposition: the terrain is uphill, but not steep, and rolling. I reach the park boundary without too much trouble, but the road still trends up for a while. Finally, around 6 miles from the day lodge, the road begins to go downhill. The descent is mildly disappointing, but right near Silverton Reservoir there are two gorgeously engineered switchbacks, with smooth tarmac and the most beautiful camber I have ever seen. Carving through those corners is exhilerating. I roll into Silverton and take one last break, getting a panini and (what else?) a Dr. Pepper at Roth's.

I'm in the home stretch now. Between me and the finish, I'm on Hobart, Meridian, and Lone Elder roads; roads that I cut my teeth on as a distance cyclist. My first century was the Portland Wheelmen's Pioneer Century, which spent time on all three. I've always enjoyed riding them, especially Meridian, which is pretty flat, with just enough undulation to stay interesting; and pretty straight, but with just enough turns to keep you awake. It might be the quality of the atmosphere or the time of day, but the green hues in the fields of Elliott Prairie are the greenest that I've ever seen in this area. The miles fly by, and I'm back in Canby at 8:28, with a finishing time of 13:58.

Now all I have to do is pedal home. *sigh*

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Timothy 200k Pre-Ride Report

Lynne and Cecil picked me up early Sunday morning, with perfect timing. I had just finished my cereal, yoghurt, and nectarine breakfast; I had constructed my sandwiches for the outing, and had not yet drunk my coffee. Lacking a travel mug for the brew, I put it into a jam jar and screwed down the lid, to be drunk later. We then loaded up the car and chatted amiably as we drove out to the ride start at the edge of the Cascade foothills, far to the southeast of Portland.

We assembled our bikes in the parking lot of PGE’s West Side Hydro Project. I took the chance to admire Cecil’s custom HW Jr. and Lynne’s very pretty Bleriot. I got my own steed put together, outfitted myself appropriately for the weather, and I was ready to go. There was a small amount of faffing, to be sure.

We rolled around the gate onto Faraday road, along the reservoirs on this part of the Clackamas, under grey skies. It was unseasonably cool, and I worried about what things would be like as we gained elevation, and about the possibility of rain. Fortunately, my concern was unfounded: the cool start was a blessing, and by noon the weather had warmed up nicely without becoming oppressive.

We rolled along at a convivial pace, and took a quick bathroom break at Promontory Park, about 7 miles from the start. Cecil and Lynne took advantage of the gentle river grade to take some snapshots from the saddle. We passed forest service facilities like Lazy Bend, Big Eddy, Carter Bridge, Lochaby, Armstrong, and Roaring River. Roaring River really does roar. Finally, I took a break near Indian Henry to shed a layer and let the women continue on.

Past Indian Henry is the first point where the road climbs so that you’d feel it, about a mile and a half up. Then there’s some fun rollers through the woods and you’re at Ripplebrook Ranger Station. There’s a store there, but it doesn’t open until 9 AM, so most riders will have passed through. We took an 8 AM start, so we were able to poke our noses in and see what they had available. Chips, soda, candy, and hotdogs, basically. There’s also a hose-bib to the left of the front door. It’s a good idea to top off your bottles here, as there’s no more public water before High Rock.

We did this ourselves. The sky was blue and sunny by this point, so we adjusted our clothing accordingly, and applied sunscreen. Some of us took advantage of the nearby outhouse. Finally, we rolled on.

There was a quick downhill and a sweeper to the right, and it was time to turn left off of OR 224 and onto NFD 57. This quiet road climbs away from the main highway along the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River, at a grade that both Cecil and I described as “humane”. It’s definitely a climb, and you’ll notice it, but it won’t break you. It’s also nicely shaded, low in traffic, and blessed with a good surface. It starts off at its steepest, and then levels off as you proceed, before descending back down to river level. It had been closed to cars because of a slide for several years, but appears to have been reconstructed in the last year or so.

Once we were back at river level, we crossed the Oak Grove Fork. We then rolled along next to some tall stands of trees and “dispersed camping” sites for a mile or so before we arrived at our next junction, with NFD 58. NFD 57 turns to gravel here before starting the climb in earnest up to Timothy Lake, so we turned left and started the 7 mile climb up to High Rock.

I had only ever been on this road a couple times before, and had never climbed the whole thing on my bike. Fortunately, it was not as steep going up it as it looked like it was when I came down it. There was also occasional shade, although the sun was high enough in the sky at this point that shelter from it was unlikely. I passed the time by identifying wildflowers: I noted columbine, beargrass, lupine, trilliums, paintbrush, penstemon, tiger lilies and others. About a half mile before the top, the grade really did get a bit steep, but then before I knew it I was at the crest, with High Rock standing right there in front of me.

As I waited for Lynne and Cecil, a couple of riders arrived coming the opposite direction. They asked for directions for the “35 mile loop” around Timothy Lake. I asked if they meant the one with the 7 mile section of gravel. That was kind of a shock to them.

Cecil and Lynne showed up not long after, and we took a break to eat some lunch. I told them that I recalled there being a mile or so of flat or light climbing, and then it was largely downhill to Timothy Lake. When we got moving again, the facts bore out my recollection. We were treated to wonderful views of Mt. Jefferson and Timothy Lake below us before beginning a downhill rollercoaster of a fast descent followed by a short bump to climb over, which was in turn followed by another fast descent, and so on. The pavement was solid but uneven for this stretch, and the sight lines weren’t great, so I kept a reign on my speed.

We regrouped near the entrance to one of Timothy Lake’s campgrounds (where water should be available) before going the last couple miles to our next turn, a right onto NFD 42. In the opposite direction, NFD 42 is one of the main roads back up to Highway 26, so there was a bit more traffic here than on any of the roads we’d been on yet, but even so, it was pretty light. 4 miles of rollers brought us to a pretty meadow and the junction with the other end of NFD 57. We bore left to stay on NFD 42, and arrived at the Historic Cascade Lakes Ranger Station a couple hundred feet down the road.

The site of the ranger station is interesting. There are some interpretive signs, there’s a staging area for firefighters, and there is a really nifty cabin for rent. Water is available, and there is even a bathroom with a genuine flush toilet. There’s also a view of the beautiful meadow across the road. We took a short break there, and contemplated all the climbing we’d done so far.

We set out again on NFD 42, down a corridor of fir trees. Had the sun not been so high, we’d have had plenty of lovely shade, but as it was, it beat down on us a little bit. The road started off flat, but after a mile or so began to climb again, stair-stepping back up to an altitude of 4000’. At the top, we reached the junction with Peavine Road, which the route was supposed to follow.

Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. Peavine Road looked bombed out and depleted. An SUV came lumbering down it. I asked the occupants if the road was paved further up, and they responded very much in the negative.

Fortunately, by the time Cecil and Lynne caught up, I had come up with a plan. While I was staring at the map looking for roads to use on this route, I had entertained several possibilities. There was nothing to stop us from simply proceeding on NFD 42 to where it rejoined NFD 46 (which in turn becomes OR 224). It would be a little more mileage, but the route featured an out-and-back to Bagby that we could shave some distance off to balance things out. No problem. My two companions took the revised plan in stride, and we set off again, chased off by mosquitoes.

The fantastic downhill on NFD 42 from the junction with Peavine didn’t hurt my case any. We roared down the road, the forest air cooling us off as we slipped through it. We regrouped a couple miles later, where Oregon Skyline road separates from NFD 42 and goes off to Olallie Lake, and then again in .7 miles, where NFD 42 makes a hard left at a junction. This was just a glorious stretch of road, mostly descending, no difficult climbs, nicely engineered turns, and really good, smooth tarmac. There were some clearcuts at the top, but also some really beautiful woods at the bottom. We did encounter several vehicles on their way up the road, so when you’re descending, in the case of a blind corner, be sure to always assume that someone will be in the oncoming lane.

I was first to the bottom. Cecil followed shortly after, with arms upraised as though she had just won a tour stage, and Lynne not far behind. Lynne proclaimed the descent very “Lynne-friendly”. Good times.

Most of the rest of the ride we would be following the Clackamas River downstream, and almost all of it would be downhill. Unfortunately, the hours in the saddle and the climbing had taken their toll, and the afternoon upriver wind had picked up. I was doing okay on my bent, but Lynne and Cecil had a hard time of it, pushing against the breeze. We pushed down the river to the junction with NFD 63, and did our out-and-back below the cliffs on the Collawash River. Then we tackled the rollers between us and Ripplebrook, and, arriving there, refilled our bottles.

The last miles back to the start went quickly enough for me. I was starting to bonk, though, so paradoxically I was having trouble staying back with my riding partners. When I’m out of food and hungry, my overriding impulse is to get to food as quickly as I can. Nevertheless, I did stop and wait for my friends several times to make sure they were doing okay. We stopped at the market at Promontory Park a few miles from the car to get some provisions that would take the edge off. Then we finished up by finding our way back onto Faraday Road, went past the car, and into Estacada and back again to round out the mileage.