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*


Anonymous cecil said...

Excellent write-up - I'll miss doing the ride! Of course, I can't help but note that riding alone you were able to complete the 300 in not much more than 1.5 hours over the time it took to complete the 200 with me and Lynne - pretty impressive, considering all that climbing. Sigh :-)

9:04 AM  

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