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.


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