Friday, March 26, 2010


Leaving Vernonia
to trade pulls down the Nehalem
on a splendid day.
A year after my longest ride ever, I got the chance to repeat the feat and see what the Birkie Brevet 200K is like without the cold and wet. Wonderful, it turns out. I'm not sure, but it seems like there were less riders this year. Not enough suffering in the forecast? Hmmm. We started in the calm almost dawn with patches of frost on the side of the road and cold hands and feet for the first stretch to Vernonia. I fell in with a group of seven guys somewhere in the mid-backfield, and we stayed more or less intact for the duration of the day, which was kind of cool. I may shed my anti-social tendencies yet. A couple of them seemed to know each other, but as I'm still a newbie at this, and don't really know anyone, I figured I'd just play it loose and ride my ride and not sweat it with trying to stay on anyone's wheel. The whole thing just seemed to play out organically. Someone would pull over for a pee break and the whole peloton had a male bonding experience, controls were casual chatty affairs, then someone would stretch and mount up, and pretty soon everyone was rolling and taking turns again pulling the train. Fluid and very comfortable. Well, except for that 20mph pace for several miles into Birkenfield. But we got that out of our system and part two passed more calmly.

Rest stop at Birkie
last year it was the wood stove
this year it's the sun

Preparing for the ride with all the school/university stuff was a little stressful. On Thursday I decided to pull the 6-speed freewheel to drop some lube in and when I took the rear skewer off I found this:

For the record, that's a rear axel and it's supposed to be in one piece. Lord knows how long it's been broken - thank God for skewers, eh? If it had been a bolt-on I'd have dropped my wheel. On second thought, if it had been a bolt-on it would have been a solid axel and it would take the torque of a tank to snap one of those. I didn't have time to make it to a bike shop, but fortunately was able to cannibalize another 126mm rear axel and everything was fine.
Back to the Birkie, by the time we were over Timber Rd. the second time our group was splintering, and I got dropped on the downhill curves but was able to chase back on before the highway and three of us finished out the ride into Forest Grove, our time a quite decent 9:10 - and that included some long-ish rest breaks. But here's the funny thing - and I vowed that evening I will never do this again - I didn't get the names of the other guys I finished with; I just know them as Orange Ira Ryan and Blue Kona JTS. Looking at the results I see that their names were Gene and Stephen, but I'll be damned if I know which was which.
Of course - and this may sound sexist but I think I'm right - if we'd been women, we'd have known one another's names (and a whole lot more) before we hit the first control. Guys are funny sometimes.

I was feeling kind of guilty about being gone from kith & kin for a sunny Saturday - and the first day of spring break - so I checked in and high-tailed it home, later regretting I hadn't sat for a burger and beer with my comrades for the day. Next time.

At Wahkeena falls
a giant salamander
the only traffic

The Birkie was the beginning of Spring Break, and I had sent out feelers a couple weeks earlier to the team inquiring whether anyone wanted to join me for a jaunt out the gorge past Multnomah Falls to the Oneonta tunnel. I emphasized that I was On Vacation, would be riding my Touring Bike with Handlebar Bag and Triple Chainring. Read: No rotating-paceline-sprint-to-the-next-sign hammerfest. A couple indicated interest so Catherine, Jeff and I met at Bipartisan Monday morning and headed out Marine Drive in light showers. Catherine had raced Sunday so she was just looking for a spin and turned around at Troutdale, where Jeff and I headed up the Sandy, taking Woodard Rd. for some "gratuitous climbing" before reconnecting at Springdale.

Despite Spring Break, traffic was super-light and we took the lane nearly all the way from Crown Point to the tunnel. With all the recent rain the falls were all in full flow, the frogs and birds nearly as loud in some of the dells, and everything green green green.We turned around at the tunnel, stopped for coffee at the falls, and
headed back up up up to the point, then down to the Stark St. bridge and had a quick zip home.

Overnight bike date
Edgefield gardens budding
my hand rests in yours

T had a gift certificate for a night at the Edgefield,with a little left over for food and whatnot, and asked me if I wanted to join her on a kid-free date. Now, I love my kids. But I loved her first, and time away together is as rare as a tasty school lunch. So Yes, please. And with a nice forecast we decided to bike there. Riding is a great start to any date, plus it would give the new sale panniers ($27 each @ Restoration Hardware) a test run.
We called ahead to make sure they could accommodate our steeds, and they even switched us to a suite with a "sitting room" (bike lounge?). Sweet.
Edgefield is tré Euro, with no TV, the
baño down the hall, and grounds that encourage mingling. I even ran into Joseph Rose, who had also biked out with his family for a little R & R. So T and I ate, walked the gardens, ate, visited the soaking pool, ate, did some wine tasting, and ate. I slept like a baby that night.
The next morning - after breakfast in the Black Rabbit, of course, and another leisurely garden stroll - we decided to take the long way home. It ended up being a little longer after we got turned back at the Stark Street bridge by an ODOT flagger who took his responsibility to keep defenseless cyclist from being crushed by big scary dump trucks very seriously and would not, despite our assurances, believe that we could safely walk our bikes up the shoulder of the road where the repaving was taking place. Ah well, we detoured back to Troutdale and up to Gresham and we were on the Springwater and had a quiet ride home. For a mini-vacation, this was about perfect, and good for my soul in a way I hadn't realized I needed.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Evening on Tick marsh
"crit-rit" call the peeper frogs
"ling" answers brass bell

I'm putting in 10 hour days on a regular basis now, just to stay on top of things and avoid bringing school stuff home to grade, which I'm mostly successful at. It's good, and I'm enjoying myself, but there's never enough time in a day, is there?

A couple of weeks ago I decided my head and heart would be happier if I avoided traffic at the end of the day and took the long way home. When the days were longer I liked ending the week by riding the Springwater trail home on Friday. I can access it in Gresham just blocks from school, connect to the 205 path near Foster, and jump off close to home, making for about 12 traffic-free miles. It's a dark ride in winter, without street lights, and since it's home - literally - to some pretty dodgy folks without visible means of support but plenty of needles and 40-ouncers, I'll stick with the streets until the lighter months. But along about the end of February there's enough lingering light that I can get on at 5-ish and make it home before dark.

I've seen some interesting stuff, though. I stopped and picked up a big Buck knife with a duct-taped handle right next to a homeless couple loudly airing their dirty laundry in the middle of the trail. not sure if it had been thrown and missed the mark, or accidentally dropped, but they didn't argue when I rode away with it, hoping I'd helped avoid the fight getting truly ugly. A couple days later I thought I'd scored another free bike down in the blackberry bushes below the trail - until I noticed the woman lying next to it. I stopped to help, of course, figuring she'd drifted onto the soft shoulder and taken a tumble. The slur of her embarrassed apology reinforced what my nose was already saying. It takes a lot to be too drunk to ride in the daylight, but she was there. I helped her up to the trail and after she assured me she was just scratched and was going to get on Max, I left her standing there, her helmet still looped over her handlebars where it was when she took her tumble. I saw her again today sitting beside her bike, reading a book in the sun by the trail. The same day I helped her I came up behind a half dozen saggy-pantsed young men, out for a stroll. Normally I ring the bell to let people know I'm coming and slow to allow them to move to the side. But sometimes the gut says stealth is better and giving warning will just put me at a disadvantage. I put on a little speed and was by the rear guard before they could do anything but shout. the lead guy, however, gave chase for a few strides, and shouted out if I knew where Powell Butte was. Um, it's that big hillside looming over you on the right? I suspect he knew that, but wanted to see if I was dumb enough to actually stop to answer his question. Not today.

Mostly, though, it's a really lovely ride. The wild cherrys and old abandoned apple orchards are in bloom, Johnson creek is full, the red-winged blackbirds are perched on dry cattails and calling their girlfriends, and get 10+ miles of brake-less and car-free riding to clear my head and heart.

It's helping.