Friday, June 22, 2007

Boring Ride (not!)

Today we went on this completely misnamed ride from the book Rubber to the Road: 30 Rides Around Portland. Yes, it goes through the *town* of Boring (and how tired must they be of all the obvious jokes?) but the ride was one of the best we've done all year.

We got a late start and left out the door at 10am this morning, wearing exactly the same outfits. Same shoes (Specialized), socks (Pearl Izumi), shorts (She-Beast century), jersey (, bra (Nike) gloves (Specialized) and helmets (Giro Havoc). I can't tell you how sorry I am that we couldn't make it to the Pedalpalooza Twin ride earlier this week! Yes, I know we need help.

This was our long ride that Jess really wanted to do to make sure she is ready for STP. And I would like to note, this route choice was her idea. That'll be important later. It's a good thing that today is the solstice because it literally took us ALL day to finish the ride, but we had a great time.

We left from our house in Kenton (near Lombard and Greeley) and took the Esplanade and the Springwater Corridor to Boring where the real fun began. We were out on the road for nine hours by the time all was said and done. We had a hard time making headway in the beginning due to my TBS (Tiny Bladder Syndrome). Something about cranking the peddles makes my bladder shrink to the size of a walnut. We made it to Sellwood and stopped at the Paint-A-Pot place for a nature break. When Jess came out I said, "OK, let's get going, we only have 15 minutes" (before I have to pee again).

I *meant* it to be a joke.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be all too accurate a prediction and the trip up the bumpy Springwater path to the next pit stop at Cedarville Park was miserable and silent. After getting relief and a snack, I was finally able to settle down. Guess I'll never make it as a stage racer!

This route gets really good once you go through Boring and enter the countryside on your way to Eagle Fern Park--which is also near Eagle Fern campground where I was a junior counselor for Outdoor school my senior year of high school, bringing a sense of nostalgia to the already beautiful terrain. When we reached the park, our odometers said exactly 40 miles, a perfect time to stop for lunch. PB&J always tastes best after 30 or 40 miles.

After that it was miles and miles and miles of climbing, up to the George Rd Loop. We pondered which direction would be best to circle, and then promptly chose the wrong way. So, if you're thinking of doing the ride, be sure to take the left on Clausen Rd and do the loop 'backwards.' The chip seal is a little smoother on George and the descending is more straightforward. Still, we were thrilled when we finally hit the halfway point and could point ourselves downward. Jess was lacking her two lowest gears due to a cog that needs replacing and she was keenly feeling the loss. I ended up pushing her up several hills during the day to keep up morale.

"Who's idea was this?" she asked in the middle of a particularly brutal stretch.

"Yours!" I said promptly. I love it when I'm not in trouble.

"Well, you agreed to it!"

So much for not being in trouble.

After about 4 miles of climbing up Tickle Creed Road, just when Jess was asking "When do we get to go down?!?" we finally did.  I stopped to take a picture but told her to keep going.  I didn't see again for another couple of miles as she took off down what turned out to be a descent of a mile or two.

While we are clearly distance riders out for the fun and the scenery and not speed, while reading the book "Training Techniques for Cyclists," I came across this passage:

When that country dog comes boiling out of it's yard, bent on mayhem, a quick acceleration is usually the best defense.

Fortunately, all the dogs who came out to greet us on this ride were safely behind stout looking fences...except at mile 67, cresting the last of the interminable hills, we heard ferocious, but high pitched barking and looked back to see a poodle about the size of Jess's cat, barreling down at full speed with murder in his eye.

I've actually been told that the best defense against a chasing dog is to NOT run (inciting the prey drive) but to get off your bike and put it between you and the dog.  But in this case, such a tactic would've been too embarrassing to report later.  The dog's legs were shorter then my pedal cranks, and I had some legs left, so I just turned up the gas and sped off, helpfully distracting him from Jess and giving her time to get up the rest of the hill.  That little dog had surprising speed!  But I eventually crossed the invisible turf boundary and by that time Jess was on the down side of the hill as well.  It's like the universe gave us a little practice dog first, in case we run into something really big next time.

The rest of the trip was uneventful except for a short stretch of near death experiences on Hwy 211*.  The book said that this area "hasn't received much attention from cyclists" and I can see why--it's pretty challenging! But if your legs are up for it, it's definitely worth the trip.  Traffic is very slight once you get out of town.  The few cars we did see passed respectfully for the most part (there's always a few that don't know how to share), but clearly didn't know what to think about crazy cyclists out in the middle of  nowhere.  Here's the conversation I imagine from the look on one driver's face who passed going the opposite direction:

"Honey did you see that? What they hell are bikers doing way out here!?  I think those were girls too!"

The cows and the horses (there were plenty!) didn't seem too surprised to see us.

When we got back to Boring, we were pushing the 80 mile mark so we turned off the Springwater path at Eastman and went north a mile or so to the MAX station to get home. We stumbled triumphantly into our garage at 10:09pm, twelve hours, nine minutes after we left.

This ride was a great test of several things:

1) Are we ready for STP? Most definitely!
2) Jeff's mechanical prowess. I took our bikes to him after a disappointing shop tune up and he gave them back sparkling clean and shifting like buttah!
3) We both had fittings from Ward (a woman) at River City Bicycles and this was the first real world testing of the new set up. We both got shorter, higher stems which are serving very well, thank you. Other than adjusting our seats back to their original downward tip to keep our girl parts happy, things felt great.
4) New Koobi saddles, recommended by Zan, and purchased *as soon* as we got home from the Vernonia Ride a few weeks ago. I couldn't even sit on my cushy commuter saddle the day after that ride! Happy to report that the parts are MUCH happier now and I suspect, as the saddle molds to my shape, that things will only get better.
5) New aero-bars for me. Due to the low traffic and looooooong roads with no turn offs, I got to spend a lot of time in them, especially on the killer descent back to Eagle Fern park. SWEEEEEEEEEET!
6) Fueling strategies: We tried out several new brands and flavors of gels/bars/energy drink. The Hammer Perpetuem and the vanilla flavored Gu (the Hammer gels were not bad either) were the clear winners. Don't know about the nutritional value, but the emotional high of a tasty Costo poppyseed muffin bought from the Boring gas station is a great way to kill time on the MAX ride home.

Things we learned:

1) Bring more food next time
2) Refill water at the Boring gas station before riding off into the sunset
3) Speaking of sunsets, start earlier next time and possibly drive out to Gresham to start. Hills wear Jess out quickly (especially with two less climbing gears!).
4) Get a tandem. It's easier than pushing your girlfriend up the hills. :)

More pictures from the ride are here.

*I exaggerate.  There's no shoulder and one hill but it's a roller and the turn off comes pretty quickly.

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