Saturday, August 30, 2008

Big Dummy Comes Home

I've been waiting (impatiently) stressing and bugging the crap out of Corey, Clint and Rick over at Seven Corners and yesterday, my bike was finally ready!  I didn't make good on my threat to show up at 10:01am, but I did get over there, after running a few other errands on the Tikit, also turning out to be a fun ride.  I spent a few hours at the shop, getting the finishing touches like grips, bar-tape, fenders and water bottle cages, but finally I was ready to roll.  Here's how it went down:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Portland Century

I hauled myself out of bed at 4:15 Sunday morning and trekked on down to the PSU start line of the Portland Century. It was still dark outside, so I took a head lamp, which got me lots of points with the other volunteers. My first task was making a run back to base for some forgotten items. After that, things got eerily smooth. It was a far cry from the first year when Jess and I registered and rode the event. Thanks to over 900 day-of registrations for the then, first time event, the organizers were swamped. I ended up leaving Jess to wait in line and volunteering at registration until she got to the head of the line, just to try to make things go faster. Which is maybe why they ended up hiring me for future events.

Jensi and I reminisced about those olden days while we practically stood around twiddling our thumbs behind the registration table. The volunteers were on top of it, the lines were short, thanks to a pre-reg party the day before, and there weren't even that many unusual issues. It was almost *too* easy and we agreed it was kind of weird.

I hung out behind the reg table, pretending to be a t-shirt runner (handing shirts to the reg volunteers to give to riders). Another volunteer, Patrice was also working t-shirts and mostly she was far too quick for me, so I spent most of my time chatting with her between her mad dashes for cotton. She was totally charming and sweet and very new to biking, which I could tell when she rolled her Magna bike over and parked it nearby. Turns out she got back into riding a couple of months ago, telling herself firmly, "No more excuses!" Part of her reason for volunteering was to get involved with the bike community, learn more about what's out there and meet other cyclists.

She said, when she finally got back on her bike and went for a ride, she came back with a huge perma-grin on her face and from what I saw, it hasn't gone away. She asked me lots of questions and I did my best to answer, and pointed out random things about the vast variety of bikes, how they were different, why they were wearing those funny shoes and why that woman on the cruiser with the big pannier was dreaming when she signed up for the full century.

It turns out Patrice is also pretty close to my size, so she might even end up buying my Scott that I've been commuting on for the last few years. It's great bike and I hate to get rid of it, but with my crazy rampage of bike buying, and our not-very-large garage, something has to go. My Cross check will be my new fast commuter and who knows, I might even ride it in an actual cross race someday.

At 8:20, I headed out to my rest stop at Maywood Park, the only rest stop for the 25 mile riders. I had a Honda Element Zip car to pack up and return my supplies when I was done. I'd never driven one before and I found it to be fun and zippy (no pun intended), and the seat fold up feature is pretty handy.

Tom arrived with the Penske to drop off my supplies. Maywood park is a pretty spot and the grass is lush and green and perfect--and also sits atop what seems to be a permanent mud bog. The skinny legs of the rented tables sunk deep into the mud and had to be shored up with scrap cardboard. And the more feet came through, the messier it got. Since I'd worked this rest stop last year, I at least remembered to change out of my sandals and into my tennis shoes.

Tom left me with my pile of food to organize. It was 9:45, 15 minutes before the official opening of the rest stop. My volunteers, scheduled to arrive at 9:30, were nowhere to be seen. All three of them flaked completely and didn't even bother to call.

Despite that, this rest stop session was one of the most organized and relaxed I've had. A few riders came early, while there were still boxes everywhere, but they knew they were ahead of schedule and were chill about waiting. One claimed she was just going to get water and move on, but she changed her tune quickly once the shortcakes were prepared and the whip cream on the table.

For the next few hours, I had no trouble keeping up with demand, keeping everything stocked and chatting with the riders. I fixed another helmet that was strapped so loosely, I hesitate to even use the word. People were generally happy when they came through, even the ones who got lost on the detour from the 205 bike path. I literally heard not one complaint, and the biggest injury was a scrape from a run in with a car that I think was parked. I also had mechanic support from the Bike Gallery, who showed up just minutes after the first person asked me for a pump.

My rest stop closed at one and the last riders came through at 12:45, a woman riding with her 7 year old son. The most challenging part of the day was wondering if I could really fit all my supplies into the Element, but my UPS training came to the fore, and with help from the BG mechanic, I shoved it all in there and then dropped it off at the Smith and Bybee rest stop so they could incorporate my leftover food into their stop. The whole ride was short of volunteers (not just my flaky ones) and there were only two women working the Smith stop and they had to cut up watermelon. Also they were the last rest stop before the finish so both the century and 50 mile riders came through. Things were hopping. I unloaded all the stuff and we made a little self-serve shortcake station so it wouldn't be any extra work for the volunteers. I would have stayed to help, but I had a short window in which to finally pick up my Bike Friday.

After that, I headed to the finish line for some grub. I limited myself to one sample of my rest stop short cake and I was starving. It was nice, after Seattle, to get there when the food was still fresh and warm (although the Seattle dinner was great, even cold). I saw a few people I knew who had finished successfully and Patrice was looking good after her 25 mile ride--probably her longest yet.

Things still seemed to be going in that eerily stress free fashion, so after I ate, I headed out to return my Zip Car. But first I went home and put my Tikit back together (only took 30 minutes, even without instructions). I folded it up, stuck it in the back of the car, and headed back to the parking space across from PCC. After I parked, I noticed a brand new coffee shop on the corner of Killingsworth and Albina. Too bad they didn't open while I was still attending at that campus, but it looked pretty nice inside and there were a couple of people inside with their laptops. I went in for a minute to chat with the woman working and said I'd be back. Then I grabbed my Tikit from it's spot just inside the door, whipped it open and rode home in a drizzly rain.

As I was heading north on Willamette, approaching Rosa Parks Way, I saw a group of five soggy bikers on road bikes. As I got closer, I saw a tell tale red jersey. "Are you guys on the Portland Century?" I asked. It was about 6:30 by this and the finish line closed at 6:00pm.

"Yes, we're team 'got lost'" said one of the women. Despite being on mile 100 (with their detours) of the ride, being soaked and probably hungry, they were in remarkably good spirits. In fact, they were posing for pictures, so I offered to take one of their whole group and they accepted. Afterward I told them the quickest way to get back to the finish line.

When I got home, I called Jensi and let her know the stragglers were on their way. Hopefully, they saved them some food.

How Not to Get Your Bike Stolen

To the butthead who stole my bike:

If you own a bike and ride it and occasionally stop places, then you should go read this right now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yes, We Have No Bananas

I was 0 for 2 on bike pick ups yesterday. The Dummy wasn't ready (though the hand built wheels are gorgeous!). I'm hoping against hope that Corey can pull off a miracle and finish it today because I *NEED* to have it for bike camping on Tue and the shop is closed tomorrow. Please send helpful bike building vibes his way!

A few blocks over, at Coventry Cycles, the Tikit was all shiny and ready to go. Jeff spent some time adjusting the brakes and shifters to my preferred position--the saddle was already perfect. I took it on a prolonged spin and was amazed again what a great ride it has for such a small wheeled bike! I even found a little gravel and it rolled just fine. And the internal hub is way cool.

Back at the shop, I was turned over to Tom. Tom said, "You're going to pack it into the case and I'll talk you through it." I was relieved, because I know it's a pretty involved process the first time. Even with his help, it took us an hour and fifteen minutes to turn this:

New Bike Friday Tikit

into this:

New Bike Friday Tikit

By the time we finished, I didn't have time to take the bus home with the case, which was my back up plan, since the Dummy wasn't ready. I was really looking forward to carrying two bikes home on another bike--but I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity for that.

I will definitely go pick up the Tikit in the Zip Car today after my Portland Century rest stop duties are over--and hopefully (crosses fingers) the Dummy as well.

Check out the little tour I took of the Bike Friday headquarters on my way to Mt Bike Oregon in July:

Update: Clearly, I should have watched this video first:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bad Day on the Bike

Today was only fun in retrospect.

I decided to do the Alpine/Tire Mountain combo trail because I'd heard good things about the awesome descents amid really cool old growth forests.  I knew there would be twice as much climbing as the Alpine trail alone, so I wanted to do it on day one, before I got tired.

I slept most of the way on the shuttle ride up, which should have been a clue as to how the day would go.   Last month, when the shuttle reached the trail head, the groups for the different routes would split up and have their riders meeting.  I had just gotten my bike and had time to pee when I heard the call for Tire riders to 'meet over here.'  I saw a few straggling riders heading around the corner and hastily followed. 

I was soon dropped and riding alone on the road.  It turned out that, 'meet over here' actually meant a mile up the road at the actual trail head.  I started getting nervous that maybe they'd already left and I would miss the trail head and have to go back and ride with the other group.  I even started yelling “Hello!!!” but got no answer. 

Finally I saw the group, bunched up at Kate's cut in, the start of the trail.  By the time I pulled up, I was feeling cranky, rushed and pissed off.  Not a good start to the day. My legs already felt like lead, and my seat was way too low for the mile of climbing I knew we would do to start.  I dug around in my seat bag and fished out my tool to raise the seat.  By this time, the meeting had ended and the guides were shouting “let's go!”  The whole group headed up the steep dusty cut-in and soon it was just me and the two sweep guides.  To make things worse, the Alpine only group came up behind us.

“Come on Kronda, hurry up!” said Paul, a guide I had liked last month, but hated at that moment.

“Dammit, I'm just trying to get my shit together!” I shouted, most frustrated than ever.  I stowed my tool, with my seat still too low and headed up the trail.  The first section is steep and incredibly loose and dusty.  Though I knew what to expect and had geared down accordingly, I still didn't make it.  I got off and walked the 30 feet to where the grade became more reasonable and kept going.

I felt like I'd already ridden ten miles uphill.  My knees hurt from climbing with a saddle that was too low and I was already panting and out of breath.  But with the sweep guides breathing down my neck, I didn't feel like I could stop and rest.  To make matters worse, Paul was riding a single speed and I know from reading several people's blogs that climbing on a single speed with someone slow in front of you is pretty much torture, if not impossible. Because you only have one gear, you can't just go slower.

Paul apologized and tried to explain that he was just kidding around about rushing me but the damage was done.  I felt incredibly bitchy for pretty much the entire ride, and it was hard work not to snap when anyone said anything to me.  I probably didn't entirely succeed.

Bitchiness aside, there were some gorgeous descents that improved my mood slightly, but generally speaking, my head was not in the game. I kept thinking how if I'd done the Alpine trail, I could have spent a lot more time going downhill.  And I did a. lot. of. Walking.  When we got to the clover patch section of the trail, there are several steep switch backs that I had no chance of making in my condition.  I finally quite bothering to get on my bike between them, knowing I'd be off again in a few yards.  The rest of the 'slow group' was waiting at the top where the trail turned to double track.  I heard Paul's radio crackle.

“Are you guys OK?”

“Yeah, we're coming.”

A few minutes later.  “Paul, put it in the big ring.”

“I'm riding the gear I have.”

And again, “I'm not trying to put pressure on you, I'm just trying to get you to hurry up.”

Any shreds of good mood I may have gained from the descent evaporated at that point.  I wanted to take the radio and tell the other guide to fuck off.  But I just kept walking.  Eventually, we caught the group, and then, after all that rushing, he deigned to wait a few minutes for me to catch my breath.

The riding got a bit easier for a little while, and then everyone was off their bikes while we traversed a gravel road section with a lot of downed trees from a recent storm.  From there, we started going down again, and I fared slightly better.  At least I didn't have any falls and I didn't go off into any of the poison oak that grows rampant on the side of the trail.  I made sure to have someone point it out to me so I would know what it looked like.

I made it down the whole trail but instead of feeling stoked on the ride, I mostly just felt tired and afraid.  I'm normally OK with some exposed trails (trails that have a steep drop off to one or both sides) but today I was just done.  I was sick of feeling inches away from death (most an over-dramatization of the actual risk) and sick being afraid of the trail.  I counted the miles until we finished the single track and was actually glad to get to the gravel road that signaled the start of the 17 mile ride back to camp.  Although I couldn't relax too much on that either, because Davey, the lead guide warned us about loose sections where we could easily skid out if we didn't control our speed.

When we got to the bottom of the road, the sight of the shuttle waiting for us was about the most welcome thing I've ever seen.  We had been told in the morning that there might be a shuttle available to save us from the 12 mile pavement ride back to camp, but not to hold our breath.  But Paul had called ahead and they were waiting for us.  There wasn't room for everyone, but three people were willing to ride back to town.  I didn't care, as long as I got a seat.

On the way back to camp, Davey started talking about maybe going to the top of the Larison Rock trail—a quick 20 minute decent that ends right in camp.  Surprisingly, I found myself willing to go along with this plan.  As long as there was no climbing, I figured I'd be OK.  Plus that would put us back at camp right before showers opened up.
Larison Rock turned out to be a lot like (the grossly misnamed) Flat Creek trail—unrelenting downhill with just enough technical spots to get you in trouble.  Despite being warned about some spots where the trail gets really narrow because of people wiping out there and washing out the trail, I couldn't avoid the trap.  Just as I recognized that I was probably going a little too fast, I saw the trail get very tiny and a big pile of super fine, loose dust to the left side.  I looked at the dust, and it was all over.  A stupid, newbie mistake.  I slide into the dust and landed on my right side, just like I was sliding into home plate on a baseball field.  I was annoyed, but the damage was limited to a tiny patch of road rash on my elbow.  I got up and kept going and made it down the rest of the trail unscathed.

At the bottom of the trail, I rode directly to the bank of the river, shed my camelbak and walked in without even taking off my bike shoes.  The water was definitely warmer than last month.  That combined with the hundred degree temperature, made the dip more on the refreshing side and less a torture session for my own good.  There were several dogs playing in the water, including Sierra, the adorable German Short hair Pointer. 

After a few minutes in the river to cool down, I went to the kitchen and ran into Lauren, one of the GSP organizers.  She asked about my day of course, and I responded in my now usual grumpy manner.  “Well, would this mocha frappucino make you feel better?” she asked.

I actually perked up at that.  “It definitely couldn't hurt.”

I took the big cup she handed me and it was chocolaty and sweet.  Things were starting to look up.  From there I headed to the shower van.  When we got dropped off, my team mate was just coming out of the showers and solemnly warned me that the showers were 'boiling hot.'  And that the coolest one was on the far left.  I didn't bother telling her that a hot shower was just fine with me.  It opens up the pores.

Being clean after two days, plus the chocolate coffee goodness made me feel for the first time as though I might actually get through the day without killing someone.  Soon after I got back to camp, I got in the dinner line.  It was pizza again, which I hated last month (it doesn't survive the 40 minute trip from Eugene so well), but a few seconds in the microwave made it much more palatable.

The rest of the night I spent in limited socializing and trying in vain to rehydrate myself.  I did OK drinking during the ride, emptying my 100oz camelbak plus water bottle but then made the mistake of not drinking for a couple of hours back in camp.  I got a headache and never did shake it.  I went to bed at a fairly decent hour, hoping to sleep it off and in general, have a much better day tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mt Bike Oregon Pt 2, Day 1

I'm very stinky. It's the hottest weekend of the year and I'm down in Oakridge for another exciting edition of Mountain Bike Oregon. Although I over packed by a ridiculous amount, I still seem to have forgotten a few crucial things—like bug juice. And Perpetuem (liquid food) which would be really good to have since I'm doing a big ride tomorrow with a long ride back on the road. But at least there's electrolyte tablets in our goody bags.

The drive down was so so, but I just learned that a bunch of fires near I-5 closed down a lot of the highway yesterday, so I suppose I should be grateful that I had no delays and arrived in one piece. But my iPod shuffle, which is usually so good to me, positively sucked the whole way down. And I don't like to fiddle around with trying to find specific songs unless I have a co-pilot, so I spent a lot of time just skipping songs.

Things got even less fun when a state trooper started following me about eight miles from Oakridge. I had actually seen a bunch of troopers on I-5 and lots of people got pulled over—but I was hoping things would calm down once I turned off the main highway. No such luck. I would've felt better if they'd just happened to catch up to me, but in fact, I caught up to them (going 60 mph, 5 miles over the speed limit) and then they pulled off the road specifically to get behind me. That set my spider sense tingling that perhaps they were just waiting for the opportunity to ticket me for D.W.B. I kept my speed firmly between 50-53mph in a 55 zone. I'm surprised they didn't pull me over for going too slow. They finally turned off once we hit Oakridge city limits.

Ayleen kindly offered to let me shower in her hotel room (there's no services till tomorrow, and even then, a hot shower is unlikely unless I get there within the first 30 minutes). She also invited me to dinner with the gang (staff and guides). As usually happens in this crowd, I could barely get anyone to leave so I could come to bed. I didn't want to push my luck by pressing the shower issue, though it would be REALLY nice right now. But the night is pretty cool and my tent is well ventilated.

Speaking of tents, J and I bought a new tent on REI Outlet and it came just in the nick of time for me to pick it up on my way out of town and test it out. It took me a while to set it up, as it's much different than my old tent, but now that I've done it, I'll be a lot faster next time. The tent is a bit smaller than the gigantic four-person that I could almost stand up in. This one is a three person and a different shape, but so far, I totally dig it. And it weighs less than half what the other tent does, so it will work for bike camping, which we're doing in a couple of weeks (with the Dummy, which should be ready by then, SQUEE!).

The tent has vestibules, which I've never had before. In theory, I like the idea of keeping stuff outside the tent and having it stay dry—but in practice, I don't like how I trip over the guy lines every time I step anywhere near the tent. I'm sure it's just a matter of retraining myself.

Once I got everything set up, I decided to go for a little ride, to get my 'sea legs' so to speak, and remember what this off road thing is all about. I did the Salmon Creek 'fitness trail' which is basically a way of saying, it's really easy and you can pedal a lot. It was actually a really fun trail. It's pretty smooth, as trails go, and especially heading back, it's slightly downhill which makes for a lot of fun swooping fast turns. On the way back I stopped at the river damn, where two people had wisely taken camp chairs to the middle of the river and were watching the sunset. I had been told that the water at this swimming hole was not nearly as cold as the river next to Green Waters park where we're camping and the rumor proved to be true. I waded in with no problems and it was the perfect refreshing temperature.

Another nice thing about the trail is that near the beginning/end, it's just lousy with more blackberries than I could ever hope to find in one place. They're still not quite sweet, but I ate a bunch anyway.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Crow: The new French Delicacy

After being quoted in the press saying the french 4 x 100 relay team would "smash the Americans," French swimmer Alain Bernard is having crow for dinner tonight, followed by a big piece of humble pie for dessert. The Dude says, "Don't let your mouth write a check that your body can't cash," and now we see why. I wouldn't be surprised to see this picture of Bernard's face following the race as the new screensaver on the US relay members' computers.

There's so many great ripples from that race, not the least of which is Gold for Cullen Jones, only the second African American swimmer to achieve that feat. My friend Jenny is making an amazing documentary about African Americans in swimming called Parting the Waters. You should all go and bookmark her website and friend her on Facebook RIGHT NOW, and count the days till it comes out.

I can't wait. Today was her last day of shooting (with 7 camera crews around the world!). What finale.

I love the Olympics.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Counting Bikes

A month or so ago, we signed up to count bikes for PDOT so they can update their traffic information and tell the purse string holders how many more people are riding bikes this year than last, so we can have more trails, bike blvds n stuff.

Our first mission was at the corner of Russell and Williams, quite the hot commuting spot.  We set up at 3:50pm and from 4:00-6:00 we kept track of who went where, men vs women and helmets vs no helmets.  It was definitely a two person job.

In two hours, we counted 531 cyclists. About 20% were without helmets and about 38% were women.  One of the cyclists was an ex of mine, who stopped to chat, during the busiest stream of the time period.  I actually enjoyed the challenge of keeping up conversation while trying to keep track of all the bikes.  We have another intersection to count out near U of P that probably won't see quite as much traffic, but I'll be interested to see the numbers.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mt Bike Oregon

Home Sweet Home

As I settled into my tent at Greenwaters Park in Oakridge, OR, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the first real vacation I've taken alone since my month-long, five city, two country tour in 1997.  I took a moment to relish my new found freedom.  The dynamic of going 'alone' to a group event suits me well.  There are tons of people around if I feel like socializing--but I have no obligations to anyone and can retreat to my tent for some alone time whenever I want.  Perfect.

Once my temporary home sweet home was set up, I got my bike and headed the mile into town for dinner at the new Chinese restaurant.  I heard from several people that the owner used to be Jackie Chan's personal chef.  The chicken fried rice I had for dinner didn't seem particularly star-quality to me, but it wasn't bad either.  While I ate, I read We Might As Well Win by Johan Bruyneel.  We went to his reading at Powell's last week, and I picked it up on the way out of town, thinking it'd be a nice bike-related read for the weekend.  (Reading during dinner--another perk of temporary bachelorette-hood).

Back at camp, it was getting chilly, but I had my four-person tent to myself, and I discovered that Jess's lounger camp chair with foot rest, fit nicely inside the tent with all my other stuff.  I read until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore (and the guys next to me had turned off their music) and went to bed.

Friday morning, I was up at 6:30 and hit the breakfast line just after it opened at 7:00.  The MBO organizers have had four years to dial in this event and it shows.  The breakfast menu included ham, sausage, yogurt, granola, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, pancakes, OJ and coffee from Nossa Familia.  All the food was cooked up fresh by volunteers from the local Rotary club right in front of us.  I loaded up, knowing I had a big ride day ahead.

Load 'em upAt 9:00am, our bikes were covered with blankets and loaded into a big Penske truck, while the humans loaded into a genuine yellow school bus.  A lot of the tall guys found their knees getting squished in the kiddie-sized seats.  I was glad I'd brought a magazine to read on the drive up because looking out of the side window to the steep drop-off next to the narrow gravel road, as we headed to the start of the Alpine trail was a little harrowing.  In mountain biking, when you're on a narrow single track trail only a couple of feet wide with a big drop-off below, you look at where you want to go, NOT down at the drop.  Illogically, I felt the same way about riding the bus.  I kept my eyes on the road ahead or buried in my magazine.  We only stopped once, to let a hen and her chicks get across the road.

When we reached our drop off point, everyone piled out.  The guys of course, immediately all lined up on the side of the road to pee off the side of the mountain.  I followed a few other women to the 'ladies room' a little ways up the road. 


The view was breath-taking, and included five mountains: Three Sisters, Broken Top and one other mountain I couldn't identify.  The guides called everyone together for a group meeting, where we split up according to which trail we were riding (there were two leading from our start point, Alpine and Tire Mountain), and how fast we wanted to go.  The Tire Mountain group left first and the rest of us waited around to avoid bunching up on the trail.  Finally it was time to go.

2008_0718_006_mtbikeoregonWe entered the trail at a spot called Kate's cut in--presumably named for the woman who found/built it.  The road turned up sharply, and almost immediately, I found myself walking. I suck at climbing at the best of times, and I'm definitely not in the best shape at the moment.  The grade eased up after a few feet and became rideable.  From there it was a mile or so of climbing.  We stopped in the middle of a field of bear grass to regroup before the first big downhill section. 

The descent down Alpine represented my longest time on a real single track trail and my longest sustained descent (road or mountain) ever.  It was indescribably fun.  One of the things I love about MTB is the absolute focus required if you want to keep your skin whole.  You're flying down a tiny little trail maybe four or five feet wide at best.  Roots, rocks, dips and turns are coming at you, and you have, depending on your speed, 1-3 seconds to register obstacles and pick the best line around them.  It's a focus I wish more people would bring to the driver's seat.  My top speed going down Alpine was 21 mph.  There's a section called "Jedi" because riding through it feels kinda like this, with narrow routes through fallen trees, a huge trail dip and other delights.  It was definitely the highlight of the trail.

Jedi dumps back out onto a section of forest service road, where we regrouped for snacks.  I saw a guide wearing a Bike Friday jersey and started chatting with him.  His name is Ian, and it turned out that he used to work at BF, but now runs his own business making and selling bike trailers and hitches.  In fact, it turned out that the trailer conversion kit I bought just before I left came from him!  Not only that, but he trained Hugh, the BF sales rep I worked with while ordering my bike.  How's that for a small world?

Despite being in a guided group of about 45 people, I was surprised to find that I was 'alone' for long sections of the trail throughout the day.  It was awesome not being able to see or hear anyone in front of in back of me and having the feeling of being alone on the trail, while at the same time knowing there were people around to help if anything went really wrong.  The first time I caught up to some one, it was a father and son who'd been just ahead of me.  The dad had tried to grab air and a free apparently jumped onto the trail and hit him.  His son, riding behind him, had no choice but to bail.  They were both OK, and the son was laughing hysterically about the whole thing.  I kept riding.

The next section started out bumpy as I promptly engaged in bad shifting technique and dropped my chain as a result.  I couldn't clip out fast enough so I did a classic tumble onto my right side with my foot clipped into the pedal.  Luckily, a rock broke my fall, and only Nick, the sweep guide for our group, was around to see it.  I fixed my chain and got started again, only to promptly get a stick lodged deep into my spokes.  I stopped before any damage occurred and fished it out.  From then on, it was smooth sailing down another loooooooong descent.  So long in fact, that I felt the burn start in my quads from hanging off the back of my bike.  Luckily, all those awkward poses in yoga have paid off!  Nick found me later that evening in camp and complimented my descending.  He said he had waited a few minutes before starting after me, thinking I might hold him up, but he never caught me.


The trail ended at neat and well kept rest stop near a covered bridge.  It was here that I had my closest call of the weekend.  I'd been feeling fine all day, but suddenly, the Chinese food from the night before took vengeance on my intestines like I have seldom experienced before.  I spent a fair amount of time on the porcelain throne, thanking any deity I could think of that this little episode hadn't happened on the trail.

By the time I came out of the bathroom, everyone had left to ride back to town.  Just one guy was sitting at the picnic table, next to his broken bike.  A bolt on his crank had striped on the trail and the entire left crank and pedal had come off his bike.  He rode the last 2/3 of Alpine with one pedal!  Now that's hard core.  "They just took off, and I saw them go up the hill over there," he told me.  "You can probably catch them if you start cranking."

But there would be no more cranking for me that day.  I gingerly mounted my bike and limped off down the road, averaging about 3-5 mph for the three miles of uphill road back to town.  As I went up the first incline--too short and gentle to even legitimately be called a hill--I passed two women hanging out in the front yard of a little house.  We exchanged greetings and then one of them said, "As long as I've lived here, I've never been able to ride up that hill."  Yeah, she was talking about the baby incline I'd just crawled up with my intestines turned inside out.  I've had driveways steeper than that.  It makes me sad that so many people have lost the will/ability/habit of moving around under their own power--to the point that they can't ride up a tiny little hill.

It took me about an hour to crawl the five miles back to camp.  The road finally turned down at mile three or so, which sped things up considerably.  Once back to Oakridge, a nice guy getting out of his car pointed me back towards the park.  I had hoped to spend the afternoon doing the easy Salmon Creek trail that runs through camp, but as it was, all I could do was crawl into my tent to die.

Fortunately, a nap did me wonders.  After a couple of hours, I was still weak, but I was able to get up and head over to Nick's (different Nick) yoga/stretching session in the beer garden.  I met Nick at a Dirty Martini show in June and when he found out I was headed to MBO, he was stoked to car-pool.  He eventually decided he needed some alone time instead, but he was still stoked to see me, and invited me to come sit with him and his friends at dinner.  Someone took a picture of him in the middle of a yoga pose, drinking a free beer, which I think pretty much sums up his personality.  One minute, he's encouraging us through a silent/still meditation, with admonitions to use the serenity of the trails to work through and really experience our emotions.  An hour later, he comes back to to the dinner table and someone asked, "Hey Nick, what'd you ride today?"

"Your mom," he replied smoothly. 

Despite being somewhat of a dude-fest, the atmosphere at MBO is one of the friendliest I've ever experienced in a group made up of mostly total strangers.  The demographic is overwhelmingly male and white--there were maybe 20-30 women (some non-riders) and a bare handful of non-whites, and I was once again the TBG of the group.  But everyone is just so stoked to ride that it pretty much over-rides the petty barriers of race/class/gender that might come up in a different environment.  A routine conversation would go something like this:

(Morning): What are you riding today? Oh that's a sweet trail, you'll like it.  Where you from? Cool. Have you been here before?  How long have you been riding?  What is ____ trail like?

(Afternoon/Evening): Where'd you ride today? How was it?  (insert morning questions if it's a new person).

It's so textbook in fact, that when I go back to MBO August next month, I may just start volunteering answers to the standard questions to see how people react.  I hung out in the beer garden in the evenings, not drinking beer and chatting with whoever was close by.  I sort of adopted two families including a married couple and their son who looked to be in his early twenties, and a women and her older teen daughter.  We traded trail stories and plotted our adventures for the next day.  If only I could remember any of their names, but alas, it was not to be.  Perhaps I'll suggest name tags as an improvement to the event.  I met lots of great people and remember maybe two names and probably couldn't attach them to the right people if I saw them again.

Since I had two more days of riding, I decided it would be a good idea to try to ice-bathe my legs in the river.  It's a pretty well known fact that I hate cold water, but one of my Sorella sisters recently posted a compelling email about the benefits of icing as an aid to recovery.  I figured I should just harden up and do the right thing.  Well, the mind was willing but the body was--reluctant to say the least!  One of the guys laying out on the bank pointed out a handy rock from which I could leap into the deep section and completely submerge.  I thanked him, but respectfully declined, not seeing any need to go into shock and drown. It took me five minutes to submerge up to my thighs.  I did some fast talking and convinced myself to stay in for at least a slow count of 100.  By then, numbness was mercifully setting in so I figured I might as well stay in another few minutes for maximum benefit.  I distracted myself by singing Lindsay Mac's 'Stumble' a couple of times and thought of all the fresh oxygenated blood TM that would shortly be flooding my legs so I could hit the trails fresh the next day.  My legs said, "screw you, we don't care."

I stepped gingerly out of the river, intending to head for the showers.  But when I passed by the info tent area, I noticed dinner had just arrived.  Food suddenly seemed like a much higher priority.  They mentioned they were trying a pizza dinner for the first time this year and to be sure to give feedback.  For me, the pizza was a definite fail.  It did not survive the forty minute trip from Eugene well at all and I'm not a big fan of cold pizza, especially after a full day of riding.  I ate a couple of pieces and some salad and headed to the showers.

There were shuttles to ferry people to the nearby high school.  As I got out of the van, a guy waiting to make the return trip said, "Enjoy the water temperature!" Crap.  I had forgotten that the hot water tank was pretty small.  The information booklet for the weekend promised the showers would be wet but made no guarantees beyond that.  When I walked in, I was pleased to find the locker room facilities were spacious, clean and well kept.  I was appalled to see every single one of the twelve showers running steadily with me the only person in the room.  I'm sure with that set up, whatever hot water there had been was used up twice as fast.  I was even more disgusted when I heard that the men's showers all turn on and off individually--in other words, they were designed in a sane manner.  The women's showers, it turned out, were all on a timer.  All on or all off.  It was possible to turn them off, but only by wrenching the timer back to zero with brute force.  It was a good thing I'd been in the river already--the showers seemed downright comfortable in comparison.  But I definitely was in and out quicker than usual.

MBO Beer GardenBack at camp, I spent some time in the beer garden chatting with my new adopted family, and trying to talk one of the moms into doing Short Track racing.  It occurred to me that I sounded remarkably similar to all the people who have been trying to get me to race 'cross this season--but Short Track is sunny and warm and fun, while 'cross is wet and miserably and insane.

I retired to my tent at a decent hour and called Jess.

"You would have hated everything I did today," I said, telling her about the hours-long hairy decent on Alpine.

"I like descending!" she said, a bit defensively.  "I just don't like when I spend half my time walking, because of obstacles, and there are roots and rocks and it's really narrow and if I go wrong I might hit a tree or drop off the trail."

You're describing good singletrack, I thought, but decided not to point that out at the moment. 

I stayed up way too late reading and finally went to sleep sometime after my neighbor's iPod battery ran out and their obnoxious music died down.


I forced myself out of my warm sleeping bag at 6:30.  The breakfast spread was the same as the previous day and I loaded up on pancakes and hoped my guts would behave today.  I was wait-listed for the Middle Fork trail shuttle and there would be no friendly rest area at the end---just the shuttle bus waiting to take us back to camp.

I made it onto the bus.  Ian sat next to me, the knees of his long legs crushed up against the seat in front of us.  I can't remember the last time I rode in an old school yellow school bus, but they were definitely not made for adults.  I alternated chatting with Ian and reading my magazine.

With fourteen miles to go to the trail head, the routine hum of the road was shattered by a loud shot.  One of the bus tires had blown. We kept driving for another mile or so and pulled over as soon as there was room.

Everyone piled out of the bus and the driver and a couple of guides had a look at the tire.  The rubber poked out at odd angles, but the tire itself was only slightly sagged.  The next few minutes were filled with discussion about the best way to proceed.  We still had twelve miles to go to get to the trail head.  Suggestions included having a few people ride to the start, while the rest piled into the Penske truck that held our bikes. Or half the people going on the truck and half in the bus.  The PIC's has just about agreed on this plan, when one guy who was a commercial trucker, said that the tire would be fine with everyone on the bus, as long as we kept to twenty miles per hour or less.  So then we all piled back on and made it safely to the start of the trail.

Middle Fork Trail

We split into the hammer, middle and slow groups and set off.  Middle Fork is described in the MBO literature as an epic, all-day trail.  My first hint of the magnitude of the adventure came about a quarter mile into the trail when we went through a huge mud bog.  It came up with no warning and I wasn't carrying any kind of speed.  No chance of powering through it, so I got off dropped off the last rung of my comfort zone ladder.  Five minutes in and already my feet were caked and squishy with mud and cold water.  So, it's going to be *that* kind of day, I thought, and adjusted my mind set accordingly.

As I cleared the mud and started pedaling again, I heard a loud splash behind me.  It was Paul, one of the guides, apparently not having much luck riding through the mess.  I smiled and kept pedaling.

A few miles in and we were into a fun swoopy section of fairly smooth single track, with enough turns and bumps to keep things interesting.  It was like a roller coaster, except I controlled the speed. 

Middle Fork is a pretty technical trail, with lots of roots, rocks, switch backs, steep climbs, creek crossings and other challenges.  I consider myself to be closer to intermediate than beginner so tried to challenge myself while still keeping in mind my number one priority to not get hurt.  That compromise meant at least a couple of miles of what is referred to in MTB circles as 'hike-a-bike.'  Anytime the road turned steeply upward, I was walking.  Sometimes on creek crossings, there were rocks or logs to step on.  Sometimes I just waded, to try and get the mud off my shoes.  A few people complained but I looked on the bright side--at least my feet weren't going to swell!  And I'd worn wool socks, which turned out to be a great choice for spending the day with my feet wet.

Middle Fork TrailThe other popular feature of the trail was these skinny log bridges with one rail. We must have crossed about at least ten of them before the day was over.  They're so narrow that you have to pop your bike onto the back wheel and roll it in front of you, and a couple of them were missing steps on the other end.

One section of switch backs was so steep that a couple of guys were waiting to help folks get up it.  I didn't hesitate to hand my bike up, as I could barely crawl up it *without* carrying my bike.  I think I struck a nice balance throughout the day between not being a stuck up feminist, or a girly wimp.   There were a few times the guys offered to take my bike, but if I didn't need help, I didn't take it.

I was very happy to see the truck waiting for us at the lunch stop.  At the beginning of the day, we put our lunches in coolers and they were delivered to us midday.  I still had a pretty gaping hole in my mouth from getting my wisdom teeth out eight days before, so I eschewed the turkey in favor of PB & J, which was my lunch of choice for the weekend.  I had to skip the Dave's Killer Bread as well because of all the nuts and seeds, just waiting to tuck into the gaps.

Middle Fork Trail

The trail gets easier as you go down, so after lunch, things mellowed out a little bit, and I even managed to clear one of the baby stream crossings.  Even the 'easy' sections of the trail required my full attention though.  Just when things got smooth enough to lull me into feeling comfortable, a tricky short root-filled climb or some rocks would appear to keep things interesting.  As usual, I had drifted to the back of the pack.  Matt was the guide doing sweep on the middle group, and he rode directly behind me after lunch.  All the guides were great all weekend.  Matt in particular had a very intense vibe and took his responsibilities very seriously, while still obviously having a great time.  If any charge needed taking, he was the go-to guy to make sure decisions got made, flats were fixed etc.

I could tell he was impressed with my riding, especially when I cleared a short steep section full of chunky rocks. "I didn't think you'd make it," he said after I'd powered my way up it (by the skin of my teeth, but I didn't feel the need to mention that).  He asked if I'd gotten involved with the PUMP group in Portland yet and suggested I hook up with them for some rides.  "But you might want to take your reflectors off," he warned. "They'll probably make fun of you."  That happened to me with my road bike as well.  I expect I'll care as much now as I did then, which is to say, not at all.  I'm a commuter first, and have been known to ride all my bikes in town, in traffic.

Everyone made it back to the bus around 3:30 and then the most challenging part of the day was upon us: a ride back to town on a bus full of stinky bikers.  I think just about everyone remarked on the odor as we filed onto the bus. "I'm smelling chamois!" one guy said.

Fortunately, the ride back was much shorter.  Heeding my lesson from yesterday, I headed immediately to the shower shuttle and just got the last of the hot water.  Dinner that night was amazing, bbq chicken, sausages, corn on the cob, rolls, salad, coleslaw, potato salad, veggie sausages, brownies and ice cream.  I got my tray and sat down next to a hard core guy with a long beard.  He'd ridden three trails and had four beers before 6:00pm.

One trail and no beers was plenty for me, but I headed to the beer garden to socialize after dinner anyway.  I saw a woman with a dog that I knew was camped next to me but hadn't met yet.  I went to join her and another woman, but left after finding out they were just camping out with their mates and not riding.  Too hard to try to make conversation about things not trail-related.  I spotted my adopted family and headed for their table.  We hung out and traded trail stories until it was time for the raffle.

Everyone registered for the weekend got a raffle ticket, and the chance to win one of the many cool prizes, but the only one I cared about was this one:  A sweet looking blue/black GT hard tail that would be perfect to take home to Jess. I was already imagining the look on her face.  I'd tell her I was bringing her home a souvenir--and then show up with a shiny new bike.  It'd be awesome.

Paula came around with the tickets, and promised me sincerely that she was handing me the winning bike ticket.  Ayleen likes to run speed raffles, which I like because it means a better chance to win if someone isn't paying attention.  If you miss your number because you were talking to your buddy, or in the bathroom, too bad. 

The moment finally arrived and Ayleen dragged it as long as possible.  "Three...." Holy crap, I was in the running.  "Five...."  Now our whole table was on pins and needles, since all of us had 35 as our first two digits.  One number left.  Could I actually be this lucky?

"One!"  Our whole table deflated as one.  I looked down at my ticket: 354.  THREE STUPID NUMBERS OFF!!!  It was maddening to be so close.  The lucky bum who won was sitting near the stage.  He didn't even holler when he won. 

Dave's Killer Bread shirtLater I saw most of the staff sitting up on stage and went over to commiserate about my close call.  Ayleen immediately took pity on me and offered me a consolation prize--a tiny little Dave's Killer Bread tank top that actually fits.  Still, I think I may need therapy about the raffle.

I visited a while longer with the fam, and then went to brush my teeth.  I was headed toward my tent and bed, when I saw Ayleen coming towards me. "Hey, we're driving up the road to the hot springs, do you want to come?"

My mouth moved before my brain even processed forming the words. "I'm so there. I'll be right back."  A hot soak would be just the thing to perk me up for the last day of riding.

I met her back at the info tent.  I had imagined a van full of people, but when I showed up it was just Ayleen and two guys who worked for Randy. Stefan and (name forgotten of course).  So we took a car instead of the van and rolled out.

We decided to avoid what was known as the creepy trucker hot springs and drove a little bit further to a different spring that was about a mile hike in to get to.  I was the the only one who'd thought to bring a light.  Stefan found one more flashlight when he went back to the car for the booze and we made our way in without mishap.

There were two pools--one was too hot to get in, but the other was just right.  Even though it was only a foot or so deep, the pebbled bottom was plenty nice for sitting in.  The others brought suits, so I was the only one skinny dipping but it wasn't a big deal and the guys were chill about it.  I actually had a swim suit at camp, but I don't do swim suits in natural hot springs.  I think it's wrong and unnatural.

We soaked and sweated and talked about event planning, other hot springs encounters and enjoyed the full moon shining over the river.  On our way out we stopped at a particularly pretty spot to take it all in.  I suggested a moment of silence and they agreed.  It was sweet and peaceful--until a car went by  on the nearby road, shattering the sense of peace.

With that little side adventure, and staying up to write about it, I didn't get to bed until 1:30 or so.


My big plan for the day was to take it easy.  I was tired from two epic days of riding and I knew that fatigue equals more mistakes (read: crashes).  I planned to do the grossly misnamed Flat Creek trail and then Salmon Creek, a flat trail which lead right back to camp. 

The shuttle for Flat Creek was very popular--I think a lot of folks had the same idea.  Instead of a school bus and Penske truck, we had a couple of vans with racks on top, but they managed to get all the people and bikes who wanted to go.  On the way up the trail, we encountered two guys riding up, who latched onto the pick up truck to get a ride.

Even though Flat Creek is listed as one of the easier rides on the weekend, I found it pretty challenging.  It's a short, but unrelenting 15 minutes of downhill with lots of cliff exposure to one side of the trail, and some pretty steep switchbacks.  At one point I ran into some big rocks and panicked a little, riding up onto the right (non-cliff) side of the trail and pulling my first endo of the weekend.  It was pretty minor and I only got a few scratches.  I was so close to pulling a crash-free weekend!  Oh well.  I finished out the rest of the ride with no incidents.

At the bottom, we regrouped and Matt asked who wanted to go straight back to camp and who wanted to do the more technical side of Salmon Creek, ending at the Fish Hatchery.  Even though he said it was more technical, I figured it was still pretty flat, so how bad could it be?  I went the hard way. 

How bad turned out to be, bad enough to end up doing more hike-a-bike than I expected.  I had no legs to speak of on any of the up hill sections.  It would've been interesting to do the trail when I was fresher.  But that's the nice thing about going back next month!

The trail ended at the fish hatchery, where we spent a few minutes admiring the baby salmon and the HUGE sturgeon, all of which were longer than me.

From there it was a quick jaunt over a gravel road back to camp.  I took about an hour to pack up and head back to the city, well pleased with my first foray into the world of sweet, sweet single track.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.