Thursday, April 12, 2012

Colorado High Country 1200km Randonnee July 2011

Colorado High Country 1200km Randonnee July 2011
Randonnée is a long trip on a prescribed route by foot or bicycle. Randonneur: A hard-riding enthusiast who is trying to complete a randonnée inside a time allotment. Randonnée rules encourage self sufficiency, allowing support only at certain checkpoints along the route. The only reward is a certificate, the brevet. Randonnée distances range from 100 to 1200 or more kilometers
I love cycling, have ridden all my life. I experienced some small, hard earned success road and cyclocross racing. February 1997, my dear friend Keren was killed by a drunk. I started riding longer distances, alone at first, later like minded friends encouraged the obsession. Ellen Michaelson and I toured, both supported and loaded. Jack Newlevant and Philippe Andre introduced randonnée. Exotic routes tempted me, Paris-Brest-Paris, Boston-Montreal-Boston, Rocky Mountain 1200, and the Cascade 1200. Philippe and I trained with fellow Portland Velo members Alan Woods, and Jim Hinckley. June 2010 we all completed the Oregon Blue Mountain 1000km and planned to ride 2012 Paris-Brest-Paris. In early June, new work precluded overseas travel, but I bargained for a week in the Rocky Mountains, a favorite place for adventure. This is my randonnée story.
Colorado High Country 1200km Randonnée 2011
Starters: 47
Finishers: 35
Distance: 1200km, 760 miles
Time Limit: 90 hours
Start/Finish: 5200 ft MSL
High Point 10,800 ft MSL
Major Climbs 7
Web Site: http://www.rmccrides.com/brevet-chc-main.htm

Pre-Ride
Ellen and I finish our ride, an out and back route to the fascinating geology of Eldorado Springs where the world class rock climbers hang out, literally, on the red rock of the South Boulder Creek Canyon. Later we dine with old friends. The bikes are performing flawlessly after the quick assembly in our hotel room.

Sunday we ride back toward the canyon then to Boulder early in the afternoon, doing some rolling climbing on the way back, I feel ok but very slow. Great roads, the busy ones have wide shoulders for the many cyclists. It feels like a dried out Portland. I eat a Hoagie from Whole Foods after the official check in and bike inspection, it fills me up before dinner. We meet many fellow riders representing several states, Quebec, Alberta, as well as Norway, South Africa and Italy. We chat with Tennessee George and the experienced Allen brothers from Rochester MN, where I rode in the mid 1970’s. We walk to dinner with a guy from Boulder who is “not acclimated” to Colorado front range altitude after five years here. What, I am supposed to acclimate in 2 days? Ellen leaves for Vale as thunderstorms brew up to the west. I am nervous, and want to be asleep by 9:00pm, and almost make it.

Day 1
My goals today are:
Be in the front group until mile 48
Ride with somebody to the Summit of Cameron Pass and Walden
Conserve as much energy as possible riding with someone to the overnight control in Saratoga

Well rested I awake at 02:30 to check out, eat a light breakfast, and dress for the cool damp morning. Fog welcomes me as I roll my new custom Corey Thompson randonneuse bike onto the tarmac. The lighting system checks out ok as I roll around, and then chat with folks I know, Jennifer, Ian, and other SIR friends. I am the only Oregon rider and sport an SIR reflective vest and wool jersey, light weight wool arm and leg warmers and gloves, but no booties. My front bag has food, multi tool, sun screen, Chamois Butter, and spare tubes while the large green saddle bag contains a spare tire and the Bivy bag I bought just last week. I have enough fluid and food to reach the first control at Vern’s, 65 miles away in LaPorte.
John Lee makes the final announcements and the president of RMCC talks about the initial edition of this ride. 48 nervous riders get the whistle and roll down the driveway towards the open road. My plan is to stay at the front, out of trouble until we leave town. The roads are still wet as the group splits at first one light then another. I miss a light and the first 4 roll on, I never see them again. The second group works smoothly on rollers. My heart rate soars, sea level fitness in a high altitude group. I manage to stay in the draft on the flat sections, and move up on descents and at turns. I lose ground on the short climbs, keeping within the group.

The cloudy dawn of the eastern sky reveals the landscape of gentlemen farms and rolling hills of horse country. Someone attacks the field on a descent and I struggle on the climb out of the creek bed and let the group go. As I drift back the rising sun warms the air, off comes the reflective vest, down go the arm warmers and leg warmers.

My plan and effort paid off. This 2 mile climb is the only one before the first control, and I am in front of at least half the field so there will be wheels to follow as the ride goes on. At the crest is the secret control where volunteers welcome me. I keep the stop brief, get my card signed and chose a cupcake from the rear of the car. It is great to see enthusiastic support early in the ride. These smiling faces will be welcoming later on!

Downhill to the Big Thompson River, into Loveland, left onto Wilson road, the thoroughfare west of Fort Collins, lots of traffic, noise, and regular rollers make this the least enjoyable segment of the ride, almost. A Colorado rider comes up, we chat about our similar climbing styles. I like rollers, others like the long steady climbs to come. Left turn, a quiet road, I head toward University of Northern Colorado Ft. Collins Equine Center, a big money sport center. This is a fun cruise into Cache la Poudre where Ian and Vinnie catch me with a large group. We all roll into the control at Vern’s, of Cinnamon Bun fame.

I want to get out of this control quickly, but get bogged down with lens changes, sun screen, and fluid fills, 15 minutes, gone. Ian was there with me, but is not in sight. I ride out alone into the gathering heat, cruising easy up then down to the Mouth of the Poudre Canyon when a guy named Ashton, rolls up. I latch onto his wheel. It looks like a good one.

Together we enter the canyon, the early morning remnant of the down canyon night winds blows in our faces as we trade pulls. Another rider comes up, Julie Gazmararian, the teacher from Atlanta. She just finished the Race Across the West, and is super fit, thin, and fast. Ashton starts chatting with her. He is from Iowa and has lots of interesting stories to keep her slow for a long time. I lose contact on the steeper risers, but catch back on the long flattish sections between rapids on the swollen Poudre River.
There are stories of long trips, cross country tours, Pacific Coast Highway and more from Ashton. Julie is a competitor with time to train as her kids are older now. Inevitably I got dropped when they run out of stories and she resumes a “normal” pace.

I wave to Ian Shopland, stopped at a rest area next to the river. Where is Vinnie? Another guy in Red and White rolls up to me, thin, tan, put together, with an Italian accent. We trade pulls, dropping each other at the numerous rapids. He rides away as the second control at Rustic draws near. Ian rolls up to me just as the quaint log cabin Glen Echo Store appears.

Then Vinnie arrives, not liking the heat and humidity. Some time lost with a brief confusion taking photos. Off I go with the signature and two full water bottles as I don’t want to carry more than necessary on the next 30 miles of continuous climbing, mistake. I am using miles on my computer for this event instead of kilometers. This past week I could not focus enough to adapt the 8 pages of revised route directions into miles.

Ian cruises up and I latch on to him for a while, taking a pull or two too many. I am overheating on the climb, no convection evaporative cooling in the late morning canyon updraft. Ian suggests stopping at a camp site. Across the gravel and cattle guard, the big green pump is shaded by sparse bushes. I am shaking, on the edge of overheating and drink a full bottle and part of another. We chat, the pace is too high. Back on the road, Ian lowers the tempo and I cool down a bit. The road turns left into a narrower canyon, and the temperature starts to drop. I feel better as Ian rides away on steeper section.

The Falls of the Poudre River appears ahead on the right. Chris Rycewictz described how swollen this cataract would look when I saw him in downtown Portland last week. Chris graduated from University of Colorado as did Dr. Randy my chiropractor pal, and this canyon is a home road for them. The photo does no justice to this natural wonder.
Climbing is cooler and slower, as 8,000 then 9,000 feet above sea level pass beneath my wheels. I find that walking the steeper pitches is easier on my legs, and I feel relief as I remount when the road levels out, 2.5 mph walking, 4.0 riding, the mile markers go by. Ahead I see Ian rolling out of the rest area as I get near. Soon Cameron Pass appears, no snow and below tree line, it is lower than I thought at 10,300 ft. I put on clothes, take photos.

A car stops. “How old are you” the grandpa asks, and is amazed to hear how far this sextagarian has traveled already today. Dressed, descending, soon it is sunny, warm and I am out of water. I stop at a campground, wasting 10 minutes without success; the route sheet led me astray. Other riders pass by, I am on the road again, 50mph at times. There is potable water at a forest service visitor’s center. Two chatty older women and a noisy Forest Service worker clearing the woody debris with a power blower contrast the quiet of the road.
I am rolling through the Michigan River wooded moose country, with some private campgrounds and houses at Gould to break through the green. I reach the flats of North Park with the river cutting intermittent short rocky canyons. A wildcatting oil derrick with its attendant screeching noise breaks my inner peace.

Cattle, grey green grass, headwind, more wind, Walden appears in the distance. I enter town as Ian rolls out with a smile on his face. Inside the motel control is a quiet sanctum, no wind, with food, friendly faces and a short respite.

I complete my first good transition of the randonnée, and I am on the north bound leg towards Saratoga WY, and the growing afternoon thunder heads of the Colorado Southwest Monsoon. I slog through cross winds and short rollers towards the turn off from the Laramie highway.

The clouds are building, to the left their anvil heads must be over 30,000 ft. I see rain falling in the distance, now it is hitting the ground at the left, now onto the road overlooking the North Platte river. Thankfully I have full fenders and stay dry.

“Saratoga, 54miles.” A long climb, the rain stops, then rollers, big rollers, they look like 1000 ft. gain two then three times.

To the left near the fourth summit, a white and red Ford pickup truck is parked. The RMCC president offers water, snacks and encouragement, “no rain ahead.” Over the ridge is rain to the left. I press on as the crosswind increases. I am trying to turn the corner to Riverside ahead of the storm. No luck, the corner reveals the fierce head wind and horizontal rain. I decide to stop and wait. Out comes the new Bivy bag as the huge rain drops pelt down. I crawl in and nap for an hour, emerging rested, ready to continue.
I pass several struggling riders and enter Riverside, cruising past bikes parked in front of the Mangy Moose bar. Turning north, I pick up a tailwind. Several miles later Beth and Brent Meyers pass on the tandem with Michael from Iowa in tow. They had sheltered at the Mangy Moose. I latch onto the draft and we roll into the Saratoga control just as dark falls, 2 hours ahead of best planned schedule! I wanted to be the first into the control, but have to wait while friends take care of friends. Fresh handmade burritos are served. I finish several and receive a room to myself, luxury. I call Ellen, shower, finishing cleaning and oiling the totally awesome Thompson. I am asleep by 20:00.




Day 2
My goals today are:
Summit Snowy Range by sun up
Ride with somebody through Big Hollow to Walden
Summit Rabbit Ears Pass by sunset


I am up at 02:00 rested and out the door by 02:30. Vinnie is in the doorway and I have to step over him, “Meet you down the road.” Into the moon light, no wind, a quiet road climbing back out of the hot springs resort into ranch country. Vinnie catches me just before the turn towards the Snowy Range and Laramie. “I am going to climb this one slowly” he says, then disappears into the 03:00 dark. The road descends to the creek crossing, and then climbs past sparse ranches. It is getting colder as I climb through 8000 ft. and thick trees appear in the dark, the last lonely ranch lights roll by when the “Hi Tommy” of Michael Wolfe comes from behind. I see him every morning on the first long climb. Michael is so fast, an expert recumbent rider I met years ago at the Human Powered Championships in Portland. He gets 8 hours rest. Colder still, the false dawn, and more riders pass me.

Silver Lake is below as the dawn breaks, good time for another rest, photos. Then the Snowy Range, bright white as morning rays illuminate glaciated faces. The small lakes at their feet are mirrors reflecting the stark beauty, the rising sun warms me.


Lake Marie mirrors the granite cliff as I climb above the snow and look back to this magnificent vale at the foot of the granite walls.

Facing toward Laramie, the cold descent awaits. 58 mph on a straight run, curves, trees, a bull moose on the right with his face in the luxuriant verge grass, four tourist cameras focused on him. I let the Thompson roll, through Centennial where water is available when the store opens. Climbing onto the rollers, am I at the freeway already? No, just tired and disoriented. Chunk, chunk. Can you say ccaachunk on the bike lane? The Wyoming Highway Department has no clue about bikes. I ride in the road until the sheriff warns me to stay in the crap bike lane. He talked to many others this fine morning. Big Hollow and Laramie appear below as another rider passes. There is no drafting with that legal threat in my ears. Then a woman passes a bit slower, and I catch her draft into town at 09:40. Where is the local restaurant I saw on the web? Closed! So McDonalds it is. The local Good Old Boys eyes get really big when they hear that I left Saratoga at 02:30. They know the effort of that backcountry climb to 10,800ft., and praise me despite the tight pants! No time to sit and eat, Tennessee George wants to leave early. I pack the rest of my fast food into the bar bag and roll out into Big Hollow and the expected head wind.


We trade pulls at 14 mph. George likes this effort level, so do I, ahead is Vinnie. Three together makes the head wind disappear! Ca chunk again, thanks to Corey for the bike, and Jan Heine for the comfort of these 32mm pothole eating tires, otherwise misery. Ranch country, miles of it, big trucks, campers, and implements all roll past. This windy section flows under my tires. I was dreading Big Hollow after Allen Woods described his wind blown experiences living in Laramie. But we easily ride up the hollow to enter the rolling foot hills of the Snowy Range. We stop at the log cabin store for water and ice cream at aptly named Woods Landing.

There I make a major mistake and do not hydrate enough nor wet my wool shirt. I had studied this climb on Google and knew it would be hard. Leaving the store, we climb a narrow sun drenched canyon. Vinnie and George disappear as I overheat immediately. A few slow difficult miles later, the canyon opens into a forested stair step plateau and the wind starts to cool me down. Ahead, Vinnie is taking a “shoulder nap” as he waits. Three riders crest this “easy” climb together.
I installed aero bars in anticipation of the rest and recuperation possible on these long straight descents. My speed is 55 mph on the straights as I pass Vinnie and George struggles to stay in contact. The lonely Mountain Home resort is closed and we do not stop for water. Soon we pass the intersection where we turned off yesterday. I suffer again on the small steep rollers above the North Platt River toward Walden as I was dropped in the rain, no rain, and rain again afternoon. At the Walden control, several folks are inside today. We spent an hour talking, resting and refueling in preparation for Muddy Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass.
There is a tail wind now, and North Park mosquitoes are biting through my shorts. The rain pours down, and the winding road with rollers, marshes, rivers, bugs, cattle, big ranches goes on and on. We turn west onto the real climb. Worms cover the road as driving rain again cools me while climbing. Great conditions for me to prosper. Vinnie, George and I continue into the intermittent mist with rainbows close by to the left, where is that pot of gold?

Muddy Pass is a letdown a straight final drag to a right turn onto Hwy 40. I lose the other two as the road continues up through several turns, and a long cut out traverse of a ridge towards Rabbit Ears as I have to walk again. This climb is familiar from Ride the Rockies in 07. The east summit, sunset, threatening clouds, we gear up and start the rolling miles to the west summit as the sky opens again. Vinnie is long gone, and George is dropped. Later he would describe his terror of descending in the wet, unable to slow down with useless cork brake pads.

I know this road, just one switchback open and fast. Rain and dark, the Edilux headlight cuts the deep black gloom. I speed across some steel plates before I recognize them, those supple 32mm Gran Bois tires really work! Easy S turns, then onto the 6700 ft. valley floor, cars able to pass me. I cruise to the edge of town, stop lights, no traffic, the hotel and welcoming volunteers of the control. I am cold, soaked through except my head thanks to the hot pink shower cap.

Food in the control, eat something, was it hot and wet, soup? I get a single room again, the hot ham cheese and pesto Panini from Irene Takahashi hits the spot. Cleaned up I call Ellen, must sleep, in bed by 11:00. Quiet.


Day 3
My goals today are:
Summit Gore Pass by 10:00
Ride with somebody into Kemmering and along the Colorado River into Grand Lake
Don’t overheat, and summit Willow Creek Pass by sunset


Again I am awake at 02:00, have a quick breakfast and hit the road with Vinnie and Ian into the dense fog after the night of rain. I am tired today. Having wheels to follow through this unremitting mist pulls me along. Occasional cars, drivers shake their heads, at least they see me with the new high visibility SIR vest. My partners climb fast, but wait up on the flats. Through sleepy Oak Creek, the fog lifts. We cruise a continuous easy climb to Yampa. A Union Pacific freight horn blasts the peaceful morning as the behemoth starts to roll out of the yard, 5 straining power packs in front and 5 behind, I will be climbing! Ian stops for a coke. The freight passes into the false dawn. Vinnie pulls me into the open grass lands, climbing as dawn breaks, colder. 8300 ft. at Toponas, the store closed, left toward Gore Pass.

Still colder, Vinnie leaves me to warm up. I am so tired, no coffee this morning. I stop for a short nap on the bike, awake when my crotch hits the top tube. Twice I napped. Ian comes up, offing a sip of Pepsi to wake me. I continue, colder, now the real climb into an open park, followed by a quick winding descent, then climb in open country. More riders pass me now. Up and up into the trees, warming up at last, some clothes come off. Gore Pass road is beautiful, cut into the tree covered mountain side, winding up the wooded mountain, around several corners and finally, the last pitch and the 9500 ft. gap in the ridge line. On go all the clothes for the open descent. There is a sign describing how the English Baron Gore decimated the wildlife of the West in the early 1850’s, no wonder the natives hated the whites. Look it up.

Fast, open descent, then sharp corners, worn bumpy pavement, some traffic, down and down. Cold, I ache all over, especially the shoulders and arms. Down some more, then a short riser just as I pass a back hoe. Never sprint uphill against a back hoe, diesel power always wins. I swerve to the left shoulder to allow the roaring machine to pass by. Down, past his ranch, the “T” and right towards Kremmling. I stop at a likely spot to take care of things, highway construction machines hide me from the traffic blasting down US 40. There is no shoulder to ride on, just a white stripe, bumpy repaired pavement, incessant rollers. Wearily I summit the last steep roller, cross Muddy Creek and stop at the new store on the extended outskirts of Kremmling. Ellen and I stopped here for rest in 2007. That store in the middle of town is vacant. So into the new spot, nothing appeals to me. I should eat something. I get water and eat a bar out of my bag.
Point the bike east on US 40 along the Colorado River through irrigated ranch country, groups of riders pass, no shoulder. Incessant hot windy noisy highway is blah. Even the Colorado River is blah this morning.

Another group of riders come up. I take pace into a gorgeous canyon reminiscent of the John Day River in Oregon. Past this, George treats the group to an ice cream cone splurge in Hot Sulphur Springs. He is happy to be alive after his harrowing descent last night. He and I stay together all the way into Granby. There my rear tire punctures and I choose to replace it with the spare. Together we finish the open climb up to Grand Lake.
The Rocky Mountains soar straight up from the lake toward the bright blue sky. the hot tailwind portends a hot headwind descent. The Grand Lake control is a gas station, not enjoyable French villages like Brittany and Paris Brest would be. I should sit and eat somewhere, but stumble around looking for water and a snack instead. George heads south as Iowa Mike rolls in. We stare at each other, no words to share. I get back on the bike and ride into the wind, up out of 8500 foot Grand Lake Basin. The gentle descending busy road is not bad returning to Granby.

At the convenience store George points out the free water hose outside as he leaves. I drench my shirt and fill all the bottles, when Mike rolls in. The next 55 miles have no services. Hot, still not hungry, I roll out alone and make another mistake, turning right towards Grand Lake. I realize this quickly, and return to US 40. The route retraces the busy riverside highway for a few miles to a right turn, “Willow Creek Pass 30 miles.” Sounds great, a creek, except this is a baking sun field, open treeless 8 percent climb for 3 miles with no shelter from the afternoon sun. Immediately I heat up, the drenched lightweight wool dries quickly, evaporative cooling. A light tailwind provides no relief. I use all my tricks to keep cooler while continuing to put out minimal climbing effort. Three water bottles for 50 miles, will I make it? The road enters a canyon, hot but some trees to hide from the sun. I crest this grade and, enjoy the fast short descent into Willow Creek Basin at 8500 feet.

Back in the trees with the creek gurgling on the right I find the perfect scene for a picnic, not, must keep riding. Dunk the jersey into the creek to cool off, once, twice, three times. Iowa Mike rolls up and we share the open space for a bit. Rattle on the Thompson, the rear fender has a loose bolt, annoying. I stop to tighten the brake bridge bolt after removing the wheel. This time loss and mental effort distracts me from the beauty of Colorado High Country.

Up along the creek canyon I go, soon the road turns into the sun at Pass Creek heading toward another real climb that requires some walking as the shadows lengthen. The sun drops behind the mountain, and the 9683 ft. pass sign appears along with the mosquitoes of North Park.
The word pass implies a descent afterwards. Not here, big rollers instead, and I am really tired. A monster west wind blows across the road. Happily a pair of riders comes along and I can suck wheel for a while. Up and down we go crossing streams and irrigation ditches, they climb faster so I have to chase after each crest. The sun sets as we roll through closed up town of Rand, the Illinois River below on the right. The wind continues to blow towards the thunderheads to the northeast keeping mosquitoes off my butt. One rider stands constantly, his butt too sore on his inaugural grand randonnée. The other, Jim Solanek from Florida, rides effortlessly, taking most of the long pulls. I am dropped at a creek crossing, too tired to catch back after the short climb. I chase for a while in the wind, surrender to the inevitable, and stop, too tired to move.
I am alone in wide open North Park moose country, no trees, just a false flat descent towards Walden. The cross wind continues as I mount the bike after a short rest. Far ahead the thunderhead is filled with lightening. Sunset and the winds die. This eases the suffering as the temperature drops. I continue to ride. Each short climb I walk, closing my eyes, I am asleep walking up the hill. My tires change sound at the road edge, so I straighten back onto the tarmac, listening for nonexistent traffic. Cresting the roller I awake refreshed, remount and descend, the Edilux bright with the rising moon. Repeat the climb nap 3 or 4 times, who keeps track. I feel better and ride the climbs, must have dropped below 8500 ft. Where is Walden? The lights should appear soon. Up and down for endless miles, around a rock shoulder, the lights of the wood pellet mill and lonely town beckon me to the North Park Inn control and rest.
My pals are all in the big room. Welcoming volunteers offer a range of menu options, bean soup and hot dogs combine with buttered bread to satisfy the hunger. Iowa Mike and I share a room in the new building. I am first to the shower and in bed when he arrives.
Day 4
My goals today are:
Summit Cameron Pass by sunrise
Descend with somebody to Vern’s
Stay cool on the flats from Loveland to Louisville, finish by dinner, 19:00

My cell phone alarm awakens me, too early, and I let another hour dream by. The brain is fried, packing up takes longer than it should. Breakfast is with a crowd of riders in the main room. I plan to leave early, so I choose a few portable items and step into the night, forgetting to check out of the control, oops. Sorry Ellen, you worried needlessly.
Full moon, no wind, and warm air greet me as I head east up the Michigan River valley. My helmet lamp on, I work through breakfast goodies in the Berthoud handlebar bar. I love this arrangement. I can keep moving while performing all kinds of maintenance tasks, adjust clothing, and read the route sheet through the clear vinyl pocket. Michael Wolfe cruises past, then Ian and others I recognize, earlier than the previous two mornings. I slept in that extra hour and will pay later. Vinnie on the other hand, continued straight through the night to Fort Collins, and slept that morning in Boulder.
The still air, grey terrain, full moon and the distant lightening over the Front Range create a wonderland view to remember. Descending to the river and up a short rise, the oil derrick again punctures the serenity for a brief time. The temperature drops on the shallow steady climb through Poverty Flats. On go the layers of clothes as I intermittently walk/ride through isolated Gould when Iowa Mike rolls by without a sound.

Riding into the familiar forest past the silent visitor’s center, I come upon a pair of moose. They watch, breath steaming, as I glide warily past on the opposite shoulder. As I start the climb up the canyon the dawn light increases.

The ridge to the right is scarred by the Mitchell Ditch, a project carrying Colorado River drainage to the thirsty fields of eastern Colorado. What were the water politics of that project? Up and up towards the pass, ride, walk, ride. The sun peeks over a ridge, and then disappears behind another. Cameron Pass appears. Stop to bundle up with every scrap of clothing and change lens. I gaze down to the right. Interestingly the shallow pool of clear water at the pass empties in both directions!

I am fully clothed starting the cold dark canyon descent. 55 then 60 mph for a bit, no wonder the first day’s climb was slow! Screaming wind, flashing light through the trees stimulates my wasted brain to attention, no room for mistakes here. The roaring river drowned by the wind, past the Falls of the Poudre, I am still cold. Then a right turn into the next closed in cold canyon when suddenly the sun rises above the steep ridge. Immediately the air warms as I pass the temperature inflection point I remember from a few days ago. Slowly, I warm up and then begin to disrobe at 30 mph. The bike tracks straight, testament to Corey’s design skill, as one layer after another come off and are deposited into the empty bag. I have to stop to remove the knee warmer, too tired to pull them over the shoes while moving only 10mph. On the shoulder I sit when a vehicle pulls up. One of the volunteers is checking on me. “You forgot to check out of the control, we were concerned about you.”
Mystery solved, data base updated, I am on the road to Glen Echo Store. The clerk gladly signs my control card. “$.05 to fill your bottle with water, we need to make something from this, boss’s orders” he said with a shrug. No heavy coins, so I give him a dollar and tell him to keep the change. I am so tired and spill ice all over trying to fill the bottles. Small puddles on the rough timber flooring mark my presence as I wander back through the store and into the hot sun. Now is payback for that extra hour of sleep, the up canyon winds have increased. Maintaining 20mph is a struggle past Kinikinik and Idylwilde on the flatter sections of the Poudre Canyon, but the steep sections come often enough for reasonable rest and progress.

Buses full of rafters, and then the river is full of drifting rafts. Down and down the windy canyon the road snakes along through tunnels, past rapids, under trees. My eyes are difficult to keep focused, open, painful to watch the road. No rest for the eyes on this 60 mile descent that takes a fraction of the climb time.
I clear the canyon mouth passing the tall corn fields near Ted’s Place. A short climb and Vern’s appears, shaded by cottonwoods promising food and quiet. Early lunch time is not quiet, but a table is ready for me. Coffee, the long anticipated cinnamon roll, and a chocolate milk shake? Well it sounded good to me and the shake washed down with coffee hit the spot. Another rider sits in a booth with family, a day rider from town. I read the control card and check the final page of the route sheet, lots of turns ahead. The shake is history, with the cinnamon roll safely in a white bag. I mount the Thompson as other randonneurs arrive.
I have on a long sleeve white seersucker shirt as an experiment for this hot muggy afternoon. After dousing it with water, the results are acceptable and I am cool enough to expend remaining power on the short rollers. Good thing I decided against Paris Brest and the stifling heat of August in Brittany. The rolling hills west of Fort Collins, Loveland, and through Berthoud pass in a blur of heat and humidity.
Thunderheads loom to the southwest and big splats of rain intermittently pelt me as I weave along the last 60miles. Karel Stroethoff from Missoula passes me with a brief conversation about my pre-writing this article, he is soon gone. The store at Hygiene crossroads offers a shaded garden with a pump of potable water. I fill two bottles and share time with other randonneurs. The brief respite passes and the urge to finish overwhelms my need for rest.
Up and down, into suburban territory on busy roads, did we use this same route outbound? I have to stop for a phone call. The creek bottom is interesting while not moving. Must get back on! I am climbing into familiar terrain past the Louisville library and park. I hear biker voices behind, and then see the welcome faces of James Solanick and Ryan Watson pull up at the light. We descend together and there is arrivee’, the last control, stocked with food, beer and friendly faces of happy randonneurs. 85:35 is my elapsed time.
Michael, George, both Iowa Mikes, then Ellen arrives from Vail to join us for the Big Party at the restaurant. Vinnie insists we join his table. There is Ian, smiling and sharing stories. I tell John Lee Ellis and the crowd my story about two of the three problems with the ride. Ask me if you like.


Post Ride
Ellen wants to ride in Boulder Friday morning. I drive her into town, but there is no ride. I head straight back to the room and another nap while the Tour de France repeats on cable. More naps before we meet Ryan Watson at the Rene Herse shop in a far North Boulder light industrial park. We share stories and look at the new old school randonneuring bikes that Mike Kone has brought back to the marketplace. A wool jersey and obsolete chain ring, my treasures. We shop at two other bike stops. Then we grab some pasta at Ryan’s favorite place. We complete the day strolling on a walking mall. I nap, open eyed on a bench, while Ellen shops for shoes.

Back to Louisville and my needed bed. Plane ride tomorrow, I must repack the bikes after Ellen returns the car and gets in a final Colorado bike ride. We walk our baggage across the big parking lot, up the pedestrian bridge over the freeway, to the bus stop on the highway. Soon enough we are at Denver International. Ian Shopland appears in the TSA line. We are airborne, both happy and accomplished.
Fin.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow Rides

Thursday was snow at 08:00, clear at 09:00. So I got on the randonneur bike for the Portland Velo Thursday 10:00 ride. I was so happy to be outside. The kids had a snow day, sledding, snow ball fights, snow men. The best kid stuff of winter and I got to see it all by bike. Crisp air, bright sun on the flowers peeking through the sparkling snow, clear streets for fast riding, a great day to ramble NE Portland. Except no one else was at the New Seasons PV start. So all the fun was had by me! Even the Bike Gallery was closed, inventory excuse. Finally heading home, the Hollywood Library held Rick Steves' French Phrases, in case I do PBP. I met a fellow cheery outdoorsy type in the foyer, we talked skiing on Rose City golf course, hiking on Mt. Tabor. Four high school girls walking toward Grant Park with a sled called out, "We have a snow day!"

Jack Newlevant sent a text at 07:30, "I am leaving the house." OK, another sunny day to ride, I can deal with that. Colder today, with the strong easterly Gorge Wind. As we meander through Laurelhurst neighborhood, I am inspired to climb. Mt. Tabor beckons the wheel. A great idea, with fluffy snow on the roads for skills practice as we climb around the upper reservoir. A bit of slickness in the shaded corner, then we are on top of the world. The powder snow swirls off the conifers making colorful prisms in the morning sun. We descend the south trail, I forget the slickness as gravel surface is safe and fast! Back up the closed road past the Soap box Derby track and reservoir, downtown Portland and OHSU sparkle in the distance. What a great place to live! We slip a bit as the sun transforms snow crystals into rounder ice. Then back at the top, we descend a different gravel trail on the windy east side, traverse to the south back to where the old rope tow hill was a snow play yesterday, evidence of a slip sliding day for kids of all ages. More gravel trails up and down, all around the park. I feel safer on the trails, tires grip even with smooth randonneur tread. This is not my Feldman cylocross bike with its grippy treads that experienced uncountable Mt. Tabor rides. Nor is it my Bridgestone MB-2 that climbed up here in the heavy snows of 95. No, it is my light duty rando bike, excelling on the trails today. A Swiss friend once confided in me, "Climb your home mountain every day." I am having so much fun in the cold snow of my Home Mountain today.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Long wet road

It was a long wet slog across the Swollen Tualatin River at Fern Hill Road south of Forest Grove on Wednesday.





But I made it after 500 meters of walking through calf deep cold runoff.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Permanent that Finally Ended

My quest for a second R-12 included a November ride which was delayed until the last weekend due to travel. It started all so nice, 07:00 start, cold with temperature at 34 and light drizzle forecast to clearing. I chose a familiar route to minimize variables. 2 km from the start, the front tire went flat, bit of gravel flint embedded! Well I needed to warm up anyway and pumping the Silca is a good way to do it. Riding again through the fog shrouded valley of the Tualatin river with the head wind reasonable, I felt good. The long layoff for the trip to DC had lowered my fitness, but I was feeling good in the legs and head. I rolled through the Dayton control and past the McMinville airport where the clouds lifted revealing the winter sun far south. Geese and ducks, deer and squirrels all made appearance. Later the hunters would enjoy the water fowl as I heard multiple volleys south of Perryville. Speaking of Perryville, the espresso stand was closed this Sunday morning.
There are several short rollers south of the crossroad that marks the town. Bursts of shotguns filled the air to the west. I stood for the first roller, and bang, a rear spoke popped! Bummers! I carry a carbon fiber repair, and as I looked through my bag, the multi-tool was missing. What to do? Press on regardless is the motto of the Upers of Michigan, so I did press on. 50 meters on in fact when a second spoke popped as I stood on a steep pitch. Now the wheel was tacoed so much that it would not turn through the chain stays. Out comes the rondoneeur's favorite tool, cell phone. Ellen did not answer. Jack knew of the ride and answered. Yes he had a rear 7 speed wheel, and yes he was interested in meeting up and riding a short way. Great news! I looked for the phone number of the organizer Marcello to let him know the problem, but it was not listed! I need to put that into my cell phone.
So with my position known, I started walking the course to keep moving. To the west were the dark swirly clouds of rain shower, the wind shifted too, signs of impending rain. Traffic increased, church must be out, as the first drops gently came down. Soon it was pouring as I trugged up and down the several rollers towards Dallas. I had all the clothes on and keep warm as my feet and legs got soaked. Luckily I had my favorite pink and purple poka-dot shower cap over my helmet! After crossing highway 22 and climbing the last pair of rollers before Dallas two hours later, Jack came up behind.
He had a wheel, but no time to ride! Bummers! His mounted tire was flat, so I put mine on. But before I could, the rim strip needed to be replaced as well. Old plastic Michelin strip was cracked in multiple spots, and my Velox was just a bit too short. What to do? The dollar bill trick worked, folded the long way it fit between the rim shoulders. Tire was pumped, and the front as well. Thanks Jack Newlevant!

With the sun shining and temperatures balmy, I set out up and over the hill into Dallas, over an hour behind closing of the control. No time to dally, I turned around and made best time back over the too familiar rollers to Perryville, still shotguns roaring intermittently. In Amity, the espresso stand was still open so I bought a full water bottle of high strength legal energy boost for the road! I reached the control in Dayton 2 minutes before closing as the sun set. I continued on towards Lafayette, the familiar Abbey road, North Valley and Fern Hill roads as the temperature dropped quickly. I had all my clothes back on including the shower cap! The penultimate control store worker gave me a peculiar look. I arrived at the finish with 13 hours elapsed compared to previous 9 hour results. Perhaps the December ride will be shorter?

Monday, October 25, 2010

PIR Cyclocross

The wet muddy conditions played to my strengths. I need to build more power to enhance my endurance, or find five hour races.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ninkrossi Cyclocross

My goals for this event:
Finish in front of at least one rider
Be Safe, Don't Crash
Be Smooth on Transitions
Be easy on my equipment

I achieved all my goals, and had fun.

Thanks to:
Gil Omerod for continually encouraging me to participate again
Sean Durkin for the role modeling, World Crew Champion!
Alan Woods for the glueing party
Gary Molloseau for perspective
Eric Lanners for being my cross technique student
Ellen Michaelson for understanding
Everybody else for riding their cross bikes

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Dessert Kind of Day

It was what Jan Heine calls a desert day. You know the type, like strawberries and cream or chocolate gelato. The kind of ride everyone can enjoy. The dawn was clear, the wind light, and temperatures cool ,to ease into the ride. Just a short ride as Ken Carter from SIR joked at the start. This is the 200km for the 2010 Bikenfest promoted by John Kramer of White Salmon Wa. I love John’s rides. He artfully crafts the route for challenge, scenic beauty and quiet roads. Twenty five riders heard the pre-ride announcements, and set off into the sunrise towards Bingen. Many friends were with me. I started with Ian from Olympia. We caught up on our riding since the Oregon Blue Mountains 1000km in June. He finished the Willamette Headwaters 600km despite a heavy, high speed chute on the last day. There were lots of other riders nearby who helped him out. As we were chatting, Ian hit debris in the bike lane and immediately punctured! Too bad, we were having so much fun! Ricky then rode next to me, he recently completed the 1600km Italian Grand Fondo! I told him during the OBM that he must ride in Italy, and so his story filled me with great feelings of the joy of riding those great back roads of Tuscany and Umbria. The food was not good however, pasta and red sauce every night. I welcomed David Rowe to the beautiful morning. We finished the Three Capes 300km together two years ago. He has new work this year, and the riding has tapered off a bit. I could not sense any diminution of his fitness as we turned off the main road climbing onto an old highway section that wound up over the Columbia.
The horizontal sunlight was challenging, blinding me as the route wound around and through the basalt rock formations to the first control, XXX winery named after the formation. Then Ken road up to me, “Are you a compulsive or what, are you back for more of this, what have you been doing,” he asked. I last saw him on the Eden’s Gate 400km near Stayton. He is the compulsive one I think, finishing the Crater Lake 1000km just last week. Our group was small, including Michael Johnson and his work mate John Desmarais, Ken, a guy in blue on a Goeff Lay, Del Sharffenburg, David Rowe, Ira Ryan and myself. The old road wound back down to the river, with smooth well banked curves. The engineers had a big budget for this project way back when the Model T roamed Eastern Washington.
The Centerville road climbs steeply out of Lyle. Del chatted as I tried to keep up for a bit. I backed off the pace as my heart rate soared. Michael and John came around and I decided to stay with them as this long climb would define the experience of the brevet. Happily for me, they were riding a talkative tempo which I could maintain. My new 34x28 gearing was just sufficient for this effort as I frequently alternated between seated and standing techniques. First Dave eased his pace to chat. Then we came up to Ira who had stopped for equipment change. The pace picked up then as the chatter up front was three or four people, and I was now suffering to hold on. There are several false summits on this climb, and I forgot most of them thinking that the end was finally in sight. At the real summit, John, Ira and I went to the front and zoomed the straight descent. Up ahead about 800 meters, were Del and Goeff Lay, so first Ira picked up the pace, then David and I as well. I could not keep the effort, my legs were feeling poorly and I backed off to wait for Michael and John. The Centerville road has many turns that follow the section lines of the original surveys. Past town the main road to Goldendale continues this practice. I felt the light west wind on the northward portions. Mt. Adam towered over the harvested fields, with Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens peeking in the distance as well. Into Goldendale and the second control we road, John off the front and Michael off the back taking photos.
Del, Ira and the other two were still at the Subway as were several stacks of beer twelve packs. I asked Ira if he would build me a bike to carry several packs, and if it would plane for me as well, we laughed. I decided to make a fast control and started west towards Glendale ahead of the group. The short hills slowed me down and I rode to keep my legs loose. The group came up soon, and I tucked in behind David. Ira and Del set a smooth tempo for several miles which Ken and David continued when they pulled off. I did not return the favors to the group as my limit was always near during the up and down course. At the turn towards the Klickitat Del asked me about my arm braces, I told him it was tennis elbow from skiing. Ira laughed at the bicycle tennis joke as I thanked the group and dropped off the back.
The road went up and down for several miles. At a final crest the Klickitat river canyon stretched out up and down river. This is a beautiful spot, the river sparkling in the trees at the bottom of the canyon. The layers of basalt flows are distinct on the west cliff while the east side has smooth eroded curved shapes. The road descends traverses, then cuts back to cross creeks, then back to a straight traverse, miles of fast no brake riding. My average speed for the brevet is 24 kph as I cross the Klickitat. Immediately the road pitched up out of the river bed, then levels off for the long shallow climb. There are hunters in orange entering the woods in several spots carrying their rifles. They say that they are looking for deer sign.
Near the end of this grade, Ken catches me. It is good to have help now as the increasing speed of the west wind has slowed me down for a while. As we enter Glenwood, I give the sheriff a wave. Just then two motor cycles whip past, well over the 25 mph speed limit. On goes the siren and lights as the squad car give chase. We stop at the restaurant where ten or more motorcycles are lined up, their riders lounging under the shade tree or inside. We buy water and chat with these guys, one whom rides bicycles although not as fast as he would like.
The marshes at Glenwood stretch for miles. The Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for migrating birds and other animals. I saw a black bear during another ride recently. We skirt this flat ground to the climb of the bumpy divide between the Klickitat river and the White Salmon river watersheds. Ken may be tired from his 1000km ride, but he easily climbs faster than I and disappears over one roller and reappears as I descend the next. Always he is in front gradually increasing the gap. As I reach the watershed summit, he is out of sight and I descend fast reaching 55 kph as the road curves with the terrain. On the flats of Trout Lake, there is a wind shift to tail wind so I enjoy being alone for a while. I see him in the distance when the route turns towards town. At the store, Goeff is outside on the cell phone. I have to continue to the control 2 km west. There Ken is waiting, and straight away we ride back into the wind toward Trout Lake where the others have already left the store. We do not stop. I have plenty of water as I carry a flexible bladder in my front bag which gives me a bit more range than just two bottles. Now the route heads toward BZ Corner. This is not a steady gradual descent which helps as the wind increases as forecast by NOAA. We can only reach 49 kph, and I am getting very sore legs. At the White Salmon river crossing, David and Goeff are in sight. I wave Ken past as I know I will struggle even with the short climbs. I trade off the wind shelter of the group for a steady slow grind down the road above the river canyon. The view is so beautiful that I don’t feel the pain in my right leg so much. The wind increases and shifts to the west. Forecast for 30mph gusts after 16:00, and it is almost that time! I enter the town of White Salmon and descend at 65 kph to Bingen, the tail wind pushing me along. The westward 2 km part along the main highway into the wind seemed long, but lasted only a few minutes. I arrived a 16:12 to a happy group of tired randonneurs. John Kramer logged my time and offers snacks, drinks, and shade. We chatted about the ride, rides, cyclocross, balloon tires on bikes, and other biker topics. Goeff has Dean Tracy for a son in law, interesting as I knew Dean when he was a junior. Well another dessert ride was had by all. Where are Michael and John? Did Ian fix his tire and get back on the road? I don’t know as I got into the old Volvo and headed straight back to Portland where Ellen was waiting.