A very wet storm had been forecast to arrive the morning of the Oregon Randonneurs March 5, 2005 100k Populaire, but even so 18 riders arrived to a grey, pleasantly dry start to the Oregon Randonneur season. Susan France cheerfully signed us in, and Michael Rasmussen took a few photos to commemorate the day.
This was my return to randonneuring after taking a year off. Having done a complete brevet series in 2004 I was feeling pretty nonchalant about this "baby brevet," as I liked to call it. I even decided to ride my Vanilla in its fixed gear arrangement to add a little challenge to the short distance.
The start was brisk and easy with Michael and Bonnie Bingle leading the way out of town on their tandem. It's always nice to follow someone who has a good idea of the first part of the route to avoid having to navigate from the very beginning. Michael and Bonnie set a very nice pace for the first 10 miles or so, taking us out of town and to some nice quiet country roads within a couple miles of the start. At 10 or so miles, though, they peeled off and I found myself at the front. I kept the pace up for a bit of a pull and let the next guy, Del, I think, ride through. With that the pace started to heat up and, eventually, Del and 2 or 3 others slowly rode away and I was finally back into the peaceful solitude of brevet riding.
Being alone I started to look around a bit and notice where I was. I found myself in a lovely little valley with Dairy Creek meandering alongside the road. At first, where it met the much, much larger Tualatin Valley, Dairy Creek Valley had a nice flat floor that was just wide enough for one small farm or orchard after the other. As we continued upstream, the valley narrowed, the flat valley floor disappeared, and we wound our way up to Fern Flat Road where we would find our first control and turn-around.
I saw Del and the other Alphas, my nickname for those at the front of a brevet, at the control and turn-around. I completed my control card with the secret information, thankful that I had brought Little Thing Number One, a pen.
I headed back down the return path to our next turn. After seeing the rest of today's randos on their way to the first control I now had to pay attention to my navigation. It was here that I realized that in my nonchalance about the distance I had not brought Little Thing Number Two, my handlebar-mounted map case. I find that a map case, whether fancy commercial one or just a plastic bag (clipped to your handlebars or in your jersey pocket), is a great help with tracking the cue sheet and staying on course. With the cue sheet folded up in my jersey pocket, I knew it would get soggy and rumpled and run a risk of being dropped along the way. A soggy rumpled cue sheet can survive a 100k populaire just fine, but try to keep one together over 200k or more and you run the risk of trying to read a mass of paper pulp before you finish the ride. Losing your cue sheet could mean having to wait for the next brevet rider to come along so you can tag along like a lost puppy, which you are.
Mountaindale Road took us away from Dairy Creek and through rural Washington County with almost no traffic. After crossing Highway 26 we rode past a pond with Red-winged blackbirds perched among the cattails. I really like those birds. They seem special, to me. We next had our secret control, with hot chocolate and other treats. Several of us overlapped there as we sipped something hot on a cool day. Susan and Michael were warm and friendly hosts.
The roads from the secret control, out of Banks and toward Forest Grove, were more quiet rural roads. The couple stints on local highways were brief and uneventful. Outside Forest Grove we got to see how the urban growth boundary blocks the sprawl from creeping far and wide over the Oregon country side. The abrupt transition from country-to-town is always a surprise when approaching from a road that's not the main local highway.
Forest Grove was an open control, which means we can stop anywhere and get someone to sign our brevet cards with a time and their initials. I stopped at an old-style little coffee shop. I like to buy something whenever I stop, and they had nice chocolate cookies. It was here that I realized Little Thing Number Three; a small zip-lock bag for the brevet card. It's one thing to read from a cue sheet as it gets wetter and more rumpled, but it's not very polite to hand a sweat-soaked card over to have a stranger sign. It's much better to have a crisp, DRY brevet card.
The ride out of Forest Grove was pretty easy, except that I didn't see a sign marking 19th/Hwy 8/Hwy 47. On the way into town I had passed two riders who turned out to be Philippe Andre & Scott Duffens, while they were stopped. They caught me again on the way out of town. We rode together for a bit, before I eased up and dropped back. I thought that was the last I'd see of them, except they surprised me riding up from behind in the last couple miles of the ride. They had missed a turn a ways back and had to backtrack back onto the course.
Little Thing Number Four that I learned on this ride was that fatigue does catch up with you through the day, and even more so on a fixed gear, I think. I'd ridden most of the day at a pretty brisk pace, not really hard, but at what I'd call a sustainable hard pace. On a multi-gear bike, coasting and gear shifts can give you little rests that I think help you recover from the fatigue that can otherwise build through the day. The constant spin of the fixed gear makes it harder to get those mid-ride recoveries. The result was that for the last 5 miles I was a bit more fatigued than I would have expected. Either that, or I just wasn't as fit as I thought I was for the pace I rode.
Overall, the route and organization were great and I hope I'll remember my four Little Things for my next brevet.
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