Riding to the start of a randonneur's ride at Grand Lodge-in the dark-is almost getting routine. Heading down SR-47 we saw a bicyclist, complete with high-tech blinkie on his rear. We thought for a moment that it might be a Randonneur riding to the start of his ride in grand tradition, but no, he didn't have a front light at all. Just a Real Rider.
The parking lot at Grand Lodge was a bustle of activity at 5:30 in the morning. I hope they like us there.we sure took up a lot of their parking yesterday. They predicted 70-ish riders, and judging from the crowd that set off at 6 AM, that looked to be about right. The other humorous question is-just how many of us wear Shower's Pass jackets now? We should be an advertisement for them. I'm guessing I saw between 15 and 25 of them on different riders
Hurdling down the main drag in Forest Grove was quite a sight, with the entire group bedecked in many many different lights. During a fast cruise down Stringtown Road we passed another Real Rider (this one without lights or even a helmet), then aimed towards Gales Creek. As the sun started to rise we got just a spit of mist which turned to high clouds and rapidly warming temperatures.
The climb to Timber was uneventful. It seems like the turnaround was before the start of the clear-cuts, so you could pretend like you were in the midst of unspoiled Oregon old-growth. My Sekine (seh-kee-neh) just had a drivetrain transplant a week or so ago, and the new derailleur cable decided to break in while I was doing the climb. A judicious twist of the adjuster barrel, and there were no issues for the rest of the day.
Back out at SR-6, it seems like we started the biggest climb of the day almost immediately. The day rapidly grew warmer (the lower 50's) almost immediately. Surprise two about the Sekine: it's heavy. OK, it has to be that way: fenders, rack, rack trunk, and so forth. But I worked hard on that climb. Brown's Camp did not seem to ever arrive.
After a brief refueling stop at the top, we started the descent. I've never ridden to Tillamook before, so this was my first up-close experience with the Wilson River Highway. Now I know why they call it that: I didn't even try to count the number of vistas of the Wilson River, starting with spectacular cascades at the top turning into the wide placid river at the bottom.
Our first headwinds of the day were down in the valley on the long straightaway into the city proper. However, this was where we started to see blue peaking out from between the clouds, so it was hard to get annoyed.
In downtown Tillamook we joined a number of other cyclists at the local Safeway. Caught up with Andrew (who ran into a bicycle activist just passing through to Netarts for a conference; sorry, she didn't ride a bike out there) and Cecil, who pretty much paired up for the whole day. Refilled our water from the many spare water bottles other thoughtful Randonneurs left, and then set out for the Three Capes.
There was a lot of tourist traffic on the Three Capes, including some apostate doctors, lawyers, and CPA's all herding together on their Har-Har-Harley's. Between them and some very inconsiderate local drivers, this was definitely the low point of the day with respect to traffic. Do you really think it's safest to pass a bicyclist so closely that he could reach out and touch you?
Aside from that, the sights were spectacular. The weather kept clearing up until we had terrific views of the bay, and then-later-the ocean. Much of the headlands out here is still unspoiled, especially the area near Cape Meares. The climbs were a bit steeper than I recalled, but the view at Anderson's Viewpoint was incomparable. We saw a number of kite riders, looking like that they were getting their nerve up to jump off a cliff.
As we pulled into the manned control at Netartes, the clouds started to bunch up again. Between that and standing there for a few minutes eating, Lynne and I started to get cold, so we put a move on to get warm again. As we climbed the second cape, we reeled in Susan, whom we saw off and on again for the rest of the day. Dropping down to the stop sign at Sand Lake, I saw Susan head straight, when it seemed to me that the sign pointed to the right for Pacific City. I waited for Lynne to show up, we debated maps, and then headed right. Ricky Smith driving support showed up briefly afterwards, and we told him to go reel Susan back for us :-) Susan found us as we were having yet another one of our snack breaks at the Tierra del Mar beach access.
In Pacific City, Lynne and I decided to make a light meal for our unmanned control and shared a tasty omelet at the Grateful Bread. Definitely a will-return place for breakfast. After much coffee and regaining feeling in our toes, we proceeded to do an Unreach the Beach, which is a ride she and I did last year, starting in Pacific City and ending up back out our respective houses.
As we climbed the hills into the coast range, we got pretty much our only shower (sprinkle, really) of the day. We were working hard enough that it actually felt pretty good. Dropping down into Grande Rond, we paid close attention to the cue sheet, because this segment was slightly different from the RTB posted leg; instead of doing an out-and-back on Grande Rond Road, we followed it all the way down to SR-18 and a very popular convenience store (two water bottles, two sport drinks sitting out for others). After making a slightly edgy left onto the highway, we followed it for about a mile to just past the casino and turned right onto Yamhill River Road. It was at this point that I noticed my front tire was flat, so I sat down and changed it in the rapidly dwindling dusk, placing the two of us squarely at the end of the pack.
BTW, I think Yamhill River Road and Grand Ronde Road is a heck of an improvement over that nasty stretch of SR-18 that Reach the Beach puts us on. Sure, you miss some of the views climbing SR-22, but I consider it a fair trade for avoiding Death Alley (the deadliest stretch of Oregon highways, for many years running).
Willamina: we rigged for night running. In Sheridan we saw a herd of bicycles stopped for dinner at a local restaurant. Hooray; we weren't last any more! Heading out of town, Lynne: "Don't pick up any hitchhikers!" Nightfall as we're heading on Ballston Road; time to turn on lights for more than just being seen. Information control in Ballston was just a little more challenging in full darkness.
Riding at night-full night, not city night-was a new experience for me. Based on my experience that morning, I tried to ride abreast of Lynne as much as I could; having a pair of lights gives drivers much better depth perception than otherwise. As drivers would overtake us, I would drop back, thereby fully limning Lynne in my headlight, relying on my copious rear lights to indicate my presence and making it unquestionable what they were looking at. Riding next to Lynne also really helped illuminate road surface: a pair of lights is, well, twice as good as one. In spite of all that lighting, there was one really dicey moment about 5 miles outside of Amity. A good ole' boy in an oncoming pickup truck opted to make a shallow left across our path: no turn signal, no slowing. Another four seconds and it would have been A Really Bad Day. You just have to wonder if he was chemically altered.
In Lafayette we stopped to refuel, and when we came out we saw two bicycles a few blocks in front of us. Lynne put on a burst of energy, and we reeled in Susan and Wayne(?). Considering the flat out darkness of Yamhill county at night, we banded together for the rest of the ride.
The other thing about riding is night is, well, you can't see anything besides the road. Not only is it less interesting (I guess I pay attention to the scenery more than I ever thought), but it makes navigation much more difficult. Even the stretches of the ride I've done dozens of times during the day (SR-240, Ribbon Ridge, Spring Hill, and the rest of it) were weirdly unfamiliar at night. Oh, and you can't help but ride slower, because your view of the road surface is limited. Did I mention dogs? They can see you just fine because of all the lights, but you see absolutely nothing; you just hear barking, jingling, and the pitty-pat of unknown carnivore feet.
As we turned onto Fern Hill Road, I started to get cold. My hands started to lose it, and my feet went from uncomfortable to numb. We found out later that it had already gotten to 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
Back at Grand Lodge, Lynne and I took long and hot showers, socialized with Andrew, Cecil, and the others briefly, then went home to collapse.