Man, what a beautiful day for riding.
Our little group of three (myself, Ira Ryan, and Tony Pereira) got a slightly late start, thanks to the first Max train getting to Hillsboro at 712, which put us at that Grand Lodge in Forest Grove just as the main bunch was leaving - but Susan was accomodating (there is something to be said for informing your ride organizer of your late arrival due to your preference for not driving to event starts :) ), and we headed out not to far behind the main group, but far enough that we didnt run into most of them until just about Woodburn, as they were heading back in. This resulted in not getting to meet most of the riders, but there's always next time...
Temps were chilly, down near freezing, and stayed so for a little while as the sun rose higher in the sky, forcing me to wear my hated ill-fitting full-fingered gloves, but the crisp morning air and low fog on the fields made it worth it. Riding through the hops trellises on the roads through Champoeg and surrounding area made me think of later months, though, when the perfume in that area must be marvelous. Tony kept snapping away with his digital camera, while I lamented my once again dead batteries. Blasted 8 year old camera. Sucks them dry. We kept a good pace through most of this, Tony leading the way with the map case (Soon my handlebar bag will have racks - i missed having it terribly on this ride, if for nothing else than the map window, and of course the easy access to food.)
I'm still pretty new to most of the topography and place names of this area, having not really done any long rides since moving to Portland in May 2005, so a lot of the terrain I just remember as riding through pretty stuff. Once we got closer in towards Woodburn, things got more town-y, which made me miss the open road, but our food stop at Mendoza's in Woodburn made that all worthwhile. Susan had recommended this place at the start, and it was a wise stop indeed. Best Mexican food I've had since moving to Oregon, hands down. I'm stopping here whenever i ride through Woodburn, period. After recharging there (though I must add that we were dismayed to discover they did not serve beer!), we headed back out again, with Sunday morning traffic starting up quite a bit more. A little more time spent in populated areas on the way back, but we were into the agricultural and forest regions soon enough (again I'm losing my time/place references, as I was mostly following Tony and Ira, who had their cue sheets visible, while mine was in my pocket - makes for poor recall when writing ride reports...)
I started to slow down around Tile Flat somewhere (I think), and we stopped for a rest and snack just before SR-10. That did the trick for a bit, but I kept dropping off the back of our trio. Closer in, I got the knock on Fern Hill, and dropped off completely, stopping to scarf down a couple Clif bars and some other snacks, which gave me what I needed for those crucial last few miles... I think we finished right around the 8 hour mark, which I'm ok with for a 150k time - it's faster than I've ridden in the past, despite me being out of shape.
Really, for me, though, the highlight of this ride was shaking down the new bike. I've been waiting on getting this frame for the past 2 years, and it was incredibly gratifying to build it up and ride it and not only discover that it fits me beautifully, but that the assortment of parts I'd chosen just was smooth as can be. The stem is just the right length, my beloved huge Mavic bars are as comfortable as they've ever been (as is the trusty old Brooks B17N), and if anyone ever doubts that TA pedals are worth $150 - I swear to you, they are the most comfortable quill pedals ever made. It's a total thrill to finally have a bike together that's really suited to this type of riding. There are some little things I wish were different (mainly vertical rather than long horizontal dropouts - oh, and changing that 51t front ring to a 48t - hey, its what I had!), but they're insignificant to the bikes rideability. It's no lightweight, tipping at probably somewhere in the 27 lb range, but it doesn't feel it. It doesn't have the jump of a light road machine, but it feels as if it wants to ride all day.
I, however, am out of shape. Severely dropped mileage (quantity and quality) over the past 10 months has done its worst. I still know I could ride just about any length brevet under time limit (if for no other reason that I refuse to think I wouldn't be able to - a remarkably effective motivational method :) ), but I'm just not smooth. The proper bike, now that I have it, will make all the difference, I beleive. If nothing else, it'll provide a conversation starter anywhere it's parked!
A pleasure to meet those of you I did, and the rest, I'll see you April 1st back in Forest Grove! (on time this time - Saturay trains run earlier :) )
That's Ira and Tony as we (leisurely) make the left turn onto Spring Hill, and then again just down the road.
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