Monday, March 30, 2009

If at first you don't succeed ...

... Wait till a cold, nasty, windy, rainy day and give it another try. The very day I whiffed on the SIR 200K I sat down in front of my dope scope, re-upped my OrRando membership and registered for the Birkie Brevet 200K. Then, just because I like to torture myself in advance I checked the weather prediction for the next weekend. Well, you know the old saying: “March came in like a snow leopard and looks to be going out like a harbor seal” or something like that.

I’ve ridden this event before, kind of. Back in the last century this ride started in Portland. You’d ride across the river and then blow your lungs out climbing up through Washington Park. Eventually you got up into logging country but it brought you back to the city via Hwy 30 along the big river. I liked that course, and I like this ‘new’ one too. So, just to make sure I didn’t get lost on the way to the start (I’ve heard that can happen) I went down to Forest Grove Friday afternoon. It was a pleasent drive, I didn't push it, stopping at a favorite bonsai nursery along the way.

If I find myself pedaling along through life under less than enjoyable circumstances, I try to see the humor in the situation. That or scream curse words at the giant black soppy fleece blanket above, which continues to mindlessly deliver a steady stream cold, wet pessimism. Here’s an attempt at seeing the humor:

Have you ever had a catchy tune get stuck in the CD player between your ears, and it just kept playing overandoveeandover…and…over? And maybe that wasn’t exactly your favorite song, but whaddayaknow, it still keeps playing overandoverandover. OK, lets up the ante on the fun vision quest a little shall we?

Now, imagine that you are hearing that tune that you really don’t like, not on your bike, out in the cold rain, but while you are on a cot … in a cell … in a converted old public building. And you can’t step outside the door of your cell in your jockeys and yell at the jerk with the 8 track cassette player to turn the noise off, because … it’s not a cassette, it’s actually four guys singing, and they are surrounded by a bunch of half drunk yuppies in nubby wool and Birkenstocks who are actually sitting there listening to this crappy tune instead of running, screaming from the place with wine corks stuck in their ears. They actually seem to like this. It is truly amazing what some people will tolerate if it is free, or maybe they were just drunk enough that they were not hearing well.

Oh hell, lets ‘double down’ on that “see the humor’ ante shall we? That noise is really only an 'artists imptrression' of music, it's four guys singing BARBERSHOP QUARTET TUNES! And you, fool that you are, have decided to take a cheap room just outside the bar in this house of horrors where all these drunken deaf people with incredibly bad taste in music are all huddled around their warm beers with silly grins on their faces actually anxiously listening to these four guys bang out the hits. If you have the capacity to see the humor in this situation, you will actually be laughing your freckles off the next morning …. as you stand in a cold rain at dawn waiting your chance to start a day of riding your bike through cold rain and wind, comforted in the notion that, no matter what you do, you will be accompanied by an endless loop of ….. Barbershop quartet greatest hits!

Not to worry. I have incredible Jedi like mental powers, I always try this: DON’T THINK OF A RED BALL! How’s that working for you? Is your mind now instantly clear of barbershop quartet music? Oooorrr do you now see a red ball bouncing above the words to the barbershop quartet hit parade? Sorry, that happens to me sometimes too. Are you seeing any humor? I know, you want to pinch yourself and wake up out of this nightmare, but you realize, that could only have worked last night, and then only if you had actually gotten to sleep. Irony is often mistaken for humor, are you seeing it yet?

Actually it wasn’t that bad. I got down there in the mid afternoon, got a short nap before having a great dinner with a couple of my new old cycling friends. This was of course before I determined to turn in early so I could get a full night of restful sleep and be ready for the challenge on Saturday.

It did rain a fair amount, but that is only appropriate because of course, the weather was pretty nice the day before and the day after. Commonly referred to as RWS, Rando Weather Syndrome, you’ve all been there.

I kept telling myself I have been wetter and I have been colder. Funny thing though, many of those wetter, colder times were on a bike. (We do this for fun?) As long as I kept grinding out the miles I was able to stay relatively warm. On the return route climbing from Timber up to the high point of the ride, my fingers got that numb feeling so that you have to actually look to make sure you are pushing on the shift levers because until you push hard enough for a big shift you can’t feel anything. And my feet turned vermillion and had that incredible itchy, pierced-with-500-needles feeling for about 10 minutes while I was taking a shower after the ride.

But the company was great. I rode through the countryside with some old friends, and some new acquaintances, we all joked ourselves through the ordeal.
The store at the turnaround was stupendous! Sure they had a kitchen and could whip you up a grilled cheese, or a Berkieburger or some such, all of which was nice but what amazed was the wall behind the counter! Floor to ceiling was covered with liquor. I’m not talking about 50 bottles of Jack. They had it all! It really reminded me of my drinking days (a time when I tried to have it all). As I slurped my coffee I looked over the offerings as I slurped my Hills Bro's Venti Americano. I was alternately comforted and a little dissapointed to find that there were more kinds of liquor that I hadn’t gotten drunk on than ones that I had. You know it's thw real deal when you see Ouzo prominently displayed. Like I said, they had it all (I don’t remember seeing Saki) I’m sure the total population of Birkenfeld must be around 28 or so. Not that many people but I get the impression they know how to have a good time!

On the ride back the weather got a little worse. As I was climbing up out of Timber the wind really picked up. It’s all forest, er, timber there, so all you could hear was the wind roaring through the trees. By the time I was over the top and sailing down through the switchbacks towards Hwy 6 I was close to knackered and worried about what I was going to do if this monster wind was in my face. I was used up enough that I might just have turned around and let it blow me like an old brown maple leaf all the way to the beach in Astoria. If you ride bikes enough you get a little cynical about wind and its ability to always be coming from where you’re headed to.

Thank you Lord. When I finally got down out of the woods it was a roaring wind coming in off the ocean and blowing me straight to the McMenamins in Forest Grove. It is amazing the effect a strong tailwind can have. Even after 10 hours of slogging into a headwind, suddenly my sore butt feels fine, the soggy wool jersey feels weightless, I’m Il Falco, slipping through the hair pin bends, and I’ve dropped off my suitcase of pain. Now I’m the 32KPH man: look out everybody, I’m headed for the finish!

I hope you saw at least a glimpse of humor in this slightly different kind of ride report. It’s a great place to be and the Orygonners are a great bunch to ride with. I’m lucky to have them so close to home, … and so easy to find.

All the locals, even the newbies know to wear wool this time of year. "March, you may be Bah aa aad but even lambs will gambol and prance in your face. Soon you'll be no more than a dried up slug slime trail on summers road to short sleeves and sunscreen.


  1. Yup, that was a wet one. The most hours I've ever spent riding in the rain. I saw you at the start and was bummed I didn't get a chance to say hi. I enjoy your blog and wanted to tell you in person. Maybe next time.

    Take care,

  2. Dr. C,
    It was a heck of an experince, no. Imagine if you had that dream about the bad quartet and it went on and on. Then you woke up and the quarted was finished, so they went to the room next to you and relived the evening blow by blow.

    I had no idea getting up for a bike ride a coule hours later could be so noisy. I found all sorts of noisy things that I just had to do at 4:30. It couldn't be helped. Regulations.

    Great people and really light traffic. Plus, staying awake was harder than the 600 I did last year, so I'm chalking it up to training.

    See you out there. Joe P