Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just like riding a ......

Big Horse.

 So I rode another perm last weekend.

Wait, I should apologize for the prolonged absence here.   Not down or anything, just buffeted by demands from all quarters.

Now, back to that perm.  We had planned a nice little ride around the country side on the loooog bike, but Mrs. C was called away on a business assignment at the last minute (and I think there are demands on my time!)  She generally doesn’t appreciate how much I appreciate her efforts when we ride the wanted her to ride with me.  Together we are more than 1+1.  But more to the point, at this particular time, with the Tournesol in the shop for a makeover, it meant that solo I would be aboard my single speed Zen therapy couch.   I mentioned earlier that I’m getting a lot of fun out of going gearless but in this case the course runs out past the steam plant and takes in the Tono hills.  I could do it gearless, but I’m not in San Fran Messenger shape just now so it would be the symphony of the screaming quads.  But wait; there is more to the story.

On my way home Friday night I stopped by the LBS to see what the mech had to say, really, I just wanted to chat, not to rant.  Of course I had this dream state vision that someone might say, “Oh yeah, we got that done last Tuesday, didn’t anyone call you?” and there hanging from a hook in the ceiling among all the other bikes needing work would be the big horse, sporting a shiny new fork.   In the real world, as I walked in, there stood Corey at the counter looking like he was heading out.  “Hey Paul I got your fork back from the painter!”

I explained my Saturday date with destiny dilemma and after a little what next two step he allowed as how he had the bike at his home shop, he’d have it back together in a couple hours, and I could come up later if I wanted.  Oh yeah, things were definitely looking up.

We had planned to roll out at 8 am however being solo allows options and I am more inclined to ride earlier in the day, in this case for two reasons:

First good weather was in the offing and I like that ‘cool before the sun comes up’ morning air, and second (and more importantly), Saturday was day one of Seattle to Portland and this this perm route intersected part of that mass of cycling humanity, only swimming up steam (I would be riding against the flow of STP riders, so starting earlier might get me out there before the bulk of the 12,000 riders showed up at Rainier. 

The best laid plans are sometimes waylaid by a particularly blissful sleep in a particularly comfortable bed.  I still started early, just not as early as I planned.  It was fantastic.  Clear, and quiet out in the country.  No tights, no leg warmers, long finger gloves, balaclava, chemical warmers, booties, toe warmers, soggy raincoat.  I did wear a wind vest to start and that was about right but it was off within an hour.  It was just me and my old friend, riding along getting reacquainted. 

One of the blog posts I didn’t write while I was so busy being buffeted was all about how we have waited, ... so long, and so patiently (some of us not so patiently) for this.  Riding a bike is a fine idea in most any situation, but riding out on a cool summer morning, when all you hear is the hum of the tires and the metallic purr of the chain on the gears, that really is top drawer  stuff.

And of course, having been in Coreys able hands the bike ran like new, possibly better than new.  When I picked it up the night before Corey said “Let me know if it feels any different with the new fork.”  I’m a brute, if he had installed the new cast iron octagonal wheels I would have noticed, but subtle changes are generally too, well subtle for me. 

Like putting on a comfy old, pair of boots after a long layoff, there is a sense of familiarity, and a sense of newness.  I got that but I think there was a little something more.  Maybe Corey sprinkled in a little pixie dust with the flux, or maybe he goofed and didn’t want to tell me, but I sensed the bike is perhaps a tad bit quicker to respond to my steering inputs with the new fork.  Or not.   A month on the QB could account for all the sense of change, add in fresh air, sunshine and 12,000 other riders coming at you and who can really say?

12000 other riders?  Oh yes, STP.  This annual migration from Seattle to Portland, is a 200 mile odyssey that is hard to describe if you have not had a similar experience.  All the harder to describe if you encounter these riders coming at you! 

The common (opposite directions) route was only a couple miles, on Hwy 507 between Johnson Creek and the little town of Rainier.  When I came out to the Highway from Johnson creek I saw a few singles and short pace lines steaming down the road.  At this point they had all the advantages: downhill, tailwind, and a few friends to draft while I would be solo, going up and in to it.

Given the few riders I saw I assumed I would ok to cross the road and ride up the paved rail trail to Rainier.  The advantage to me would be that I would be sheltered from the wind as the trail on that stretch was mostly through the trees.  Sure I might encounter a few riders but surely this would be a minor inconvenience, as my observance on the highway suggested the bulk of the riders were yet to get this far along the route.

Sometimes I come to the wackiest conclusions, even when the trail of reason is littered with bread crumbs (loaves) of evidence that would lead the average person to safety.  I crossed the highway safely and got up on the trail, I scanned ahead and saw a few riders headed my way.  At that distance they looked like normal rides, riding to the right, mostly single file.  Off I went, but within a couple hundred yards normal rides were replaced with a horde of crazy people who had never ridden bikes before and were either giddy with the new experience or were consumed with the notion of bike roller derby.  There was no escape, I was constantly yelling to get the kids stretched out on the aero bars to Look at me.  It was harrowing and here I would like to sincerely apologize the 1,872 riders for any inconvenience I may have caused them.  Also for all the most personal and vile profanity I hurled at them at the top of my lungs.  Apparently, since I last rode SP, they have rerouted it to the bike trail in this area.  It was the most exciting 3 miles I have ridden in a long time, silly me.

I finished at the Starbucks in Centralia, it was warm and sunny and felt good to get out of the riding shoes and the sweaty jersey.  As I emerged with my iced-double-tall-no-foam-half-caff-half-decaf-skinny-no-room-Medici-with-a-dash-of-nutmeg-and-a-bean I encountered a couple STP riders.  I know they were having their kind of fun and it made me think back to the glory days of Team Fish, but the truth is, I was glad to be through with my ride and headed home to some light yard work. 

Sorry, no pics in this post, I’m at 30,000 in ‘flyover country’ and all the pics are back home on the desk top.

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