Monday, September 28, 2009

Triple century in Hood's hood

Monday, 28 September

Since there’s snow above 4,000 in tomorrow's weather forecast, and temps tomorrow aren’t supposed to reach 60 down here at sea level, I’m pretty sure I’ve just had the year’s last weekend of glorious summer riding. And what a weekend it was!

Early Saturday morning I sent the hubby off on a 300K adventure with the Oregon Randonneurs. Then I drove to Mt. Hood Meadows and set out on my own adventure. It was cold up there!! And the first 8 miles or so were downhill. Too cold for bare skin! But next was 8 miles of steady climbing on FR 44, and very soon I was shedding more layers than I had pockets for. Because this is an empty road on a busy day, I was kinda worried about encountering bears foraging for winter hibernation at my early hour. Instead, I encountered woodcutters harvesting last winter’s blowdowns. For the top several miles of the climb, there was a chainsaw running about every quarter mile. No bears to be seen.

The temperature increased rapidly as I dropped down the 17-mile descent toward Dufur. Rolling along the valley into town, I felt a bee sting me just under the collar of my jersey. Ouch—and much flapping of clothing with one free hand. Satisfied the bug was gone, I kept pedaling. Two or three minutes later, it stung again, still under my jersey. This time I slammed on the brakes, dropped the bike, unzipped my jersey, and just about stripped off all my clothes in an attempt to get the thing away from me. End result (which I could not see at the time): 4 stings. Not much to do, though, besides keep on riding (and swearing a lot from the pain).

After Dufur comes the “gentle climb” of Dufur Gap Road. It is pretty, and the views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams at the top are wonderful, but it is a long grind. And no ROFers to chase this time. Then down to Tygh Valley, left on 216, and eventually to Maupin. Exactly as planned, my ride buddy was sitting in the city park, eating potato chips, and checking race results with his iPhone. I found some ice cream, and then we backtracked to Tygh Valley, following the route for his brevet. A two-mile climb brings you all the way up out of the river canyon and onto what I am told is officially named the Columbia River Plateau. From there it’s sort of false flat as you head west into the trees on the slopes of the Mt. Hood foothills and then it’s about 20 miles of real climbing (with a couple short descents) back up to Meadows. There was a consistent headwind for this whole section of the ride. I love hearing the wind in the trees above my head but am not so enamored by pedaling uphill into a headwind.

My total distance on Saturday was 122 miles, just shy of a metric double century. Three major climbs, plus two that were a couple miles long. Most of this was the big loop from Ring of Fire, but starting in the middle. It was noticeably different to have fresh legs for 44 and tired ones for 48, when usually it’s the other way around.

Sunday was a team ride, starting in Hood River. We headed east, through the “microwave” wild fire acreage, and to The Dalles. Looped around on Eight Mile, Emerson Cutoff, and Boyd Loop to get to Dufur. On Eight Mile, the hills are tight and close, almost claustrophobic, but from Boyd Loop you can practically see forever: orchards, vineyards, mountains, valleys, trees, farms. Then we went the opposite way over my Saturday route on FR 44, down to highway 35, but turned right to head back to Hood River. I managed to stay with the group until Dufur (5 flats on other bikes and a headwind gave me recovery and shelter) and then was on my own. My only other trip up 44 was on a cloudy day, and I had no idea there were so many luscious views of Hood all the way to the top. Just past the summit, I think I could pick out what is now the top of Mt. St. Helens above a nearby ridge. 101 miles for the day.

So 223 miles in two days, a double metric century and a regular "English" century. Not a cloud in the blue, blue skies. Warm enough to be summer, cool enough to ward off heat exhaustion. Wind but not gale force. Little critters (chipmunks, squirrels, pikas) but no bears. Riding on parts of courses from at least 11 races. Great ride company for parts of both days, and great hosts in between the riding. Priceless.

It’s going to be tough to transition to riding around Lake Washington on my rain bike.

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