Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oregon Coast 600k

I love riding the Oregon Coast, so I was excited to do this ride before it started. Riding south on 101 feels like I'm back on tour cruising down to California and beyond. This time, we're heading only as far south as Lincoln City but we are getting some beautiful views of the Pacific. The week before this ride, I re-injured my back lifting a bike at work, so I knew I was going to be a little sore on the ride. I was going to take it easy and had a few different bailout plans if I needed to use them.

This ride started in Forest Grove, like many of the Western Oregon rides. Alan, Corey, Millison, and I drove out to the start from Alan's house in Portland. The morning was cool and we had on most of our extra clothes. It was hard to predict what the weather was going to do today. We headed north to Vernonia along a bike trail and then back on small highways. In the small town of Birkenfeld, I stopped to get some IBP for my back. It was hurting from sitting in a pace line with the group. Riding alone, I was able to coast and stretch more often without having anyone right behind me. I put on my headphones and headed up a small pass over the Coast Range. Sun and rain showers alternated all morning but the temperature stayed relatively warm. As we headed out to the point in Fort Stevens, the wind started to pick up. Riding alone, I had fears of a repeat of the 400k. At the end of the point, we turned around but the wind kept it's same direction.

From the point, I was soon back on the familiar 101 South heading down through Seaside and Cannon Beach. At some point I made the mistake of dropping or leaving my bottle of IBP and Endurolytes so I had to stop and pick some up at a grocery store just outside of Seaside. My back was frustrating me, but it was hard to keep that frustration when the weather was sunny and warm. Originally, we had planned to stop in Cannon Beach for lunch, but Corey and Alan were long gone, so I just kept going. I was feeling slow, but steady and wanted to maximize my daylight at my slower speed. I stopped at a small grocery store just before Miami Foley road to pick up a snack. The valley ride along the Miami Foley Road was something out of a Randonneur's fantasy. There was almost no traffic and the sun highlighted the dark clouds while a rushing river followed the road. In Tillamook, I stopped at a Subway and chatted with the sandwich artist who had just seen some riders ahead of me.

Rather than climb over the 3 capes, the route stays inland and follows 101S to the Sandlake Rd to Pacific City. The wonderful Pelican Brewery has delicious beer and incredible clam chowder. It was tempting to kick back a few pints and call it a day, but the warmth of the chowder spurred me on. (I resisted the beer this time) I should have had a cup of coffee there, because not long after I was back on the bike, I was starting to get tired. I pulled over at a lookout and took a 15 minute nap. It was surreal to wake up and hear the crash of the surf below. Just a few miles later, I came upon another rider and realized that it was my friend Millison. He was confused with the multiple roads named Slab Creek (our next turn). We found the correct road and started climbing the last pass before the overnight control. The best solution to falling asleep is to have someone to talk to. We took a short break at the informational control and then finished the big climb just in time for the sky to open up and the rain to pour down on us. Descending this twisting forest service road with its potholes and poor visibility is challenging anyway, but with water running off my helmet, it was nearly impossible. I picked the best lines and hoped for the best. By the time we got to the bottom, the rain had stopped and we found our way back to the highway and the few miles to Lincoln City.

Earlier in the ride, we had talked about riding through the night rather than sleeping at the overnight control. Now that we were here, the idea of sleeping sounded much more enticing, but I was concerned about how my back would feel in the morning. After changing into fresh dry clothes, getting some food and sitting in warm room, Millison and I felt like we were ready to take on the night, well sort of. Just as we reached the door of the hotel, he turned to me and said that he needed a nap. I wasn't going to say no, so we crashed out in the laundry room floor for a half hour. I was really cold when we got up, and I put on all of my clothes including my emergency balaclava. Later I found out that it was about 36 degrees. We left the lights of Lincoln City and turned off of 101 heading east. The next miles are a bit of a blur. I kept randomly talking just to stay awake and pass the time. I don't think I could have finished that section without some company.

Our goal was to reach the diner in Siletz. We could taste the hot coffee, gravy, and pancakes. But when we got there cold and hungry, the closed sign was still on the door. We could see some people inside and went on in. Three older men were sitting drinking coffee and told us that the cook was sick today so the diner was closed. When we told them how far we were biking, they poured us a cup of coffee and let us warm up for a bit. By then the low hung clouds were getting lighter. We had more showers on and off as we climbed on to the short gravel section. The wet hard-pack gravel with loose rock on top was challenging to go down. Even my wide tires didn't want to grip on the road. With adrenaline pumping, we made it down the other side only to climb back up to the town of Summit. Still no stores open, we counted the miles to Blodgett. The open sign on the store was a beautiful sight. We devoured some hot food and hot coffee while we warmed up.

The sun was shining and warming our muscles and we pedaled slowly out of town heading to the next control, one tiny step at a time. Just as we reached the Safeway, a light drizzle turned into hail and pelted us across the parking lot. The weather today was all over the place. More coffee, food and back on the bikes. Rollers at this point in the ride were challenging to keep your energy up. The steep grades were difficult and the repetition was mind numbing. More showers kept battering us every few minutes. Just when it looked like we would be dry for a few minutes, we would turn down the next road and get drenched again. Digging deep, we found the motivation to keep the pedals turing even after we had to stop and fix a flat in pouring rain. Fellow riders Michael and John caught up with us and pedaled just ahead of us into Dallas. More food and coffee in Dallas to give me enough energy to pedal home.

The lack of sleep was hard to keep focused at this point. All I wanted to do was stop, but we slowly moved along and the last miles of roads disappeared behind us. Finally, we could see the hotel just past the next intersection. It felt so good to be finished. We flopped into chairs and handed our brevet cards to the organizers. A hot shower, burgers and beer and we were ready to head back to Olympia.

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