Forest Grove to Vernonia Populaire

The Forest Grove – Vernonia Populaire is a pleasant loop through Washington and Columbia Counties with a great mix of gently rolling roads, a good climb, and 20 miles of car free multi-use path.  I left work early on Thursday 17 May for a workers’ ride – the Populaire will be Saturday 26 May and starts at 10AM, giving plenty of time to sleep in, take the MAX out of Portland, and arrive at the start in Forest Grove.

I took the MAX to the end-of-the-line in Hillsboro, Hatfield Government Center which is five miles from the start at the McMenamins Grand Lodge. From there, I walked North to Main St, took a left and rode along until the intersection with Baseline/HWY 8 and took a right. Stay on Baseline for four miles and then turn right on Quince/HWY 47.  Take a left into the Grand Lodge parking lot and you’re at the start. (Heading home after the ride, you take Baseline going East and turn left onto SW Adams Ave (there’s an Elmer’s on the corner).

A strong North wind made for a slow first half of the route and suggested that Gales Creek is well named.  That said, this was one of only a few times I’ve been on this road on a sunny day and I greatly enjoyed the pastoral scenery and occasional alpaca sighting.  I was happy to reach the more heavily forested Timber Road and exchange my headwind for some elevation gain.  The first info control is near the summit, just before the ramp flattens out briefly and descends. I just couldn’t bear to further interrupt the descent which already has some sharp switchbacks and a railroad crossing.

In Vernonia I decided that sitting down outside of the Black Bear Cafe and eating a sandwich would be better than a fast finish time.  I did my best to pretend that sitting in the sunshine was warm and pleasant, but the wind made it quite chilly.  They had the radio on and I heard the weatherman say that the wind was blowing at 14mph from the North West.  Luckily, this is the halfway point and the loop returns South from here via the pleasant and carfree Banks-Vernonia Linear Park.


I made good time on the nearly empty trail and enjoyed the late evening sun casting shadows through the trees. The info control on the trail (which is also a bathroom) comes just before Tophill – where you will actually descend an absurdly sharp set of switchbacks (signs say to walk bikes, but you can ride down easily if you use your brakes) and then ride back up the the trail.  One thing to note is that just after the info control, there is some construction on the path, so take care as the path gets quite narrow and I don’t want anyone falling across the orange netting and into a giant pit. From Tophill, it is a gradual descent all the way into Banks and the flat for the last few miles into Forest Grove and the finish at Grand Lodge.

Despite at least 25 minutes off the bike, I did the loop in 4h50m.  Please keep in mind as you ride that the path from Vernonia to Banks is very popular for cyclists and pedestrians, and while I didn’t see many people out on a Thursday afternoon, there are likely to be more on a Saturday.  Pass with care and a bell or “hello” and try to remember that we’re not racing, so slowing down around pedestrians and their dogs doesn’t hurt.

More photos here:


Multnomah Falls 100K Preride (for May 12, 2012)

On Sunday, April 29th, Asta Chastain, David Parsons, Stasia Honnold and I set out from Jazz Kats Coffee (right next door to Velo Cult, which will be the official starting location) to preride the Multnomah Falls 100K populaire.  The weather was good, if a bit cool, and we were among many cyclists making use of the day to ride in the Columbia Gorge.

Close to, but not quite, Velo Cult.

The first 18KM of this ride are more urban than the traditional starts for Oregon Randonneurs rides, but many of the roads are marked with sharrows and there are a scattering of wayfinding signs with information for cyclists.  Lots of stop signs, too, so please be courteous and legal. (The same goes for the end, since you’ll be on the same roads for that last bit).

At that point, you’ll reach Marine Drive and the cue sheet suggests the possibility of using the bike paths as an alternate route.  I very much recommend doing so as it is much more pleasant.  After Glenn Winding Road (or thereabouts), the shoulder widens and traffic is reduced, so riding on Marine Drive itself becomes quite pleasant. In order to start off on the bike path, watch for green wayfinding signs at 18.1KM and be prepared to signal and carefully take a left off of NE 33rd.  You’ll wrap under the road (watch for bollards/posts) and back to the East alongside Marine Drive.

We encountered a few cyclists and walkers along the path and were sure to alert them before passing (figuring that getting hit by a tandem and two other rando bikes wasn’t going to make anyone’s day). Sections of the path run right along the Columbia River and afford nice views to Washington as well as hints of the landscape to come further East.  By contrast, I re-rode this section on Marine Drive a few days later to fix some distances and found myself trying to keep to a 6in section of shoulder between fast-moving traffic and loose gravel and debris.  Granted, that was a weekday after work, but it was still not as nice as the path.

After passing through the very cute portion of Troutdale along the Columbia River Highway, we stopped off at Glenn Otto Park to use the restrooms.  There should also be water to refill your bottles and, if things are going very badly, bus service back to Portland.  Back on the road, we crossed a green steel bridge and headed to the right along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  This is one of my favorite stretches of road and navigation from here to Multnomah Falls is fairly simple since it’s the same road the whole way.

This was Asta’s and my first extended ride on the tandem and, though the stoker boom is rather too short for her, we kept a good pace until the gradual uphill portion of the route around Corbett.  Stasia and David were good sports about the lessened pace and we arrived at the Vista House in good spirits.  The view from Crown Point is beautiful on clear days, which is, hopefully, what you will have on May 12.  This is an info control, so don’t forget to find the answer, or ask one of the volunteers. There are restrooms inside of the Vista House – just go in the Southern entrance and then downstairs (there are stairwells to the left and right).

This is actually heading back UP Crown Point

The descent from Crown Point is twisty and fun, except that the pavement is in bad repair.  I’ve heard that it will be closed this fall and winter for repaving, but in the mean time, please be careful and descend within your means.  A friend recently flipped her bike on one of the many potholes and broke not only several teeth, but her lower jaw.  We didn’t have any trouble on the preride, but we were watching the road quite attentively.

We enjoyed the waterfalls and dappled light through the gorge and stopped for a rather long break at Multnomah Falls where there are bathrooms, a snack bar, an espresso/coffee cart, and tourists galore.  Don’t waste too much time here, because you’ll want a little extra in the bank so you can return via Crown Point instead of taking the more direct route on I-84.  That’s what we did, so I can’t speak for I-84 except to say that it is a loud and busy place compared to Historic Highway 30!

If you take the alternative route (back the way you came) note that once you pass through Troutdale, you’ll take a right at the light on 257th (just after the arch welcoming you to the gorge – if you go straight it will become NE Halsey and you will get back to Portland, but you will DNF…) and a left at the *second light* when headed down the hill.  That leads under I-84 and onto Northerly frontage road which links up with Marine Drive.

Heading West on Marine Drive is similar to the outbound route, but you’ll be turning off before the bike paths become very useful.  At 112th, you’ll take a left onto the I-205 Bikepath.  If Marine Drive is very busy and you don’t feel safe, you can pull off to the right and use a crossing button to stop traffic.  The I-205 Bikepath will lead you down to NE Alderwood where you will be at sidewalk level and need to re-enter the road at the corner where the curb ramps down.  Then under I-205 and along a fairly quiet stretch to the long traffic light at Columbia and NE 47th (you might use the ped-crossing button if the signal isn’t changing).

Back at Velo Cult, there should be food and beer and an all-ages space.  Bring your bike inside and spend some time chatting with fellow randonneurs after getting your card signed.  There’s also a free digital photobooth which is fun to play around with.


Blackberries and Ice Cream – Bridge of the Gods 200k Preride Report

On Saturday 20 August, 2011, I prerode the Bridge of the Gods 200K with David Parsons, Ed Groth, and Steph Routh.  David, Ed, and I are putting this loop on as a brevet on September 3rd and needed to check on the cue sheet and conditions – especially since the last time this ride was done as a brevet was a few years ago.  We started at 7:30am from Wilshire Park in Portland (yep, a summer brevet starting in Portland!) heading North on 33rd to Marine Drive.

Steph on Marine Drive

Steph on Marine Drive

This road gets a bit of traffic at times, but is fine on a Saturday morning.  Marine Drive gets a lot of cyclists, but that doesn’t mean you will enjoy it – fortunately there are multi-use paths along most (not all) of the road.  To start off on the paths, follow signs on 33rd, cross to the opposite side of the street just before a little overpass and then turn under it.  If you hate yielding to other cyclists and people out on foot, or love riding in pacelines, just stay on Marine Drive.  The milage should be very similar.

The Frontage Road to Troutdale is basically a truck stop, so if you already need to refuel, you can.  I usually skip these stores and use the Plaid Pantry at Graham and the Historic Highway 30 or skip that and get a bite to eat in the twee stretch of old Troutdale which is just a little further along.  Next supplies are at the Corbett Market – a whole 6 miles or so away.

The Historic Highway 30 is one of my favorite stretches of road and (after a quick stop at Glenn Otto park to use clean, free bathrooms) I zipped along the gradual climb to Crown Point and the Vista House – a good place to stop with a camera.  But don’t do as we did and stand around there talking to folks forever.

Ed and David at Crown Point

Ed and David at Crown Point

Take your photos and then get ready for a fun, twisty descent into the best part of this route.  Highway 30 after Crown Point runs along the Columbia at a pretty low elevation, so it’s pretty cool and well shaded by trees.  Along the way there are several waterfalls to your right and services are available at Multnomah Falls – including ice cream.  We also met some nice cyclists and had a long chat – beware distractions!

Mike with Ice Cream

Mike with Ice Cream

After Multnomah Falls, it is only a few miles before you will be riding on I-84 which is unpleasant, but only 2.4 miles long.  There is a bridge with almost no shoulder and you will have to swerve to the right almost immediately after the bridge because the shoulder widens and smooths out, except for the rumble strip which begins directly ahead of you.  My solution to these freeway miles is to pedal faster – so I pushed 25mph or so the whole stretch and then waited at the trail at mile point 43.5.  My odometer indicated mile point 45 and I know that David Parsons is going to revise the mileage on the updated cue sheet, but I’d recommend using the first 20 miles of simple cues to figure out if your mileage is off so you can correct along the way.



My freeway speed was faster than the others, so I ate some blackberries and waited.  David showed up and joined me and then Ed and Steph showed up with three nicely inflated wheels and one flat.  And then the nice cyclists from Multnomah Falls arrived.  As David mentions in his ride report – we stood around and gossiped.

The trail from here to Eagle Creek is bumpy and has a flight of stairs going down to the East – so please obey the stop sign at the top.

Don't ride the Stairs!

Highway Stairs

If you’ve managed not to waste as much time as we did, you’ll have time to eat something proper in Cascade Locks.  I recommend that you do not try to do this at Char Burger (the restaurant at the end of the trail).  Instead, stay on 30 (also signed Wanapa) going East for a couple of blocks and check out the Pacific Crest Pub on the South side of the street.  They have a lot of shady, outdoor seating and plenty of room for bikes.  They also have food (at pub prices) and beer – including taps from Walking Man Brewery which is located just across the river in Stevenson (if you’re a diehard fan you can probably plan to go off route to find Walking Man, but we didn’t so I don’t have any tips).  Once you’ve sufficiently refueled, cross the Bridge of the Gods and you’re in Washington.

Me crossing the Bridge of the Gods

Self Portrait on the Bridge of the Gods

The out and back bit to the Northeast is tough, but we had wasted a lot of time and needed to ride it quickly.  I ended up ahead of Ed and David, riding all-out in the steadily increasing heat and missed the control at Stabler.  You need to go 8.5 miles on Wind River Road – that gets you through Carson, across the Wind River Bridge (the river is way, way down from this bridge), and towards a Fish Hatchery.  If you reach the fish you’re 5 miles too far.  I only went 1.5 miles too far, so I can’t say much about the Hatchery except that I hear they have water.

The Stabler store (at the intersection of Wind River and Hemlock Y is now a residence (no wonder I missed it!) and when David, Ed, and I all pulled in at the same time we were really disappointed not to be able to buy cold beverages.  I recommend a resupply in Stevenson or Carson on the way out and maybe on the way back.  Just don’t be like us and skip all of your options.  We did end up stopping at Beacon Rock State Park to refill water bottles and sit in the shade.  At this point it was about 90 degrees and there is little to no shade along 14. Oh and it’s a bit rolling before the big climb.  There’s a great viewpoint at the top of the big climb which makes it worth it, but instead you’ll be turning on Krogstad and missing it.


Krogstad Road

The old cue sheet made Krogstad sound very easy to miss, but there is a street sign and the satellite dish in the yard is actually huge (though barely visible behind the fence).  I got there a bit ahead of everyone and had a good chat with Kieth – a local who sells rocks and crystals at this intersection.  Ed bought a rock!  Ok, so it was a crystal, but he still did.

From there it’s up to Canyon River Road and then up some more to the next control.  It was hot enough on our way UP that the road was blistered and glistening.  Riding across the blisters made a quiet pop pop pop pop pop pop popping sound.

Washougal River Mercantile – mp 95 (or 100 if you add extra miles like I did) – has lots of food and crap.  I was really hungry and very happy about the food and crap.  Once on a very cold ride I bought gloves here, but today it was hot and most of the male customers had apparently left their shirts at home.  I was feeling better because of the food, but then we rode along the narrow chipseal ribbon called Washougal River Road where many, many drunk river rafters and waders and swimmers were transforming into awful shouting honking drivers.  I hope for your sake that they are not doing this when you ride the brevet on 3 September.  Traffic and heat continued through Camas and the bumpy rough surface of 6th/Evergreen Highway was quite welcome if only because there were very few cars there.

Eager to get home, I bombed down the 205 bridge to Oregon (30mph tucked – could have been faster if not for bumpy metal plates over the expansion joints).  All the heat and wasted time and bumpy roads and car stress hadn’t done wonders for my mood, but the last several roads on the route were quiet, smooth, and calming.  We pulled up to Wilshire Park at almost 8pm – 12 hours and 37 minutes after we started.  You can most certainly do it faster than this – David notes that we were only on our bikes for a hair under 9 hours.



Two Weeks Left…

A is for a certain SUPERrandonneur.

I decided to chop off my hair

The sound of rain woke me up just before three in the morning. I listened for a while and tried to sleep for another hour before climbing out of bed, quickly frying an egg, and riding to SE Portland to watch the Tour de France, Stage 14. It was 5:30am by the time I arrived to join Ed and Bonzo, who had been there for about an hour. We were eventually joined by Diana and, later, Ken. The last kilometers of the stage were thrilling, but I won’t reveal anything here.

After the Tour, Ken and I headed out on a 70 mile loop following a hilly route to Sandy. We kept a good pace despite the many climbs (14.6mph) and got back in an exhausted state, dreaming of showers. But before I got into the shower, I decided to chop off my hair.


Solstice Ride

When Patrick, a mechanic at the Community Cycling Center, proposed riding through the shortest night of the year, a sane person would have laughed, stayed home, and slept in.  Said sane person is 1) clearly not a cyclist and 2) would have missed out on a beautiful sunrise.

Fortunately for Patrick, enough of us fail to meet the definition of sanity (when faced with the same ‘problem’ – namely what to do about space and time – try the same solution repeatedly – ride a bike through both) that he was able to assemble a crew of riders to join him on his (mis)adventure.  Jim, David, Josh, Jev, and I met up in Northeast Portland at 9PM and set out.

Solstice Riders

Our destination was Multnomah Falls, first star to the left, and straight on ’til morning.  We took Halsey through Gresham and Fairview, stopping at the Troutdale Plaid to buy supplies.  This portion of the ride was brisk, but we stuck together well, so the pace stayed up for the rest of our night as we chased each other up and down hills, past the rushing sound of unseen waterfalls, through the pockets of warm and cool air, over narrow bridges and around the graceful curves of the Historic Highway 30 through the Columbia Gorge.

At Multnomah Falls, we hiked the trail to the first bridge and stood there a while in mist and roar – awed by the cold, rushing force coming down from the cliff above. But idle cyclists grow tired and so we were obligated to leave the place and climb back to Crown Point.  We made a challenge of it, seeing who could reach the top first (it was I) and all sticking close enough together to finish within five minutes.  The lights of Portland and Camas flickered in the distance, but cold wind drove us away from the Vista House and up to the more sheltered Women’s Forum.  There we lay down and looked up at the sky full of stars.  Living in Portland, light pollution keeps us from enjoying the sky’s full beauty, but it was much better on display from our vantage point in the Gorge.  Built to Spill played in my head and I looked for the Brontosaurus, the other constellations being unfamiliar to me.

Constellations have always been troublesome things to name.  If you give one of them a fanciful name, it will always refuse to live up to it; it will always persist in not resembling the thing it has been named for.  Ultimately, to satisfy the public, the fanciful name has to be discarded for a common-sense one, a manifestly descriptive one.  The Great Bear remained the Great Bear – and unrecognizable as such – for thousands of years; and people complained about it all the time, and quite properly; but as soon as it became property of the United States, Congress changed it to the Big Dipper, and now everybody is satisfied, and there is no more talk about riots. – Mark Twain, Following the Equator

We had inside information on the finish location for the Pedalpalooza Solstice Ride, but decided we were not going to get there for sunrise and decided it better to head back through Troutdale onto Halsey and then up Rocky Butte.  From Women’s Forum to Troutdale is mostly downhill and we rode in a very fast line (David and I took turns in front, riding side-by-side, each egging the other on to go a bit faster), descending Bell Road in the mid-30s (mph) and keeping close to 20 until the Troutdale Plaid.  Back at the Plaid we interrupted the cahier’s shortest break of the year (a celebration of the solstice and capitalism, of course) before proceeding back to Portland closer to our overall average speed of 15 mph, or a little above that.

David insisted that I ride up Rocky Butte no-handed whilst playing bag pipes, but none could be found and I couldn’t keep my hands off the bar for more than 100 ft or so.  Nevertheless, we pushed ourselves to ride as quickly as possible to the top, soaking ourselves in sweat despite the cool pre-dawn air.  We waited atop the Butte and watched the sunrise until we all finally gave up around 6am.

Solstice Sunrise over Mt Hood

To complete the ride, Josh, Jev, David, and I rode to get donuts and coffee, but nearly fell asleep at the table and so headed home.


Oregon Coast 600K

The Oregon Coast 600K (May 7-8, 2011) was my first 600K and, from the beginning, I’d decided to ride straight through. Some time during the week leading up to the ride, I got a text message from Asta Chastain saying that she, too, was planning to ride all night. With the 300K and Flèche NW in common, I knew we were of similar pace and that she is great to ride with. Ride organizer Susan Otcenas gave strict instructions: “stick together.” Not that I had any other intentions.
Theo at the Manzanita Lookout

Me on Neahkanie Mountain by David Parsons

We didn’t do a great job with pacing in the early, exciting miles of the ride and got pretty hungry around Warrington (two flats had encouraged us to ride on through Birkenfield and Olney when we should have eaten more in either or both places). Around there we found David Parsons who decided to join us for a sit-down meal at a little cafe.The three of us stuck together out to Ft Stevens where we picked up Scott Peterson. He stuck with us until Neahkahnie Mountain at which point, he headed down to Manzanita for dinner (he also took that opportunity to check in with his body and decided not to finish the ride) and we headed on to Tillamook. And then to Lincoln City where we spent an hour and a half with Susan Otcenas, eating, chatting, and waiting for the big rain to stop. After a refreshing shower, David decided to carry on with us, rather than try to sleep for a few hours like most riders out for the 600. And then there were three.The next several hours were the hardest and, honestly, I thought we might DNF. Asta’s knee started hurting, badly. I don’t know how she made herself climb the steepest hills, but she even managed a few smiles. In Siletz, David patched a flat and we sat down in a cafe with Michael Wolfe*, Vincent Muoneke and John Pearch to refuel a bit before the rides steepest and most punishing climbs. In spite of terrible pain, Asta pushed up to Summit and then up to Blodgett where an ice cream cone and a makeshift knee brace saved her ride.

The three of us worked hard to make the control in Dallas where most of the riders who had slept caught up with us (several of the faster riders had already done so). From there, we had patches of warm sun and light rain accompanied by stiff winds all the way back to Forest Grove. This last 100K of the trip was tired and felt about twice as far as the first 100K.

Outside of Dayton, David activated his personal tailwind device while Asta and I worked to keep him within view. He eventually disappeared around Fern Hill Road, but waited outside the Grand Lodge – we’d all worked so hard together he wanted to finish together and have it recorded as such.

The All Knighters

Asta, David, and me near Summit by Michael Johnson

I learned a lot about pacing and riding over longer distances, but mostly I learned how valuable support from other riders can be. Thanks to Asta, David, Vincent, John, Scott, Tom, Kole, Jennifer, Leslie, Kevin, Will, Ed, Joel, Dan, Susan Octenas. I finished this ride because of you, because you rode beside me, shared words of wisdom and encouragement, because you rode ahead of me, because you rode behind me on the second day and I wanted to keep you there for as long as possible (ha!), because you pulled me, and because I knew you were there and that I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to think this sounded like a fun way to spend the weekend.

David’s detailed ride report (recommended reading!):
*Thanks, Michael for correcting my mistake! Hope to see you on another ride, but you might be too fast. =)

Good news, Bad news

Lily and I are busily preparing for a session with the 4th grade girls tomorrow, so this will only be a brief update.

The good news is that I got a suit.  I must be getting used to prices in INR, because 4000 seemed like a lot!  After converting to USD, it seems a lot better for a nice suit that fits.  I might get another one: fully custom tailored, wool, three-piece, slim-fit… 5600INR or so…

The bad news is that after we went suit shopping yesterday, I got hit by a car while trying to cross MG Road in Panjim.  The passenger yelled at me, “Where are you looking?!!? You are lucky we stopped!”  I don’t really remember getting hit very clearly.  I know that I heard a long honking and then, suddenly, I was on the hood of the car, and then standing next to it.  They drove off and I stood in one place for a few minutes, hurting in my right knee and the side of my leg below the knee.  The pain went down and we walked to the bus stand.  Today I have no bruises and a lot less pain.  That said, the leg felt tired in the evening and I am hoping nothing serious happened.  Right now I feel fine  – except I am pretty upset about how carelessly people drive here!  It’s like there are no laws at all!

So in that way, at least, I’ll be happy to return to Portland where drivers are pretty nice!