Monday, May 17, 2010

RAO Pre-Ride - Final shakedown

This weekend's ride went really, really well! We did a crew, van, and logistics shakedown by riding the back half of the Race Across Oregon route. Dennis Johnson, Team Bacchetta rider from Texas and really cool guy, was the instigator on this trip. I was just tagging along, but it was sure a great way to do it. Here's Dennis in action:

Those of you who are paying close attention to my blog will know that last weekend I rode my bike to Arcata, CA, rode the Tour of the Unknown Coast, and then flew home. So - where does that leave my bike? In Arcata! And who is coming up to Portland for Dennis' training ride? David Bradley and Bill Spaeth, 2/3 of Dennis' dream team RAO crew (third member is the inimitable "Lone Star Sharon" Stevens). And David and Bill are from...yep...Arcata. So they drove my bike back up for the weekend. How cool is that?


and Bill:

We started the weekend early with a mandatory trip to Clyde's. Clyde's is the mother of all meat joints - unbelievable atmosphere. Dimly lit, red velvet booths, shiny chandeliers of many colors, atrocious art, including a suit of armor in the get the drift. Really good red meat.

The boys' van (Dennis, David, Bill) headed off to Hood River to get an early jump on the driving, while the girls' van (Sandy, Elise, Mandy, and our honorary girl and Team Carbent member Chris Young) stayed in town and got up earlier. Drove out to Heppner, did some shopping, and got going around noon.

The scenery was still spring green, not the toasted brown that it will be in July, and really, really pretty. The first stretch - Hwy 74 - has some ups and downs, as one would expect on a course with >40k' of vertical.  I was wondering if David would recognize the scene of the crime - the much-storied September 2008 Theft Of Descent - and of course he did...I distinctly heard him holler "Descent Stealer!" over the PA as we summited. I giggled. What's a girl to do?

On to 395, where we turned south. Light tailwinds so far, so unlike 2009 as to be striking. Also, since we left Heppner at noon I'm getting to see everything that I rode in the dark in the light...I remember the climb to Battle Mountain as not being so terrible, and I'm glad to report that I'm not changing my story one bit. Middle ring, baby! Woo-hoo!

Just as I summited, a DF rider came shooting by...nice, but?? OH! Yeah! Bill brought his new Cervelo! Awesome...nice chase down the mountain....about the only thing that could have made that splendid descent just a little better was the added company. The descent down to Dale was amazing in the afternoon light, filtered through the trees, along the water's edge. Bullock's Oriole...first one of those I've seen in a while.

Chris and I had been looking at the clouds, wondering if there might be "weather" on the other side. We each got about...oh...4 raindrops on the way down. Not quite enough to count, just enough to make each of us wonder whether the other was messing with us. Flush toilets in Dale. Yay!

Eating well, drinking well, electrolytes on schedule. Yep, a sandwich sounds good...I was also eating an unsupportable number of Noreen's Latte Bars, but dang were they good!

Got to Long Creek long after the sidewalks were rolled up (though also long before dark...). On to Monument - a more difficult climb - Kimberly - Spray. I took out at Spray to practice a sleep break. It was a little early - I probably should've gone on to Fossil, but I wasn't in a 'pushing it' mood; the goal here is to perfect the crew communications, get some good data, ride strongly, and not work to the break point.

When we went down for a sleep break we lost contact with the boys' van briefly, backtracked to make sure we knew where they were (since we were out of cell range) and were very happy to make it to Shaniko, though somewhat before the gas station opened there. Yes, Shaniko is open for business again! I was proud of Mandy and Elise - we knew we were short on gas, and I let them figure out the plan to overcome that. Good job!

After getting gas we sagged forward to meet up with the boys, pausing in Maupin to get coffee for all. We were able to rejoin them for much of the FR44 climb, and the final descent into Hood River. The scenery along FR44 is gorgeous. Sadly we didn't make much time for photo opps, but the views of Mt. Hood were amazing, particularly set against the jewel-blue sky. If you really squint at the picture, you can see Elise at the summit, holding out the ultimate Sandy bribe...two electrolyte tablets discreetly mounted onto a York Peppermint Pattie! We ended our day at the last RAO time station - the Pine Grove Pit Stop - to save riding into Hood River in Sunday morning traffic.

On the way home, an amazingly alert David noticed that one of the bike trays on our roof was coming loose, so we pulled over in Cascade Locks, which is home to...the best soft serve in the world, the East Wind Drivein.  I suggested that too much thinking was a problem, and that we have medium swirls and be done with it. No one protested. And I finally had an excuse to haul out the ice cream chimes playlist...

Summary - Mission: accomplished. Crew: amazing. Van: rocks. Company: amazing. Thanks so much to everyone involved, not least of all Robert and Adrienne, who managed to serve as the mission control center while in their 38th week of pregnancy.

Next up: tapir - it's not just a bizarre South American mammal....


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