Monday, August 30, 2010

Crater Lake - there and back again

I biked to Crater Lake. From Corvallis. In one day, with some great company: ChrisY, Chris, and Carly.
Due to a series of coincidences, we ended up starting at Mark Newsome's house (he was going to come, and it's a good starting point, but his work schedule got too busy).
The stated start time was 6AM. Actual was more like 7 by the time we were rolling. On the plus side, it was plenty light, but it was fully 4 hours later than I'd typically started this ride, when my legs were 8-10 years younger. And – oh, now I remember – I used to start from Albany, and the ride to Brownsville from Albany is a lot shorter. Crap. Well, hopefully we'll get in by dark....
I'm wearing clothes that are okay for the bulk of the riding: short gloves, shorts, and two layers of wool (3 counting the wool bra). I can peel off a layer when it gets hot. I'm pretty chilly at the start, but Chris takes off at a good clip, so I warm up fast. Chris and Carly are doing a ride-and-tie, so Carly has driven off to Brownsville and started riding from there. When we got to Brownsville, Chris got in the truck, drove past Carly to Marcola, and started riding there. With two people on the course most of the time, they were making great progress – so great that I never saw my warm clothes again. Bad planning, Earl! By the time I realized that we weren't going to catch up to my “warm” layers again, I was also realizing that we weren't going to get to camp any before sundown – i.e. it was going to start getting cold by the time we were heading down 138 – the last few miles of descent into camp. Ohhhh.
We'll do the best we can.
Brisk pace into Brownsville, and then off to Brush Creek – one of my favorite climbs. Fueled by delusions of keeping up with Chris, I kept it in the middle ring. Nice descent to Marcola, where we stopped for sandwiches and to refill Chris' fluids (he had 2 bottles, I had a bottle and a 3-liter bladder).
Lots of construction between Marcola and Springfield. We got stopped by a construction flagger and I swear it was mainly because she needed someone to talk to. For, like, 15 minutes. OK.
I love the section of the ride along the Willamette, between Springfield and Lowell. Very nice. We cross onto 58 at Lowell. There is a lot more traffic on 58 in the early afternoon than the mid-morning. It's not my favorite part of the ride.
Hope (Chris' wife) and kids (Henry, Nash) come by not long before we summit Willamette Pass. Chris gets to punch the button for the tunnel. He likes punching buttons; I'll roll with it.

At the summit, I put on the wool shirt that I'd taken off for the climb; my one and only gear change. It was (just) enough.
By the time we got to Chemult, it was just after 7. Time for a couple of corndogs. I was starting to fall into ultrabrain – a little zoned, a little sleepy, not riding fast because I was forgetting to. A Starbucks doubleshot and some Jolt gum helped quite a bit with that. We called in to Hope and told her that our updated arrival time was 9:30. I was feeling pretty good about having a strong light...I knew it was going to be cold, and I was worried. I picked up a pair of cotton gloves. Best $2 I've ever spent. Having ONE part of my body just a little too warm totally fooled my system into thinking I wasn't actually freezing.
Chris took off out of Chemult at a blistering pace, and by really, really focusing, and drafting as much as possible, I was able to keep up. We made the turn onto 138. It doesn't look SO bad in the dark! I've always said that's the most demoralizing piece of pavement on the planet, but it was kind of cool to watch the headlights come in and out of the false summits. I was making really good time for the first 9 or 10 miles, and then fell off a little bit for the last couple of miles getting toward the summit. By the time we got to the top, Chris was more than happy to wait for me: I had 500 lumens of really good LIGHT, and it was pitch black. He had a cateye and he really couldn't see the fog line.
We missed the turn to the south shore of the lake. Crap. Figured it out at the point where it didn't matter, so we might as well take the north shore and do a lap of the lake. Bonus miles at 9:30 at night. Awesome. It took a while to find our way to the group site. The signage at Broken Arrow isn't 100% clear. We knew that we were heading to “J” loop, for instance – but the right way to go was marked “F,G”. Let's just call that “Not Intuitive”. We roll into camp, triumphant, not quite exhausted, and really cold (me).
Hope offers her down coat, and has a hot dinner ready for us in nothing flat. I am dimly aware that pinot noir is not the rehydration beverage of choice, but the jerked beer can chicken, beans and rice is really, really good! Off to collect my clothes up at the Chris/Carly camp. They've already pitched my tent! Cool! I haul myself in there and try to get warm enough to sleep.
When I wake up, I am warm, so it must've worked. Breakfast time. One of the bennies of being itinerant at the Diamond Lake ride is that EVERYONE brings too much food. I have a great breakfast with Carly and Chris, take some clothes down to the bathroom to change, and swing by Chris and Hope's camp to see how things are going there. The boys are hovering, eating their "just for camping" sugar cereal and dressed like Eskimos. I have breakfast with Chris and Hope: Eggs and miniature andouille sausages. And really good coffee. We sit there, pondering the ride organizers' advice – given last night at the mandatory rider meeting that we missed (but Hope stood in for us): please leave as late as possible due to the possibility of freezing roads overnight. Well, it didn't freeze overnight – but it's getting colder and windier by the minute, now...
I go back to my tent to grab my riding shoes, to discover that I have been pillaged by chipmunks. The only disadvantage to biking up to the lake is that I didn't put all of my stuff in rodent-proof bins (too bulky). My peanuts are just in a bag, and it's just too tempting. I left the door open, and mayhem ensued. As if that wasn't bad enough – I'm a slow learner. I closed up the bag, put it back in the tent, and zipped up the door “so they couldn't get back in”. Hah. Show a squirrel a peanut, and he'll figure out how to get it...
The perp!

We rolled out at 9:30 or so, for the long climb to the top. Chris waited for me as long as he could, then took off. It's getting colder. It's getting foggy. I got to the rim road and pulled into the parking lot...made the decision. I didn't know what the weather was going to do, but if it deteriorated the way I thought it could, I'd have to be sagged down. I had good gear on today – but there's no staying warm when it's wet and 36 degrees and you're descending. So I waited for Hope. She was bringing the boys up to see the lake. Considering that I was at the rim, looking down, and couldn't see the lake, I kinda figured it was going to be a disappointment, but I was sure looking forward to seeing them.
Just at the point where I decided there was a reasonable chance that they'd seen the writing on the wall and stayed in camp, they appeared. I got in the truck, and we went off to find Chris. We found him just before the serious rain started, and proceeded on around the rim – there were places where the kids could see the lake, and Crater Lake is kinda cool even in poor weather.
At some point after the snow started, Henry pointed out that “this is the craziest summer vacation EVER”...we were passing some very cold cyclists in shorts and jerseys (as well as some very cold cyclists who were dressed for the weather). We stopped in at the lunch stop, let them know that we could help sag riders down.
We found Chris and Carly not too far from the Visitor's Center, and they were very happy to take on some rain pants for Chris and to wait at the Visitors' Center until we could dump off our bikes, Hope and the kids, and get back to pick them up.
By the time we got there, the Visitor's Center looked like a bike base camp – everyone with sense stopped there. We picked up an extra person, made sure that everyone there had a known ride down, and headed back.
I came back to find a nice, squirrel-sized hole in my tent, and evidence of a HUGE peanut party on the part of an unknown number of chipmunks and ground squirrels. Like I said – slow learner. When you live in the tough section of town, you don't lock your car EVER – if you do, the thieves have to break your window to get your stuff...
note hole (small discolored area of mesh, suspiciously close to peanuts).

By 4PM the weather was clearing. I'd had a shower, and I was almost warm. The Sunday weather forecast wasn't too bad, so Chris and I decided to go for the planned ride home. Dinner was potluck – an extended hors d'oevres hour, followed by quinoa stew over at Carly and Chris's, and then – chicken, rice, and grilled veggies put out by Hope and Elise. A good fire, at least two dinners, early to bed....
Sunday dawned nice and sunny. I'd been faked out in the middle of the night by the moonlight – it was so intense that I thought it might be pre-dawn. And then I heard Chris go off in the middle of the night- he was doing some photography up on the rim.
I got up, threw on my bike clothes, and packed things up, leaving the tent to attend to last. Then I headed out for breakfasts (yes, plural..) I took some muffins down to Hope and Chris's and had muffins, yogurt, granola, and really good coffee...headed back up to Carly and Chris' and had trail mix and a V8. “Oh – I scared a ground squirrel out of your tent”, Carly put in, helpfully. “I think he was looking for peanuts”. doubt.
And – they're off. Down, down, down....a fast descent to the 1500' level on 138. Then the right turn onto Canton Creek. Chris has ONE annoying habit as a riding partner...not that I'm complaining – one is a very small number, and I'm sure that I have annoying habits. But – I tend to give people the “turn coming up” headsup about 2 miles from the next turn. And – somehow, psychically, he manages to totally take off about 4 miles from the next turn, so I have to chase like crazy to prevent him blowing a turn. I'm PRETTY sure that he knows to turn at Steamboat – I mentioned it often last night – but I'm not certain. So I haul ass and get close enough to let him know.
After the we get onto Canton Creek road, we stopped to peel a layer off. The road is beautiful, almost no traffic, and very scenic. It's also pretty danged steep near the top. I was whining audibly – but I made it. An even steeper descent, and then a long, slow drop down to Sharps' Creek, Row River, Dorena Lake. We're making really good time, rolling along in the sunshine. Great day to be on the bike.
Just about the point where Chris asks whether there might be corn dogs anywhere in Cottage Grove, we came across a local mercantile. They were obviously serving the lake community – locals and campers alike – with the main trade being firewood, cigarettes, and beer. The corn dogs weren't exactly the best I've had, but they were a little bettter than the “chicken cheese rollup thing” that we got as an experiment. Where's Wayne when you need him?
Despite the less that perfect food, I was pretty happy, and thinking that the ONLY thing that might make our day better was if Elise came through just then. She was the camp hostess for the ride, and the last to leave camp. She'd volunteered to sweep our route home, and although I felt perfectly capable of riding the next 65 miles, I really didn't need to.
She actually showed up about a mile later....I loaded up and we did leapfrog support for Chris the rest of the way – which was good, because I was going to make up the rest of the route through Eugene as we went along, which wasn't going to work at Chris speed – and if we were going to get him home by dark, it needed to be at Chris speed. Here's the route coming back. It was amazing, and is highly recommended.
We had one small issue – needed to stop to replace a tire that Chris sliced, but fortunately I had a spare wheelset ready with tires mounted. Other than that, smooth sailing home.

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