Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cycle Oregon - Fri and Sat

A year ago I took my first ride up to Mt. Tabor. I had dusted off my old hybrid bike that was in desperate need of a tune-up and taken my friend Leslie's advice about how to ride to this great extinct volcano. One trip up to the top and I was hooked. I wanted to ride my bike everywhere. I know it was a year ago because that weekend Leslie did her first Cycle Oregon event - the weekend ride in Monmouth. I thought it would be a great anniversary celebration of getting bit by the bug to do it this year with my husband.

We signed up for this weekend getaway BEFORE my dad suggested that we sign up for the RAGBRAI lottery. It is amazing how little I've thought about it since all my riding attention has been focused on RAGBRAI for months now. But, as I was packing Friday morning it seemed like this weekend would be a great test run for the BIG ride (which starts a week from tomorrow). First thing I learned: Pay attention to the list you've been compiling since March. (Don't forget your Itty Bitty Book Light).

Western Oregon University is a sweet, idyllic campus complete with red brick buildings and lush green grass. We decided to rent out a dorm room (making this an especially cushy test run for RAGBRAI) and they even let us bring our bikes into our room. Unlike RAGBRAI the food is included and it seems like standard bike event/dorm cafeteria food. Last night was spaghetti and meatballs, salad, fruit and little cheesecakes for dessert. Breakfast was eggs, potatoes, ham, more fruit, and coffeecake. Amusingly, the regular coffee supply kept running a bit low and I got a big kick out of watching a couple do their best to tip the enormous container of coffee at an angle to get the last little dregs of it out.

So, we started out this morning at about 8:30 riding out of Monmouth with riders of all sorts. About 5 miles into the ride, I shouted, "Stop!" and I got off to take a picture of some espaliered apple trees. A cyclist passed us and yelled, "Cycle Oregon?" "Yep!" we yelled back. The road was beautiful and windy with a nice shoulder and the river snaking off to the left. A few more miles went by and we didn't see any signs. We really started to wonder when we passed that same cyclist and he was staring at a map. Hmmm... When we saw the sign that said, "Entering Salem," we knew we'd made a wrong turn. We looked at the map and realized that we were on South River Rd when we were supposed to be on Riverside Dr.

So, we turned back and about 5 miles later we saw the obvious place where everyone was turning. Completely missed it. So, our first pit stop that was supposed to be a little under 10 miles in actually ended up being close to 20 miles. Peter's front derailleur was acting up so he got in the Bike Gallery line while I used the facilities, got us snacks and juice. They had a sports drink I hadn't ever tried before (Gleukos or something like that) that I filled our water bottles up with. Then I went back to wait in line with Peter.

The people in front of Peter had actually done RAGBRAI last year. "You're going to have so much fun!," the man said. "There is just so much food and drink!" (I don't think he means water). When the bike mechanic looked at Peter's bike he easily adjusted the derailleur, noticed something wrong with the headset and fixed that, and then said, "Your tires are totally flat!" Jokingly he said, "This is the most maladjusted bike of the day!" Peter said something about his tires on his car often getting embarassingly low. The bike mechanic said, "Do you drive a Toyota?" "Yes!" said Peter. The mechanic laughed and said, "Makes sense. You buy good equipment so it will tolerate you not taking care of it." We laughed about this for miles.

When you are like me and you like taking pictures, it means you keep passing the same people over and over again. I always tried to be courteous and say, "On your left!" It is so much nicer when people do that. The scenery was beautiful. Red barns, fields of squash, corn as high as a St. Bernard's eye, wheat swaying in the wind. At the last rest stop there were even horses right by the road! I'm a sucker for farm animals.

We figure we did about 50 miles with our little detour and I definitely felt like I could have done more. The distance of tomorrow ride is still being debated, but we will do at least 35. It's amazing how nice it is to get away even for just a little while. And, I could definitely get used to long rides completely supported with food, drink, and rest rooms. The pleasant company of other people who love riding and picturesque landscapes are awfully nice too.

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