Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crown Point By Myself

At 6:01, the alarm starts screeching and I bolt out of bed. My plan is to ride up to Crown Point, maybe tack on a little extra mileage if I feel good, and be home by lunch time to avoid the heat. It seems to take me an hour and fifteen minutes to do everything I need to do (including walk my dog) so at 7:15 I am on my way.

I like starting most of my long rides these days with a trip over Tabor. I'm used to it, the way there is second nature and it gives me a chance to warm up on a cool morning. Today, there is a bit of wrench thrown into my sleepy climb. An angry brown and white mutt has set his sites on my pink, fleshy right calf and he is barreling down the hill with blistering speed towards me. "Noouh?!?" bleats his 100 pound owner unconvincingly as she is dragged down the hill behind him. "Oh, shit!" I yell out and I try to pick up speed (which is hard on a hill that steep) and move over to the left. I feel exposed all clipped in and flinch as the dog snarls with lips curled toward my leg. At the last possible moment, the woman digs in her heels just as the dog is jumping, mouth open, inches from my calf. "Arp!" the dog yells out as his collar must have nearly crushed his throat he was moving so fast. He falls back to the road, gets a severe scolding from his owner, and I pedal gratefully up the rest of the hill...a little shaken, but otherwise unscathed. This would be the most terrifying event of the day. As I'm about to learn, I can do a 7-mile descent (if I've had a chance to try it once before) without freaking out.

I think the way to Troutdale is a little bit downhill because I seem to be able to keep a 20-21 mph pace. This times the lights almost perfectly so I'm to the Historic Highway (about 16 miles later) in no time. Starting the climb, I notice that it already feels easier than last time. It's amazing how the body can adapt. As I climb, I think mostly about Larch Mountain. This climb, which is 14 miles past the turn off for the Crown Point Vista is the recommended training ride to prepare you for Cycle Oregon. I want to do Cycle Oregon so I need to tackle this 4,000 foot (elevation) cinder cone. I'm actually not too incredibly worried about going up it. If it is like the climb to Crown Point (only 3 times longer) I've got plenty of gears to be able to spin up. Coming down is what scares me because last Thursday coming down from Crown Point I got really freaked. I decide as I'm riding up today that I might just try it in 2-3 mile sections. Not today, though, for today climbing to Crown Point seems like enough.

I make it to the top and feel much less hungry than last time. Grateful to be able to fill up my water bottles and use the bathroom, I only stay for about 10 minutes before I unlock my bike from the strangely designed bike rack and pedal up away from the vista.
There is no shoulder on this windy section of road and it scares me a bit when I see an idiot in a red sports car peeling around the curves and breakneck speed towards the vista. Slow down there, buddy. Nobody is impressed. Now, the guy I saw doing this on a skateboard. That is impressive.

Heading down the long descent I look at my mileage. "You'll be at Stark at around 30 miles," I say. I shift up to my big chain ring so I've got some ability to maneuver and pedal/coast all the way down. No freak out...I actually enjoyed it. This was the triumph of the day.

Making it down terror-free really boosted my spirits and I start the long climb up Stark into Troutdale feeling like I wanted more out of this ride than 46 miles. I've got plenty of food (bananas, gels, granola bars) and water so I decide I'm going to go for 60. When I get to the I-205 bike path, I turn north, ride up to the river, and ride for a few miles on my favorite stretch of bike path.
It's a hazy day so it is hard to see the mountains, but the river looks beautiful rippling gently in the breeze. Geese and ducks cool themselves by splashing water over their backs along the edges and a steady stream of happy cyclists ride by with cheerful hellos.
When I know I've done enough mileage to get to 60 I turn around, getting hot now and looking forward to the shady streets just north of Burnside, and head home. When I get home I feel ready to get off my bike, but my mileage says 60.2 which is .1 longer than my longest Portland ride. That tenth of a mile, my triumphant descent, and my intact right calf make today's ride a very rewarding one.

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