|As of 3/17/2013|
This weekend was the 40 mile mark that I had been a little afraid of. I was worried that 30 had been so difficult, that 40 would be murderous. I had never ridden that distance continuously ever. But, I had tackled all the other milestones with some degree of conviction and efficiency, so why not this.
While I had originally planned on heading out to Gresham on a well traveled bike path. The mileage was there, but to be perfectly honest, I knew the route well enough that it seemed like it would be a titch boring. Ira Glass playing in my ears aside, it just seemed like a route to make the miles and not to really enjoy the ride, which is-ultimately-what this should be about. After discussing it with my girlfriend, she suggested that I instead head north into Ridgefield/La Center area. There are backroads a plenty there and early in the morning I should have been relatively safe.
Safe though I was, I wasn't quite prepared for the large degree of rolling hills that I was going to have to deal with. The back roads of the Northwestern part of Clark County are riddled with poorly maintained roads that will move from asphalt to concrete and back again with noticeable bumps in the transition. Cracks are ubiquitous and as the roads are not as frequently traveled, the cracks are not sealed particularly well-if at all. To add to this, this is all former/current farmland which is not always on the level, meaning I could (and did), work my way up a 9%-13% grade over .2 of a mile only to go down another one after a short level space. I must say, though, that despite how potentially punishing it was, there were some truly beautiful sites that I got to travel along in La Center and in the crisp morning air, it was truly a treat.
I should note that it is fairly important that you study your proposed route prior to embarking on it. On a few occasions, I came to an intersection where I wasn't absolutely certain where I should go and had to look at my phone and try and bring up an active map of the area. Well, should you be in a no cell phone zone, this is not going to be terribly useful. In short, have a paper map with you.
Sunday, I headed out with a friend of mine on what would be a remarkable tour around the Portland area. We left SE Portland and headed to Marine Drive, a road that closely follows the Columbia River and then rode our way to Kelly Point, which is effectively where the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia River are and enjoyed a brief respite before heading out to the St. John's Bridge, probably one of my top 3 favorite bridges in Portland. The air coming off the Willamette was blowing us a bit, and as I had not retensioned my derailleur cables since putting the old brake levers back on Betsy, I was loosing a few gears on the rear cassette going up and around. Thankfully, though, my brakes were in good working order so the decent was quick and safe.
This ride, really, ended up being such a night and day experience from my back road Clark County ride. We traversed almost 43 miles and always had a shoulder, bike path or otherwise reserved lane that we could safely ride in. Several parts of Portland, I am told, also have a magnetic switch at some intersections that if you ride your bike above it, will activate the traffic signal so you are not waiting for another car to come on and allow you to make your left. While Vancouver might be a "bike friendly" community, Portland actually accepts cyclists as an integral part of it.
I am becoming progressively cautiously optimistic (yes, I am loading on the adverbs) on my prospects for STP. The miles are coming easier and the real attitude shift that I feel daily makes me look forward to the next morning's ride. This training, these goals have ultimately helped me start becoming a better, trimmer and more positive person, I believe. And for that, I am truly grateful the goals I have set.