Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rhonde von Portlandia Advance Screening

Our band of brothers is chock full of corporate powerhouses.  CEO’s, COO’s, Doctors, Lawyers and such; not to mention all manner of VPs and Head Honchos.  We don’t suffer fools and our undertakings are typically punctuated with exceptional planning and logistics. 

Just keep that in mind……
Men in jeans ready for the train
It took two trains and a car to get nine of the men in black and orange and their bikes down to Portland.  
We rode from the train station to the hotel and took to the streets.  Dinner reservations had been made weeks in advance and was worth a later dining time.
Gluttony was the name of the game and with a five hour ride waiting for us the next day moderation was deemed unnecessary.   We had a private room which we adorned with the Flag of Flanders to get us in the mood. 

Several partook of the short ribs that we speculated came from a brontosaurs.  The portions seemed ridiculous even to a bunch of hungry bike riders. 

Saturday morning greeted us and many were still listing to the side suffering from a meat hangover.  Coffee helped pave the way to our day and soon we were rolling to the start under sunny skies.  The morning air was crisp and the sun warmed our arms.  This was a great day to ride the Rhonde.
Soon we arrived at the start and as we looked around to size up the twelve hundred other riders we noticed they weren’t there.  There was a local guy named Troy but that was it. Instead of a line to use the port-a-potties there was a line of folks waiting for a factory sale at a candle manufacturer.  It did not tax our brains to look at the folks in line and determine “these are not my people”.
Portland likes everyone to feel welcome.  Except Sinners.
Like gunfighters we drew our smartphones and a quick check of the Rhonde website followed by some counting on our fingers revealed we were a week early.  Temperatures in the 70’s, sunny skies and a thousand less people on the course.  No, we weren’t a week early.  Everyone else would be a week late.
With Troy to interpret any language barriers we might have with the Portland Timber supporting locals we set off into the wilds of Portland.  
A few kilometers of flat pave to get our legs warm and then a sharp left onto a non-descript dirt road.  This looked so innocent it could have been the entrance to the Bat Cave.  As soon as we were under the cover of the forest the road kicked up.  Soon we were climbing and enjoying the greenery under the shade of the trees.  We settled in.  Nice.
The road wound up and up until we crested a hill and found ourselves on some Portland Pave’.  
The Lion of Flanders guides the way
We regrouped and then zipped south on Skyline Drive.   We gradually lost elevation at first and then dropped sharply.  The pattern of up and down would be repeated for the duration of the ride.  Some roads were pave and some were little more than dirt paths. 
We hit the steepest sustained climb early and our collective rapid downshifting sounded like bolts in a blender.  The clunks and clanks of shifting under load is a familiar sound that makes me wince.
The hill was so steep we all turned black and white.  Go Rapha !!
Mike winning the battle
Who needs mechanical doping ?
The Silver Fox at the top of the climb
It's all downhill from here (to the next climb at least)
El Jefe' taught us some Estonian profanity
There was some McHurtin going on out there..
The road had the unfathomable grade of 25-27%.   It wasn’t short and those with the legs and/or the gearing slowly and painfully inched past those less fortunate.  Mike drew his white flag early as his 36-26 just wasn’t up to the task.  The Silver Fox later asked what the grade was because he couldn’t read his Garmin as it was pressed deeply into his navel.  Even if you had the gearing you couldn’t sit because the grade was so steep you had to lean over your bars just to keep the front wheel on the ground.
"You fellers have matching costumes....."
As we wrestled our way up the hill I couldn’t help but think that if there had been a thousand more riders on course this would have been a disaster.  At the top we fought to catch our breath knowing this was just the start of our day.
Less than a minute later we were giving back all of the elevation we had just gained.  Not to worry, we were back to climbing two minutes later on.  So it went as we followed the Lion of Flanders (and the route many had downloaded onto their Garmin Devices). 
Speaking of Garmin devices, lucky for us KB had the Jumbotron.  This iPad sized screen not only provides GPS information it also gives sonar readings on nearby schools of fish and flocks of waterfowl.   Although it has a “Man Overboard” feature KB didn’t need to push that button.
By now we were riding with bare arms and all vests were tucked away.  The sunshine felt good and our spirits were high. 
Even a week early they had prepared for our arrival
The maniacal route seemed to leave no steep road unridden and I watched the cumulative elevation start to really add up.
El Chefe's (and our) friend Dan was there for support and nourishment about half way through our hilly gauntlet
Up, up, up
We can't say they didn't warn us
At the next regroup as if it had been planned KB said, “This is the last of my food.”  Suddenly everyone chimed in that they were in a similar situation.  El Chefe’ said that there would be an opportunity to get some food shortly and in less than ten minutes were in a convenience store buying drinks and calories to fuel the remainder of our odyssey.

Portland even had a spot for the disabled cyclists
Side streets sometimes afforded a "running start"
 Stoked up for the balance of our trip we set out to finish this baby off.  Another twenty plus percent climb was dispatched and soon the radio towers that mark the top were in our sights.   Luckily el Chefe had warned us that there would be several false hopes as we would climb toward the towers only to turn away and descend to find another route to climb toward the towers. 
Sometimes we grimace and sometimes we just drop our heads
It's just our way of saying, "I feel wonderful."
This cruel joke was repeated until finally the road climbed up to reveal a grassy park atop the hill we had been flirting with all day.  The road still went upward until we stood at the base of the radio towers that had teased us all day.
I judge this to be a good day....
That was nice....
There must be some fish around here somewhere.....
We let our bikes rest and sat on the grass and congratulated each other.  In old money we had just under sixty miles and over eight thousand feet of climbing on the day.  It was a great day to ride and share with good friends.
With a train to catch we kept our libations brief and headed down to the hotel.  The Jumbotron steered KB north toward some Canadian Geese which he mistook for the directions to the hotel so his journey included some extra kilometers.  The delay was not significant and KB was able to slot into his assigned shower time so there was no adverse impact.

To maximize efficiency we had split into two groups; one to eat first and one to shower first. We swapped and soon all were fed and clean and riding to the train station. 
The ride back to Seattle was a mix of elation, endorphins and exhaustion.  Pretty much everyone dozed at one time or another. 
When we arrived and collected our bikes we parted ways.  El Chefe and I rode to his work where WW2 had been parked.  I drove him home and returned to my place a bit past midnight.
I had brought along my faithful wristband which I only wear for the most epic of days.  I credit it with my good legs this day.
To my amazement several of us met mid-morning Sunday to sneak in a “recovery” ride that was just short of fifty miles and had just over three thousand feet of climbing.   The training for Italy necessitates that our perspective changes.  Three hour rides with three thousand feet of climbing becomes a recovery ride done in Z1 & Z2.   Fitness is building and we need all we can get.

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