Tuesday, July 14, 2009

98 miles in one day

looking over the gorge from the vista house

the view of the bridge of the gods from a burger joint in cascade locks

vancouver point scenic view point

I've been slow to update here, but it seems like these days I want to wait for something exciting to write about before I log on.

First, I'll start with the dry stuff. Since my last post, I worked 6 days. I was forced to drive one of those, but on the rest, I took my bike. I also made a trip to the grocery store on my bike because I needed to get a few things for the house to prepare for a bridal shower that my wife was putting on. All that riding added up to 38.2 miles.

Yesterday, I wanted to go to the gorge. Specifically, I wanted to go out to Hood River, so I thought I'd give it a go on my bike. I started from the house and went up Division until 148th, then cut north, under the 30, to Sandy Blvd., and then headed east once more. On the way, I stopped when I saw Grants cheese steaks, which I had read makes the most authentic philly steaks in Portland. Since they're only open monday through friday with limited hours, I took the chance to try them out while I could. It was the real deal! Best bread I've had on the west coast, good sharp flavorful cheese, and I got the peppers and onions, which were solid. While I was finishing up, a guy asked if he could sit at my table, and I said sure. I recognized his accent immediately. I told him the steak was pretty authentic, and he agreed. He was a regular since moving from Allentown PA.

From Gran'ts, I continued east on Sandy until I got to Troutdale. Riding your bike on US 30/84 is illegal between it's junction with the 405, and 238th ave, which is exit 17. Still, I didn't take the 30 when I could have, opting to go the scenic route along the Sandy river, into the hills, using historic columbia river highway. In the past, the only time I had taken the historic route was in a car, so it hadn't been so obvious to me just how far out of the way it took you. Still, the ride was nice, the views were great, and overall, I'm glad I did it. I guess I should have realized how much climbing was involved, and if I did, I might have taken the easier route, but by the time I really started my ascent, I had too much time invested in the route, so I chose to continue.

My first real stop was at at the vista house. I stopped to take a quick picture, but my legs were already starting to burn, and the place was crammed with tourists, so I quickly got moving again. The ride down from vista house was probably the most fun leg of the trip, although with all the switchbacks, I guess you could say I was going nowhere fast (except down). I think I was able to take the turns a lot faster than the people in cars, as I never had one behind me the whole way down, which was nice because there was no shoulder, and I was taking most of the lane. At the bottom of the drop down from vista house, I continued east. Lots of short ascents and descents, but overall, the ride continued taking me higher into the gorge. I stopped at Multnomah falls to get some water, and then again further up the highway to try another fountain along the side of the road. Properly hydrated for the first time of the trip, I rode to the end of the columbia river hwy. At the end, I briefly rode the shoulder of the 30, before seeing a bikers alternative route. From my viewpoint, it appeared to run parallel to the rode, separated only by a concrete median, so I hopped on that. Unfortunately, after I had ridden on it for a bit, it began to climb away from the road, and up into the forest. Again, it was a beautiful way to take, but given the distance I was attempting, I began to regret not taking the direct route. When the biking route returned to the 30, I was surprised to see it ended in couple flights of stairs. I hopped off my bike, carried it down the steps, and followed the path under the 30 to the opposite side of the road, where it continued winding back and forth, through (mostly) climbs and (some) descents. The weaving back and forth and up and down, and under the freeway really added distance to the trip. When I finally emerged from the alternative route, I was in the town of cascade locks.

I had given myself a couple of options early in the trip for how I was going to get home. The ride to Hood River was 62 miles (if I had taken google's car directions, which would have been illegal by bike) . When I got about half way, I realized that I'd have to be crazy to try to knock out the round trip in one shot in my current condition, so I decided I'd either turn back then, or if I was guaranteed a ride home from hood river, continue on, since it would be the same distance, and I would have achieved my goal. If I could make it to hood river fast enough, I could even catch the bus back, and not have to inconvenience anyone.

I sent my wife a message, asking her if she would come meet me in Hood River if I wasn't able to catch the last bus back, and she agreed, so I continued on. After riding another hour and a half, she sent me a message saying that she had changed her mind, which left me abandoned, an hour and a half beyond what I had decided was "the point of no return". My only option was to ride my hardest, and hope to make it to Hood River in time for the last bus out. Several miles past cascade locks on the 30, I stopped to check the time, and realized there was no way I would make it in time. I wasn't sure how I'd get back, and didn't want to add the last 15 miles to my ride (30 round trip), so I reversed course and headed back to cascade locks, hoping that they had a bus station where I could intercept the west bound greyhound that I would miss in Hood River.

Turns out they didn't have a bus stop after all.

With my phone dieing, the temperature dropping, my body giving out, my spirits crushed, abandoned by my wife, screwed by the greyhound schedule, and 45 miles from home on the shortest legal route; I did what any man would do. I got the biggest cheeseburger the town had to offer. I stopped at a place at the end of town with a beautiful view of the gorge and the bridge of the gods. The entire inside was full of native american artifacts and antique guns. I got "the big chief", a 2/3 pound burger with everything you could put on it. It was delicious, and it raised my spirits some. When I left the restaurant, I realized that the cold was beginning to set in. I was in shorts and short sleeves, and I knew the sun would set before I would return home, so I was discouraged once again. With no other option, I began peddling west once again. I knew that I wouldn't be able to handle all the extra climbing on the historic hwy route, so I just stayed on the 30. I was getting very weak, but the desperation of the situation kept the adrenalin going, and I repeated the following mantra in my head: "you don't have to get there fast, you just have to get there". I found that the 30 offered a much flatter ride, and although it wasn't noticeable at the time, following the river down to Portland must have offered a slight downhill grade, which made things a bit easier on me. I had to take several breaks. There were a few times when I just didn't think I could keep going, and I had to stop a bit to rest. One of these places was a scenic turn off, at Vancouver point. The furthest up river a british ship had traveled in the 1700's, on a trip that had named the point and many other features of the river, as well as Mt. Hood itself.

I stopped again not much further up in Troutdale, were I got a redbull and some gatorade. I stopped again in the Park Rose area of portland, when I spotted a porta-potty, which I was in desperate need of. From there I peddled non-stop until I reached home. A long shower helped fix things, but my legs are still in pretty terrible shape.

I spent most of the night awake. No matter what position I placed my legs in, they would begin to cramp, and I'd have to move them to get the pain to stop. It went on for hours. Eventually sleep took hold, and I most have stopped moving my legs because they're very painful today.

I "mapmyrun.com'd" the voyage, and realized I was just short of my first century ride. 98 miles. Had I known I was that close, I would have pushed on an extra 2 miles, just to say that I rode 100 miles in a single day. Still, 98 is impressive, and by far, my personal best.

136.2 miles this week
759.02 miles cumulative
30.3608 total gallons saved