Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The first rides from the new base of operations (right around the corner from Alpenrose Velodrome) have been ... less than satisfactory.

Monday's ride consisted of exploring SW PDX/Tigard/Beaverton and inadvertently doing big loops as I dropped onto the occasional terrifying road when, say, a bike lane suddenly stopped on a blind downhill single lane turn and I found myself committed to the flow of traffic. Or when I somehow wound up in downtown, and had to alternate bike lanes and full-traffic lanes, at the start of rush hour, to get my butt back home. In the last 7 years, since I first moved to Eugene, I could count on one hand the number of rides where I returned more stressed out and pissed off than when I left - Monday was one of them.

Tuesday was another.

I took a good look at Google Maps before heading out, with the intent of riding out to Forest Grove, which really looked like it should have been 20 miles out, 20 back, and maybe 5 miles of loop out there to see the town a bit. So I followed the main roads that appeared to be safe, and despite a fair amount of traffic actually made it out OK... eventually. Not only is there more traffic at any one time than I would see in my neck of Eugene on any day, except maybe if I tried to ride West 11th, but the scale of things meant that all of those stoplights, stop signs, and general traffic-related events took a hefty chunk out of the ride. That, and of course the inevitable massive-staple-to-the-tire routine that happens when you ride on crap roads for miles and miles.

I'm sure there's a better way out West, on back roads and such. But it's not intuitive and getting lost can put a serious dent in your afternoon.

Eventually I got out and decided that 90min was more than enough in one direction and that I needed to head back. I ran into a kind professor from Pacific University who was commuting home and took me on some back roads to drop me off on Hwy 47 back towards Hillsboro.

This was the part of the ride where, for 20 minutes or so, I got up some false hope about finding nice quiet roads to train on, relatively safe from cars, with blackberries and apple trees and green grass waving in the wind. Sure, 10 of those 20 minutes we rode around a big cloud of smoke emanating from a burning vineyard, but that's just a sure sign of being in the countryside. Right?

So, I headed back. Which turned into a complete crap-show. A wrong turn, dwindling day-light, and general frustration landed me in the town of Farmington, where my cell phone, my sister, and Google Maps informed me that I had gone the wrong way down Farmington Rd for several miles and had overshot my turn to home a long ways back. I headed back, lights now flashing, until the vanishing bike lanes and heavy traffic had me pull over and call for a ride home. Departure time: 2:30. Return time: 7:15. Total ride time (while moving): 3:40. Stoppage time: stupid. Plus, I had meant to have dinner on the table by 6:30 - which meant I wasn't the only grumpy one, and rightfully so.

So I think that I need a GPS. Well, I need the $450 that an Edge 800 would cost, more specifically. ANT+ reception of my PowerTap and touch-screen color mapping? Yes please. Maps and a good sense of N-S-E-W orientation just aren't going to cut it out here. I'll need some actual direction, and a reference for when I am looking for shortcuts or the quickest way home.

The disheartening first rides were saved when former Whitman rider / Rubicon-Orbea fast man / next year's neo pro / Quadzilla / bad-ass Ben Chaddock took the lead and we rode from his place in the Rose Quarter out past Troutdale, on old Hwy 30 up and up and up until we sat somewhere high above the gorge where, finally, it seemed like we had gone for a real bike ride and not just a glorified urban commute.

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