This last Saturday was Valentine’s Day! Furthermore, President’s Day conveniently fell on Monday, making for an amazing 3 day weekend. When Brad originally proposed that we go to this event, described as “Oregon’s Perry Roubaix,” I was originally skeptical. All I could think about was that I haven’t ridden in a while, and I didn’t know if my first time in the saddle be an off-road half century with about 2500′ of elevation gain. I’m not really comfortable on loose gravel to begin with. Hell, I am one of the loudest complainers here in town about unpaved and unimproved roads. I also go out of my way sometimes adding a mile or so to my commute to avoid hills.
But then I was reminded of all the positive shit I said I about my new Salsa Fargo. It’s about spontaneity and adventure. About dropping everything and experiencing life. It also came on a really long week where I wasn’t feeling my best. I had been putting in long hours at work, making up for time that I had been sick and we were hosting a career fair that week. There was no time for me to take a moment to breathe. Which prompted this personal Facebook post on Thursday morning after running around all day at the career fair:If you’re not familiar with “Spoon Theory,” it’s a new fad that has been going around some circles; specifically those annoying ones related to invisible disabilities, mental health and social services. I happen to belong to many of those. You can love it or hate it. Personally, I love to hate it.
I have a difficult time getting ready to go places. I get huge anxiety due to my obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (part of my non-verbal learning disability; my neurological issues just sort of lump themselves up like that mashed potato tower in Close Encounters.) Long story short, I suggested that instead of getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, that we should turn it into a romantic holiday weekend and head to Salem, OR the day before.
Saturday morning, it took me six hours to pack, including eating breakfast and lunch. We were on the road by 3pm.
I got a room at The Grand Hotel in downtown Salem, which was great, and we had no issues at all. We brought the bikes up to the room, which had a sitting area so had plenty of room to move around. We met up with an old friend of ours that evening at b² Taphouse and caught up on old times. They have a great food cart by their front door that they own and offer free pretzels and popcorn. They also have heated patio seating! We ended our evening by having a great dinner at Marco Polo Global Restaurant. First of all, they almost couldn’t seat us because they were all booked up due to Valentine’s Day reservations. Their website didn’t say anything about that otherwise we would have booked our own. We ended up being one of the last people to get in. Second of all, I was super overwhelmed by the fact that there are like SIX menus on the table including the libations and desserts. We got so freaking stuffed. There was this gluten-free vegan raspberry lemon cake I really wanted in my belly but unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards. We couldn’t even finish our dinners.
Sunday Morning. . . The Grand Hotel offered a free hot breakfast. We were all about the free. Unfortunately we didn’t participate in the $8 breakfast offered at the golf course, but we were concerned regarding the content of that breakfast. We didn’t want to get there and then have nothing that we could eat.
To say the least, from here on out, there’s a lot of eating going on.
We arrived on site to a shit ton of people. Lots of people that we recognized and lots of people that we didn’t. After getting our bikes all set up, we joined our group and had a pre-ride chat about the route and plans for the day. I stretched a little bit, but there was nothing that was going to help me get ready for what was about to happen.
I learned very quickly that a 29er was overkill for this event. By the time I learned that I needed to lower the pressure for the loose gravel, I was molasses on the paved road. But at least I wasn’t sliding around in the dirt anymore. I’m used to more tacky, muddy or smooth and hard. This crumbly shit scared the shit out of me.
For like the first hour.
I also learned that I should probably have actually done a test ride on my bike before actually taking this on. I spent a good several miles learning how to shift. Which sucks just as much going down hill as it does going up hill.
When we got to mile 12, we noticed a couple familiar faces sitting on the side of the road. It was our good friends Schmitty and Pagel! They had stopped for a drink break, so we stopped and chatted with them for a moment. I opened up some of my Stonewall jerky and chugged some water myself and we were off. It was a really gorgeous route. I didn’t get as nearly as many photos as I would have liked to; both my arms gripping the handlebars for dear life as I navigated the bumpy uneven surface of the road. And you know what? After the first few miles, I loved it. I had a huge grin plastered on my face and I forgot about “riding text book” and how I was supposed to be in a certain gear ratio and pedal a certain way through loose gravel – screw that.
I was in a ridiculously high gear and I was hammering it. I was laughing and singing. I got a little squirrelly when the giant cavalcade of riders came through, but mostly because I didn’t want to slip off the side of the road into the bilge ditch water on the side.
I also ate a bug.
It was about mile 24 when I started to feel like I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. I was feeling pretty numb in my toesies and was wiggling them to get feeling back in my apendages. Was shifting in my saddle because I was really becoming self aware of my scoliosis and perhaps that my saddle height wasn’t quite at the correct height and when we came upon a hill. What made it worse was that I tried to cheat right before we came to the portion of the route with the hill and cut off a good portion of the loop before Pagel called me out. I got about halfway up and realized that my knees were going to give out, my quads were aching. . . I unclipped and I got off my bike and began walking. I had watched Schmitty, Pagel and Brad disappear over the crest of the hill a few minutes prior and felt a little dejected that I was so far behind, but I was still going. This was the first time I had physically gotten off my bike.
Just then, the song, “Love Love Love” by the Mountain Goats came on my soundsystem and I was overcome by what I was doing. I bit my lip, reached behind me and let a little air out of my rear wheel. I attempted to mount my bike at an angle. It skidded out on the dirt and loose gravel. I tried again and nearly slipped from the saddle onto the top bar. I ensured my shoe was clipped in and I tried again, pedalling one-footed, trying to build up momentum and scooting along the ground with the other foot until I could fully mount. Alas, not all stories have happy endings and not all moments are like movie montages. I ended up unclipping once again and continued pushing my bike to the top of the hill. Brad met me on the other side. Pagel and Schmitty had gone on ahead.
It wasn’t the last we saw of the dynamic duo, though! We found them again sitting on the grass about mile 35 enjoying sandwiches and drinks! They have a sound philosophy that it’s always best that your bikes and frame bags arrive home lighter than when you leave. And while we might not have been the fastest group out there, we were definitely enjoying the gorgeous weather (in the low 60s) and scenery.
I, of all people, had removed my leg and arm warmers before we even got to mile 10!
After this it gets a bit wonky. I will fully admit that I did not have a cue sheet at all during this entire escursion. I said that I did not want to be responsible and would just follow other people. I also accidently forgot to bring my cellphone and left it in the car. A dumb move, which left me with no GPS navigation system in case of mishap. Brad’s phone apparently only had 20% left, which we found out in just a little bit.
I remember asking him how far we were and he said about 38 miles. I was looking on the positive that there was only 12 miles left or so. I was also feeling kind of skeptical because earlier in the day, Brad had asked someone how much gravel there was and the guy said 40 miles of it. We had been riding on a lot of paved road for a while. We pulled over after cruising down OR22 for a quite a bit and checked out our cue sheet which made no sense.
Our “mile 38″ was in reality “mile 58″ish however we still had that 12 miles left to go or there about (I think we ended up figuring about 16 from where we were), and we ended up somehow making a 20 mile detour somewhere on the route.
No wonder we hadn’t seen anyone for a while.
I just want to say that there were a couple hills that were like two times steeper and longer than the hill that I walked up AFTER that hill and I rode them. Suck it. So when I say, we did attempt to call to get picked up, it’s because I felt we already accomplished our goal. However, no one answered on the other line. Brad and I stood there for a moment and he asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that we’re in the middle of nowhere and we have to get back to the golf course.
And that’s just what we did.
I had the most amazing time and even though I had a saddle shaped welt on my ass and could barely walk up stairs for two days or move my arms, it was freaking fantastic. I also have been eating as much food as I want.
Brad rode his fixie to work the next day.