Friday, May 23, 2008

Voodoo Fleche

Team VoodooThe Voodoo Fleche team was Captain Dave Read, Me, Mike Richeson and Rick Blacker. That's us in the picture, more or less in order. On Friday May 2nd, Team Voodoo road 240 miles enduring 23.5 hours of Oregon Fleche. We started in Cornelius at a gas station somewhere in the vast urban wilderness west of Hillsoboro and finished at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.

Going to a party;)We started riding after dinner and rode 29 miles north to Vernonia stopping at the Bridge Street Mini Mart just in time to get a snack, fill water, tell stories and put on warmer clothes for the approaching night. We continued going north riding up SR47 to Apiary Road and then up Fern Hill road and down to Rainier by the Columbia River. It was a little bit hilly and we didn't have any premonitions about the saga soon to fold us into it's outrageous bosom.

Captain Dave demonstrates proper chowing techniqueWe were 100 kilometers into the ride, at the northern extent of our route, when we stopped at the Chevron Food Mart in Rainier. We had another 100 kilometers to go with a long stretch on US 30 then a quick dip into Portland with a stop at Voodoo Donuts and then over the hill and back to our hotel in Hillsboro where we could stop and rest for a couple of hours and eat breakfast.

US 30 follows the Columbia River south and is very busy during the day but nearly reasonable after midnight and the wee morning hours. A lite mist greeted us as we entered Portland, enough to make me put my camera away. Reflectors at nightWe entered the northwest industrial part of town and as we road NW Everett towards the donuts of our dreams, we observed the clubs and Friday night hot spots were closing. The Portland night life was filling the sidewalks and streets and by the time we got to Voodoo Donuts, Old Town Portland was in full party mode. There was nothing too odd about robust and happy young people who have had a bit too much of the goodness clubbing on Friday night can bring. Certainly there was nothing out of place in the diverse west coast mixture of metropolitan lifestyles, but it seemed a bit strange to be in the middle of it on bicycles dressed in glowing spandex with lights on our helmets and bicycles equipped for long distance highway touring.

I forgot about my camera and missed the best photographic opportunities of the entire trip. I expected Portland to be civilized and routine but there we were, four Randonneurs in the wild and spirited, nearly out of control chaos of the Portland party scene. Captain Dave gathered the control cards and courageously disappeared into the crowded entrance of the famous party time donut dispensary. Thankfully Dave reappeared with our cards after a long interlude while a stylish parade continued through the doorway like designer party zombies seeking the magic goodness of sugar laden Voodoo Donuts.

Bankrupting the hotel's breakfast programIt was amazing that we made it in and out of Portland in one four pieces. We must have fit into the chaos some how, our glowing spandex casting a neon aura until suddenly we discovered a big hill in our escape from Portland on Burnside Avenue. It was about three miles long and gained 950 vertical feet. Captain Dave expertly crafted the route and lucky for us, Dave thoughtfully included generous training opportunities. We regrouped at the top of the hill and made ready for 10 miles to the hotel were we planed a post voodoo recovery and hearty weekend hotel breakfast party.

A sleepy Saturday sunrise found us threading our way through suburban Hillsboro, past Aloha, heading for the flat land waiting for us in our quixotic quest for Salem. Got Gravel?
Captain Dave found some bonus training opportunities treating us to some memorable roads like Mountain Home, Schmeltzer and Mountain Top. The steep gravel road gave way to paved winding descents as we flew down the mountain past the outskirts of Sherwood just nicking the eastern urban flank of Newberg. Soon we found our way back to solid pavement and by late morning we were heading south on River Road, OR-219, heading into Kaiser and the land of Oregon dreams, the beautiful Oregon State Capitol, Salem.

We stopped and got directions to Salem Center where we found a Starbucks and lounged for an hour before deciding it was time to head for our last two controls. The next 27 miles took us northwest directly into a 10-15 mph head wind on a very busy OR 22. It was a slow 30 miles and the Thriftway in Willamina showed up just in time leaving us 25 miles short of our 22 hour control. We were worried about the time because if the wind was as bad for the next 25 miles as it was the previous 25 miles, we were going to have some slow miles challenging our quest for the perfect fleche.

Team Voodoo braves the wind with dark foreboding storm clouds aheadOur route changed directions taking us west and northeast to McMinnville. Suddenly we were rolling at 22 miles per hour with gleefully little effort. At McMinnville we turned north to Carlton and found a road named Westside Road that had the most idiotic drivers in Oregon. The cars were moving very fast with cars running in groups, bumper to bumper, and passing in an unsafe manner narrowly missing head-on collisions. Here is a road where the State Troopers could easily pull Oregon out of it's budget crisis. We were anxious to get off of that road but we got to Carlton in the nick of time and relaxed and enjoyed the last bit of afternoon in the lunch room at Filling Station Deli.

Scattered showers over the green Oregon plain
Our last bit of road took us north through Yamhill and Gaston on the Tualatin Valley Highway. Finally we reached Forest Grove where we finished the ride at the incredible McMenamins Grand Lodge. We voted Captain Dave the most likely to survive a ride back to the hotel for a car so Dave made the heroic ride while Mike, Rick and I dutifully commandeered a comfortable table in the garden beer house. We drank beer, ate snacks, talked about Voodoo Donuts and waited for the good Captain Dave to return with a car. When Dave arrived with Cathi's car, we ordered dinner and pondered the 60's era album art and record jackets adorning the vaulted ceiling in the rustic garden center. After an excellent dinner, we loaded Cathi's car, carefully sitting on towels preventing dried randonneur crust from affecting the upholstery for future generations, and took a scenic tour of the urban interface around Hillsborro. After a while Rick started the gps on his phone in a futile attempt to find the hotel. Rick eventually called the hotel company to find out where the Hillsoboro hotel was and soon the hotel appeared in the windshield ahead, growing ever larger in the descending Oregonian twilight.

Ode to Team Voodoo

It was a good end to a long ride. Everything considered, it was an outrageous ride. The hills from the previous evening, riding though downtown Portland on a Friday night, stopping at Voodoo Donuts and watching the street theater, riding Burnside avenue over the hill, the early morning gravel hills, the long break at Starbucks, the strong head winds west of Salem, the strong tail winds east of Willamina, surviving the idiot drivers on Westside road, and finally the good beer and food at McMenamins. Captain Dave put together a good ride.

Click here for the Route Sheet

Click on Voodoo Fleche below to open the map in full window mode