Those who know me know that I don't do anything without a plan. (The plan may not always WORK, and I often don't stick to it, but there IS a plan). Anyway, my cycling plan this summer is to ride to the top of Larch Mountain, a trek of about 60 miles and 4000 feet of elevation gain. From the top, one can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and the top of Mt. Jefferson. Worth the trip, I'd say.
I tried to do the ride in late May of 2002, but the summit was still closed by snow. I still remember loading some of the snow in a water bottle, and then hitting Argotnaut with a snowball when I got back home. Keep in mind, this was May.
As you might expect, one doesn't just jump on one's bike and ride to the top of Larch Mountain. Well, you could, but if you survived, you'd feel like the wife of a friend of mine who gave birth after less than 90 minutes of labor; she likened it to "running a marathon without training and finishing."
Because that doesn't sound like much fun to me, I've been slowly working up to my goal. Today's ride was truly epic: The Sandy River Gorge. Details: 40 miles, 2700 ft. of elevation gain, 4 hours, 1500 calories. The topography of the ride, as related in the awesome book "Bicycling the Backroads of Northwest Oregon," looks like this:
As you can see, the ride is downright Sisyphian: 45 seconds of harrowing descent, followed by 45 minutes of grinding uphill. Then you roll to the bottom again. You do this about five times, the killer being a 1000 ft+ haul from the Sandy River.
The positives: Awesome scenery. Here are two shots, the first from the shore of the Sandy River, the second looking down on the river from the town of Sandy (noted on the above chart):
At the highest point of the ride, I stopped to recover a bit. These guys came to see what all the gasping and coughing was about. Apparently, I smelled bah-ah-ah-ah-ad.
After the biggest descent, I stopped to gather my wits (I hit my fastest speed I've ever ridden on a bike: 46 mph) and admire the Bull Run River, which is formed by runoff from nearby Mt. Hood and supplies much of Portland's drinking water.
The negatives: Lots of farmer traffic, the favored vehicle being those Ford 350 monster extended cab pickups with dual wheels on each side of the rear axle. Some of these also have bumper stickers like "This Vet Supports President Bush." I'm glad I didn't have some snippy placard on the back of my seat, especially because the roads were often twisty and there was never much room. (For this reason, I don't think it would be wise to do the ride again. Usually on my rides in area, I see a few other cyclists even in the more remote parts. Today, none, and I think the relative unsafeness of the route is the reason.)
Oh and the other negative? Pain. Lots and lots of pain. On a couple of the ascents, I had to actually get off the bike and push for a 100 feet or so. I've NEVER had to do that before. But that's why I'm doing this. To get stronger.
Actually, I'm feeling better after this ride than the 50 mile marathon of a few days ago. I don't know if I'm up to Larch Mountain yet, but I'm getting closer. I had just better get there by the end of September, or the snow will thwart me once again!