[OrRando] Portland Century - Andrew Black Report: VERY LONGISH
jkeenan0407 at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 28 09:52:19 PDT 2006
I'm including a report that Andrew Black wrote about this ride and posted to the Cycle Oregon list. My sediments eggsactly. This was the worst ride I've done in my ten years of cycling as far as organization, directions and support goes.
Slo "I may never get to do another brevet" Joe
To: CycleOregon at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [CycleOregon] Volunteer Report: Portland Century
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2006 08:48:44 +0000
What can I say? I seemed like a good idea at the time!
Having been helped to complete the T10K by the kindness of strangers, I decided to volunteer for the Portland Century. It turned out that they were recruiting "ride along mechanics", and I figured that would put my bike fixing skills to good use.
I started getting a bit worried the week before the ride. First, the weather forecast. Second, the emails from the volunteer organizer: they want the mechanics to ride at the back, so that they come upon riders with mechanical problems. Not too bad an idea -- provided that there are also some mechanics in the middle. Unfortunately, they omitted to advertise a closing time for the start, so there was no way to know when the last 100 mile rider had actually started, and thus where "the back" was. Third, they were not going to provide even the most obvious of supplies, like tires and brake cables. They would have some tubes, though.
Saturday night I loaded up my panniers with about 15 lbs of bike tools, a couple of tires, a half dozen tubes, some spokes and spare cables, as well as rags, disposable gloves, lubes, and a first aid kit. I also threw in a large empty Nalgene bottle, some energy bars and some sunscreen. And of course the road morph. I probably have everything except the one thing that I would need ...
We were asked to show up by 07:30, so that we could meet the other mechanics. I elected to ride to the start from home, and I didn't get there until 07:35. By the time I found the volunteer registration I had already negotiated the whole length of the 3-block long line of those who has pre-registered and who were waiting to pick up their numbers.
I had expected to get a briefing at 7:30 and then sit around until 9:00 or so waiting to start at the back of the pack. I even brought a newspaper and a couple of technical papers to read. But seeing the long line, I said that I would go off and try to help out, which I did.
Sorry, I was told, there was no way that I could help out. No more stacks of numbers. No more lists of people. They obviously didn't want to be told that they could split the lists according to letter of the alphabet. So I went over to the "day of ride" registration table, and asked a scary looking guy with a shaved head in a black tee-shirt if I could help. Sure, he said, and showed me what to so. It turned out that there were not enough numbers to give them to those who had not pre-registered, so we were giving out wrist bands, on which we write the distance that the rider is planning to attempt. (I've no idea why; we didn't record that information anywhere.) There is in fact little or no wait at this point for those who want to register on the day, unlike the poor souls who pre-registered. A number of people said that they had tried to register online on Thursday or Friday but that the web site refused to take their money; we let those folk register for the pre-reg price. G enerally, I was quite impressed by the way that the organizers just believed folk, and did the right thing.
After a while one of the organizers comes over and ask me and the scary-looking guy to man a new table that they have set up to deal with pre-registered riders. Somewhere they had found two more copies of the registration list (maybe they found Kinkos?), and we were soon handing out numbers as quickly as we can. Pretty soon the line is gone, and I realize that it is 9:00. I say goodbye to the scary-looking guy, who turns out to be the sound guy from the band, just lending a hand like me.
By the time that I have handed over the paperwork, dropped off stuff at my office, and gotten something to eat (It's now three house since I had breakfast), checked with the volunteer coordinator and picked up some inner tubes, it must be close to 9:40. No need to wait to be at the back!
Good news! The Hawthorne bridge is now open. Signage seems to be minimal; there is not even a marker showing where to turn right off of Park to find the Hawthorn bridge. I guess they assume that everyone knows their way around town... There is a really dicey piece of bike trail between SE 26th and 28th where one has to weave between concrete blocks; it was passable with just two of us on it, but I wonder how the 1400 riders had managed to squeeze through there earlier. Somewhere around Crystal Springs I find Curt pushing his flying bedstead up the one short steep hill, and we stopped for a while to chinwag. It was great to see him out on his bike again, although I think that he is s bit frustrated at the fitness that he has lost. Still, he's working on getting it back, and moving in the right direction. Keep on pedaling, Curt!
All the way to the first rest stop on the Springwater I had been passing riders, but with one exception they were all doing the shorter loops. The first rest stop was well-stocked, and there was a blue room at the end of an adjacent street -- presumably the blue-room providers couldn't actually get their truck onto the trail. How anyone figured that one blue room would be adequate for 1400 riders mystified me, but I was late enough that I didn't have to wait too long. There was also a gaggle of REI folk there will a well-equipped bike repair shop; they were packing up and preparing to go to work at the store.
At this point the 40 and 60 mile loops diverged from the 100 mile loop, and there were precious few Portland Century riders on the trail. I did come across one rider fixing his bike, and I got all excited that I could actually do some repairs and earn my keep, but it turned out that he was finished. We rode together more or less to the next rest stop. He was a first-season triathlete doing his first century, and being concerned about the heat had brought four water bottle, including 2 in a tri-cage behind his seat, which is what he had been adjusting.
I had already noticed a few places where the signage and the printed route booklet disagreed, and one place where the maps and the directions disagreed. Some of these were, I think, last minute changes, as in one place the Springwater was closed. Others were just mistakes, that showed that no-one had pre-ridden the route using the directions. The maps in the book were close to useless, since they didn't show any of the roads other than those used by the ride. They also didn't show towns, or lakes, or rivers. So where the directions erroneously say "Right on Bluff" the map just shows Orient becoming Bluff, and there is no indicaiton of whether there is a turn and if so which way it goes. (It's actually a left). Fortunately I knew these roads fairly well, since this is basically the route that I take to go to Mount Hood to ski, and also the return from Sandy to Gresham on the T10K. The next turn in the directions was "Left on Proctor", but when we go t to Proctor Road (after a much shorter distance than was indicated), there was an arrow pointing straight ahead on Bluff Road. So we went straight, and found no further turns until we got to the Mt Hook Highway just West of Sandy. There were no signs there either, but I knew where Ten Eyck Road was -- this is the hill that takes one into lunch on the T10K -- so I was able to lead my Triathlete friend through the Sandy one-way system to the light that marks the left turn across Rt 26. I've still no idea whether this was the route that we were supposed to take. I found out (after I got home and consulted Google maps) that the Westbound leg of the Sandy one-way system is called Proctor Blvd, but of course we couldn't ride on that, since we were heading East (on Pioneer Blvd).
I'm not sure what time we arrived at the Roslyn Lake rest stop. There are blue rooms -- two of them -- but almost no food, and little water. I call the sag driver, who says that he is on his way, but doesn't bring food or water either. There aer several loaves of white sliced nothing-like-bread, but no spread to put on it; a half dozen bananas, and a few oranges (which are very good). There is trash all over the place, and no volunteers manning the food stop. There is a mechanic from River City who has his shop set up, and in between doing repairs is also trying to keep the water flowing. There are only about 10 riders at the stop, so we don't need much -- but we do need something to eat! When the sag driver arrives he and I cleaned up a lot of the trash, and I take the opportunity to go dumpster-diving: my treasure is a packet of Clif Blocks with one left inside!
I flll up my extra water bottle, since I have no idea whether I will find the next stop any better supplied, and after a while set off. There is some serious climbing between Roslyn and Hurlburt Road, and I'm beginning to wish that I had brought a few more energy bars and a few less wrenches. On Gordon Creek Road, about a mile from Hurlburt, on a steep climb just North of Oxbow Park, I come across Jeanie pushing her bike. Is this a case for bicycle repair man? (You have to be a Monty Python fan to get that.) Alas, no. Jeanie tells me that it's the engine, not the bike that needs help. Still, I'm glad to take the excuse to walk the hill with her.
Jeanie's brother Steve is waiting at the top, along with another couple in matching blue bubble jerseys. Jeanie looks and feels all in, so we take a break under a tree on a nicely mowed corner of a field, and convince her to eat and drink. I'm glad that I have extra water. We talk about where they might get some food -- they hadn't found much at the rest stop either -- and decide that Troutdale is probably the best bet. The official route goes across the Stark Street bridge, up the Stark Street hill, and then down 257th to Graham Road, left on the I-84 frontage road by the Airport, and right onto Marine Drive. At least, that's what I figured out once I got home -- the route book omitted the part about Graham Road and the Frontage Road, and just said to turn right from 257th onto Marine Drive, which is impossible. Anyh ow, it is now in the high 90s and we all need food, so climbing one more gratuitous hill seems like a bad idea. Even though I had a nagging feeling that, as course mechanic, I ought to be on the course, I decide that getting Jeanie to a restaurant is more important, and I lead her and Steve along the Historic Columbia River Highway to Glenn Otto park. There Jeanie decides to call her husband; and we all repair to the fish n' tackle shack in the park, which provided ice cold drinks, some shade, and some quite respectable sandwiches. I also discover the large hole in the ground where the park toilet block used to be.
While we are kibitzing the couple in blue bubbles saunters past, having also found the Stark Street hill unappealing. Steve decided to continue the ride provided that I stay with him, and since at this point we may well be the last two riders on the course, I agree, and show him how to get onto Marine drive (omitting the scenic variation around Troutdale airport). The water stop along the -- very bumpy -- bike path does actually have some water, and better still some food, even though this was not advertised. We continue along Marine drive, fighting the headwind and looking longingly at the water. Much of the road is closed to traffic; there were about 6 police cards, two fire engines, a dive team vehicle and a specialized rescue vehicle blocking the road, and we assumed that there had been a boating accident. The pleasant side effect was that there were no cars.
At one point I get excited because I see a man stopped along the bike path with a tool in his had, but it turns out that (1) he is just adjusting his wife's saddle, (2) he knows what he's doing, and (3) they are not on the Portland Century ride anyway.
Just as we get to the I-205 underpass, I can't take it any more. The thermometer on my Cyclecomputer read 101 degrees, and I'm going for a swim. Steve says that he needs to cool of too, but just sits in the shade of I-205 while I try to figure out how to get down to the water. There are a few old men in lawn chairs fishing in the shade of the bridge, and kids running around; with a few beers this seems like a good way to spend a hot afternoon. There is also a hirsute man on a sleeping bag who appears to live under the bridge. We are fortunate indeed, those of us who do this for fun. The water is wonderful; not numbingly cold, but a great way to get my body temperature down. Who cares about the plutonium, anyway?
The next rest stop is, according to the guide, on a "bike path" 16.8 miles from the last, but the map shows no detail whatsoever (not even the Columbia River merits inclusion). There is a nice stretch of riding on Bridgeton road, where a condo development has grown up between Marine Drive and the river. Then we are back on Marine Drive, and there is traffic, and some yellow arrows pointing to the big roundabout under I-5. More yellow arrows direct us up the exit ramp from I-5, which is of course one way in the opposite direction. I don't know who is more surprised -- me or the truck driver. Oh, they intended us to turn on the bike path just before the turn sign. Well, maybe that's what they intended, maybe not. These were the last arrows that I saw for many miles. We followed the bike path around the roundabout, and found so me ODOT signs for Marine Drive West, but we are not sure if the "bike path" with the rest stop on it is in fact the Marine Drive bike path or some other path; there is no indication in the route book. Once we are out of the intersection we stop by a stack of steel girders and Steve decided to call Jeanie to come and pick him up. It's too hot, there is no shade, and this is not very scenic. I press on -- I'm supposed to be doing course support, after all, but I've no idea if I'm even on the course or not. There are no signs at all, and the maps are completely useless. After a while I see a parking area for Smith and Bybee lakes, but it's on the other side of the road, and there is no place to cross. There is also a bike path running by it. I had heard a rumor from the Sag Driver that one of the rest stops was at "Smith and Something", and think this might be it. Eventually I get across the road, and stop a few recreational riders to ask if they had seen any Portland Century riders, or any signs, or a rest stop. No, they said. Oh, wait. There was a stack of bottles of water at a shelter back along the path a-ways; could that have anything to do with what I was looking for?
I head back the way that I had come, but on the path, and the riders show me the shelter. There are no signs of any kind, but there are a lot of wheel tracks in the river rock that marks the access to the shelter. The place is deserted. There are however about 50 of those huge blue plastic water bottles, which is a pleasant sight! There is also some food hidden under a some blankets on the picnic tables. Some eggs! Brown bread! Several jars of peanut butter. On the ground nearby there is a 5 gallon bucket of jam. I rummage some more and even find a box of one bite sample-size cliff bars. Some cut bananas! A one serving package of a Clif brand "apple crisp" electrolyte drink! Real treasure!
I fill my water bottles, eat, mix up the apple crisp drink, and stuff an egg and half a banana in my pocket and some of the sample size Clif bars in my pannier. Then I set off to find Kelly Point park, about which I had heard much, but which I had never seen.
I did find one more yellow arrow, at a junction in the bike path, but it was pointing in a direction that was impossible to follow, because no path went that way. Instead I picked up the road again, here a wide boulevard running between Chemlawn-green grass parks surrounding frozen food plants and light-industrial buildings. The name changed to Lombard Street at some point, but nothing else changed. I never did find Kelley Point Park, and neither did any of the people with whom I talked at the finish.
The route book says that one should stay on Lombard for 3.25 miles, and then turn left on Bruce. The map does not show Bruce, but does show a dog-leg to the right. When Lombard changed its name to Columbia Blvd, I guessed that I had missed the turn. Still, Columbia Blvd semed to be heading South and East, so I couldn't be going too far wrong. At one point I considered trying to find a place to buy a map. I hadn't seen another Century Rider since I had left Steve. It's still hotter than hell, and the Clif drink tastes like warn sweet spit. The neighborhood was becoming increasingly sketchy. Kids yelled out "nice bike mister". SUVs and trucks sat behind me at traffic lights with the bass turned up so loud that my bike vibrated fore and aft with the sound. When one truck passed me for the third time, I began to get really concerned. Then I found an intersection with N Vancouver, which I seemed to remember was a main north-south arte rial, and took it south. I had long before decided that the delights of the Alameda ridge could wait for another day. Eventually I see a sign to turn right for the Broadway bridge, and immediately thereafter a left onto Flint signed with a yellow arrow, no less. Not that I ned them now; I think that I can find PSU from Broadway.
Exactly why Broadway was chosen as the best finish to the ride, I don't know. I would normally pick up the Eastside esplanade from that part of town. Broadway has a light every block, and because I'm going uphill and it's still in the mid 90's, it's hard to make more than two of them before getting stopped. I didn't get doored in the bike land, but somewhere near the Governor Hotel the car in the vehicle lane to my left decides to turn right across the bike lane without looking, and I have to sprint for my life.
I eventually turn onto the Park Blocks by Smith Hall at PSU, and find the volunteer tent, in the process of being dis-assembled. I'm really looking forward to the Salmon and asparagus dinner, and feel not at all guilty about missing the Alameda ridge, which was doubtless, as luck would have it, studded with broken-down bikes needing my ministrations. In fact, the thought of that salmon and asparagus (organic asparagus, you recall) was the one of the two things that made me go back to PSU instead of heading for the St John's Bridge, skyline ridge and home when I was in North Portland. (The other was that I had no idea where I was or how to find the St John's Bridge).
Needless to say, they are out of salmon. And asparagus. I do get a bowl of rice and the dregs of the salad. They are out of tee-shirts too. They are very insistent that I take a goody bag; it tuns out that they have a lot of beer to get rid of. Well, I'm not too upset. After all, I didn't pay for my Salmon dinner, unlike Marilynn and the few other riders who finished the course and with whom I chat at the finish line. In any case, I still have an egg and half a banana in my pocket. And four bottle of beer in my pannier. What's another 5 pounds between friends?
I had almost exactly 100 miles on the clock when I pulled in to PSU, and 112.5 when I made it home. Five-thousand plus feet of climbing, but 1900 of that was on my normal commute from home to PSU and back. Elapsed time was about 14 hours, ride time 8 hours plus.
----- Original Message -----
From: Bert Lutz
To: 'Oregon area Randonneurs'
Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 6:39 PM
Subject: [OrRando] Portland Century
I rode the inaugural Portland Century today, the 100 mile version (they have 40 and 60 mile lengths as well). I like to do these rides every once in awhile because they are not brevets. And with 1400 riders (that's what I heard), cyclists own the road and if you don't like the person you just started a conversation with you can move on to the next one ;-).
The ride started at PSU, headed south to the Springwater trail and east to the Sandy area. Nice climbing following parts of the Torture 10K.. About 3-4K ft. in 20 miles or so. Then, it was a fast ride along the Columbia westbound (thankfully there was not much of a headwind) before the return to PSU via Lombard and the Broadway Bridge. I'm not a big fan of trails but it was a good tour of Portland.
There were long check-in lines, lines at the rest stops, food shortages and a missed rest stop. I clocked 86 miles on my GPS for the century but hey, maybe I missed a turn or two. These are the kinds of things you would expect the first time out of the gate. I had a good time and so did most of the people I talked to. The volunteers were friendly and worked hard. Next year will be even better.
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