Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chehalis to Portland

On Sunday I did the ride I have been contemplating for months. The day was forecast to be quite hot (90's) so I set out at 5:50 AM.
It was 62 degrees and the roads were empty. I felt strong and prepared. I stated my ride in shorts and a sleeveless top and was well coated in sunscreen. The plan was to cover as much ground without overdoing it.
I chose a route that would cover some roads that I have wanted to ride for quite some time. Plus I would pick up some more roads in SW Lewis County. To start, I would head south on Jackson Hwy and then pick up Coulson Rd off of SR 508. Coulson is a nice road and soon I was crossing over SR 12. The neighborhood degrades in this area and I passed a lot of unkempt homes. At Park Rd there is an overpass on I-5, it was so infrequently used that there were weeds growing in the seams of the road here. The route continued on Mienkler and Nevil roads into Winlock.
At Winlock I made a bathroom stop and filled my water bottles. The ride headed south on Winlock-Vader Rd and the sun was starting to feel a little warm. Halfway down the road, 2 dogs came after me, one from the front and one behind. My Halt spray took care of the trailing dog and a firm command solved the other one.
The road ends at a store, I borrowed some of their shade and ate an egg salad sandwich that I had got at Winlock Egg Days on Saturday. SR 506 climbs out of Vader and connects with SR 411 (Westside Hwy) here. This was one road that I was excited to ride. It did not disappoint. Lots of good scenery and nice riding. Most of the road was in shade so I comfortably cruised along thinking that I was going to have a fairly easy day.
Halfway down this road I needed to make a pit stop and there was a pull off area with some paths to the river that looked like a place to stop. I pulled off and rode to the back side of some trees. As I was stopping a branch laying on the ground, popped up and wedged through my spokes. If I had been going any speed, it would have done some damage. Whew!
Toward then end of the road, I cam upon a rooster scratching on the side of the road. He was beautiful and would have probably won a prize at the fair. He will probably end up a road pancake or in a coyote's stomach.
I reached my first planned rest at Riverside County Park at 9:30. This stop is at 47 miles which put me close to half-way. My mood was great, energy was great and the weather was still mild. I ate a banana, a hash brown and drank a bunch. Then refilled my water bottles with Gatorade mix in one. Now was also good time to reapply sunblock.
Riding into Kelso was not as bad as I had figured it would be. Yes there were not really much bike infrastructure, but on a Sunday morning, traffic was light. I decided to continue up the main road to cross I-5. Once on S Kelso Drive, the shoulder was covered in debris but the pavement was smooth and the shoulder wide. This route continues as Old WA-99 and the shoulder goes away but so does most of the traffic as well. The heat was quickly mounting now and any shade was a real relief. The sad part is just as the shade was most needed it was becoming less and less. This ride would be much better as a South to North in high temperatures.
After passing through Carrols, the road follows along the cliff that overlooks the Columbia and required a couple of stops for pictures. There was a lot of Cicada noise from the trees here, which was my first time hearing them and knowing what it was. I can see why the Mid-Westerners comment on the sound, it gets in your head. It is somewhat like the sound from a bike rear wheel when coasting but in a higher register.
After the descent into Kalama, I stopped at the little park at the south end of town and ate 2 bean and cheese burritos and filled my water bottles again. I also packed my helmet (too hot now) and tied a wet handkerchief on my head.
The roads south of Kalama seemed to confuse me and I spent a lot of time stopping to recheck my route. At one stop, I had pulled over into a gravel area. Out of laziness, I tried to ride to the pavement and my front wheel washed out and I re sprained my wrist a little.
The heat was starting to get punishing now and the big climb up Lane Rd was waiting for me.
When I finally got there, it was much more than I anticipated in difficulty. The steepness and length of the climb was pretty decent but coupled with the heat and the lack of trees to provide shade made this a grueling push of my bike up the hill in 100 ft sections.
It took me probably an hour to make it to the summit. I was very grateful for the downhill section into Woodland.
The temperature in Woodland was 91 and I was feeling it fully. I stopped at a gas station to fill water bottles and get some rest and a chocolate milk. There were worries at this point about completing the ride. I still had 30 miles to go, I was so tired that the easiest thing was to keep going since I did not have to make any decisions that way.
After dragging along and getting to La Center the clouds had started forming and the sun went behind a cloud. This was such a huge spirit lifting! The clouds felt like a sign that I was going to make it. On Timman Rd, I laid down on the shoulder and rested and ate a PowerGel packet and some candy.
The ride through north Clark County was once again the worst part of my ride. The roads have no shoulder and several vehicles passed very close and fast. My emotional state was very poor at this point and the rush of fear from the dangerous passes got me very angry. To top it off, a truck passed and the passenger of the truck sprayed me with what I hoped was just water but sent me over the edge. I stopped and raged on the shoulder and vowed never to ride in Clark County again before continuing the ride.
Once on 72nd, I had my climbing and scary road situation behind me and started to make good time again. But then a different pickup passed me and I felt water on my face and my first thought was that I got sprayed again. But then I realized that it started raining, I laughed and reveled in the wash of cool rain. This was a great pick me up.
I limped through Vancouver and over the I-205 bridge. Once on Marine Drive the lightning started and the rain grew more intense. I was so tired that I longed to be done. The last few miles felt like forever but after 11:50 I had arrived! What a feeling of accomplishment.
Total distance: 114.75 miles.
After ride thoughts:
After doing a lot of 50-75 mile rides and a couple over 100 miles, it seems that the crossover point where the rides go from complete fun to a drudge is about 65-70 miles. For a couple days after this ride, my thoughts were to keep my distances down to below 70 miles but by Wednesday, I was planning another century ride. The extra distance may not be fun but the challenge is an attraction of it's own.

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