Friday, July 1, 2016

Bicycle Quarterly Un-meeting 2016 (2016-06-23 to 27)

I went out to another one of BQ's un-meeting, and turned the trips to and from Carson into fully-loaded touring adventures. Unlike last time, however, I had an easier time, and only turned early back because I had to start early the next morning.

More after the break…

After my slipping seatpost issues last time, I fixed that problem and eventually figured out what I was doing with the saddle position. Focusing on pedaling with my hamstrings rather than my quads helped even more. My saddle went from 'broken in' to horribly sagging during this ride, and it was only toward the end that I figured out the right way to turn the saddle tension nut…which forced me to lower my saddle quite a bit as the sag was taken up.

Day 1: To Portland

The ride to catch the midday Amtrak Cascades train was pretty uneventful.

I had brought food that I didn't want to spoil, as well as spare tires, which was why I had too much stuff in my bags. I could've lost a pair of panniers without all that!


Business crass Amtrak entailed getting seat assignments separately from the long coach seat assignment line, which was alone enough to justify it for me. It also included a coupon for $3.00 off stuff from the bistro car.

I usually bring a portable radio on these trips for entertainment, as I often don't have mobile phone reception and want to hear local stations—typically talk radio. Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to get anything due to the weather.


Shortly after I started on my way out of the station, I stopped under a tree to wait out the rain.


Once at the hostel, I went to a nearby convenience store for food, as I wasn't going to be staying long enough to get groceries and cook, then went to the cafe across the street to wind down.

Day 2: To Carson

I started pretty early on my way to Carson, but stopped for some coffee downtown, as the weather wasn't really ideal.

To head out of Portland, I went along the Springwater Corridor. Before it parted from the Willamette River, I saw something interesting.

Previously, I'd not gone so far along this trail, so it didn't take long for me to see new sights, including tent after tent.

After missing my turn, I just took the next one and got back onto my route, which—from that point—involved meandering through the outer suburbs. Unfortunately, I discovered then that I was barely able to get into my granny ring. Limit adjustments didn't help

I saw Historic US 30 once I crossed the Sandy River, then started the climbing. Thankfully, there was a shoulder almost the entire way uphill.

I passed through Corbett before I wound my way through farm country.

And finally made it to the top at the Vista House.

It was clear that the next part was going to be all downhill…without shoulders. There was no way I was going to come back up this way with my loaded bike.

The descent was fun—with lots of waterfalls along the route—though I had to be careful when cornering, as the tires would flex too much. I hadn't experienced this with the tires I normally use on this bike, even with those tires at lower pressures than these.

When I reached the bottom of the descent, the rain starting making itself known, and I had to rest for a moment in order to not feel too downtrodden. I stopped for coffee at Multnomah Falls in order to rid of that feeling.

With that in my system, the last little leg of Historic US 30 wasn't too bad.

And it wasn't long until I got to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

The trail itself wasn't too terrible relative to other bicycle infrastructure…for the most part. I was fine with switchbacks and rooty pavement.

However, the steep, rain-slicked stairs put me in an awful mood.

Thankfully, nothing more like that followed.

The trail ended at the Bridge of the Gods.

Before crossing, I got some iced coffee to help me deal with crossing the grated bridge deck with traffic behind me. The speed limit on the bridge is only 15 MPH anyway, so I doubt drivers expected speed.

The bridge wasn't fun, but it was nice being done with it. Traffic on SR-14 out there wasn't too bad, though my route sent me on some weird side streets for some reason.

Once I identified where I was going to climb into Carson, I readied myself.

Unfortunately, I couldn't convince my chain to drop into the granny ring. When I stopped to figure out what to do, one of the folks heading to the un-meeting—Alan—stopped ahead of me in his car.

The only way to convince my chain over was to lift the rear wheel and spin the cranks. Without tension on the chain, it hopped over without hesitation.

After I hung a right and climbed up from the main intersection in town, I saw a group of riders coming from the north. They apparently rode along backroads through the mountains.

I chatted with them and followed the group for a while…right past my turn-off. I had to climb up a steep grade to get back to it.

Once there, Alan—who was staying at the same hotel—congratulated me on making it despite my drivetrain issues.


Starving, and with no food options at the hotel, I rode back into town and ate at the bar I saw on the ride up earlier.

After finishing, I went to the bath house to try out the hot springs. Due to dehydration, my body wasn't ready.

Day 3: Un-meeting

The next morning, I slackened my front derailleur's cable, which fixed the issue riding later that day. I guess the shop increased the tension too much!

In the morning, I ran into Alan and he told me where they'd be eating. When I did ride to the place, it was closed and there was nobody around, so I went further to the gas station to hydrate more.

By the time I got back to the diner, a bunch of cyclists had showed up and we all ate breakfast together. And, of course, nobody had ridden into town with as much gear as I did. I realized that I will always be a cyclotourist at heart, and was a bit out of place there.

After finishing, we all grouped at the Carson General Store, where the rest of the riders were.

The ride seemed pretty simple as we headed out. The grades weren't too bad, and I saw some familiar faces. There were a few people on full-on mountain bikes of varying configurations, as well as one guy on a Bike Friday folding bike with 20×1.95" tires.

The grades steepened as we got further along, and it wasn't long until they became very steep. Many of us were going 7 MPH or less!

The road eventually turned to gravel, which further cut speed. At the worst, I was only going 4 MPH! The gravel was chunkier than I was used to, and there was a lot of basically mud. That's fine at 'normal' grades, but becomes a bit scary when climbing.

Once it was clear I was at the peak, and would have to deal with similar slowness reaching the peak in the other direction, I decided to turn back to save time.

My disc rotors were pretty hot by the time I reached the bottom of the gravel, as I didn't want to gain too much speed on such a chunky surface. Once I got to the pavement, however, I let it fly!

I was trying to find a friend who had ridden to Carson—but decided against the un-meeting ride itself—at the Panther Creek campground, but saw no sign of him. I did see one rider—on a Rivendell Atlantis—from the group who had turned back early due to time constraints, and was seeking water at the campground. We both filled our bottles and rode down together.

I later broke off from him to get some photos of a bridge I saw on our ride up.

While stopped, a guy touring up to Canada rode in the other direction, and crossed the road to chat with me. He was also on a Surly Troll, loaded up with all sorts of gear, and was in search of a nearby campground. When I told him about Panther Creek and the associated climb, he decided to keep searching as he didn't want that climb now.

I then rode into town, and to the Backwoods Brewing Company—which the larger group would later get dinner at—and got some garlic breadsticks with a beer, as well as a lot of water. I had searched around for Kent on my way in, but still no signs of him.

I gave up on finding him, then headed to the general store for some food for the morning, and rode to the hotel to call it a day.

Day 4: Return to Portland

I had heard from some locals that SR-14 starting west of Washougal was pretty bad, so I decided to avoid it. That meant crossing the Bridge of the Gods instead, though.


I started heading back at about 06:00, backtracking along the route I had used to get into Carson a couple days earlier.

I then passed through Stevenson, where I saw a familiar face.

He was out on vacation with his wife, and brought his bike in his vehicle.

Traffic was thankfully light on SR-14, but I reminded of how these tires didn't like touring loads.

Next up was the Bridge of the Gods again.

I was craving salt like crazy, so I stopped at the cafe in Cascade Locks for some bacon and orange juice.

I continued west via the trail.

The staircase was more difficult as I had to push my bike up a runnel, but at least it wasn't saturated with rain this time.

When I got to the west end, I sent Kent a text message to see where he was. I never got a reply.

I had to take Historic US 30 for a bit, as there was no way to get onto westbound I-84 there.

I first tried going via a backroad to get to the other side of I-84 for an entrance ramp, but it ended up being a roped-off gravel road on private property, so it was a non-option.

I finally found a way to a ramp on the other side well on the way to the first waterfalls, but before any real climbing.

And then I got on I-84, which was much easier than Historic US 30. It was pretty much flat, as it flanked the Columbia River. I could only stop to drink water at exits, though.

I saw the route SR-14 took, and was glad to have chosen I-84 instead.

I also saw the Vista House, which was way high atop the ridge.

At Tunnel Point, I stopped to chat with an older cyclist who was out riding for the day. He told me stories of how he used to do bike tours professionally. He also told me about the route past the west end of I-84, and how he wasn't too thrilled with what the city/county was doing with the roads.

When I got to the end of I-84, I was definitely thrilled with how easy and low-key it was.

I saw a strip mall nearby and rode into it to try to find a source of water, but didn't see anything beyond outlet stores, and just went back to the trail. I took it until I hit Marine Drive, then took Marine Drive for a while. Other folks were riding along it, too.

Since I really needed to find water, I made a left when I saw a sign pointing to Fairview, then eventually found a gas station where I got water, a drink, and some potato chips, as I my body was still out of equilibrium.

I continued along the road—US 30 Bypass—then followed signs to the I-205 trail.

What was unfortunate was that I could no longer have the saddle back far enough for my knees, due to the lower height, 73° seat angle, and Brooks's infamous poorly-positioned setback. I was fine to ride with it, but I couldn't get rid of a slight tinge atop my kneecaps.

When I saw Burnside Street, I hung a right, as I knew that'd get me to downtown Portland without needing to go the long way around via the Springwater Corridor, which I took on my way out to Carson.

I eventually found Portland's greenway wayfinding signs and followed them to downtown, crossing the Burnside Bridge.

When I got to the hostel, I was feeling pretty sick from a combination of things.


So I got a huge meal with a ton of water.

Unfortunately, I still couldn't sleep that night. My friends later said that my body was in shock due to being so dehydrated and deficient in salts.

Day 5: Return Home

I woke up early, and definitely felt like I could use some salty foods. Pretty much the only thing open at that time was Lovejoy Bakers downtown, so I hit the place on the way to the train station.


The train ride was pretty uneventful. I was actually able to get reception much of the way, though, as it was bright and sunny out.


Also uneventful was the ride home from downtown. The Burke-Gilman Trail was pretty busy, though.

In the end, I was pretty happy with the Rat Trap Pass tires…for unloaded riding.

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