Saturday, May 17, 2008

humble pie in Dutch Canyon

I will preface by saying it was really hot and I was a little too hungover for such conditions. Nonetheless, I had made up my mind last week that I would do the Dutch Canyon route that extends north to Scappoose from Portland. Highlights include 6,000 ft of climbing, most of it during 35 of the 65 miles, dirt roads, and endless views.

I started out feeling descent enough in the saddle and thinking it'd be a nice ride. I had breakfast at the Portland Farmer's Market which was very well attended because it was the first really nice weekend of the spring

Then I headed north on Rt 30 towards NW Germantown Rd. As soon as the road pitched up I realized I had been fooling myself. I quickly entered a pain cave as dark and endless as any I've ever entered. Not wanting to quit after only 10 miles I struggled on towards the top making it after what seemed like hours.

From there I was on the well ridden and well known Skyline Blvd. It is a road that meanders on the mountain ridge for many miles with scenic views of Mt St Helens and Mt Hood

as well as the western valley of Wilkesboro.

A bit of a recovery along Skyline also alerted me to my less than adequate liquid situation. Constant dry mouth and hot temps had drained the two bidons faster than usual so I desperately sought out water.

Salvation came at the intersection of Skyline and Cornelius Pass in the form of a small but properly stocked convenience store. I chugged half of the gallon, filled the two bottles and then had the friendly store manager keep the remaining bit for my imminent return in what I hoped would be 1-1.5 hours. From the store, Skyline pitched back up hill until I reached Rocky Point. From there it was a fast but unfamiliar descent to the southern edge of Scappoose and another water stop. I took full advantage of the air conditioned convenience store while enjoying an ice cold soda and extra salty pretzels.

The ride along Dutch Canyon Rd started out tame enough. It's a nice, mostly flat country road with minimal traffic and farm land views. Soon enough I cam upon the entrance to Otto Miller.

This is the dirt and gravel road that would make me cry UNCLE! I should have known as soon as I turned right and saw the entrance to this hilly road that I would be entering a deeper darker pain cave than even Germantown had offered. On and off the bike as I climbed 3+ miles with insufficient water and inadequate gearing I finally struggled to the summit for some nice views.

The gravel descent had me crossing my fingers that I didn't double flat because I was only carrying one tube. Sure enough, the rear felt soft and in no time I was on the rim. I took my time changing the flat and saying a few prayers because I was about as far from Portland at that point as I could have been and I only had the one tube.

Once I got back to solid pavement I let go of the brakes and quickly boosted the average speed with 3-4 miles of descending. I made my way back to the convenience store at the intersection of Cornelius and Skyline where I finished off my gallon of water and refilled with a smaller bottle. I took off back up Skyline and then decided to rest on the shaded porch of a small church. I closed my eyes, stretched, checked a phone message and mentally prepared for the 25 miles I had left.

Not knowing the area, I stayed on Skyline a bit too long and came back into Portland on a busy but really fun downhill called West Burnside. The screaming downhill at 40mph made my eyes water and my fingers cramp but it also cooled off my over heated body to the point that I almost felt recovered. I rolled all the way over the river on Burnside Rd and ended my epic fight with a visit to an epic shop.

River City has a great variety of gear with knowledgeable, friendly, not pushy staff willing to help you or willing to let you drool unbothered. I'm kicking myself for not getting pictures inside because they had some diverse beauties including carbon tandems, Ferrari Colnago's, NOS classic Colnago's, and a display of clothing to keep a person hip in any crowd (cycling or non).

I met up with great people (the brothers Roth) for dinner after the ride and since Dan had also suffered for too long in the sun we were a group of duds, speaking intermittently as we filled up on delicious lasagna in the Pearl. I finished off the evening with ice cream.

If you find yourself in Portland with time to ride, check out the Dutch Canyon loop. Avoid Germantown and West Burnside because there are better alternatives and be sure to carry two tubes and a reliable pump because I think I was lucky not to flat twice on Otto Miller. Now it is on to Seattle where I get to ride with my favorite bike studio owner and watch a Mariner's baseball game.

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