Permanent 2239 – ROCK CREEK – APIARY – TIMBER

After last month’s dismal failure to ride a 200k route, I vowed to ride the Grando a challenging 200k permanent route that would challenge my legs and mental resolve.

This route was it.

Owned by the renowened Susan Otcenas, of Small Engine, Big Tank, it will take you over the foothills and rack up some vertical feet while piling on the miles.

I started at 6:30 outside the Cornelious Pass Arco Station on a very chilly and dark Sunday morning with a headwind gusting up to 25mph expected for at least half the route. Within a couple of miles, the sun gave the sky a new amber hue to bring the day.

This was going to be a good day.

Only a couple of miles in and the cold was making hands feel stiff, my layers barely adequate, and my ears sting.

By the time I was merely 5 miles from the start, the sun had started too pop over the horizon and thaw the world around me. Only the shadows remained icy.

Chest ready to burst and warm up, I checked the elevation profile on the Ride with GPS app only to see that I was still less than halfway up the first “Big Hill”. This took a while, but thankfully the cars in this section were few.

After peaking over the range for the first time into a literal white-knuckled descent, an amazing view of the valley, Portland, and Mount Hood in the distance greeted me with blinding but absolutely lovely light.

So far, this is a good day.

Taking care to avoid some small ice patches on Rocky Point Road, I made it down to Highway 30 to head North to the next great uphill challenge on the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway. More climbing. More icy shadows. No jerks.

Another dozen miles or so later, I crossed the foothills for a fourth time and back onto Highway 30 and into St. Helens. Ah, sunshine, flattish roads, and a reprieve from going up.

I come to the realization that I’m nearing the first time cut-off of the route. I reached mile 40 in exactly 4 hours leaving me a scant 12 minutes of padding. So glad I didn’t have any flats so far.

Grabbing some soda to fill one of my bottles, I braced for the final ascent over the hills.

This time I finally shed the last of my “warm” layers to bask in some long-sleeve jersey sunshine. It wasn’t THAT warm, but it kept me quite comfortable.

At Mile 50, a nice long descent towards Vernonia allowed me to make up some time and get ahead of the clock.

“This was a good day.”

At 74 miles, Vernonia was the next control point. Black Bear Cafe was warm and welcoming as usual. A large cinnamon roll topped with frosting a large heap of butter went particularly well with my coffee break.

Timber Road was the next Big Challenge and the incline of the only asshole along the entire 125 miles. Huffing and puffing halfway up the ascent, a rather large red pickup tried to smoke me out with a “Rolling Coal”, but only succeeded in kicking up a racket and a bit of road dust.


STILL a good day.

Most of the roads were really quiet and nary a vehicle to pass me by.

I grew increasingly optimistic the ride would be complete before the sun hid itself in the West.

101.5 miles in, there was a tiny blip on the elevation profile. Something I never saw coming when I reviewed the route. Only a half mile long, and 256 feet upwards, it was the ONLY hill I’ve encountered in my miles that had forced me to shift into my easiest possible gearing. This tiny hill sapped the last of the sprint that I had left in my legs.

The final 23.5 miles were a relative dash to get to the finish. I had been texting with Audrey that I would be done just before sundown, but that ETA was constantly being pushed back as my legs were no longer the happy stumps from the start.

As the sky again turned amber-orange, my lights no longer sufficiently powered after being left on all day. I grew anxious to finish as quickly as possible, soreness be damned. No more food stops. No more futzing around. Every car that passed my left was cause to pull-over and wait for the road to clear.

My legs were no longer sore, they were hurting. My breath irregular to hold off the pain.

My phone was barely alive by the end with only 6% battery remaining, but enough to save my recorded ride. Audrey awaiting my arrival at the McDonalds parking lot.

So tired and quickly grown cold, I gorged myself upon 10 chicken nuggets and a chocolate milkshake the likes I had never seen.

My total ride time just shy of 12 hours.

Total spotted wildlife:

    • 1 Red-Tailed Hawk
    • 15 American Robins
    • 200+ empty beer cans
    • 2 White-tailed Deer
    • 10 Crows
    • 1 American Asshole
    • 12 Front-Yard Yappy Dogs
    • Infinite LBB (Little Brown Birds)
    • 10 Goats
    • 2 Cats
    • 2 Miniature Ponies
    • 6 Horses
    • 30+ ducks
    • 17 Geese

This was a good day.

Bike: Soma Grand Randonneur (Grando)
Tires: Compass Hetre 650bx42
GPS: Samsung Galaxy S3 using Ride with GPS app
Miles: 125.2
Total Ride Time: 11:53:58
Calories: Probably not enough
Flat Tires: 0
Mechanical Issues: 0

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