My rando-season ended with a nice ride through and above the Columbia River - The Oregon Randonneur's Bingen Bikenfest. Lots of fun. Pictures and other stories are linked from the ORRando web site. I did the ride with Nat - his first 200km adventure and personal longest ride ever. We started out from Bingen with a nice end-of-the-year crowd. Great to see the folks and hear about the various adventures. The pack eventually left - and I stopped as soon as possible to get a cup of coffee - actually a water bottle full of coffee to compliment the other water bottle full of water. Accomplishing this (after less than a mile of riding) I headed out to catch up with the folks, and joined Nat, and played leap-frog with Lynne, up-river along the Columbia. Nat and I generally stopped for some of the historical markers, and lolligagged along at the back taking in the day.
Then we got to Hwy 97 and headed up to Goldendale. It was comically unfortunate: steep uphill and against a cold cold wind. I'm still laughing. We suffered uphill at our respective paces - still taking time to read historical markers - and eventually cleared the hill and found our way into Goldendale, and the control stop. There were a few rando's there - we chatted briefly and decided how we might proceed. And by 'proceed' I mean figured out what to eat. I went with the Hostess Fruit Pie (I want Hostess to sponser my mid-pack, mid-weight, rando riding. I'm thinking a jersey that features various of their fine products. Sure, I'm partial to the Fruit Pie's on these rides - but not averse to sporting a snowball or dingdong or frosted Donnette (I like the chocolate), tastefully arranged, on a bike jersey and/or shorts). And more coffee. We spent enough time their that I got to see Lynne's thermos for Tea. Chat briefly with Ricky. Interact briefly with a woman doing a marathon drive back to a town South of Eugene Oregon - she still had a long way to go - especially from the point of view of staying awake. And the proprietress in charge of the gas-station part of this set-up seemed intrigued by the thought of her contemporaries out on some marathon bicycle slog along the Columbia, across the Klickitat, and back. She seemed to actually want to grab a Rando-bike and go for it. Maybe she will. So, anyway, Nat and I sit down to eat. He's in for the Sandwich (it's a combo shop - gas station/mini-mart/subway/DQ). We pound down our respective food and food-like substances and get ready to hit the road.
We head out towards Glenwood. It's still against the wind but, we have almost an hour in the bank, and the gas-station proprietress pointed out that we'd lose the wind once we got to the trees. I wasn't worried about it - mostly hoping for no rain. Goldendale was a nice town to leisurely bike through. I particularly liked the house on the left/south of the main street with scenery painted on - the entire front of the house had an outdoor scene painted on, to protect the wood from the weather. The town didn't last long and then we're out on the high plane/plateau, in the wind and pushing towards the Klickitat River valley. We briefly were three - but, our third dropped us eventually. We wound around, found our right turn and then eventually found the start of the plunge into the valley. Nat stopped to reconfigure, and I did my best impression of a bowling ball being dropped from a tower. I fell as fast as the bike would roll. Slowing for sharp corners and pondering led me to stop for a few moments at a scenic turnout. No traffic at all. I continued on and eventually found the river. A couple of groups of folks there recreating in the river. Lounge chairs. Sounds of children playing. Then a yellow jacket down the road and our third person appeared. He continued on. And then another yellow jacket that was Nat.
We chatted - plotting tactics for this part of the ride up the hill to Glenwood. Tactics might be a bit strong - it boiled down to ride uphill, and then eventually I'd ride ahead to the Inn at Glenwood and order food, so that it'd be ready for Nat when he arrived. At one point I was about to head up and off - but, the altimeter showed it was an illusion - it looked downhill because it was less uphill. Sensing a game, I circled back to Nat and spent awhile playing 'are we going downhill yet?' Except for one brief moment, the answer was 'No' - all the way to Glenwood. Eventually I took off, and arrived at the Inn. I settled in at the counter and was the happy recipient of attention - primarily in the form of coffee(!) and some conversation. My favorite was when a local fellow obtained the phone number of the kind waitress. Here's his move (it was pretty good): "Do you have a cell phone?" "Yes, I have a cell phone." He pauses after her answer. Then he asks "Does your cell phone have a number?". This worked. She gave him the number. After he left her comment: "I've never been asked for my number that way before". Maybe I shouldn't be writing this down - I hope it's not some sort of super-secret move. Anyway, I had the cheeseburger and fries with the coffee (my all time favorite meal). And I ordered a batch of fries for Nat. He shows up shortly, and we annihilate our respective orders of French Fries. The burgers arrived and suffered a similar fate. Rando fuel. Good stuff. Eventually when we're done with this fine meal, and head out, we have ~25 minutes in the bank. I let Nat know that this means we've pretty much nailed this particular ride, barring interesting events (see below for a candidate example of a ride altering interesting event). It's mostly downhill from here and there are no more timed controls until the end of the ride at Bingen.
We're actually making decent time from Glenwood - food can have this effect on a long-distance rider. We've got to wander up a little more to find the apex of this particular ride. We discover it, and then fall fast, losing ~200 meters of altitude in no time at all. We get to wander around a bit before heading up to Trout Lake. I'm concerned I've missed a turn, and stop to discuss with Nat. Eventually we decide that the turn about 10 feet behind and to the left is correct. We take it. It's correct. And then move on up towards Trout Lake. While not trying to set any sort of speed records, we remained in sufficient contact with other riders that we get to wave to them as the come down the hill fast. They're smiling. The uphill wasn't so bad, and we head up at our respective paces. I opt for the Coke Classic (no coffee in this store) and wait a few minutes for Nat. We put on our warmest and driest clothes for the downhill and head out.
Eventually, we get hailed by an oncoming motorist indicating one of our riders has a mechanical. I thank the motorist, and indicate to Nat that I'm heading down to mile marker 15 fast. It's Peg. Her bike doesn't work. The symptoms are that while pedaling forward, the rear cassette spins around; but, doesn't cause the rear wheel to rotate. The bike coasts in both directions - interesting, but useless for making forward progress (I can't find the web-reference; but, I think Paul Johnson's bike did something similar on a 1200km ride). Anyway, unless some sort of replacement rear wheel is found, Peg's ride is over. My cell phone gets reception (I'm surprised), and I call Johann. He arranges for a wheel. In the meantime, Nat arrives. We opt to hang out with Peg and chat. We do this for close to an hour, which is a good way to spend that hour; and then Cindy and Noel show up with a wheel. The replacement is quickly made and we're off. I plan to hang back with Nat while Peg rockets on - she's got a ton of miles this year and is a hard rider for me to keep up with uphill or down. She opts to hang back with, though, and we three roll on in. It's dark but the lights are working find. I really am pleased with the combo of a Cateye on the front fork, and a good headlamp (the Princeton Tech Eos) for dark downhills. Plenty of light for the speeds I seem to go. It's cold, and when we get lower it's warmer, and when we get to the few uphills it's welcome - the uphill exertion warms me up. And it's over. We finish in a group with ~25 minutes to spare. Another great day on the bike, and a great end to a great rando season.