Finding Balance: Rickey’s Populaire (100K), March 16, 2013

Cedar Canyon Road, west of Banks.

If you’ve followed this blog long enough, you know that I have a hot and cold relationship with randonneuring. I did my first ever randonneuring event with April in November 2011, the Verboort Populaire 100K. This was barely a month after our big cross-continent tour, so I was in great shape to ride 60 miles.  I left this ride with a feeling of elation. Despite promising myself I would, it would take a full year for me to attempt another rando ride: the 2012 version of the Verboort Populaire. I didn’t have that much fun and was quite disappointed with myself after it was done. But I wasn’t going to quit that easy. I made a promise with myself that when the 2013 randonneuring season started, I would attempt another 100k ride (a populaire) followed by a 200k (brevet).

So the first ride of the season was on Saturday March 16, a 100 km ride (known in the parlance of randonneuring as a “populaire”) titled Rickey’s Populaire.* I have no idea who this Rickey was, but he designed a route circling the populated areas of Washington County, the suburban area to the west of Portland. I had made sure I had requested this particular Saturday off from work** far in advance so I could do this ride. This was an act of faith, because at the time I put in the request, they hadn’t even posted ride information. They could have decided the Populaire would be be based around Eugene or some other distant place that would make the logistics of getting there difficult if not possible. This would be the first rando ride that I would take the MAX to the start, since the start point (Cornelius Pass Roadhouse in Hillsboro) was 2 miles from Orenco Station. Of course, I would still have to get up butt early…

A Coast Range valley, off SR 6.

Saturday morning came. The forecast was crappy: rain all day, high 50F/10C. Not too bad for January, but it’s March, and we had a week of temps licking 60F/16C and dry skies, so it was an extra effort to not bail and get out of bed at 5:45 am. A quick shower followed by a quick breakfast at Burgerville,*** I was on the Blue line MAX at 7:20 am. The train pulled into Orenco just before 8, which gave me plenty of time to ride the two miles and get corporate coffee, as the registration window was 8-8:45. At the meeting point I saw lots of unfamiliar folk plus a few familiar faces like Maria and Theo. 9 o’clock came, the start of the ride. I had 6 hours 45 minutes to complete the 100 kilometre circut.

The ugly suburban-ness of Washington County was quickly left behind as the route started its wind therough the rural areas skirting the Coast Ranges. The first 25 km was spent “riding with the pack”, a line of neon-colored jackets in front of me with the occasional one passing me. I kept up fairly well with the crowd, and was amazed that I was holding a fairly steady speed of 18 mph without trying too hard. Amazed because I normally average about 12 mph around town. Then again, in my around town riding I didn’t have that boost of adrenaline that one gets from events like this, nor would I be riding after other people.

Fellow riders on Gales Creek Road (SR 8).

Then we headed into the town of Banks. Everyone else rode through, I dropped off to the back and stopped at the market for a quick break. This is when I made the decision that from here on out I would stay at the back, and not worry about anyone else. I would ride as fast as I could, but I would have no overreaching goal beyond finishing the ride by the 3:45 pm cutoff. (Later, as I completed 2/3 of the distance, I decided to aim for getting to the end by 3 pm) I would enjoy the views, stop when I needed to, eat when I needed to, etc. I would not judge my performance by the other folks on the ride, and not riding with other people would help that.

And I had a good time.

I did run into other folks, though. There were a few other dudes**** that were also at the back of the pack, and we ended up leap-frogging each other and talking a bit at the control points, which became unofficial break stops.***** But I was mostly concentrating on the road itself.

Snack stop at Bear Creek.

And what a nice road. Rickey’s Populaire brought me onto Washington County roads that I’ve ridden during the last two Verboort Populaires, and also on roads that I’ve ridden on one of many ways out to the Oregon Coast, stitched together by roads I’ve never ridden. I’ve often grumbled to my rando friends about the seeming propensity of most Oregon Randonneurs rides to either start and/or incorporate Washington County. I’m guessing the big reason for this, besides the fact that it seems much of the randonneuring community lives over there, is because of the breadth of scenic low-traffic roads once you get outside of the built up areas.****** And grumbles aside (which mostly have to do with waking up early and getting out to the start point), these rides are an excuse to explore these areas, areas that I tell myself I should check out on my own but don’t.

And the weather actually held out. I’m glad I didn’t bail, because I would feel stupid for doing so based on a false weather forecast (and doubly stupid especially because of the effort I went through to get this Saturday off.) The weather wasn’t great, but the rain held off for most of the ride, and when it did, it was mostly drizzle. The only truly crappy period of weather on the ride was for the half hour heading into the town of Gaston. The rain wasn’t heavy but it was stinging and wind-driven. There was a head-wind, too, and coupled with a meh section of road meant this was my least favorite part of the ride (beside the suburban crap near the start/end.)

Windmill outside of Cornelius.

I pulled back into the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse at 3:02 pm, 6 hours 2 minutes from the start, pretty much right on target.******* The parking lot, once full with rider’s cars, was mostly empty. In the bar I found the ride organizer, who signed and claimed my brevet card. I wondered aloud if I was the “Lanterne Rouge”, the last rider, but she said there was at least one or two more people who hadn’t finished yet. There were a few riders inside, namely Dave and John, two fellow “back of the packers”. We hung out for a little bit, talking over beer. They were fairly recent  transplants from Spokane and were looking for similar adventures, so of course I talked to them about Cycle Wild. I had a couple beers and headed home.

Overall, this was a fun experience, but I was nowhere near as jazzed as I was after my first populaire. But I didn’t feel the despair that I did after my second one. I think I’ve found the key to my happiness around randonneur rides: ride against myself and not worry about others. This, of course, is the raison d’etre of randonneuring, but it took a couple tries for me to figure this out. Will I do more rides? Yes, of course. I still plan on completing the 200k at the end of this year. After that I have no real plans for what rides I’ll do the rest of this year.

Heading home on the MAX.

For more photos, go here.
*I’ve seen it also spelled as Ricky’s Populaire, but I have no idea which one is correct. We’ll go with the one with an “e” for now.
**I also requested Saturday March 30 off for the 200K.
***The only option open this early.
****This ride, more than any other rando I’ve ridden, was overwhelmingly male. I think Maria was the only woman on the ride. See Stasia’s post at Car-Free Rambles for thoughts on the gender imbalance of randonneuring in general.
*****My philosophy with this type of ride is: when I have to stop for a “control point”, I might as well make it a quick break, have a snack, drink some coffee, stretch, etc.
******Clackamas County, the suburban county to our south, has its share of scenic rural roads, but it isn’t exactly renowned for courteous drivers, if you get my drift.
*******I compared this with the 2011 Verboort Populaire, which was also a 100K, and I finished the ride in 6 hours, 00 minutes, so pretty much the same result.

5 thoughts on “Finding Balance: Rickey’s Populaire (100K), March 16, 2013

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  1. I signed up and was excited to do it, but we had an early show in VAncouver and it was just too much to try to do both. :(-Esther

  2. Hey Shawn, I'm Jonathan, one of the leapfrogging dudes you had a beer with. You made such a good pitch for cyclewild that I'm actually headed out to your camping thing tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it.

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