Sunbathing on Otto Miller & Other Spring Delights

When the Portland area weekend forecast in April calls for sun and temperatures in the 70s it is pretty much the law that cyclists must get out and ride. So we planned a 75+ mile ride that would take us up Saltzman for some gravel, down Springville, up Rock Creek to Skyline, down Rocky Point Rd, out Dutch Canyon, up Otto Miller, down Dixie Mountain, then back to town via Skyline and Germantown. Plenty of climbing and gravel for all!

Ride stats: 80 miles, 7,000ft climbing, 6 hours moving time, 8 hours elapsed time

Jenn made a little GoPro video that captures the essence of the ride and glory of the day:

This ain’t no speedy training ride

The day started out foggy and misty. Courtney’s headset was messed up and we were running late to meet the group at River City Bikes. By the time we arrived to tell everyone we had to wait for a mechanic to help with the headset there were 19 cyclists ready to ride. I expected about 8, so it was awesome to see so many people who wanted to join the madness!

The RCB mechanics took pity on Courtney and fixed her bike up, then we were on our way about 30min later than we’d planned. Then there was a flat tire on Front Ave. 2 miles in to the ride. A few people were antsy to get moving and we made good time to Saltzman. We climbed out of the foggy clouds and up into the sun!

By the time we all regrouped at Skyline the ride was already taking longer than planned and four riders decided to peel off so they could finish riding earlier in the day. Another flat tire struck on Springville, and two more riders departed in the interest of time. Down to 13 riders we rolled on to Rock Creek, soaking up the sun on our skin and spandex. Yet another flat tire hit us, so we took our time heading up Eliot to Skyline, gawking at baby cows and pointing at a pair of bald eagles in a tree. We all gasped in awe as the eagles took flight, their massive wings beating in the warm spring air, soaring off over the valley.

All together, we made our way down Skyline at a good clip all the way to Rocky Point Road where we descended the sweeping, swooping curves and enjoyed the view over the city. The Scappoose Shell gas station was our water and food stop, not exactly the most picturesque destination. It was Jenn’s one year birthday for her Cervelo R3, Lucy, so she got a birthday cupcake to share. The perfect sugary treat before a big climb!

Dutch Canyon, can we marry you? Oh, you’re already with Otto Miller. That’s cool.

Four more riders left us to head back to town early, leaving a solid crew of nine to finish out the ride. Dutch Canyon was the kind of perfect country road you could ride all day long; rolling hills, smooth pavement along verdant fields in the valley, blue skies and sun and such fresh air! Truly a little slice of cyclist heaven.

Then we reached the beast known as Otto Miller, a wicked gravel climb that just. keeps. going. Up and up and around another switchback, then up some more. But the top of the climb was so worth it! A grassy field in the sun! A grassy field in the sun, now full of weary cyclists eager to shed shoes and jerseys and lay in the grass awhile. We chilled, we goofed around, we worked on our sunburns. It was so perfect, the kind of mid-ride break that only happens when you’re not in a hurry. Cristina rode on some rusty antique farm equipment.

The descent down Dixie Mountain was hard, slow, and pretty sketchy for me. Deep, loose, large gravel isn’t awesome on 23mm tires. I think my average descending speed was about 4mph, which means I climbed Otto Miller nearly twice as fast as I descended Dixie Mtn. Sigh.

Bombing down Skyline and a parking lot dance party

Returning to pavement was most welcome after all that gravel, and we tore it up on Skyline. Next to Dutch Canyon this was maybe the most fun pure riding part of the day. I was feeling strong and played tag with Brie and Cristina the whole way, working on my sprinting and drafting skills. In no time we were at Cornelius Pass Road to fill up water bottles at the Plainview Grocery. Temperatures were soaring for a mid-April day and a few people took turns soaking their sweaty heads in the water faucet outside. Cristina’s portable speakers were still going strong and a dance party broke out in the parking lot!

Then it was time to make the final push home, up the part of Skyline up to the elementary school that we’ve dubbed “Jenn’s Hill” because she can crush it, yet it always crushes the rest of us. I don’t know what it is about that grade, but dang, it’s hard. Next stop, Germantown for a hair-raising descent down to the St. John’s Bridge then the fast, flat spin back home.

By the end of the ride all I could think about was the delicious barbecue burgers we were going to have soon, taking a shower, and how awesome that ride was. At some point on Skyline, Cristina said to me , “I can’t think of a better way to spend a day!” And she is so, so right.



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