South Salem Cycleworks, 4071 Liberty Road South
Salem, OR 97302-5752
(503) 399-9848
Hours: Monday - Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM; Closed Sunday

February 15, 2014 - "Oh, Listen to the Rain Come Down; Uh Oh"

Two inches today, supposedly! Thought I'd test out the Showers Pass winter gloves, their waterproof socks and the Bar Mitts. I rode north on Liberty with no problem - all the gravel was up next to the curb and the cars are forced to the inside lane to pass me. But Commercial, as I discovered Thursday night's Progressive film series, was buried in gravel in the bike lane. I hugged the fog line and cars obliged by again moving to the inside lane. Wasn't sure what waited in the S curves beyond what used to be Dunkin's Donuts, but to my surprise, the gravel was up against the curb!

Crossing the Willamette River on the westbound auto bridge, I noticed Wallace Marine was nearly flooded with water, the river was definitely being fed with the melted snow and ongoing rain. Turning onto Wallace Road, I was forced to the sidewalk because of the depth of gravel filling the bike lane. Sometimes the sidewalk had been swept, and at other times it appeared to be nearly as full. The serious joggers didn't seem to mind either the rain or the gravel.

I crossed over Wallace to turn onto Brush College, and was forced into heavy gravel almost immediately. Within a block I noticed the rear tire seemed to make a more forced bump than before - Damn! A flat! I looked for some shelter out of the rain, a gas station back at Wallace with a covered area, but the Sequoia's appeared dry at the base of their trunks. And they were, but instead of the little rain drops washing you, large, infrequent drops would surprise you. Usually on the back of your neck as you bent over fixing the flat! I also discovered that I only had one spare tube in my seatbag. Patching a tube in this kind of rain would be futile! I suppose cutting the tube in half wherever the puncture was, and tying the ends in a knot would do, but would force one to return home at that point. So, the rest of the ride was spent nervously avoiding piles of gravel.

Once I got past Brush College elementary school, the shoulder disappeared, and so did the gravel. Even the chip seal that starts at the base of Brush College climb was welcome over the fear of patching a tube in the rain.

I shifted into the big ring as I turned down Gibson, attempting to gain as much momentum as possible before starting the long, but pretty even, climb up Gibson. As I rolled up the first bump, the bleats of the sheep on the right called my attention to the sign offering lambs for sale, but while you could hear them, they were wisely back in the recesses of the shed out of the weather. Not much further up the road, one could hear the increasing murmurings of the stream coming down the hill on the left.

The murmuring became more of a rumble as I continued, and suddenly it seemed it turned into a cacophony of frogs! It was, but the music of the frogs was coming from the right side of the road, and drowning out the hurried stream on the left! It's reassuring to hear a community of frogs, actively voicing their enthusiasm for the rain, as indicators of our effect on the environment. It was with some reluctance that I pedaled on, leaving them as an isolated instance on the ride.

Constant mini-waterfalls filled the view as the road crossed the stream and it appeared to the right of the road. Forgotten patches of snow began to appear in the ditch on the left side of the road, and the pool behind the dam further up the road, wasn't spilling across the top, but was sending a torrent thru the culvert that allowed the driveway across the dam.

Leaving the shelter of the trees aligning Gibson gully, I found the rain was not as annoying as the wind, and I gladly began the descent along Eagle Crest. Wary of the possible volume of gravel that waited in the S curve, I used my brakes cautiously. Not anywhere near as much as I feared, but better safe than sorry on a rainy day!

Made the turn on Orchard Hts. and enjoyed the view of the clouds overhead and on all horizons as I neared the summit. I still remember going down on the black ice as I began the descent, and fearing a deja vu on gravel, I again used my brakes instead of the usual hell-bent-for-leather typical descent.

I'd deliberated on going down to 22 and coming back via 50th to make a shorter ride in the rain, but dreaded the event of a gravel puncture going back into the urban streets abounding in left-over gravel. Alternately, Independence Hwy. could have been heavily graveled, despite its flat terrain, and with the absence of shoulders in places, I could find myself battling high-speed vehicles for space on the roadway. A flip of the coin, no, just a sudden decision to gamble on Independence Hwy. as an unknown, and I turned right on Oak Grove, headed for Greenwood Rd. A true torrent of turbulent muddy water was racing down the ditch on my right, reminding me documentaries on rafting the Colorado in full flood in the Grand Canyon, even if only in a mini version.

Last weekend's Gravel Grind, as well as the Worst Day of the Year ride, was cancelled due to the snow, and I was reminded of it as I turned left onto Greenwood instead continuing on the gravel to Baskett Slough. Here, at the bottom of the hills, water now joined streams in a lazy manner, and slithered off into the underbrush like a snake. Last time I was out this way, it was near Christmas, and the cattle barn had an illuminated Santa on the roof. Kinda ironic, I thought and stopped to take a picture, as the cows turned and eagerly faced me for their Kodak moment. This time, a giant oak had fallen over near them, and again, I paused to take some pictures.

As I neared Hwy. 22, I passed over a large culvert, and the water spilling out of it was almost industrial. A loud roar, a swirling whirlpool, and then winding its way out across barren fields. Stark, nothing that said nature had a hand in it, but one couldn't ride past unawares.

I continued on down Greenwood, not noticing anything but the pelting of the rain and the exposure to the wind provided by the barren fields on either side. And after making the turn onto Independence Hwy., I was pleased to see little, if any, gravel on the roadway. Still, with the rain obscuring everyone's vision, I was a little nervous riding the narrower shoulders, at times just a fog line, and it was with relief I entered Independence, despite the waiting gravel. I did stop to catch some pic's of new lambs frolicking in the rain, and only afterwards noticing the dead cat just this side of the fence.

I also stopped on the Independence bridge, as the swollen river was more impressive with it's covering gravel bars, leaving only the trees visible above the water. Again, lots of gravel on the sidewalks and against the curb, but nothing in the path of my bicycle. Descending the bridge, one could see the roadway halfway covered in water from the river, with oncoming cars sending a spray of water from both sides of their vehicle. I carefully timed my passing thru that small lake!

Even River Road had small patches of snow left in the ditch from last week, and lots of gravel on the shoulder. Traffic wasn't too high, so I could avoid it most of the time. I turned up Hall's Ferry to get onto Riverdale, which parallels River Road 'til you get to Roberts. A little up and down, but far less traffic, and gravel! I intended to go up Viewcrest as I didn't expect their to be gravel left in the road at this time, and there wasn't. The house they started near the top is nearing completion and one can see the enormity of the project now. Terraces with backfill to provide a level site, a large house with a large view of the valley! Certainly makes this road feel less rural!

After descending "buyah", the hill opposite Sprague high school, I made a U-turn and then rode down Croisan Scenic, adjacent to Croisan Creek. Some of the houses along here have the creek running thru their front yards, and I'm surprised it stays within its banks, as even now it rushes down this hillside. I've been thru here when trees have come down, the turbulent water having washed out their rootball, but never seen any damage to the houses.

After making the ascent up Madronna thru the hairpin, I arrived at the shop. My waterproof gloves were wet inside, but perhaps from stopping and taking pictures, fixing the flat - and putting my wet hands back into them! The waterproof socks worked, but my feet weren't warm. Surprisingly, the Louis Garneau Solano tights kept my legs fairly dry, and the tights themselves weren't sodden. They're a loose fit with a tight weave, and if they had got wet, they would have stuck to my legs and prevented me from pedaling easily. Four hours of rain, but worth it!