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 22, 2014 Water! Water! Everywhere and Where Is Tom?

The light on the message machine was blinking as I entered the shop Saturday morning, but as I was in a hurry, I ignored it and began pumping up the tires on my fixed bike. I'd fired the computer up and was jockeying the point of sale program while I was busy finding clothing as well doing other ride checklist activities, when the phone rang. Forgetting that there was a message on the phone, the machine picked up on the second ring instead of the fourth. I couldn't get to it in time, but caught the gist of Tom's intended message. He wanted to do a short ride, after being off the bike for eight weeks and having battled a bout of bronchitis for nearly six weeks.

I'd heard that he was going to ride and had already planned to do his favorite ride to Buena Vista. I'd even notified Brad, who'd, in turn, said he was coming too. I continued on, and while doing my business, the phone rang again. It was Tom, inquiring whether I was there, and again saying that he wanted to do a short ride, and asking me to call him when I was ready to go. I went about getting dressed, and this time caught the phone when Tom called again. I told him I was nearly ready to go, and he should just come on down, and that Brad had sneaked into the shop and was waiting as well.

I loaned Tom a pair of toe warmers, and Brad a pair of lobster mitts, as the temperature was somewhere around freezing. I thought we ought to go out Skyline completely, as Vitae Springs has some hidden corners in the gullies that might hold patches of ice, if they remained cold enough. Tom decided to leave immediately, saying as usual, that we'd catch him. Brad kept me engaged in a conversation longer than I'd intended, so Tom got a bigger lead than normal.

As we started up Skyline, Tom was nowhere in sight, but I wasn't in any hurry to catch Tom and find our selves at a snail's pace or forcing Tom to cough up a lung. Riding my fixed forced me out of the saddle sooner than if I were riding a geared bike, so I soon dropped Brad as I had to continue a fluid number of pedal revolutions. I didn't let up, because suddenly I was on auto-pilot and thinking of how he'd catch me going down Vitae Springs with my inability to coast or shift to a higher gear. And I did lead him off down Vitae Springs, instead of chasing Tom up Skyline!

Somewhere in the far gully of Vitae Springs, it dawned on me that I'd made a wrong turn, and we were no longer chasing Tom. Well, I thought, this will be an adventure! I told Brad about my blunder, and said we should just ride to the Independence bridge and ride back Riverside to meet Tom after he'd descended Skyline. But, as we were descending Orville, a driver in a car coming up the hill leaned out his window and said "It's closed!". Ah, how could I forget! High water! Last Saturday, the road was nearly closed when I was coming back in, and with the amount of rain we'd received this week, the road probably was closed, perhaps even the ferry!

Once I rejoined Brad on River Road, I told him of the driver's message, who'd also tried to tell Brad, but because of Brad's speedy descent, it was unintelligible, whereas I was dragging my pedals and front brake to keep my butt on the saddle, was going slow enough to hear. Sure enough, after going thru the railroad underpass, the road closed arm was across the road, with a couple of cars parked along the side of the road.

We went around until we confronted the pond across the road, watering the filbert orchard on the north side. The culvert was completely under water, but was noisily sucking water thru, forming a whirlpool on the south side and gushing and burping out on the north side! It looked kinda deep, with a current running across the road, and I proposed waiting for a truck to take us to the far side. A small tractor arrived from the farm on the hillside, and crossed without difficulty. We decided to follow suit, with my main concern being that riding a fixed gear created an inability to coast, or "rachet" my crank arms, and keep my feet out of the water. Brad went first, and while he coasted, it still didn't look deep enough to submerge my pedals. Nonetheless, I was nervous as I followed him, wanting to keep enough speed for momentum, but slow enough to prevent water from splashing onto my shoes. My Louis Garneau covers kept what water splashed on top out, but I wondered if water was splashed thru the bottom of my shoes.

Culvert drain

The culvert draining.

How deep is it?

How deep is it...?

Water everywhere

The water is everywhere.

Our other concern was whether the low area immediately in front of the bridge would be deeper, and prohibit going further. But, we could always catch a truck if we were patient, I thought. By the time we got there, the number of small cars that came from the direction of the bridge, had assured us that whatever puddle was there, was more shallow than the one we'd crossed. And again, I pedaled slowly to avoid getting water splashed onto my shoes, but kept an eye out for daredevil drivers who might enjoy splashing a cyclist crossing it!

Flooded orchard

Flooded orchard

After turning down Riverside, we again encountered the High Water sign. If the road were truly closed, Tom would have headed south to Liberty Road to get to Buena Vista, unless he wanted to see what condition his bronchitis was really in and backtrack up Skyline! All of the low spots were dry, and the cane berries were being trimmed and trained by field workers, with numerous cars parked along the field's edge. Brad was sure the road was open, and that we'd missed Tom, but I knew that the first low spot one encountered, if descending from Skyline, was just this side of the railroad underpass. And sure enough, it was full of water. And probably, if one rode on the edge of the road, it wouldn't be too deep. But the current was, as always, pretty fast, and I worried about wheels being swept out from under one and getting soaked in pretty cold weather, and a long ways to warm shelter.

Mike on wet road

At some point you just have to get wet.

We watched a car cross it before turning around and heading back to Independence bridge. Fortunately, we knew there was a sign just the other side of the bridge that would inform us as to whether the Buena Vista ferry was running or not. Which it was not. I wondered how far Tom could get, and whether he would ride nearly to the ferry to find out.

We rode back River Road, across the puddle again, and then turned up Sawmill to avoid the traffic on River Road. Lots of out-of-the-saddle riding on Riverdale makes it fun to ride on a fixed gear, but I wasn't up to climbing Viewcrest on it, having ridden last Saturday on a geared bike. We decided to ride in the back side of Minto-Brown, just to view the flooded waters, and Homestead had barriers up to warn of high water as well. We rode down until we came to a low spot where the water swallowed all visibility of the painted lines, and decided that the puddle was too deep. There was a long streak of damp pavement on the far side, so we knew some vehicle had forded it. We enjoyed the sunshine while consuming a granola bar, and a motorcyclist caught up with us. He asked us if we'd crossed, and said that it he were on some other kind of motorcycle, he'd attempt to cross it, and Brad chimed in with some other brand/model, and this was apparently all the rider needed, ‘cause he turned around and slowly drove into the water. It was deeper than we thought, and you could see the moment of his hesitation, where he abruptly slowed even further, and suddenly plunged both of his tennis shoes into the water! He didn't say a word as he turned and rode back up the road!

still more water

Still more water...

Shortly thereafter, a family of four walked to the puddle. The young boy was sure they could cross, even pointed out that if they went deep into the orchard, they could go around, maybe! They said they'd seen the motorcyclist we described, and that he'd turned and rode down the pedestrian path into the park! I guess adventure has no shame!

We tried to follow him but the bike/ped path eventually came to a body of water too deep to traverse as well, and so we returned to River Road. Brad went on into town, and I turned up Madronna to reluctantly return to the shop after a sunny ride playing with water.