It’s been a mild summer here in Portland, Oregon. Cool, overcast days and rain routinely break up wide stretches of sprawling blue sky. Although that’s typical, this town still knows heat waves.
On the Friday that the V3 brigade was to set out from Coava Coffee on MLK in Portland to Champoeg State Park 40 miles south, however, it was hot. Super hot. Hot as balls, as the kids say.
I don’t know what spirits that troop shone as they mounted their trusty steeds for a weekend of supported “glamping.” It had been several months since the Veni Vidi Velo PDX (V3) organizer first announced the ladies-only (and trans inclusive) bike camping weekend taking place the last weekend of July, and some women had been waiting since January to try on their first bike camping experience. I learned about it in May or June, I think, via Twitter, but didn’t commit to going until just a few days before the ride. It was a paid event, but I lucked out and won one of the last spots just minutes after I sent an email saying I was in.
Perks included: camp headquarters, meals provided two nights, camp chairs to sit our butts in, firewood, SAG support, and some swag goodies. V3 reserved several RV sites at the park, allowing excellent access to power and water, and lots of space for campers to spread out, allowing everyone options to suit their own levels of introversion.
The ride was scheduled to start on Friday at 1pm, and I had to work, so I planned to leave on my own from downtown PDX whenever I could get out of the office. I still had to go and get snacks for myself (and dehydrated backpacking meals, in case I needed to feed myself). Luckily for me, and unluckily for my wallet, my office is just a few blocks from REI. Maybe I’d buy a new tent too. Hmm. Anyway, I magically was done with work at 2pm, and when I went to roll out of the office to go to REI – my damn rear tire was flat.
The week before I had to have the tire replaced after a slow-leak revealed that I had been riding my bike either with the rear tire under-inflated or with the bead not properly set into the rim. That pushed the rim tape over, and the inner tube rubbed against the inside of the rim where the holes for the spoke nipples are, eventually causing the flat. Check out this post about the anatomy of a bike wheel by Chicago Bike Blog for an idea of what I mean.
One week later, as I’m getting ready to set out on V3 Friday, I have another flat on the same wheel. I stripped the wheel off and located the puncture. I had a lot easier time with this than before. I found a clean slit on the inside of the tube, a product of tire inflation and shitty rim tape that got too close when the I topped off my tires that morning. The good news is that this happened before I went anywhere. If this had happened 2 or 3 hours later I would’ve been really irritated
I walked the bike to Western Bike Works in NW Portland, the same folks who helped me out the week before, and they took care of me right quick. While I was there I met a woman named Alex who recognized my name from the Women Bike community here in town. We chatted for a few minutes about V3 and Women Bike while the mechanic replaced my rim tape. I’m learning all about this fun and funky small world.
Soon, they’ve got me fixed up and I roll to REI a few blocks away and manage to talk myself off the ledge of impulse buying a new tent (slow, deep breaths). I get some snacks, a dry bag, and a sleeping bag liner, and I’m good to go.
The sleeping bag liner part is important. Because I decided to forego my actual sleeping bag in the interest of space. It’s in the mid-90’s, and I’m sure just a liner will suffice. Let’s revisit this later, shall we?
Anywho – I leave downtown Portland somewhere in the 4:30-5pm range. I’m way behind the group, but I just want to get there while there’s still dinner to be had.
Maybe you can’t tell by the name of this blog, but I’m very food motivated.
The ride was gorgeous, but hot. And while a few of the legs would have been challenging no matter what, the heat amplified a lot of that. I have to stop a few times in Milwaukee and on my way to Oregon City to get my bearings on the map versus the cue sheet provided by V3. After the municipal elevator in OC, I take my first real break and eat a lot of snacks. I’ve been drinking water this whole time, aided by my trusty camelbak reservoir in my front basket.
I made it to camp at 9pm, and unbeknownst to me, I passed three members of the group on the bike trail into Champoeg. I definitely missed out on the bonding experience of riding with the group, but my ego was rewarded with women telling me how fast I must have ridden. Sounds like they had a rough ride. It was hot, for sure, and there are two nasty climbs for the novice with a loaded bike mixed in there.
At V3 camp headquarters there is delicious chili for us (vegan), and cornbread muffins, and cheese. And Hopworks IPA. It’s all delicious. I brought red chili flake, of course, which makes everything a little more fiesty.
The HQ is decked out in multicolor solar lights. Women are gathered around a picnic table under a canopy, eating and talking about the day. As an introvert, I push myself to say hi, to ask for names and introduce myself, and then honor myself by dipping in and out of conversations as my comfort levels allowed. Everyone is kind.
I’m certain that having such great access to just pull on a few sips of water regularly without having to fiddle with bottles kept me properly hydrated. Hydration, however, is only a piece of the puzzle. I’m learning that I must sweat out a whole lot of other nutrients, like, say, sodium. That first night in my tent, every time I stretched my legs the muscles seized into cramps. Quads, calves, feet – everything. I’ve written before about my challenges with relaxing enough to sleep while bike camping, thanks to my strong and weird imagination. Here I was totally comfortable emotionally, which was awesome, but the cramps and my decision to use just a bag liner (and totally the wrong kind, to boot) were the culprit for a poor night’s sleep. Fitbit tells the tale: check out all those pink lines.
I discover the next morning my sunglasses were missing. I took them off about 4 miles before camp and put them in my front basket. I put the rack on in March for the Women Bike camping event, and bought the basket at the end of May. I’ve really liked using it, and found that adding the drybag for the small items was really useful. Wish I had thrown my sunglasses in there, cause at one point on the bumpy descent right before the Champoeg bike trail my sunglasses slip out of my basket and are found later, destroyed. The blackberry juice in the picture makes it all look very dramatic, but these are unrelated. They got blackberried later while hanging out in my hat with a haul of road fruit that I managed to not just eat as soon as I plucked it from the vine.
I spent a lot of time alone on Saturday, which was really nice. I totally needed it. I went riding to look for my sunglasses, and ate a huge veggie sandwich w/ hot sauce, a monster pickle, and a bag of salt & vinegar chips from the Butteville General Store. The store had ice cream, a limited deli section, and some single-serving snacks. Definitely recommend stopping there.
I went back to the park, and rode to the end of the bike trail. On my return I ran into the V3 troop on their way to the planned wine tasting. I hooked right and grabbed on to the end of the peloton and joined them.
Just two miles away, we turned into Lady Hill Winery and proceeded to the tasting. I personally didn’t have any wine. It just wasn’t appealing to me in the heat of the day, but in retrospect after seeing the generosity of those pours, I might have to get back down there.
We hung out at the winery for a good long time, and even visited a 2nd winery right next door. Totally different ownership and label. Sineann Winery rents space from Lady Hill, but it’s a different experience. Talk about bang for your buck, or maybe, max for your mile?!
That night for dinner we had vegan tacos which were YUMMY! There was a silent disco planned for Saturday night. I went into my tent to put on another layer of clothes since it was starting to get cold as soon as the sun went down. I layered up, laid back, and promptly fell asleep. At like 9:30pm. I went with it. I woke up at 3am, got myself actually tucked in for the night. When I say “tucked in” I mean went pee and then put on every single stitch of clothing I had, wrapped myself up like a burrito, and put my feet in my panniers. But I slept through until 8am. :) I needed that.
I went back to the general store in the morning to find something for a pot luck. In my haste, I skimmed the emails and missed the part about bringing something to share for Sunday morning. I had dehydrated backpacker meals, and a few builder bars. I had a really lovely ride to the store and settled on a bringing back a cherry pie, which ended up with a big pool of juice in it, only a few pieces eaten from it. I ended up bringing it to the camp host to enjoy, since it certainly was not coming back to Portland with us. Sad face. RIP PIE.
A smaller group rode back on Sunday. A few people rode with SAG, and two others left earlier in the morning than the rest of us. I volunteered to ride sweep on the way home on Sunday. I really like it most of the time, but it is a lot of responsibility. We stopped the Oregon City Brewery, had a beverage and chatted. There were so many beers to choose from that I ended up getting a flight to try a few. We had a great ride! I have to say, socially, it was my favorite part of the weekend.
Everyone seemed really happy and satisfied with their V3 experience, and were eager to connect and stay in touch. It was like we all went through something together. Check out #V3PDX for more.
Good stuff. Thanks, Rhienna.