Festive 500 Part 1: Christmas Eve

Anticipation has built, plans have been laid, preparations have been made and the time to embark on Rapha's annual Festive 500 challenge has arrived!  If you don't know what the Festive 500 is all about, consult my previous post or Rapha's website for details.  

The weather appeared promising the night before but the outlook had improved as India and I sipped our coffee on the morning of Christmas Eve.  The chance of rain had dropped from 50% to less than 15% with a realistic possibility of seeing some sun!  The day looked perfect for a longish winter ride so the plan for an almost-completely-flat 100km jaunt out to Troutdale along with mighty Columbia River, south to the aptly-named municipality of Boring and back to Portland was put into action.  

We rolled out the door and headed north to the Marine Drive bike path under partly cloudy skies and in good spirits.

The bike path along the Columbia River is always prime birdwatching territory and we spotted an impressive tally of winged specimens that included four hawks, two kestrels, two blue herons, one white heron and countless ducks and gulls on our trip east.  After 25km of bike path cruising we arrived in Troutdale, gateway to the Columbia Gorge and home to outlet malls, truckstops and one seriously shitty hill.

The climb up Buxton Rd. from Troutdale's main drag is only four or five blocks long but the last couple are seriously steep and have thrown many a big wrench into the quadriceps of riders out for an easy, flat ride.  India was not thrilled as she started up the slope.  She managed the climb with grace and a good cadence despite her lack of recent mileage and cyclocross-holdover single-chainring gearing.

We got over the hump and onto the rolling hills of Troutdale Road to make our way south to the booming metropolis of Boring, Oregon and disturbed a flock of birds while blinded by the glare of sun on wet road.

I had admittedly forgotten about some of the nasty rollers on the southbound stretch of this particular road and was forced into my bottom gear several times to maintain a reasonable spin and stay in the saddle.  Winter Training Rule #6: No Riding Out of the Saddle Until March.

We arrived in Boring at the terminus of the Springwater Corridor trail, marked with a white silhouette of the Nativity...

...and splashed into the semi-flooded first sections of the Springwater, which are still blessedly unpaved despite recent transportation and recreation "improvements."  Here's to budget cuts and gravel trails!

We took the horse trail detour for a little slick tire slip-n-slide, hoping not to run into any spooky equines out for a Christmas Eve trot or unavoidable piles of droppings.  Fortunately, we had the trail to ourselves and emerged with turd-free tires.

After the seemingly interminable and nearly arrow-straight run into Portland on the rails-to-trails conversion and with just over 80km in the bag for the day, we stopped in to see our friend Kristina at Metropolis Cycle Repair who had promised bourbon and cider on Christmas Eve.  She was true to her word and served up a tasty beverages along with red velvet cupcakes, creating a perfect combination of fat, sugar, warmth, spice and alcohol in my empty belly.  Mmm... Bulleit...

We hung out, shot the shit with Kristina and coworker Matt, perused some of Metropolis's offerings and allowed our bottoms to enjoy some welcome time off the saddle before finishing the ride home.  I could have stayed the afternoon sipping another cup of cider, watched the parade of riders on Williams while fondling fancy gloves, sunglasses and 'cross bikes but there were other errands to run before Christmas Eve relaxing could begin.

Before we were able to make it out the door, Kristina managed to shove a pair of shop-branded water bottles and beer cozies into our hands, making us feel like sponsored pros and putting a smile on both of our faces.  India's happens to be more photogenic.

She rode home to a warm shower and solid food as I headed on farther North to take care of Ira and Rachel's cat Peanut Butter who is spending the holidays at home alone, which is pretty much okay with him.  He is a handsome little bastard and spends lots of time admiring his reflection in other people's camera lenses when his parents aren't in town.

We had a beer, talked about what kind of bike Jesus would ride, developed thoughtful solutions to couple of the more pressing problems facing our society and hung out in boxes.  It was pretty much an average afternoon for gentlemen of leisure like ourselves.

Unfortunately, I had to excuse myself from Peanut's company to finish my rounds and still get home before dark.  First to the local booze emporium for a bottle of vodka to pour in our Christmas Bloody Marys and then to our friend (and fellow native Georgian) Mike's beer-selling establishment for a 6-pack of fine winter ale.  After I emptied my overstuffed jersey pockets of their contents - 750ml of Stolichnaya (yes, it fit), a jar of stuffed olives, phone, cash, ID, camera, uneaten Clif bar, empty PB&J bag and gloves - we installed beers in our new cozies and toasted a proper ride on Christmas Eve!

India was already showered and at work in the kitchen getting our breakfast casserole ready for tomorrow morning and I was excited to strip off the lycra, shower off and put my legs up to recover.  Sadly, that would all have to wait.  True to my usual form, I had missed a message asking me to stop by the local bakery and pick up a roll of their take-and-bake puff pastry for a holiday delicacy.  So, I was promptly turned back out into the cold and told not to come back without a roll of dough.  By the time I returned from my final errand of the afternoon I had tallied a hair under 98km, just shy of my goal of 100km for the first day of the challenge.  Not too shabby.

Tomorrow is Christmas and anybody who chooses to spend more of the day riding than they do hanging out in warm clothes with family, friends and pets has their priorities a little out of whack.  So, we'll be getting out on the bike for a relaxed cruise along some of our favorite close-to-town roads but keeping the distance and tempo moderate and comfortable.

Here are today's stats, which represent totals for the challenge so far.  Follow along to see the kilometers, calories and hours pile up in the next eight days!

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