My randonneering experience began this January in Arizona. I first read about PBP in summer of 2006 and participation quickly became a "might be able to do this" sort of idea. With that in mind I did STP (Seattle to Portland) and RSVP Seattle to Vancouver BC). I choose the STP 2 day option over the double century thinking, as I had never done either, better to walk before run. STP was enjoyable and encouraging even with the knowledge that it's a pretty flat course and has the reputation of being a good "starter" event. RSVP was also a very positive experience. I was faced that fall with PBP scheduled in 10 months with those two events and four weeklong bicycling vacations as my limited resume for multi-day events.
So, I figured I'd better get past ideation as soon as possible. I took the last two weeks of December off from bicycling and flew to Arizona the first weekend of January for my first ride over 110 miles. Thirteen brevets later my PBP notion was realized. By then the Randonneur Syndrome had become a chronic condition as opposed to a self limited illness. It manifested itself post PBP as wanting an R-12 award. There were brevets in very scenic areas nearby in September and October. Then the thought process was: hey- just two more rides. I got off pretty easy for November as that ride was pretty benign by Oregon geography and weather standards.
Which brings us to this year-end's Permanent. Temps in the 30's, rain, snow (admittedly just a few minutes at the risk of letting truth get in the way of a good story) and wind in the 20's with gusts in the 30's.
Morning was cold, dry and not very windy.
I began to allow myself to visualize the whole day being like this. Arriving in Silverton, I took off my rain jacket and was warned by Joanne- "now you've done it". Within 10 minutes of this action- even though I had sheepishly put the jacket back on, it began to snow, albeit briefly. Still eventful for a guy who grew up in Mexico and Southern California to be able to say he had his first bicycle ride in the snow. What followed was a relatively pleasant interlude. Shortly after, we experienced the "significant rollers" that Susan noted in the Permanent description. Then the wind and the rain intensified.
We arrived in Scio with only a hour margin at that control. Scio calls itself the covered bridge capital of the west. The bridges are picturesque, but feeling time constraints and having seen the bridges before in better weather, we did not stop until forced to do so.
A truck had not lowered its boom while going through the Gilkey Bridge, leaving it closed to traffic. Hopefully the company who owns the truck will have insurance to fork over the repair bill. It would be a shame to have it replaced by a concrete structure. With apologies to Linn County, we used the damaged bridge to stay on the route. Using the nearby parallel railroad bridge did not strike anybody as a good idea.
As dusk approached we arrived in Salem. The idea of DNFing began to intrude in increasing force as it got darker, colder, wetter,and windier. John and Joanne made no verbalization of anything other than finishing, so I kept these dark thoughts to meself. We arrived in Wilsonville with the help of a tailwind (at last!) for the final 25 miles. Just for kicks we got to ride on the I-5 shoulder just before the end. John and I have done many rides together and I've never seen him so elated at a finish. He asked which was the hardest 200K I'd done. As you might guess, it was this one. It certainly was the one that took me the longest- 11hr 30 min. The conditions were difficult but evidently doable. The next day, with unrelenting rain and winds in the 30's and gusts to 50's, would have been another story- one I'm exceedingly glad not to narrate.