Welcome back to Dieter Loibner, who recently finished the last ride of his R12 challenge. What’s an R12 challenge? And what did it teach him? Read on! :) (And congratulations Dieter!)
Okay, it’s over. Done and dusted. Twelve rides, around 200 kilometers each. That amounts to approximately 1500 miles, stretched out over 12 months. Those who rarely ride, shake their heads. “He’s nuts!” While those who really ride, could care less. “Wow, what a weenie.”
I’m a relative rookie to Randonneuring, so committing to a dozen rides (or Randonnées, hence the acronym R12) was a new challenge. In the process, I saw some stout countryside along the routes authorized by the Oregon Randonneurs and got wise to what it means to “ride around the calendar”: Slithering down Helvetia Road on patches of black ice. Getting parched by the sun while chasing the clock between Salem and Wilsonville. Wheezing through thin air up on Mount St. Helens.
I also learned about bike fit and maintenance, proper nutrition, dress code, packing spares and tending to the machine that provided motive power. However, the most valuable lesson was the calibration of self-assessment. I found the reality of the ride to be an effective therapy for narcissistic delusions, not just bulging waistlines.
None of that would have happened sans my friend Holden Hughart (RUSA # 5511). Without his patience, mentorship and guidance, I’d still be stuck in the loose gravel on Stag Hollow Road or bushwhacking for info control question # 4 on Pine Creek. If it wasn’t for him, I’d never have started the challenge, let alone finished it. Sadly, an injury cut short his R12 bid, but by that time I had gained enough confidence to ride the last few permanents solo.
Not to forget the people that crossed my course along the way. For example, staggering into Carlton Corners, stark raving mad with cold and hypoglycemia, an angel named Lisa behind the deli counter revived my flagging fortunes with a warm smile and a hot mocha. On the flipside: the jerks. Few and far between, but memorable. The most annoying one deliberately misfired the engine of his P.O.S. hotrod with an ear-shattering bang as he sped past on OR 224 east of Estacada. Not once, but twice.
Lastly, two notes from the file of bizarre incidents: On January 1, police in riot gear with guns drawn stormed a house in Gaston (population 658) just as we rode by. And in October, only a couple of miles away, on Spring Hill and Withycombe, I encountered a tractor with a lifeless bovine dangling from the front loader, upside down. Judging by the profuse bleeding from its head, the animal had just been slaughtered and was being carted down the road for processing, oozing a river of red on the chip seal.
So yes, life is a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re gonna get. The eclectic experiences I described here involved pedaling a bicycle to the best of my abilities, going places I chose and getting there at my own pace. In doing so I became acutely aware of the freedom and the independence this vehicle affords. And that, besides the camaraderie with other riders, is the key takeaway from a year on the roads.
Thanks to the organizers of the permanent rides: Susan France, Lynne Fitzsimmons, Ken Mattina, Susan Otcenas and Dave Parsons.