Saturday, May 31, 2008

RUSA 342 Bainbridge Pt Townsend Bainbridge

A gorgeous ride! No doubt about it, Bill Gobie was inspired when we came up with this one. The weather certainly helped - mid sixties and (usually) blue skies. What a day for a ride.

Bill Gobie, Noel Howes, Jim Sprague, Mike Richeson, and I took the 6:10 AM ferry to Bainbridge in order to do permanent 342 Bainbridge - Port Townsend - Bainbridge. There were another ten or so riders ... many SIR members ... from the Redmond Cycle Club who were going to go around the Hood Canal. We all started out together on 305 and then through the back way of Port Gamble Road on the way to Port Gamble. They pulled off at Port Gamble - in search of coffee perhaps?. We pressed on, although without Bill, who was on his recumbent. We were confident that, as designer of the route, he knew the course well.

After Port Gamble, it was over the Hood Canal Bridge. At this hour of the morning, traffic was light, and with blue skies and calm winds, it was a good crossing ... and great views. A quick stop at the turnoff to Paradise Bay Road to regroup and off we go to Port Ludlow. Quiet road, blue sky, nice views ... we can do this all day.

Shortly before Port Hadlock we turn on 116 and head off to Fort Flagler. The roads get even quieter and the views even prettier. Riding through the park down to the beach is heavenly. At the beach we find the answer to the Info Control question, take advantage of the facilities, and grab a quick snack. Across the water we see our next destination ... Port Townsend. It is only three or four miles as the crow flies, but we have about twenty miles of pedaling.

Noel takes off first ... he knows the owners of the store in Nordland, a couple of miles south of the park ... and wants to stop by and say hello. A few minutes later we follow ... and see Bill turning into the park as we head out. Mike, Jim, and I begin to spread out .. Mike taking the lead. I press to catch up. After we go through Port Hadlock Mike comments on how fast Noel must be going. Apparently he hadn't heard that Noel was stopping nor seen his bike at the store ... we were chasing someone who was behind us ! Oops ! We press on to Port Townsend. On the bike path down to the town I am startled as I make a turn ... a deer right in front of me.

We pull into the Safeway quick stop in town and have a small lunch - chicken soup - and resupply. We then head on ... not sure if the others are ahead or behind us. We zig zag through town to get to Fort Flagler and the next info control ... avoiding the steepest park of the hill but probably going twice the distance ... but a good tradeoff. There is plenty of climbing on this ride as it is.

I always enjoy Fort Worden. It has many pleasant memories for me as I stayed there each fall for eight or nine years on our fall "campout" with the YMCA father-daughter program. A fun time with the girls ... and then with the dads playing poker after the girls "went to sleep".

After Fort Worden we head west and then south (not to mention up and down), following the coast. Other than SR-20, the roads are fairly quiet and enjoyable. On Cape George Road we see a baby deer and parent bounding across the road in front of us. On SR-20, we hit the cumulative 5,000 foot climb point. We turn onto Eaglemount Road ... more peaceful riding. At the info control, there is a large pond across the way in a green valley ... it feels like I should be in a rowboat fishing/snoozing.

No snoozing now though ... we zoom down a long hill, then turn onto West Valley Road. Next turn is THE CLIMB ... while not long, we have 200 feet of climbing in perhaps a quarter mile ... definately a good solid climb ... as we make our way to the last info control at Lake Gibbs. That behind us, we retrace our path, then continue our way towards the Hood Canal Bridge.

Our last obstacle of the day, the Hood Canal Bridge, is in front of us before we know it. Approaching it from the west on 104, we reach it with speed, as we are coming down from a 200 foot hill. Wanting to get across it relatively quickly, I maintain most of my speed, then remember that there is the narrow path on the right of the metal grate to stay on. I start to slow right as I get on it, then there is a hubcap sitting on the narrow path! A rush of panic, then I realize I can still make it past while on the path ... phew! I catch up to Mike just before the buldge and the metal crack that is soo dangerous. As he goes over it, something flies off his bike and then he stops. This is not a good place to stop. I go past, then stop also. He has a flat tire ! On the middle of the bridge OMG.

Fortunately right across the one lane of traffic in the middle of the bridge is an open area, protected from traffic. When there is a pause in the traffic, we cross over and Mike changes his tire. However, his pump fails him. Luckily, mine does the trick and the tire is soon ready to go. The wheel back on the bike, we're set to go, right? Wrong. It isn't spinning quite right. It turns out that the something flying off the bike was one of his min bungie cords snapping. While one piece flew off, the other part wrapped around the axle - between the spoke protector and the cogset. It was in there good. After 15 minutes or so of surgery with a knife and removing the spoke protector, the cord came out and we were back in business.

Back on the road, we soon made it to Poulsbo, the last control of the day. We stopped at the Marina Mart for a little snack, then it was off to the end. As we were leaving town, Noel caught up with us ... he had seen us pull out of the Marina Mart and so had made is stop a quick one to catch up. We rode together to the end, making it to the 6:30 PM ferry. Our ride was 11:25. Cumulative climbing was 7,500 feet.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

RUSA 417 Bellevue to Leavenworth: 1p + e > 3p +e

Memorial Day Weekend with the family at a cabin near Leavenworth. It should be a great time ... we'll have all four daughters plus son-in-law, fiance, and boy-friend, plus my mom, my father-in-law and his wife. How to get there? Why the new Permanent 417, Bellevue to Leavenworth of course. It is also a great reason to take an extra day of vacation ... ride up on Thursday to avoid the traffic. Too bad I can't take even another and ride back on Tuesday.

The weatherman promised a reasonable day ... chance of showers, with afternoon clearing. We'll see. When I ride my bike to the start point ... adding 6-7 miles, it isn't quite raining, but isn't dry either. Not wet enough to put on the rain pants, just enough to be glad I brought them just in case. At 7:25 I depart from the Eastgate Shell station, munching on a breakfast bar that I bought in order to get a receipt. The ride to Issaquah on Newport Way is uneventful, just a fair amount of morning traffic. Then the climb up Issaquah-Fall City Road. Definately a hill, but only the first of many today. But then the 400K pre-ride a couple of weeks ago was twice as far and over three mountain passes and today I'm only going over one pass and half the distance, so it should be an easy day ... relatively speaking. Expectations!

I've assumed that the Tolt Bridge is still closed so I'll have to ride up 203 instead of W Sonqualmie River Road and, darn it, I'm right. So I head to Fall City on 202 as the mist begins to turn to light rain ... yes, there's a difference. And enough of a difference that it is time to look for a spot to put on the rain pants. I pull into the bus stop by the Fall City Library and pull on the rain pants ... avoiding the syringe on the ground. Onward to Carnation I go.

At Carnation I pull into QFC to get a receipt, 9:05 AM... a box of breakfast bars and a smoothie do the trick. I polish off the smoothie and stock up the pockets of the handlebar bag with the bars so several of them are within reach. I munch on them as I head up West Snoqualmie Valley Road, then onto Ben Howard Road. The rain lightens up ... for most of the time. Still, it is a good thing I have the rain pants on.

The next control is Index, but I want to have something more to eat first. So I stop at the Sultan's McDonalds. Yes, I confess, I do eat at McDonalds. Usually on rides ... there is something abount a Quarterpounder with fries that provides a nice counterbalance to the breakfast bars and fruit that I munch on.

Before the grease can settle, I'm off onto US-2 again, thru Startup and then turn off US-2 at Gold Bar to take the back road to Index. It is a nice tradeoff - a bit longer/hillier than US-2, but much quieter and definately prettier and safer ... I avoid several bridges without shoulders. At Index I stock up on Gaterade and get rid of my trash ... why carry those wrappers on the climb up to the pass? It is a light rain at this point and someone comments on it not being a great day for a bike ride. I point out that at least it isn't pouring nor is it 100 degrees out, so all in all it isn't that bad.

Onto US-2 again, slowly gaining elevation. I make it to Skykomish and call Dorothy at about 2:00 to give her an update ... I think I'll make it to Leavenworth around 6:00, give or take half an hour. Maybe I'll meet them there, as that's close to when they'd get there. While the Permanent ends there, I'll have another 17-18 miles after that to get to the cabin.

Back onto US-2 once again. By now it has stopped raining, but lots of clouds, so I keep my rain pants on. Shortly afterwards, while crossing a bridge without shoulders, I make the mistake of riding towards the middle of the right part of the lane (instead of the far right) ... the bridge has a series of deep ruts that are bone jarring as I bounce thru. Defintely need to remember to stay on the far right when I come this way on the 600K in a couple of weeks!

At about 2:45 I make it to the bottom of Stevens Pass ... or at least what I consider to be the bottom. This is by the entrance to the train tunnel and the top part of the Iron Goat Trail (Old Cascade Highway). Unfortunately that was closed due to snow, as is the back route from here to the top, so it is up US-2 to the top. It is less than six miles to the top ... a five minute drive according to MS Streets & trips, but it takes me just over an hour to get to the top. Slow and steady, slow and steady. I'm definately tired when I get to the top.

Now I'm glad I have my rain pants on, as the ride down is cold at 33-35 mph for the first several miles. Without my rain pants I would be too cold. I didn't bring full gloves, so my hands are freezing. I figure it is only for perhaps 10 minutes, so I keep on going. I get to an uphill portion (fortunately?) and slow down, warming up as I work harder again. Doesn't last for long and I'm going downhill again, but at 22-25 mph it isn't so cold and I enjoy the ride and the scenery. Before I know it, I'm in Leavenworth and it isn't quite 6:00 yet.

It was a nice ride (particularly that last downhill part!), but I am tired. I feel like I'm as tired or more than I was at the end of the 400K ... it must be the expectations. Expecting it to be a breeze on a 200K one pass ride makes it (relatively) tougher than expecting it to be tough on a 400K three pass ride ... (1p + e > 3p + e). I need to remember that.

Meanwhile, Dorothy calls ... they're close to town ... do I want a ride to the cabin? Darn right I do ! Thanks.

Friday, May 16, 2008

RUSA 359 Woodinville - Granite Falls - Woodinville: Back to Dubuque

80+ Degree weather in Seattle in the spring is a rarity. A gem not to be missed. Knowing that the Cascade 1200 is a month and a half a way and likely will be in some hot riding conditions, I simply have to take the day off to get some practice hot weather riding in. Yet there are two calls I need to be on for work. Hmm. Well, I can listen in on the first one by cell phone with the ear piece and, in what must be a sign from above, the second one is cancelled. I love it when a plan comes together!

What to ride? Well, I don't want to drive too far afield, what with gas at $3.99 at the neighborhood gas station, and I want to do something with a bit of climbing. Mud Mountain loop, starting in Snohomish is closed due to snow ... how about going back to Dubuque ... RUSA 359 Woodinville - Granite Falls - Woodinville. It has the advantage of overlapping with the 400K ride that is on Saturday, so I can check out the course a bit in case anything has popped up.

My conference call starts at 7:00, so I dial in, put the phone on mute and head over to the Woodinville Tully's. Not being a coffee drinker and already having had breakfast, I pick up the cheapest item at the counter ... a 25 cent chocalate. The barista asks if I'm just getting it to prove I was there ... I guess I'm not the first rider to buy something there. So I'm off. What a gorgeous day. It isn't hot yet, but very comfortable in shorts.

Now riding through downtown Redmond during morning rush hour isn't optimal, but all in all wasn't too bad. There were lots of bikers on East Lake Sammamish, probably the combination of the fantastic weather and it being Bike to Work day. Reaching Issaquah, the first control, I decided I'd warmed up enough to take the sleeves off my jacket. Then it was time to put on the sun screen... between bites of my Egg McMuffin.

Back to the bike ... and up the first monster hill ... Issaquah-Fall City Road is a nice ride ... after the first climb up to 400' or so. I start wondering if the Tolt River Bridge is going to be open was closed last weekend with big orange DETOUR signs. Narayan had ridden it recently and been able to talk the workers into letting him go past anyway. But I'm enjoying the quiet Issaquah-Fall City road too much to worry about it. And the conference call ends. Freedom! After the first few miles with lots and lots of cars rushing off to work, the last few are heaven ... only one or two cars.

I can see 202 and no orange DETOUR signs. Yahoo. I cross over and start what I anticipate to be 5 miles of very quiet, picturesqe roads. Oops! What's that? Darn, Road Closed ... Local Traffic only. On a white sign. Should I chance it and risk an extra 10 miles or so? Nope. Time for a deteur. Over to Fall City and on to Carnation via 203. Mileage is about the same, just not as pretty ... although not bad by any means. I get to Carnation and as I have lots of fuel on hand ... water, Gaterade, and food ... I decide to get an ATM receipt at the Bank of America instead of going into a store. I have 20 minutes of time to spare, but am a bit puzzled as to why so slow. I guess I took too much time at the first control?

The ride along the Snoqualmie Valley is wonderful. Perfect temperature. Gorgeous blue sky. Fantastic scenery. This is why we bike. On to Ben Howard Road and then to Sultan. Finally acting on Wayne Methner's suggestion, with Mark Thomas' concurrance, I figure out a consolidation of the control and info control at/near Sultan. We'll use the Sub Shop ... friendly folks there. I fill up my Camelback with ice and water. I'm set.

The down side of Sultan is the way out of town is a bear of a hill ... Old Owen and then Reiner Road are tough ... and then there was that dog at the top of the hill last week. Will it be there today? Fortunately not, so I can cruise at the top. Up and down thru the back roads. Not much activity back here. The dogs and cattle I do see are content to lay in the shade, trying to keep cool. I discover another advantage of the hot weather ... gals are out in their swim suit tops. I do enjoy this!

Now at about 75 miles it finally gets to me. I'm not going very fast. While I'm not trying to break any speed records, and I know it is a slow route with all the hills, something isn't right. I pull over and look the bike over ... the front tire is rubbing. If I spin it, it slows down and stops right away. I had a flat last night when I rode to Bainbridge HS for Jessica's Playoff Lacrosse game and I must not have put the tire on right. What a dummy! Well, it was good extra exercise bonus miles. I adjust the tire and off I go. Much better. I convince myself it is much easier now.

Thru Granite Falls and down Jordan River Road, then back on Burns Road. I pass a police radar trap. He tells me I'm going 14 mph. Bummer. I had hoped I was going faster than that. After a stop at McDonalds in Granite Falls and a refill of the Camelback, it's more back roads and then ... Dubuque. Those killer hills.

I get there and they don't seem as bad as last weekend. I guess legs with only 100 miles in them are fresher than legs with 200 miles in them :) I turn off Dubuque onto Dubuque Cutoff. The spot where we are going to have the secret control tomorrow is entirely in the sun ... no shade nearby and a big puddle in the middle. Not good. Down the road a ways is a spot with shade and a wide shoulder ... perhaps we can move the control there.

The rest of the ride seems like a piece of cake. Broadway is a long, graduate climb, but not bad at all. And it hasn't been all that hot ... low 80's perhaps. I guess I can ride in at least moderate heat ... good for the confidence to have learned that.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

SIR Spring 400k Pre-Ride: Dubuque..The WALL

Six of us rode the 400K pre-ride yesterday: Brian, John, Erik, Thai, Mark T, and me. Galvin had planned to join us and was there at 5:00 AM all dressed, with bike, but no helmet. As none of us had an extra helmet, he wisely decided to postpone his ride till next weekend. After a few words about the course from Brian, off we went. The plan had been to split into two groups ... the fast (Brian & John) and the not-so fast (the rest of us). Brian had a wheel issue within the first mile, so while they stopped to deal with that, Mark and I plodded onward, figuring they'd catch us soon enough anyway. Mark and I were climbing at different paces, so I forged on ahead. Brian and John soon caught up, zipped past me on the way up to Snoqualmie Pass. I never saw them again.

Road conditions were pretty good. Interstate riding seems safer than many other types of riding, as the shoulders are very wide. The shoulders were free of snow and there wasn't much debris. The dangerous areas are the on/offramps, where extra care is required, and then one narrow bridge at mile 47, just before Cle Elum. The bridge shoulder is only 1.5 feet wide (narrow), so you end up in the lane. Obviously this takes extra caution ... timing to ensure you aren't pulling in front of a semi or other traffic. Fortunately it is a relatively short bridge (150' or so) and as you will be quite motivated, the exposure is short lived. There is a bit of construction just before this, but as long as the barrels are to the side (which they were for us) it isn't an issue. Thai noted there is a bike detour at exit 78 around this, but I didn't see it.

Blewitt was also a breeze. By and large the climb was quite reasonable ... long to be sure, but steady and gradual. The shoulders on 97 were generally nice and wide and also for the most part free of debris. The exception was on the way down from the summit ... there were 3-4 places where a few rocks had tumbled down from the hillside (aka cliff) and were on the shoulder. It will be important to keep your eyes on the shoulder to avoid these ... at 30-35 mph it wouldn't be pretty. The good news is there were only a few and they were easy to see ... assuming you are looking! There was a bit of road kill ... a couple of deer thay had probably gotten in Brian/John's path!

Turning onto US-2 we ran into one of the few areas of poor road conditions. There is construction going on ... probably for less than a mile. The road surface is great ... newly paved blacktop ... but the shoulder is practically non-existent. The climb up wasn't too bad ... felt a bit tougher than Blewitt, probably a bit steeper at times, but then it may be just that it was the third of the three passes. There wasn't any snow on the road at the summit (lots just off the road ... it does cool you down ... especially on the way down). The ride down from the summit is fast and cold. Watch out for the grates at the side of the road, especially at the sharp U curve at the bottom. After that, the shoulder disappears a few times and there are a number of narrow bridges & one short shoulderless tunnel on the way down. Not much road debris ... I did hit some just before Zeke's/Gold Bar.

As to the other major concern ... food. According to Thai, the pie at Liberty Café (hwy 97) was worth the wait. He and Erik also stopped at the Deli (& Liquor) in Skykomish, opened 8-8PM on Saturday, across from Chevron. Sandwiches made to order by pre-filling a form, and they have nice warm soup. Lots to eat at Leavenworth and since the control is at a Subway, I figure you are set there. The next logical spot (and last one for quite a while) is at Sultan. There are numerous choices ... just before the main part of Sultan is a McDonalds and a Subway. In town there is a Bakery that is open till 8:00 PM for dinner (although they often close early!). At the turn to Old Owen Road was another restaurant, although I don't know how late it is open.

Now don't eat too much ... on the way out of town up Old Owen Road and the first part of Reiner Road is quite a hill! At the top of the hill, just when you start to catch your breath, you may run into (or be chased by) a dog ... at least I was. It wasn't one of those "I'm going to bark and run at you a few paces" type dogs. It was the Blondie "One Way or Another, I'm getcha, getcha, getcha" type. On the plus side it got me going again.

Climbing Snoqualmie Pass, Blewitt Pass, and Stevens Pass wasn't as tough as I had expected. Tiring to be sure, but nothing killer. The climbs were pretty much steady and gradual. My challenge was the last half of Dubuque beginning at about mile 195. The first part of Dubuque was wonderful ... generally a gradual downhill and quite gorgeous. While I knew there were hills ahead ... I've ridden this part several times as part of Permanent 359 Woodinville - Granite Falls - Woodinville ... and been sworn at by Narayan for the hills ... I think I was lulled into complacency by the first part of Dubuque and the fact that I'd already ridden 200 miles over three mountain passes ... what can a few hills do? Just past Creswell Road is the first one. Shortly past that, just before 171st, I thought the road turned a bit and there was a barn or house straight ahead (it was getting a bit dark at this point, although still "daylight"), but no, it wasn't the side of a house ... it was a hill! Buckle on the crampons and tie into the rope line. Fortunately it wasn't all that long, but it was quite a grade. A bit past that were a couple of rolling hills ... deep U's ... if you went down one side fast enough you'd make it 2/3rds the way up the other side and then have to peddle the rest. I was really glad to be done with Dubuque! Even the climb up to Snoqualmie Falls was a piece of cake after that.

The rest of the ride was pretty straight-forward ... aside from Paradise Lake Road, the roads were ones we've ridden many times (at least for me) ... no major surprises. Watch out for bad railroad tracks on Yew Way ... they grabbed Thai! Only other issue was a bit of road construction on North Bend Way just past the QFC. Unpaved for 0.1 mile or so and riding between cones on a curvy lane in the dark was a bit disconcerting. North Bend Way seemed to go on forever, but I suppose that was just that it was the end of the ride.

Monday, May 5, 2008

RUSA 341 Leschi-North Bend-Leschi

After not getting a lot of riding in over the weekend (Tour de Tummy was great, but not what I would consider a training ride), and having decided I needed to do the 400K this coming weekend, a sense of needing to get more miles in was growing. What to do? While I was pondering my choices, I received an e-mail from Narayan about a SIR rider who had recently finished the 341 Permanent but had not answered the question at the first information control with the expected answer. Could it be that it was a reasonable answer? - only way to tell would be to head out to the site and look around to see how they could have come up with that answer. So, there's my decision ... I'll ride the 341 Permanent. I'll work the AM, then ride in the afternoon & evening. Glad that's settled.

Wait. Now we're going to Sarah & Tanner's for Cinco de mayo dinner ... I'll have to cancel the ride or leave early. Guess it's time to rearrange my work schedule.

So it's off to Leschi for a 7:00 AM start. Leschi is only five miles or so from home, so I decide to ride to/from the start point. After all, what's ten more miles on top of 130? I'm training to ride 250 this weekend right? An uneventful start gets me to the UW campus in time to be almost run over by ten or so Army runners looking quite impressive. After that, there were another ten or so that straggled over the next 1/2 mile or so ... they looked quite different than the first ten and more like I would have.

On to the first control and lo and behold, the answer that the rider had put down was actually quite reasonable. Not the right one, but reasonable enough that we could give him credit for the ride. That's a relief! The rest of the morning ride was uneventful, ending at the half-way point - North Bend - and what must be the high point of the ride elevation point ... it's mostly downhill from here, right?

Wrong. Definately wrong. There were several points ... on Issaquah-Fall City Road and on Lake Francis Road ... that were higher ... and several others that were close ... Newport Road and May Valley Road. Who created this Permanent anyway? Oh, never mind. Well, it is good training. I guess I understand why Narayan was commeenting on all the climbing. I'm almost to Lake Francis Road when I see Mark Thomas along with Robin & Amy Pieper headed the other way. It's a nice day to be out!

It is a blessing that most of the last 22 miles is downhill or flat, with only one relatively small hill.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Tour de Tummy

Saturday promised to be a nice day, with a little rain in the morning to start off with. I had been thinking of riding the Bainbridge - Port Townsend - Bainbridge Permanent, but the opportunity to ride with Mark Thomas and cohorts sounded much more appealing, especially since I wasn't sure I would be able to get done with the Permanent in time to head out to Quilcene to cover the Control for the 300K Brevet. The fact that I could sleep in till 6:30 or so instead of getting up at 5:00 probably factored in as well.

Mark and Peter McKay pulled in behind me at the ferry terminal (we were both in cars) and transferred Control supplies to my car while we waited to get on the ferry.

We got off the ferry and headed to a coffee shop by Safeway to get ready. The first step obviously was to have coffee while we waited for that early morning rain to pass by. A few tall drinks and tall tales later we hit the road. Of course the rain was still around, but not a big deal. Our plan ... we did have a plan right? ... was to head to Poulsbo on our way over to Port Hadlock. By the time we got to Poulsbo the rain was coming down a bit harder ... and look, a bakery ! A little while later the rain lightened up and we headed out. Mark had a plan for where we were going, so he shouted out directions.

When we got to the Hood Canal Bridge it was time to make a decision ... and Port Gamble won out over Port Hadlock. We decided to avoid the bridge and go for a shorter ride ... after all that early morning rain seemed to be sticking around. A couple of miles later and we were at Port Gamble and another chance for food & drink. The chicken soup was pretty decent. Of course all good things must come to an end and it was time to hit the road again. But wait! Mark had a flat tire. So while Mark changed his tire with Bob Brudvick's help (who got to test his new mini-pump), the rest of us went back inside to warm up and watch the show. Let's just say Bob isn't quite satisfied with his new pump.

Back to Bainbridge Island we went. Quite a few hills along the way, but at least it was pretty countryside on the way. We were glad our legs were fresh ... basically untested, not like the 300K riders that would be sorely tested by the hills tonight at the end of their ride. Reaching the end of our ride ... a whopping 40 miles and 2800 feet of climbing, we felt we deserved to eat ... it was time for a nice lunch ! As Amy put it, today was not a negative calorie day.