Thursday, June 26, 2008

Am I Ready?

The Cascade 1200 starts in 35 hours.
1200K in 93 hours
On my bike
Am I ready?

My bike has been set up and road tested.
It's been tuned up.
New chain, new cogs, new brake pads ...
It is ready. Am I?

My equipment is together.
Food, drink, & sunscreen for on the road.
Overnight bag for off the road.
It is ready. Am I?

My body has been prepped.
2000 K on the Tour de Superior in the past two weeks.
Now renewing itself.
It is ready. Am I?

My mind has planned it.
Reviewed the course.
Developed a plan.
It is ready. Am I?

I test ride the bike.
I feel the wind.
I flow with the bike.
I am ready!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 10 Silver Bay, MN to Ashland, WI (RUSA 434)

I’m full. We knew the ride was over when Jerry couldn’t eat any more.

Today’s ride was the longest of the ten days … 168 miles. Not a lot of climbing … it was supposed to be a bit more than yesterday, which ended up at 3,200 feet. Given the length, we wanted to get an early start … on the road by 6:00 AM. Breakfast didn’t start until 6:00, but Jerry asked if they could start it at 5:30 and it happened! So we got a nice start after a decent breakfast.

It was sunny, blue skies, and only a 20 % chance of showers. And warm. Jerry started with no arm/leg warmers or jacket. The wimp that I am I had all of those, but at least without the jacket sleeves. The ride into Duluth was very nice, especially from Two Harbors into town. We rode on old 61, which had very little traffic. Also, no need for guardrail stops … there had been a marathon over the weekend and there were lots of porta-potties along the route. Very convenient.

After our first control in Duluth, we headed over to Superior over US-2. Just as we were about to get on the onramp to the bridge, I saw a sign to the bike/pedestrian route. I yelled to Dave, but he was already on his way. We waited to see if he was going to come back, but when he went on, we decided to follow him to avoid possibly getting separated. We had to wait for the light, so by the time we got going he was out of sight … it is a big bridge, maybe a mile or so from end to end and goes way up. As we rode up the west side, crossing the several merging onramps, a state patrolman saw us & began to slow down. We got the hint and lifted our bikes over the railing onto the bike path that had now joined the bridge, crawled over and rode the rest of the way on that … which was not only safer, but free of broken glass and other debris which was very prominent on the regular lanes. When we got to the other side, the bike path separated from the road, going down below to regular surface streets. Where was Dave? He wasn’t there. Looking around, we saw him up above, still on US-2. There was no way either of us could get up or down at this point, so we figured out a place down the road where US-2 and the side roads intersections joined, and met there.

Shortly after leaving Superior we were going to be on back roads with no restaurants and few if any convenience stores for over 50 miles, so we stopped at a Subway for lunch, even though it was a bit early. Since we had snacked in Duluth at the control there, as well as a stop before Duluth, we weren’t especially hungry … so only 6” subs instead of the usual foot longs. Then it was time for the back roads of upper Wisconsin. We made pretty good time … with little traffic and good roads, it was pleasant riding. About 12 miles before Cornucopia, our other mid-ride control, we stopped for a cool drink and some ice cream … it was warm riding in the sun for a change. We then stopped at the general store in Cornucopia, across the street from the northernmost post office in Wisconsin. No cold Gatorade, so I had a cold orange Mountain Dew.

There were a few tall hills in this stretch, reaching up to a 1,000 feet … Lake level is around 600 feet. While a 400 foot climb isn’t all that high, after 1,200 miles of riding the legs were a bit tired and my climbing was a bit slow. The downhills were nice though. We pulled in to Bayfield, a nice touristy town about 20 miles from the end and decided it was time for some real ice cream this time (we had had ice cream sandwiches earlier). The little ice cream store was a bit busy, so it took a while … but that was fine by me…gave my legs a chance to recover a bit. We left Bayfield renewed and refreshed and made good time to the motel in Ashland. We finished at 6:00 PM, after twelve hours of riding – 165 miles and 3,700 feet of climbing.

We had done it! 1,277 miles in ten days around Lake Superior. After dinner, we called Ken to share the news … the internet connection at the hotel was down, so updating the blogs would be delayed.

Now to disassemble the bike and get it packed for the trip back home ... and then on to the cascade 1200 on saturday!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 9 Thunder Bay, Ontario to Silver Bay, MN (RUSA 433)

Today was a nice ride. Nothing fancy, nothing spectacular, but a very enjoyable ride. We started out from Thunder Bay at 7:00 AM just as it started to rain lightly. It didn't seem like it was going to rain all day and it was going to be reasonably warm ... mid-sixties (which is warm compared to what we're used to), so we didn't get all bundled up. Rain jackets yes, but no rain pants. I wore my new light rain jacket that is easy to take on /off and put in a pocket ... we expected periodic showers. It was a light rain for the first hour or so, just enough to be glad to have the jacket on.

It was about 35 miles to the border crossing and we made it in pretty good time. This was the start of today's permanent, since it had to start in the USA, we started it at the border crossing. My card was signed at 8:18 AM ... 35 miles in 1 hr 18 minutes ... not bad ! I guess the time zone change helped a bit ... it was really 2 hrs and 18 minutes. I was the first one through the border crossing, so I turned to take a picture of Dave and Jerry when I got yelled at from several guards ... NO PICTURES ! I thought the camera was going to get impounded, but no ... I rode away quickly. I'd show you the picture but then we'd all be in trouble.

The next 45 miles or so were wonderful to ride on. After riding much of the past four days on shoulders that were 1.5 feet wide and often crumbling, with frequent heavy rucks zipping by, to ride on 15+ foot wide smooth shoulders with light traffic was heavenly. It is so much less stressful and is much easier to see the sights instead of focusing on the next 15 feet of road. And the views were nice.

Shortly after lunch at the Grand Marais Subway, the roads reverted to a narrow shoulder, with wide cracks to avoid. We had spoken too soon! At least traffic wasn't too bad and it wasn't raining. Once again, we spoke too soon. We got caught in a torrential downpour and were soon soaked. It was the kind of rain that is hard to see through. But it didn't last all that long and we were able to ride the last bit with only the threat of rain ... and some occasional sunbreaks. We made it to the hotel in Silver Bay shortly after 3:00 PM ... and then it rained again.

There was 3,200 feet of climbing on our 131 mile ride (96 miles for the Permanent). Only one really big hill, right after the border crossing.

The hotel today was an AmericInn, a definite step up from the last several days ... and it had a hot tub! It was very relaxing.

After a soak we went to dinner at the Lemon Wolf Cafe. It was probably the best meal of the trip and we had a good time. It must have shown, as the waitress asked if we were brothers!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 8 Nipigon, Ontario to Thunder Bay, Ontario

Food. Today's focus was on food. Our motel wasn't the highlight of the trip and while it advertised a continental breakfast, our scouts pointed out that the antartic is a continent too, but is pretty desolate. We opted out, choosing a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast instead. At least that was the plan. We had wrestled with the choice of going back towards town a little ways or going 5-6 miles down our day's route. Our scouts informed us that the restaurant back towards town was the better choice, so we somewhat reluctantly headed back towards town to start the day. I for one hate going the opposite direction ... probably too many war movies as a kid ... never retreat! Anyway, we got to the restaurant shortly after 7:00 AM. It was dark. It was a 24 hour restaurant, so we were a bit puzzled. It was also a gas station/convenice store ... which was open. We went in and the waitresses were having coffee ... they had just been told they were closed until further notice. Bummer.

So we decided to head for our other choice, the one 5-6 miles down the road. No big deal, we just get to work up a little appetite. Well, while it had been open during the day the day before, it was now closed. Darn. At least we had some bars and stuff to hold us until a restaurant down the road. We had looked at the map yesterday and there were several towns along the route ... certainly there would be a place soon. The first town came and went ... no stores, no restaurants. The second town came and went, again not stores, no restaurants. Finally, after about twenty miles, at an intersection not in a town there was a store/gas station on the right and a motel/gas station/restaurant on the left. And it was open! We went in and sat down. I noticed that the customers were all having coffee. Okay? The proprietor came up and offered us coffee. I asked what they had to eat. The cook had been fired, but a new one was on the way. Bummer. We went across the road and found a few things to eat/drink at the convenience store. Not quite the breakfast we had expected, but we weren't starving.

The ride today was only about 70 miles ... by far the shortest ride and way below the ten day average of 127. Dave's brother lives by Thunder Bay ... we were going to visit him later in the day. But first we had to finish the ride. The middle third of today's ride was the worst riding of the trip. There was a 21K section under contruction ... the first half of which the road had been stripped of the blacktop and was being prepared for paving. It was hell. Between the bouncing from the criss-crossed residual blacktop, to avoiding the cracks/potholes in the underlying concrete, while staying away from the passing traffic, it was very difficult to ride. At one point I looked up and realized that I had been so distracted/focused on the road that I had just climbed a several hundred foot climb without noticing.

We finally made it to the outskirts of Thunder Bay and opted to continue on 17, which basically goes around the town, since that is what we had origninally routed and our hotel was just off of 17. At this point 17 becomes a divided highway and we soon came to realize that bikes are not permitted. We exited at the first opportunity, but didn't know how to get to the hotel. Unlike the recent towns of 2,500 or so, Thunder Bay at 110,000 was large enough that we couldn't just wander around. Fortunately my Garmin Edge 705 came in handy ... I looked up the hotel and it routed us across town to it.

Just before the hotel I saw a McDonalds. Even though we were going to go for a BBQ shortly after arriving, I had to eat. So we pulled in, had a quick lunch, then headed to the motel. After showering and changing, we headed to Dave's brothers for a BBQ. It was nice to meet Phil, Sarah, and their friends. On the way back afterwards, we decided we should see if there was a DQ. I checked it out in Dave/Sandy's car GPS ... the nearest one was 152 miles away. Bummer.

After getting back to the hotel, I checked out the Edge 705 for DQ's. There is one 2.6 miles away. Eureka! Our first DQ since Munising.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 7 Marathon, Ontario to Nipigon, Ontario

Sun. A day riding in the sun was a welcome change. While everything had been gorgeous earlier in the ride, with the sun out the colors were more vivid and the views all the more stunning. The day didn't start out sunny, it was very foggy when we left. In fact, because of the narrow shoulders I told Jerry and Dave that when trucks come by I'm going to assume they can't see us and just ride off the shoulder onto the dirt if we're on the narrow part. Fortunately that only happened once ... then the fog lifted and viola, sun. We rode without arm/leg warmers and even remembered to put on sun screen!

It was another relatively hilly day ... 5,800 feet of climbing over the 115 miles. Other than some construction just before Nipigon the roads were decent ... keeping in mind that we're used to riding with narrow shoulders ... and the traffic minimal. We saw a couple more moose, and caught one with the camera this time.

We were going to stop in Terrace Bay for lunch, as there was a Subway there, but when we got there it was only eleven ... a bit too early and since it wasn't half-way through the ride distance wise, we decided to push on to the next town - Schreiber. At Schreiber Dave and I had lunch - subs. Jerry for some reason ordered a medium pizza from Pizza Hut (it was a combo KFC, Pizza Hut, Deli/Donut shop, and motel. Fortunately for Jerry, Sandy and Dorothy pulled in and we all helped him eat it.

A little while later we met a group of five riders coming the opposite direction. They were riding across Canada raising money for Muscular Dystrophy. They had panniers with their stuff, plus three trailers that they took turns pulling. Wow! I'm glad we're doing it without having to carry all our stuff. We exchanged notes on the road up ahead, then departed.

We reached Nipigon just in time to get soaked in a short downpour ... a nice way to cool off I guess. The motel was on the far side of Nipigon. Since Nipigon is a small town fortunately it was only a couple of miles. Dorothy and Sandy had already checked in, so we cleaned our bikes, showered, and went for dinner. It was an early evening, which was nice ... a good nights sleep will be nice to our legs. They feel pretty good considering they've taken us 900 miles over the past week!

Tomorrow is the shortest ride of the ten days ... 72 miles or so.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 6 Wawa, Ontario to Marathon, Ontario

As we left Wawa this morning we stopped by the General Store ... Jerry had to say good-bye to the store's moose. The store had all sorts of odds & ends, including the above moose. It wasn't the only one we saw today, but it was the closest we got to one.

Besides the moose, there were these giant snow geese all over town.

Here's a shot of the real, live moose we saw today. Can't see him? ... neither can I, but he was there, really. We did see a couple others that had been hit by a car, but I didn't take their picture.

The forecast for the day was light rain all day long. After riding in the rain a couple of days earlier, we were going to be prepared this time. We started out with all our rain gear on as it definately looked like rain as we left... and it didn't rain a drop ... until a few minutes after we got to the hotel in Marathon. I guess that is a good thing, but it sure is frustrating trying to figure out the weather. Now it is supposed to be clear tomorrow ... do I believe the forecast?

A few miles out of Wawa I had a moment of panic ... Dave and I had forgotten to get our RUSA Brevet Cards signed to indicate when/where we started. Do we go back and get them signed ... an extra five miles or so (uphill of course)? Then I remember, today's ride ... and the next several, weren't able to be set up as Permanents as they have to start in the US for insurance reasons. So no need for any bonus miles.

The ride today was away from the Lake, generally inland from the northeast corner of Lake Superior. Our lunch stop was White River. It's claim to fame is that it is Winnie the Pooh's home town. Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a Canadian Army Veterinarian, purchased a Black Bear Cub at White River on August 24, 1914. He was on his way overseas. He named the cub "Winnie" after Winnipeg, Manitoba (his home town). Coleburn left "Winnie" in the care of the London Zoo, while he served in France. In 1919, he gave Winnie to the Zoo. In 1926, A.A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepard created the fictional character "Winnie the Pooh" based on the bear. We skipped the site though.

Not as many lakes as the second half of yesterday's ride, but still quite a few. Lots and lots of trees and rolling hills - 3,100 feet of climbing over the 116 miles. It wasn't a particularly tough day, but being the sixth day of 100 + miles per day has taken its toll. I was tired by the end of the ride!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 5 Sault Ste Marie, MI to Wawa, Ontario (RUSA 438)

Scenic. Today's ride was gorgeous. The pictures I took didn't come close to capturing the beauty. On the coast, the sandy beaches, the towering cliffs, and the windswept trees were a sight to see. Inland, the countless lakes, streams, and meadows in the endless forest and towering hills were dazzling. It was well worth the ride.

We started out at 6:45 AM from Sault Ste Marie in Michigan. When we got to the toll bridge to go to Canada, the highway department had all lanes blocked just before the toll booths - they were painting the lines. Well, two guys in one truck were. There were a dozen workers standing and watching. After a few minutes, we decided to work our way around the traffic and highway trucks blocking the road ... we went and paid the toll and were on our way. Our reward was we were able to cross without any vehicle traffic ... that was a nice treat. Other than that, the first 15-20 miles were rather mundane as we worked our way through the two Sault Ste Marie's and the first part of 17.

By Pancake Bay at about mile 52 the scenery was picking up. There was a lot of truck traffic along the route ... and not much of a shoulder. It was often non-existent. Most of the truckers were pretty good about giving us room, but there was a DHL driver who basically drove us off the road. Not a fun experience. Fed Ex and UPS drivers were much better! We updated our weather outlook with the Pancake Bay Weather Station (above).

After Pancake Bay the scenery became even prettier and the ride much hillier. Total climbing was 5,800 feet over the 148 miles. We finished at 6:45 PM ... a twelve hour day. We were tired and ready for a nice soak in the hot tub. They do have one, right? Yes, but it is a portable one that you have to reserve 24 hours in advance. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 4 Munising, MI to Sault Ste Marie, MI (RUSA 437)

The word for the day was wet. The forecast for the day was showers. We had had showers on earlier days and they were short ... lasting just a few minutes. Today was different. If I took a shower that long our water bill would be astronomical. Basically it rained. It drizzled. It sprinkled. It misted. It paused a few times ... just reloading though. Even though we wore our rain gear, by the end of the day we were wet. And with all the sand that was on our bikes we could have started our own beach.

After leaving Munising the first few miles were a "climb" of a couple hundred feet. Nothing much, but then the next forty miles or so were straight, flat, and pretty much the same - green forest on either side, wet pavement, and grey sky. The variety was limited to how much grass on the side of the road before the trees start, how hard it was raining, and how much time there was between cars/trucks. Most of the drivers were pretty good about moving over to pass us - although one truck moved over from the oncoming lane just to spray us ... at least that is how it seemed.

We had a few stops for warmth - hot chocolate and toe warmers were popular.

Close to 90 miles of toady's 130 were on M-28. Most of it was pretty good riding, but there were eight miles or so just after Newberry that was a bit painful - the road was pretty much falling apart. I suppose that is why they were just starting on a road project there. We turned off 28 at Strong's corner to head up to the Lake. It was a very pleasant, pretty road with only a few cars. We passed under a tree that had many shoes hangin from it - not sure what that was about. We had contemplated not taking the turn - would have saved 8 or 9 miles - but it was worth it. Still, by the time we reached the Sault Ste Marie area, we were ready to be done.

However, it was not to be ... at least not yet. Jerry had a flat. He's had one a day so far. He's getting good at changing them, so it didn't take long and we were at the hotel. We washed the bikes off before heading in. A few minutes later Jerry and I were in the hot whirpool, thawing out. It had been a cold, wet 130 miles with about 1,500 feet of climbing.

A little while later we headed next door to Studabakers for dinner. It was pretty good - not all you can eat, but then there were multiple trips to the soup & salad bar that made up for it. No DQ today ... it was too cold when we arrived, but I did get my pint of Ben & Jerry's! Dorothy did a load of wash - so clean clothes for tomoorw's ride - thanks Dorothy! And Laura called to wish me a belated father's day!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 3 Houghton, MI to Munising, MI (RUSA 436)

Day three, from Houghton to Munising, was a 143 mile ride. While the mapping software suggested it was going to be close to 6,000 feet of climbing, it was only about 3,100 feet, so it ended up being much easier than expected. That's a good thing. For our third day of riding, we did well and felt great at the end, finishing at 5:00 PM after a 7:00 AM start.

The question for the day was how would Jerry's knee hold up. A day of rest with ice, coupled with a wrap did wonders. His knee held up fine and he felt great. Perhaps a bit too good. We had to tell him to scale it back a couple of times ... maybe for tomorrow we'll loosen the wrap a bit. :)

Here are Dave and Jerry after Marquette, shortly after the 100 mile mark. Today was a bit cooler, so we kept leg/arm warmers and jackets on pretty much the whole time. We got a little rain a couple of times, but every time Jerry put his rain jacket on the rain went away. I figured that out and only put mine on once for a little bit. Worked out pretty good.

Towards the end of the ride, about ten miles from Munising, we got our history lesson for the day. Lake Superior was named by the French simply that it was "above" (i.e. Superior) to Lake Huron. Imagine that.

The town before Munising is Christmas ... even though it was June there was Christmas stuff everywhere. We had to stop and partake. We then arrived in Munising ... 10 hours and 5 minutes. First order of business was of course Dairy Queen, which fortunately was on the route to the motel. Jerry was distracted by one of the antique cars we had seen on our ride yesterday and rode right past the DQ. We set him straight right away!

After getting settled in to the motel we went to dinner at Sydney's and were quite pleased with the dinner. Jerry and I had spagetti - much, much better than yesterday's. Some of the antique car group came in and sat by us, so we chatted a bit about our rides - did you know that the cars originally had their steering wheels on the right hand side, basically because that is where horse drawn wagons were driven from - the lead horse was on the right and the driver could crack the whip on the right without hitting an oncoming wagon? And Henry Ford is credited for moving the steering to the left so that ladies could get out on the boardwalk instead of in the middle of the muddy roads?

After dinner we were still hungry, so we went across the road to the grocery store - Jerry and Dave split a package of six Klondike bars. I restrained myself - only had a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt.

We're expecting tomorrow to be a relatively easy day - 130 miles and 2,300 feet of climbing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 2 Houghton, MI to Houghton, MI

Today is a bit of an optional day. We go from Houghton out to the end of the Peninsula to Copper Harbor and back ... 100 miles. It isn't necessary to do it to go around Lake Superior, but by doing so we get to see a few more parts of the coastline and hey, it's a great reason to get in another day of riding. Since it is Sunday, breakfast at the motel doesn't start till 7:00 AM (Eastern) so we get up at 6:30 and end up not hitting the road till bout 7:45. Not that we ate that big a breakfast ... we were just slow.

The ride starts going down to the river ... a 250 foot drop, then climbs 4-500 feet within 2.5 miles. The day was supposed to be cool with chance of showers, but by the time we got part way up the hill it was time to start peeling off the leg and arm warmers ... and slathering on the sunscreen.

At the top of the hill is the Quincy Mine. No longer operating, it is now a museum. Apparently they offer tram rides. Now if those were from the bottom of the hill and we could have taken our bikes up .... wishful thinking. We continue on and after a few more miles Jerry decides his knee is giving him too much trouble and is going to turn back. Hopefully a day of relative rest and ice will help.

As we ride on, we start seeing a bunch of old cars ... Model T's and such. We see one parked at a cafe, so I pull over to take a picture (above). There are 7 or 8 of these old cars parked. It turns out there is a group of them - 29 old cars - that are taking three weeks to go around Lake Superior. And we're doing it in ten days on our bikes! Apparently we'll see them again at Munising tomorrow.

We then run into the above sign ... at first glance we thought it was one of those "we've collected x $'s towards our goal of xxx", but no, it is a measure of the snowfall they received in one winter a few years ago ... 390 inches. That is a lot of snow to shovel! The ride so far today has been inland on the peninsula, but that is about to change ... we turn towards the coast right as it starts to rain. They had forecast isolated showers ... one just found us. Fortunately I had my new rain jacket, so I pulled it out and put it on. It worked great. Thanks George and Patti!

The rain doesn't last for long ... just a few minutes, and has stopped before we see the lake. As one would expect, the coast is pretty. It is a bit windy too - fortunately a tail wind pushes us along. We follow the coast up the peninsula. While we don't see a lot of wildlife, I do cross paths with a large snapping turtle. We then stop in Copper Harbor and have lunch.

After lunch we start out right away heading uphill. Ugh! It is a slow start. The afternoon ends up much that way - slow. It is a long afternoon - net uphill and against a headwind. But it is pretty and a nice day to be out. We get back shortly after 4 PM - a total of 100 miles and 3,800 feet of climbing. Of course we end the ride at Dairy Queen.

PS After a rest we went out to eat at Geno's, an italian place in Hancock. We were in search of good pasta. We found pasta. It was an enjoyable dinner. As we were headed out to the car after dinner, Dorothy's phone range. It was Jessica, Tanya, and Sarah, three of my daughters, calling to wich me a happy father's day. That was a nice treat and a great way to end the day ... I went to bed and got over eight hours of sleep for the first time in a long time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tour de Superior: Day 1 Ashland, WI to Houghton, MI (RUSA 435)

Today was day 1 of Tour de Superior - Dave, Jerry, and I are going to ride around Lake Superior. We're going to take 10 days to do it at something like 120 miles per day on average. Yes, we're nuts ... we proved that last year when we rode across the country from LA to Boston on America By Bicycle's Fast America ride. That is where we met. We generally rode together on many of the 32 days of that ride. It was a great time and the natural reaction was ... what's next? Dave came up with the suggestion to ride around Lake Superior and so here we are. While last year's ride was a fully supported ride - sag wagon, scheduled sag stops with snacks/lunch, mechanic - this year's ride is not. Sandy (Dave's wife) and Dorothy (my wife) are driving the luggage from motel to motel, but we won't see them along the way. Not as cushy as last year, but it is great not to have to deal with the luggage or to have to try and live out of a pannier. Thanks Sandy and Dorothy!

Here's an overview of the 10 days:

Day 01 Ashland, WI to Houghton, MI (RUSA 435)
Day 02 Houghton, MI to Houghton, MI
Day 03 Houghton, MI to Munising, MI (RUSA 436)
Day 04 Munising, MI to Sault Ste Marie, MI (RUSA 437)
Day 05 Sault Ste Marie, MI to Wawa, Ontario (RUSA 438)
Day 06 Wawa, Ontario to Marthon, Ontario
Day 07 Marathon, Ontario to Nipigon, Ontario
Day 08 Nipigon, Ontario to Thunder Bay, Ontario
Day 09 Thunder Bay, Ontario to Silver Bay, MN (RUSA 433-part)
Day 10 Silver Bay, MN to Ashland, WI (RUSA 434)

Six of the ten days have been set up as RUSA Free-Route Permanents - Dave and I are RUSA members and we'll follow the RUSA requirements to document our rides. We would have had more of the rides set up as permanents, but there is a requirement that the rides start in the US, so it was not to be. Permanent 438, from Sault Ste Marie, MI to Wawa, Ontario is the first RUSA Permanent to go into Canada.

My alarm was set for 3:30 AM ... 5:30 AM local time (Central), but I hadn't adjusted from Seattle time. Seemed a bit early, but we wanted to be on the road at 6:00 AM local time to go for breakfast in town and then get started. Today was the 2nd longest day ... mileage wise it was about 150 miles, so we wanted to have plenty of time. Not a lot of climbing - turned out to be about 3,500 feet - but that's just fine. Right to left in the above picture is Dave, Jerry, and Geoff. So we set off and had breakfast at the Country Kitchen in Ashland, then started our ride at about 6:45 AM.

A little ways down the road we saw a historical marker. We had to stop in honor of Ken. Four of us had planned on making the ride. Unfortunately, last fall Ken, the fourth, had a catastrophic failure of his bike's forks and had a major accident and wasn't able to recover in time for the ride. Ken was also on last year's Fast America ride. It seemed like Ken stopped at every historical marker along the route ... so we stopped at this one for him.

A couple of hours later we crossed into Michigan. Jerry flagged down another bicyclist (one of the few other bicyclists we saw all day) to take our picture. We have many of these state sign pictures from last year; this was our first from this ride.

One of the parts of this ride that I had been looking forward to was the opportunity to visit Bessemer, Michigan. Now Bessemer is a pretty small place, with not much going on. Why did I want to go there? Well, I wear a garnet ring on my right hand that was my great-grandfather's. He was killed in a mine accident in Butte, Montana in 1910 - fuse too short on the dynamite according to the inquest. Family lore says he was killed because he was active in the miners union, but who knows. He is buried in Bessemer. I had directions to where his plot was at the Hillcrest Cemetery (picture from We went up and down the rows, but unfortunately couldn't find his grave. Oh well. Gives me a good excuse to come back some time!

From Bessemer we continued on towards our next stop in Ontonagon, back on the coast. It was a nice ride ... lots and lots of green around. And blue sky too! Today was one of the first nice days around here - per the locals. Having forgotten what riding in the sun means, I forgot to put on sunscreen and so am now paying for it. At least I went and bought sunscreen for tomorrow (although supposedly we won't need it per the forecast). But it was nice to ride with a bit of a favorable tailwind, blue sky, and without fenders! Anyway, we made it to Ontonagon in good time and stopped at a new Subway. It hadn't been there when Dave and Sandy scouted the ride last fall. It was so new that the address on the receipt I got from the credit card machine had the address of a different store in a different city - hopefully that won't cause a problem with validation of the Permanent Card (Ontonagon was a control stop).

With fifty miles to go, we hit the road again about 2:45 (Eastern now). Jerry was having problems with his knee, so we ended up going a bit slower at this point. This was fine by me, as we had been riding a lot faster than I am used to riding (although similar to last year's Fast America pace). Dave got a call from Sandy - the trailer has a flat tire, but fortunately it is only about half a block from the motel. We'll deal with that when we get there - they can get to the hotel just fine.

About half way through this leg (by Twin Lakes) we pulled over at a local convenience store that had a sign for homemade Pastys. Pastys are miner food - sort of like a beef pot pie, with beef, potatoes, carrots, and rutabagos in a pastery shell - that they would take down into the mines for their lunch. Jerry bought one and split it with us ... I've had them before, it was pretty good.

A couple of miles from the end Jerry cramps up. He says he's going to walk it off, so Dave and I head for the motel. We make it to the trailer, get our bags and head for the motel. We've made it. At 6:25 PM (Eastern), after 10 hrs and 40 minutes from our official start in Ashland. A little while later, Jerry pulls in - he had a flat tire to end his ride! Dave changes the tire; I provide a bit of moral support.

After a shower and a quick soak in the hot tub, we head for dinner at Applebee's. Then to DQ for desert - a tradition from our cross country ride. I have a guilt-free cherry blizzard. Good stuff. Fun day.

Tomorrow is a shorter day where we head out to the end of the peninsula and back ... end up at the same hotel, so no need to pack up tonight. And since it is Sunday tomorrow, they don't serve breakfast until 7:00 AM ... gee, I guess we'll sleep in a little - although the alarm clock will still say 3:30 AM unless I reset it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

SIR Spring 600K: Awesome, Epic Even

This weekend was the SIR Spring 600K ride. It was awesome, perhaps epic. Brad Tilden and the support crew did a fantasic job. They were amazing. Thank you! For those not familiar with the course, it is 375 miles from Issaquah over Stevens Pass (4,000 feet) to Leavenwoth, then over Blewett Pass (4,100 feet) to Ellensberg, then through the Yakima River Canyon to Selah (by Yakima), then up towards White Pass for the stop at abou 400 K 250 miles). Day two starts with a climb the rest of the way up White Pass (4,500 feet), then down and then back up to Cayuse Pass at 4,700 feet. From there it is a "stroll in the park", another 90 miles or so to Issaquah via Enumclaw.

Talking at the start of the ride we were hoping for an awesome ride. Awesome, but not epic. The course, the support, the views, and the riders were awesome. The weather, on the other hand bordered on epic. Thursday's forecast for Friday and Saturday was, to say the least, concerning:

"This new system is expected to drop as much as 1-2 feet of snow in the Cascades and Olympics above 5,500 feet, with general snow levels dropping as low as 3,500 feet. That can result in hazards for mountaineering and travel in the high backcountry with poor visibility, cold temperatures and potential avalanche dangers once again. It also means those driving Stevens Pass, Chinook Pass, Washington Pass, and the roads to Paradise and Hurricane Ridge could see snow and poor visibility, although snow totals should be 3" or less."

While snow fortunately did not materialize (it is back in the forecast though), it was unseasonably cold, the start of the ride was wet, and it was windy. Oh, and did I say windy? More on that later.

The ride started at Brad Tilden's house in Issaquah at 5:00 AM. The first part of the ride up to Skykomish on US-2 was for the most part on familiar roads, the exception being taking Ames Lake Road to head over to West Sammamish Valley Road due to the Tolt Bridge construction. These are great low-traffic rural roads. While it started out basically dry, it soon turned wet and chilly. The socks stayed wet all day.

The mist/rain would continue until we got a few miles past Stevens Pass around mid-day. While we had ridden over Stevens Pass on the 400K a few weeks earlier, heading East instead of West is a much tougher climb. While there fortunately wasn't any fresh snow, it was cold and wet. Then the ride down from the summit was verrry cold. Fortunately the sky turn blue just as we were turning blue, thawing us out a bit. There was even a bit of a favorable tailwind on our way into Leavenworth.

After a lunch break in Leavenworth, it was on to Blewett Pass. As we turned off US-2 onto 97, we were hit with a blast of wind. A taste of things to come? Fortunately it didn't last all that long, but did come back periodically. Still, with the now sunny skys it didn't affect our disposition ... much. It was a long, slow climb up to Blewett, but when we made it to the top, there was Brad Tilden with food, drink, and chairs. Those chairs sure felt good. The tent shook in the wind ... it sure seemed like it was going to blow away. The ride down was nice, but into a periodic head/crosswind that shaved a few mph off the ride.

At 970, we turned towards Ellensburg. I was expecting a headwind given the strong cross gusts I'd just been hit with. I was pleasantly surprised by a strong tailwind that actually helped push us up the hill for the first few miles, then a great push into Ellensburg ... mid-30's on a long, long downhill, without much pedaling. That was great! And pretty landscapes to boot.

After some food in Ellensberg, it was off to the Yakima River Canyon. What a gorgeous ride! Fortunately we were headed downstream, unlike the 2002 riding of this course, which was in the other direction. For a fantastic story about that ride, ask Peter Beeson about his run-in with a skunk and his calling AAA for a tow in the middle of the night.

After setting up for night riding, Dave Harper and I rode through Selah and then went onto US-12. This is where the ride went downhill ... figurately speaking. It was now dark and US-12 has rumble strips on the shoulders ... these take up most of the shoulders ... with a relatively narrow and sometimes non-existent strip that could be ridden on. Perhaps it could be ridden on during daylight ... where one could see the glass (there was a fair amount of that) ... and if it wasn't windy and if we weren't tired. As it was, we kept trying to ride there, then would give up and ride the white line, then give up and bbbbounce bbback over to try again. It got old quickly. As US-12 is four lanes at this point, with a fair amount of fast traffic, it was not a pleasant experience. After Naches, it got nasty. The wind really picked up. Sometimes a headwind, sometimes a cross-wind, never consistent, but always strong ... STRONG. So strong that at one point earlier in the day it stood Bob Brudvik up. It would push us into the traffic lane, it made it very slow going. At the 410/US-12 interchange, we finally were able to get shelter and rest at a much needed food stop/control. The support team was great ... the food was fantastic.

A few minutes of rest and sustenance and we were back on our way ... at 11:15 PM and 25 miles to go to the overnight control. The sky was clear and the stars were oh so clear. One wanted to just sit and look at them. What a fantastic sight. But no, we had to push on. However, it wasn't so simple. We were tired ... weaving back and forth as we tried to stay awake. Finally, Dave says he's going to pull over and nap but I should go on. Dave ends up taking 5 naps along the way before he finally makes it to the overnight. I push on ... I must have ridden 30 miles instead of the 25 given all the weaving I did. Fortunately there was virtually no traffic at this point. I tell myself just make it to the next mile post, then the next, then the next, and finally ... the overnight.

I pull in and it is like the Ritz Carlton ... being pampered left and right by the control support team. They take care of my bike, bring me food, drink, as they bring me back to a state of near normalacy. They were awesome ! Finally feeling somewhat concious, I head to my room, take a shower and fall into bed. Shortly before my alarm was to go off, I wake up and realize I now had two roommates, including one in bed with me. I was so out of it I hadn't heard them come in. I get up, take my stuff out to the hall and finish dressing there so hopefully I don't wake them. Then breakfast - the support folks have a nice spread with pancakes, sausage, yogurt, oj, and some other stuff. Fantastic. Some of them are taking a well deserved nap. Then it is time to hit the road shortly before six.

By comparison to Saturday's ride, Sunday's is a piece of cake - at least after the first forty miles. The weather is nice, there is only one and a half passes to climb (Cayuse and the last part of White Pass), and "only" about 200K to ride. Saturday had Stevens Pass, Blewett Pass, and the first part of White Pass, it was 400K, and there was that horrid headwind. Still, there was eight miles of climbing up to White Pass, twelve miles zipping/freezing downhill, then warming up with hot chocalate at the US-12/SR-123 intersection control ... thank you guys!. From there it was sixteen miles up to Cayuse Pass, which was the highest of the passes at 4700 feet. That took a long time, slow and steady, slow and steady through miles of forest and mountains. Oh, the views! Finally, when we're thinking we can't handle much more of this, we get to the top. Time to bundle up. Then a great rush down the first part of the downhill. From there, around midday now - it turned into a long, slower than expected ride - a bit of a headwind to offset the gentle downgrade to Greenwater. After a bit of lunch and stocking up on water, we're off for the final push to Issaquah ... including, as Peter B put it, a "Victory Lap" around Lake Sammamish.

Today the weather is nice, the scenery gorgeous, and the camaradrie wonderful. This is why we ride!