What a ride! Yes, there were Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My! ... well, sort of anyway. I was laying (Lion) stunned on the bridge deck. Mark Thomas was wrestling like a Tiger to free my bike from the bridge's grasp, and we saw a bear and could have been right up next to another one. Oh My ... well that's the short version of what Dorothy (my wife) is going to say. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I had been planning to ride the 1000K at the end of this week, but had been vacilating ... hadn't signed up for it yet and I really didn't want to miss two days of work this week. When I got back from riding to Sunrise on Mt.Rainier this Sunday, there was an e-mail from Mark Thomas ... did anyone want to pre-ride the 400K with him ... starting Monday night. This was the answer to my dilema ... with a little juggling I was set.
We took off right around 8:00 PM. The forecast was for occasional showers, with a low of about 59. Not the best forecast, but it could be a lot worse. It was nice to start off with a bit of light ... easier to get settled in for the ride that way. But the light didn't last long ... it was dark before we hit Snohomish. From Snohomish we took the Centennial Trail. A nice way to ride in the dark ... no traffic to worry about, no glass, and no potholes. While it wasn't raining per se, it was misting a lot ... sometimes quite a bit. Had to keep wiping the glasses and definately needed the rain jacket.
The scenery on the Darrington - Marblemount - Baker Lake portion of the ride is fantastic ... you will enjoy it a lot. We, however, didn't get to see it - it was dark and cloudy - even a bit rainy and foggy at times also. The riding was fantastic. The stretch from Darrington to Marblemount was especially pleasurable ... quiet (only two cars the whole stretch), with easy riding ...downhill or practically flat (all except that one uphill about 2/3rds the way up Rockport-Cascade Road, right where the dog comes out and chases you as you start up the hill). Now Mark had advertised "Breakfast in Marblemount ... but at 3:30 AM nothing was open, so breakfast choices were somewhat limited ... you'll have better luck I'm sure. We were blessed with a secret control staffed by Dan Turner - some food and beverages that really helped ... thanks Dan!
Leaving Concrete to head to Baker Lake was the most memorable hill climbing experience I think I've ever had - Burbee Hill Road. First of all, it was steep - over 10 % grade much of the way. And this isn't a short little climb ... think Everready - it keeps going, and going, and going! Steep by itself isn't that big a deal. Throw in fresh oil and gravel and you've got some fun. Think loose gravel, with piles in places! We had the pleasure of doing this in the dark, with fog - thick fog. I was concerned about going over the edge ... I think there was an edge there somewhere ... as we weaved back and forth, trying to make headway and keep some traction. We could have passed within a few feet of a bear and never known it.
The ride desciption calls this "a really nice road featured on one of our Permanents". All I can say is if this is nice I don't want to see a bad one. On the other hand, perhaps they were referencing Baker Lake Road, which you take from the end of Burbee Hill road to Baker Lake Resort. The ride back down to 20 on Baker Lake Road from the Burbee Hill Road intersection is awesome !
On the way up, we did finally make it up Burbee Hill Road and turned onto Baker Lake Road for the ramining 14 miles or so. A little more than half way up a bridge had been washed out and is being replaced with a temporary one. There are warning signs ... Motorcycles use extreme caution. I was a bozo. I didn't make the connection that if motorcycles (with two wheels) need to be extra careful, perhaps bicycles (also with two wheels) need to be extra careful also. While I slowed some, I didn't slow enough. The temporary bridge deck was built of wood. It had been raining ... wood was wet ... wood was slick. The wood structure has some dips in it ... especially along the right hand side as you travel uphill. I wanted to avoid the dips, so I shifted slightly (had to avoid sudden changes due to the wood being slick). Oops. There are gaps between the timbers. Oh $#%&! my wheel is falling in ... I fly over the handlebars, land on my chest and chin. I am laying there stunned. I take inventory and fortunately I am basically okay ... a few scrapes on my chin, my wrist, my knee ... and a sore jaw and chest. My bike ... looks okay, but is wedged in pretty good. Mark struggles mightily with it ...like a tiger, but eventually frees it. I ask him to check it out ... I'm still a bit dazed and am focused on making sure I'm really all in one piece. Mark tests out the bike ... the wheels turn .. nothings bent ... looks like we're in business. Good thing too, since we are in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception.
After a few minutes to recover, we press on. We eventually make it to Baker Lake Resort ... no restaurant. Darn, we had been hoping for a nice breakfast. Also, the Store was closed (will be open on Sat though). There is a pop machine ... some caffeine would be helpful. I don't realize that all the good selections are sold out until after I put my money in. Oh well. On the way out I take a picture of the lake. There are a couple of pretty decent climbs on the way down to SR-20 ... two climbs of about 300 feet each, although relatively gradual 4 to 7-8 % grades. And we do see a bear on the way down!
We finally had breakfast around 10:00 AM ... in Lyman, 9 miles before Sedro Wooley. There were several customers there, but there were more flies than customers. I was a bit worried. However, when the food arrived it was good ... plentiful and filling. Just what we needed.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. While we had made pretty good time up until Concrete, we were slowiing down noticeably as the day wore on ... the lack of sleep and the miles were catching up to us. The last stretch was particuarly challenging ... Woodinville - Duvall Road during rush hour ! and then the last hill up to Mark's house ... with grades of 13- 16 %. We made it to the end at 6:30 PM ... 22 hours and 40 minutes. Not a particularly fast ride, but we did it!
While I definitely enjoyed the ride itself (aside from the bridge fiasco), hopefully the ride itself will be enhanced ...we made numerous refinements to the route sheet and a few to the route itself. And you've been forewarned about the dangerous bridge (look at the route sheet for specific location).