Sunday, November 1, 2009

When is 251 < 206 ?

Most mathematicians will tell you that 251 is MORE than 206. Normally they are correct. This weekend they would have been wrong.

Sunday's 251K Permanent (#188 Whidbey Mambo) took LESS time than Saturday's 206K Permanent (#52 Redmond-Carbon Glacier). 11 hours 14 minutes vs. 11 hours 40 minutes. It took less time to go an extra 45K.

A bit odd I guess, but not really when you look at why. No flats today ... I had two flats yesterday. We struggled with a headwind yesterday ... we enjoyed a tailwind today. We had a sit down meal yesterday ...we missed out on one today because we were too darn fast ... arrived at the Mambo Italiano Cafe in Bellingham 45 minutes BEFORE it opened ... so we decided to bag it and had a convenience store "snack meal". Vincent's light malfunctioned today so we pressed it to get back before it got dark ... riding the last hilly 25 miles at around 17 mph. A wet, rainy day yesterday ... a gorgeous, sunny day today.

Two very different rides ... but both very enjoyable!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Road Closed Ahead ... They don't mean us - do they?

Vincent Muoneke, Kole Kantner, Steve Davis, & I rode the inaugural (as a Permanent) ride of the Olympia - Vader - Olympia Permanent (#545). I had hoped we'd get some of the Olympia area randos to join us, but the late notice and distance (a 300K) kept that from happening. It was a ride of surprises ... pleasant and otherwise.

The first surprise was that the weatherman was right ... it was a pretty nice day. No rain and there were even stretches of blue sky and sun. It was chilly at the start ... it got down to 37 and at the end, but Kole and Steve weren't too cold in their shorts the rest of the time.

No surprise was the gorgeous ride through the Capital Forest on D-Line road. A relatively short albeit somewhat painful climb up to 900 feet, then a long gentle descent along a picturesque creek. This is one of my favorite sections in the state. Today did not disappoint!

A brief ... well, not so brief ... stop at Porter Creek, and then hours of meanderings through the backwoods of southwestern Washington. Relatively flat, with periodic hills thrown in to keep us honest. An unscheduled stop in Adna to refuel, then a long stop in Vader for real food.

Vincent had two breakfasts; the rest of us had Mountain Mash .... it was real good, but then we were real hungry and almost anything would have tasted good.

On leaving we noticed my rear tire was low ... I decided to just pump it up and see if it would hold (I'd topped it off the night before) my surprise it held just fine the rest of the way (I need to change it today ... it's almost flat now). We pumped it up just past a "Road Closed Ahead" sign. We had detoured around this closure (without seeing it) last month on our ride up to Johnston Ridge, but I knew that it had been passable, as James Gutholm had gone through it a few days later. So we figured we'd be able to work our way through.

Wrong. At least not easily. However, rather than a 6-7 mile detour, we passed our bikes from one ledge to another (top part of picture ar right) to get them down into the gap, then carried our bikes up the ladder on the other side (bottom part of picture at right). As soon as we were done, the ladder was pulled ... if we had been five minutes later there would not have been a way to get through here.

There was so much mud/sand/grit in our cleats and on the bikes that the clips were useless. Fortunately there was a hose at Winlock where we washed off. I don't think we saved any time compared to the detour.

It was just getting dark as we arrived in Chehalis for the last real control (two more info controls), so we finished prepping for night riding. Then set out again.

We had to adjust the information control question at the next stop ... couldn't find a sign for the gun club in the dark ... and then another road closure sign. Three miles ahed the road was closed. Was a bridge out ... a slide take away the road? No clue, but we went for it anyway. It would mean a 15 mile detour instead of a twelve mile detour if we couldn't get through, but why not? We were able to get through ... it was just a repaving project ... but they had sealed off the ends pretty well. We managed to find our way through / around the barricades and were off and running again.

At Bucoda we had a pleasant surprise as we ran into Ian Shopland. He had been biking back roads with John Pearch. We rode with him a little ways, then parted as our route back was much less direct than his.

The last major stretch of the ride was on the Chehalis - Western Trail. Normally a nice ride, I have no plans to ride it again this time of year. In many places it was covered in several inches of big leaves ... unsettling to ride through, especially in the dark. Where is the trail anyway? And is that a log under those leaves?

We finally made it back at 11:02 - just over 16 hours ... With almost three hours off the bike, it wasn't our most efficient ride :) 8,100 feet of climbing (per Training Center; 8,377 feet per Garmin Connect.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Okay, just one man's view here, and I recognize that I haven't ridden all the possible climbs in the state - particularly those in northeastern Washington ... and nothing off-road, but anyway here's a quick look at a bunch of the major paved road climbs in the state. This is a simple view ... ranks the climbs based on their elevation gain and on the average grade of the climb - a 50-50 weighting.

So the toughest five climbs ... without taking weather into account or the maximum grade or whatever ... are:

1. Hurricane Ridge 5,200 feet / 5.3 % grade
2. Washington Pass from Newhalem 6,500 feet / 3.9 % grade
3. Johnston Ridge Observatory from Toutle 5,600 feet / 3.4 % grade
4. Mt Baker from Glacier 4,500 feet / 3.6 % grade
5. Loup Loup Pass from Malott 3,400 feet / 3.8 % grade

Here's the link to the spreadsheet with the data.

There is measurement system error in this - I used Bike Route Toaster for the elevation info and I adjusted the grade calculation for a couple of the rides that had significant descents embedded in the climb to reflect the climbing over an estimate of the distance net of the distance spent descending.


Vincent and Charlie catch a breather in Port Gamble on the way back from Hurricane Ridge.

Lynn Gill, Kole Kantner, Charlie White, Vincent Muoneke, and I set out on the 6:10 AM ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge to climb up to Hurricane Ridge (5,200 feet) ... and return 286K / 170 miles. It was cold ... just above freezing when we set out and when we got to Hurricane Ridge. It was a nice day anyway ... and we were only a little concerned about the possibility of running into ice (we didn't).

We said hi to Dan Jensen at the ferry dock before we left ... he and Alan Bell were riding the Hood Canal Loop 2.0 from Bremerton. They beat us to Bainbridge at the end ... the ferry worker had heard we were coming from Dan/Alan.

As we were about to get off the ferry at Bainbidge, a bakery truck driver gave us a loaf of fresh bread for our ride. A nice treat that we enjoyed at several stops along the way.

With almost 13,000 feet of climbing, this was a tiring ride. The 5,000 feet from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge is a long, grueling climb ... but fortunately very manageable. Basically a consistent 5-8 %, with nothing over 10%. The rollers on WA-104 and US-101 added another 8,000 feet.

After a brief rest at the visitor center, we bundled up for the ride down.

Lynn struggled with her lights, but managed to make it without running into anything too big.

The biggest challenge we had was Vincent broke a spoke with about 17 miles to go ... huddled at the side of WA-104 in the cold and dark on the narrow shoulder, mostly staying out of the ditch and blackberries, Kole and Charlie performed surgery, removing Vince's rear brake so he could pedal. A couple of miles down the road, at the Port Gamble Road turn there was room to spread out a bit ... and a street light. We tried putting on a fiber spoke replacement, but couldn't remove the broken spoke ... a non-standard set-up. So the decision was made to ride gingerly the rest of the way, crossing our fingers that it would hold. It did!

We had time before the 10:30 ferry, so we stopped at a convenience store and Vince & I each bought a can of Fosters for the ferry ride back. Sort of becoming a tradition, as we've done that several times now. Very refreshing!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mt St Helens Permanent - It was a blast !

Seven of us (Left to right - Steve Davis, Vincent Muoneke, Jeff Loomis, Lynn Gil, Mark Thomas, and Dan Jensen) headed out for a ride on the first full day of fall. The forecast was for a great day and we weren't disappointed. The ride started in Winlock, so even though we left home early, we didn't start riding until 8:00AM. It was cold to start ... frostbite anyone? I'm glad we didn't start riding earlier. But it soon warmed up.

I'm not going to name names, but someone got lost before we left Winlock ... we hadn't gone even a quarter of a mile and we had all left together! Granted he was following the route sheet and the Garmin course, but Vincent somehow missed the e-mail describing the detour and then must have been looking down when we turned. Fortunately we backtracked & found him before many bonus miles were generated.

Mark had discovered before the ride that the Winlock-Vader Road was closed. Not only did this mean we were able to come up with a detour up front, it meant we got to skip a potential coffee stop in Vader. We made up for it by catching the Castle Rock Bakery for coffee & pastries. Bucking the trend, I went for the soup option.

On our way up, we were crossing a bridge when we noticed a backpack and rope on the side of the road. Curious, we stopped and peered over the edge. It was a loong way down, but the strange part was there were two guys climbing up! And we thought we were odd! Hopefully noone tossed their stuff in their car and drove off with it.

Not for me thank you!

We made it to the top around 3:00 PM ... and were tired & hungry.

But the view was worth it!
We eventually recovered enough to get back on our bikes for a great descent back ... interrupted by a 1,300 foot climb up from Coldwater Lake. We made it back shortly before 8:00 PM. There had been 9,000 feet of climbing ... more than I had expected.

Friday, September 4, 2009

2009 Cascade 1200

We just finished the Cascade 1200. Sort of. The regular Cascade 1200 Brevet wasn't offered in 2009, but the 2005 Cascade 1200 course is available as a Permanent, so Vincent Muoneke, Kole Kantner, Ralph Nussbaum, and myself decided we'd give it a go. The regular Cascade 1200 Brevet run by the Seattle International Randonneurs (SIR) is known for its support and the potential for extreme heat in eastern Washington makes an unsupported ride - unwise to say the least. We were fortunate enough to arrange for support from two of the "significant others" - Carol Nussbaum and Trudy Frantz. I can't imagine finishing the ride without their support.

Day 1

The first day was going to be a long one, so we decided to head out at 5:00 AM, same as the regular C1200, and so stayed overnight in Monroe to get as much sleep beforehand as possible. It was a good decision.

The first stretch, from Monroe to Issaquah, passed quickly. Then a turn for the worse. Rain. We hadn't expected that. The forecast had been pretty good, although chance of showers had creeped in. These weren't showers. We had pretty solid rain for the next three hours. At least we had rain gear and it wasn't cold, so we did okay. It was nice when it lifted and we were able to dry out. We had lunch at the Eatonville Subway. From there we rode to Morton, then Randle before starting one of my favorite parts of the ride, down between Mt Adams and Mt St Helens. A bit of climbing, then dinner at a secret control at Iron Creek Campground. Then our first major climbs ... up and over Elk Pass to Northwood. We set a pattern here that we would repeat over many of the climbs ... Ralph was the last one up, but the first one down. A Kamikazi on the way down! We had some great views of Mt St Helens as the sun was setting. It was dark by the time we reached the Northwoods control and the store was closed, but Carol was there so we were able to get supplies from her. Then the last climb of the day over Old Man Pass. We arrived at the Carson Hot Springs Inn about 12:40 AM ... Carol had hot soup for us, which hit the spot. It had been a long day, with over 12,000 feet of climbing and 224 miles of distance.

Day 2

A few hours of sleep and we were up at 4:30, hitting the road at 5:30. It was a compromise start ... some of us wanted to start earlier, getting more of the ride done while it was cool, while others treasured sleep more. Today was another long day, although a little less distance and climbing - 10,000 feet and 212 miles. However, now that we were in eastern Washington heat would be a factor. We were fortunate that it would only get to the low 90's, but that was hot enough. It slowed us down ... at least Vincent & I. Ralph claimed the heat didn't bother him and Kole, well he's simply amazing ... makes everything look easy. Kole hit 700,000 feet of climbing for the year, well on his way towards a goal of 1,000,000 feet.

This was a painfully slow day. It took us almost six and a half hours to go from Carson to Goldendale, only 62 miles. We stopped for breakfast, stopped for the bathroom, and just rode relatively slowly. Sometimes it is like that. At least it was a pretty section, first along the Columbia River and then mostly up the Klickitat River valley. Ralph had said he wanted to stop at Klickitat, so when we got there Vincent & I stopped and went into the store ... but Ralph and Kole zipped on by. Oh well, we figured we'd catch them on the climb out of the valley that was a few miles ahead ... and we did. Unfortunately Vincent left his wallet in the park by the store ... or at least that is what we guessed happened later on.

When we arrived at Goldendale (a control), we met Carol for lunch and to stock up on water for the long barren stretch to Sunnyside ... 71 miles with heat and more climbing. Vincent and I also took the opportunity to charge our Garmins. From Goldendale we gradually gain 600 feet, then rapidly lose 1,000 before a painful climb of 600, then back to a gradual climb up to 3,200 feet (another 1,600 feet or so) near Bickleton. Having cleared the concept with Edward Robinson at RUSA prior to the ride, we had a couple of water/ice stops on the way to Bickleton ... which was a very good thing as I was running out of water.

We made it to Sunnyside about 7:30 and ate at a Subway. Only 85 miles to go! We rigged for night riding and headed out and up ... a 1,000 foot gentle climb. We eventually make it up and over, then on the way to Mattawa we turn left in front of the Hanford gate. Vincent misses the turn and heads for the security gate. With visions of flashing sirens, warning shots, and overzealous security guards we yell at him to turn ... fortunately he realizes his error and turns. Without any id (due to losing his wallet), it could have been a difficult discussion.

We arrive at Mattawa, having made plans for nice cool ice cream sandwiches ... but the 24 hour Shell Station is no longer 24 hour ... everything in town is closed as it is now after midnight. Kole finds an outside faucet and he & Vincent refill their water bottles. No sense dilly-dallying, we've still got forty miles to go!

As we ride along the Columbia, I look back and across the river. It is a clear sky, with an almost full moon, with a clear reflection shimmering on the river. Gorgeous.
Then our last climb of the day up Beverly Burke Road. At the top Vincent & I wait ... Vinent sees a red light high in the sky, moving erratically. I tell him he's nuts, then see it myself. Don't know what it could have been. We finally make it in to Quincy around 4:40 ... 23 hours after we started. Ouch.

Day 3

We had originally planned to leave Quincy at 7:00 AM and had been having discussions that it would be good to leave earlier ... but that was before we arrived at 4:40 AM. So we got our hour of sleep and left at 7:00 as originally planned. Didn't have much of a breakfast in Quincy, as we planned on a full breakfast in Ephrata. We stuffed ourselves there ... I had a "Cowpoke" at the same Cafe we'd eaten at after the spring 400K pre-ride. It was good except for the climb up out of town. The Spring 400K ride through Moses Coulee (but not the pre-ride) had been marred by a 4 mile stretch of torn up road. That was back in April or May and shouldn't be an issue now, Sep 1st right? Wrong. As we start on the now gravel section we pull up to the flagger and his stop sign. Ralph comments on the need for sunscreen ... the flagger says something to the effect that there's no need for sunscreen, he's a smoker, so that'll kill him first...I guess that's one way to look at it. Fortunately only half of the section is still unpaved and we are soon at Farmer, another secret control, for lunch.

Our pace picks up as we make our way to McNeil Pass and then zip down McNeil Canyon Road. It is a wonderful descent, dropping 2,400 feet in about six miles on a nice road (redone last year). A nice view of Lake Chelan across the river thrown in. As we get towards the bottom it is like walking into a blast furnace, with waves of very hot air. The next stretch along the Columbia River on US-97 is very hot. Fortunately the control at Pateros is at a store/restaurant that is air conditioned. That isn't good enough for Vincent, who walks into the river to cool off. After we cool down, fuel up, and stock up on water, we head towards Loup Loup Pass along old-97. Here we run into the worst road conditions of the trip ... the road is torn up for 5-6 K. Ralph & Kole's headsets come loose from all the vibrations.

A brief stop at Malott to restock on water and we start the grind up. The good news is we've been slow enough during the day that it is no longer unbearably hot. I make it up and start down the other side. The ride down was wonderful. The moon was out, almost full, and the skies were almost totally clear. The moonlight reflecting off the small clouds, the stars, and the mountain tops were stunning. It was one of those stretches that we ride for, where the challenges of the day fade away and it is all worthwhile. The one catch is I had been having occasional mild chest pains. In the middle of the mountains, in the middle of the night, what is one to do? I figure it isn't that significant and, even if it was, there wasn't anything I could do about it. So I continue on.

All too quickly I'm at the bottom, where Trudy is waiting for us with water; the others arrive an hour later, at about 11:15, shortly after Trudy went to look for them. I caught myself snoring while waiting, so I must have gotten a brief cat nap in. We're almost there. We continue on and arrive at the overnight at the Mazama Country Inn at about 1:15 AM. Pasta and other goodies hit the spot.

Day 4

We leave at 6:00 AM ... with about 15 minutes in the bank. Three hours of sleep felt wonderful. The legs were sore to start the day, but not nearly as sore as my bottom. Fortunately the Ibuprofen soon kicked in. Near the top is fresh chip seal ... lovely. Fortunately it only lasts for a kilometer or so. We make it to the top of Washington Pass and then Rainy Pass a bit after 9:00 AM. There is a work crew with four truck loads of gravel about to lay down chip seal ... I'm glad we made it here before they started laying that down! While it isn't all downhill from here, it feels like we've got the ride in the bag. We're a bit ahead of ourselves here, as we've got about 130 miles to go.

The views along the way and at the top are well worth the climb.

The next forty miles are mostly downhill, so we make pretty good time to the Diablo Overlook and then Marblemount, where we have lunch at Clark's Cabins. We form a pace line (which I dislike) for the stretch into Marblemount, as there is a bit of a headwind, and then continue it for much of the rest of the ride. Ralph has a flat after Darrington ... which Kole quickly changes. We're soon at Arlington, then we pick up speed by Granite Falls. By this point I'm falling off the back, so when we stop at the gas station on SR-92, I tell the others I'm going to leave first, as they'll soon catch up. Less than 20 miles to go!

They catch up to me about six miles later and I'm quickly at the back of the pack again. We start the last significant climbing (a 400 foot climb) and there is talk of slowing the pace so I can keep up. So I attack! The Ensure I had at the gas station must have kicked in. I pass them all and soon no longer can see them. I make it to the final turn off Chain Lake Road and wait for them ....we all ride in together, completing the ride in 87 hours and 20 minutes.


After changing we head off to dinner at a nearby restaurant for a celebratory steak, beer, and to complete the paperwork. It hit the spot.

Elevation Gain Recap (per Garmin 705 & Training Center)

Day 1 12,670
Day 2 10,405
Day 3 9,201
Day 4 7,440
Total 39,716

Ralph & Kole had similar measurements.

Wednesday and Thursday I was very sore ... going up and down stairs was especially painful. By end of day Thursday the soreness was less of a factor, so the chest pain issue came back to mind and I had it checked it out - my EKG was abnormal ! I guess I'll be following up on that.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Last fall I saw that the Granite Anvil 1200, a ride in Ontario, Canada, was going to be run this August. As this is in Dave Thompson's neck of the woods, I pointed it out to him to see if he'd be interested. We rode across the country together in 2007, then around Lake Superior in 2008, so it was natural that we'd find a ride together for 2009. While I had been randonneuring for a couple of years, it was a pretty new experience for Dave. He was up for it, so we signed up.

I flew in on Tuesday evening, Dave picked me up, and we headed out to Durham College in Oshawa (outside Toronto), which was where the ride start & finish were going to be. On Wednesday, I reassembled my bike and we went for a short ride, making sure everything was functional. Somehow I had managed to put it together correctly and it worked fine. We did get caught in a local shower and returned with everything soaking wet ... including the shoes. Hopefully they would dry out before the morning start. We had a quick lunch at Subway, then checked in for the bike ride ... everything was on track. The weather continued to be quite promising ... low 80's and no rain expected.

Day 1

The ride actually started Thursday morning at 5:00 AM. I went down to breakfast about 4:15 ... and was delighted to see Vincent. Vincent had arrived from Seattle Wednesday evening ... after a canceled flight and various trials & tribulations ... and had only been able to get about an hour's sleep. I was feeling pretty good with my 7 hours of sleep.

Thursday's ride was about 365K - from Oshawa to Victoria Harbor. It was a quite pleasant ride, with just under 8,000 feet of climbing for the day - no major climbs, just lots of ups & downs. The roads were generally nice with relatively little traffic. A few dirt stretches, but nothing too painful. I especially enjoyed the stretch by Lake Huron near the end of the day.

We arrived at Victoria Harbor about 10:15 PM or so. The accommodations were at a Community Center. The volunteers & Food were great. Sleeping arrangements not so much. Pads on the floor with blankets ... and they were out of pads. After dinner and a shower (with no hot water!), I arranged 4 chairs (padded) in a row along the wall as a bed and tried to sleep. No real luck there, and a fire alarm soon went off. It kept going for quite a while, but eventually was shut off. Apparently making toast in the oven wasn't very successful. I don't know if I slept at all, but at least I rested. I was up well before the 3:00 AM wake up.

Day 2

We left Victoria Harbor about 3:40 AM. The day was "only" 305K, so we (Dave, Vincent, & I) expected to have a fairly short day. The morning riding was quite enjoyable ... on quiet roads. We rode a bit with Carol Bell, seen above with a cute foal that was enjoying the morning. By the late afternoon the lack of sleep and relatively high temperatures caught up with Vincent ... he had a major bonk with perhaps 60K to go - and he was out of water. We found a shady grass knoll to rest on, then I filled his water bottle up at a nearby house. Vincent doused himself with water from a house to cool down ... and after a few minutes we were on our way again. We made it to the overnight shortly after 7:00 PM.

As the night's accommodations were at another community center, we opted to rent a motel room at the nearby Best Western. It was the right decision. Vincent crashed immediately; Dave & I weren't too far behind ... although we had dinner first. We slept well - much better than had we tried to sleep on the floor of the community center.

Day 3

I think we got up around 1:30 and hit the road shortly after 2:30 AM. It was going to be another long day - 330K or so. Today's ride was marred by three stretches of bad roads ... the first two were a total of close to 15K of dirt/gravel construction that was bone jarring, dusty, and quite unpleasant. There was one stretch with pilot cars ... which of course didn't wait for the bikes. When the cars started coming the other way ... they didn't yield and forced us off the slightly packed portion into the unpacked portion. A nearby construction worker said she'd throw a rock at 'em. I just yelled at the driver - who was chatting on his phone.

Dave & I reached the next to last control for the day (95K to go) a few minutes before Vincent & the two other riders we'd been riding with ... and they rode by, not seeing the signs. Fortunately a volunteer got in their car and tracked them down. At the pace we had been going so far during the day, we wouldn't finish until 1 - 2 AM. After a nice rest, a decent meal, and having recharged both ourselves & our Garmins', we headed off. We picked up the pace considerably. Having our Garmins paid off again. There were issues with the route sheet ... we came upon a group of five riders standing around at an intersection trying to decide if this was the turn or not. According to our Garmins it was, so we continued on. We made it to the overnight before midnight. Another great meal and we were in "bed" (pads on the floor & blankets) a bit before 1:00 am.

Day 4

We had decided to make it a short night to maximize our riding while it was cool ... and because we (or at least I) didn't expect to actually sleep. Truth be told, I slept like a log. We were awakened at 2:00 AM ... at least Vincent & I were ... I asked them a few minutes later if they had woken Dave up and they hadn't ... so Dave got an extra 15-20 minutes of sleep. We left at 3:00 AM, hoping for a short day ... only 197K to go!

While it wasn't foggy when we left, within a few kilometers it was thick as pea soup ... thicker. Once again I was very glad to have my Garmin. I followed the road by sticking close to the yellow dividing line and was able to tell we were at the turn Gomorrah Road because the yellow line stopped and the garmin said we were at the turn. We went to the side of the road to look for the turn ... but couldn't see it. After peering for a while into the soup, we saw the outline of a stop sign ... and so ventured forth. There was a road there ... a dirt road... but it was the right one. How others without a Garmin found it, I'll never know. The fog lifted around daylight.

We had lunch at Rice Like ... it was at an air conditioned bar. It was pretty hot out now, so it was nice to cool off and start the "home stretch" refreshed. While the first part of the day had been relatively flat, the last little bit and most of the rest of the way were quite hilly & definitely hot. I had been drinking my water fairly well, but I worked on stretching my water supply now and didn't drink as much as I should have ... even though I had three bottles for the last 35 miles or so. Vincent ran out of water, but stopped at a house and got a refill. Vincent & Dave zipped off with perhaps ten miles to go. I was hot and didn't want the pick up the pace, so we didn't finish together. But we finished shortly after 3:00 PM.


There was a celebratory BBQ at 6:00 PM, with beer, burgers, & hot dogs. A little after 7:00 PM, they had some awards ... distributed the Can-Am medals (completing a US & a Canadian 1200K in the same year). In the middle of the awards, my gut started hurting, so I headed for our room (& the bathroom). I thought I was going to explode. For the next six hours I rotated between the bathroom, a hot shower, and my bed ...a little after 1:00 AM I bit the bullet and woke up Dave, asking him to take me to the hospital. The diagnosis - dehydration. Two liters of IV fluid, a laxative, an enema, a catnap on the ER toilet, and three and a half hours later we were on our way back to Durham College.

I was up by 9:00 AM and felt pretty good. It took me a couple of hours to disassemble & pack my bike, but was done with plenty of time before the van came to take me to the airport. My flight back from Toronto, via Atlanta, was uneventful other than by baggage getting lost. Fortunately it was delivered to me the next day.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Baker Lake 400K Pre-Ride- It's Still There!

Vincent & I pre-rode the Baker Lake 400K yesterday, starting at midnight. Why midnight? Well, that way I could get a good night's sleep before hading out to the 300K later today (fortunately not to ride).

Having ridden the Baker Lake 400 last year I knew what to expect .. and wasn't disappointed.

The green colors of Baker Lake were still there, as was the lush foilage along the route. The eagles along the Skagit were still there. Clark's Cabin restaurant at Marblemount was still there ... we had a nice breakfast there. While we didn't see any bear this year, they are still there too.

Burbee Hill Road up from Concrete is still there. The first mile, with its 9 - 17 % grade, will still have you swearing at Mark. The second mile, with its 5 - 9 % grade will still have you muttering with only occasional outbursts as the grade briefly jumps into the mid teens. At least the loose gravel is gone, settled into mild chip seal.

Mt. Baker was still there ... although we had lots of cloud cover so we didn't actually see it ... this picture is from last year :)

The temporary bridge on the road to Baker Lake is still there ... as is the gap in the middle that, speaking from first hand experience, can grab your wheel and send you flying.

The Baker Lake "Resort" store is still there, with its picnic table ready for you to have a nice lunch at.

New this year ... at least for us ... was strong headwinds along SR-20 to Sedro Wooley and the north part of SR-9. That was pretty brutal. We needed to take some extra time to recover from that! Hopefully you'll have sunny skies and a nice tailwind instead.

Also still there was the climb up Woodinville -Duvall Road, with its narrow shoulders. What was new ... or perhaps I just forgot ... was the high grass (and occasional blackberry bush) bending over the shoulder, making it even narrower. Having a helmet flashing taillight was a big help here to make sure traffic can see you, especially in those portions that curve to the right.

Perhaps my favorite part that was still there is that final brutal climb up to Mark's house at the end ... somehow it didn't seem as bad this year :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bainbridge - Sequim - Bainbridge

The hottest day in Seattle history! Not a good day for a ride? Well, perhaps not ideal, but if I'm going to be able to ride in the heat I need practice ... and what better day than a day like this. Not being totally foolish, a ride west towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the water is a much better choice than the ride we had originally planned, u Mt St Helens.

We took the first ferry in order to start as early as possible...6:05 am. The ride to the Hood Canal Bridge and Quilcene was pleasant, but nothing unusual. At Quilcene we turned west instead of our usual south run down 101. And then a turn off 101 up to Bon Jon Pass. While not a high pass at 3,000 feet, the climb is tiring, on dirt roads and usually at a 6-7 % grade. Fortunately it was still in the morning and only warm ... not unbearrably hot yet. As tiring as the climb was, it was more enjoyable than the descent ... I don't particularly like descending on dirt roads. Between the potholes and the gravel, it doesn't feel safe to go very fast and is disappointing to not zip down the hill. At least it was cooler and still faster than the climb.

We made it to Sequim and then rode along the waterfront ... it was a pleasant temperature. Back to Sequim and a late lunch at Arby's. Time to stock up with ice & water and head back. It was not going to be easy. With all the rollers there was more climbing than our ride up Mt St Helens a couple of weeks earlier ... and it was hot. Vincent recorded 109 degrees on the way back. We stopped a couple of times to fill up with ice & water ... made it bearable, but barely. Taking Electrolytes at regular intervals was critical to making it through the day.

We made it, and in pretty good condition. The beer on the ferry sure hit the spot!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I was pleased when my daughter Tanya said she wanted to ride the 200K brevet I was going to do in a couple of weeks. Surprised, but pleased. We had ridden the Oregon coast a few years earlier and while it had been a positive experience, there had been no further interest in riding. True, she had been riding her bike out to UW periodically, but that is a far cry from a 125 mile ride. Last week we rode a 100K Permanent as a warm-up ... and she did great on that. But this was twice the distance and much hillier.

I suspect one of the bigger hurdles was the idea of leaving the house before 5:30 AM ... Tanya is not a morning person. But we hit the road about 5:20, driving to the Mukilteo ferry. We caught the 6:30 ferry and made it to the start point for the 7:00 AM start.

Now I don't think of myself as a talkative person, but I was pretty amazed at all the advice I had dispensed over the previous week about seat position, eating, hydration, elctrolytes, chamois butter, and so forth. Hopefully it wasn't too much.

Being properly prepared is pretty important on randoneuring rides. After all, it is unsupported ln distance riding. I should have paid more attention to my own advice. Since we were riding together on the tandem, that meant I wasn't riding my regular setup ... and I didn't have my regular tools & spares. I had put in the basic tools and spare tubes ... and the thought of some of the other spares/tools had crossed my mind. I was going to get to those later, and later never came. Oops.

So we were some 30 miles into the ride, heading up a good sized hill, when SNAP! We came to an abrupt stop as the chain broke. We had bent, and broken, the steel as we tried to power up the hill in the wrong gear. Now I normally carry a chain tool and a spare master link to reconnect a broken chain ... but those were items that I had thought about and then forgotten. Since we were miles from anywhere, my heart sank. I imagined DNFing ... and on Tanya's first brevet. What a bummer!

But no. SIR randos to the rescue. We were riding with Dave Harper, Eric Vigoren, Jason Duhl, and Chuck. Out came the necessary tools and even a master link. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A few minutes and some greasy hands later, we were back on our way. In Coupeville, some ten miles later, I was able to get most (well some) of the grease off.

Riding on the Tandem together worked pretty well ... at least from my perspective (mechanical issues aside). The logistics worked very smoothly. Tanya was able to pull out the control card & read the information control questions ... and then write the answers ... while we were riding. It was nice to have an extra set of hands to take pictures, open breakfast bar wrappers & Ensure bottle, etc. I suppose I had a slightly better view ...

But if we do another ride on the Tandem I'll have to get the bike regeared ... the front shifter didn't work well ... there is too large a range between the small and large front chain ring. The derailleur has to be adjusted just right ... and my mechanical abilities aren't good enough. So we only used the small ring once or twice ... but could have used it many more times.

This was a hilly ride. Advertised at a "mere 6,200 feet", my Garmin ended up with about 8,500 feet of climbing. An average 200K may have 4-5,000 feet of climbing ... so this was a challenging ride from that perspective.

I tend to be in & out at controls, spending as little time as possible there. Before the control at Deception Pass I had run through what needed to be done at the control - get the brevet card signed, go to the bathroom, apply chamois butter if needed, refill water bottles, eat, and then rest as needed. It seemed to go pretty well ... and I don't think I was too pushy ... and we were out in about 20 minutes.

My approach seems to have rubbed off. At the last regular control, as I was reaching for my umpteenth handful of chips, Tanya said ... we should get going!

Tanya did say that the seat was rubbing her the wrong way ...

It was supposed to be a hot day ... hitting close to 80 on the island ... but I only felt "hot" a couple of times ... and even briefly (very briefly) felt chilled and thought about putting a jacket on during the afternoon. In other words the weather was pretty much ideal.

We ended the ride with a bang. Really. After reaching the final control at Clinton, we rode down to the ferry dock. As we stopped to get off the bike ... BANG ! The front tire blew out. Now a blowout is never good, but if you are going to have one, what better time than the end of the ride ? Certainly a much better time than when you're goin 35 mph down a hill. I guess I should have paid more attention to that little thump, thump, thump with each turn of the wheel.

We averaged 13 mph while on the bike and burned 8500 calories (or thereabouts).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Elbe - Bear Meadows - Elbe

Vincent & I rode the inaugural ride of the Elbe – Bear Meadows – Elbe permanent on Wednesday, July 15th . It was going to be a hot day … perhaps the low 90’s, so we decided to ride it counterclockwise, getting the big climb up Mt.St. Helens done in the morning before it got too hot. It was a good choice.

We started in Elbe at 7:30 and quickly made it to Morton with the little climb up 7 as a good warm-up for what was ahead. A short stop at Randle to get a receipt, a snack, and top off with water. There were no sure water stops until we got back down.

The climb up NF-26 is one of my favorite climbs. We only saw one car and one pair of motorcycles on the way up. Much of the ride on 26 is on a narrow, basically one lane road, with plenty of shade …. at least in the morning. Towards the top, in the blast zone, it is much different. No shade. I’m always amazed by the desolation & destruction still evident. The road up was open to cars this year, the washout repaired and “tank traps” (to keep motorcycles out) removed. It was awfully hot as we neared the top …climbing it a few hours later would have been painful.

What took almost three hours to climb was over less than an hour as we descended back to Randle and then up to Packwood before the last climb up. We took our time in Packwood. A good lunch at the Sub shop at the Shell station, rehydrated, and loaded up the water bottles with ice & water. Then up Skate Creek. A pleasant climb, virtually all in the shade from Packwood at about 1,000 feet to the crest at 2,500 feet.

We finished about 6:10, after 8,300 feet of climbing

Monday, July 13, 2009

Three Highest Passes of the Cascades

Not quite sure how the Permanent got this name, since Washington Pass at 5,477 feet is higher than the three passes on this ride - Chinook (5,430), White (4,500), and Cayuse (4,675). So, for truth in advertising purposes, consider this a notice that it is really "Three High Passes of the Cascades". Okay. Now the record is clear.

I've wanted to do this Permanent for quite a while. So when the weekend opened up and the weather looked good, choosing this was a no brainer. Then the weather started turning too nice ... as in too hot. A forecast of mid 80's on the west side and mid 90's on the east side had me waffling. Bunnyhawk suggested riding on Sunday instead ... a much cooler forecast. Tempting. Very tempting. But no. I don't do well in the heat and the only way I'm going to get over that is to do some riding in it.

So I do what I can to prepare for the heat. Make sure I will have enough water ... three bottles should do it .. with some Ensure as backup. Enough food to eat along the way. Light color clothes to reflect rather than absorb heat. Remove fenders and backup light since it isn't going to rain and I shouldn't be riding in the dark. Take the counter-clockwise approach to the route - we should get two of the three climbs out of the way before noon - while it is cooler. Start the ride as early in the day as possible.

Since the ride starts at Greenwater and the only service open at that time is Buzzy's Cafe ... which opens at 6:00 AM ... we will start at 6:30. There are eleven riders - Erik Anderson, Bill Gobie, Dave Harper, Josh Morse, Vincent Muoneke, Eamon Stanley, Ken Ward, Charlie White, Michael Wolfe, and myself. Most of us get there a bit before six. I'm fiddling with my bike on the deck when Buzzy opens the door and gruffly says "They can't leave their cars here all day." While folks move their cars I go in and ask to order ... it is only Buzzy and I can tell service is going to be slow. Fortunately I should be able to get my bacon, eggs, & hash browns in time to eat and leave by 6:30. The others drift in and order. At 6:20 or so I go up to the cash register and ask to pay ... a couple of others, who had just had coffee, join me. Buzzy appears overwhelmed. When I pull out my Visa, he swears. Cash register breaks down. It is apparent that asking for a receipt is not going to be practical. Buzzy realizes that something is burning in the kitchen and leaves. I sign the VISA receipt and head out. It is now about 6:30, so those of us who are ready take off.

Michael Wolfe zooms off, with Vincent following closely. Erik Anderson, Charlie White, Ken Ward, Dave Harper, and I ride together for a while, then Erik & Charlie move out ahead as the grade increases. Ken, Dave & I mostly rode together until shortly after the turn back onto 410. The ride down from Cayuse Pass on SR-123 was fantastic ... the rode was redone last year and we had 5 or 6 miles of an effortless 35 mph descent. That was fun. I was glad to have my jacket and leg warmers on though. At the turn onto SR-12 I take them off ... no need for them on the climb up and the next descent won't be that chilly.

We make it to the top of White Pass and then stop for a sandwich at Silver Beach resort ... site of the overnight on last year's spring 600K. Since it is now warm and it is about 50 miles to the next certain water stop at Clifdell, we load up on water & ice. There is a bit of a head wind as we continue down 12 towards Naches, so it seems to take forever to make it to the 410/12 intersection. I've gone through one of my bottles. I have two insulated bottles and one regular water bottle. The water in the remaining insulated bottle is cold ... the non-insulated water is warm ...the insulation does make a noticeable difference.

I get into a good rhythm and begin to move out ahead of Ken & Dave. About ten miles up from the turn there is a store on the left that is open. I go in and restock with water & ice. Thinking Ken & Dave must have passed by while I was inside, I go on, hoping to catch them at Clifdell. They aren't there of course ... apparently still behind me. Not knowing how far back they are, I press on. I love the climb up Chinook. This road is fairly quiet, in pretty good shape, and is so scenic. While hot, it has been manageable ... plenty of water and an Endurolyte every half hour seems to be keeping me in decent shape. Still, the last five miles are pretty brutal ... the grade is "only" 5-6 %, but in the heat and after 125 miles and some 9,000 feet of climbing so far every 0.1 mile just ticks by ever so slowly. I have to stop every 1 - 1.4 miles to catch my breath for a minute and drink. Fortunately there is a bit of cloud cover now so it isn't as hot as it could be. But I finally make it to the top. Even though there are 27 miles to go, I feel as though the ride is complete. The rest of the ride is almost all downhill ... I can practically coast in.

I make it in at 6:45 ... 12 hours and 15 minutes. Maybe I'm getting so where I can ride in the heat! One thing I learned about riding in the heat ... don't take yogurt covered cranberries. The yogurt melts and makes quite a mess.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why do I do this?

Somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, after several hundred K of riding on our latest multi-day, multi-metric bike ride, Mark Thomas turned to me and asked ... "Why are we doing this?" I don't remember if this was before or after his bout of dry heaves that day, but there was certainly an element of "Are we nuts?" in the question. Of course, the answer is we are.

Putting that reality aside, as well as my daughter Jessica's oh so accurate observation that "but they're miserable dad!" after helping out on last falls' mountain 600K ride, I have come up with 10 reasons why I go on these long rides. These aren't prioritized in any way.

1. Adventure

Taking off with a couple of friends to ride my bike from Portland to Glacier, 1,000K, without any support or riding on my own through the mountains overnight on a 600K are adventures. Adventures are cool. How often do we get the chance to do something like that? And, just as important, how often do we grab that chance and run with it? (Note to wife ... I know, too often)

2. Camaraderie

Randos are a special breed ... each eccentric in their own way. Yet they are very similar and I enjoy being with them (Birds of a feather flock together?). This is true of the Northwest Randos (both SIR and OR) in general, but also of Mark Thomas and Vincent Muoneke in particular, with whom I've ridden at least a dozen multi-metric rides this year alone.

3. Scenery

Living in the beautiful Northwest, we have access to a wide variety of stunning countryside ... the Palouse, the North Cascades, the Olympic Rain forests, the Columbia Basin Desert, the Pacific Ocean, Lake Coeur d'Alene, and so much more. Riding my bike has given me the opportunity to enjoy those sights up close.

4. Reality

As in escape from ...

5. Sounds & Smells

Now there are some smells that I don't particularly relish ... not so fresh road kill and some farm smells come to mind, but the opportunity to fully experience the sense of smell is a definite plus. One example is the processing of onions in Paterson along the Columbia River ... it almost brought tears to my eyes!

It may be a bit silly, but some of the things I remember most from my rides are sounds:

- the variety of sounds that water can make from snow-melt going over the
North Cascades ... from a drip, drip, drip to a gurgle to a rushing torrent,
- the squealing of a baby elk as it tries to run to its mother,
- the scraping of a deer's hoof on a tree stump.

These are sounds you'd never hear driving by in a car. Grinding one's way up a mountain pass provides lots of opportunity to look & listen.

6. Wildlife

Over the past year I've seen fox, deer, bear, elk, moose, snakes, mice, turtles, salamanders, naked pedestrians, skunk, ferret, beaver, seals, heron, eagles, and probably a few other that don't come to mind at the moment. Sure beats the mall ...

7. Eccentric

Sure what we do is a bit weird and not for everyone. But it is nice to be different.

8. Accomplishment

Completing a long brevet gives one a sense of accomplishment ... having overcome real physical and mental challenges...something that not everyone can do. This is true for all of the long brevets, but especially the very long ones. There were probably only 150 riders who rode a 1,000K or longer ride last year ... and a small subset of that (a dozen?) who would have done two or more in a year.

9. Healthy activity

Fundamentally biking is a healthy activity. Okay, I'm ignoring the three or four 911 calls on our rides last year - several broken shoulders, dehydration, and such, but you can trip and break your neck going down the stairs at home.

10. Self-destructive behavior

As a Myers-Briggs INTJ Type, my personality type tends to overdo gratification of the senses ... binge and overindulge compulsively. No point in biking a little; it has to be a lot. Two 1,000K and two 600K rides in six weeks probably qualifies as excessive and overindulgent.

I'm sure I could come up with some more reasons ... like since I just burned 36,000 calories on the ride this weekend I'm not going to worry about having an extra slice or two of pizza ... and, hey, it is just plain fun (most of the time anyway).

Monday, July 6, 2009

SIR 1,000K Washington Coast Pre-ride

Am I more tired now than after the Portland - Glacier 1,000K two weeks ago? Geez, I don't know. I'm tired, no doubt about it. If I look at the pictures of the three of us - Mark Thomas, Vincent Muoneke, and myself at the end of each ride, I'd say we're more tired now than at the end of that ride. At least we look more zombie like. A midnight start, a 440K day one, and then it being the 2nd 1,000K in two weeks (on top of 2 600K's shortly before that) probably give the nod to this ride.

So where did we go? We started out at the Bainbridge ferry terminal at about 11:30 PM on Thursday and headed west to Port Townsend, and then around the Olympic Peninsula, ending day one a bit before 11 PM in Aberdeen. We had a nice breakfast in Sequim and enjoyed the great views of Lake Crescent (left) from the very narrow, curvy shoulders of US-101. A not so pleasant climb up from the Lake in the heat and searing sun ... probably only mid 80's, but we're used to the cool, cloudy, rainy NW ... before a late lunch in Forks. The heat was especially hard on Mark ... he almost lost what little of the lunch that he did eat.

From there it was down the west side of the Peninsula ... we made it to Kalaloch ...and I nearly froze. It was cloudy and cool ... the ocean was probably there somewhere, we did hear it...and eventually saw a little of it. It was a long stretch from there to the day's end in Aberdeen ... with one more stop at Amanda Park near Lake Quinalt where it was hot again ... 85 or so. One of the high points of the day was a surprise when we got to the motel ... Trudy had left us some cold bears and Arby's sandwiches when she left the drop bags ... they hit the spot! After 440K and 23 hours of riding, we were wiped.

Day two was trouble ... a cumulative lack of sleep (3:45 AM wake-up) and horrible coffee at Denny's almost put Mark over the edge. Starting the day with almost losing your breakfast is not a good way to start. Fortunately Mark's stomach eventually settled down and we were able to pick up the pace shortly after Westport. However, that was when Vincent's bike started making more noise. It came and went, our diagnosis was a possible bottom bracket problem. Vincent was not a happy camper, as he had just taken the bike in to have that very issue looked at. When we reached Raymond, Vincent called his son to have him bring a replacement bike to the next control. of course this was the farthest distance from Seattle at Ocean Park on the Long Beach peninsula. But it all worked out ... the bike held out till then, his son made it there with the replacement bike, we had a much needed lunch, and we were back on the road. If our pace on the 2nd half of the day was similar to the first half, we wouldn't finish until 1:30 AM. Ugh.

We did pick up the pace though. The rollers that were so tough when we rode south were not so bad going north ... don't know why. We rolled into Aberdeen around 11. while Lacrosse had thrown us a parade two weeks earlier, Aberdeen welcomed us with fireworks ... it was distracting to say the least ... but spectacular and memorable. No Arby's for dinner tonight though. we had stopped and eaten in Raymond, 25 miles earlier, so we weren't famished. I did have an Ensure and a beer before bed. 770K of 1,015 K done. Great progress.

Day three was by far the shortest day, with "only" 245K to go. And we got to sleep in ... til 5:20 anyway. Don Jameson, the ride organizer had driven down to pcik up the drop bags, so we were able to take care of that detail before we left ... thanks Don!

Aside from starting on empty, the day would be relatively easy. It didn't feel that way though. Lots of rolling hills and that nasty, nasty chip seal took its toll. Here are Mark and Vincent at the top of Walker Pass (right).

We were back on familiar roads ... the ride from Aberdeen to McLeary was much of what we had ridden on the Fleche back in April and then the ride north from Shelton on US-101 to Quilcene along the Hood Canal was one we've ridden on permanents several times this year alone. From Quilcene to Port Hadlock on Center Road ... with chip seal, sun, and hills was one we were glad to get behind us... now only 37 miles to go! The ride across the Hood canal bridge was much more pleasant ... and safer, now that the east half of the bridge has been replaced ... but it is still a stressful experience. On the way to Poulsbo, up an 18 % grade my Garmin insults me by "auto-pausing" as I climb ... apparently so slowly (3.5 mph at one point) that it thought I was stopped and it should stop recording.

We make it to the end with time enough before the next ferry to stop at a convenience store for a beer and chips for the ride back to Seattle ... what a nice way to end.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

1,000K Portland to Glacier Pre-ride - No Shoulder to Lean On

An unsupported 1,000 K ride. What an awesome experience. A beautiful ride. Fantastic riding partners! Mark Thomas, Vincent Muoneke, and I pre-rode the Portland to Glacier 1,000K this past weekend. It was great.

The idea of an unsupported 1,000K on unfamiliar roads was intimidating. Yet it is the essence of Randonneuring - according to RUSA ..."Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported endurance cycling." While I love the great support we get at many of the NW Brevets, going back to basics sounded like a great challenge. And it was!

Mechanically we were fortunate ... nothing major along the way. I had a stubborn double flat just outside Stevenson on the morning of the first day ... and we had only gone a few hundred feet leaving the hotel when Mark had a minor issue, so I was a bit concerned with the pattern we were setting. But it turned out fine.

The first day started out a bit drizzly and cool, but soon cleared up and turned warm (80+). There is one stretch where we ride on I-84 ... and due to construction there is one portion that has no shoulder ... we had to ride in the travel lane. That was most unpleasant, but did increase our pace! The other stressful portion that morning was crossing the Bridge of the Gods ... a wet metal grate surface. We almost walked across, but once we had started it was too unsettling to stop.

After a nice breakfast in Lyle (albeit a bit slow ... ), a tail wind kicked in and we more than made up the time we lost due to my flats. We saw a couple of fully loaded bikers headed west ... they were definitely not enjoying the wind the way we were. We caught up with a couple from California on a tandem ... not quite sure how that happened since they were going 30+ much of the time we were with them ... and had a nice stop at Roosevelt. We stocked up on water before we left ... not many sources of that (or anything else) along the route.

At Plymouth, several hours later, we found water (& ice) at the RV park just after turning off SR-14 at the base of the day's one climb. While the climb wasn't particularly difficult, it was lengthy ... but made for a great descent down the other side into Kennewick. Dinner at Subway and stocking up on water again, as no services until the stop for the night in Connell ... 45 miles or so.

The last part of the day was slow ... a gradual climb, a bit of a head wind at times, and we were tired by now. At about mile 212, Mark sinks in to a freshly graded dirt/gravel shoulder ... same shade of dust as the road ... and grinds to a halt. I follow behind, turn a bit to avoid him, and keel over as I can't unclip fast enough. The only damage was to the nerves of the lady driving past us ... she pulls over to make sure we are okay. We are, so everyone continues on. At Connell there are no open restaurants when we arrive ... I finish off the rest of my Subway sandwich and Mark/Vincent polish off some Cups of Soup.

Breakfast was a Ensure, a Lunchable, a V-8, and a Mountain Dew. Not quite a hearty breakfast, but it was okay. Mark and Vincent didn't have much as their stomachs were unsettled, but by the time we got to Washtucna they were ready to eat. There wasn't much to choose from at the little store/cafe, but Mark was able to get his coffee ... that was a big plus.

At Lacrosse folks lined the street to see us go by ... well, that is what it felt like. We were there shortly before a parade was going to go down the main street. We waved. I love this part of the state. From here to the Idaho border is the Paluose. The rolling hills are gorgeous ... especially when they are green and we are going between them, not up them. There was a wonderful valley we rode through shortly before Colfax, where we had lunch at Arbys. We agreed that the roast beef sandwiches were great, but that the curly fries were not.

Tekoe was having a Classic Car show, so we walked our bikes through main street. The street was covered with broken eggs ... residue from the egg toss they had had a little while earlier.

A few miles outside town, right before US-95 in Idaho, was the steepest climb of the day ... fortunately not all that long, with the steep portion probably less than a mile. Maybe half way up we were attacked by three dogs. Being last in line I was closest to them and as they approached I was concerned ... it was a steep grade and I was not getting anywhere fast. I was NOT going to be able to outrun them. My next option, getting in front of Mark so they'd go for him instead didn't seem likely either, as he had a good lead on me (Vincent was practically out of sight). My concern soon dissipated, as the ferocious mutts were tiny little things. While they ran circles around me, they'd jump up and only get a few inches off the ground. It was soon all I could do to stay upright, as I was laughing so hard. I tried to sic them on Mark, but to no avail.

Once we reached US-95 it was mostly downhill to Plummer, the start of the Couer D'Alene bike trail. We ate at the grocery on the left, which had a deli section with some decent choices ... and stocked up on water again.

The trail was wonderful ... several miles of gradual downhill, then flat for miles and miles along the lake and a river valley. Once again we made up time. Eventually it joins up with I-90 and runs through a few small towns that may have had something open, but we smelled the barn and were focused on getting done with the day, so didn't stop. We reached Wallace, our overnight, about 10:30 and stopped at a gas station at the edge of town, scrounging some "food" ... I think I had orange juice, chips, and a lunchable.

Our mistake was not getting something for the morning, as there was nothing in town available when we left at 5:00 AM. So it was an Ensure and a few chips for breakfast. Two mountain passes between us and real food. I have another Ensure after the first pass. We are famished when we finally get to Thompson Falls ... and have a great breakfast at Minnie's Montana Cafe.

The next 75 miles or so (on 200 and 28) are not especially pleasant riding. While the scenery is wonderful, the riding is a bit unnerving at times. There is generally no shoulder. On 200, when there is a shoulder they have put a wide rumble strip in the middle of the shoulder! There is barely enough room to ride on the remaining portion of the shoulder ... and not enough room if there is any debris there. The drivers often do not slow down to pass, but simply (fortunately) move over a bit into the oncoming lane ... with no regard for any oncoming traffic. There were a few times where oncoming traffic was forced partly off the road! You definitely do NOT want to ride this portion at night.

We aimed to stop at Lone Pine Store for dinner & water (50 miles from breakfast), but it was "temporarily closed" when we got there ... and it was going to be another 40 miles before our next chance. bummer! We finally made it to Flathead Lake after a long false flat at the end of 28 ... maybe 600 feet of a gradual climb over 8-10 miles. Disheartening as you think you should be making more progress than you are. Probably partly the lack of food.

Flathead Lake is a mixed blessing. While there is now a nice shoulder, there is nothing flat about the riding ...lots of ups and downs. We finally make it to Lakeside shortly after 9:00 PM and are wiped. Dairy Queen revitalizes us though. We agree we are going to be going slowly from here ... only about 30 miles to go!

About 30 minutes from the end it starts raining hard ... and continues the rest of the way and through till morning. Not a problem though ... we are going to make it, so the rain actually feels good (well, sort of). It was a bit cool .. and actually snowed on the nearby peaks.

We made it!

The next morning we gingerly rode our bikes to the bike store ... they will ship them home. Then off to breakfast at the Buffalo Cafe (highly recommended), then coffee & a snack, then lunch, to the bookstore, and back to coffee & another snack. Food was high on our list! We had chosen to fly home, so it was soon time to head for the airport and the end of our adventure. Time to start planning our next one!

Monday, June 8, 2009

SIR 600K Preride - Or how I never met a Contol I didn't like

Time management is usually an important element in managing one's ride. Not so on this ride. A relatively flat ride ... especially the first day (6,200 feet of climbing over 255 miles) allows one the opportunity to put a lot of time in the bank ... or not, if they choose to spend the time along the way. On this weekend's pre-ride, we were not miserly with our time. In a spree that would do my wife proud, we spent our time like Congress doles out stimulus money ...

My first clue that we would not be setting any personal bests for the course was when we made an unscheduled stop for coffee in Port Orchard. It wasn't just that we were stopping, but that the barista (and I use the term loosely) wrote down each order on a post-it note. Now that was actually a good thing, as when Mark went back up to her several minutes later, after everyone else had received their order and it was apparent that no more Americanos were forthcoming, there was actually some documentation that something was missing.

One of the other hallmarks of the ride was that the original course and the route we took did not always coincide. That is one of the aspects of a pre-ride that I like. If it isn't working, we work out a better plan. My Garmin doesn't like it and gets confused ... beeping madly that I am off-course when in fact I am on course and it is simply living in the past. As some 10,000 runners and their people are descending on parts of Tacoma next weekend - and planning on running where we were going to be biking - a change was in order ...hopefully avoiding the worst of the chaos. Get back to me on that.

Where we didn't alter our route ... but will for the real deal ... was in Gorst where SR-16 merges with SR-3. Crossing three lanes of 60 mph freeway was more excitement than we needed. More than one pair of shorts likely needed to be changed after that experience.

If you have ever ridden past the Union Country Store in Union without stopping, you've made a big mistake. I have made that mistake many times in the past, although the fact that it had always been closed is probably a valid mitigating factor. Since it was a long ways till our next control in Cosmopolis, it was lunchtime, and we had time to spend, we stopped.

Noel, Mark, and I rolled up a few minutes after everyone else - Noel had had a flat tire - Peter was lounging in a chair with one of his many cokes. We went inside and after a few minutes of indecision we began to narrow in on our choices. The clerk then announced that she was going to have some pre-made sandwiches ready in a few minutes. That sounded better than what we had come up with, so we custom ordered a few pre-made sandwiches. Very good. I saved part of mine for a later stop. Having not eaten enough on last week's Oregon 600 XTR, I was now working on the other extreme.
It was a relaxing stop, but at some point, we reluctantly decided to move on.

We left Union, then left the Hood Canal with a climb up towards Shelton. After 16 miles of pretty darn flat (if you don't count all the chip seal up and downs), a bit of a climb was a nice change of pace. Had I mentioned there was some climbing before the control at Waterman Point? No mountain passes or anything like that. I'm sure my Garmin was still confused from the earlier rerouting when it hit a 30 degree grade a couple of times on Orchard. But I digress.

It must be time for a stop. At Matlock we pulled in just as a few raindrops began to fall. Nothing major, but may as well go in and set a spell. Coke time for Peter. I finished off my sandwich. When we finally get back on the road and head for Brady, I come to the conclusion that it is much faster going Matlock to Brady than Brady to Matlock. A gentle downhill and perhaps a slight tailwind do make a difference. We managed to pass stores in Brady and Montesano without stopping.

At Cosmopolis Albert has a nice stop set up for us at the Chevron. He had us go into the store to sign our cards - to give them the practice. We sat for a few minutes - I ate a Lunchable, which I prefer to the greasy burritos, fried chicken, and similar choices at many of these types of mini marts. We worked out a reroute for Westport, cutting out a couple of miles that weren't needed and taking advantage of the Shell/Subway right on SR-105.

At Westport, Albert was there with his van and chairs all ready for us. Once again we ate, drank, and rested ... before we prepared for riding at night and headed out along another very flat stretch. From Brady to the overnight control ... about 200K, there is only a little over 2000 feet of climbing. It gets dark before we get to Raymond and Vincent discovers that his light isn't working - somehow it got water inside. Bummer. Fortunately we come up with a backup and he's able to continue ... after another unscheduled stop at the Raymond 24 hour Chevron. It is a blessing that there are no tables & chairs there, so we don't stay all that long. As the local high school graduated their seniors that day and the beer sales had been heavy, we were glad to get out of Dodge.

I hadn't ridden the Raymond to Centralia stretch before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I still haven't seen it, since it was pretty dark, but it was decent riding - generally good shoulders and only one big hill a bit before Pe Ell. Shortly after that it was our last control before the overnight. Albert had set up a stop in a wide spot along the road. Hot cup of noodles hit the spot. Along with some Doritos it recharged us for the last stretch of the night.

We made it to the overnight about 2:15. It would not have been hard to make it before midnight if we hadn't stopped so many times and for so long ... but then the ride isn't about getting there quickly or getting a good night's sleep.

Getting a good night's sleep was certainly not what I ended up with ... the folks in the room next door complained about us making some noise as we arrived. Yes, these were the ones with the TV going loudly all night long. Recommendation: bring ear plugs. I did get to sleep, but woke up at 4:15, then 5:30, and finally got up for good at 5:50. I did feel rested ... especially by comparison to last week's 600K with no sleep (an hour of rest). We hit the road at about 6:30.

Mark had called ahead to a local cafe ... they're open for breakfast, right? Yes, we are was the answer. It is so easy to miscommunicate. They open for breakfast at 8:00 AM. Well, McMinnimans is a few blocks away, we'll go there. A block from there ... Peter is actually on the doorstep of McMinnimans, when we pass a tavern that is open, with people standing outside. Vincent asks them about breakfast. They're serving! We go in to the back, by the pool table. As we pull some tables together, the bartender tells us they're a tavern ... and a grill, it may take a while. We were warned. Some warnings should be ignored. this one shouldn't have been.

She took our orders and eventually my meal came. I ate and paid for it before the others got theirs. There was one cook, one grill, and a one order at a time process. We didn't get out of there until almost 8:15. It was an experience. Drinking beer at that time of day ... well, I guess we all make our choices. While I was waiting I went out to fuss with my bike ... and was told it was a good thing it was early in the month. Apparently that meant the welfare checks had just arrived and so it was less likely that our bikes would disappear. I stayed out and watched them the rest of the time anyway.
Noel was the last of the riders to get their meal (Alberts was last, but time was not quite as pressing for him). I'm not sure if he felt any pressure from the eight other riders who were itching to go, but he wolfed down part of his meal, packed up the rest, and we finally hit the road.

This ride doesn't have all that much climbing, but the biggest portion of the climbing is in the 100K after Centralia. It doesn't start out gently, and on a full stomach ... well, a few riders didn't loose their breakfast, but did get to enjoy parts of it a second time. I was grateful that I had been served first and had the opportunity to digest it.

While on the first day we rode pretty much together all the way, with the steeper hills we spread apart pretty quickly. I caught up with Peter, Vincent, and Charlie in Morton and we went to the Thriftway ... they had a deli and we cleaned out their lasagna. While we had had a big breakfast, that was long gone. They found some additional chairs so we could sit down while we ate ... then it was time to hit the road.

Peter, Vincent, and Peter climbed faster than I did, so they were sitting in Elbe eating fries and drinking a coke. They were going to wait and regroup with the rest of the group. I was feeling tired and wanted to get the rollers out of the way, so headed off. I kept going all the way to the next control in Enumclaw. I figured that way I could get a nicer rest.

Albert was at the stop with his van and chairs ... I was glad to see him and plopped into a chair. I was ready to rest. After some water, Doritos, and Coke, I began to get coherent again. Albert was on his laptop, fussing with the course on MS Streets & Trips ... we managed to work out a reroute for the rest of the ride ... so we didn't have to go to Black Diamond and climb out of the Green River Gorge.

We made it to the end at 6:23 PM ... 36 hours and 23 minutes. Albert was there for us at the end, as he had been all throughout the ride. He had pizza and beer for us. Thank you Albert. My Garmin had gone nuts with the last reroute and failed to properly record the ride, so I don't know how much of that was riding time ... but there was at least nine hours off the bike.