Saturday, February 28, 2009


There are times when everything falls into place, and times where they don't. Today's ride was one where they didn't.

Vincent & I had planned on riding the Deming-Marblemount ride, but given the amount of snow they had had on Thursday, I decided we'd be better off in something a bit further south. A couple of riders had signed up to do the Hood Canal South ride, so I thought we'd suprise them and ride with them. However, they didn't show. I had e-mails from them when I got back saying they had decided not to ride.

Having been laid off work earlier in the week, I was probably not in the best of moods and Vincent was having stomach issues.

On the way back, near Brinnon, we were forced off the road by a big RV as it slowed right next to us to turn left, swinging right as it did. This is where there is only a one foot wide shoulder. Fortunately he was going slow as were we. I thought about going after him to chew him out, but decided that would probably be counterproductive.

Given how the day went, of course we just missed the ferry back to Seattle ...

Still, it was nice to be out on the bike.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Most Excellent Ride

Peter McKay, Vincent Muoneke, Mike Richeson, Rick Blacker, Ward Beebe, Charlie White, and I rode #342 Bainbridge - Port Townsend - Bainbridge. It was a most excellent ride.

The weather was pretty good - there was blue sky and some sun most of the day ... given this is the Seattle area in February that is pretty darn good.

The scenery and roads were outstanding. Sure, we crossed the Hood Canal bridge, twice ... which is a pain in the best of times. Today was no esxception ... broken glass on the narrow (2-3 foot) strip that bikes need to ride on at the grated section it a bit entertaining ... and then a driver blared on his horn for half a mile or so as he approached us when we were coming up to the bulge and the section where bikes need to swing out to cut across the seam without getting the tires eaten by the bridge. Other than that this ride was a real pleasure.

We pretty much all rode together the first half of the ride ... albeit with some gaps at times. While it was a bit chilly there was no ice, and with all the hills we weren't cold. Marrowstone Island on the way to/from Fort Flagler was particularly scenic, with little car traffic. We heard and saw a couple of eagles at Fort Flagler. Mike had a flat as we left the first control, but with a little help we were back riding in a flash.

At Port Townsend we broke up ... Charlie, Vincent, Ward, and I ate at the Courtyard Cafe; Peter went to Subway, and Rick/Mike went to Safeway. We tried enlisting a new recruit ... he was enthralled with the route sheet, but wasn't quite ready to ride ... maybe in a few years :) Those wide tires would have come in handy last week though!

We caught up with Rick & Mike at the next control - Fort Worden - but Peter was way out in front. The stretch after Port Townsend has lots of information controls, which on our full stomachs was a good thing. Climbing too, but a couple of great descents ... I hit 42 mph on one of them.

We saw a flash of Peter as we struggled up the 18% grade to Lake Gibbs ... he yelled "enjoy!" as he zipped down the other way. Soon it was our turn to do the same, as we passed Mike/Rick on our way out of this little out & back.

At this point we were almost in the home stretch ... certainly the toughest parts were behind us. After a brief respite at the Marina Mart in Poulsbo - a somewhat eclectic 7-11 type store with a scandinavian flair ... pickled herring anyone? After a potty break at the park on the way out of town we headed off to the ferry. about 11 miles to go. The next ferry leaves in forty-two minutes ... the next one is an hour after that. Yes, we've already ridden 120 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing. Can we make it? We push it, averaging almost 18 mph in spite of another 700 feet of climbing and a few red lights. We didn't load at the front of the boat, but we made it!

What a great way to finish the ride. A well deserved cold one on the ferry topped it off. Peter was also on the ferry, having arrived about 20 minutes before we did.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pavement Ends ... Road Disappears

There was a great turnout for the inaugural ride of a new South Sound Permanent yesterday ... 556 Lacey - Raymond - Lacey. Josh Morse ... the route creator, Dr. C -Paul Johnson, and Brian List headed off at 6:30 Am. Mark Thomas, Peter McKay, Bob Brudvik, Ian Shopland, Vincent Muoneke, and myself - joined by David Rowe & John Kramer from way south (Lake Oswegeo, Oregon & White Salmon, WA) headed out at 8:00 AM. Eamon Stanley started out a bit later, then Rick Blacker hit the road at 10:00. It was a cold start ... 27 F shortly before the start was noted ... but thankfully no ice was noted until a few chunks late in the morning ... when it was sunny & in the low 40's.

This route is basically a clockwise loop through southcentralwestern Washington - from Lacey to Raymond, then back. We never get quite to the coast, but are practically there. It is definitely through the back woods and back roads. Early in the route, outside Oaksville on the Chehalis Indian Reservation, we had the opportunity to observe a poultry sale ... quite a crowd on hand for that, but not having room in our bags for live chickens, we continued on without stopping. We'll have to plan ahead for next time.

We knew that there were a couple of stretches of "unpaved roads" ... the route sheet notes that "Pavement end" and "Pavement starts". And we knew that there were a couple of slides on the road due to the recent heavy rains/floods ... but that the roads were passable. We weren't quite prepared for what was in store for us though.

I for one was more unprepared than usual. I normally carry a pack under my bike seat with a few tools, three spare tubes, patches, and an extra tire. Several miles into the ride ... too many to go back ... I realized that I hadn't put it back on the bike after picking it up from the shop a couple of days earlier. Darn (or words to that general effect). Fortunately, with a group of eight randos, I'd be covered ... but darn. We ended up with three flats - Mark, Vincent, and Bob ... but I dodged that bullet.

We made it to the start of the unpaved section ... and the fun began. While the route sheet tells you it is an unpaved section, it doesn't tell you that it is also the climbing section (and then descending section). And of course while the weather today was nice and dry, that doesn't mean that the road would be ... and it wasn't. Our bikes were soon coated with the stuff. It made traction a challenge ... and when you weren't slipping in the mud, you were unsuccessfully trying to avoid the gravel chunks. There were gravel sections that made riding on rumble strips seem like a joy.

And then the slides ... The first slide was a section of perhaps 150 feet where the entire road was gone to a depth of 25-40 feet. On the left was the valley a hundred feet or more below ... not an option. On the right was a steep hillside, again not an option other than the few feet of what had been the road drainage ditch. It looked stable enough. So we climbed up to the drainage ditch, carrying our bikes, and made it to the other side of the gap. The bulldozer operator made a comment "Morons" as we passed - not sure who or what he was referencing. Before we started off, we had to scrape the mud off, as the tires wouldn't roll with all the mud under the fenders.

The second slide wasn't so bad ... a few daredevils actually rode around it. I walked my bike around the gaping hole ... it went all the way across the road and then down rapidly into the valley below.

At Brooklyn Eamon caught up with us, then rode with us till Raymond. We were disappointed in Brooklyn, as the original tavern was no longer there. We had been told at the Littlerock about the original tavern that had a urinal all around the inside of the tavern ... that must have been a place for serious drinking!

We recouped in Raymond ... food at Subway ... and then we hosed our bikes down at the Chevron station. That made our bikes much lighter ... and my cleats now worked again! However, we had just over half an hour in the bank at this point ... the unpaved sections had really slowed us down. From here on though, it was paved roads ... no major climbs .. so we made pretty good time.

On our way into Montesano, a car cut across just in front the group to get onto the freeway on-ramp. In one for the good guys, a Grays Harbor County Sheriff, who had just passed us, turned around and went after him. We all waved in support!

Aside from the last flat of the day (Bob's), the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. The last few hours were in the dark and, in part, along a busy stretch of SR-8 ... basically shoulder riding on a divided highway. One section was under construction and we had to merge into the one open lane, with concrete road dividers on either side ... that was not particularly fun. I was grateful we were all riding together at this point ... safety in numbers!

Quite a ride.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Procrastinator's Delight

The Mountain came out!

The 31st ... last chance for a January R-12. Eight riders headed off into the mist yesterday to enjoy Permanent 186 - Snoqualmie Valley & Falls. Narayan Krishnamoorthy & Albert Meerscheidt headed off at 7:00. Vincent Muoneke, Robin Pieper, Charlie White, John Pearch, Ian Shopland, and I followed at 8:00.

While it may have been the last chance for a January R-12 for some, it was Vincent's 7th for the month. Wow! No procrastinating there!

While it was chilly to start, it soon turned into a gorgeous day. Sure, there was fog in the Snoqualmie Valley on our way north ... on the other side of the valley ... and a few sprinkles in Lake Stevens, but there was lots of blue sky to be seen.

We caught up with Narayan and Albert at Lake Stevens ... Narayan's chain had broken and Albert, in true Rando form, had come to his rescue and fixed his chain. Way to go Albert !

There was no procrastinating on the ride ... Ian & Robin in particular pulled us to Sultan in the blink of an eye ... or at least in time for a leisurely lunch. Our stop at the Sultan Bakery turned out to be longer than intended ... we should have taken a clue from the help wanted sign in the window. Food was good, but took a long time coming. Charlie & Robin read the situation well and headed off before the food came. Ian polished off the biggest sandwich I've ever seen while I took care of a heapin load of spaghetti.

Then it was off down the Snoqualmie Valley ... we saw lots of birds ... swans, geese, and eagles ... and then a fish in the road along 100th. I assume it was the same fish I saw a couple of days earlier ... don't think it could have swum very far.

John Pearch stretches out at North Bend.

We made it to the end just as darkness fell.

Threading the Needle

Vincent mentioned yesterday that Randoing is much like threading the needle ... at least here in the Northwest. A window of reasonable weather shows up in the forecast and you have to grab it before it slips away. Thursday was one of those opportunities. No, the weather forecast wasn't perfect, but it wasn't snow, constant rain, or real cold. In other words, it was a good day to ride.

Mark Thomas and I rode Permanent 341 Leschi - North Bend - Leschi. We even got to see a few slivers of blue sky! Riding in the Snoqualmie Valley is always a pleasure; today was no exception. There were remnants of the recent floods - heavily damaged homes along the Fall City - Snohomish road and then a fish in the road - a rather odd sight.

Mark was exploring his new Garmin 705, so I introduced him to some of the different ways to use it ... courses vs. routes ... and the debate around the various options - track points vs. course points vs. way points. A geek's delight. I discovered a few things about my Garmin as well, including a whole bunch of leftover waypooints from last summer's Issaquah Populaire (I rarely use routes/waypoints). Anyway, I digress.

It was an enjoyable ride.