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.

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