Sunday, April 19, 2009

Amy et Ami: Food, Friends, Fun, and Biking Too!

This weekend was the SIR Fleche.

Fleche: A 24 hour team bike ride of at least 360K (223 miles) with no stops of more than 2 hours and where at least 25 K is ridden in the last 2 hours. It is held annually on or about Easter weekend.

That sounds interesting. I think I'd like to do that.

A few months ago Ward Beebe, Vincent Muoneke, and I were on a bike ride and Ward mentioned he'd like to do the Fleche this year. Vincent, who never passes up the chance to ride, jumped at the opening ..."Let's do it!" I chimed in ..."Count me in!" On a ferry ride to or from another Permanent, Mark Thomas mentions he's interested in doing the Fleche we are at four riders ... and Mark says he knows a fifth ... and soon Amy Pieper is on the team.
Now where to go? We know we're going to end up at the Red Lion in Olympia, but where to start and go through? How far to go ... 360K is the minimum, we could go further. No, we'll go the minimum. Even if you ride further, you only get "credit" for going 360K. Still, 360K is a long ways to go. Ward wants to have dinner on the coast, I want to ride through the Capital Forest along D-line, site of last spring's 300K Brevet, and then Vincent has offered his cabin near Shelton as a stop. We soon have a start time and route mapped out and, after some tweaking to pass Ralph & Carol's review - we're set.

Or so I thought. Part of the route ... from around Elma to near Montesano went along the south bank of the Chehalis river. On the way to the Oregon 300K brevet last week (an awesome ride!), I decided to drive a section of the ride, as I hadn't ridden it before and one of the map sites showed it not going through. Darn good thing I checked. After three or four miles of gravel, the road heads away from the river and is closed off by a gate. At least we discovered it before the ride, not on the ride. Some more adjusting and we really do have a final ride.

No we don't says Mark. We use a short section of US-101 twice in the same direction. This is a "no-no" according to Mark. Mark finds a bike path that we can take through Cosmopolis instead, so now we are really, really set - promise! Here's the route:

Apparently we also need a team name. I polled the team for suggestions, then we voted. I'm not saying how anyone voted ... it was a secret ballot ... but it was unanimous for "Amy et Amis" ... okay, one vote was thrown out (Amy's) for hanging chad. Amy claims the vote was corrupt since no one admitted voting.

Our start was 3:00 PM on Friday from the Tumwater Chevron on Trosper Rd. This is about 4 miles from the finish, so we parked at the end and rode our bikes to the start ... a few bonus miles. Here Vincent, Mark, and Amy are getting ready. Ward was stuck in traffic and made it to the Chevron at about 3:15.

Here Mark, Ward, and Amy head up Bordeaux Road on our way into Capital Forest. Despite a bit of rain in the morning, the day was turning out pretty nice.

The toughest climb of the ride was up D-Line Road in the Capital Forest. Not a killer by any means, but noticeable. It starts around 250 feet and goes to about 825 feet with grades of up to 14%. Here Ward, Amy, Mark, and Vincent pose for a picture and catch their breath. It was nice to get the tough part out of the way early. Now for the downhill!

The downhill stretch is beautiful and goes for miles. They go by quickly.

Soon we are on US-12 on our way to Elma, then we endure a bunch of chip seal on the Monte-Elma Road. At mile 44 we are ready for a break and pull into the Montesano grocery store. Not a planned stop, but we're doing fine time-wise ... only a few minutes behind the rough timeline I had laid out. We're soon on our way again and make it through Cosmopolis. It is about to get dark, so we rig for night riding and then head for Westport.

Dinner time. The Half Moon Bay Cafe in Westport was our dinner stop. A far cry from normal rando meals at mini marts and other convenience type stores. No microwaved burritos here. Linen napkins and candles on the tables. Would they let us in? Not a problem. A real menu and good food! We have a great dinner ... lots of good food. I have prawn fettuccine and a bowl of chowder. Yum! Vincent asks our waitress, Lolly, to take our picture. So here we have Vincent, Ward, Mark, Lolly (back row), Geoff, and Amy.

The night is forecast to get cold ... mid 30's, so we put on more clothes and bundle up before we head out. As we get on our bikes and start out, Lolly runs out ... someone (Vincent) had left their brevet card inside. Oops! Thanks Lolly. It had been a great stop. We arrived a bit before I expected, but then we took longer ... about an hour and a half.

Fortunately the route out of Westport is flat (think pancake), so we start out very slow as we work on digesting dinner. Eventually we get back to a reasonable pace, but are able to enjoy a quiet ride (aside from the roar of the ocean) under the stars. Hardly any traffic ... it was great. Six or seven miles from Raymond we rode into pea soup ... it was foggy! Apparently we were still visible to the few cars on the road, as a policeman stopped by while we were stopped on the side of the road to tell us to be sure to not ride in the middle of the road as even though we could be seen, there wasn't much advance warning because of the fog.

We rolled into Raymond Chevron at about 1:30 AM ... still pretty much on our timeline. Since we were still pretty full ... well, at least not famished yet, we kept it a short stop. A bit of caffeine, signatures on the cards, and we hit the road.

The road from Raymond to Aberdeen may have been the toughest part of the ride. Hilly, foggy, and sleepy. It's hard to ride fast up the hills ... so we didn't. It's hard to ride fast down the hills when it is dark and foggy ... so we didn't. But we did make it to the Aberdeen Dennys a bit before 4:00 AM. It wasn't quite up to the standard that dinner set, but it was a pretty good breakfast. Then there was a little time to rest the eyes before we hit the road around 5:00 AM.

From there we headed to Montesano and then back on the Monte-Elma Road and that wonderful chip seal. A quick pit stop at the Brady Store and then we turned north to Matlock. Even though it was now daylight, it was the coldest part of the ride, as the fog was back. We warmed up at the Matlock store.

On our way from Matlock towards Shelton we ran into the Painted Fleche team ... stopped and compared notes. I went to take a picture and ended up with a bit of video ...

Then a great rest stop at Vincent's cabin on Lake Limerick. Vincent had all sorts of stuff to munch on and drink ... and we took the opportunity to rest for an hour. Shortly after 11:00 AM it was back to the bikes.

We didn't have far to go, maybe seven miles, to our next control ... the Shelton Denny's. It was a bust. We weren't really hungry and each ordered a little something, but didn't really like it or finish it. I had nachos, Vincent had apple pie a la mode, and Mark had a horrible concotion ... something like hush puppies ... pancake batter balls deep fried and then rolled in cinnamon sugar, with syrup, and wrapped in bacon. Never again!

Six miles to the twenty-two hour control. We make it there shortly before 1:00 PM. Ralph and Carol are there with goodies in their van (not that we needed anything to eat!). They signed our cards, took pictures, and then sent us off at 1:00 PM for the last 15 miles.

At 2:25 we pulled into the Red Lion. We made it! We had our cards signed, then had a drink in the bar. It was good to sit ... on something other than a bike seat. Vincent invited the Charly Miller Fleche team over to the cabin for a BBQ, so we headed back to the cabin to get ready. I had a new appreciation for rumble strips as I drove back ... it was only about a 25 minute drive, but after the first stretch I had a hard time staying awake and kept veering into the strips. When we got to the cabin, I showered and went to sleep for half an hour or so. I woke up as folks arrived. It was a grand time ... good food and lots of rando stories.

In the morning it was time for the banquet ... each team tells about their ride. Ralph and Carol had posted maps of each team's rides (there were ten teams) with details about each one. Ours was the shortest ride - there were several that were close - the longest was 507 K. Wow!

Fleche: A good time!