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!


matt m said...

Wow, sounds like quite the ride, nice pics too - and you make it sound so easy!

Congrats on the finish; a 1000k sounds daunting enough at this point, much less an unsupported one.

Robert H said...

Great report. Did you guys jump in to a pool before that last shot?

Dave Thompson said...

Well done. Not a ride for the timid.


tripieper said...

Great report Geoff and a great ride for the 3 of you - a nice team!

Rando Rider said...

We didn't jump in a pool before the last shot ... we rode through it !

Peter McKay said...

Hey Geoff, Thank you for sharing the story of your ride!!! Gotta love the polouse! Love your blue shirt photo at the finish. Cheers!

brons2 said...

Nice. I rode this ride fully supported in 2007 and I can't imagine doing it unsupported. One advantage you did have, sounds like, was nicer weather...it was 90+ every day for us and close to 100 between Plains and Flathead Lake.

cecilanne said...

Great report, Geoff - the pack of wild Papillons that attacked you must have been friends of the roving bands of Chihuahuas that I kept encountering on last year's Desert River 600K!