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.