Monday, July 13, 2009

Three Highest Passes of the Cascades

Not quite sure how the Permanent got this name, since Washington Pass at 5,477 feet is higher than the three passes on this ride - Chinook (5,430), White (4,500), and Cayuse (4,675). So, for truth in advertising purposes, consider this a notice that it is really "Three High Passes of the Cascades". Okay. Now the record is clear.

I've wanted to do this Permanent for quite a while. So when the weekend opened up and the weather looked good, choosing this was a no brainer. Then the weather started turning too nice ... as in too hot. A forecast of mid 80's on the west side and mid 90's on the east side had me waffling. Bunnyhawk suggested riding on Sunday instead ... a much cooler forecast. Tempting. Very tempting. But no. I don't do well in the heat and the only way I'm going to get over that is to do some riding in it.

So I do what I can to prepare for the heat. Make sure I will have enough water ... three bottles should do it .. with some Ensure as backup. Enough food to eat along the way. Light color clothes to reflect rather than absorb heat. Remove fenders and backup light since it isn't going to rain and I shouldn't be riding in the dark. Take the counter-clockwise approach to the route - we should get two of the three climbs out of the way before noon - while it is cooler. Start the ride as early in the day as possible.

Since the ride starts at Greenwater and the only service open at that time is Buzzy's Cafe ... which opens at 6:00 AM ... we will start at 6:30. There are eleven riders - Erik Anderson, Bill Gobie, Dave Harper, Josh Morse, Vincent Muoneke, Eamon Stanley, Ken Ward, Charlie White, Michael Wolfe, and myself. Most of us get there a bit before six. I'm fiddling with my bike on the deck when Buzzy opens the door and gruffly says "They can't leave their cars here all day." While folks move their cars I go in and ask to order ... it is only Buzzy and I can tell service is going to be slow. Fortunately I should be able to get my bacon, eggs, & hash browns in time to eat and leave by 6:30. The others drift in and order. At 6:20 or so I go up to the cash register and ask to pay ... a couple of others, who had just had coffee, join me. Buzzy appears overwhelmed. When I pull out my Visa, he swears. Cash register breaks down. It is apparent that asking for a receipt is not going to be practical. Buzzy realizes that something is burning in the kitchen and leaves. I sign the VISA receipt and head out. It is now about 6:30, so those of us who are ready take off.

Michael Wolfe zooms off, with Vincent following closely. Erik Anderson, Charlie White, Ken Ward, Dave Harper, and I ride together for a while, then Erik & Charlie move out ahead as the grade increases. Ken, Dave & I mostly rode together until shortly after the turn back onto 410. The ride down from Cayuse Pass on SR-123 was fantastic ... the rode was redone last year and we had 5 or 6 miles of an effortless 35 mph descent. That was fun. I was glad to have my jacket and leg warmers on though. At the turn onto SR-12 I take them off ... no need for them on the climb up and the next descent won't be that chilly.

We make it to the top of White Pass and then stop for a sandwich at Silver Beach resort ... site of the overnight on last year's spring 600K. Since it is now warm and it is about 50 miles to the next certain water stop at Clifdell, we load up on water & ice. There is a bit of a head wind as we continue down 12 towards Naches, so it seems to take forever to make it to the 410/12 intersection. I've gone through one of my bottles. I have two insulated bottles and one regular water bottle. The water in the remaining insulated bottle is cold ... the non-insulated water is warm ...the insulation does make a noticeable difference.

I get into a good rhythm and begin to move out ahead of Ken & Dave. About ten miles up from the turn there is a store on the left that is open. I go in and restock with water & ice. Thinking Ken & Dave must have passed by while I was inside, I go on, hoping to catch them at Clifdell. They aren't there of course ... apparently still behind me. Not knowing how far back they are, I press on. I love the climb up Chinook. This road is fairly quiet, in pretty good shape, and is so scenic. While hot, it has been manageable ... plenty of water and an Endurolyte every half hour seems to be keeping me in decent shape. Still, the last five miles are pretty brutal ... the grade is "only" 5-6 %, but in the heat and after 125 miles and some 9,000 feet of climbing so far every 0.1 mile just ticks by ever so slowly. I have to stop every 1 - 1.4 miles to catch my breath for a minute and drink. Fortunately there is a bit of cloud cover now so it isn't as hot as it could be. But I finally make it to the top. Even though there are 27 miles to go, I feel as though the ride is complete. The rest of the ride is almost all downhill ... I can practically coast in.

I make it in at 6:45 ... 12 hours and 15 minutes. Maybe I'm getting so where I can ride in the heat! One thing I learned about riding in the heat ... don't take yogurt covered cranberries. The yogurt melts and makes quite a mess.

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