Saturday, August 22, 2009


Last fall I saw that the Granite Anvil 1200, a ride in Ontario, Canada, was going to be run this August. As this is in Dave Thompson's neck of the woods, I pointed it out to him to see if he'd be interested. We rode across the country together in 2007, then around Lake Superior in 2008, so it was natural that we'd find a ride together for 2009. While I had been randonneuring for a couple of years, it was a pretty new experience for Dave. He was up for it, so we signed up.

I flew in on Tuesday evening, Dave picked me up, and we headed out to Durham College in Oshawa (outside Toronto), which was where the ride start & finish were going to be. On Wednesday, I reassembled my bike and we went for a short ride, making sure everything was functional. Somehow I had managed to put it together correctly and it worked fine. We did get caught in a local shower and returned with everything soaking wet ... including the shoes. Hopefully they would dry out before the morning start. We had a quick lunch at Subway, then checked in for the bike ride ... everything was on track. The weather continued to be quite promising ... low 80's and no rain expected.

Day 1

The ride actually started Thursday morning at 5:00 AM. I went down to breakfast about 4:15 ... and was delighted to see Vincent. Vincent had arrived from Seattle Wednesday evening ... after a canceled flight and various trials & tribulations ... and had only been able to get about an hour's sleep. I was feeling pretty good with my 7 hours of sleep.

Thursday's ride was about 365K - from Oshawa to Victoria Harbor. It was a quite pleasant ride, with just under 8,000 feet of climbing for the day - no major climbs, just lots of ups & downs. The roads were generally nice with relatively little traffic. A few dirt stretches, but nothing too painful. I especially enjoyed the stretch by Lake Huron near the end of the day.

We arrived at Victoria Harbor about 10:15 PM or so. The accommodations were at a Community Center. The volunteers & Food were great. Sleeping arrangements not so much. Pads on the floor with blankets ... and they were out of pads. After dinner and a shower (with no hot water!), I arranged 4 chairs (padded) in a row along the wall as a bed and tried to sleep. No real luck there, and a fire alarm soon went off. It kept going for quite a while, but eventually was shut off. Apparently making toast in the oven wasn't very successful. I don't know if I slept at all, but at least I rested. I was up well before the 3:00 AM wake up.

Day 2

We left Victoria Harbor about 3:40 AM. The day was "only" 305K, so we (Dave, Vincent, & I) expected to have a fairly short day. The morning riding was quite enjoyable ... on quiet roads. We rode a bit with Carol Bell, seen above with a cute foal that was enjoying the morning. By the late afternoon the lack of sleep and relatively high temperatures caught up with Vincent ... he had a major bonk with perhaps 60K to go - and he was out of water. We found a shady grass knoll to rest on, then I filled his water bottle up at a nearby house. Vincent doused himself with water from a house to cool down ... and after a few minutes we were on our way again. We made it to the overnight shortly after 7:00 PM.

As the night's accommodations were at another community center, we opted to rent a motel room at the nearby Best Western. It was the right decision. Vincent crashed immediately; Dave & I weren't too far behind ... although we had dinner first. We slept well - much better than had we tried to sleep on the floor of the community center.

Day 3

I think we got up around 1:30 and hit the road shortly after 2:30 AM. It was going to be another long day - 330K or so. Today's ride was marred by three stretches of bad roads ... the first two were a total of close to 15K of dirt/gravel construction that was bone jarring, dusty, and quite unpleasant. There was one stretch with pilot cars ... which of course didn't wait for the bikes. When the cars started coming the other way ... they didn't yield and forced us off the slightly packed portion into the unpacked portion. A nearby construction worker said she'd throw a rock at 'em. I just yelled at the driver - who was chatting on his phone.

Dave & I reached the next to last control for the day (95K to go) a few minutes before Vincent & the two other riders we'd been riding with ... and they rode by, not seeing the signs. Fortunately a volunteer got in their car and tracked them down. At the pace we had been going so far during the day, we wouldn't finish until 1 - 2 AM. After a nice rest, a decent meal, and having recharged both ourselves & our Garmins', we headed off. We picked up the pace considerably. Having our Garmins paid off again. There were issues with the route sheet ... we came upon a group of five riders standing around at an intersection trying to decide if this was the turn or not. According to our Garmins it was, so we continued on. We made it to the overnight before midnight. Another great meal and we were in "bed" (pads on the floor & blankets) a bit before 1:00 am.

Day 4

We had decided to make it a short night to maximize our riding while it was cool ... and because we (or at least I) didn't expect to actually sleep. Truth be told, I slept like a log. We were awakened at 2:00 AM ... at least Vincent & I were ... I asked them a few minutes later if they had woken Dave up and they hadn't ... so Dave got an extra 15-20 minutes of sleep. We left at 3:00 AM, hoping for a short day ... only 197K to go!

While it wasn't foggy when we left, within a few kilometers it was thick as pea soup ... thicker. Once again I was very glad to have my Garmin. I followed the road by sticking close to the yellow dividing line and was able to tell we were at the turn Gomorrah Road because the yellow line stopped and the garmin said we were at the turn. We went to the side of the road to look for the turn ... but couldn't see it. After peering for a while into the soup, we saw the outline of a stop sign ... and so ventured forth. There was a road there ... a dirt road... but it was the right one. How others without a Garmin found it, I'll never know. The fog lifted around daylight.

We had lunch at Rice Like ... it was at an air conditioned bar. It was pretty hot out now, so it was nice to cool off and start the "home stretch" refreshed. While the first part of the day had been relatively flat, the last little bit and most of the rest of the way were quite hilly & definitely hot. I had been drinking my water fairly well, but I worked on stretching my water supply now and didn't drink as much as I should have ... even though I had three bottles for the last 35 miles or so. Vincent ran out of water, but stopped at a house and got a refill. Vincent & Dave zipped off with perhaps ten miles to go. I was hot and didn't want the pick up the pace, so we didn't finish together. But we finished shortly after 3:00 PM.


There was a celebratory BBQ at 6:00 PM, with beer, burgers, & hot dogs. A little after 7:00 PM, they had some awards ... distributed the Can-Am medals (completing a US & a Canadian 1200K in the same year). In the middle of the awards, my gut started hurting, so I headed for our room (& the bathroom). I thought I was going to explode. For the next six hours I rotated between the bathroom, a hot shower, and my bed ...a little after 1:00 AM I bit the bullet and woke up Dave, asking him to take me to the hospital. The diagnosis - dehydration. Two liters of IV fluid, a laxative, an enema, a catnap on the ER toilet, and three and a half hours later we were on our way back to Durham College.

I was up by 9:00 AM and felt pretty good. It took me a couple of hours to disassemble & pack my bike, but was done with plenty of time before the van came to take me to the airport. My flight back from Toronto, via Atlanta, was uneventful other than by baggage getting lost. Fortunately it was delivered to me the next day.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Baker Lake 400K Pre-Ride- It's Still There!

Vincent & I pre-rode the Baker Lake 400K yesterday, starting at midnight. Why midnight? Well, that way I could get a good night's sleep before hading out to the 300K later today (fortunately not to ride).

Having ridden the Baker Lake 400 last year I knew what to expect .. and wasn't disappointed.

The green colors of Baker Lake were still there, as was the lush foilage along the route. The eagles along the Skagit were still there. Clark's Cabin restaurant at Marblemount was still there ... we had a nice breakfast there. While we didn't see any bear this year, they are still there too.

Burbee Hill Road up from Concrete is still there. The first mile, with its 9 - 17 % grade, will still have you swearing at Mark. The second mile, with its 5 - 9 % grade will still have you muttering with only occasional outbursts as the grade briefly jumps into the mid teens. At least the loose gravel is gone, settled into mild chip seal.

Mt. Baker was still there ... although we had lots of cloud cover so we didn't actually see it ... this picture is from last year :)

The temporary bridge on the road to Baker Lake is still there ... as is the gap in the middle that, speaking from first hand experience, can grab your wheel and send you flying.

The Baker Lake "Resort" store is still there, with its picnic table ready for you to have a nice lunch at.

New this year ... at least for us ... was strong headwinds along SR-20 to Sedro Wooley and the north part of SR-9. That was pretty brutal. We needed to take some extra time to recover from that! Hopefully you'll have sunny skies and a nice tailwind instead.

Also still there was the climb up Woodinville -Duvall Road, with its narrow shoulders. What was new ... or perhaps I just forgot ... was the high grass (and occasional blackberry bush) bending over the shoulder, making it even narrower. Having a helmet flashing taillight was a big help here to make sure traffic can see you, especially in those portions that curve to the right.

Perhaps my favorite part that was still there is that final brutal climb up to Mark's house at the end ... somehow it didn't seem as bad this year :)