Sunday, October 25, 2009

Road Closed Ahead ... They don't mean us - do they?

Vincent Muoneke, Kole Kantner, Steve Davis, & I rode the inaugural (as a Permanent) ride of the Olympia - Vader - Olympia Permanent (#545). I had hoped we'd get some of the Olympia area randos to join us, but the late notice and distance (a 300K) kept that from happening. It was a ride of surprises ... pleasant and otherwise.

The first surprise was that the weatherman was right ... it was a pretty nice day. No rain and there were even stretches of blue sky and sun. It was chilly at the start ... it got down to 37 and at the end, but Kole and Steve weren't too cold in their shorts the rest of the time.

No surprise was the gorgeous ride through the Capital Forest on D-Line road. A relatively short albeit somewhat painful climb up to 900 feet, then a long gentle descent along a picturesque creek. This is one of my favorite sections in the state. Today did not disappoint!

A brief ... well, not so brief ... stop at Porter Creek, and then hours of meanderings through the backwoods of southwestern Washington. Relatively flat, with periodic hills thrown in to keep us honest. An unscheduled stop in Adna to refuel, then a long stop in Vader for real food.

Vincent had two breakfasts; the rest of us had Mountain Mash .... it was real good, but then we were real hungry and almost anything would have tasted good.

On leaving we noticed my rear tire was low ... I decided to just pump it up and see if it would hold (I'd topped it off the night before) my surprise it held just fine the rest of the way (I need to change it today ... it's almost flat now). We pumped it up just past a "Road Closed Ahead" sign. We had detoured around this closure (without seeing it) last month on our ride up to Johnston Ridge, but I knew that it had been passable, as James Gutholm had gone through it a few days later. So we figured we'd be able to work our way through.

Wrong. At least not easily. However, rather than a 6-7 mile detour, we passed our bikes from one ledge to another (top part of picture ar right) to get them down into the gap, then carried our bikes up the ladder on the other side (bottom part of picture at right). As soon as we were done, the ladder was pulled ... if we had been five minutes later there would not have been a way to get through here.

There was so much mud/sand/grit in our cleats and on the bikes that the clips were useless. Fortunately there was a hose at Winlock where we washed off. I don't think we saved any time compared to the detour.

It was just getting dark as we arrived in Chehalis for the last real control (two more info controls), so we finished prepping for night riding. Then set out again.

We had to adjust the information control question at the next stop ... couldn't find a sign for the gun club in the dark ... and then another road closure sign. Three miles ahed the road was closed. Was a bridge out ... a slide take away the road? No clue, but we went for it anyway. It would mean a 15 mile detour instead of a twelve mile detour if we couldn't get through, but why not? We were able to get through ... it was just a repaving project ... but they had sealed off the ends pretty well. We managed to find our way through / around the barricades and were off and running again.

At Bucoda we had a pleasant surprise as we ran into Ian Shopland. He had been biking back roads with John Pearch. We rode with him a little ways, then parted as our route back was much less direct than his.

The last major stretch of the ride was on the Chehalis - Western Trail. Normally a nice ride, I have no plans to ride it again this time of year. In many places it was covered in several inches of big leaves ... unsettling to ride through, especially in the dark. Where is the trail anyway? And is that a log under those leaves?

We finally made it back at 11:02 - just over 16 hours ... With almost three hours off the bike, it wasn't our most efficient ride :) 8,100 feet of climbing (per Training Center; 8,377 feet per Garmin Connect.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Okay, just one man's view here, and I recognize that I haven't ridden all the possible climbs in the state - particularly those in northeastern Washington ... and nothing off-road, but anyway here's a quick look at a bunch of the major paved road climbs in the state. This is a simple view ... ranks the climbs based on their elevation gain and on the average grade of the climb - a 50-50 weighting.

So the toughest five climbs ... without taking weather into account or the maximum grade or whatever ... are:

1. Hurricane Ridge 5,200 feet / 5.3 % grade
2. Washington Pass from Newhalem 6,500 feet / 3.9 % grade
3. Johnston Ridge Observatory from Toutle 5,600 feet / 3.4 % grade
4. Mt Baker from Glacier 4,500 feet / 3.6 % grade
5. Loup Loup Pass from Malott 3,400 feet / 3.8 % grade

Here's the link to the spreadsheet with the data.

There is measurement system error in this - I used Bike Route Toaster for the elevation info and I adjusted the grade calculation for a couple of the rides that had significant descents embedded in the climb to reflect the climbing over an estimate of the distance net of the distance spent descending.


Vincent and Charlie catch a breather in Port Gamble on the way back from Hurricane Ridge.

Lynn Gill, Kole Kantner, Charlie White, Vincent Muoneke, and I set out on the 6:10 AM ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge to climb up to Hurricane Ridge (5,200 feet) ... and return 286K / 170 miles. It was cold ... just above freezing when we set out and when we got to Hurricane Ridge. It was a nice day anyway ... and we were only a little concerned about the possibility of running into ice (we didn't).

We said hi to Dan Jensen at the ferry dock before we left ... he and Alan Bell were riding the Hood Canal Loop 2.0 from Bremerton. They beat us to Bainbridge at the end ... the ferry worker had heard we were coming from Dan/Alan.

As we were about to get off the ferry at Bainbidge, a bakery truck driver gave us a loaf of fresh bread for our ride. A nice treat that we enjoyed at several stops along the way.

With almost 13,000 feet of climbing, this was a tiring ride. The 5,000 feet from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge is a long, grueling climb ... but fortunately very manageable. Basically a consistent 5-8 %, with nothing over 10%. The rollers on WA-104 and US-101 added another 8,000 feet.

After a brief rest at the visitor center, we bundled up for the ride down.

Lynn struggled with her lights, but managed to make it without running into anything too big.

The biggest challenge we had was Vincent broke a spoke with about 17 miles to go ... huddled at the side of WA-104 in the cold and dark on the narrow shoulder, mostly staying out of the ditch and blackberries, Kole and Charlie performed surgery, removing Vince's rear brake so he could pedal. A couple of miles down the road, at the Port Gamble Road turn there was room to spread out a bit ... and a street light. We tried putting on a fiber spoke replacement, but couldn't remove the broken spoke ... a non-standard set-up. So the decision was made to ride gingerly the rest of the way, crossing our fingers that it would hold. It did!

We had time before the 10:30 ferry, so we stopped at a convenience store and Vince & I each bought a can of Fosters for the ferry ride back. Sort of becoming a tradition, as we've done that several times now. Very refreshing!