Sometimes we get in a rut. After close to 30 rides this year - 100's, 200's, and even a couple of 300's, they were beginning to be a bit repetitive. Enjoyable, yet predictable. It was time to shake it up a bit. On Sunday, as we were riding near Granite Falls, the topic of what to ride on Wednesday came up. I suggested a couple of the 200K Permanents that were nearby, and then ... how about a 400K ... The Baker Lake 400? Vinnie lit up. Kole was in. It was a go! Midnight Tuesday evening/ Wednesday morning was set as our start.
A check of the weather forecast - showers and chilly, but not downright cold and rainy - was confirmation that we were on. Moved the start time to 2:00 AM though - that way we'd get to Marblemount late enough that it would be above freezing (a forecast low of 31, but high close to 50).
A posting to the SIR list brought Dan Jensen into our cast of characters.
Starting time was soon upon us and we met at the Redmond QFC shortly before 2 AM. Scattered high clouds and an almost full moon ... looking good! Vinney is psyched - laughing before we even start riding. We head out and oops ... within a few miles, Kole gets a flat. He claims he never gets a flat, but that's two on the last two rides ...
The ride from Redmond to Arlington goes by quickly and, until we get near Arlington, is dry. Unfortunately the Arlington Haggen is no longer open 24 hours, so shortly after 5 AM we pull into the McDonalds/Chevron. The clerk claims to be "living the dream" when I ask how he's doing ... afraid of the answer I don't ask for clarification. The dude that was hanging out with him beating drumsticks on an eraser is enthralled with our bikes and barrages us with questions/commentary. Somehow the stop seems a bit long !
Darrington is not a scheduled stop, but we stop anyway. I think Kole impressed the locals, eating an ice cream bar in front of the store ... it is just above freezing at 7:30 AM. A young guy is hanging out at the tables inside the store. He asks where we are going ... I tell him Baker Lake. He has his mountain bike out front and wants to know - can he join us? What am I going to say? Sure. He offers me a beer from his 18-pack. When I decline, he decides against joining us. Oh darn!
We are soon on our way, enjoying the brisk morning. Fresh snow on the hillsides, perhaps a 1,000 feet or so above us, is gorgeous. Occasional low clouds, almost fog like, gives some stretches a misty feel along the Skagit.
We had planned to have a sit-down breakfast at Clark's Cabins (the control) outside Marblemount, but it turns out they are closed on Tuesday's and Wednesdays. Oops. Not wanting the 5 bonus miles that would result from going all the way into Marblemount, we opt for the info control backup and decide to stop at the Rockport Country Store to see if there are any options - with snacky stuff as a backup.
The clerk and a customer gives us some options in Concrete, where we are turning to head up to Baker Lake. We know about the choices a couple miles past the turn, but since we want to avoid bonus miles we are glad to hear there are some options ahead of us ... only 8 miles away! Eating a full meal and then heading up Burbee Hill (a mile plus of 10-15 % grade) isn't ideal, but we are hungry.
The State Park at Rockport has a sign .. closed Wednesday and Thursday. We aren't going to stop there, but is there a pattern forming?
When we get to Concrete, we ride through the main part of town - off the main highway - and find the restaurant. It is dark ... the open sign in the window is off. Dang it. We ride on, but before leaving town Vincent asks some folks at the side of the road. They say, no, no the restaurant is open. We go back and, sure enough, the front door is open and we go in. It is dark and quiet, and before we can sit down, a man comes out and says they're closed today. Oh well, at least we won't be climbing on a full stomach !
We start climbing and Kole/Vincent soon disappear around the bend. It is a slow grind, but Dan and I eventually make it to the top of the steep part. It is as steep as I remember, with grades of 10-15 %, but fortunately the chip seal is not as bumpy as it was before. And no loose gravel like in 2008.
It is a long stretch of quiet riding up to Baker Lake and the Baker Lake Resort. Dan and I arrive at the turn into the resort at noon - the fenced gate is shut & locked, with a violators will be towed sign ... and no Kole/Vincent. I look for tracks to see if perhaps they went in anyway, but with the gravel and vegetation, I couldn't see any. As Kole hadn't been there before ... and there being no sign announcing that this is were Baker Lake Resort was ... and Vincent not being known for catching all the route turns the first time, it appears likely that they simply missed the turn - which was not at all obvious - and kept going. We decide to go a little further to see if there was any sign of them, but quickly come to a "Pavement Ends" sign. Since there was no other way out, we figure we'll sit and wait back at the turn. They have to show up eventually, right? After 15-20 minutes we give up, work our way through the fence, and start in ... and of course Kole/Vincent then show up - they had gone in and had been waiting for us inside. Oh well.
We make it to Sedro Wooley about 3:00 PM ... and have some real food at the Subway. It is good. By about 3:30 we hit the road. Dan has a flat tire that delays us a bit. Granite Falls is the next control, which we reach about 6:45. Not quite as low a convenience store food, we stop at McDonalds for some more "real food" (term used loosely). A customer, seeing us in our bike clothes, asks if we "Motocross". When I say I don't he mumbles something about us not knowing what real biking was. Sensing that conversation isn't going to go anywhere worthwhile, we part.
Only 40 miles to go! And the weather is still holding. But as it will soon be dark and cooling down ... and there is a menacing cloud in the direction we are heading, I put my raincoat and reflective sash on, and turn the taillights on. As it is still warm enough, I pass on the balaclava and heavy gloves - opting to keep my fingerless ones on instead. I am soon to regret those choices.
As we head south from Granite Falls, dusk begins to settle in, but it is still quite pleasant ... other than the question of why are we riding towards that big dark cloud that is clearly going to mean rain? The setting sun and cloud reflections give the mountain off to the east a pretty orange glow ... and the clouds ahead of us have an odd orange blush to them. The sky above ... and to the southwest of us ... is clear. Would we be able to skirt the rain that is almost certainly ahead of us? Perhaps a re-route to avoid a thunderstorm is in order ... would that fly from a RUSA rules perspective? Safety and all that? Aah ... we'll be fine.
Turning onto Lk Roessinger Rd we start to get the occasional raindrop ... but we are heading a little east now, so maybe we'll be far enough east to miss the full rainstorm. Nope. As we near the south end of the Lake it starts pouring ... then buckets of wet snow ... think vanilla slurpee ... and within 100 yards the road is covered with almost an inch of slush. Where is the road anyway? My glasses fog up and with ice water running into my eyes I can barely see. My eyes are stinging, my hands and head are freezing. Do I stop to put my gloves and hat on? Is there shelter somewhere to wait this out? Is it safe enough to go on? We're on a bit of a hill, headed downhill, turning onto Woods Creek Rd. Forward. We know this is an isolated cloud ... we'll get past it. Somehow. Vincent is ahead of me, Dan and Kole behind me ... at least to start with. I'm trying to go slow enough to not slip, fast enough to get out of this quickly, while barely seeing ... and freezing. After a mile or two we are through ... dry pavement and practically clear skies again. Wow!
I catch up with Vincent ... no sign of Dan and Kole, but we figure we'll get to the control and wait for them in the warmth. It is a great ride - fast and downhill towards Monroe. Before we get there though, it starts to hail, then pour. Being closer to town now, there is oncoming traffic. With the water in my eyes and on my glasses, I have a hard time seeing anything due to the glare from the headlights. I can usually see Vincent's flashing taillight, so I aim for that and hope for the best. A few minutes later, shortly before 9:00 PM, we pull into the Monroe 7-11. I quickly dry off my face, glasses, and warm up. I also get out my warm gloves & hat for the remaining 20 miles! Kole & Vincent soon make it in ... and then the rain stops again.
Mostly clear skies and only a few raindrops the rest of the way. Kole and Vincent make a dash to the end, arriving at 10:30, while Dan and I slog it out, grinding slowly up Woodinville-Duvall Rd and finishing about 10:45. We celebrate a great ride with a round at the Irish Pub ... Thanks Vincent!
A bit of rando adventure - the right Rx to bring out the smiles! But Vincent's now talking of a 400K per month?