Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Velo On The Horizon!

The Ciocc is great, but the lack of real fenders are going to be tough this winter. (The Miyata has just-about full fenders, but only fits 25's with them, and just feels clunky when riding it.. I might make it a fixed gear again).

So... with some dough ready to be spent, and some ideas in mind, I went window-shopping (on the web). Indy Fab? Great bikes, but I don't have time and/or patience to wait for them to build one up. Not to mention went I went to a bike shop out on the peninsula to inquire about one, all I got to show for it was a shiny IF catalog, and a "yeah those are great bikes." I guess their IF guy was out that day.. oh well, I guess it just wasn't meant to be, at least not yet.

There's Rivendell of course, but personally those seem like a lot of money for what sounds like a heavy frame. While they do have great style in the bikes they produce, I'm not quite ready to take the boutique-dive just yet. And of course there's Co-ho bikes, Pereira, etc. And Davidson downtown. I can envision a custom rando bike on the horizon eventually, but I want a new bike NOW! I don't have the patience to wait for a spiffy custom frame. 

As a side-note, I thought about throwing my love of steel out the window, and buying a Crumpton Carbon Randonneur bike. It's $11,000. I thought about it for about five seconds, then decided to wait until I'm at least 50 for that one. I could buy lots of bikes for that price! A more "reasonable" custom rando bike would be in the $4-5k range, but even then I don't want to wait for this bike.

Not to mention, Jan Heine's 600k coming up in September. That's not that far away, time is ticking!

So I e-mailed Lloyd at Velo Bike Shop, and inquired about a Surly Pacer. I had narrowed down the choices to the Pacer or the Salsa Casseroll, like what Robert has. But in the end the more classic look of the Pacer's top tube is what swayed me, as they appear to weigh roughly the same.

It will be my Randonee/Commute/Rain/Fun/Critical Mass Machine, my do-it-all rig. My main requirement for the bike was that it fit full fenders, with wider tires. The Pacer advertises 28's with fenders, 32's without - that should be just fine! (I've been riding on 25's lately, and can actually feel a slight different on rough roads; the 28's should feel even better)

I'm thinking a handlebar bag, and of course a dynohub, most likely a fancy SON model. Maybe even downtube shifters. Can't wait!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Baker Lake 400k: We Ride From Sunrise to Sunset, and Beyond

For some reason I assumed this brevet would be easier than the Three-Pass 400k we did back in May; a reasonable assumption, I thought. Well I was wrong!

I mean the May 400k went over Snoqualmie, Blewett, and Stevens passes! And it had some tough hills in the last 80k. So I figured the Baker Lake 400 would be tough, but not quite as hard, and that I might be able to "beat" my time of ~19:20 on the last 400.
Well the Baker Lake 400k was just as hard, if not harder, and some parts were more challenging than anything I've ever done before. Take for instance Burbee Hill "Road" - I'd esitmate it was an 8-9% grade, but I know for sure that it was covered with gravel. The tire tracks were just about the only rideable part, the rest was too loose. Even then I could only hold 4-5 km/h going up it!

Part One - Before Sunrise

I left the apartment on Capitol Hill at 4 AM, heading for the start in Redmond. The route to Redmond is a familiar one, and with just about zero traffic, there was little to hold me back from making decent time getting there.

The I-90 bike trail was of course empty, as was I-90 itself. A shot of I-90 Bike Trail at 4 AM:

When I got to "downtown" Redmond, I found the start of 202 West, and took it. But about a mile into, I starting doubting that I was on the right street. For some reason there were no signs of any help, and the one I did see just said "Redwood Rd" (which I now understand decodes to "Redmond-Woodinville Road"), so I turned around. It was 15 minutes before the start, and I was basically lost! But I knew I was close.

Now doubting my own doubts, I turned around again, luckily heading back in the correct direction towards Mark's house. As I finally approached it at about exactly 6 AM, I saw the confirmation of many bike headlights turning out of his driveway. I was late, but only by minutes.

I quickly got my brevet card and got on my way, trying to catch up to the riders ahead of me. Not that I wanted to get ahead of anyone in particular, just that I didn't want to spend the whole next 20-some-odd hours alone!

Part Two - Sunrise to Sunset

Sunrise Over Redmond:

Sunrise Over the Brevet:

An incline in the beginning of the ride:

Snohomish - 7 AM - we made quick time getting here, and by now I'm with the front group.

The Centennial BIke Trail - takes you from Snohomish to Arlington

The road to Darrington:

Darrington, I think:

The Accident

At the store in Darrington we heard news that the road we were about to take to Marblemount, Highway 530, was closed. A biker told me nobody was allowed to go up there because of it. Oh no, could this be the end to our ride?

Geoff said he thought maybe cyclists would be allowed to pass, and we hadn't seen Kevin or any of the riders at the front turned around yet, so it was worth the ~25 km trip up the road to find out if we could get around the scene or not.

They let us pass, but I wish I could block out the scene from my memory - a maroon sheet covering what must a been the bike + rider, and bits of who-knows-what scattered on the ground. Not something you see every day, or want to. But it was a good reminder of the frailty of life, and just how quick a sunny day could turn into your last. [news story]

Prelude to the scene:

Marblemount - after a great ride down Cascade River Road, we finally made it to Marblemount, a quintessential WA town.

Highway 20 on the way to Concrete:

Concrete, WA

Just after this point I missed the turn back on to E Street (the cue had two directions on one line!), and took a 4 km detour.

In concrete is where we met up with Burbee Hill, a real challenge. But if it gets you to views like this, then it's all worth it!

Getting closer to the resort:

Heading towards the resort was interesting, because the road was never flat. And you could see the faster riders coming the other way, and just how far they were ahead of you. My hopes of catching up to Andy and the crew were dashed, as I saw them pass when I was still 4-5 miles out from the turn around point. My detour was a costly adventure in terms of time!

After a snack at the Baker Lake control, I was off again, glad to be just about half way through with the ride. Oh yeah, at this point we were about 20 miles away from the Canadian border!!

Now back on Highway 20 heading west to Sedro-Woolley, the sun is setting.

Part Three - After Sunset

It was getting dark just as I got to Sedro-Woolley, at roughly 8 PM. The next 37 miles were to be in dark, alone, on Highway 9. I've done this road a few times, but always in the daytime. In the day it's a really busy road, almost annoyingly so. But at 9-10 PM there was very little, sometimes I wouldn't be passed by anyone for up to 20-30 minutes! It was just me, the stars, and my E6 headlight to guide the way.

After what seemed like forever, I made it to Arlington. Street lights and other humans were a welcome sign of civilization, after two or three hours alone in the dark! I saw Peg at the Arlington control, also glad to see another rider.

It was about 8 PM at this point, and there was still much ground to cover. Granite Falls was the next stop, less than 20 miles away. But it took quite some time to get there!

About a mile after leaving Arlington, I heard a wssk-wssk-wssk as I rolled. There was a piece of what look like fishing wire extending from my tire, so I yanked it out. Noise gone.

But whatever it was put some holes in my tube, because not five minutes later I was fixing a flat. Luckily I found a street light to fix it under, my helmet's light isn't all that great. You can see how dark it was in the background here - and there was some rustling in the bushes next to me, never found out what that was.

Granite Falls - 12 AM

I arrived at the "24 hour" control to find it closed. So I just signed my own card and continued on.

And after quite a few turns, and a lot of uncertainty ("Am I going the right way?"), I made it back to Mark's house in Redmond. It was 4:30 AM, way later than I'd expected to finish.

Kira was kind enough to come scoop me up, seeing as how the ride home might have taken another two or three hours. Thanks, baby!!

As all SiR brevets have been, this one was wonderful too, and highly recommended! Official Ride Results: here

Ride Stats

Distance: 450 km (402 brevet + 24 commute + 4 lost) (my 2nd longest ride to date)
Brevet time: 6 AM to 4:30 AM (22.5 hours)

A bunch more photos on flickr.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ride Preview: Baker Lake 400k

Tomorrow at 4 AM, I'll be rolling out towards Redmond. What's out there so early you ask? 

A 400k brevet, that's what! The brevet doesn't start until six, but the bike commute out over I-90 will take some time, although it'll be a nice warm-up over familiar roads. (I call it a commute since most of the route out there is the same as my work commute)

It's another SiR brevet, although not a big one in terms of riders (only eight pre-registered riders). The route will take us through Snohomish, Arlington, Granite Falls, Marblemount, Baker Lake, Concrete (that should be interesting!), and Sedro-Woolley. Yes, there's a town in Washington name Sedro-Woolley!

I've ridden to most of these towns, but not Baker Lake, or Concrete. I'll be towing a camera along, so the trip should produce another bounty of photos for your perusal! From the pre-ride report it sounds like another wonderful route that could only be in the Puget Sound.

So if you're reading this any time between 4 AM 8/23 and about 4 AM 8/24 (PST), I'm probably out on the road, either riding, resting, or eating! I'll be sure to post something about my adventure on Sunday.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

RUSA 10th Anniversary 200k Brevet: Sometimes DNF Stands For "Don't Neglect Friends"

Yesterday I set out to do Seattle Rando's 200k brevet, part of a series of brevets going on around the nation, in celebration of Randonneur USA's 10th Anniversary. About 50 Riders showed up for the ride to Bremerton via the ferry, a good showing for this soon-to-be-hot day.

As per my usual, I left home later than I wanted to, and barely made the ferry! When I got there at first, there was a double-line of autos!! And here I was at the back, patiently waiting:

Lucky for me the cashier waved me ahead of a bunch of cars, and I was the last person/car/anything to board the ferry! It wasn't the first time I'd been almost-late to catch a ferry.. hopefully the last though.

Rando bikes on the ferry:

Riders preparing to leave the ferry in Bremerton:

After some starting notes from organizer Eric, we were off! The beginning reminded me just a tad of Critical Mass - but instead of lots of fixed gears, these were mosty rando bikes, and there was no traffic to get in our way:

We got off to a good start, and held a nice pace. Robert on his fixed gear was looking strong. My buddy Dennis and his friend John came along, always nice to have more randos!

John and other riders on the way to the first control:

Dennis has always been a strong rider, and has a way of doing big rides with little-to-no-training - so neither of us thought it was a big deal that he hadn't ridden a lot before this 200k. We'd just planned to take it easy. And normally things might have just been a bit slower than usual; but with the 90F heat surrounding us, things went south pretty quick. But first...

Free Mozarella Sticks!

In Belfair, we stopped at a gas station for fuel/water. I like - scratch that, I love - fried foods, so I rarely shy away from the mysterious fried items on display at country gas stations. I ordered up some mozarella sticks, and when I went to pay for them she said, "You can have these for free, since they don't keep for very long."

What?! Well not to look the gift-horse in the mouth, I accepted my "gift" of who-knows-how-old cheese sticks without any question. They were fine. Surely not fresh, but they didn't taste bad anyway.

Free food never tasted so good:
The Ride Goes South

Technically we were headed north, but the ride was about to go south, in a bad way. The bad started when we took a wrong turn... a Big Wrong Turn that gave us ~20 bonus kilometers! The cue said the turn was easy to miss, and that the road was unmarked. Cryptic instructions went like: "Turn left after the Subway, but before the 76, towards QFC." All of which made sense when we took the turn... and the road was unmarked, so we just pushed along and hoped for the best. All of the roads out here look the same to me anyway, so I had no idea we were going the wrong way!

Our next turn was to be to the left, but on our left was nothing but water.. And soon the street name we were on became "North Shore Drive." Hmm. So we asked for directions, and sure enough they said, "About six miles back that way." Ouch!

Dennis was already suffering a bit, and while none of us were happy to have taken a detour, he certainly wasn't excited to turn around. Speeds slowed, and John & Robert were nice enough to wait for us back at the US 3/Old Belfair Highway junction.

After getting back to the junction, we saw the correct road, and finally took it. We knew what was coming next, thanks to our cues: Bear Creek-Dewatto Road, 8% grade for 1/2 mile! Finally the turn came, and the 8% grade was presented before us.

Dennis spotted a creek so we stopped and got our hats wet. My trusty bandanna, which can serve so many purposes, was dunked and felt great wrapped around my neck. We were running low on water, but the next control was only 10 or so miles away. No problem.

We had plenty of time to make it (at least an hour), or so I thought. But after we started going uphill, Dennis was really having a tough time at it. I waited for a few minutes at the top, and eventually he came around the bend. We rested in the shade for a bit, then set off again.

From Bad To Worse

After climbing this hill, which was longer than 1/2 mile (but not 8% the whole way), Dennis said at this point he started swerving, and just didn't feel "right." So we took another break, and he laid down on some rocks/bushes/whatever - not the most comfortable, but he really needed to rest! After 10 minutes he felt better, so we set off again.

But the hill just kept on going up, and it was really hot by this point (it was about 2 PM and 90F degrees). Dennis was feeling ill again, so we stopped and he needed more rest & shade. I could tell he was really not feeling well, and didn't want to push him to leave, but at this point we were really cutting it close to missing the cut-off time at the next control.

Dennis recovering in the shade:

The next control, only about five miles away at this point, closed at 2:55 PM. At about 2:30 he was still recovering/resting on the ground, and I figured we needed to get him to the control before too long. Riding there wasn't really an option for him, so I flagged down the first pickup I saw. I don't think I've ever stuck my thumb out for a ride before this!

The guy in the pickup couldn't have been nicer; he practically slammed on his brakes, skidded into the gravel shoulder, backed up, and offered his assistance. Who'd have thought an angel could be scruffy, shirtless, and bearded? Turns out the guy worked at the gas station we were headed for, so he knew where to go.

With Dennis in the truck and on the way to food/water/shade/recovery, I set off with about 10 minutes to go spare to make it. The guy in the truck made it sound like it was "just at the bottom of the hill," which it was I suppose - but the headwinds came out of nowhere, and the time kept ticking while the road kept going.

Eventually I hit the T-intersection, and took my left for the control. But it was 3 PM! Control-time missed by ~10 minutes, brevet over. I got my card signed anyway, with brief thoughts of finishing with a DNQ (Did Not Qualify), which seems only marginally better than a DNF.

The Control Back To Bremerton

Dennis was resting in the shade, looking a bit beat up, but still alive! On the way there I had images of bad movies flashing through my head, thinking, "Do I even know what the truck looked like?!" "What if they guy just steals Dennis?" Luckily the guy was totally legit, my worries were for not. He was indeed a scruffy angel.

I called Eric (the organizer) to let him know what had happened, and that we were abandoning the ride. His directions to the ferry were the exact opposite of an older gent we'd asked earlier (they older guy said take a bunch of lefts, Eric said take a bunch of rights). So we triple-checked and asked the clerk inside, and indeed Eric was correct.

After an hour or so of enjoying the shade, food, and water, we set off for Bremerton. The roads were pretty tame, and we made it just in time for the 5:30 ferry. Dennis had recovered and was fine at this point - funny how the body can do that, recover from the brink of disaster! It takes a strong human, both physicall and metally, to be able to recover like that.

In the end, it was a great ride, and I got to see some familiar faces: Narayan, Joe P, Mark T. Mark got a kick out of my tiny Carrdice saddlebag. Even met a blog reader, Jack I think was his name.

I ended up with about 170km for the day, just over 100 miles. Which was plenty for me on this hot, hellish day. While the ride had its ups and downs, overall it was fun! Big thanks to the organizers and volunteers; the controls were great! Although I don't think I'll be writing any poetry any time soon..

Anyway a few more photos from the ride can be found on flickr. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seattle to Cougar Mountain, WIth Some Offroad Action!

After watching some Olympic road cycling today, I went for a spin with a goal of hitting up the Cougar Mountain Climb, one of my local favorites. Sunny skies, a littering of clouds, what more can I ask for?

On the way out over I-90/Mercer Island, there was a guy riding on the freeway, going the other direction (this was on the bridge between Mercer Island & Bellevue). After he saw me I think he realized what was going on, and got on to the trail.

At first I was thinking he was a rider finishing some crazy coast to coast tour, and having ridden I-90 for the last 1,000 miles, was oblivious to the bike trail. Instead it was a guy in Dockers shorts, on a hybrid or mountain bike - had probably just gotten on the wrong road in Bellevue that spit him out onto the Interstate. I'm all for riding on big highways, but only in the parts outside of the metro area that you're allowed to do so - otherwise is not a good idea!

Anyway I made it out to the base of Cougar, and had passed a smaller chap on a big mountain bike, who somehow had held on enough not to be completely dropped by the time I started Cougar. After a few minutes of climbing, I look back only to see this little guy (well he was kind of short I think), chugging up the Mountain after me.

We must have been going about the same speed the whole time (10-11 km/h), as when I got to the "top" and was taking the left for the "bonus" climb, I could see him chugging up that last little kick. It's nice to have someone chasing you! Makes for good motivation. For all know the guy was heading home, but in my head he was out to catch me..

After the leg-breaking bonus climb, I ventured into a new area of Cougar: the unpaved part. When you keep going straight at the top, the road becomes gravel/rocks, and I just kept going.

My 25's aren't much for dirt/gravel, but they held out pretty well. I rode on this unpaved road for about .5 km, then ended up at a trail head, and turned around. The small descent from the trailhead (on dirt) was interesting - I haven't ridden with the uneasy feeling of going forwards, yet sliding sideways at the same time, in quite a while! What a feeling! You're out of control, but not enough to make you crash - you just have to plan waaaay ahead when it comes to steering.

The screaming descent down Lakemont (?) was great, and I hit 77 k/h on it (w/ dynohub on). I've done 80 km/h going down that before, I must not have done the aero tuck correctly...

After making my way back to Seattle via the I-90 trail, I took Lake Wa Blvd over to Madison St, then after a left on that, took a right on 29th to begin some more brutal climbing. Usually Dennis & I take Aloha Ave to get back up to Volunteer Park, but this time I decided to take Seattle's steepest incline, weighing in at a whoppiong 22% grade!

Sure, it's only one (small) block long, but with about 60k of work on my legs so far, it looked pretty daunting. Actually it looks more like a wall than anything else! And you get to do a 10% or so block of climbing just to get to the steepest section...

I geared down to 39x27 and let it rip - I ground up the incline, barely eeking out 4-5 km/h, if that. You've got to balance just right on a hill like this: too far forward, and your back wheel will skid. Too far back, and your front wheel will leave the ground! In fact there were a few times that my front wheel poppped up a bit, quite scary.

But in the end I made it to the top, without stopping or walking. The cobbles after this section were a relief, at an easy 5% grade or so.
Ride Stats:
Total Distance: 65 km
Total Rolling Time: 3 hrs 4 minutes
Total Time: 3 hrs 30 minutes
Totals Year to Date: [log]
Distance: 8,184 km (5,085 mi)
Last Month's Total: ~1,800 km (~1,200 miles! My first >1k miles in a month so far)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Ride To Queen Anne's Infamous Inclines

Went for a spin last night, heading down my hill (Capitol) towards another one (Queen Anne). 

The first stretch down Denny is really fun - so fun I can't even look down to see how fast I'm going, dodging potholes & cars as I cross the I-5 overpass, and actually get a green light at the bottom! Passing cars is lots of fun, especially when you're going close to 30 mph!

Here was a shot of Denny close to 5th Ave - yeah it's blurry, but hey I was going fast..

Open Pro wheel shot (blurry was a recurring theme in this photo session):

Goal reached! Kerry Park's great view of downtown & West Seattle. The only part of the picture that really matters is in focus:

Cyclists in Seattle either get used to the hills, or they quit cycling altogether. Or they find ways to avoid them, but that's pretty hard to do around here. I see cyclists of all types climbing the hill close to my house, from fixies to cruisers to roadies.

But one place I never see other cyclists is on Queen Anne Avenue! I know that other people do it, but I can see why most avoid it. Yet I keep coming back for more.. here's a view looking down it, from Highland Drive (I think):

Handlebar shot, with Schmidt E6 shining bright:

When it was all said and done I'd spun out 15.5 kilometers, at an average speed of 22.something km/h. Not very fast, but hey it was hilly, what can I say? 50-something minutes of rolling time, about an hour overall. 

I love this city!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Few More RAMROD Images

A few more photos from Thursday's adventure around Mt. Rainier.

Here I am in Eatonville - about 70 miles into the ride. (~30 miles in to Ramrod). I like how the truck looks like it's bearing down on me.. (these two are from a photographer, and I bought the photos in case you're wondering)

Climbing towards "Paradise," smiling for the camera. I was hoping you'd be able to see my Schmidt E6 lamp burning, but I guess during the day it doesn't do a lot of good. Works well in the shade of course.

Mt. Rainier National Park. Made all the climbing worth it.

The Ciocc on a dirt road - just a pit stop.

Schmidt E6 lamp, Shimano dynohub, in motion.

10 PM, rolling into seattle. 230 miles done! It was raining hard at this point.

And finally, a pointless video of me doing 32 km/h (20 mph) on the way back home (Highway 169).

Friday, August 1, 2008

RAMROD 2008 - Starting in Seattle!

I did it! Rode to Enumclaw, then did the RAMROD. That would be the "Ride Around Mt. Rainier In One Day" annual event. Then pedaled back to Seattle. All in one day.

You can find many more photos from the ride on flickr.

Here are a few of the highlights, like 12th Ave at about 3:15 AM:

Mt. Rainier in the distance - about 20 miles away from Enumclaw, you can clearly see the mountain! It was great to be able to see the object of our obsession all through the day, I can't imagine doing this on a rainy day, when you'd get no perspective on where you are/going.

Lenticular cloud atop the mountain - I seriously shouted when I saw this, and just had to stop for a photo:

Now in Rainier Natl Park - lots of woods. But the air smelled seriously fresh. Like in those commercials for fake smells, but for real.

Unpaved section of Cayuse, looking down the incline - there were lots of these, but going uphill they weren't too bad, just a little bumpy.

The whip atop Cayuse Pass - its mostly downhill from here!

The Ride To The Ride (Capitol Hill to Enumclaw)

The plan all along was to turn down all generous offers of car pooling, and to pedal my way to Enumclaw, the start of the ride. Google maps said it was "only" about 38 miles to get there, via Renton & Highway 169.

So I rolled out from the apt at 3:15 AM, giving me enough time to make it there by 5:30 or 6, probably closer to six. In pitch dark, I rolled down Rainier Ave, with little traffic, and surprisingly there were people waiting for buses - as their night was most likely ending, a new day was beginning for me.

Once in Renton I followed a few turns that brought me to Highway 169/Renton-Mapple Valley Road, not sure what to expect. I'd heard that the first section was less than enjoyable, with no shoulder, but traffic was light. At rush hour this would be kind of crazy, but doable. At this point I'll ride on pretty much any road that isn't closed to cyclists!

Eventually I rode into thick fog, my dynohub'd Scmidt E6 lamp doing well to keep me going forward. A blinky light would have been useless. As the elevation seemed to rise, the temperature dropped. I stopped and put on my jacket & long-fingered gloves ("seal skinz"). Those gloves are wonderful; they block wind/cold, and supposedly water too. If I've learned anything from randonneurring its to be prepared for anything, because it might be a long day. THe forecasts were for the 70's, but 3 AM in the foothills of the Cascades can be a different story.


At about 6 I rolled into the 'claw, glad to be there without any mechanical issues to hold me back. The starting area, Enumclaw High, was empty except for a few other late starters. I found the free breakfast of waffles, and though they were out of utensils I made a waffle/butter/syrup sandwich that really hit the spot.

I took a wrong turn in the first mile of the course, trying to follow the cue sheet in my hand. I followed a roadie on a left that just didn't seem right, and sure enough as I turned the next corner he was heading the other way. He didn't seem to have a cue, but I looked at mine and notice we'd only gone .4 miles instead of the 1.4 indicated on the cue. He turned around and went the other direction on the road, but actually the route was back on the main road - hope he found his way!

Back on the course, I saw a few riders in the distance that I eventually lost contact with. Cruising at 28-32 km/h, I was keeping the pace moderate. It was gonna be a long day, and this was just the beginning.

A few pacelines passed eventually, and I just let them go. Once we were off of 410, it was small country roads for the next 50 miles or so. Great views, low traffic, what else can you ask for?


33 miles or so into the Ramrod, and 71 miles on the legs so far. There was a rest stop here, where I overheard motivating terms like "sweep van" and "lanterne rouge" - sure signs I was near the back of the pack. Only problem with that is if you go too slow, they pick you up and cart you off! Gotta be tough to have that happen.. and I would have physically fought them off anyway, had they tried to pull me into the van.

And from looking at the photos from Eatonville (lower left corner) I was fourth from last in the pack of 800+! No wonder I saw so few riders in the beginning.

Eatonville to Longmire

Passed by a few resort/hotels, and noticed how sparse services are out there! Doing this route as a permanent seems kind of daunting. You'd have to do some looong stretches with no available food or water. I guess there were some restaurants along the way, but still. Not a ride for the easy going, to do it unsupported.

In Elbe I stopped for water, and in talking to the shop keepers and her friends, they seemed disappointed I was just from Seattle, as "everyone we've met so far are from the area, but we hear people come from all over the world for this ride." Hey, I do what I can. They were nice though, and probably happy to have the extra business.

At the food stop at mile 59, I upped the water & got a half-bagel, grapes, a few other random things. In talking to one of the volunteers, I mentioned how I rode to the ride - and I have to admit, though it may be obvious, that one of the reasons I rode to the ride was for bragging rights. Getting a response I could only hope for, she called over friends, announcing my brave achievement! Noticing my SIR jersey, one of them mentioned that he rides with SIR, and has done the PBP last year! I think Shane was his name, nice guy.

He also commented that I'd caught up with the pack more or less, which was good news. I spent probably 15 minutes or so here, and rolled out alone. Coming into the Rainier National Park, I was excited to have the climbing begin. The last time I was in this area, Cayuse Pass kicked my ass. This time I wanted to turn the table.

Rainier National Park
Entering the park you're asked for your number by a volunteer, as being on the ride is your ticket for entry. I wonder how they react to bandits (those that do the ride but don't pay) here? Or if someone was touring the world, and happened to pass through here at the same time, would they let them through?

The road tilted up more and more, but never got too steep, maybe 5-6%. Passing more and more riders, I felt better that I was at least somewhere closer to the middle of the pack by now. The views were getting better and better, with Rainier sticking out behind trees and getting what seemed closer with each turn of the road.


This is where the harder climbing started, and was about 60 miles into Ramrod, 100 miles for me. Not much worse than 5-6%, but it surely went on for a while. A gigantic tour bus passed me, and somehow passed me again later on. I hoped that I was getting a better experience on the bike, than in an air-conditioned bus - well at least I felt like I was really "earning" it anyway.

Inspiration Point

After an hour or so of sustained climbing, I made it to the "top." I guess the Paradise climb adds six miles, but our route didn't take us there for some reason. (We went right at the fork) Next time through there, I'll do the extra trip too.

At the top I saw Dan T, another randonneur who I'd ridden with on the failed 600k in June. He was in good spirits as usual, and it was nice to see a familiar face. I only spent about five minutes here, got some water, and enjoyed the hell out of the screaming descent. 60 km/h (~40 mph) was fun, and there was no winds to mess with you. Little drainage grates that span the road made for some careful crossings, but at that speed you're barely touching them anyway.

The next climb, Backbone Ridge, seemed more like a hill than a pass. Well I guess it's not a pass, just something we had to cross to get to the next big climb, Cayuse. Caught up with lots more riders here.

Cayuse Pass?

I didn't even realize we were on it, and in a discussion with another rider, I said I didn't think it was it. For some reason it looked different, and seemed less steep. The difference was a relief from last time, when it seemed like a wall and that I was on a 100lb bike. I pictured getting there and just grinding to a stop.

But my new 12-27 cassette was the perfect gearing it seemed. Also the lower weight of the Ciocc, and the lighter load, made a huge difference. And on the Miyata I've got a low gear of 39x30 (which should be easier in theory)! Weight does matter, at least for me. Then again it was also about 300 miles and 30 hours into the ride last time. Anything can seem impossible at that point.

At about 3:30 or 4:00 PM I crested Cayuse, glad to be done with it. Some day I'll hit up Chinook Pass too - you can see it from Cayuse and it looks like a real exclamation point to an already-hard climb.

The Deli Stop

At the Deli Stop, 118 miles into Ramrod, 146 miles on my legs - free sandwiches, fruit, etc. Only there was no bread at first. That's one thing of being near the back of the pack, supplies run out. I had a few slices of cheese, some fruit, and a soda. Sat in the shade, and tried to soak in everything I'd seen up to this point. Eventually bread did show and I had a sandwich - thanks volunteers!

With lots of riders swarming around, I was looking for familiar faces - Jessie was somewhere on this ride, but probably way ahead of me. One guy stopped me and was asking if I rode to the ride - said he saw me on the road at 4:15 this morning and thought, "no way he's riding to the ride!" Once again I was glad to get to talk about the extra mileage I'd tacked on. He was impressed, but I reassured him that I could never hold the fast pace for ~40 miles that racers like him do.

Eventually I ran into Joe from SIR - it was nice to see another blue wool jersey out on the road! I spent probably 30-45 minutes here, but at this point (~4 PM) I was pretty safe from being "swept" up. Time to spare. We chatted for a while, probably both happy to see someone that understood what those funny-looking lights and bags were hanging from our bikes.

Now the only question was, how early do I want to get home? I told Kira I'd be home some time between 9 and 2 AM, quite the range - but you never know how a long ride is gonna go. Leaving the deli stop, I was on enjoying the slight downhill towards Greenwater, thinking about how I'd flatted/broke my pump not far from here and ended my 600k in June. This time I rolled through without a hitch.

Greenwater And Beyond

I was holding a good 30-40 km/h (19-25 mph) solo, just wanting to get to the ice cream waiting at the end. Held even faster speeds with one quick paceline, but ducked out after a mile or so, not really enjoying the tension that is a paceline. Are they gonna brake suddenly? Will I do something stupid and bring it all down? If I'm leading, am I going too fast or too slow? Pacelines are too complicated, plus they don't allow for much sight-seeing.

Also I knew I needed to save some energy for the commute back to Seattle, nobody wants to blow up on the road 30 miles from home without a cell phone.

After passing Greenwater without stopping, I continued on for what seemed like forever, before I hit the left on to Mud Mountain Road. Finally, a change of scenery. On the super-steep downhill, I hit a good 60-70 km/h, and pedaled through the turns, praying for no gravel to bring me down. It was a blast!

At the bottom I ran into Joe from SIR again, and we rode side by side in our matching SIR jerseys, chatting and enjoying the fact that we were almost done.

Finished, for now

And at 6:15 or so, we were done! We rolled in to the cheers & claps of volunteers and onlookers, and received our free patches. Ice cream was quickly acquired, and a cola was downed. The world rejoiced.

I went to get a free t-shirt, and as I walked up the volunteer asked, "are you the one who rode to the ride?" Guess news travels fast! It turns out her friend was injured on the ride, and they needed someone to drive the car back. I would have done it, but as it turns out I don't actually have a driver's license (mine expired a few years ago), so I couldn't do it. Hope her friend was OK though!

Enumclaw Back To Seattle

At about 7 PM I started the journey back to Seattle, feeling oddly fresh. Turning the cranks seemed like something I could do all day, as if I'd turned into a machine that's perfected perpetual motion. There were some steep sections of Highway 169 north of Enumclaw, posted at 8%. No problem for the 39x27, but I certainly wasn't doing those in the big ring.

Five or six cars carrying bikes gave a congratulatory "honk honk" as they passed, probably recognizing the neon sash and rear light from the ride. I waived and wondered what time I'd make it home.

About 10 minutes after rolling out a light rain started. No prob, this is why I threw on the "race blade" before I left the house! The ride to Renton was pretty much a breeze, with the light rain still falling. Passed through Black Diamond, Maple Valley, without even wanting to top, I just wanted a warm couch to sit on at that point.

The "scary" section of 169 was a little iffy coming into Renton, but most cares provided space - after all it's a four lane road.. one car did buzz me a bit, but I kept rolling so it's all good.

For the first time that day I was feeling very hungry, but I trudged on, my feet starting to get very cold from the thickening rain. I thought about how if this was a 400k, I could do the Mercer Island loop to top it off. Would make for an interesting brevet or permanent, who's with me?

It felt really, really good to be home, and dry my feet off. A warm shower at the end of a big ride is always a nice way to end it. And not at 2 AM like it could have been had I take more stopping time or had a mechanical.

It was a great ride, but next year I'll probably just do it as a permanent or even just for kicks. And now that I know a bunch of randonneurs, it shouldn't be too hard to talk someone else into doing the ride starting from Seattle. I think it was well worth it, and now every time I look at Mt Rainier I'll know exactly what it takes to get around it!

Ride Stats:
Distance: 38 + 154 + 38 = 230 mi (370 km)
Start Time: 3:15 AM
End Time: 9:55 PM
Ramrod Start: 6:15 AM
Ramrod End: 6:10 PM
Passes: Two real ones (Climb to inspiration Point, Cayuse Pass), one smaller hill (Backbone Ridge)

Edit: stumbled across the results from 1998 - times range from 7 hours 14 minutes (whoa), to 13 hours and some change! ~7 hours sounds ridiculous. Not surprisingly, looks like Jan Heine posted a time of 7 hours 18 minutes.

Edit #2: A note about age. Ramrod numbers are assigned based on age: the oldest rider is wearing "1" and highest number I saw was about 850. Mine was 805 - so most of the numbers I saw were of people that are older than me! And to think I've been feeling "old" having turned 30 lately.. We got to see #1 cross the finish line, only a half an hour behind me & Joe. I hope I'm that good on a bike 40 years from now!