Author Archives: Theo Roffe

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SIR Newsletter/Blog Editor RUSA 5988

2019 Border To Border Pre-Ride Report

by Kevin Smith

On paper, the climbing elevation to total distance indicates this ride is ‘a bit less challenging’ than previous SIR brevets this year.  Don’t let that fool you, because the route orientation means you are bound to face either north or south winds for a long time.  Make friends, ride together, share the effort.

The ride begins with a lovely roll from Tumwater out to Rainier, Wash. At one point, you’ll go through what I assume is an old artillery or training range as evidenced by the large white signs saying Don’t Enter, Don’t Dig, etc.  You won’t really want to stroll off the road anyway, since its so nice and quiet, but I envision a scarred landscape at some point in the past, where troops were training for war.  It looked how I’d expect the Forest of Arenberg might look when young troops, tanks commanders, and artillery teams were getting ready for their most heroic effort.  Now you are facing your own kind of heroic effort.

There will be some road items to pay attention between Rainier and Spanaway. First, multiple railroad crossings at horrible angles.  Take your time, slow down–stop even–find large breaks in traffic, and make sure you use the whole road to cross these tracks at 90 degrees.  Don’t end your fun early by catching a wheel in these things. Second: Highway 507. It’s been a few years since I was on 507.  I recall rather crappy road conditions, grit and gravel on the shoulder, and trucks zooming past, too close, at 70 mph.  Well, the road surface got upgraded with fresh pavement and wider shoulders—that’s a plus because you’ll want the space from the drivers.  Beware grooves in the pavement where they installed recessed road reflectors.  They looked like ugly front wheel traps.  Word of warning for folks riding through in a group: Leader, pick a line clear of these grooves; Followers, don’t stray from the wheel ahead, else you might wander into one of the grooves and, next thing you know, you’ll be performing an up-close inspection of that nice new pavement.

At the Rivers Edge info control, give them a stop and get a macchiato or something. Hot items will take longer than expected based on my stop–but I entered behind a family of 5.  #randoluck I let them know another group of crazies will roll through this coming Friday–she said she’ll look for us. She thought I was completely nuts when I said I was going to the Canadian border that day and asked if I was “really okay.”

Depending upon the wind direction, you’ll feel either superhuman or super sluggish riding the section from Rivers Edge to UW. If you get the south wind, enjoy, but save some energy for the coming miles. If you get the north wind, well, make friends fast and buckle up—it’s going to be a long day.

Can’t say much about getting to Snohomish and riding through Marysville: If you’ve done a lot of SIR rides you know the route. I was dealing with my own set of challenges with a broken spoke and an (unrelated) flat, so I basically have blacked this section out of my memory.

#thankyoufiberfix

You’ll enjoy some nice gentle climbing through the Lake Goodwin area and a decent to the Warm Beach control. I asked to use the bathroom but was denied; not sure if you might have the same fate, but factor that in.

From Conway to Bellingham: First, deal with the inevitable wind that always exists in this flat region. If the winds are light, you should make some good time in the flat terrain. I always enjoy the view of Chuckanut looming in the distance; it looked particularly menacing during my ride. That said, I always enjoy the hills and curvy descents along Chuckanut, Depending on your pace, you might enjoy nice dusk light while riding this area—and its fantastic views. Among my favorite areas of Washington.

Chuckanut looms in the distance

The route through Bellingham brings you onto a waterfront trail and off the road. There is a Woods Coffee shop in Boulevard Park. It might look closed, but if you need some coffee for the upcoming night riding, stop—the views of the Bellingham Bay are wonderful. I liked that the route did not pass the overnight hotel too closely—otherwise one might be tempted to stop, sleep and get the Canadian Border a little later. But keep moving. The roads up to the border are relatively flat and you should make good time. [Editor’s note: Seriously, don’t sleep on the way to the border. Read the pre-ride report from 2018 if you have doubts.]

Be aware of random large trucks traveling around Lynden. It’s Friday night, dark. Stay together or buddy up if you can.  If you’re fast enough to do this in daylight or had a massive tail wind all day, kudos! Get some extra sleep!

Boundary Rd!!! Yeah, you made it to the Canadian border! No joke, at this point my Spotify playlist played Fly by Night by Rush, How did it know??? Say Hello to the border patrols who cruise the road network up there looking for people doing weird things at odd hours of the night dressed in strange clothes.

For those stopping at the overnight, enjoy the hotel in Bellingham for a few hours, get some food, sleep, and prepare for another long day.

Leaving Bellingham, you’ll enjoy a quiet morning ride along the south shore of Lake Whatcom, soaking in the morning light. The climb up to the lake and subsequent rollers will certainly wake up your morning legs. There are services at the Sudden Valley info control, and it’s a nice spot for a coffee and morning snack if you want.

Farther along, on Old Highway 99, the bridge over Friday Creek, just north of Belfast, was under construction during the pre-ride so a route detour has been made. The construction crew let me walk through when I explained what I was up to and they suggested a route change to Parson Creek Road and Prarie Road a few miles to the east, which is what you will ride. Riding from Bryant to Snohomish and Issaquah should be uneventful for those who know these roads well. Anyone new to this region will experience some of our most scenic valley riding and the no-traffic Centennial Trail.

Maybe it was me, but the section from Issaquah to Spanaway felt like the hardest section of the course. Endless long climbs with steeper grades than what you’ve experienced on the ride thus far. Get some food and drink in Issaquah and keep your energy levels up since it might be a long night.

The trail from Buckley to Orting is a regional gem and you will experience a tranquil ride and respite from the day’s road traffic. Thank you taxpayers and the leaders of Pierce County for converting this old railbed to a magic carpet ride through the forest along the Carbon River. During my ride, there was a significant bug hatch and I was glad I brought my clear riding glasses to deflect the bugs from my eyes. Riding through these bugs without glasses would have been very annoying, so plan accordingly. If you need a ditch nap, there are many great spots along the Carbon River.

At this point, getting from Orting back to Tumwater for my overnight seemed like an impossible task. But I remembered someone’s advice earlier in the riding season to not think about the remaining distance and just focus on the present. So refuel, make sure your bike is right and your lights are in good shape. Leaving Orting requires a challenging climb up South Hill on Orting Kapowsin Hwy E. The grade is steep, there are some tight turns, plus the road shoulder is unsettlingly narrow. Add some Saturday night road traffic zooming up the hill, and you’ve got a potentially hazardous environment. I’d look to group up and leave Orting together if you can.

The Spanaway-to-Tumwater section will have you return to roads you traveled a day earlier and will help give you some motivation that your getting close to your overnight. I made a coffee stop at the Denny’s on the Hwy 7/Mountain Highway to perk up. It’s a good reference point for the turn you need to make into the Twin Firs Mobile Estates trailer park anyway. I had to pause and check the route to figure out if riding through the trailer park made sense and it does help get you away from higher traffic intersections in Spanaway and puts you back on Highway 507. I was expecting more traffic on Highway 507, but was pleasantly surprised; hopefully you get the same conditions. Entering Rainier again will help you “smell the barn” and keep moving onto Tumwater. You’re close!

Now you have a lovely Sunday ride left. The bigger mile and climbing days are behind you. So, roll out of Tumwater with a smile—you got this! Grab an apple fritter or bear claw at the control in Chehalis Village. Who said “Don’t quit until you’ve had an apple fritter” during the SIR meeting about PBP earlier this year?  Well – thanks for that comment because I went for the apple fritter and was not going to quit, it definitely worked. [Editor’s note: Sounds like Ron Himschoot.]

Then came Curtis Hill Rd southwest of Centralia (813 km). I had a decent headwind out of the south sapping my energy and a wobbling rear wheel being held together with FiberFix, so I decided to swallow my pride and walk the hill to avoid further damage to the wheel.  In the process of pulling over, a second spoke broke on the rear wheel!  I said some things I was not proud of, but which were appropriate for the moment. Well, I wanted to try randonneuring this year and this is part of the deal. Figure it out and get yourself in. I wish you all good luck riding that hill.

Approaching the Boistfort Store Control in Curtis, I had to wonder where the store might be because there is not much there, but it’s a little oasis of sustenance in a beautiful rural rolling terrain. There was, however, no bathroom.

At the Longview Control, get ready for the payoff if you’ve been battling a headwind to this point. If you’ve had a tail wind to this point, I hope you have saved some energy! There is not much to say about the Safeway in Longview—just get there, turn around, and go home!

Longview to Toledo and Chehalis. I’ve never ridden this road before but have seen it many times driving on I-5. Although you’re near the highway, the road has very low traffic and is extremely nice. You’ll notice many spots where they cut I-5 through hills that you must traverse up and down. It was a little torturous the see a flat grade off to the left while struggling up a hill. Services are available in Castle Rock (908 km), Toledo (932 km), and Centralia (970 km) to keep you fueled. Or if you need a place the nap.  Another nice nap spot could be Lewis and Clark State Park at 940 km (there is water, but no food available—unless you bum food from one of the campers).

At the Tenino Control (990 km), you will hopefully feel the energy come back as you know the finish is near. There are services at the 76 gas station info control if needed.

There is always one last hill! After Teninom you’ll need to climb Chein Hill. Not the hardest on the route, but a sting in the tail no less. I had some choice words for the route designer at this point. [Editor’s note: It was Ian Shopland! Don’t blame me!] But it will soon pass and hopefully you’ll fly into the finish.

Tumwater! Congratulate yourself and everyone else who made it in. If you’re using this as a PBP-prep ride like I was, hopefully it goes well, and you gain some confidence that you’re ready for France. I hope everyone has a safe and successful ride this weekend.

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2019 Chuckamano 400 and 600K Pre-Ride Reports

Pre-riders Thai and Ray

by Ray, Hugh, John, Rachel and Theo

Note: The 6/29/2019 Last Chance 400K and 600K follow the same routes described here.

Magnificent views a little gravel and a lot of hills? We’ve got all that and more in these returns to the wonderful 2017 Chuckamano Views 400K route from 2017. We’ve also added a 200K extension to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River to create a 600K brevet option. The original report covers most of what you’ll want to know for the first 400K, but in this report we’ll provide a few updates as well as information about the 200K extension.

Leaving the Bear Creek Park and Ride on Sunday morning, Rachel and Theo were surprised to find themselves shivering in the mist, trying to warm up on the first few hills. So much for Epic Ride Weather, an app Theo has recently become obsessed with! Though, in truth, its promises of headwinds for the first 200K of their 400K pre-ride would bear out all too accurately. On the upside, the cold, inverted weather held a beautiful layer of cloud in valley trees, making for a lovely view looking down from Broadway rolling toward Snohomish.  But let this be a reminder: Bring a warm layer as it could be cold at the start and again on the way back to Redmond via the Centennial trail, even if daytime temperatures are forecast to be nice and hot.

Edison Slough

This theme of beauty along the route was a constant for all six pre-riders—and they’re confident that you’ll experience the same. Hugh remarked on the striking flowers, everywhere along the course: California poppies, buttercups, fox glove, daises, and a lot more. He also had this to say about the stiff climb out of Fairhaven: “I enjoyed the climb out of Fairhaven. It was on a small road with many turns and well-kept properties. It reminded me of roads in France.” Whether you have the presence of mind to imagine the roads of the South of France, where the ACP Super Randonneur 600K challenge was born, or not will, depend on your gearing. Bring something low enough that you can settle into a steady spin, or be prepared to stand up and go! (Perhaps easier said than done if one fills up on too much pizza and beer at the open control in Fairhaven.)

Lake Whatcom

From Fairhaven, the routes diverge from the 2017 original and skips Deming altogether. Instead, you’ll ride along Lake Whatcom through the incredibly striking Sudden Valley. Here, preriders saw many deer, experienced a bit of car traffic (likely dependant on time of day), and wondered what it would cost to move into one of the triple-size homes along the gorgeous lake and take up watersports… but they kept pedaling anyway.

Eventually, the winding roads of Sudden Valley meet Highway 9. 600K riders will turn right, riding south toward Sedro Woolley. 400K riders will turn left, riding north to an info control in Acme before turning around to catch up with the 600K riders. For this next section of the rote, whichever distance you’ve chosen, you’ll be on the narrow-to-nonexistent shoulder of the highway and it pays to remain attentive and cautious throughout. Traffic here seems to vary widely by time of day. Hugh specifically mentioned that this section was good. Rachel and Theo were passed by car after car, including a semi-trailer truck which zoomed by much too close, clearly in excess of the speed limit, and nearly hit an oncoming car. Theo rode most of these miles looking over his shoulder. Perhaps a rearview mirror would be advisable. In any case, please be attentive as you ride and be sure to stop and don your reflective gear (vest and ankle bands) and turn on your lights as the day wears on and grows dark.

Both routes return to Redmond via the Centennial Trail (Arlington to Snohomish) and short section of the Sammamish and Marymoor Connector Trails. A welcome respite from car traffic and stop lights, these trails can have a somnolent effect on some riders (looking at you, Theo). But don’t sleep on your bike! Stay alert and on the watch for the many bollards along the way—there are even a few without reflective tape—we don’t want you to hit them. You can, however, sleep at the Redmond Inn, where 600K riders will have their overnight control and 400K riders are encouraged to have a bite to eat and close their eyes for at least a few minutes before attempting to drive home. Better yet, book a room and get several hours of sleep. Driving home after a 400K may seem reasonable when you’re full of energy from the excitement of finishing, but it can be very unsafe as your body will be very tired.

Views from the Middle Fork

Day 2 finds our tired but determined 600K riders warming their way up Union Hill before dropping down into the cool fog of the Snoqualmie Valley. After a quick stop in Carnation for some hot coffee, there’s a nice section of hard-packed gravel to get you ready for the crown jewel of the day—the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. The newer asphalt rolls like butter as you take in the views of the river, mountains and forests. If you’re tuckered out at the end of the road near the campground, don’t despair as it’s mostly a nice downhill cruise all the way back to North Bend.

The return back to Snoqualmie features some smooth-rolling gravel. It’s a bit of a climb up to Snoqualmie Ridge, but the steep, flowing descent down Lake Alice Road makes it all seem worthwhile. Don’t get too complacent though, as the climb up the Preston–Fall City Road reminds you that gravity is king! From there, it’s a nice cruise on the mostly shaded Issaquah-Preston gravel trail.

The stretch from Issaquah to Black Diamond is your typical highly-trafficked Sunday bike ride. From the southern terminus of the route, it’s a quick jaunt up WA-169 before more gravel along the ever-pleasing Lake Wilderness. The miles flow quickly on the Cedar River Trail into Renton as you ride mostly downhill like a salmon on its journey to the ocean. The section through Renton is not the typical SIR route, so pay close attention to the cues as you near end of the trail: Instead of exiting onto Mill Avenue and crossing over Houser Way you will take a right turn on the bridge across the Cedar River, hang a quick left and then a sharp right onto Houser Way. Use caution as traffic can be moving quickly on Houser and you’ll need to quickly move 3 lanes to the left to be set up to go straight onto Factory Avenue at the traffic signal.

From there, it’s your typical cruise up Lake Washington Boulevard. Make sure you REALLY DO STOP at all those stop signs, now with additional verbiage spelling it out. No good SIR ride can end without some hills and, yes, there are a few as you make your way onto the I-90 bike trail, through the neighborhood streets and back to the finish at the Redmond Inn.

Additional ride details, RWGPS links and preregistration available on seattlerando.org

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2019 Spring 600K Pre-Ride Report: Tahuya Hills

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, near Randle

Words by Andy Speier, photos by Kate Hotler

We left under a cloudy sky on Saturday morning. The Starbucks start location worked out well for us as they open at 0400. If you’re arriving early, please don’t pile your bikes out in front of the shop until they put the tables and chairs out. There is a wall available for leaning the bikes on the south side of the building. The challenge for starting a ride in SODO is travelling across there sets of active rail lines. We were lucky and no trains impeded our progress. [RBA’s note: If there is a train, please stop and wait. If it turns out to be very long, we’ll take an alternate route or correct the ride times to account for the delay.]

To set the mood for the ride and give you an insight into the hill climbing to come, we travel east up S Holgate street. Don’t get too into the climb or you will miss the left turn mid hill onto the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail. On the trail, it’s the usual ride thru the tunnel and up Irving to Lake Washington Blvd. For you out of towners, be sure to shift into your low gear before you transition from the trail to Irving street.

Over the first 56 miles we rode on several trails which was a fun way to get out of the largest city in the state. Pay attention to the cue sheet instructions at mile 25.1 to change from the Cedar River Trail to the Green River/Lake Wilderness Trail up s short, steep gravel climb. A bit later, you will pass thru the edge of Black Diamond. There are services at the gas station on the left that you will pass. If you inhale deeply you may be able to smell the cinnamon rolls at the Black Diamond Bakery [ed’s note: the bakery is off route]. You’ll wind around on some nice country roads and then turn onto Highway 410. It’s a busy road, so after crossing the river and climbing a short hill you’ll turn off the road at the light onto Park Ave in Buckley. The route skips the commercial section of the highway to get you on quiet streets with an info control. There are restrooms in the park off N River Road and up the street on N River Road. For those looking to stock up on food, there is a sidewalk trail prior to Ryan Road that will take you back to Highway 410 where there is a Subway and a Chevron station.

From Buckley, the Foothills Trail is a treat. It has been recently re-surfaced and much of it is downhill. The turn onto SE 276th street at mile 28.9 is not signed. There is however pink/orange flagging on a post on the right side of the trail to alert you to the turn (if you are riding solely by the cue sheet). Nothing lasts forever and you are back on busier roads. Be mindful of the vehicles on Oroville Road E along Lake Kapowsin. Anxious fishermen seem to be speeding to and from somewhere. A left on WA 161 will take you up into the metropolis of Eatonville. The route will turn right onto Center St W to take you out of town. If you turn left on Center St E you will find a grocery store, subway and a Mexican restaurant. Do not leave town as you always do (for, say RAMROD) or you will find yourself off route and on the dreaded Alder Cut-Off Road. Turn right on Center St E to follow the route out of town thru La Grande (another town in western Washington that you can check off on your bucket list).

The RR Xing noted on your cue sheet as you enter and leave Elbe are worthy of your attention. On your left are WA State DOT restrooms. Heated with a great covered area to get out of the weather. There is no water, but the overhead cover is well worth it in poor weather conditions. There is also a store if you need to re-supply. The turn onto NF-52/Kernaham Road (which becomes Skate Creek Road) will take you off into the Gifford Pinchot on the backside of Mt Rainier National Park. There is a climb, but when you descend the other side, you will discover that you got the better end of the deal. The descent is windy and has some craters, so pay attention. The gravel sections have been repaired. You just have to look out for holes and an uneven surface along the edge of the road. As you enter Packwood look for Elk. There are many. The pre-riders encountered 40 degree temperatures and rain on this section. Hopefully you will have better weather. We bought out the hand warmers but there are a couple of wool toques and socks left if you need ’em. Best to pack your rain jacket!

You will leave Packwood on Hwy 12, but there is relief. You will turn onto Silverbrook Road for a while and then again onto Davis Lake Road. Davis Lake Road will take you into Morton by passing the commercial businesses on the highway. If don’t need any food, there are public restrooms as you cross the RR Xing and can continue out of town until the turnoff onto the Centralia Alpha Road. From Morton, it is nearly 40 miles to services in Centralia. If you want to find services in Morton turn left on 2nd street and ride for 6 blocks. You’ll find a grocery store Chevron station store. The ride up and down the Centralia Alpha Road will remind you Anciens of PBP—for the rest of you, it’s good preparation.

We fueled up on warm beverages and snacks back counting how many hours of sleep we would get if we headed out to after a quick pit stop. The rain had let up so our spirits were high. The terrain from Centralia to Elma is not challenging. It’s easy to make up a bit of time.

Dinner at the Rusty Tractor in Elma

The overnight control will be at the Stay Beyond Inn & Suite (formerly known as the Guesthouse Inn). For those of you riding thru we will have a warm meal for you (vegetarian or meat), beverages and a smile. For those looking to get a few hours of shut eye we have a plan in place to quickly get you to a room.

Leaving Elma you will bear left on the Coquallum Road. The RR Xing there is the real deal. Dark or daylight hours pay attention. In Skokomish the Twin Totems Store closes at midnight and opens at 0500. If you arrive prior to 0200 the casino is still open. The security guard can sign your card and may even invite you in for coffee. If you arrive past 0200 and prior to the 0500 of the opening of the Twin Totems Store than there will be an info control question. The route from Skokomish takes you thru the residential area of the reservation.

We (at least I was) excited about the thought of ice cream sandwiches at the Summertide Resort Control. For those that will arrive at the control prior to the store being open the control workers will have warm drinks, cup of noodles and other snacks. We took a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine, ice cream and soft drinks prior to the start of the Tahuya Hills. For those that will arrive while this control is SIR-staffed, there will be snacks and drinks. If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, you’d be better off stopping in Belfair about 16 miles earlier.

Dewatto Holly Road

The hills of Dewatto Road—be sure to slow for the steep and sharp curves on Dewato Road shortly after the 3 mile marker (just past km 504/ mile 313)—and Seabeck Holly Road got our legs loosened up and ready for what was coming after Seabeck. The sun was out and the ride into Seabeck along the water was beautiful. The Seabeck Store is well stocked and there are fresh (at least that’s what the sign says) sandwiches in the cooler were labeled MEAT. There is a pizza place next door. [Ed’s note: The pizza is good, but not super fast.] The café is no longer in business. Behind the store there are picnic tables to sit at and enjoy the view. If you are cruising thru prior to the store opening then you will have an info control question. There is a toilet behind the Pizza place.

We left Seabeck under a beautiful sky and put on our game faces for the infamous Anderson Hill Road. It lives up to its reputation. When you think you have completed the climb and begin to let up, thinking to yourself “that wasn’t so bad,” you will find yourself heading down an impressive descent. Remember: “But wait, there’s more!” For each descent, you’ll return to the water and begin the next portion of your hill climbing adventure.

Dewatto Road

There are some roller hills on Highway 3 for a few miles before heading into the picture-perfect company town of Port Gamble. To save you time, there is an info control at the upscale bakery in the old gas station on the right. If you take a left at the large parking lot, you can ride over to the company general store that has snacks and a deli in the back. There are toilets in the post office building. At this point most you will be smelling the barn door and in the “get ’er done” mode.

To keep you off the high weekend traffic roads, the route takes you to Suquamish the back way. It’s a beautiful route with a bit of climbing.

Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island is the final leg of the journey. You can (almost) see the barn doors. For those of you using this 600 as a PBP qualifier we will see you in (near) Paris.

Headed home on the Bainbridge ferry

Route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/29225332

Cue sheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12vt6X4EvAzNnPwGCMS7fWkXe17ghmTC-0Tf9rl2k0G4/edit#gid=1670164969

Additional ride information: https://www.seattlerando.org/content.aspx?page_id=4002&club_id=928629&item_id=896679

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Report for the 4/7/19 Olympia 200K

by Millison and Rick

 

The ride starts at the La Quinta in Tumwater. We head west, under the freeway, on familiar roads to Delphi Rd for an info control. From there, we climb a little from Waddell Creek, for info control #2, and skirt the east side of Capitol Forest to the timed control at The End of the Trail Shell in Oakville.

We take a little jaunt on Hwy 12, going into and out of the control. This first 24 miles (40k) was cold and foggy on the pre-ride. As we departed the control, we got just a hint of the sun.

Make sure you leave the control with enough supplies; it’s 30 miles until the next available services.

Leaving the control east on Hwy 12 for a mile, we turn south on some new roads and into Independence Valley and to Michigan Hill, the first of the climbs. Over the hill, we cruise along Lincoln Creek headed to the next climb up Ingalls road. Coming down, we head south toward Adna. Before the town, we take a left turn on the Willapa Hills Trail for a nice, quite, and flat respite before a short trip on Hwy 6. Hwy 6 is busy with fast traffic, use caution crossing it. Enjoy the twists and turns of Scheuber Rd to Centralia and the next control at the Chevron station. Use caution crossing under I-5 following the sidewalk. Use and obey the crosswalk signal. There is also a coffee shop/deli next door to the Chevron and a Subway across the parking lot. We weave through Centralia headed east, toward the new roads that Ian Shopland says should be interesting and make will make this a great ride.

Riding into Salzer Valley we found little traffic, good scenery and new roads—a rando’s dream. A short, steep pull will get you up Grimes Road where you’ll climb a little more up Seminary Hill as you head to the Steam Plant and another info control. Continue northeast on Tono Rd and with that, the Tono Hills, before services in Bucoda.

After the Tono Hills, the route will seem flat and fast. A mile and a half on WA-507, then a right turn on Skookumchuck Road, where we had a little tail wind, which leads to the next info control at Johnson Creek. From there, it’s time for the Yelm-Tenino Trail. Use caution as you cross WA-7, a very busy highway. Then, enjoy a pleasant cruise into Yelm and the last timed control. Return west on the trail to connect with the northbound Chehalis Western Trail to the last info control at Monarch Sculpture Park. Continue north on the trail for another 6 miles, before exiting on Fir Tree Rd, and making your way west to the finish.

For more information on this 300K brevet, head over to the Seattle Randonneurs website.

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Olympia-Westport 300K Pre-Ride Report

by Vinny Muoneke

 

Started the ride in La Quinta in Tumwater at 6am as the riders will, went straight under the freeway and had a gentle warm up as I approached the first information control after passing the northern tip of Black Lake and going a little south on the west side of the lake to Delphi Road. I snapped a few photos and continued on Delphi. The first rays of sunlight revealed that there was some kind of work on the shoulder of Delphi almost for its whole length, but at this time on a Wednesday there was very little traffic to concern me and the ride became even more bucolic as I rode further on to begin the gentle climbing of the Coastal Range on Old Hwy 410 and Old Olympic Hwy.

This 300k is dumbbell shaped and I was thinking how dumb it was that I did not bring extra warm clothes as I was freezing. Sunlight revealed frosties everywhere and I distracted myself with views of the southern sound to the right as I climbed. I snapped to attention as I crossed WA-8, but again, at this time, traffic was not that heavy. The gentle climbing continued on WA-8 and I noticed the Summit Lake store was already open—on the right and convenient side of the highway. Nothing for me at this point, and I also ignored any chance for refueling as I exited to McCleary. You will also find services in Elma just before the timed control at Montesano.

WA-107 from Montesano will take you to the US-101 as you continue west towards the Pacific, dipping south on the 101 to Raymond. The bridge after Montesano was under some repair with flaggers, though they were gone on the return phase of this section. If you are in Party Mode, there is a restaurant in Arctic on the left side that’s open early and has saved my bacon on many a Flèche. The crossing of the coastal range continues on the 101, and, in this episode, I counted 5 significant rollers. The 5th one was a dwarf like the “planet” Pluto, but I counted it as it crested to a long descent into Raymond, and I know from experience that it is a bit of a whopper in the opposite direction. Watch the shoulders on the 101 here as mini-lahars may lead to some washing down of the road on the shoulder.

The timed control at Raymond is at the Chevron but there are a few places to refuel besides for something different than gas station fare. Retrace your steps for just a bit, head north and west along the scenic Willapa Bay, and pass through the little towns of Tokeland and Grayland with services. Ride past the cranberry beds on the way to the little fishing town of Westport, your information control and the turn-around point. More pictures snapped and I returned eastward.

By Grayland the clear sky was beginning to gray, but there were still good views of the snow-capped Olympics. And still great views of the mountains as I returned east, but shortly afterward, the sky went completely gray. I guess I should have listened to Captain Fambles who predicted better weather on Tuesday, but I needed recovery from a 400K on Saturday.

I don’t know why I expected tailwinds at this point, but what I got was cold rain almost till the end of the ride. So, hopefully the weather will be great Saturday for the brevet. I could barely stay warm with all my clothes on. I stopped at Aberdeen to warm up with a hot drink, and again at Cosmopolis where I got off the bike trail to find hot chocolate. The rollers on Blue Slough Road were welcome to warm the core.

Back on the handle of the dumbbell, heading east now, I ignored services at Montesano and Elma. At Elma, head south to go around the southern part of Capitol Forest with an informational control at Sharon Grange in Oakville to keep you honest. This grange may be easy to miss at dark, so watch out for it. After the penultimate control at the “End of Trail Shell” by the Chehalis Reservation, I did a short stint on the US-12. There is debris on the shoulder here; I took my eyes off the road to check my instruments as I was getting antsy for the finish and darn, flatted the 42mm rear tire on my Thompson 650B. I pulled a big screw out of the tire and put in a new tube, under rather conveniently placed street lights. All pumped and ready to finish, I rode a little further on US-12 and turned left, across oncoming highway traffic to more bucolic roads back to the finish.

For more information on this 300K brevet, head over to the Seattle Randonneurs website.

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2019 Spring Populaire Pre-ride Report

Seattle International Randonneurs (SIR) superstition holds that the better the weather on the pre-ride, the worse the weather on the actual ride—and vice versa. Fortunately for those superstitious riders among us, we’ve devised a new tactic: We sent the organizers off to California to ride in poor weather while a group of volunteers stayed behind to suffer in sunny Seattle. That should balance things out.

The Spring Populaire conveniently begins from the Woodland Park soccer fields just south of Green Lake. This is close to the Greenlake Park and Ride and several bus lines, so should be fairly easy to get to. While the ride starts at a civilized 9 AM, please be sure to arrive early to get signed in. If this is your first ride with SIR, we recommend that you show up at 8:30 AM; we’ll help get you oriented and set to go with your cue sheet and control card. What’s a control card, you ask. It’s your passport, or manifest, for the ride and you’ll turn it in at the finish to serve as your proof of passage through the ride’s checkpoints.

From Woodland Park, you’ll roll out at a neutral pace, turning left from the parking lot to depart north on East Greenlake Way N. In just 3 kilometers, you get your first taste of a randonneuring control (a checkpoint) at Cowen Park. This is an info control, so check your card for the question and your surroundings for the answer. If SIR volunteers are present (hint, hint), they can sign your card in lieu of the answer. The route then goes through Cowen and Ravenna parks along a dirt and gravel path. Keep speed low and be courteous to pedestrian and canine visitors to the park—randonneuring isn’t a race, so there’s no need to zip through this section.

At the park’s southeasterly end, you’ll leave the path and get back on the roads briefly to connect with the Burke Gilman Trail, which will take you to Montlake Bridge and across the cut. Counterintuitively, you’ll ride a couple blocks on a wide sidewalk to make the connection to the 520 bike path and into Madison Valley (if you find yourself crossing the 520 bridge over Lake Washington, you’ve gone the wrong way). This zig-zagging route to Lake Washington will be familiar to many locals and there are way-finding signs for bikes, but your cue sheet or GPS unit is a helpful back-up if you don’t know the dance steps.

Zigs and zags now past, you’ll ride south along the edge of Lake Washington to Leschi and the I90 bridge. If our weather gambit paid off, you’ll get lovely views of downtown Bellevue and Mt Rainier in the distance. If it didn’t, put on your rain jackets and get low for the ride over the lake and across Mercer Island.

In Factoria, you’ll get to warm up with some nice climbing and then descend SE Newport Way. The shoulder is likely to be narrower than usual as it’s about halfway filled with sand and gravel, courtesy of snowpocalypse. There’s also a newish traffic circle toward the bottom (author’s note: I should have recorded its exact location, but it’s about kilometer 36), but if you continue along straight through it and stay on Newport, you’ll do just fine. The narrow shoulder conditions continue through Issaquah and on to Squak Valley Park, where you’ll pull off the road for another info control (answer the question on your card). This park does have a bathroom, but if you need more than a toilet at this point in the ride (~42km), just pedal along a bit farther to the Tiger Mountain Country Store about 4 km down the road. Well, up the road, as you’ll climb about 50 meters on your way there.

A couple more roads and you’ll reach the staffed control at the Cedar River Trail parking lot. Have your card ready for SIR volunteers to sign or stamp to indicate your passage. Then you can get back to it, riding the trail toward Renton. There isn’t really a ton to say about the trail, but three notes come to mind: First, take care at the road crossings as traffic can be fast and drivers may not be looking for you. Second, though it goes without saying, be courteous with other trail users and give notice and space when passing. Third, from Ron Regis Park (about kilometer 67) to the end of the trail, there’s a posted speed limit of 10 miles per hour. It’s tempting to ride faster, particularly if you’re getting behind on time, but there is a $101 fine for speeding on your bike through this section. Better to keep it mellow and make up time elsewhere. Depending on the weather, you’ll want to be attentive to ice/frost in this area, too.

Several turns through Renton and you’ll be back to Lake Washington, where you can put in a bit of speed stay ahead of the ride’s 3:40 PM cut-off time. Though if you get the same headwind we had on the pre-ride, that speed will be hard-earned. Nevertheless, take a moment to appreciate Lake Washington Boulevard, designed by the Olmsted Brothers and constructed beginning in 1904. With its many beautiful turns, hills, and views, it’s easy to see how this road made the National Register of Historic Places in 2017 and has been popular with cyclists for the past century. And if that’s not scenic enough for you, the route soon detours into the Washington Park Arboretum. Ride slowly and admire the trees—you’ll be sharing the path with walkers who are likely not expecting a large group of cyclists to join them on their dendrological stroll.

Then it’s back across the Montlake Bridge and onto the Burke, though you’ll go west rather than returning the way you came. In Fremont, you’ll leave the trail and start climbing: First on Stone Way, then on Fremont Avenue. The climb up to Phinney Ridge may feel steep and long, but it’s only 90 meters gain over 3 kilometers. OK, so maybe its steep. But there are stoplights along the way…. Ok, so maybe I’m not helping. But at the finish there’s beer, pizza, and good company, so it’s worth that last effort. Remember to turn your card in to the volunteers at the end, thank them for their work, and give yourself a high-five. You did it!

Get all the ride details here: https://www.seattlerando.org/content.aspx?page_id=4002&club_id=928629&item_id=896674

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2018 Summer 600K Pre-Ride Report

by Tom Beck

Mt. Rainier through clouds and haze.

Get ready for a challenging and scenic ride!  The Summer 600 km route starts at AAA Washington headquarters at 3605 132nd Avenue SE in Bellevue. Secure free parking is available to all participants. Bring a drop bag for the overnight control and, if you’d like, another one for the end of the ride. You will have access to rest rooms and showers (with towels).

Given the heat and smoke we have seen for the past several weeks, there was some concern about what we Tom Beck, Jim Ryan, and Eddie Bishop  would have to endure during the pre-ride this past weekend. While there was still some smoke in the air, it only obscured the views. The morning was cool and crisp, and more layers of clothing would have been a good idea because it took quite some time before the temperature warmed up. The first part of the ride takes you from Factoria (initially via bike path) to Coal Creek Parkway through Newcastle and Renton to the Cedar River Trail. Don’t forget to exit the Cedar River Trail before Testy Chef (mile 16.6) be careful of the loose gravel.

In Maple Valley, there’s a Starbucks on the left at mile 20.6 in case you need a shot of caffeine. There are also services in Black Diamond. The shoulder goes away on the Green River bridge deck (mile 26.7), so stay alert and take the lane. In Enumclaw, there is a QFC on the left and a park with Porta-Potty on the right. Use care making the left turn onto 410; you have a stop sign and cross traffic does not. Unfortunately for all you Egg McMuffin fans, the McDonalds in Enumclaw is currently closed for renovation. Plan accordingly.

The road to Cayuse Pass.

Top-up water bottles and snack packs at Greenwater because it’s a long climb to Cayuse Pass and a long ride down to next control in Packwood (47 miles and 3,500 ft of elevation gain). On the pre-ride, the Greenwater General Store was low on stock. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, there’s more to choose from about 100 yards farther up the road on the right. Enjoy some spectacular views of Mt. Rainier as you climb to Cayuse. Once you reach the pass, keep right at the huge Y to follow highway 123 toward Packwood. Do not follow 410 left up toward Naches.

In Packwood, there is a convenient convenience store, where you can get your card signed and enjoy the usual rando food. They also make great sandwiches to order  If you’re in need of water or a bathroom, Ohanapekosh Campground (mile 86) has restrooms and water. Expect headwinds between Packwood and Randle on highway 12 – winds are much less noticeable once you make the turn from Hwy 12 onto Silverbrook Road at mile 108.3. Leaving Randle, top-up again. You get about a mile of flat terrain before the climbing starts. There is an initial steep section, followed by miles of rolling terrain – some really great riding through here. The second half of the climb is more work for the legs; road conditions on the climb are good, and there are ample turn outs to pull off for pictures or a quick break. Be prepared for anything weather wise – and expect colder temperatures at the top.

If you make it to Elk Pass in daylight hours, you’ll have a couple of amazing scenic vistas of Mt. St. Helens, but you’re going to want to pay very close attention to the road surface to get there safely. The descent of Elk Pass has cracks, uneven pavement and slide damage, along with some smooth stuff. In the dark you will want to be especially careful. If you have a high intensity light setting, this would be the time to use it. The good news is it’s a lightly traveled road and traffic should be minimal.

Take a left turn at mile 160.4 to get to the Northwoods control (Eagle Cliff Store and campground). After you make the left, cross the bridge and start looking for an uphill gravel driveway on the left 1/2 mile after you made the turn – that’s your control. After checking in, head back the way you came – cross the bridge and turn left – at this point NFD 25 becomes Hwy 90. The store closes at 8:00 p.m., but this control will be staffed for all but the very fastest of riders. Eddie Bishop will be there by late afternoon. Restrooms are unlocked but unlit, so you might want your headlamp at night. There’s about 75 km to the overnight control and nothing in between, but it’s flat-ish and the air should be cool, so you may not need much.

Hwy 90 during daylight. (Photo by Theo Roffe)

Hwy 90 is a fun road; it parallels several lakes first Swift Reservoir, then Yale Lake, then Lake Merwin, along with the Lewis River in places. Around mile 175, Hwy 90 changes to Hwy 503 you don’t even need to turn your handlebars. Hwys 90 and 503 have some climbs, some rollers, some great flat sections, and twists and turns. You’ll be riding in the dark, and the road has no shoulder; stay alert and make sure your taillights have ample power. The town of Cougar has services, but only if you get there early enough. The gas station on the left as you ride through town has a picnic table with umbrella if you need a place to sit and take a break.

The overnight control will be Best Western in Woodland. It’s close to, but not directly on, the road, nestled among some industrial-looking buildings. However, it was easy to find in the dark. There will be food available at the hotel. If you don’t care for what’s offered, there are several restaurants in close proximity.

After Woodland, you head to what may be the crown jewel of the pain cave Green Mountain Highway. Your legs will get about a 10-minute warm up. Is it a long grind like Cayuse Pass? No. Is it a combination of long climbs and shorter flat sections like Elk Pass? Well, no. It’s a couple of miles of graduated climbing ranging from 8% to 15%. Once you get to the top (however you choose to get there on foot, paperboy, full-gas straight line, or secret granny gears) you’ve got a few spots of tricky descending to do. At mile 211.8, while flying down the hill, you have a sharp, tight downhill turn to stay on Green Mountain Hwy. Again, around mile 213, you start down a steep grade and there is a 90-degree right-hander if you overshoot the turn you’ll ride into some guy’s living room. Bottom line: There are a lot of tricky sections descending Green Mountain that you’ll need to be alert about.

In the next section you’ll be riding parallel to I-5 with rollers, decent roads, and wide shoulders (watch for occasional glass and debris). There are services in Kalama and Kelso. These towns can have a lot of traffic even on a weekend especially Kelso around mile 230 (a popular I-5 exit for motorists seeking services). Be mindful and watch for inattentive drivers.

You’ll enjoy rollers after Kelso on Pacific Avenue, and later when it becomes Bond Rd. In a few places you’ll cross intersections with I-5 access – be watchful as we saw a lot of morning traffic at all of these. Your last I-5 intersection is around mile 249 by Peppers Truck Repair (truck stop across the street) – you’ll cross I-5 and then make a left onto Jackson Hwy South and head to Toledo.

At the control in Toledo, mile 255, you’ll find services including a mini-mart, IGA market, and some restaurants. This is where the pre-ride ended. The next 80 miles has all the climbing that is left: You’ll ascend and descend just over 4,000 feet as you ride through Mossyrock, Morton, Elbe, Eatonville, and Orting. These roads generally have good shoulders, but watch for holiday traffic given the proximity to Mount Rainier National Park and Mount St. Helens.

You’ll be greeted and congratulated finishing at AAA where you can get a little food and something hot or cold to drink. You are welcome to shower (towel provided) as well, so bring along something comfortable to change into and we’ll hang onto it until you get back.

The route is available on Ride With GPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28231241

Please preregister for this ride.

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RUSA 20th Anniversary Populaire (8/18/2018): Pre-ride report

by Jeff Loomis

This populaire celebrates Randonneurs USA’s 20th anniversary. All finishers will receive a commemorative medal.

 

We met at the 65th Street Portage Bay Cafe.  It’s a good place to fuel up for the ride and is very near to the park-and-ride start.  If you would like to do the same, make a reservation because they are busy.  Bus Stop Espresso, Broadcast Coffee, Whole Foods, and Wayward Vegan Cafe are also in the vicinity.  The later than normal 11:00 a.m. start allows plenty of time for pre-ride eating and pushes the post-ride party into the evening hours.

 

Leaving the start, riders will make their way along Ravenna Blvd to the Burke Gilman Trail.  There is a bit of navigating to get over the Montlake Bridge to the 520 trail.  Make friends with any out-of-town riders to help them through this part.  Once on the 520, we didn’t see Mt. Rainier views due to the first cloudy day in months, but the event riders can hope for some nice views.

 

After the bridge we headed south through Medina near the homes of Bill Gates and other elites.  Nearing downtown Bellevue we passed through a waterfront neighborhood with some nice mid-century houses.  After downtown we grunted up the first serious climb of the ride, followed by some other older Bellevue neighborhoods on the way to the I-90 trail.  We mixed it up with some of the riders on the Obliteride charity ride and get some cheers from their supporters.

 

U-turn on the I-90 trail.

 

The loop around Mercer Island is always pleasant and we enjoyed the winding roads under the cool shade of the trees.  The less pleasant I-90 bridge trail was a good opportunity to push the tandem across in minimum time.

We leave the trail before the tunnel to make the fun descent to Lake Washington Blvd. and enjoy the views on the way to the Seward Park.  The park restrooms are convenient if you need to stop and there is water available at the fountain across the street.

 

 

Dave enjoys some blackberries.

 

 

Circling Seward Park.

 

 

We circle Seward Park and catch another info control.  Shortly after leaving the park is another steep climb up Orcas St. that was new to me.  We then have to connect the beautiful parts of the ride with a trip through the working industrial zone between Beacon Hill and West Seattle.  Watch for the Chili Dog stand to find the best route to the 1st Ave. Bridge bike path.

 

Editor’s note: this is not a chili dog.

 

West Seattle is reached by climbing Highland Park Way which is not the most bike friendly route but there aren’t really any nice ways to the top of the hill.  Fortunately weekend traffic isn’t that heavy.  Getting across West Seattle to the shoreline involves several more ups and downs where Dave starts questioning my route creation abilities.  Finally we drop down to Fauntleroy via a fun series of switchbacks.  It will be even more fun for those of you who don’t have a nervous stoker on the back of a tandem.  A traditional gas station control is a good place to grab a cold coke or maybe a $1.50 taco from the truck that is permanently stationed there.  Most of the climbing is done at this point so if you are close to the time limit you shouldn’t have a problem finishing.

 

The iconic Seattle views continue around Alki point with a control stop at the lighthouse.  On the day of the pre-ride, the road is closed for a Sub Pop event which will culminate with a Pearl Jam appearance later on.  We walk and shuffle through the crowds and then jump on the trail to reach the West Seattle Bridge.

 

 

 

Views from West Seattle

 

Cruise ship passengers and ferry arrivals keep us on our toes through the waterfront.  The route goes through Myrtle Edwards Park, but Dave points out that next weekend during the ride, Hemp Fest will be taking place.  It may be possible to walk your bike through the crowds of potheads and pick up some supplies if that’s your thing…  We scoped out a less scenic detour on Elliott Ave. until we can rejoin the trail at the Galer St. flyover.

 

We enjoy the quiet trails and ship canal views before crossing the bridge into Fremont, the Center of the Universe.  A gentle climb up Stone Way brings us to Green Lake and the final two uphill blocks to the finish.  There was no welcoming party for us, but the Populaire riders will find a party underway.

Please preregister for the ride so we can be sure to have enough food and drink for everyone!

Check out the route on Ride with GPS.

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2018 Barlow Pass 400K Pre-Ride Report

by Jeff Loomis

Ron Himschoot and I checked the route for the Barlow Pass 400k. It is unchanged from previous years except for two construction detours on the Interurban Trail in the Lynnwood area. The first detour is short and signed relatively clearly. The second requires leaving the trail behind the Kohl’s store and riding parallel on Alderwood Mall Parkway / Manor Way for a few miles. All the riders should be past that section quite early in the morning so traffic interaction will not be a problem.

There are several options for the first control in downtown Snohomish. We opted to stop at the traditional Snohomish Bakery at First and Main, which has great pastries, restrooms, and a water spigot to top off your bottles. Leaving Snohomish, you will enjoy many quiet miles on the Centennial Trail.

Once off the trail and onto Route 9, we shortly climb up Finn Settlement Road. Ron was not a fan of the extra climbing, but it is quite pleasant to be on a quiet road. The descent back to Route 9 is very enjoyable as well.

Welcome to Concrete!

After passing Big Lake and Clear Lake on Route 9, the turn onto Old Day Creek Road offers a very steep climb to wake up the legs. Once down the other side the quiet South Skagit Highway leads to Concrete, the next control. Cascade Burgers offers the standard drive-in burger, fries, and shake experience along with friendly service. For those who would like to exercise better control discipline, the neighboring gas station stocks the usual basics. The adventurous are free to foray into Concrete proper where another bar and café might be open.

Leaving Concrete the way we came, we enjoy the quiet-but-chip-sealed Concrete Sauk Valley Road before joining the busier highway along the Sauk River into Darrington. This is not a control, but riders should ensure that they stock up with enough water to make it to the top of the Barlow Pass climb.

The paved portion of the Mountain Loop Highway is freshly chip sealed, but otherwise in good condition. The gravel is also in relatively good shape, but there is one short work zone with loose gravel.  Several short, steep pitches are quite washboardy. I had no issues making the climb on 32mm tires. At the top of the climb there will be a staffed control with food and water available. The extended paved descent to Granite Falls is interrupted by one short gravel section, well signed in advance.

There will be a staffed control at the top of Barlow Pass.

With the adventure portion of the ride done, the rest of the route follows SIR standard roads to Lake Roesiger and the Sultan control. There is a 24-hour Chevron available to meet your late night caffeine needs.

From Sultan to the finish there will be few surprises. Some riders may not yet have enjoyed the short, steep climb up from the Burke Gilman trail. You’re welcome! You may be tempted to stop at your car when passing the Park and Ride, but make the short trip up the hill to the finish where we should have a few treats waiting for you.

The ride details and online registration can be found here:

https://sir.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=4002&club_id=928629&item_id=827539

 

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Border to Border 1000K

by Theo Roffe and Rachel Wood

Complete route on RWGPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27656925 
Cue sheets: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nmGcZ86ygDuhFXS0zd_5VuAZgG0SrGz-xAYvsSDB-I0/edit?usp=sharing

Day 1, Friday: Olympia to Bellingham

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28158220

On Friday morning, in the chill air of the South Sound, we started our ride to the Canada border by heading south east. That felt a bit confusing, but the first control is in Rainier and, from there, the route backtracks along the Seattle-to-Portland route into Seattle. While this routing isn’t as scenic as sticking to the edge of the sound through Tacoma and Des Moines, it sure avoids a lot of climbing. And, despite what the cumulative elevation of 6713 m might suggest, avoiding big climbs was a goal for this route.

Riding the Interurban

Beginning in Sumner, you’ll be on the Interurban trail. During the pre-ride, some sections were closed for a repaving project that should be completed in time for the ride. We were able to make it through with only minimal swerving around “Trail Closed” signs and riding through gravel. You’ll also want to watch out for railroad tracks along the trail – some were barely noticeable, but others were quite bumpy.

The Interurban trail drops you off in Renton, where you’ll find your way to the coast of Lake Washington for 40 km of watery views. Along this section, we stopped in Seward park to refill our water bottles, have a snack, and admire the lake with its variety of boats. After the lakeside riding, the route features a section of the Burke-Gilman and Lake Sammamish Trails. Even on a weekday afternoon, these are popular trails, so be attentive to other cyclists and pedestrians who may be moving more slowly.

Things get steep for a while through Woodinville and Maltby before descending into Snohomish County where broad plains offer bucolic views framed by the Cascade Mountains to the east. Marysville offers up some traffic and one of the route’s less pleasant roads, but the rolling hills from Tulalip Bay to Warm Beach are a great payoff. Due to a road closure just north of Warm Beach, you’ll trek back inland to Silvana before heading up through Stanwood and Conway to the Skagit Valley; however, the detour has a nice curvy descent into lovely farmland. Come back in the spring time for a wonderful display of Tulips in this area!

If you catch Bayview State park before 8 pm, there are bathrooms and nice views across Padilla Bay to Anacortes and Gumes Island. Chuckanut Drive, to the north, is a highlight of the route. Yes, it’s climby, but it sticks you right on the edge of Samish and Bellingham Bays where you can watch the sun set behind Lummi Island.

Sunset from Chuckanut, just before the climbing starts

You’ll be able to get food in Fairhaven or Bellingham before the out-and-back to the Canada border. But don’t make the same mistake Rachel and I did and save that out-and-back for day 2! It’ll make for a very long, tough day – day 2 already has more climbing, it doesn’t need more distance. (Our splits for the pre-ride were 325 / 415 / 260 km. The official splits with the revised route are 405 / 338 / 264 km.)

Anyway, the route from Fairhaven to Bellingham features a nice gravel trail that is totally rideable on a road bike with narrow tires. But if you can’t stand that kind of thing, feel free to stay on State Street into town. Keep in mind that Bellingham is a college town: Friday night downtown can be a bit of a party. We didn’t have any trouble, but you should keep both eyes open for young, dumb drivers and bar-hopping pedestrians.

If you’re fast, you might pass through Lynden in time for services, otherwise plan on packing what you need before leaving Bellingham. On the pre-ride, we had some trouble with a dog within 5 km of the border, but he’s likely to be locked up in his kennel at night. We just had the bad luck to come by as his people were opening his kennel and the gate! They came out to the street with his leash and treats and we squirted him with our water bottles until he finally went home. If you meet Duke, squirt him right in his face for us. Thanks! He hates that.

At the overnight control in Bellingham, we’ll have your drop-bags (if you choose to leave one at the start) and beds, but little else. For the pre-ride, we fit a change of clothes for day 2 in our bags. There’s a 24-hour Denny’s in the same parking lot where you can get dinner and breakfast regardless of your timing. We slept for 5 hours at this control. That was restful, but probably too much time by 1 or 2 hours; we were behind the clock all day Saturday.

Snohomish Day 2

Day 2, Saturday: Bellingham to Olympia

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28158228

The route leaves Bellingham without passing many services, so be sure you have what you’ll need as there’s really very little over the next 50 km. There are some steep climbs to get out of town and wake you up, but the bright side is that they aren’t long, and they lead into a lovely descent on a quiet road along Lake Samish, followed by the similarly nice Old Highway 99. We had to avoid a road closure near turning off Old 99 (don’t let the signs scare you up Bow Hill Road! The route uses a much shorter, flatter detour) and headed into Burlington, which was terrible. Lucky for you, the route now skips Burlington and goes into downtown Mount Vernon. There is one section where you’ll have to rejoin main-road traffic to cross the Skagit River, but there is a bike lane on the bridge. In Mount Vernon, the Skagit Valley Co-op has everything, but we enjoyed a leisurely stop at the Calico Cupboard Café and Bakery. It’s an open control, so feel free to stop wherever you like to get your card signed.

The 200K riders were also at the Calico Cupboard Cafe! In Anacortes… 🙁

You’ll stick to frontage roads along I-5 returning nearly to Conway before heading east to Lake McMurray and the Centennial Trail. The trail is a popular place for slow cyclists and pedestrians, so please be cautious and attentive. You can keep a decent pace nonetheless, just ring your bell and pass with plenty of space. The Centennial Trail brings you back in Snohomish where you controlled on day 1. But leaving town you’ll head south east into the Snoqualmie River Valley to Carnation. This section offers mostly shaded, rolling roads with views of the Cascades and picturesque farms. Resupply in Carnation before the hill out of Fall City; there are a couple cafes in town, plus the grocery store where we went. As Rachel said on the pre-ride, that hill is no joke. Descending from the Issaquah Highlands you can pick up some good speed (we were going 40+ mph on our single bikes). Just be sure to get over to the left lane and avoid joining the freeway onramps!

Control in Issaquah and then head out for more climbing: the highest elevation section of the route begins just as you leave Issaquah and ends 50 km later with a lovely descent into Orting on the Foothills trail. There was some road construction on the bridge between Enumclaw and Buckley which narrowed things down to one lane and stopped traffic in alternate directions. This seemed like a bad thing, but it resulted in making the left turn from 410 to Park Ave much easier than usual – there was only traffic coming from one direction by the time we finished the climb up from the bridge! From Orting, you’ll climb a steep ridge and work your way back to familiar roads: 507 to Yelm, the Yelm-Tenino trail to Rainier and Rainier Road back into Tumwater. We got here very late on the pre-ride and it was cold and slow going. Bring your layers for night riding!

After chasing the clock all day and riding extra distance to Eatonville (no longer on the route!), we arrived in Tumwater at 5:00 am. We slept ~3 hours (I really didn’t want to tackle day 3 on any less) and started Sunday behind the clock again. Fortunately, the clock slows down this far into a ride and we started picking up a buffer with each control.

Day 3, Sunday: Olympia to Longview and Back

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28158231

For the pre-ride, day 3 was forecasted to be the hottest, as it is for the event. We started relatively late in the day (9:40 a.m.) and thus missed out on the typically cool morning hours. Instead, we hit the beginning of the heat with a high temperature reportedly about 93°F. According to our cycling computers it was 105°F. Considering that official air temperatures are measured at a height of 2 meters above ground, while you’ll be riding just above the hot asphalt, it’s going to feel much more like 100°F than 90°F. And there’s less shade than you’d expect. That said, we had a strong tailwind for most of the morning and early afternoon.

Curtis Hill Road will probably have you cursing us (blame Ian!), but the descent is fantastic and the roads on either side of the Boistfort Store are beautiful. You’ll get patches of shade here (though Rachel pointed out that all the climbs were sunny) and on the Westside Highway where the route heads south along the Cowlitz River to Longview. Longview has some big terrible roads, so we won’t go all the way to the Columbia river where the border is drawn between Oregon and Washington, but you’re very close. Instead, we’ll stick to lower traffic toads and then cross the Cowlitz into Kelso to join frontage roads along I5 where you’ll head north on the final leg of the journey. These frontage roads were shady and rolling – quite nice to ride!

At the control in Toledo there’s a public bathroom at the boat launch just left after crossing the bridge into town. There’s also an IGA market (grocery store) open until 9 p.m. (they locked the door precisely on the hour!). The info control is at a gas station convenience store that’s open until 10 p.m. If you don’t want to stop, read the question in advance: you should be able to find the answer from your bike and remember it to write down later. Jackson Highway featured, for us, a beautiful sunset. If you’re earlier you’ll probably get great views of the valley, Mt St Helens, and Mt Rainier (we could just see both in the fading light). You’ll also get the last big climb through Lewis and Clark State Park at 939 km. But this means plenty of good descending into Chehalis and Centralia. Then you’ll go on through the valley with a few rollers to Bucoda and Tenino. Another info control at a gas station will leave your card with just one more slot to fill! Climb the last of the climbs out of town and (mostly) descend back to Tumwater. Of course, you can never believe “it’s all downhill from here,” but in this case, it mostly is.

We rolled into the finish at 1:30 a.m. for 68 hours elapsed (the pre-ride started 30 minutes later than the brevet will start. Also note that we rode 1032.9 km and your route will be 1007 km). Then we enjoyed a celebratory beer, a well-earned shower, and bed!

Strava users can look at our ride recording here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1721889143 (if you don’t log in, only high-level details are visible).

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