Author Archives: Theo Roffe

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SIR Newsletter/Blog Editor RUSA 5988

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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2018 SIR Summer 200K Report: Snohomish–Anacortes–Snohomish

by Narayan Krishnamoorthy

NOTE CHANGE OF START and FINISH LOCATIONS

Ride start: 7 am
Registration start: 6 am
Ride start Location: Snohomish Library
Ride Finish: Trails End Brewery
Parking: Plenty of on-street parking along main drag and near the Library
Warning: Watch for road closures along Downtown Snohomish

Registration and additional details: http://seattlerando.org/content.aspx?page_id=87&club_id=928629&item_id=827535

As 200Ks go, this one is a fairly known commodity, but it combines elements from different types of routes in one rarely found package: low in traffic, high on trails, scenery, frequency of services, and quality of pavement.

We start early on Saturday from the Snohomish Public Library to avoid the hullabaloo of the Kla Ha Ya Days festival in Downtown Snohomish (and some possibly heavy headwinds later in the day); the early start allows us to enjoy cooler temperatures for longer, and the trail is less crowded (it promises to be a zoo once the 5K run starts at 8 am. Don’t be late). The first couple of miles are downhill – and feature very new smooth pavement – but the trail ventures gently uphill past the Machias store, and kicks up one more percent past Lake Stevens. You should have lovely views of the valley and the farms that line the sides of the trail. You’ll have a brief stretch of riding on Highway 9, but traffic volume should be low that time of day. You may begin to notice the first signs of a headwind or a crosswind here, but that bodes well for the return home.

The first control at Lake McMurray is a delight: it features a fabulous lake view and a very happy control volunteer eager to apply her bicycle stamp to your card, but only if you don’t block the gas pumps; if you do, you will get a bit of a talking to. Please make sure you clean up your garbage/recycling here (the store is a one person operation). This is a wonderful opportunity to refuel and to support the local economy. But fret not if you forget something: a brief and easy climb on Highway 534 leads you to Conway where even more services are available. Once you get past Conway, you will be blessed with lovely views of Mount Baker and, as an added bonus, will not see traffic until you hit the right turn onto Best Road. You’ll cross the Skagit River and find one more country store to refuel at (Rexville Grocery, can’t miss it on the right after you descend the Skagit River Bridge).

A short pedal brings you to lovely La Conner (a good coffee stop right as you enter town, should you feel the need) and our first possible hiccup: Maple Ave is easy to miss. Look for the Washington Federal Bank. Traffic was a bit higher than usual for the pre-riders because of Ragnar 2018, but you should have no traffic issues. The pre-riders found brief stretches of glass on Snee-Oosh Road, but the lovely water views more than made up for that risk. A brief battle with the headwind should bring you to one of the gems of the route: the Tommy Thompson trail that goes over Fidalgo Bay and brings you into Anacortes. On a hot day, the cool breeze off the bay will cool you right down and the water views will make you happy that you chose this ride. The trail does feature bollards, road crossings, and some weird chicanes, but it allows for a mostly stress-free ride into Anacortes.

The Calico Cupboard is lovely and has baked goodies and savoury foods that are sure to please your tired self. There is also a tavern across the street, but we found service slow on a previous ride. For quick service, get things to go at the bakery. A sit-down meal is recommended here as you are more than likely to be blessed with a tailwind on the way back. The route is an out and back, so you will have the luxury of retracing your steps with few complications.

The finish is at Trails End Taphouse, where eager volunteers will be on hand to shower you with kudos (and mooch free beers off of you).

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Bakery Run Populaire 7/14/2018

For this summer’s populaire, start with a coffee, end with a beer, and avail yourself of bakeries along the way.

The ride starts at 9:00 AM on July 14th from Starbucks Lake Forest Park.

We will be opening registration at 8:30. To simplify the process for yourself and the organizers on Saturday, please preregister.

It looks like this is going to be one of the rare events where both the pre-riders and the day of riders get excellent weather. This is great because, in addition to passing by coffee shops, bakeries, and breweries, we spend a fair amount of time next to Lake Washington — riders will get to enjoy the views.

Although there is not a ton of climbing, this is not a fast course as there is a fair amount of trail riding. There were lots of children, dogs, and people not paying attention on the trail during the pre-ride. Please be careful. Keep your speed down and break into smaller groups.

The climb up to the control at the coffee shop is steep but only ½ mile long. So, as you are cursing the ride organizer, remember that you’ll have finished 90% of the climbing once you get to the coffee shop.

There are lots of street fairs and festivals scheduled along the course. We saw signs for events in Kirkland, Mercer Island and Redmond scheduled for the same day as the ride.

More information available on the SIR website.

Route on RWGPS

Cue sheet on Google Sheets

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2018 Spring 600K: Olympia–Astoria

by Narayan Krishnamoorthy

(Photo: Josh Morse)

How does that song go?!

Happiness comes double / After a little pain / If you want the rainbow / You must have the rain.

This is most certainly one of those kinds of rides. There are loads of beautiful sections featuring some lovely roads, and there is a small element of what I would call the ugly. But sometimes you have to keep plodding through the bad (Longview bridge, Longview anything really, Highway 30, Monte–Elma Road) to enjoy the awesome (Spencer Road, Apiary Road, Drew Prairie Road, Smith–Anderson Road, OR 202, Blue Slough Road, and on and on). And the awesome outnumbers the awful by a good margin, so, AWESOME is the overwhelming verdict.

Many thanks to Josh Morse, Dewey R. Blacker, Susan Otcenas, Eddie Bishop, and Saint Barbara for all of their efforts this weekend. Especially Saint Barbara.

Short report:

  • We had GREAT weather. Sorry if we soaked up all the good weather.
  • Three Water Bottle ride, if it’s hot.
  • STOCK UP: Grand Mound or Centralia, no services until Morton.
  • HAZARD: One lane Bridge on the road to Morton.
  • STOCK UP: Morton / Mossyrock / Saikum / Mayfield.
  • HAZARD: Take care as you navigate through West Kelso / Longview
  • HAZARD: Take care on Longview bridge.
  • HAZARD: Take care on the left turn across Hwy 30 traffic to Apiary Road. [Update: Route now goes up Old Rainier Road to avoid Hwy 30 and this hazardous left.]
  • STOCK UP: Vernonia. Nothing open until Astoria.
  • HAZARD: Cattle Guards, upon turning into Jewell Refuge.
  • Bundle up for the descent to Astoria
  • HAZARD: Recommend Taillights on Astoria Bridge.
  • Terrain gets a bit easier after North Cove.
  • FREE BUDDHISM CLASSES in Westport!
  • Save some match sticks for the hills in Olympia / Tumwater.
  • HAVE A WONDERFUL RIDE!

Long report:

We started off with a nice flat, fast warm-up to Grand Mound, and, a little south of Tumwater, we were treated to a Bald Eagle and her eaglets landing on the road to feast on roadkill—only to fly away at the sight of four marauding bicycles flying down the road. I hope riders on ride-day are as lucky as us! Keep an eye out for them when you pass Freightliner Northwest. At Grand Mound, you should stock up on supplies because there is nothing until you hit Morton; we found the Starbucks to be fast. The shoulder comes and goes after Grand Mound, so be prepared to move into traffic, and keep a watchful eye.

It only looks flat outside of Centralia (Photo: Susan)

Past Centralia, the climbing starts in earnest. It may not seem like much to those of you who finished the Ephrata 400, but it certainly isn’t nothing, either. And Centralia–Alpha road is there to remind you of that. The road was foggy and, though traffic was light, we switched our taillights on. The temperatures climbed as we hit the 508 turn to Morton, so we stopped to take off some layers. There is one little one-lane bridge, so please take care there. At Morton, Josh and Ricky hit the market, while Susan and I hit the convenience store for a quick 10-minute stop. Both locations have been informed of your arrival on ride day.

The author with Mt Rainier behind (Photo: Susan Otcenas)

The road out of Morton starts climbing, but it is of the gentle, endless variety and the shoulder is in excellent condition. There are services in Mossyrock, Mayfield, and Saikum (at the store), so take advantage and stock up / top up supplies. Spencer Road is a gem, and we were blessed with beautiful views of Mount Rainier (behind), and St Helens (to the left).

Mt Rainier from Spencer Road (Photo: Narayan)

Westside Highway had a nice tailwind, but lots of traffic. We stopped at the store in Castle Rock to top up on fluids and get some ice cream. At Longview, you hit one of the “rain” sections with city riding on a busy street that hopefully can be cut out of the actual ride. [Update: The route through Longview has been changed, but there are a few miles on a busy street that can’t be avoided.] And then, there is the Longview bridge (insert profanity here). The shoulder is dirty, filled with glass and lots of logging debris, and there is no line that you can take on that shoulder that will avoid the crap. Traffic will likely be high so please take care here. I climbed slowly and descended slower as the cars and trucks make a beeline for relaxation. Turning right on Highway 30 takes you on a long climb. I stopped at least two times to “admire the scenery” and Susan was so patient, waiting for me and encouraging me up the climb. [Update: Route now follows Hwy 30 East into Rainier, Oregon, avoiding this climb.]

The gang regrouped atop the summit to make a left turn onto Apiary Road. This left turn can be tricky as you have to cross two lanes of traffic, and sightlines are limited for cars coming around the bend. [Update: Route avoids this turn by going into Rainier, Oregon, and up Old Rainier Road. It’s a much more pleasant climb with less traffic.] We paused for a few minutes under a tree where I had one of my numerous “woe is me” moments, but only because I wasn’t aware of the rejuvenating stretch ahead that would remove all the unpleasantness of the last few miles from my brain. Apiary Road was lovely, low in traffic, and had a nice rhythm after the first little steep pitch. There is a false summit, but the climb to there, and the climb to the actual top are very gentle. If you toodle along in your lowest gear you will eventually get there.

We plummeted down to Vernonia and had a nice ice cream and Gatorade break. Riders may want to stock up here as there are NO services for the next 100K [editor’s note: seriously, there’s nothing]. After a 25-minute break, we left Vernonia and the “hurry up and relax” group threw a Starbucks bottle at us. Luckily their aim was as good as their driving. We stopped a bit after Birkenfeld to dork up for the night because temperatures were so warm that wearing a vest was not appealing. We saw very few cars on this gentle climb. We stopped at the Jewell Wildlife Refuge to use the bathrooms and add layers; watch out for the cattle guards immediately after you make the left turn into the refuge, particularly if it’s raining. I survived the guards, but suffered the disconcerting sight of Ricky doing bridges on the concrete sidewalk.

We left together and stayed together. The temperatures kept going lower and lower. A State Trooper kindly asked how many of us were on the road and sounded relieved when we said just the four of us! So look out for police presence on this climb. I didn’t carry long finger gloves (to save weight), and I didn’t want to waste the time putting on my leg warmers. So, I pretty much froze on the descent. The store in Olney was shut up tight. And the lights of Astoria were beautiful in the night. We made it to Astoria a little past midnight, which meant we rode in the dark only for 3 hours. Riders should actually have more daylight than we had, so this promises to be a low night-riding brevet.

Saint Barbara helped us get situated, had ordered food and drinks, and catered to our every need as we rested and prepared for bed. A warm shower, lots of pizza, some beer, and a nice FOUR-hour nap (sorry, Susan) all helped me wake up well rested. This is the most sleep I have ever had on a 600K. I hope everyone can get at least some shut eye during the brevet.

Crossing the Astoria–Meigler Bridge (Photo: Susan)

Back in Washington (Photo: Susan)

We had a nice breakfast of yogurt, coffee, and fruit (no warm food for us, but the hotel will do its best to have an early warm breakfast on the Sunday of the brevet), and set off with about 10 minutes to spare. The road was foggy—please switch on your taillights, even if you set off in the daylight. Any bit of visibility on the Astoria Bridge helps. The bridge is long, but the shoulder is adequate, the birds are plentiful, and traffic at that hour (5:45 a.m.) should be minimal. Maybe five cars passed us. The road to Naselle has lovely water views and the golden-hour-light of dawn coloured the trees a beautiful shade. The road gets climby after the right turn on to 101, and I was at my slowest here, but conversation with Susan and frequent breaks for this and that helped me recover a bit.

Susan and Narayan heading to Raymond.

The day warmed up considerably at Raymond, where we stopped for drinks and a bathroom break. Josh and Ricky opted for a sit-down meal (on Mother’s Day), and bled time as a result. I had another prolonged low and Susan pulled me down the road for miles to the North Cove Grill in Tokeland. There she bought me ice cream and a Starbucks Doubleshot, useful arrows to have in your quiver on a hot day, or if you have had minimal sleep. The road flattens out after North Cove Grill, and the riding gets even more pleasant thanks to a beautiful turn onto quiet Smith-Anderson road which puts you past a whole lot of cranberry farms.

Tumbledown house in the cranberry fields just south of Westport (Photo: Susan)

We found Heather Road unmarked. It is the first right turn after the road becomes Lindgren Road, eventually dumping you to an unmarked turn onto Highway 105. The control arrives shortly after (the Shell / Subway stop).

Here I was taught the finer points of Buddhism by a rather enthusiastic local riding a mountain bike, who may or may not have had all his marbles together, much to the amusement of my riding buddies. He mentioned something about the three colours in the talisman he was wearing, something about the paths, and the monk in Aberdeen… but I am afraid I am a poor student.

We left with about nine hours to do the last 72 miles or so and set a good pace as the terrain relented and winds became favourable again. We took the trail to Cosmopolis and then Blue Slough Road, which is now open after the landslides of the past years. We took an extended break in Montesano, the heat bothering us, and then a few more breaks as we made our way to McCleary. The pavement on Monte–Elma is as bad as ever!

There were some routing issues for us in terms of missing signs that will be fixed up on the final cue sheet, and we found our turn onto Highway 8. [Update: Street names have been updated on RWGPS and cue sheet to match the real world.] The shoulder on Highway 8 was better than we remembered from February and we worked our way through Mud Bay. I thought that was the last climb—ha! In true SIR fashion, there are some hills before the finish. But I have applied (read: whined) to the powers that be that better routing may be found to the finish. [Update: We couldn’t get rid of all the hills at the end, but we did adjust the route to the finish to avoid some of the busier roads on which the preriders suffered. Please think of them while enjoying a quiet ride along Decatur Street SW.]

The Whole Fam Damily at La Quinta

Eddie Bishop showed up at the finish with pizza, beer, and G&Ts to welcome us in, and so did Mrs Morse, Ian, and Sierra. It was an awesome end to a wonderful ride.

HAVE A SAFE AND WONDERFUL RIDE, ALL!

Ride details and registration on the SIR website.

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