by Susan Otcenas
The “Big Picture” summary of the ride is that while not an easy course by any measure, it is definitely doable even by randonneurs of modest ability. The key to success is not pushing too hard on the first day, pacing yourself on all the climbing early in the ride, and exercising control efficiency to gain as much time in the bank as possible heading into the overnight. While Day 2 is quite a bit easier than Day 1, I nonetheless recommend leaving the overnight with 30-45 minutes in the bank. The hilliest bits come at the beginning and end of the day.
Keith Moore and I pre-rode the 600K on May 30/31. Jan Acuff & Audunn Ludviksson pre-rode the 400K on June 6th. Many thanks to the three of them for vetting my cuesheets, setting up info controls and providing feedback on the routing.
The 400K is substantially similar to the first loop of the 600K, with the “extra” miles need to bring it up to 400K accomplished on Hwy 12 west of Randle. 400K riders should read the 600K Day 1 summary for all of the relevant information.
Links for GPS data and Cue Sheets here:
600K Day 1: 240 miles (386km). 10,500-11,500 feet of gain, depending upon your GPS.
Registration will be from 4:00 to 4:45am INSIDE the IHOP adjacent to the Motel 6 at 1885 15th Place NW in Issaquah. Look for me and William Willaford inside. Pre-ride instructions will be given in the parking lot outside the IHOP at 4:50am. You may leave a small overnight bag with me for safe keeping in the control room. [See end of post for information about parking — ed. ]
Riders will depart at 5am, at which point the sky will already be surprisingly light. You will spend several miles on the Cedar River Trail and the Cedar to Green River Trail. The Cedar to Green River Trail is gravel. Gravel generally makes me nervous, but I did just fine on 28mm tires. Note that the gravel is a little looser at underpasses, so use caution.
It’s an easy ride to Enumclaw, your first control. We used the expedient Chevron option. Other than the Chevron, I think there is a coffee stand a few blocks later. There are also a few restaurants at the corner of 410 at mile 29.5 if Chevron doesn’t tickle your fancy.
Over the next 40 miles you will climb about 4000 feet. We highly recommend you carry three bottles. You’ll find services in Greenwater at mile 47, and there are some campgrounds beyond that which may have water (but we did not investigate). We stopped at Greenwater to top off. I had enough water in my bottles to make it to Packwood at mile 93, but Keith was running low between the summit and Packwood.
Cayuse Pass comes at mile 69, at which point you will have climbed roughly 5500 feet. DO NOT PANIC if you are behind the clock a little. You will make it up on the way into Packwood, which is 3500 feet below you. (For reference, Keith & I had roughly 45 minutes “banked” at the top of Cayuse, and no one ever accused me of being a nimble climber.)
Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s ALL downhill from Cayuse Pass to Packwood. There are a few smaller hills to climb after the first big drop. We had a tailwind climbing to Cayuse and then a surprisingly stiff headwind for much of the descent and then into Packwood. While the road surface is generally alright, some sections of the descent were surprisingly bumpy.
The expedient stop in Packwood is at the Shell on the right. Departing Packwood, you will head west on Hwy 12 for 10 miles (we had a stiff headwind) and then get relief from the traffic by following Silverbrook the rest of the way to Randle. 600K riders will answer an info control question in Randle, while 400K riders will continue on west on Hwy 12 from Randle to an info control a few more miles down the road, and then back to Randle, to get the extra distance required to bring the day up to 400Km. There are services in Randle. 600K riders may not need them, but 400K riders would be advised to fill up their water bottles as there are no services after Randle until returning to Packwood.
From Randle, you’ll ride Cispus Rd, then head east on the delightfully shady and delightfully traffic-free Cline Rd, where there’s another info control question to keep you honest.
Packwood is once again a control on the return. If you are shy on time, you’ll probably want the Shell again. Keith and I didn’t have oodles of time in the bank, but wanting something a little more solid, we opted for the burger and milkshake place on the right. The milkshakes are handmade with fresh berries and plenty of ice cream. That plus some salty fries to go in the handlebar bag made me a happy camper. Keith came to regret his decision to eat a burger while climbing Skate Creek a short time later. Let your stomach be your guide.
Skate Creek is a long climb, gaining 1500 feet, but it’s gently graded. You’ll also find it blissfully shaded and extremely low traffic. There are no services between Packwood and Ashford (grocery store on left) at mile 154 (163 for the 400K riders), so be sure you have enough water on board. There are additional services in Elbe beyond that, though if you are a slower rider you might just find restaurants still open. The store was closed when we arrived.
Please use caution and ride single file on Alder Cutoff Rd on the way to Eatonville. It’s narrow and without much shoulder, which makes it somewhat stressful. Audunn and Jan had several motorists yell at them on this stretch, though Jan did allow as one of those yelling motorists was making a complimentary statement about the shape of her derriere. Audunn also had the novel experience of having a passenger attempt to pee on him from the window of a moving vehicle, so there’s that to add to your bucket list as well.
Continuing the Tour de Shell in Eatonville, we took time to put on our reflective and get ready for nightfall here. It was still light for us, though slower riders may find themselves here after sunset.
20 miles after Eatonville, you will make the unsigned turn onto WA-162/Pioneer way. There’s not much shoulder and there was more traffic than I was expecting at that hour (10pm ish). Please use caution and ride single file! Fortunately, you will only be on that road for 2.4 miles before the safety and serenity of the Foothills Trail.
Although not a control, you’ll likely want to stop, as we did, in Enumclaw, where you will find plenty of services on route. At Hwy 410 there are several fast food options, and a 24 hour Safeway. We brought our bikes into the Safeway and dined in great luxury while lounging on the mobility scooters. After Enumclaw, there’s not much in the way of services until the overnight in Issaquah, though I recall an open Texaco somewhere along the line.
There is one last info control on Cumberland Kanasket Rd, and we made sure to create a question that would be easy to answer in the dark.
Look for the SIR control sign when you get back to the Motel 6. I’ll post my room number on the sign. Due to limited facilities (read: the mini fridge and microwave in my room) we will not be serving full-meal-worthy fare. We will, however, have plenty of drinks, snacks, fruit, and enough pizza for you to feel satisfied. If you have enough time banked, however, you may wish to avail yourself of the IHOP immediately next door. Service is fast at oh-dark-thirty and they are open 24 hours on the weekends. I also let them know we would be there, so with any luck they will have extra staff on hand.
600K Day 2: 135 miles (217km). 3,000-4,000 feet of gain, depending upon your GPS.
We recommend you leave the overnight with 30-45 minutes in the bank if possible.
Within the first mile, you will curse my name. Repeatedly and loudly. There’s a stupidly steep hill to climb. Just accept right now that you will walk it. Jan said it’s OK to walk the hills; apparently all the cool kids are doing it, so you are absolved of any guilt.
Issaquah – Fall City Rd is undeniably bumpy but once you get over the early set of hills, you’ll drop down into the valley and have a pancake flat ride to Carnation. The control is open, so use the (24 hr) Shell, or do what we did and head down the road a little further and have coffee and 2nd breakfast at Sandy’s Espresso (on right, open at 7am). You can have 3rd breakfast during the next control at the Snohomish Bakery. 24 hour riders who come through Snohomish in the middle of the night may use the 24hr 7-11 a few blocks off-route at 2nd & D as a control.
After Snohomish, you will do a looooong out-n-back on the Centennial Trail. Arlington is a good place to use the restrooms (public restrooms right on the trail) and fill your bottles in both directions. There’s an info control at the North Centennial Trailhead turnaround.
There’s no control when you swing back through Snohomish, but we stopped anyway, to tank up before the hilly section to come up Broadway. The milkshakes at the Pilchuck Drive-in in Snohomish are worth the stop.
You won’t likely enjoy the hills bits on Springhetti/Boadway/Bostian etc, but take heart in knowing that when you finish them you’ll be nearly done with the climbing for the day. When you zoon down into Woodinville there are plenty of food options for the penultimate control.
Leaving Woodinville, you’ll spend quite a few serene miles on the Sammamish River Trail and the Marymoor Connector Trail. After a short stretch on the East Lake Sammamish Trail, you will be forced to leave the trail where it’s closed due to a paving project. (I walked the hill to get back up to the roadway. No shame, people, no shame.)
The final tricky instruction comes just 2 miles from the end at the traffic circle on E Lake Sammamish Parkway. Locals probably know this turn, but as an out-of-towner I think it’s easy to miss. As you enter the traffic circle, follow the bike markings up on to the circle sidewalk. This will lead you onto the bike/ped path that parallels the Parkway, which is high speed and has no shoulders on this stretch.
When you return to the Motel 6, come back to the same control room at the Motel 6. We will be there to help you celebrate your successful completion of the ride!
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. See you soon!
600K riders: Park at the Motel 6. At sign-in I will ask you for your license plate number, and will turn those in to the front desk. PRIORITY WILL BE GIVEN TO 600K RIDERS WHO PRE-REGISTER. If you turn up to ride the 600K but have not pre-registered, I can not guarantee you either a parking spot or a place to sleep. (The control room will NOT be available for you to sleep in/crash in. It’s a small room, has a hard uncarpeted floor, and the single bed will be used by the workers who are staying up all night to take care of riders coming and going). Pre-register here for the 600K.
400K riders: there are lots of towing signs in the Motel 6 parking lot. I have no idea if they enforce it, but I probably wouldn’t chance it. Instead, you might consider utilizing a space in the HUGE parking lots in front of Costco, Lowe’s etc just to the East of the motel. A scan of the area doesn’t indicate that there’s much in the way of on street parking in the area, but if you have a favorite spot, please share the information. Thanks! Pre-register here for the 400K.