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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2018 Spring 400: Ephrata, WA. May 5.

pre-ride report by RT

Well, this should be a challenging ride for all who signed up!

Unfortunately, due to getting pneumonia and being off the bike for some time, I had to pre-drive the course. So, I apologize that I’m not able to answer questions such as “What’s the chip seal like?” But my observations from that day indicate the roads are in good shape. Typical of Eastern Washington, shoulder space is limited, but traffic is low-volume and so riding is a pleasurable experience.

Ok, now to the ride.  You will leave the Ephrata Best Western at 6 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, and will head north along rolling roads toward Moses Coulee. Then you will then turn left onto SR-2 (wide shoulder) and make your way to an SIR manned control at Farmer (52km).

Once you’ve topped off your bottles and snacks, you will continue north towards the fast McNeil Canyon descent and back to the Columbia River for some stunning views of the area.  There is a water stop available at Beebee Bridge Park before you cross the Columbia River and continue on your journey north toward control number three in Pateros at the 124.5 km mark. This is a great opportunity to stretch, eat some food, and hydrate before the next segment of the ride.

After leaving Pateros, you will wind your way up WA-153 with a little side track along Gold Creek Loop Rd (152km) before heading towards the big climb of the day: Loup Loup Pass (4,020 ft).  But, before that, you will have an opportunity to refuel once again at the Carlton Store (162km) if you can make it before they close at 6pm; otherwise, your next chance for fuel will be Okanogan (220km).  After passing through Carlton, you will be presented with an info control (173km), climb up Loup Loup, and descend into Okanogan where there are 24-hour services at Chevron.  If you don’t want to stop there, continue on down the road to Omak for control number four (228km) at the 24-hour Conoco.  Once you depart from Omak, this will be the longest stretch without services (unless you can make it to the Colville Trading Post at 294 km by 8pm). The next opportunity to refuel is at the Coulee Dam Casino (316km) which is open 24 hours, or control number five at Coulee Gas in Grand Coulee (320km).

Dry Falls

Continuing south into Coulee City there is the Coulee City Community Park (365km) which has bathrooms and water and is open 24 hours a day.  This is the last opportunity to top off those bottles before heading back to Ephrata along WA-17 via Dry Falls and Soap Lake.

Congrats!!  You did it!!

Route on RWGPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27355483

Ride details and preregistration: http://seattlerando.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=651:brevet&catid=62:2018-brevets-and-populaires

Summary of Controls and Water Stops

Location Distance (km) Service Hours
Start / Control #1: Ephrata Best Western 0
Control #2: Farmer, SIR Manned 52
Water: Beebee Bridge Park 93
Control #3: Pateros 124 Until 11 p.m.
Water: Carlton Store 162 Until 6 p.m.
Info Control 173
Water: Okanogan Chevron 220 Open 24 hrs.
Control #4: Omak Conoco 228
Water: Colville Trading Post 294 Until 8 p.m.
Water: Coulee Dam Casino 316 Open 24 hrs.
Control #5: Grand Coulee Gas 320 Open 24 hrs.
Water: Coulee City Community Park 366 Open 24 hrs.
Finish / Control #5: Ephrata Best Western 414

Safety Notes

This is a very challenging and remote ride. Please inspect your bike and lights thoroughly to ensure that everything is in working order. We will perform a safety check at the start to make sure everyone has primary and secondary front and rears lights, a reflective vest or sash, and reflective ankle bands. (Follow the RUSA reflectivity guidelines: https://rusa.org/reflectivity)

This ride also has a few very fast descents, McNeil Canyon and Loup Loup in particular. Exercise caution when descending these parts of the course.  There might be debris or sand build-up from the winter’s de-icing activities on the roadway.

When I was driving along WA-17 through Dry Falls, they were repaving the road.  Since it’s the weekend, they may not be repaving due to increased traffic along the section of the course. In any case, be attentive through this section.

RBA’s Note: With long distances between services, I suggest bringing three water bottles and plenty of food. Keep in mind that temperatures can vary widely in Eastern Washington; pack layers for hot and cold riding.

Ride Reports from the 2009 Edition

We won’t be climbing Disautel Pass this year, but otherwise these ride reports may be of interes.

Jason Karp: http://belgradebobcat.blogspot.com/2009/05/ephrata-washington-400k-brevet.html

Mark Thomas: http://rusa64.blogspot.com/2009/05/nice-road.html

Geoff Swarts: http://greenhornetrandoing.blogspot.com/2009/05/spring-2009-400k-pre-ride-report.html

Matt M: http://cyclinginseattle.blogspot.com/2009/05/big-commute-sir-400k-brevet-north-bend.html

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Time’s Up for the You’re-Out-of-Time Catch-22

New Closing-Time Rule for the First 60 km

The interaction of control closing time with the start control’s one-hour open window has been one of the endearing, or annoying, or nerve-wracking rules of US randonneuring. Ride starts are always open for one hour. You may miss the starting time by up to 60 minutes and still begin a ride. But prior to this rule change, if there were a nearby control you may have been out of luck:  The closing time for all other controls was calculated at a steady 15 kph pace* beginning at the official start time. For example, if the first control was at 15 km, it closed one hour after the start, at the same time the starting control closed! Besides challenging the perpetually tardy, this method severely penalized a random mechanical such as a puncture. This issue complicated course design when the early portion of a route might have required a control.

RUSA has adopted a modified closing-time rule for the first 60 km of a ride. The rule is:

Elapsed closing time = 1 hr + distance/20 kph

You now get the 1 hour start control window, plus the time it takes to ride to a control at 20 kph (about 12 mph). At 60 km the new closing time coincides with the old 15 kph rule. Beyond 60 km, 15 kph remains the minimum speed.*

Here are examples of the old and new rules. Times are elapsed time from the ride start.

Distance
(km)
Old
(h:min)
New
(h:min)
0 (start)
1:00
1:00
1
0:04
1:03
5
0:20
1:15
10
0:40
1:30
15
1:00
1:45
20
1:20
2:00
40
2:40
3:00
60
4:00
4:00

 

The new rule has been incorporated into the RUSA calculators, thanks to Lynne Fitzsimmons. The rule applies to ACP brevets, RUSA brevets, and RUSA permanents.

Control opening times are not affected.

Some of SIR’s permanent routes will need to be updated with new closing times for early controls. The new timing rule applies even if the route sheet and card have not been updated. If you find a route with obsolete times, let us know at permanents@seattlerando.org.

___________________________________________________________________________

*At long distances the minimum speed you must maintain decreases. For details see:

https://rusa.org/octime_perm.html

https://rusa.org/pages/acp-brevet-control-times-calculator

(the explanatory speed tables on these pages have not been updated with the new rule as of 3/21/18)

 

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Permanent Change: Controlling 520

Controlling 520

By Bill Gobie

 

With the impending opening of the new bike trail across the 520 bridge, I reviewed our permanent routes to see which might need additional controls to prevent shortcutting across the bridge. Somewhat surprisingly, out of our 300+ routes, only ten are affected and each only needs one new control. The ten routes are:

 

757 Redmond to UW via Issaquah

758 UW-Issaquah

1015 Queen Anne-Everett-Sammamish

1514 Woodinville Trails

1801 Club Car Populaire

2795 Leschi-Hobart-Redmond Loop

2868 Common Trails

3065 Green Gold and Red

3226 Peddler Postdoc Redmond Start

3227 Postdoc Peddler Ballard Start

 

All of the routes are now fixed up with new controls. Some of these are popular routes. Some are ridden almost exclusively by one or two SIRs. If you are accustomed to riding any of these on autopilot, be on the lookout for the new control! Be sure you use the newest versions of the cards, route sheets, and gps files that the Perminator sends you.

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Crowsnest 1000 KM Brevet – 9/15/2017

The Crowsnest 1000 km is not your ordinary 1000 km. It will climb over many mountain ranges in Washington, British Columbia, Idaho and Montana. This route includes mountainous highways through British Columbia as an alternate way to Whitefish, instead of riding the traditional Seattle or Portland Glacier 1000 km routes. After comparing the elevation profiles, Crowsnest route is obviously quite the contrast to the original, with many beautiful views of the Cascades, Okanagan Highlands, the Manashees Range and Selkirk Mountains. The route is named after the Crowsnest Highway BC-3, which is the shortest distant highway connecting the High Plains of Alberta with Hope, BC.

The portion of the Crowsnest Highway this 1000 km will cross over the 5 rugged mountain passess of south central BC all on Day 2, between Osoyoos and Creston.

This section will be some of the most rigorous randonneur mountain riding, but will be well supported on the climb up Kootenay Pass, on the way to Creston, BC. The entire 1000k will be very challenging with about 36,000 ft of climbing (according to Openrunner).

Day 1 will follow similar passes as in Cascade 1200 course (though reversed) over Rainy, Washington and Loup Loup Passes and head north to overnight in Osoyoos, BC. After the Day 2 mountainous day on the Crowsnest, Day 3 will be much less climbing through broader valleys of Kootenay River and Fisher River and one mountain pass over the Salish Range (Happy’s Inn Summit).

This will be a minimally-supported brevet. Drop bags will be transported to the overnight controls. Overnights: Osoyoos and Creston, BC and a control on the climb up Kootenay Pass.

Registration includes accommodations at the overnight stops at the SIR standard 2 riders per bed. Some food will be provided if riders are projected to arrive after nearby services close. Riders are responsible for their own accommodations at the start/finish as well as transportation to and from the start/finish.

To help with planning, please register early or email the organizer an expression of interest if you are seriously considering this ride. Rider limit of 25, due to limited rooms in Creston!

 

Day 1

Day 1 is 369 km with 13,500 feet, and starts over the North Cascades of Washington (Rainy Pass 4875ft/1486m and Washington Pass 5477ft./1669 m) and also over the Okanogan Range (Loup Loup Pass 4020ft./1225m ) on Highway 20. After following along the Okanogan River/ Osoyoos Lake and crossing the border into British Columbia, Canada the route will overnight in Osoyoos, BC.

 

Day 2

Day 2 is 336 km with 16,375 ft of climbing. From Osoyoos, the route will head east on Crowsnest BC-Hwy 3, and climb over Okanogan Highlands (Anarchist Pass [4045ft, 1233m], Eholt Summit [3458ft, 1054m] and Paulson Pass [5036ft,1535m]), The Monashees Range (Bombi Summit 4009ft/1221m) and The Selkirk Range (Kootenay Pass 5823 ft/ 1775m) before the overnight in Creston, BC. Kootenay Pass climbs 3800 ft in 24km, with grades at 8% in the top 16km!

 

Day 3

Day 3 will be much tamer with 5600 ft of climbing in 300k. After Creston, the route will go south back over into Idaho. The Porthill, Idaho Border crossing is open only from 7am to 11pm, but the unofficial pace time at the border is at 8:25am, so this should not be a problem for crossing the border. The border is also only 14k from Creston, which will allow enough time to get some sleep and breakfast to stay on pace. The route will follow along the Kootenay River to Libby, MT and then pass through the Salish Range, following up Libby Creek and Fisher River valleys (McKillop forest road), summiting at Happy’s Inn. Then descend into the Flathead basin into Kalispell, where there are some new bike trails to avoid the main highways, then head north to finish in Whitefish.

Please note that this 1000k route will require the following:

  • Passport or Enhanced Driver’s License (or other ID’s required to enter Canada/US)
  • Qualification: completed a 600k or greater in 2016 or 2017 or with organizers permission.

The start, where riders are responsible for their own accommodations, is:

Mt Vernon Best Western Plus
2300 Market St
Mt Vernon, WA 98273

Transportation to Mt Vernon: Amtrak available to Mt Vernon from Seattle/SEATAC.

The finish (riders responsible for accommodation again) is:

Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge

6510 Highway 93 S
Whitefish, Montana 59937

Transportation from the finish: Amtrak is available at Whitefish back to Mt Vernon/Seattle. Or arrange a shuttle to the Glacier Park International Airport, near Kalispell.

Overnight controls where shared beds and drop bag support will be provided:

Sept 15 Osoyoos, BC Canada

Avalon Inn 9106 Main St, PO Box 92, Osoyoos, BC, V0H 1V0 http://www.avaloninn.ca/

Sept 16 Creston, BC Canada

Magnuson Hotel 800 Northwest Blvd, Creston, BC V0B 1G2, Canada https://www.magnusonhotels.com/hotel/magnuson-hotel-creston/

Note: SIR will not reserve or pay for anyone wanting their own separate room. If you prefer to pay for your own room, please let us know in your registration comments.

We will make an effort to accommodate preferred roomates, so please indicate any preference in your registration comments.

The preliminary route is available on Ride With GPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/17970809

We will provide a cue sheet after the pre-ride over Labor Day weekend.

Visit the Seattle Randonneurs website to register: http://seattlerando.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=626:brevet&catid=61:2017-brevets-and-populaires

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Permanent Change: High Impact Closure Union Hill Road

by Bill Gobie

Union Hill Road in Redmond is closed from July 31 to August 27, 2017 for replacement of a culvert. The closure is squarely in the middle of the climb between 238th Ave NE and 208th Ave NE. You can detour on NE Redmond-Fall City Rd (WA-202) or NE Novelty Hill Rd.

Map of the closure: http://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/mycommute/default.aspx?clid=915

Routes which may be affected include:

1355 Snohomish-Edison
2334 Redmond-Conway v 2.xlsx
2298 Woodinville-Snoqualmie
2651 Baked Goods 100
3119 Kirkland – Bakery – Sandy’s
0186 Snoqualmie Valley and Falls
2921 Snohomish-Trafton-Startup-Snohomish
1831 MI-1 B
2920-Kirkland-EchoLake-AmesLake
1755 1756 Two Lakes
0341 Leschi – North Bend – Leschi
2298 Woodinville-Snoqualmie 115km
0606 Redmond – North Bend – Leschi-Redmond
0517 – The Alps
0850 UW-Granite Falls-Fall City
1840 NEW SNOQUALMIE RIVER RUN
1075 LK FOREST PARK-INDEX

 

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2017 Summer 300K Pre-Ride Report – Four Volcanoes

Photo credit: Mitch Ishihara

By Bill Gobie

Pre-riders: Bill Gobie, Adam Glass, Mitch Ishihara

Support driver: Keith Moore

 

Important changes to the ride:

The start time is 0500.

The route has been shortened slightly and has less climbing: 306 km and 13,400 ft

Important highlights:

Expect hot conditions in the afternoon. Carry at least three water bottles and consume electrolytes. Staying hydrated is extremely important on this ride.

You must have night-riding equipment including: headlights and taillights; reflective clothing including ankle bands and a reflective vest or Sam Browne belt.

I strongly recommend running a tail light during the entire ride. From inside a car it is impossible to see into deep shade when the sun strikes a dirty windshield. During the day a blinking tail light is most effective. A tail light may alert a driver to  your presence.

Mountain weather can be very cold at night. Bring some warm clothes and a windbreaker. This will be important on the final descent from Elk Pass when the hour is late and you are tired. Bring raingear to Packwood; odds are you won’t need it but if the weather changes you will be glad you can bring it on the ride. I have descended from Elk Pass in heavy fog which my speed turned into rain.

Total distance on gravel is 47 km. Some is quite good, much is moderately challenging. A few hundred yards may inspire walking, depending on your ability and temperament. The pre-riders used 25, 28, and 40 mm tires.

Cell phone coverage is very limited. You will be out of communication on most of the route.

The Ride with GPS file has been revised. Its link is unchanged. The revised route sheet will be available soon.

Introduction

Trust me to create a route I could not finish! Turning my disappointment to your gain, the route has been made slightly easier by removing the furnace-like climb that DNF’d two of the pre-riders, and by selecting an easier gravel road for a small portion of the route without losing much scenery.

Getting to the start

This ride is a bit unusual by having the start at the Johnson Creek Sno-Park 16 km from the base/finish in Packwood. Being an ACP-sanctioned 300 km brevet, the time allowed is 20 hours, with no extra time allowed for any distance over 300 km. On an easier course an additional 16 km would not be a problem for most riders. On this course, you may need every minute. Therefore the start is at an easy-to-find location outside Packwood that brings the timed distance down to 306 km.

The route to the start is not easy! Removing its 1500 feet of climbing from the timed route was an additional factor in selecting the start location.

It took me 45 minutes to ride to the start location from Packwood. I advise allowing 30-60 minutes riding at moderate effort. This means you should leave Packwood between 0400 and 0430.

After turning off US-12, the gravel begins immediately on Forest Road 21. After a few pedal strokes you start a 2-mile-long granny gear climb with grades reaching 10%. After that, the climbing moderates, albeit with a few challenging pitches. The surface is generally hard. There is significant washboarding, generally on the uphill side of the road. It was usually possible to find a smooth line. The gravel roads on the course proper are similar.

Reducing vehicle traffic

We strongly want to reduce vehicle traffic on the gravel roads. When cars pass, dust can hang in the air for a long time. Some roads are one lane wide. General public traffic we cannot control. So we prefer that you ride to the start. If you feel you must drive, please leave Packwood at least an hour before the start for the safety and comfort of those who are riding to the start. The area is lonely and we can make no guarantees for your car’s safety. And you will have to retrieve it after the ride.

If you have a helper returning your car to Packwood, we insist the car stays at the start location until one hour after the start for the safety of any late riders.

Likewise if your helper is driving the course, we require that the car leaves at least fifteen minutes before the ride starts, or waits until two hours after the start. If the car is meeting you at the road 2329 control or Takhlakh Lake, we also require that it waits 30 minutes after the last rider passes.

Temperatures should be moderate for most of the gravel section of the course. SIR staff at the road 2329 and Takhlakh Lake controls can transport busted bikes and their riders back to Packwood. There is little reason for personal support on the gravel section of the ride. We recommend personal support vehicles meet riders much later on the course in Carson by driving via Randle and road 25.

The Ride

The route starts by crossing Johnson Creek on road 21, and immediately makes a four-mile-long granny gear climb. Then the road descends and you can make up a little time. 50°F temperatures made for pleasant climbing, but were a bit chilly on the descents. Climbing and descending alternate, so you have to pick layers for chilly downhills or roasting climbs and stick with it.

Mount Adams makes an early appearance above a straight segment of road 21. The volcano suddenly pops into sight at many other places on the route.

Photo credit: Mitch Ishihara and Bill Gobie

At the turn to road 2160 toward Walupt Lake, the surface switches to pavement. 2160 undulates along the valley floor, then climbs to the junction with road 56. The turn to road 56 is well signed. Gravel resumes. The pre-ride took road 56 only a short way to road 2329. The ride will stay on road 56. Road 56 is the preferred auto route, so it is anticipated to be in good condition, similar to road 21. (This variation was driven, but riding in a car is no substitute for assessing biking conditions.)

After about 11 km, the route turns onto road 5603 toward Orr Creek Sno-Park. After a flat trip across the valley floor, the road climbs steeply and becomes paved.

The turn to road 2329 is marked by a dilapidated sign. There will be an untimed SIR-staffed control here to help you find the turn and provide water. The control will remain open until an hour after a timed control would close. Road 2329 is gravel.

Road 2329 takes you through beautiful high country forest with the odd meadow here and there. The road was lined with fireweed and a few a Indian Paintbrush flowers. Mosquitoes are flourishing after the late, wet winter. They are not bothersome unless you stop. After Mitch hosed himself down with mosquito repellant, I found I was well protected if I stood in the plume emanating from him.

Photo credit: Bill Gobie

Larger wildlife exists in this area. A bear ran across road 2329 ahead of Adam and Mitch. Bears generally are afraid of humans and will run away if given a line of retreat. The significant exception is a mother bear protecting her cub. If you see a tiny bear stay the hell away from it, and do not cross the line it traveled until you know its mother’s location.

On road 2329 the morning sun cast dappled shadows that made it difficult to spot potholes and other hazards. Please ride conservatively. Stop when you take pictures.

Photo credit: Bill Gobie

The first summit, 4780 ft, occurs on road 2329 at Divide Camp. Sadly there are no views here, although there is a pretty meadow.

Photo credit: Bill Gobie

Immediately after the summit the road becomes hazardous enough to warrant a Danger instruction on the route sheet. The road plunges and becomes rocky and rutted. The road is rough all the way to Takhlakh Lake.

At Takhlakh Lake we will have a staffed control in the Day Use area, immediately on the left as you enter the campground. The control is untimed. It will remain open until 90 minutes after a timed control would close. There is a pit toilet here. Be sure to wander the few steps to the lake for the incredible view of Mt Adams, pictured below and at the top of this post.

Photo credit: Bill Gobie

After leaving the campground, the road is paved for a short distance until the junction with road 23. There is an enormous pothole at the junction, warranting another Danger instruction.

After a kilometer you reach Babyshoe Pass, marked by a small sign on the left adorned with baby shoes.

Most of the next six kilometers of gravel is a descent. Control your speed and ride safely.

At 53.1 km it is important to make the turn to stay on road 23 toward Trout Lake. This turn comes on a downhill and it could be easy to miss because the road going straight appears to be the mainline.

57.5 km marks the end of gravel for the route (except for a stretch too short to bother noting on the route sheet). After a short descent followed by a short climb, the road makes a 20 km alpine descent to Trout Lake. At times I reached 40 mph. Just before 59 km there is sharp right curve with a rut across the exit of the turn, noted with a Danger warning on the route sheet.

At roughly km 70 you will have a staggering view of Mt Adams. After merging onto Mt Adams Rd at the bottom of the descent, start looking back over your left shoulder. You will eventually be rewarded with another splendid view of Mt Adams.

In Trout Lake you can get a great meal, or just a milkshake, at the Bear Creek Cafe, regrettably staffed with inefficient teenagers. A quicker option is Trout Lake Grocery with pre-made sandwiches, a block off-route to the right on WA-141.

Conditions after Trout Lake will likely be hot and dry: have plenty of water on board for the run to Carson.

From Trout Lake you go south on WA-141 all the way to the Columbia River. This is a splendid downhill run; we averaged nearly 20 mph against a hot headwind. Mt Hood makes several appearances. En route at BZ Corner you will pass a Shell convenience store where you can pick up some more water. At the Columbia River there is a food truck or small restaurant where you should be able to replenish.

At the Columbia River the route goes west on WA-14. Traffic is heavy and shoulders are sometimes minimal. Please ride single file and be aware of approaching traffic. There will probably be a headwind.

The route originally went up Cook-Underhill Rd, renamed on the pre-ride Cooking Undertaker.  This forbidding furnace-like climb did in one of the pre-riders and materially contributed to the second abandon. The conditions drove the reluctant decision reroute onto highway 14, despite its heavy traffic.

On WA-14 we encountered a headwind all the way to Carson. While not strong, the wind was hot despite the proximity of the Columbia River. Traffic was heavy but surprisingly courteous.

Climbing into Carson you pass Carson Hot Springs Resort with its waterfall water feature tempting you drown yourself then and there. Carson is an open control. The Texaco convenience store is air-conditioned and has seating inside. There are several restaurant options for those with the time and stomach for a meal.

Cooked by the undertaker, I abandoned at Carson. Despite making a point of drinking copiously and taking electrolytes during the ride, two days later I am still dehydrated. I could tell I had little hope of riding the remaining climbing fast enough to finish in time. I was disappointed to miss the screaming descent from Elk Pass. I figured Mitch had a chance of making the finish if he did not wait for me. I wanted someone to finish to prove it could be done! After some consideration, Mitch accepted the challenge.

Photo credit: Bill Gobie

What followed was epic. After being cooked in 90ºF+ temps, Mitch rode the remaining 155 km with some 6000 ft of climbing in just over eight hours, finishing with eight minutes to spare.

From Carson, the route goes north on the Wind River Highway. Although temperatures moderated as the road climbed, the air was humid. After cresting Oldman Pass, don’t enjoy the descent too much, because you must watch for the left turn onto Curly Creek Rd. In a few more kilometers the route passes McClellan Overlook where we had a superb view of Mt St Helens silhouetted against the post-sunset sky.

At Northwoods, the Eagle Cliffs store was just closing when we arrived. The posted closing time is 8 pm, but Saturdays are busy so the owner keeps the store open until business drops off. If the store is closed when you arrive, riders have permission to get water from the spigot on the front of the laundromat/restroom building to the right of the store. Changing the start time to 0500 should help riders reach Northwoods while the store is open.

From Northwoods the route turns right onto road 25 toward Randle. Climb, climb, climb and you will reach the untimed SIR staffed support point before Elk Pass. In daylight you get a view of Mt St Helens. Our view of the Milky Way overhead was incredible while we waited for Mitch. The air was chilly; be prepared for cold conditions on the alpine descent from Elk Pass.

Photo credit: Bill Gobie

Between Carson and Elk Pass there are several campgrounds where we verified you can get water. These are noted on the route sheet.

From the support stop it is a few miles to the actual Elk Pass. After the pass the road immediately deteriorates, with sunken areas where the hillside is sloughing. The 35-kilometer descent has numerous sharp curves. Please ride with extreme caution, especially after dark.

After the fabulous descent, Mitch suddenly turned off on a tiny, rough dirt road. Mitch’s thoughts: “As I headed down, I thought this road was complete rubbish while pondering what Adam would say.” Fortunately we were in sight of him in Keith’s truck. We chased, and Mitch heeded Keith’s repeated honking and stopped. He was following the route! After some frantic map work we determined the route was in error and pointed Mitch back to road 25. This is why we pre-ride!

At Randle the route turns for Packwood on US-12. Late at night traffic is light and the road has easy grades. The shoulders are wide and clean. For most riders this should be a pleasant finish. Mitch had to keep the throttle open. Despite the climbing, heat, prudent descent from Elk Pass, and off-route misadventure, he finished within time in Packwood. That was an amazing ride to witness!

Photo credit: Bill Gobie

Communication

Cell phone service is sparse and highly dependant on provider. Verizon service was available at Trout Lake, Carson, and Packwood. AT&T coverage was very poor. In Trout Lake the cafe and grocery store have wifi.

Delorme InReach coverage and sat sms communication was predictably consistent on a 10-minute update interval.

SPOT tracking was surprisingly good. There was a notable dead zone south of Trout Lake on WA-141.

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2017 SIR Summer 200K Pre-Ride Report (7/15/17)

by Keith Moore

The 2017 SIR Summer 200K brevet features familiar roads and trails, as well as some roads rarely seen in SIR routes. This route is based largely on the 2015 “Great Lakes Hunt” 300K, without the super climby bits north of Arlington.

The pre-riders (Narayan Krishnamoorthy, Paul Murray, and myself) met at 6:30am at Peet’s Coffee in Redmond (near Whole Foods) for the traditional coffee, pastries, and paperwork. We departed at 7:00am sharp.

The first seven miles or so should be familiar to most SIR riders: an easy ride north on Avondale to Bear Creek, then to Mink and Woodinville-Duvall. Whereas most SIR routes turn west towards Paradise Lake, this route heads east. After a a couple of miles on Woo-Du, it turns into the quiet Aspenwood neighborhood. Way back in neighborhood is a little known dirt/gravel trail that connects Aspenwood to the Echo Lake area. Here we made our one and only navigational screw-up for the day.

Note: Follow the (updated/clarified) cuesheet instructions to stay on the trail and resist any temptation to divert left or right. In other words, go here:


NOT here:

The trail is well packed. I had no issues with my overloaded bike (and overloaded rider) on 28mm tires. After the trail we joined a gravel road for a few hundred yards. Again it was no problem on my 28mm tires.

After answering the info control question on Echo Lake Road we dropped down Welsh Road and joined High Bridge Road to Crescent Lake Road. A sublime ride through the Snoqualmie River Valley took us to WA-203 and Monroe. Numerous services are available in Monroe.

Crossing WA-2 we joined Old Owen Road then quickly turned onto Calhoun, the first notable climb of the day. It’s not long, but it does hit about 9.5% at one point, so it definitely gets your attention.

More quiet roads along sleepy farms took us to Lake Chaplain Road and (surprise!) Lake Chaplain. Unfortunately the lake is fenced off and not visible from the road. We answered the info control question, put on a fresh layer of sunscreen, and wondered what the people monitoring the security cameras thought of us.


Departing Lake Chaplain we doubled back then joined Old Pipeline Road to Bollenbaugh Hill Road, Woods Creek Road, and Lake Roesiger Road. Here again the route departs from SIR tradition — rather than riding north along the west side of Lake Roesiger, this route follows the east side of the lake. The east route is definitely “lumpier” than the west side, but it features a very nice park with real toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and access to the lake for cooling overheated feet. Kasia & I will be manning this control on the day of the official ride, serving cold drinks, a few snacks, and control card signatures. About one mile north of the park is the Lake Roesiger Store if any additional supplies are needed.

Familiar roads continue to Granite Falls where numerous services and lunch opportunities abound.

The route departs Granite Falls on Jordan Road. Whereas most SIR routes take Jordan to Burns Road, this route continues on Jordan for about 13 miles or so to Arlington. Beware of broken glass on the shoulder.

In Arlington the route heads north briefly (~3 miles) on the Centennial Trail to the Bryant Coffee Co-Op. This is the one “merchant” control for the day. Cold drinks, ice cream, and snacks are available for purchase. Don’t forget to get your card signed! There’s no public restroom here, but there is a port-potty at the trailhead across the street, as well as “real” restrooms about 5 miles down the trail in town.

From Bryant the route doubles back on the Centennial Trail, then follows the trail all the way to Snohomish. Numerous services are available in Snohomish. Water and restrooms are available at Machias Station, about 5 miles north of Snohomish.

On ride day Snohomish will be celebrating their annual “Kla Ha Ya Days” summer festival. Expect a lot of traffic and other activity. Most importantly, expect 1st Street through town to be closed. Depart the trail on 2nd Street to D Avenue to continue heading south.

Traverse the lovely Snohomish valley to Springhetti Road and Broadway Ave, the last “big-ish” climb of the day. (It’s not that big of a climb, but it’s a bit of a grind, especially on a hot day.) Beware of glass on the shoulder.

After Broadway, the route crosses WA-522, joins Bostian Road and eventually reaches Woodinville-Duvall Road. Congratulations! The ride isn’t over yet, but it’s all downhill & flat for the remainder of the route.

Descend Woo-Du carefully — traffic can be heavy, and there are a number of drainage grates in the shoulder. The merge left at the traffic light (to stay on Woo-Du) is my least favorite part of the route. Be careful and keep an eye out for oblivious drivers. There is also a crosswalk available at the traffic light.

The route descends further into the town of Woodinville where many services are available. Turn left before the AM/PM (requiring another merge left across traffic), enter Wilmot-Gateway park and head south on the Sammamish River Trail.

The remainder is a piece-o-cake: just stay on the trail (be mindful of the cuesheet instructions for crossing over the bridge in Redmond), ride through Marymoor Park, and you’re practically to the finish.

Pop into Postdoc Brewing to get your card signed and have a beer if you’re so inclined. Soft drinks will also be available. The food truck scheduled for ride day is “Don Lucho’s Peruvian Sandwiches”. Vegetarian and carnivore options are available. See http://donluchosinseattle.com/#menu for details.

All in all I’d say it’s a fantastic route. Thanks to Narayan & Paul for a great pre-ride.

Please pre-register here.

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Summer Populaire (July 8, 2017) Pre-ride Report

The Summer Populaire (106 KM) kicks off the SIR Summer Series in style on July 8, 2017. It’s a lovely mix of familiar roads, trails, pavement, gravel, climbs, descents and even some flat stuff along the way. The ride starts in Columbia City at the Genessee Park and Playground and finishes at Super Six, part of theHawaiian-Korean fusion Marination empire. Cue sheet, map and pre-registration are all on the SIR website.

Organizers Ray Whitlock and Ben Rainbow gathered with pre-riders Hugh Kimball, BJ Moore, Fred Bladsel and Theo Roffe (that’s me) on July 1 to check the route and find questions for the several information controls.

The route avoids the I-90 bridge, passing instead through Renton on the south end of Lake Washington. This leads to a lovely descent (watch the rough pavement) into May Valley Park, past a dead end sign. At the bottom of the hill (where the many grates are), answer the info question and climb to the left. If you keep going straight, like I did, you’ll find a nice gravel trail that doesn’t go anywhere.

From May Valley Park it’s familiar roads with slightly higher traffic to Tiger Mountain Road and the biggest climb of the ride, just shy of 900 ft. It’s got a couple steep pitches, but it’s pretty scenic up there (see image at top of post). Answer the info question at the East Side Fire and Rescue, then enjoy the descent. But watch for cars from the left looking to park at the trailhead just before the T-intersection with Issaquah-Hobart Road.

The next phase of the ride is a bit gravely, but nothing very deep or technical. Just quiet sections of the Cedar River Trail, Cedar River Pipeline and Green River Trail. All of these provide a nice break from car traffic. Don’t get too distracted here, though, as we had to include a few more info controls. The last info is at mile 45, so you can stop messing with your brevet card from there until the finish.

From Maple Valley, it’s back to Renton where some construction interrupts our typical zig-zag back to Perimeter Road (around the airport). Be attentive to cars as construction always seems to make sharing more difficult. The route from Renton essentially backtracks to the start, but turns off on Genessee St (downshift!) and follows a backroads way to the finish.

It’s a fun route and the weather is looking to be most excellent this weekend! Hope to see you there.

And please remember to pre-register! It makes things a lot easier on the admin side.

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Permanent Change: Summer Festivals and Road Closures

by Bill Gobie

Every year two summer festivals close roads or trails in Seattle. Please keep these in mind when planning rides.

  • The Seafair hydroplane races close a section of Lake Washington Blvd at Genesee Park in late July or early August, typically Friday through Sunday. This year the dates are August 4-6.
  • The I-90 floating bridge closes during the Seafair air shows.
  • Hempfest closes the bike trail in Myrtle Edwards park for several days in August. This year the dates are August 18-20. Setup and teardown may obstruct the trail for several days on either side of the event.

Other towns have summer festivals which include street closures or parades. For example, Covington Days July 15 & 16 this year.

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