Monthly Archives: July 2019

2019 Tune-Up 300 Pre-Ride Report

By Jun Tay, John Nguyen, Kelly White and Mitch Ishihara


View of Mt. Rainier from WA-410 in Enumclaw

The SIR 2019 Tune-up 300 starts this Saturday, July 27 at 6 AM. Please note check in opens at 5:30 and closes at 6:30 AM.

Anciens recommend a PBP Tune-Up ride practicing efficient controls with a goal of finishing in under 15 hours. So, test out those legs and practice keeping control stops brief, even while many mountain views lure you off the saddle for selfies and scenic background photos. In addition to the tune-up for your fitness and shake-down for your bike, it would be hard to find a more beautiful ride.

The route begins and ends in the parking lot between Shari’s Cafe and Pies and the Quality Inn in Renton to dovetail with the Tune-Up 200 (on Sunday, July 28). It follows mostly familiar routes around Mt. Rainier through south King, Pierce and Lewis counties, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. We ride through the renowned Western Washington locations of Renton, Cedar River Trail, Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Enumclaw, Greenwater, Gilford Pinchot National Forest, Cayuse Pass, Packwood, Ashford, Elbe, Eatonville, Kapowsin, Orting, Sumner, Pacific, Algona, Interurban Trail, Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila. The ride is self-supported, but there are plenty of services available along the way with a little bit planning ahead of time—see the volunteers’ pre-ride experience below.


We rode the pre-ride on Sunday July 21 and parked at the Renton Community Center which is across from (and a little bit south of) Shari’s. However, signage indicates that there is a six-hour time limit and the Renton Community Center is open to reserved events on Saturdays according to the website. Online reviews suggest the parking lot can get packed. We recommend not parking here.

Update: We recommend you do not park at the Cedar River trail head.

The City of Renton Cedar River Trail website notes the following parking locations: Cedar River Trail Park, Renton Memorial Stadium, Renton Senior Activity Center, Liberty Park, Cedar River Park, Riverview Park, Maplewood Roadside Park, Ron Regis Park and at Landsburg.

Some additional suggestions for parking can be found here:

Renton is also a relatively short ride from Seattle, Bellevue, Sammamish or Issaquah, so local riders may enjoy extending their day with “transport stages” rather than deal with parking.

Out-of-towners staying at the Quality Inn in Renton might ask the hotel about parking during their stay.

The Pre-Ride

Renton to Cedar River Trail to Maple Valley

Just after sunrise, four volunteers enthusiastically gathered at the start as shown in the photo below. For the pre-ride, the weather forecast promised sunny and warm weather, 84°F (28.8°C) in Seattle, in contrast to the cooler and rainy weather in early July. However, if we look a bit rigid and uptight in the photo, maybe that’s because we were awakened by 44°F (6.66°C) summer morning air. The Cedar River Valley is one of those places where the cool air seems to sink in and hang about. One of the volunteers wished he’d brought his base layer and arm warmers. [Ed’s note: No prize for guessing.]

Our intrepid pre-riders: Kelly White, Jun Tay, John D Nguyen, Mitch Ishihara

After navigating under and around gates through Cedar River Park, and a few minutes of searching around for the Cedar River Trail, we headed toward Maple Valley. A light morning dew greeted us before any mountain views.

The nice and pleasant, cool summer morning air warmed up a few degrees before we turned right, uphill, and the paved trail gave way to 3.3 miles of compact dirt and gravel along Lake Wilderness. At the end of the gravel trail, and after a couple turns, we traveled another small stretch of loose gravel prior to a right turn onto WA-169 S/Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE (at mile point 15.2). That about concludes the gravel for this brevet!

Maple Valley to Black Diamond to Enumclaw

Proceeding to Enumclaw, elevation gain trends up imperceptibly with one dip and subsequent climb crossing over the Green River Gorge. We noted several SIR-grade food services found along the stretch of WA-169 for those in need—like Jun and Kelly, who made a quick bathroom/food stop at McDonald’s where they were surprised by the nicest bathroom they have seen on any brevet—otherwise we kept moving.

That is, until we spotted this almost perfectly lined up view of Mt. Rainier:

Followed by this…

“Views of the massive and glorious hulk of Mt Rainier will inspire you as you work your way south in the cool of the morning.”—Kelly

Enumclaw to Greenwater

After turning left onto Griffin Avenue in Enumclaw (at mile point 26.2), we noted a few food services were open near the intersection of Griffin Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue (WA-410) such as 76 station, Safeway and McDonald’s.

After turning left on WA-410, not a cloud in sight could be seen, as shown in the background of the photo below. We didn’t stop to check out Enumclaw Ski & Mountain Sports (bicycle gear?) in the foreground since it was not open yet.


As you leave Enumclaw, a highway sign shows 40 miles to Cayuse pass, the first of two big hills of the day. Over the next 18 miles, we climbed from an elevation of 760 feet to 1,700 feet (+1,360 feet / -420 feet), working our way up to Cayuse Pass. We all regrouped at the Greenwater Control where we practiced PBP control skills: A brief stop to get the brevet cards signed, then refuel, bathroom break, back on the road.


A few hundred yards ahead of the general store is Greenwater Outfitters Café and Snowboard Shop, a tempting control option for those who love coffee and prefer warm food to refrigerated sandwiches. We didn’t stop to check the place out—we were practicing quick controls—though looking at their menu now (, maybe we should have.

Leaving Greenwater, we looked forward to getting to the summit of Cayuse pass before the heat of the day really kicked in. Depending on the temperature forecast for the brevet, consider bringing along a 3rd water bottle, as the next full services won’t be until Packwood, 46 miles and quite some climbing away.

For those keeping your total elevation for the day, the gain thus far is probably 2,700 feet.

Greenwater to Gilford Pinchot National Forest/Cayuse Pass to Packwood

It is 46.5 miles between Greenwater and Packwood. This includes a 23 mile climb up to Cayuse Pass (+3,150 feet / -150 feet), including a 17 mile stretch of 1.4% average grade up to about the entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park at mile 59.5. For the next 10 miles be prepared for real climbing a 5.4% average grade and sections up to 7%. Traffic was unpleasantly heavy; fortunately, speeds are low and drivers mostly polite. On the right there will be a couple of breathtaking views of Mt. Rainier, stop to take some pictures, catch your breath and hydrate.

With the heat of the day kicking in—it would eventually rise to at least 98.6°F (37°C)—Kelly finished his water at the summit of Cayuse Pass. Jun Tay will staff a secret control here, and water and sodas will be provided to keep you well-hydrated. Leaving the summit with water bottles refilled, you’ll be pleased to note that the majority of the traffic continues on Highway 410 to Yakima while you will continue to the right on 123.

Stay right and enjoy the descent toward Packwood

You now have a 22-mile descent (mostly descending) to Packwood to enjoy. The first 10 miles is your big reward for the climb: a screaming descent where the main exercise will be for your forearm muscles from feathering your brakes. [Ed’s note: If you’re braking too much, try sitting up to catch more wind; it’ll slow you down some and help to spare your rims or rotors.] Enjoy it, but do remain attentive and cautious as cars will be moving quickly and there can be strong crosswinds.

The sunny approach to Packwood

Highway 123 joins highway 12 at mile 84. With 7 sunny miles to go to Packwood and services, Kelly suddenly noticed that his throat was dry and he was very thirsty. The heat of the day was really kicking in and while still descending, the 7 miles took some effort. What a relief to arrive at the Packwood Tatoosh Food Mart, air conditioning and ice cream bars! The temperature turned out to be 94°F (34°C)—and likely hotter on the pavement. Anyway, please top up your water bottles and get ready to work those ice cream calories off.

Packwood to Ashford to Elbe to Pack Forest

Cooled off, refueled and rehydrated, with sun sleeves and hats soaked with cold water, we set off on the 2nd big hill and last major challenge of the day: Skate Creek Road. This is the same route that was part of the Tahuya Hills 600k in June, but in the opposite direction. Thinking of that ride, we fondly recall descending Skate Creek road with its twists and turns. Ascending it, however, presented a different pleasure: climbing Skate Creek Road is among the prettiest rides we have enjoyed. A beautiful boulder strewn creek and shade, lots of shade. Given the heat of the day, that in and of itself made the climb.

From the top of Skate Creek, we made our way to Ashford, home to Mt Rainier climbing expeditions, where we settled in for a civilized meal of pizza, and for Kelly, a chicken sandwich with bacon and Swiss cheese on a gluten free bun (unheard of on a Rando ride!), all at the Base Camp Grill. From there it was mostly paceline work with John and Mitch doing the lion’s share of the effort. We made good time in spite of some significant headwinds.

Rando gourmet

As you arrive in Elbe, be extra careful getting thru a couple of bad railroad tracks depending when you get there. There was still plenty of daylight for us to watch out for those bad spots.

Orting to Renton

At this point, the pre-ride felt fairly uneventful with mostly small rollers as the climbing is pretty much done after about mile 150 (240km). The remainder of the ride included a surprising amount of bike trail, the highlight of which was the newer Foothills Trail connecting Orting to Puyllup. From Puyllup to Sumner, you’ll ride the Sumner Link Trail (plus a few roads).

Sunset over bike trail

And from Sumner to Tukwila, you can sit back and enjoy your ride to (very nearly) the finish via the famous Interurban trail. [Ed’s note: There’s an annoying detour in Kent as a section of the Interurban is closed until some time in 2020. But follow your cue sheet (or GPS) and you’ll be back on the quiet trail in no time.]

Doing the Interurban

From Tukwila back to Renton is just a few miles, including a return to Cedar River Park and those gates from the start. We rolled into Shari’s happy but beat from the heat. Tired but exhilarated. We’d say that is a perfect way to end a long day on the bike.

We will see you at the start this Saturday and wish you the best of luck and a safe ride!

Preregistration and route details on the SIR website:

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PBP Tune-Up 200 Pre-Ride Report

by Mike McHale

Come join us for the PBP Tune-Up 200. The ride will start and end in the parking lot between Shari’s restaurant and the Quality Inn in Renton which were selected to dovetail with the Tune-Up 300 (Saturday, July 27).

The ride will start at 7:00 AM. Check in will open at 6:30. Please note that check in will close at 7:30 AM.

Since this is a PBP Tune-Up ride, anciens strongly recommend practicing an efficient ride (brief control stops) with a goal of finishing under 10 hours.

The course is a northern loop on familiar roads and trails—some of which we will ride in less familiar directions. For the pre-ride, we parked at the Cedar River Park which is across from (and a little bit south of) Shari’s. However, signage indicates that there is a six-hour time limit. The City of Renton Cedar River Trail website notes the following parking locations:

Parking is available at Cedar River Trail Park, Renton Stadium, Renton Senior Activity Center, Liberty Park, Cedar River Park, Riverview Park, Maplewood Roadside Park, Ron Regis Park and at Landsburg.

Update: We recommend you do not park at the Cedar River trail head.

The course goes from Renton to Lake Roesiger via Issaquah and the Snoqualmie Valley, and back around the north end of Lake Washington with a few new roads tossed in to keep riders on their toes.

As you climb Honda Hill (SE 36th), pay particular attention to the turn off to Newport Way as this may not be how you normally go and there is an info control. After the Carnation Control (Sandy’s) we head up the valley to Monroe—taking the Tualco road detour along the way. Wood Creek Road leaving Monroe was the busiest stretch of the day, fortunately, we exit Wood Creek onto Yeager and then Bollenbaugh Hill Road. Despite pre-ride grumbling about the steep pitch early on Bollenbaugh Hill, pre-riders agreed it was much quieter. We then go around the south/east side of Lake Roesiger to the next control at the store where most of the pre-riders ate ice cream bars. After pre-riders got done cursing at the ride organizer for making the group climb out of the control, we made a left on N Carpenter Road which made for a wickedly fun ride back to Machias. From Machias, it was very familiar roads and trails back around the north end of Lake Washington to Renton. There are a few non-perpendicular tracks to watch out for and remember to pay attention to the “cross traffic does not stop” sign as you approach SR 522.

We had good weather on the pre-ride and hopefully took one for the team as we waited for a Boeing parts train in Snohomish and the draw bridge in Montlake. Please note this is not a fast course and we will be sharing the trail with children, dogs, and inexperienced riders. Please observe the speed limit and keep a smile on your face as you navigate your way back.

There are store controls at miles 32 and 65, but plenty of places to forage along or very close to the route. Specifically, stores are located in Issaquah, Monroe, Snohomish, Maltby, Woodinville, and Lake Forest Park (off route slightly). There are also parks with flush toilets and water in Renton, Bellevue, Monroe (if open), Machias, Snohomish, Log Boom Park and Seward Park.

Preregistration and route details on the SIR website.

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2019 Border To Border Pre-Ride Report

by Kevin Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Chuckanut looms in the distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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