31 January 2009


It was a good day in the northwest, and a fine way to usher out the first month of the year with a little 70 mile ride from Snohomish through Marysville and over a lot of backroads toward Arlington, before getting onto the Centennial Trail back to the start. 7 of us, Greg and Ruth Sneed on their new tandem "Guacamole", my new friend Pat Leahy on his white Cannondale stallion, Ed on his mighty Griffen, Barb Scheffler on her beautiful Land Shark, Susan Cady on some old hunka metal she has hanging around and me, of course astraddle the mighty Katrina.

The other 35 or 40 riders had already departed and we were all about a half hour late out of the parking lot, but at least by the time we were rolling, the temperature had warmed up a little bit and by the time we rode through Marysville, the sun had come out for a little. We made a quick potty stop at a park just before leaving town and then headed north. As we were riding along, two of us didn't have mudflaps. Both Barb and Ed were really generous, though, and offered to sit on the back so they wouldn't spray us all. Poor Pat, though, had a great rear fender with mudflap which I truly appreciated, but he had no front fender. The result, of course was that as we were traveling along where there had been a lot of frost an hour or so ago, there was now a very muddy goo that we were riding through, that kicked up a pretty good spray from his front wheel that was blowing back at him. Nobody, of course, could see this until we came to a stop light at 34th, and I rode up beside him. Here's what I saw:

Some others tried to blame Barb who had been in front of the line, but Pat and I both knew where this was coming from. He ended up riding like this for the next 30 miles until we hit the lunch stop in Arlington, where I managed to squeeze myself into a booth with three lovely ladies while poor Greg found himself alone in a separate booth, without coffee, water or even anybody to keep him company. And to make matters worse, the waitress wouldn't even take his order. He, of course was NOT pleased.

Eventually, we all got our egg salad sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches, burgers and chiliburgers (my first of the season!!) and took off for the last 22 miles back to Snohomish. Me made a brief stop at Machias for a little pottie stop and to visit with the locals. And only one big mean dog incident along the way! Not bad.

From there, it was all downhill, but with just 4 miles to go, Barb discovered a slow leak from her front tire, so we had a little pause to change that, whereupon a family with a couple of young hot shots on tiny bikes decided to give us a bit of a chase. I think they were after my bell, but I'm not sure.

So here we were, in the middle of winter, temperature of 43 degrees, in the late afternoon with the sun low on the horizon, and the trail simply loaded with all manner of folks out, with skates, scooters, dogs, lovers, and it started to feel like spring is right around the corner. We must be due for a weather change.

18 January 2009

Three Musketeers And A Dynamic Duo On The Hood Canal

I was going to write about Fog White and The Seven Mental Dwarfs, but Bob Lagasca and Mike Richeson found legitimate excuses not to go ride with us yesterday. An email from Mike said something about the weather outside was like mid-January and a voice mail from Bob referenced “issues with his bike”.

So our gang of seven ended up being a fearsome fivesome, boarding the 6:10 ferry out of Seattle, bound for Bainbridge. Geoff Swarts and Vincent Muoteke had done the newly approved route 536 (Hood Canal Loop 2.0) on Wednesday, and were off to do the original Hood Canal Loop.


After disembarking the ferry in 34 degree weather, we started out in the dark at 6:40. By the time we got to Port Gamble, it was starting to lighten up, and we made a quick potty stop at the espresso stand, where Vincent tanked up on caffeine and Dave Harper downed a few peanut butter pretzels.


Geoff and I paused to take a few photos:


and then we pushed on. We rode together as a group across the Hood Canal Bridge and to Beaver Valley Road, where the Three Musketeers headed north, while the Dynamic Duo continued on out 104 toward their cutoff to Quilcene. The ride north toward Chimacum is mostly a flat road along the east side of the valley, and with the light fog, it was quite pretty.


We stopped at the Café/Bakery in Chimacum and Bill Gobie added a few layers, some toe warmers and we all had a snack, some of which apparently clung to my 3-day old growth of beard.



Riding through Quilcene, we continued heading South, and it looked like we might see some sun later in the day, though Dave was somewhat skeptical when I asked him if he’d remembered to bring his sunglasses. There was a touch of ice on the bridge and the temperature climbing Walker Pass was an even 32 F.



As I got almost to the top of the climb, I was approaching a turn and the sun came out in full force, shining brightly through the trees and rapidly melting the frost off.


The three of us had gotten separated by this time, with Dave out front somewhere and Bill behind me on the climb, having stopped briefly at Quilcene. As I dropped off the pass, once again, the fog layer turned everything gray once more along the Hood Canal.


But I could see some slivers of light which gave me great hope that this week-long low inversion layer might burn off.


When I came past the Hamma Hamma Fire Station, I noticed that after our December record breaking snows, our January record floods and a week of fog, the fire danger is decidedly lower than it was when I was here last July.


By noon, I was riding along with a nice tailwind, watching the winter sun sparkle off a most beautiful Hood Canal. The newly repaved Hwy 101 is simply fantastic to ride on, with wider shoulders along most of it, not much road debris and not nearly as much traffic today as I am used to.


I’m always tempted to stop at this place, drawn by the giant plastic hamburger. This is about 75 miles into the ride, with 12 or so miles left before our stop in Hoodsport, and the tank is usually just about on empty by the time I get here, but with a big gravel lot, set way back off the highway and looking like more of a bar than burger joint, I can just never quite bring myself to visit. One of these days……


By 1:00, just north of Lilliwaup, if I looked back north, the water was bright blue, but if I looked ahead to the south, it was gray-green, a very interesting effect of the fog having been burned off partly, but still a lot of cloud cover to the south.


Usually, riding with a group of randonneurs, we never stop here, since the control is only another 5 miles, but I just love to stop at the Lilliwaup General Store. The folks are so friendly and they have one of the funkiest toilet rooms in the northwest. That, AND I get to take a picture of my mighty hurricane of a bicycle, the lovely Katrina, visiting the woodshed.



Just after turning off of Hiway 101 onto SR 106 south of Potlatch, I always like riding past this grand old wood barn. When I was a kid, these were all over the Pacific Northwest. Age, neglect, storms and other effects of nature have collapsed a lot of them, and it seems they are never replaced with anything of beauty, but simple metal “structures”. It is sad to me that we are losing a great deal of beauty on our landscapes, as these glorious old structures to simple metal buildings that have no sense of character.


At the mouth of the Skokomish, the Olympics were reflected nicely in the calm river. Just past this, I joined up again with Dave Harper who had been doing the same thing as me, riding along watching the beautiful scenery when he’d hit a rock and caused a pinch flat.


We rode along together for the 20 miles of SR 106, me enjoying the chip seal, him lamenting the fact that it must be his day for mechanicals, as he’d just broken a rear derailleur cable, and was relegated to doing the last 30 miles essentially with a 3-spd. I rode up beside him at one point to grab a photo and he almost rode himself into a ditch when he looked over to pose. I will need advance warning of such antics next time so I can switch to movie mode.


After a quick stop for water (Dave) and potty (Don), we set off again out of Belfair, knowing Bill was ahead of us, with the sun now at our backs, and the anticipated headwinds nowhere to be found. It was a beautiful winter afternoon, with temperature hovering in the mid-40’s.


Dave got a ways ahead of me climbing up and over the hill on Old Belfair Hiway, but I caught up to him again before we hit Hwy 3 and we rode together again under the bright blue skies.


Eventually, I let him take off so I could kick back and enjoy the late afternoon sun on the water just outside of Bremerton. I knew we were too late for the 4:15 ferry, and had a good hour to get 3 miles. I wanted to just relax for the end of the ride.


So I watched the boats, I watched the birds, even getting to watch a seagull pull a fish out of the water and fly off with it.



Of course, there’s that last hill to contend with.




And after sweeping down the hill, around the corner onto 4th and into the Starbucks, there was Dave, who had arrived just a few seconds before me, and as I was taking off my helmet, up rode Bill, who had also stopped in Belfair and gotten behind us again. So we all finished within a minute of each other in just under 10 hours.

After sitting and having a mocha, I walked around the corner where I found the Dynamic Duo just finishing off their german sausages and beer; they’d finished about 10 minutes before us.

At about 5:25, we all headed off together, rode onto the ferry and after watching the last of an unusually beautiful January sunset,


the boat pulled away from the dock, with a group of endorphine crazed randonneurs exchanging tales of another great day riding 130 miles together, yet apart. Bill and I feasted on ice cream bars and Dave wolfed down a few more of those peanut butter pretzels, offering some to anybody who desired. I passed. Everyone seemed to be pretty happy.




I don’t know what it is, whether it is the time spent on the ferry before and after the ride with other folks who share this passion, the scenery along a most spectacular route or the solitude of riding along with nothing but the sounds of breeze in my ears, water lapping at the shores and gulls and eagles singing their songs of the wild, but I always seem to have some of my best cycling days riding around Hood Canal.

14 January 2009

Since You Asked.....

In the words of the immortal (at least in MY mind) Frank Hammond, noted sign painter and philosopher who frequented my family's restaurant (and more than his share of local houses of inebriation),

"I am a minority of one, and when that ceases to be true, I'll change my opinion."

An interesting discussion came up the other day on www.bikejournal.com having to do with global warming. Now, one of the things I really like about BikeJournal is that while we all come from different backgrounds and forefathers, we all share one deep love, that being the bicycle and all that it means. Even there, we often disagree about it (i.e., road v. trail, etc.) but one thing is sure. We are a passionate lot. If we weren't we couldn't maintain the degree of interest it takes to do what we do with our cycling.

I, for one, share a deep concern with many of my fellows with regard to the amount of crap we are putting into the air as a result of our ever increasing industrial needs and our seeminly ever increasing reliance on infernal confabulation engines to do everything. Now, I ain't no scientist, and I ain't no geophysicyst, and I ain't no goldurned dockter, but I got me a bona-fido high school diploma and with fifty-eight long and well lived trips riding this planet as it revolves around the Sun, I've come to realize a few things, and one of them is the fact that there is no free lunch. There is a price to pay for everything, and somewhere back there when folks with big brains were thinking up how they could make machines to do all the work faster than people could do it, they came up with a really great thing. It was called convenience.

In order to make things more convenient, we needed to make processes faster. In order to make processes faster, we needed to find machines that could do things in mass production. As we did that, we found we were able to generate more and more convenience, and there were some really good things that came about as a result, one of them being a "five-day workweek". Totally a by-product of the factory-mentality society. And one that as a recreational cyclist, I love to take advantage of. But along with all that, came a reliance on something we, as a nation, cannot produce very much of and need a whole lot of. In reaching out across the world to obtain that crude oil that we so desparately need, we get into a whole other realm of geo-politics.

Now I ain't no perfesser and I ain't no politishun and I sure as heck ain't no high falutin' lawyer type, but I got me a certifiable high school diploma from the grand and glorious institute of learning, Waldport High School, where I managed to graduate in 1969 with distinct honors, distinctly being placed 49th out of 52 in my class with a GPA of 1.64. Those below me failed to graduate.

But in the last fifty-eight laps around the sun, I've come to understand something about politics. If you got it and I want it, and I'm bigger than you, I can probably take it away and there probably ain't a whole heck of a lot you can do about it. So there! And it seems to me that there is just a whole lot of that going on in our world today. And I ain't paintin' no special group into a corner, here. There's just too many of 'em and they all know in the bottoms of their souls (if such exist) who they are and what they're doing.

And so, when I was looking at some life change a couple years ago, one of the life changes I decided to make was to use my car less, use my bike more and try to figure out ways and means to reduce my dependence on fossil fuels. I thought it was a nice way to truly support the young men and women who I have asked to go overseas and stand up to some punks and bullies that want to do me harm and also thought it might be a nice way to be a little nicer to the polar bears. Are the polar bears grateful? I have no idea. Do the bad guys give a rat's patootie that some ol' man in a far away place ride more miles on a bike than he drives in his car? I doubt it. But do I feel better about myself for doing so? Absolutely. End of story.