05 September 2010

Now THAT Was Some Kinda Fun!

Whoooeeeee! We wuz ridin' way, way too fast yesterday. Sorta like snakes slitherin' thru greased weeds.

But when you're out on a 200k with a guy whats 6'17" tall on his gigantic Green Hornet bike and he's got 15,000k in already for the year and then ya gots two (count 'em TWO) tandems to suck wheel offn, it's awful hard not to just let 'r rip, so ta speak. So for the first 50 miles, it was purty much pacelinein', with all'n us takin' our turns at the lead.

An' of course there was all them lovely farmlands with the occasional red barn
Then we turned the corner at Darrington. With 50 miles under our padded knickers, we hadta stop to calorie up, and Team CreightonGoss got the award fer havin' the fullest bagga goodies along, includin' sausage sammiches! Seems everbody hadta take to riflin' thru their trunk ta see what kinda snacks they might pilfer iffn things got real serious in the mountains. After a bit of resst we all set off agin, and after about 8 miles or so, hit that 14-mile dirt road....

...climb upta the toppa Barlow Pass (~2,400')...

ol' Boothby felt he had somethin' ta prove - at least ta his own durned foolself. The last couple times he done rode this course, it took 2 full hours to make that climb. Yesterday, though, he dun'r in 1:22 and won the championship points for climbing, even tho nobody else knowed we was in a race. Geoff weren't too far back...
Next up was Team CreightonGoss who was mighty glad ta be done climbin', fer sure! That young whippersnapper Creighton had ta take herself a RElax brake on the warm pavement fer just a short spell while we'uns hung out waitin' fer team Jameson.

But that's where the real fun begun. Boy, HOWDY! When ya gets them tandems on smooth pavement and the tilt is about 3% down, for 20 miles, lemme tell ya, it ain't gonna take much time ta get ta the bottom.

Then there was alla them rollin' things from there back ta the finish, and ol' Boothby done got hissef all pooped out tryin' ta keep up with them cutiepies on the tandems, so by the time we left Granite Falls, his legs was purty much cooked. He could really just watch the resta the gang drift off forward from there on.

'Course, he was thinkin' there fer a while he might catch up to 'em on "To Puque" Road, and almost did but just about the time he caught up, there was another one a them steep downhilly things, and he just couldn't catch up close enuf to get inta the draft. Not to worry, though, he thinks. We'uns gotta head up 131st, and if he works a little, maybe, just MAYBE he can pass 'em up while that thing tilts up to 14%. Welp, that there thinkin' thing was purty good, but not quite good enuf. By the time he got ta the bottom, since there had been a sweet little downgrade not long before, them there tandems was all over that stuff, an' Raleighdon sees they're 3/4 the way up that sucker. Try as he might, there's just no way he gonna close up that gap. Shucks! Guess he's gonna be finishin' all by his lonesome. Thats not really a bad thing, though, since he likes ta have some peace and solitude durin' the day, expecially toward the end of a long ride. All in all, we'uns finished up in 9:45 minutes, with that rascal Boothby comin' ta the finish line just about a minute behind all the resta them folk.

The good news though? He got all the pie at the finish. Seems like everbody else was in too much hurry ta set a spell and relax over homebaked pie and strong black coffee. Durn fools! What be wrong with 'em?

30 June 2010


In a recent discussion about the Cascade 1200 and what one of the riders, a good friend of mine, went through to complete it, one person said, “SOUNDS HORRIBLE.” Well, here’s my response to that individual:

Dear friend:

NOT horrible, just long. This is one of the most beautiful and prestigious rides in the United States. 1250 Kilometers (roughly 775 miles) and the rider has 93 hours to complete. One must work very hard to get him or herself into both physical and mental condition to do this kind of an intense athletic event, and should be extremely proud when they achieve such an amazing completion of a hard-fought for goal. Many try, but only the strongest and most determined succeed. It is kind of like that in a lot of life, it seems to me.

The ride starts in Monroe and travels down the west side of the Cascades to Highway 12, then over White Pass an into Yakima the firsst day. On the second day route then goes thru the rolling wheat fields of eastern Washington, sometimes in excruciating heat, often with strong winds either pushing or pulling the rider this way or that, wending its way through Quicy for another night of rest then on to Ephrata, Soap Lake and up to Coulee City along the river, with an incredible view of the ancient "Dry Falls", and west hrough Moses Coulee, one of the most geographically significant spots in the state. After a pause in what most people would consider desolate little Farmer, the journey drops again to the Columbia River and over Loup Loup Pass into the Methow Valley, a place so serene that it looks like it is still caught in the early 1900s in a lot of places.

After a night at Mazama, riders are treated to a climb over Washington and Rainy Passes, perhaps the most beautiful stretch of mountain highway the state has to offer, and an area so scenic that people from all over the world come to ride, hike, camp and climb in the woods, small lakes, streams and revel in the grandeur of these "American Alps."

This year, we attracted riders from Japan, Germany, France and Canada, as well as several other states. They came because of the beauty and the challenge. "Horrible"? We think not. Difficult and challenging? Absolutely.

And the real beauty of it comes because, unlike being trapped in a car where the distractions keep us from really focusing on our surroundings, on a bicycle, one is acutely attuned to everything around him or her. The rushing waterfalls, the coolness of the air when it is 85 degrees out and you ride past a snowbank or a waterfall rushing down the cliff next to you, the songs of all the birds, the clicking of a deer's hooves as he bounds across the highway in front of you. And then there is the riding at night. Alone in the mountains under a full moon, with no cars on these rural roads, the air crisp and clear, the night songs playing in sweet harmony to the constant melodious whoosh whoosh of your pedal cadence and often the only other sound being your own rhythmic breath, which most people can't even hear most of the time because of the noise around them and their mental separation from the reality of their body’s capacity and limitations.

On the bicycle, one sees it all, hears it all, feels it all and experiences it all. One becomes a true part of his or her surroundings instead of just sitting inside a leather, glass, metal and plastic machine blundering along with the only purpose being to GET THERE, whereever 'there' is, and do it as FAST AS POSSIBLE, regardless the consequences. On the bicycle, we see the carnage that the cars cause. The dead deer, birds, porcupines, raccoons, coyotes, dogs and cats that they leave behind. The empty beer bottles they discard as they drive down the road. The bags of half eaten big macs thrown thoughtlessly out the window. The discarded washing machines and refrigerators, dumped illegally in the ditches. The stuffed animals, left innocently but forgotten on top of the car when loading the kids’ things for the trip to grandma’s house. The crosses by the side of the road decorated with plastic flowers, beads, trinkets and the names of some lost loved one killed by a drunk driver. Yes, we see it all. We feel it all. We revel in the beauty and at the same time cry because of the lack of respect that many of those individuals in automobiles seem to have for their marvelous surroundings.

And you have the audacity to say the ride is horrible? I'd say driving that 775 miles would be horrible by comparison. Give me my bike any ol’ day of the week, thank you very much.

24 June 2010

Father’s Day 2010 – A Picnic Well Done

It was a rainy day in paradise. Yeah, right. So what else is new? This is the wettest June since at least 2001 and perhaps will go down as one of the wettest Junes in Seattle history. This after one of the wettest Mays which followed a wet April which trailed right behind a wet March which kinda surprised us after having such a pleasant warm and dry February, but I do digress.

It all started out pleasant enough. It rained all morning. We had to be SOMEWHERE, but nobody would tell ol' Boothby the secret location, but he wanted to ride down to Leschi for an espresso at Pert's Deli and was pleased to be informed that this could happen, that it wasn't really too far outta the way. So Mimi and I are all geared up with rain pants, booties, Showers Pass jackets and after about a half hour of preparation for a 7 mile ride head out expecting a good soaking. The rain has suddenly quit.. And it is 56 degrees. Now we're on steamy pavement in personal saunas looking like we're one tank short of a full scuba outfit and set off toward Leschi. By the time we get to the bottom of the hill, I'm ready to take off all this stuff, but decide I'll wait since it's only about 5 miles and we're riding along slowly enough that I am able to watch two banana slugs race by heading north. I never did catch up to them.

Finally, we arrive at Pert's Deli and spend almost a half hour drinking an espresso, chatting with Max and Mae and finally, Mimi says its time to leave, but still won't tell me where. As we head out, continuing north toward Madrona, it starts to sprinkle again. Now, of course, we don't have any rain gear (or rain deer) because we'd done that quick change think at Pert's. I'm supposed to be following her, but she won't lead. The best I can get is her riding on my shoulder whispering sweet instructions in my ear.

"Turn Left," she says.

Wow! I'm impressed. Mimi is telling me to turn UP a hill. I ask her how far up the hill we're going and she says we're looking for Maiden Lane. I let her know that is right up about the top of the hill. Cool! I love this route. There's some really awesome century old houses on this street I enjoy scoping when I ride to and from work sometimes. We get to Maiden Lane. "Don't turn yet," she says. Another half block, and we cruise by Denny Blaine Park which consists of a large covered bus stop shelter, a duck pond and is one of Seattles's "quarter acre parks" that Megan and I scouted last year and thought it would be fun to have a picnic and croquet tournament. Just to PO the neighbors if nothing else. Well, as we cruise past, here is TOM, #2 son, inside the shelter. And Megan #2 son's #1 wife and one of my favorite tandem stokers. And Josiah, #1 son. Now THIS is an awesome way to spend Father's Day. And to make it better, they've made the church bells start chiming to announce my grand entrance!

To make a full fledged novel into something just one chapter shy of a boring English assignment, I'll be brief. After 2 hours of hanging out,
Megan teaching Mimi to play bocce,

me enjoying the scenic beauty of the duck pond and water lillies:

feasting on flank steak, grilled asparagus and fennel,

incredible potato salad (WITH BACON!!!), roasting marshmallows over the coals

and then finishing off with nice hot fresh coffee,

it was time to take a moment to appreciate just what a couple of fine young sons I have

then pack it all up and head back home.

By now, though, we've been watching the rain come, then watch it come down and watch it settle in over the hill in this misty, almost foggy fully drenching and all consuming wet Sunday afternoon.

It may be the last day of spring and the second longest day of the year but it looks like January an hour before dark. All the cars have their lights on. The temp has dropped to 51 degrees and we gear up again with our booties, rain pants, Showers Pass jackets, wool caps, helmets, turn on the lights and after hugs and kisses all around, Mimi and I set off up 34th heading south. At the top of the hill, we head over to MLK Way and as we're dropping off the hill Mimi says she wants to go up Cheasty Boulevard instead of to the north end of Beacon and up 18th. OK, I think. This is TWO big hill climbs that she is actually choosing to ride. Maybe she's getting ready to climb Washington Pass next weekend?

We've no sooner started up Cheasty when Mimi hollers out, "STOPPING!"

"What's up?" I holler back.

"I've got a flat" she says. She was NOT happy.

Sure enough, I check it out and her rear tire is flat. Really flat. Like not a bit of air left. "What do I do?" she says.......

In the rain, of course! We've just stopped and I've leaned Katrina up against a tree and it starts to rain harder.

Her bike is filthy! She pulls out a tube and wrenches while I start to remove the wheel. I quickly strip the tire and tube out and start feeling around, but can't find anything inside. She finds a small puncture, but we never do find anything in the tire itself so install a new tube and air it up. It took me less than 10 minutes.

After I wash my hands in a mud puddle,

and dry them off on some big leaves
(note to readers; at this point Donald was particularly happy because he wasn't able to get ENOUGH flats to participate in a thread on Bike Journal which involved simply bragging about flats. So he was able to use MY flat for this purpose - Mimi)

(then a 'finish drying' on my wool knickers) we're off again towards home. Mimi is much happier now.

While the flat was a bit of an inconvenience to me, I have to say that this was the most fun rainy Father's Day I've had since the infamous Father's Day Ride of 1992 when my sons and I with 2 of their friends rode a 25 mile ride to Green Lake and back to get ice cream - in pouring rain.

21 June 2010

Seattle's Flattest 100K - The Pacific Rose Permanent #889

The Pacific Rose - Seattle's Flattest 100K

We start out from the Hilltop Red Apple market at the north end of Beacon Hill. There used to be a lot of parking on the street around here, but since they opened Link Light Rail last year, everything is now 2-hour parking Monday - Friday, so if you're driving to the start line, you need to park a ways north or south. There are several options open to you if you decide to start before the store opens at 7:00 am including two ATMS and a couple of mini-marts within a block.

The Start Line

Starting out on top of a hill is nice for one thing: A screaming descent to start out. Today wasn't bad, but I've ridden down this hill that crosses a very steep bridge (steepest in Western Washington) over I-5 at 11% dropping to cross over some railroad tracks at the bottom, so it can be exciting - either severe cross winds that try to knock you off the bike or teeth breaking experience if you don't slow down in time at the bottom. From there to Pacific, though, there is only 300' of climbing, over half of it going up and over the Spokane Street Swing Bridge

Duwamish Waterway from Swing Bridge

where the route cuts south to pick up the Duwamish Bikeway,

Duwamish Bikeway

the Green River and Interurban Trails,


Interurban Trail

dumping out to S. 196th before the overpass

Leaving the Trail

(I could have named this the Cranes, Trains and Planes 100K just as easily)

Frager Road for some nice views of the few remaining farms in the Kent Valley

Red Barn on Frager Rd.

and eventually West Valley Highway for about 8 miles. It was too early to buy any strawberries at the farm just before the intersection, but I enjoyed seeing the workers out on this misty late-spring morning

Strawberry Fields Forever

but never too early to enjoy one of my favorite landmarks at S. 277th and West Valley

Smith Bros. Dairy

The turnaround stop in Pacific is at a dumpy little convenience market.

Giu's Market - Pacific

At least it has a bathroom and the owner is very friendly. I paused long enough to eat a half-dozen mini-donuts from the mini-mart, appropriate, I thought since I'm doing a mini-ride with absolutely mini-climbing effort.

Always Time For Donuts

After a few minutes hanging out and enjoying the fact that the light rain I'd been riding in for the last 20 miles had quit, I headed off back north, with the first 13 miles of the return route being along the Interurban Trail where the route isn't particularly interesting unless you like to watch bunnies dart in front of you, see an occasional bald eagle or coyote, and listen to the sounds of the trains as they blast by hauling the freight into and out of the Seattle area.

Interurban Trail N of Auburn

Approaching Renton, the route exits the trail and heads through Longacres and South Renton to introduce you to just the first mile or so of the Cedar River Trail. We added an informational control to this turnaround spot that any good northwesterner will be able to appreciate, especially if they are prone to riding out in the wetlands in the early morning or late evening hours.

Cedar River Trail turnaround point

From here, the route turns back and heads along the southwest corner of Lake Washington into Rainier Beach. On any given weekend morning or afternoon, hundreds of cyclists use this route circumnavigating the lake, and so it is possible to either pass or be passed by any number of cyclists. I managed to pass a gang of five guys and prevent them from overtaking me again, and enjoyed seeing that our local law enforcement was out doing it's job.

Rainier Avenue - North of Renton

As I turned north from Rainer Ave S. to Seward Park Avenue, I saw one of the "blue shirts" coming the other way. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize folks, but with his infectious grin and tall stature on the bike, it didn't take any time for me to recognize Vince Muoneke. As soon as I got a break in traffic, I turned around and chased him down. Fortunately, he'd caught the light which is the ONLY way I caught up to him. After chatting a few minutes, I turned back on my course.

Now at this point in the ride, it is mile 59 out of a 63-mile course and I've climbed a whopping 388'! Now is when the fun begins, with a nice little 300' climb up to the last informational control at the south end of Beacon Hill

Carkeek Drive

and another couple hundred feet of climbing over the next couple of miles to make it back to the finish line registering a sum of EIGHT HUNDRED FORTY-TWO FEET of vertical over 63 miles. Along the way you can see all kinds of interesting wild life.

Mimi and Luna

Mimi decided to come out and do the last couple of miles with me, but I was careful not to accept any assistance (like drafting help....) from her.

I do believe I have successfully generated the flattest 100K route in the area and challenge anyone to come up with one that is less hilly!

07 May 2010

Can We Make A Difference?

I like to think that we, as cyclists, are part of an increasing movement of folks who are learning to become more aware of our surroundings and environment, more tolerant of others and better stewards of our own lives and our planet. That isn't WHY I cycle, but it is a seemingly natural by-product of it. The world is a mighty big place and I'm a might small cog on just one of it's many chain rings. I'd like to think that by doing just a few small things, I can have at least a little impact on the world in which I live.

The longer I do this, the fewer angry confrontations I have with drivers. Is that because of me or because of them? I think partly both. I think that the more of "us" there are, the less "they" are afraid or hostile. I also think the longer I do this, the more skilled I become in dealing with these situations. There seem to be learning curves to pretty much everything and as our awareness increases, the hostility diminishes. Look at racial issues. As a kid in the 50's I saw an incredible amount of racial hatred and it was IN YOUR FACE kinds of hatred. The KKK stuff, the battles over desegretation, the marches that turned to riots, all of that stuff that seems today to be so distant. And yet, as we passed civil rights legislation, we have since seen a drastically improved attitude between different races. Its not perfect, but its a darned sight better than it WAS.

In the past few years, there has seemed to be an increasing rift between cyclists and drivers. Through well designed traffic modifications, public awareness campaigns and an increasing number of cyclists sharing the roads, it seems like the band of haters is actually becoming fewer, though their propensity for vocalizing their hatred and rage only becomes louder. Most drivers I encounter are patient, tolerant and even supportive of my being there, and it just seems to me that the ratio of ignorant fools behind the wheel is not really that much different when I'm on my bike than when I am in my car or on foot. I'm just a lot more vulnerable to those few knuckleheads. So it is up to ME to try to do something about it.

Hatred, in my never very humble opinion, is just an outward manifestation of fear. I've been called "Lance" and "faggot" and "dipshit" all in the space of maybe 20 seconds, while on my bicycle. By the same token, I had half-consumed beer bottles thrown at me when I was in the United States Marine Corps in 1970 and our nation was engaged in a very controversial war. I've also had rocks thrown at me while I was walking a picket line. I've also had people lash out at me because I work for an insurance company as a claims adjuster. People tend to come at life from a place of bias based on their upbringing, their experience and their culture, and any meaningful change takes a lot of time, energy and patience.

As cyclists, especially as cyclists who fit one of my friend's description that "...our our normal attire makes us look like a cross between an Easter Egg and a Breakfast Sausage in the eyes of most people..." (and I do), we do tend to bring out more of the ridicule, I think. I remember in 2004, I was working catastrophe duty in Florida, and my company had put me up in a nice little 2-bdrm condo in Vero Beach. They even paid for me to transport my bike back and forth. On Saturdays and Sundays, I'd try to work just "half days" and get a nice ride in. Mimi has an aunt who lives about 13 miles up the coast in Sebastian, and I liked to ride up there for dinner sometimes, and especially early on Saturday mornings, liked to ride A1A up the coast. There was a mini-mart I usually stopped at, and there were usually a bunch of old locals that liked to hang out, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and gossip. Its pretty much the same everywhere I've ever been. As I rolled up one morning, one of the old farts jerked a thumb over at me and says to his buddies, "will ya look at that. Guy thinks he's freakin' Lance Armstrong". I went into the store, bought my chocolate milk and payday bar, came back out and as I walked by him, I said, with a smile, "Well, I don't really think I AM Lance, but I did ride with him last month." And it wasn't a lie. I'd just come back from doing the first Portland Livestrong Ride, and not only Lance, but several other celebs had been at the start and done the ride "with us". The next week when I rolled up, here was this gang of old duffers hanging out, and the same guy there. He looked at me, smiled and said good morning. Asked me if I was having a good ride. Friendly instead of sarcastic. ONE GUY. Maybe when he's driving along, he views us a little different? Who knows. But we can make a change and we can make a difference.

I need to remember this when I've got that horse's ass honking at me, calling me names and yelling at me to get off HIS road. (or HER road.....)

19 April 2010


Northwest Fleche - 2010. OK, now let me get this straight. Pick a team of 3 to 5 people who you don't mind spending all night with but most who you probably wouldn't want to sleep with and go for a bike ride. A really LONG bike ride. No. Let me re-phrase that. A really TIME CONSUMING bike ride. No need to ride really fast, because you aren't allowed to finish too early. Don't stop for any more than 2 hours and don't get yourself too close to the finish line until just the right time, no matter what you have to do.

For me, it all started out on January 1st when Joe and I were riding along in the rain and one of us (must have been him, since I'm far too sane to ever suggest it) said, "so, should we do a fleche team this year?" He kept talking about wanting to name his team last year "Weasels Ripped My Fleche" but couldn't get people to go along with it. I'm easy. I don't care what we call ourselves. I just want to ride my bike all night, practice my sleep deprivation skills, fight off grizzly bears and wolves in the middle of the night and listen to people tell me about zombie truckers, whatever the hell those are.

"Weasels Ripped My Fleche" consisted of Greg Cox (c), Joe Platzner, Bill Dussler, Ken Ward and, of course, Boothby. We had a really nice route selected by Greg:

Greg failed to tell me I’d need to bring crampons for the climb up to his cabin or that I’d actually need to rappel down from the road TO the cabin, but otherwise, it was pretty doggone nice. Chipseal? What chipseal? With my tires, I just never notice. Of course, maybe that’s because I’m usually too busy enjoying the scenery, communing with nature and trying to engage my team in meaningful dialogue every once in a while.

It all started out for me like this, having taken a day off from work to ‘rest up’ before the ride:

After a nice ferry ride in the warm April afternoon sun, a relaxed pre-ride dinner, a tour of the local bicycle museum in beautiful downtown Winslow, we rode out. As we turned the corner onto SR 305, I felt a few little sprinkle-drops. Not to worry, I thought. Its only a 30% chance of rain after 6:00 pm, and supposed to be nicer tomorrow. Before long, however, the evening had turned to this:

We did manage to have plenty of time for this:

not a whole lot of time for this:

but a whole lot of this:

a few old buildings like this to look at:

and a surprise visit from our faithful organizers who set up a secret control outside of Montesano:

and then a whole lot more of this:

which resulted in a little more of this:

and a need for a bit of this:

before getting to our 22-hour control at the Hiway Diner in Rochester, about 20 miles south of Olympia.

that became our own personal locker room:


....laundry room.....

.....and just happened to have great cheeseburgers and fries......

.....and homemade cinnamon rolls that were simply to die for:

The waitress was one of the most wonderful people I've met out there in a long time. She wouldn’t cut the beautiful peach pie for me because it had just come out of the oven and needed a while to cool, but did talk me into one of those scrumptious cinnamon rolls (I needed a whole lot of convincing, too!) It had been raining really really hard for the last 6 miles, Greg was nursing a sore elbow and bum from a fall on some nasty tracks near Elma, Joe was falling asleep, Bill looked like……well, Bill just looked like Bill. And Ken? How do I describe what it was like to watch him as he started disrobing in the middle of the place. What can I say? That poor waitress just let us take over, sit around and stink up the place for an hour and a half until we could leave right at the 22 hour mark. She kept filling me with more excellent hot coffee, asking questions about what we were doing, “enjoying” the odd group of cyclists who have filled her restaurant at the slowest time of her day, and even offered to let us use the back room where there were bigger benches, promising to wake us up at the right time. How sweet is THAT? I left a good tip. As we were leaving, she said she hopes to see us again next year. I think she was serious. I do have to go back and get some of that home-made pie, though. It looked so pretty, smelled so delicious, and it was PEACH!!!

And then it was a little more of this:

pulling into the Red Lion in Olympia at 5:10 pm, with a 50 minute cushion. Of course, 5 minutes after we got off the bikes, it turned to THIS:

BUT WAIT!!!!! THERE'S MORE!!!!!! We got major awards!!!!! After all this riding, we got to relax, get a good night's sleep and get up the next morning to take part in a great finish line banquet hosted by our wonderful organizers (or were they cat herders?) Ralph and Carol Nussbaum where we all got to swap lies, I mean, give our respective ride reports.

WRMF won the LOWBALL award, beating out the second place team by a mere 3/10 of a kilometer for coming the closest to exactly 360K. That's just about 1,100' less we had to pedal, and I'm sure glad we didn't take any wrong turns! It could have made a lot of difference.

AND we got medals! Bright shiny medals with a slightly off balance rendition of what I'm assuming is the State Capitol. I figure it needed to be just slightly off balance to match the recipients.

and my sweetie to drive us home:

Fortunately, I have a really good watch cat who will stand guard over my truck while I'm unloading all of the gear.

Anybody want to go for a ride?