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?

12 April 2010


So yesterday, I took Kartina out back and hitched her up to the work stand. Time for a wash and wax, lube and check-up before The Fleche upcoming this next weekend. It's been nearly 3,300 miles since my fall overhaul and I've been pretty lax about cleaning this winter. Chain cleaning mostly consisted of dousing liberally with Pro-link, wiping down, repeating and repeating again, allowing the final light application to sit overnight, then wiping down before riding out in the morning - do this about once a week or so – or at least when the squealing gets too loud to hear the music in my head. I’ve had excellent results on my new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, so haven't had the wheels off all winter. Everything is running pretty good, but front shifter (bar-end) is becoming quite stiff. Looking at it all, I noticed the cable end is frayed – the cable shows no signs of rust or anything, but the little end cap got lost somewhere along the way and so now it is all frayed, easy for me to get a good puncture wound (as I found out while scrubbing). Chain is a connex nickel plated (not the SRAM those yo-yos at the bike shop try to sell me) with a superlink for easy removal and cleaning, so I figure, OKAY, I'll pull it, simple-green it, blow it out really well, lube it up good and put it back on and get a few more miles out of it before I finally have to resort to going in and plunking down change to do some more work in the shop.

In the meantime, we have family over for dinner, and the chain is sitting in a bath of wonderful water-soluble degreaser. After dinner, the family goes home, and I return to finish my work. In the process, I forget about the superlink, which I promptly wash down the drain. No problem. I have 3 spares. That is when I discover one of the end links on the chain is broken. The roller has gone missing sonmehow. This chain is really showing signs of wear. Of course, last fall I told Elliott Bay Bikes I would change the front chain rings on my next major service since they were essentially worn out. Bob was a bit concerned, but I just didn’t want to spend the money right then. Well, I forgot. While I’m washing it down, I notice how worn the big ring is and note to myself that after Fleche I really need to take it in and get a service done. The Big and middle rings are way beyond "worn". Some of the teeth are down to almost nothing. I grab one of the super-links, get the clean chain installed, only to discover the super-links I have are for a 7-8 spd chain, I have a 9. So, I put it all together and this morning ride very short ride downhill to the train, fearful of really putting too much torque on it and breaking the chain in process or some other dumb stuff. At 10:00 sharp I'm waiting outside the door at EBB when they turn the lights on and flip the open sign. Mark opens up the shop, and like a junkie needing his daily fix, I beg and plead with him to do just THREE THINGS for me. He agrees. As long as that is all he has to do, he can have it by 5.

1) Change the chain.
2) New Shimano XTR pedals - with 23,000 miles on them, I can't adjust any more
3) New front shift cable and lube the cable housing, to make it a bit smoother.

12:45 pm. I'm on the phone with one of my investigators. They've recovered a load of stolen vodka and we're busy discussing how to pay the reward to the snitch who got a quarter million bucks worth of booze back for us. Cell phone rings. Wahoo! Elliott Bay. So I put the investigator on hold. Business can WAIT!

"Don, I've got some good news and some bad news."

"Save the good news for 5. What's the bad?"

"Well, this drive train is so shot, I have to replace the entire front chain rings and the rear."

"Yeah? What about the gear cable?"

"Well, I think if we replace the drive train, you'll find it shifts better. That was the good news."

We agreed that it was time to replace the front chain rings, the rear cassette and make it all run like new.

Somehow, I knew. I just didn't want to admit it. Unlike Mr. Gearcable, who I’d been reading about on the randonneuring discussion thread earlier, I like to have everything just right when I get out there on long rides. Doing 360K and riding all night? Somehow, at 2 o'clock in the morning, when the gear cable snaps, the chain breaks, the bottom bracket falls out, whatever it is, "too expensive" isn't what really crosses my mind. I'm in the insurance business. Risk management is my life. For me, it's like paying the premium for the satisfaction of knowing I'm 'covered'. That doesn't mean I won't have something go wrong, but the odds are much more in my favor.

I've got a friend who is a 2 or 3 time PBP veteran who loves to push the envelope. He is always one of the last finishers, has frequent mechanicals because he likes to get his money's worth. Runs stuff until it breaks. I just can't do it that way. I just don't like FIXING stuff that much. I just want to RIDE. So at 4:45 I’m out of the office, walk the four blocks to Elliott Bay Bikes, arriving right at 5:00. I like to be prompt. Besides, I just have to see what the final bill is going to be THIS TIME!

I walk into the shop and look back into the shop. The news is either really good or really bad. My bike is down off the rack, but it isn’t sitting out front in the pick-up stand. Mark comes out from the back, needing to only attend to a couple things, but says its all done. That’s a relief. But he wants to talk to me a little. That’s not such a relief.

He wraps up the business and says, “OK, let’s talk.” Now I’m not so sure.

We head into the back. He shows me the old chain rings. Like I couldn’t see them yesterday while nearly slicing my fingers to the bone while scrubbing them? I’ve seen great white sharks with teeth less dangerously sharp than these. Then he shows me the brake pads on the rear. Yep, they needed replacing. They “almost” needed replacing last fall when Reed was working on it, but he said I could come back in December and take care of it. I only rode a couple thousand more miles in gritty winter weather since then. And then he showed me the bottom bracket.

That was when I remembered telling Chris at the start of the 300k a few weeks ago that I thought my bottom bracket was just about gone. And then there was the fender bracket that was messed up.

Yep, Mark, its JUST THESE THREE THINGS……plus those three, and a couple more.

And so, after all the muss, after all the fuss, I’ve got a bike that runs like a brand new machine, thanks once again to putting it into the hands of somebody who actually KNOWS what the hell he’s talking about.

Now I’m ready for the Fleche!

Happy Trails.