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!