Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RSVP 2010

The 2010 “Ride from Seattle to Vancouver (BC) & Party,” (August 13-14) like many of this year’s longer bike trips, came rather quickly. Oh sure I pre-registered sometime last Winter (it’s a popular ride that sells out quickly), but then a lot of stuff pushed its way to the front of my consciousness, leaving preparations for RSVP to hibernate till a couple days before the ride.

And then I freaked out. How am I gonna get back to Seattle? How am I gonna get my bike back to Seattle? Will I be able to find a place to sleep in Bellingham?

When going through my packet a day and a half before the ride (which had languished under a pile of paperwork for a couple of weeks), I discovered a bike pass for the trip back to Seattle. Whew! As for the overnight in Bellingham, I’d take my chances. Fortunately, the overnight stay in Vancouver wouldn’t be a problem, as I have some accommodating tango friends there.

Unpreparedness extended to the morning of the first day, when I didn’t get out of Portland till 4:00 AM. I arrived at the start in Magnusun Park in Seattle a few minutes before check-in closed, dropped off my overnight bag, then unloaded my bike and suited up for the ride.

Much of the early part of the ride is along the Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail. I didn’t linger much, but was still passed by quite a few riders. Hmmm. A bunch of hares, I suppose.

lynne's new sweetpea
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
My first real stop was in Arlington (about 50 miles into the ride), where I found Cecil and Lynne lunching at a healthy food café … with (of course) their shiny Sweetpeas right behind them. This was my first time to see Lynne’s new rando bike, and (of course) I pulled my camera out for its first pictures of the journey.

About 40 miles later, while stocking up on liquids and pizza in Bow, I ran into randonneur Nat Beagley and a couple of his friends from Richland, WA. The headwinds that greeted us as we headed North towards Chuckanut Dr. and Bellingham were memorable.

Nat, Jason and Brian
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

It was along this stretch that my rear tire flatted. I had a heck of a time getting the bead of the Gatorskin back over my fairly new Velocity Fusion rim.

I ran into another randonneur, Albert Meerscheidt of Seattle, at the Samish Bay overlook. Had to stop for a couple pictures there.

One needn’t have worried about housing in Bellingham … that is if one doesn’t mind a room with a lot of residual smoke. In my case, I adjusted quickly, falling asleep shortly after an efficient Mexican dinner, and departed not that long after sunrise.

A bi-annual trip across the Canadian border accounts for all my “international” travel of the last four years. Northbound customs at the Aldergrove Broder Crossing was a breeze, mostly because of preparations made by the Cascade Bicycle Club. Show your passport. Get your name checked off a list. You’re good to go!

modern bridge
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

After the fairly lengthy rest stop in Ft. Langley (it was hot), the route took us over a new, modern bridge over the Pitt River that replaced the Albion Ferry. Continuing on, it was a bit of a trudge to Burnaby (perhaps cuz I didn’t stop at the rest area in Pt. Moody). The Frances/Union Bike route then provided a good quasi-suburban transition into Vancouver proper.

Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Once at the finish (at Vancouver’s Coast Plaza Hotel), I doused the complementary hamburger with an expensive (but ordinary) beer, then was picked up by tango friend Wendy and taken to the Granville Island brewery (recommended by Canadian track cyclist Jamie Shankland). Then after a shower and power nap, it was off to a tango dinner/dance in North Vancouver.

Bike and I got safely onto the first bus back to Seattle Sunday morning. Southbound customs back into the States took a lot more time than the previous day’s Northbound crossing. The rest of the trip, though, was mostly (and pleasantly) uneventful. Almost forgot to pick up my drop bag at Magnuson Park, though, before driving home.

Good ride. Maybe I’ll do it every other year. I find Vancouver intriguing. Plus, there are some good friends who tango there.

My pictures from the ride are here on Flickr

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

3 Volcanoes 300k

I had a choice for the first weekend in August: ride 400k out of Wilsonville on a route that featured some of Oregon's illustrious historic covered bridges (a route I had ridden a few months earlier), or ride 300 mountainous kilometers on roads through the Gifford National Forest that I had never seen. As someone who doesn't even like to drink the same beer twice in a row, I chose the latter.

The "Three Volcanoes 300k" started in the small town of Packwood, WA (about a 2.5 hour drive from Portland), which serves as a gateway of sorts into the Cascades (about 50 miles south of Mt. Rainier). The ride featured many narrow-ish, scenic national forest roads, and about 10 miles of gravel. Because of this last detail, I elected to take my 'cross bike, which accommodates wider tires than my LeMond. The last time I rode a cyclocross bike on a rando ride was Michael Wolfe's "Alsea Falls 400k" about a year earlier. (After that ride, my Shimano generator hub was converted for use with my LeMond.) On this ride, I used my old Nite Sun battery-powered handlebar-mounted light, which turned out to be problematic on the final mountainous descent of the ride.

Amy Peiper put out an email a couple days before the ride that a cabin room in Packwood became unexpectedly available before and after the ride. Four others and I signed up, and I drove up from Portland pretty much straight from work on Friday afternoon/evening. 'Twas nice to wake up in the town from which the ride commenced.

chris, john, & david
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
From the local Shell station, the ride started out briskly enough, with plenty o' pacelines from Packwood to Randle. Things spread apart a bit after the first contrôle, (at the Iron Creek Picnic Grounds), but I ended up riding the next 15 or so miles with the likes of Chris Heg, John Perch, David Rowe and Jon Muellner.

Originally uploaded by tangobiker
After watering up at the Blue Lake Creek Campground, I rode solo for most of the remainder of the ascent to Baby Shoe Pass, which included a fair amount of gravel for the last 5 or 6 miles. At the summit, I arrived at about the same time as bike builder Dan Boxer, but before I left, several other people arrived (as evidenced by this group picture).

A few more miles of gravel on the descent, then some fast pavement to Trout Lake. Lotsa riders stopped here for Huckleberry Shakes (which included a long wait), but I elected for a shorter contrôle stop at the Trout Lake grocery store (as did Dan Fender).

The next section included section of Kramer's SxSW 200k (that was held in July 2009). Some hills, some drops, a few spots of gravel, and finally a well-attended contrôle at Northwoods .

From there, the final ascent up to Windy Ridge and Elks Pass was challenging. And then there was the descent. A moist and foggy descent. My Nite-Sun didn’t illuminate things in a very confidence-inspiring way, and I ended up being passed by a few people on the way to Randle, including "Levis on Litespeed" Steven Barnes. After the right-turn-onto­-smaller-roads back towards Packwood, Steve started to fade a bit. The two of us basically finished at the same time with a far-from-lanterne-rouge time of 18 hrs and 15 minutes.

Three hundred kilometers, 12,000 feet of climbing, 10+ miles of gravel, and 3 passes over 4000 feet. What co-organizer and tandem pilot Amy Pieper later described as “truly the full meal deal of brevets.”

Some excellent photos and description of the ride were posted here by Chris Heg.

John Muellner has a detailed account here.

The rest of my pictures are here on Flickr.