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RSVP and Back Again – day 1

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008
dawn in kirkland
Dawn in Kirkland

The first day of Cascade Cycling Clubs RSVP ride began early with my alarm waking me up at 4:30 in morning. The starting line for the ride was officially 6:30-7:30 and I planned to start around 7.  As I’ve mentioned before I’m always ride to the ride so I needed enough time to make it to Warren G. Magnuson park. There is one problem with this scenario: Lake Washington.  I live directly across the lake from the park, probably about a mile away. But lacking the ability to cycle on water I have to go around the lake to the north or cross one of the bridges to get there. The 520 bridge makes the trip just over 10 miles but you can’t ride on that bridge.  The shortest route around adds about 6 more miles and additionally would have me riding a section of the ride’s route but against the traffic. I could of course skip the start line and just ride directly to the first point of intersection, but I’ve never done this ride and wanted to experience the whole thing.  So what I settled on was to use the bus to get my bicycle across the bridge and then ride the remaining distance to the start line.

Of course taking the bus was not without its risks – the bus only had room for two bicycles on the rack and I could only afford to miss one bus. I was catching a bit of an earlier one figuring I could spend time at the start line drinking coffee or leave earlier if I ended up getting there early. I awoke before dawn and before my alarm clock after a pretty short night of sleep.  I of course had to sign up for this ride in January with out any knowledge of what I would be doing for work in the summer.  It turned out I was on one of the shortest projects in our companies history and that there wasn’t much leeway for vacation time.  The day RSVP started was a big milestone for work so I ended up working later then I’d want to the day before. And then of course I had to get everything ready, tidy up the house a bit and so on.  Add to that the fact that I never sleep well before trips I set out on a 100+ mile day on about 3 hours sleep.

sunrise
Sunrise from the Montlake Bridge

Atlantis at the bus stopOf course the first bus that came by had two bicycles on the front rack.  This made me very nervous, I could if I hauled ass ride around the lake still and most likely make the starting line before 7:30 but I’d be fighting against the flow for a good bit.  But if I waited for the next bus and couldn’t get on the rack then I was truly boned – I’d have to just ride to the intersection point. So it was with much trepidation that I waited for the next bus.  Luckily it had no bicycles on it and after some fumbling getting mine onto the rack (first time I’ve ever brought my bicycle on public transit) I was set.  Fifteen minutes later I was across the bridge and putting my saddle bag and water bottles back on. With my ride recombobulated I set of to Warren G. Magnuson Park, crossing over the Montlake bridge to the rising sun. I cut behind the University of Washington and then hit a pretty busy two lane road to the park.  Pretty quickly I noted that the bulk of that traffic had bicycles strapped to them and that these were fellow RSVP-ers. There was a big line up of cars into the parking lot, but those of us riding in were able to ride right in.

start line
The starting line at Warren G. Magnuson Park.

BGTIt was 6:45am as I pulled into the park – right on schedule.  There were groups of people setting out, people collecting their registrations, dropping off their bags, using the facilities and so on. I pulled my bag out of my saddlebag and dropped it off (though I kept the saddle bag on), collected my souvenir passport holder, pinned my number to myself, hit the bathroom and then headed out.  I rode off with a couple of other riders at 7:05. The route begins with a quick series of residential streets and then turns on to the Burke-Gilman Trail. The BGT is a rail trail that is used as a pretty major commuting route and you never say more disgruntled riders then those struggling against this crowd. It stayed pretty slow and safe, the view of the asses in front of you didn’t change much.  There was a bit of excitement in Bothell due to a tree across the trail (it was stuck – people did try to move it) which you had to stop and hoist yourself over.  But otherwise it was a nice easy warm up to a long days ride. At Woodinville, about 500 feet from the apartment I lived in for five years, the route exited the trail and cut through town.  I took advantage of the facilities at the park ate some GORP and took off my socks. They day was warming up and was heading toward the hottest day we’d had in a while.

Woodinville
Cyclists backed up at a light in Woodinville

Having lived in Woodinville for so long, as well as having followed the first part of the RSVP route on a number of occasions, this was all familiar territory for me.  The biggest hill of the whole ride was the one out of Woodinville but it was one I’d ridden many times. I was surprised to see myself passing people on the climb as I don’t consider myself a particularly great climber. I like to keep a steady pace though and clearly a lot of people dramatically slow down when they hit a hill.  I’d say that part of this is that most people ride patently ridiculous bicycles.  The smallest incline and most of these racing bicycles are in their lowest gear and people slow down and then stand up for pretty minor hills. Clearly for most riders a more sensible gear range, even if you can’t bring yourself to have a triple (I don’t recall actually using the small ring on this ride) is in order. These bicycles seemed to have something like an 11-22 cassette which had most riders out of gears immediately.

The Once past the “big” climb the route wends through some wooded rolling hills, a nice decent and then past the little town of Maltby.  From this point on ’til Snohomish its great country riding.  The route is gently rolling and now out of the woods revealed that it was getting much warmer. I was cruising along really well at this point and passed a rider on a Bleriot who noticing my Atlantis, caught up and we talked bicycles for a bit.  Then a car came up and we got seperated in the reorg.  Not too long after that my chain broke and I pulled over to deal with that. I always carry tools and a quick link so I was able with out to much fuss to splice the chain back together. It was hot work in the direct sun and I found I was sweating pretty good as I made this repair.  The break had twisted a few links so by the time I was done I knew the chain could break again if I shifted into certain gear combinations. So I kept it in about the middle of the range for the rest of the ride to Snohomish where I knew there would be a roaming bicycle mechanic.

Farmland outside of Snohomish
Farmland in the Snoqualmie valley outside of Snohomish.

Luckily the route descends from just past where I had the break and then it is the flat Snoqualmie Valley to the small town of Snohomish. There a lot of cyclists were taking advantage of the bakeries, a well known and great pie shop, the pubs and other amenities. I waited around for the bicycle tech to finish with an increasingly anal adjustment of a ladies brifters and then he put my bicycle on the stand and heard my story.  He basically refused to replace the chain on the grounds that it would slip due to wear on my freewheel which he had no replacement parts on hand for.  He advised me to just avoid certain gear combinations and to check at the official stop in Mount Vernon where they’d have more gear.  So basically this was a waste of time and in fact caused me more grief as I later discovered that when he put my beloved Atlantis in his stand he broke off one of the cable guides. This caused the tension to get released on my rear brake so I only figured this out a few miles later when I tried to use it.

Centennuial Trail.
The start of the Centennial Trail.

I didn’t notice the brake issue for a bit as the route was totally flat as it went through Snohomish and then onto the Centennial Trail.  The Centennial Trail was what had first brought me to ride the first part of RSVP route about 5years previous. I was very curious about all of the trails when I began cycling again 8 or so years ago. I recall what an epic trip it seemed back then, riding to the trail, then out and back on the trail and finally struggling back to Woodinville. Its a nicely paved, mostly wooded trail that runs by rivers and lakes and is generally pretty flat.  It has a few annoying road crossings, made more so in that cars have the right of way but often wave you along.  On this day I ended up in one of those situations where a woman waved me on, then changed her mind and started to go, then I went and it pissed her off. I prefer to just stop for the cars and they take their right of way, it makes for less confusion.  Anyway I felt pretty slow on the trail, there was  good headwind at this point and when it was out of the shade pretty hot. Starting to get hungry too. So I mostly just kept my head down and rode it out.  At the juncture with Lake Stevens the route exits the trail and goes through town to a parking lot where the first official food stop of the ride was.

Lake Stevens
The Lake Stevens Food stop.

This was mile 37 on the route and I arrived around 10:30am.  They had a smorgasbord of bagels, fruit, peanut butter, cookies, energy bars and so on. Plus stations of water and a Gatorade analog of some sort.  I ate a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and various snacks as I refilled my water bottles and fixed my rear brake. A bit of a rest and a visit to the blue rooms and I set off.  I was trying to not spend to much time at stops and I knew that I’d probably end up spending a lot of time in Mount Vernon to get my chain fixed. All told I was there for 20 minutes. The route takes a couple of back roads through Lake Stevens and then rejoins the trail for a little ways.  I was following people a ways ahead and they went straight through a junction we were supposed to turn at. Some guys hollered me down (thanks if you are reading!) and I got on the right path. I hope those people ahead of me were other trail users.

country riding
Nice country riding

ArlingtonThe route is in serious rural territory now, with chipseal rearing its ugly head. I’d gotten into a fairly packed group at a stoplight and  there was much jockeying by various riders. At one point a rider on a Univega Gran Tourismo from the 70s or early 80s rode past and hollered out that he thought that he was on the oldest bicycle. I shouted back that he still might be, mines only three years old. After some smaller hills that were fully exposed to the now hot day the route does this fantastic descent into Arlington. Fully wooded, 12%, winding roads, they are a real good time to just fly down.  Luckily it wasn’t very crowded anymore and I was able to just bomb down these.  Then you hit Arlington which has a hill as you arrive on the outskirts, and then an immediate descent to the main street.  Last time I was here, on my 2007 tour (in which I used this route as well) I stopped at a cafe in a building that also housed the Rivendell Hair salon!   This time I was still full from the food stop, so I kept on riding.

ClimbingWe now find ourselves on Highway 9, which at this point is filled with a decent amount of fast traffic. It does have a wide shoulder though so for the most part this was okay. But it was now plenty hot and highways never have much cover. So hot, dusty, fast traffic, not really a good time.  But I knew from last year that after 5 or so miles there is a turn off to I-5 which is where most of the traffic is going and then it becomes pretty nice as it goes through woods and around Big Lake.  So this went as I expected until the Dan Henry’s indicated a turn off from hwy 9 on a road I didn’t take last year. I’d heard there were a couple of changes to the route so I figured this was one of them. Its possible that last year I just didn’t take this bit, which was good as it pretty much just added miles and hills and intersected with Hwy 9 again at Big Lake. So that’s pretty much the story for this part, the longest climbing of the ride, if not the steepest. But now it was very hot and it seemed that whenever you exited the woods was when a hill would start. A one point on this section a tire popped on the rider ahead of me, with the sound of a gunshot. I was startled but I checked that she was okay and she was, so I rode on.

Mount Baker in the distance
Mount Baker in the distance

After a nice twisty descent the road interested again with hwy 9 at Big Lake.  The climbing and the heat had caused me to run through my liquids and on those back roads there were no facilities. So I was very happy to reach Big Lake which I knew there was little grocery store at the far end. I rationed my water ’till I reached the store and then pulled off for a break.  I replenished my bottles, drank an entire little bottle of Gatorade and ate some peanuts and half a muffin. I clearly needed salt and electrolytes.  I was feeling a bit tapped from the heat at this point and ended up resting here for 20 minutes.  Of course it then turns out that the Mount Vernon stop was only 5 easy miles up the road. I had reached the last big food stop at 76 miles.  I’d been riding with my too short a chain for 50 miles now.

Mount Vernon Food Stop.
Mount Vernon Food Stop

As I had just stopped 20 minutes before I was pretty set for food and drink. I made myself a peanut butter sandwich which I saved for later and had some watermelon which was kick ass at this point.  Then I went and waited in line for the mechanics. There were two of them working at a frantic pace and 4 or 5 people ahead of me.  Almost all of the repair they had to do was brifter adjustment.  This is why I prefer friction shifting – it isn’t susceptible to cable stretching or requires precises adjustments. There were a few tire, tube, spoke replacements and finally I was up. I told him of my need and he informed me he had no chain but maybe one of the mobile mechanics did.  Then as we were waiting for this guy to come in, I again got the skipping issue. I said I just wanted to be able to use all my gears and if they could just add links I’d be happy enough with that. So they used a couple of links I had and a couple he had and they managed to get my chain to a usable length again.  It cost me a lot of time though, I was there for just over an hour and I had thirty miles left to go.

Mount Vernon
Riding out of the Mount Vernon food stop.

churchIt was now 3pm, the hottest part of the day.  But we were closer to the water and a then veil of clouds had arrived to lower the temperature and block the sun a bit.  Along with this came an increasingly vicious headwind. There is pretty much a constant wind that blows east from the sound (as I experienced on my Olympic Peninsula Tour, it blows against you ’til you turn south) and as we got onto the Skagit Flats it became brutal. After getting through Mount Vernon, and under the I-5 you hit these flats and it is uninterrupted pancake flat farmland to the water.  Decent country riding otherwise but the wind was punishing. Due to the delay I’d had in Mount Vernon there wasn’t as many riders around so I had to be careful to stay on the route. I had a few rides following me at one point, which of course makes one even more careful.  At last there was the turnoff to Chuckanut Drive and a little mini-stop just before it. This stop had water and watered down Gatorade for free but was selling other things. So it was some organization and not Cascade but still it was welcome. I ran into a rider on a Rambouillet here as well as one on a Long Haul Trucker. Also a tandem team snapped my picture as the Rivendell Poster Boy. Shortly after this I set off for the series of hills that is Chuckanut Drive.

Chuckanut Drive
Chuckanut Drive

There was a bit of flat right after the mini-stop and then you cross a wetland and it begins. Chuckanut Drive hugs the coast from the Skagit Flats to Bellingham.  The coast of Washington state on the Puget Sound is a rocky, glacier carved affair which means hills and constant changes.  But none of the hills were that tough and I have to say considering that we were at 90 miles at this point I pretty much hauled through this.  Its an incredibly scenic route, with the Puget Sound just past a lane and some trees and you’d go from being on the edge of a cliff to diving into deep woods. It’d suck with a lot of traffic but I only saw a half dozen or less cars over the 11 miles of the drive.  I even passed a few riders on this section as well as all this magnificent scenery.  As I began the descent out of Chuckanut Drive I hit 10,000 miles on my odometer. This is a pretty accurate account of the miles on this frame (I put it on before I rode it at all) and was a big milestone for it.

Lemonade
Chuckanut Drive

After that descent there was one last climb with the infamous RSVP lemonade stand at the top. This has apparently been a fixture on the RSVP route for ages with a family raising money ostensibly to put their kid through college. I got a cup and left a couple of bucks for his further education. It was incredibly cold, too cold even. But a good sharp lemonade, not overly sugared.  I pretty quickly set off and from this last hill, it was downhill, into Fairhaven and various arterioles to the edge of Bellingham where the Days Inn and the official end of Day 1. My mileage at this point was 107 miles.  I was staying at Western Washington University so I still had a bit of riding to do. Of course its a back up a hill, but then its simply winding through the college and I was at the dorm I’d be staying at.

WWU
WWU

I quickly checked in, collected my bag and wheeled my bicycle into the elevator and up the three flights to my room.  I was in a nice new seeming dorm that had rooms with a connecting bathroom for every two rooms. I was in a corner room and there was a little hallway with the two rooms and the bathroom off of it. The other room’s occupant was either in town or had yet to arrive so I was able to leisurely shower. Rarely had I even enjoyed a shower as much as this one.  Putting on fresh clothes was always quite welcome. That done I needed pizza and beer and walked into town to find them.  The places I initially targeted, a wood-fired oven pizza place and Boundary  Bay Brewing were overflowing with cyclists so I set out to find a place I could get right into. Rudy’s pizza was where I ended up and while it was mediocre pizza, it was by the slice and so I was able to eat immediatly. I also had a couple of IPAs while I was there. After alleviating my caloric needs I walked around Bellingham during a beautiful sunset. Walking past Mallard Ice Cream parlor, I felt the need to try their hand made Ice-cream and got a basil cone that was amazing.  After that I walked back to Boundary Bay and finding it much emptier was able to get a seat at the bar and have an excellent Oatmeal Stout. Full up I headed back up to campus and read for a bit and then went to sleep.

Sunset
Sunset in Bellingham

Total miles for the day: 113.3 (182.3km)
Ride Time: 8’6″

See all my pictures from this day, in my RSVP day 1 gallery.
Index to my entire RSVP and Back Again adventure

RSVP and Back Again: setting off

Friday, August 15th, 2008

RSVP LogoSo the day has come, my big cycling event for this year: Cascade Cycling Clubs RSVP ride.  Packing I’d guess 275 miles of riding into four days, in between about the busiest I’ve been at work in a long time. Tired yes, but I feel pretty good cycling wise. My rides of late really have not taken the toll on me they would have earlier in the year. My conditioning is up but also I’ve gotten better at balancing the calories, liquids and other things one needs in a ride.  So this will be a nice test, though not quite up there with a long tour. A bit more mileage on the first couple of days then I tend to do on tour, but no load to speak of on the bicycle besides myself.

The weather has been ideal cycling weather of late, temps rarely climbing above 80, nice mix of clouds and sun, little rain. But just as this ride begins things take a turn toward the warm.  It is projected to be in the low 90s today and a tad cooler tomorrow.  These of course are the days where the bulk of this trips riding will be done. Luckily the highs aren’t quite as high the further north you go. So leaving Seattle around 7am it’ll be comfortable and then hopefully by the heat of the day one is nearer to Bellingham where the high is a good 8 degrees less.  Saturday is supposed to be a few degrees cooler on average and again it is a bit lower projected for Bellingham.  Hope that all works anyway, long distances in the heat takes it toll. Guess I don’t have to worry so much about the rain gear though.

Time to go and damn its early – as I’ve said before this is why I rarely do these events. Lack of sleep sure doesn’t help for long rides, but I’ll abide.  Anyway I’m off, expect reports on my return.

The four day plan

day 1:
“¢ Bus and ride to Warren G. Magnuson Park
“¢ RSVP Day 1

day 2:

“¢ RSVP Day 2
“¢ Party in Vancouver!

day 3
:
“¢ Downtown Vancouver to Tsawwassen Ferry landing
“¢ Ferry to Sidney
“¢ Sidney to Victoria via Lochside trail

day 4
“¢ Hang in Victoria
“¢ Victoria Clipper to Seattle
“¢ Seattle to Kirkland This is pretty much straight up from the pier through town to the I-90 trail and then the Lake Washington Loop route to downtown Kirkland and home.

Atlantis
My Atlantis for the ride. So early I had to use the flash!

An August Evening Ride

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Jack BrownAs I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m doing the a ride to Vancouver with my cycling club this year. Well the ride is this Friday, August 15th, so this past weekend was the last weekend prior.  I took this opportunity to get my bicycle ship shape and ready for the ride.

I had noticed the signs of a sidewall failure on my front tire so a couple of weeks back ordered a new pair.  I’ve really liked the Panaracer Pasalas that I’ve used on the Atlantis since I’ve gotten it but there is not denying the large number of sidewall failures I and others have had. So I’ve decided to adopt a dual tire strategy where I’m going to use the Rivendell designed (though still Panaracer produced) Jack Brown tires for normal use and Schwalbe Marathon tires for touring use.  The Jack Browns come in a lighter and heavier version of which I chose the later for the increased puncture resistance. They have a sweet checkered tread and a funky logo such as a tire named Jack Brown deserves. They fit a lot tighter on my rims and inflated to around 60psi have a nice rounded look. These tires at 33.33333 are the narrowest tires I’ve used since I was a teenager. When I installed my Silver Shifters earlier this year I also replaced the shifter cables. Well I cut the front cable a bit short and I paid the price for that – it had frayed and no was only a few strands short of breaking. So I replaced that as well doing a better job on the length this time.  These being the major repairs I then adjusted my brakes to a nice level of stopping power and gave my drivetrain a complete cleaning from the cassette to the chain.  A wipe down of the whole bicycle completed my working on the bicycle.

Atlantis

My Atlantis post tune up in a park in Mill Creek


As always it took a bit longer then I had hoped and I needed to get in a decent ride to keep my fitness up.  Also I needed lunch, so I set out as soon as I had cleaned up for my old friend the Celtic Bayou. As I crossed Rose Hill it began to rain on me in clearly some sort of cosmic vengeance for having so thoroughly cleaned my drive-train. But I have to say everything was so smooth and so quiet and the new tires felt great. The hugged the curves on the fast descent and seemed to have a bit less rolling resistance (though of course that’s nearly impossible to actually tell from a ride). It was mid afternoon on a cloudy/drizzly Saturday and the Celtic Bayou was packed. Ended up spending more time there then anticipated but I enjoyed my grilled cheese and a couple of beers. It rained pretty steadily most of the time I was there so it was nice timing all things considered. It was around 4:30 when I set out from there, planning to get a good 40-50 mile ride in.

gravel road

I had to try out the new tires on some gravel.

I knew I didn’t have enough daylight for a truly adventurous ride but I also didn’t want to just do one of my typical routes. So I decided to do a semi urban ride putting together a number of area routes.  I began by taking the Woodinville-Redmond road which while rather heavily trafficked has a good shoulder and rolling hills. As I neared the Hollywood Hills I passed NE 144th Street, a residential dead-end street that has about the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. I’ve passed this many times and on the spur of the moment I decided to ride up it for once. Not too long a hill, maybe a 1/3 of a mile, but it is about the steepest thing I’ve ridden up. My front wheel was often just about leaving the ground which I’ve noticed only happens when the slope is great then about 15%. It maintains its steepness for the duration too, only at the actual top does it slack of and have a flat round about. A fun little addition to what wouldn’t be a too hilly day of riding.  From here I returned to the Redmond-Woodinville road now taking a part the skirts the traffic and rides through some light industrial areas.

Urban rainy roads

Bothell-Everett Highway: urban, rainy, traffic. What not to love?



I continue on these back roads ’til I get to Bothell and then wend my way through that little town (I-5 from the new pedestrian overpasstaking a nice long hill) then some unincorporated areas and finally I get onto the Bothell-Everett Highway. Pretty much as unpleasant as it sounds, but it has a good shoulder and is pretty flat.  It began raining as I descended that hill in Bothell so at this juncture I was riding on a fairly busy road in a light rain.  Just past Mill Creek one can turn off the highway go past a park and then intersect with the Interurban trail. This point is just past the mid-point of that trail and when I’ve done similar rides in the past I’ve ridden to the northern end of the trail before returning south. Not having much daylight left I forgo this option but I did go just enough north to check out the new overpass they have built for the trail. Previously you had to ride on the sidewalk over I-5 with entry and exit ramps everywhere and it was not a real good time. It still forces a bad sidewalk riding chunk but hopefully they’ll route it through a little cul-de-sac and eliminate that.

drive-in-
Drive in Movie Theater along the Interurban Trail.

Entering the Interurban trail at this point you ride up a little residential street past one of the last Interurbandrive-in movie theaters in the region. There was a couple of cars lined up, waiting to catch the double feature of  Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Dark Night. There was a drive-in on Whidbey Island that used to be a favorite activity for me as a late teen.  A couple of buddies and myself would borrow the ‘rents van and abuse various substances as we watched cheesy movies. Good times. I’m always happy to see this drive-in still hanging on. Past the drive-in the interurban runs straight with very gentle rolling hills. There was a stiff headwind at this point but the clouds were tearing away and it was the magic hour light-wise. Even with the headwind I made good time up the trail. The trail crosses from one side of the I-5 to the other three or four times over its length and I had do one of these at the Alderwood mall. From there the trail continues on through Montlake Terrance a finally coming to an end in Shoreline (though it is supposed to continue on nearly to Seattle). I bailed out at its old ending on the edge of Shoreline and took a route around a golf course and Ballinger Lake and then crossed the I-5 at a nice low traffic spot.

Interurban in the magic hour
The interurban at the magic hour.

From there was was wandering downhill to Lake Forest Park and the Burke Gillman trail. As I rRainbowode up a short section of the BGT there was a fantastic double rainbow. Riding in the rain isn’t a preferred activity(especially after just cleaning the bicycle) but if you refuse to do so you deny yourself beautiful experiences like this.  Additionally the smell of the road on a hot summer day just after the rain, the level of green on plants washed of their dust, and a general feeling of freshness all of these are glorious experiences lost on those who only ride in dry weather. Things are fairly automatic at this point – well trod roads for the last ten miles home. Of course Big Finn Hill is one of those well trod roads and it always is a bit of effort. Following that is a screaming descent into Juanita and then yet another climb up the again oft traveled Market Street. After that its the last mile home which I reached around 9:30 and another great day of bicycling comes to a close. I put in 55 miles total which isn’t too bad considering the late start and the weather conditions.

For all of my pictures from this ride, check out my flickr set: An August Evening Ride.

Rainbow closup
Double Rainbow. Nice payoff for the rainy ride.

Hills, seven of ‘em

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

AtlantisA couple of Sunday’s back after a drought of non commuting rides I set out from my house wending through the Kirkland Suburbia.  I wasn’t sure where I was going exactly, but there really are only three directions to go from my house due to Lake Washington and I’d been concentrated more on the eastern and southern directions. As I rode up and down the hills that paralleled the main northern street, I recalled that I had started to ride the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride a month or so back and had cut it short due to breaking a spoke. I was paralleling the start of that ride at this point so after cresting the last hill I turned onto what would be the first descent of the ride. The 7 Hills ride is a classic charity ride that goes one every year.  It packs 3000 feet of climbing into the basic 40 mile (64 kilometer) route with a metric and full century options.  I had no cue sheet, I was just following the Dan Henrys that were still visible. Following old rides via Dan Henry’s is an activity I greatly enjoy, the wayfinding aspects add a lot of pleasure.

I’d of course waited to about 1:30 in the afternoon to start this ride, part of the reason why I hadn’t done the official one (7am start time). It was a great temperature this afternoon, in the mid 60s, with threatening clouds but the promise of sun behind them. The first hill (that I was doing) was Juanita Hill and it is one I’ve done pretty often.  Kirkland’s location between Bothell and Bellevue with Lake Washington on the western side means that to go west you either need to go north and cross via Juanita Hill or South and cross at the I-90 Bridge (or go all the way around via the Lake Washington Loop).  So this was a pretty familiar hill and while it goes on for a couple of miles, it is pretty stair-stepy with no real significant grades.  Before completing the full series of climbs the route takes a sharp left and a really nice wooded descent down to the waterfront.
Juanita Hill
Hill No. 2: Juanita Hill

At the base of the hill is O.O. Denny park which I stopped at for lunch. I had brought a sandwich and a cookie acquired from a convenient Starbucks and I spent a bit of time at the park eating and walking around.  It was pretty empty this day, but with theO.O. Denny Park big threatening clouds that wasn’t too surprising. There were a couple of families there but apart from a little girl playing in the water near where I was eating I didn’t really encounter many people.  After giving the park a nice check-out (I hadn’t stopped here before)  I climbing back on my bicycle and set off for the next hill. The route wends along the shoreline for a mile or so, offering tantalizing glimpses of the water in-between the luxury houses that line the shore. Its nice riding for the most part, as only residents and (the clearly few) visitors to the park using the road.  As the shoulder is pretty minimal at this point the lack of traffic is nice.  Eventually the road turns north and there is a little bit of an ascent.  This levels off for a few hundred feet and then the climb back up begins in earnest.

Seminary Hill
Hill No 3 – Seminary Hill

This is the Hill on the route that I’ve ridden the least.  Before my aborted attempt at this ride a month back I’d never actually taken this route.  Well this is a pretty good hill, last for over a mile and with several sections of pretty descent grades – of course one of these is right at the end.  Its not a killer hill though, totally manageable with just steady grinding. I was glad for the cloud cover as I worked my way to the top which ends with a traffic signal. As I brought it to a stop a roadie came up behind me and as I waited for the light, he checked the traffic and then blew through the light. It changed just as he was finishing the turn so I set off right behind him.  After taking two climbs on pretty much one hill the route now rewards you with a nice long descent. The route goes back down the backside of Big Finn Hill in about a two mile descent.  It bottoms out in Kenmore at the end of Lake Washington where it meets the Sammamish river.  The route turns northeast taking back roads through an industrial till it meets up with the Burke-Gillman Trail.  The route takes the trail for a mile or two turning off the trail at a trestle that crosses the Sammamish River.

Norway Hill
Hill No 4- Norway Hill, lower section

The route then takes these nicely wooded back roads that are mostly flat but with a couple tiny bumps till at last it runs south onto the longest climb of the ride – Norway Hill. This hill is in two parts with a very short flat segment (and a stop sign) in between the two segments.  I’ve ridden both segments before, but mainly the lower section as yTop of Norway Hillou can continue up from there into Kirkland. The lower section gently rises then takes a series of right angle turns, climbing all the while. There are a couple of steep segments here but nothing off the hook.  It is a deeply shaded route through a gap up the valley wall.  The steepest part is right at the final switchback and then it is a gently rising straight segment to the stop sign.  A sharp right and you begin climbing again immediately up the second segment.  This part also twists its way up, up, up with the steepest sections of the whole climb at one point.  It comes to the end with some nice scenic views over the Sammamish valley and out towards Seattle. The descent from Norway Hill is akin to the climb in that it is completely shaded, steep and with several sharp curves. It t-bones into a fairly busy road at the bottom sapping an otherwise screaming descent.  A circuitous roue through suburbia with a mixture of flat easy riding
and some straightforward ups and downs follows this big hill. On a fairly major arterial the road dips down, under I-405 and then begins the climb up Kingsgate Hill.

Kingsgate Hill
Hill No 5 – Kingsgate Hill

This hill is a ruler straight, steady climb with the steepest section right at the beginning and end. Right after you dip down below the interstate there is a fairly steep, short bit to a traffic signal which luckily I made.  Then its pretty steady, fairly gentle climbing for a pace, flatting out almost completely for a short segment then a longer, steeper section to another traffic signal.  After this signal there is a final not too hard of a grade to yet another signal. A left at this signal takes you past a church where, if you were on the real ride, there would be a mid ride refreshments.  I took a swig of water and rode on.  The route follows the top of the valley wall through several neighborhoods and with two major descents back down into the valley.  The second of these is a long, gently curving, well paved road that I hit the max speed of this ride at over 36mph.  The base of this hill is actually only about a mile up from the turn off to Norway Hill  – this route is super compact riding up and down the Sammamish valley wall over and over again.  At a convenience store on this road I bought bottled water and a Key Lime Almond Joy. I love key lime pie and was tempted by this candy bar. It was horrific, not recommended.

Winery Hill
Hill No 6 – Winery Hill

The road is now the Woodinville-Redmond road, a nice flat route through light industrial and the Woodinville Wine region.  At the point where the road curves north, this route turns south and up Winery Hill.  This is by far the toughest hill of the whole route, fairly long but easily the steepest.  It begins with a short, very steep section on beat up asphalt with a railway crossing at the top. The hill then regains its grade curving up and up with a long run-out at the end. But if you take a hard right directly after the railroad tracks you can take a steeper, longer route up. That was the way the 7 Hills planners chose to go.  The section right Redmondafter the tracks crossing is the steepest, something like an 18% grade. There are several hard turns and the roads are really the private roads of a housing development. Eventually you reach the top of the valley walls and there is the climb out in the picture above. On the real ride there is a piper at the top of this section playing you to the top of this tough climb.  The route then parallels the portion of the ride from the top of Kingsgate Hill, past the food stop at the church and then a back hill descent back into the valley.  A nice couple of mile long flat section on Willows Road then follows.  This ends with a bit of a climb to an intersection with Redmond Way. You turn onto this road then a quick right, followed by another right and you are on the start of the Rose Hill climb.

The last section of Rose Hill
Hill No 7 – Rose Hill

The final hill of the official route is Rose Hill, the longest of all the hills. This one goes on for over two miles with three stop lights breaking up the climb.  The first section is the steepest, climbing quickly up from the valley with an S curve at the steepest section.  I ride this hill all the time as it is one of the most direct routes from where I live in Kirkland to points east. So I know every jot and jiggle of this hill and pace myself accordingly.  It was now early evening and the big bad clouds had mostly rolled away without dropping any rain.  I was feeling about ready to pack it in for dinner but I knew I had to ride the one hill I’d sort of bypassed before I’d settled on doing this route.  But I had to get back to the start first and I stuck with the route to see how it’d get there. It turned south before the absolute final gentle climb to the summit of Rose Hill (all the hard parts were done though) and took the nicely wooded roads through the Bridle Trails neighborhood of Kirkland.  These roads take you into the edge of Bellevue and from here the route took a quick jaunt to Lake Washington Blvd and back into Kirkland. Following this waterfront road, the route takes you through downtown Kirkland finally turning into Waverly Park.

Waverly Park
Waverly Park – the Start/Finish line

It was now mostly sunny and the park was filled with people taking in the sun, having a picnic dinner and enjoying the waterfront.  The official ride begins and ends at this park and would be packed with cyclists, food, merchandise and well wishers.  That being a month ago it was just filled with people out enjoying this summer day.  I didn’t linger long but headed out to the beginning of the official ride but the final hill of my version: Market Hill.  Market street is just off the main street of Kirkland and is a long straight not too tough a hill. It goes on for a while and there is often a decent amount of traffic but over all not too hard.  Its a good enough way to start and/or end a hill oriented route. Just past the summit was where I’d joined the route so I took at right at that point and took my circuitous route home.

Market Hill
Hill No 1 – Market Hill

I arrived home at 6:30pm having done just over 44 miles (71km) total.  Overall I have to say this is a great ride and one I didn’t find that tough. Perhaps it’s because I ride in this area all the time, doing some of these hills in my daily commute.  I’ll have to actually do the official ride some year, perhaps doing one of the longer options.

Click here to see my all the pictures from this ride on Flickr.
The official 7 Hills of Kirkland homepage
Bikely map of the 7 Hills route.

My own Spring Populaire

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Atlantis at Sandy's
My Atlantis at Sandy’s Espresso

I’ve been itching for a longer ride and I vowed to take one this Saturday. The week had been pretty mixed weather wise, with partially clear skies one moment and wind and rain the next. In other words it was spring. The reports were looking good for Saturday and when I awoke early (for me anyway) the day was sunny with some haze. I took my time in the morning enjoying breakfast and catching up on some internet that needed reading. Around 10am I was ready to get on with it, but as I was enjoying ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me‘ I decided to do a bit of work on the bicycle before I set out.

I’d replaced my usual Panaracer Pasela’s with a Vittera Randoneaur on my rear wheel as it needed replacing and that was the widest tire I could find at a local store.  I can safely say that having used that tire in 26″ form on my Safari and now after a few hundred miles on my Atlantis that I just don’t care for the tire much. Perhaps it’s just that it’s narrower then I’m used to, or that it’s higher pressure but it just rode rougher and felt squirrelly. I’d gotten a replacement Pasela from Rivendell last week and I decided to put that on before I left.  While the wheel was off I noted how wore down my brake pads were so I decided to replace them as well. I’ve never been very satisfied with my pad replacements in the past – they never felt responsive enough. I vowed this time I’d fiddle with them till I had it down. It really is the last basic procedure I don’t have wired.  So with a bunch of adjusted and short little rides I’m happy to say I got them pretty well adjusted. Perhaps a bit aggressive on the front and a bit loose on the rear but overall a lot better then the old worn pads were feeling.

So now its about eleven, a bit warmer and I’m finally ready to head out.  I had done some research during the week on what route to take which I had several criteria. I wanted to ride someplace new or that I hadn’t been on for a while and I wanted to do at least 50 miles but knew I wasn’t ready for anything more then say 65-75. These two constraints of course were at odds – I’ve ridden extensively in a 50 mile radius and these days for new rides I usually end up with more epic rides.  One place I’ve turned to a lot for ride ideas is the archive of the Seattle International Randonneurs.  While randonneuring is a bit out of my current level of fitness and ability (their rides start at 200km which is the furtherest I’ve ridden to date) I share a lot of their style. I like to do unsupported rides, on the roads and am prepared for pretty much any weather and day and night riding. A lot of the SIR rides start not too far from me and weave through the valleys and mountain passes.  Their routes try to avoid majorly trafficked areas but don’t shy away from roads or ghettoize the cyclist onto trails or roads with bicycle lanes. So I often take bits and pieces of their rides and connect them up with my own routes.  For todays ride I choose to ride one of their “populaires” which are an easy 100km ride that they use to sucker people into randonneauring.

I did amend the route a tiny bit to as I’m about 8 miles from the start/finish point but was able to intersect with the route about 9 miles into it’s route. As I so often have to do I had to climb up the Sammamish valley wall, ride along this for a bit and then descend into Redmond.  I immediately felt a bit warm in my cardigan and unbuttoned a few of it’s buttons. For the first hour or so of this ride this would be a pattern; unbuttoning on the climbs button back down again as I descended or entered shade. It felt really nice out though, perfect cycling weather with sun, some high thin clouds and temps in the upper forties at this point.  I rode into Redmond and took East Lake Sammamish Parkway into Marymoor Park. At the west side of the park I was on todays route.  I was a bit unhappy with the level of squishiness in my rear brakes so I stopped and did a bit of roadside adjustment. I got them a bit better and set off.  I was now on West Lake Sammamish Parkway and my “populaire” had begun.

All things considered this was pretty early for me to be out ride, I often don’t start till after lunch. This, combined with it being such a nice day brought out the cyclists in droves.  Off the well documented club rides I rarely see other riders. I was pretty surprised then to see riders all along my route today. Primarily going the other direction but not always. The first part of this ride was the same as the Cascade Cycling Clubs Flying Wheels century ride (though mostly in reverse) and that I think explains a lot of the riders I saw – they were using a well known route. I’ve ridden a good chunk of that route myself but this one varied enough that there was a lot of new routes if not regions.  The first big hill of the ride was up Inglewood hill to the Sammamish Plateau.  A stiff climb but not one that goes on so long as to be come a grind.  Once I got to the top of the hill I was greeted with a stiff headwind. Where the Flying Wheels route goes straight, my route took a right onto a fairly busy shoulderless arterial. This was probably the least fun section of the route and I had some serious “close passers”, one guy in a van giving me less then a foot clearance. Annoying on a tow lane road which was not anywhere busy enough to warrant such behavior. Needless to say I was happy when the route turned off this road and onto more bicycle friendly streets. This point would have been the first control if this was really a rando event.

I was back on the Flying Wheels route that I’d done before, though I was riding the end of it reverse. It was kind of fun to do this route I’d done before going the other direction. Always worth doing a good ride both directions, lets you get the best feel for an area.  It was on this part that I saw a bunch of be-jerseyed riders whom I definitely suspect were following the Cascade route. The route was mostly through wooded suburbia at this point, past schools and single family houses. After a couple of miles it took a turn NE onto a winding descent from the plateau. This road had been a pretty good climb coming the other direction and it was good fun to bomb down it the other way. It had its own bit of a climb in the middle, but it was definitely more descending in this direction. Almost at the bottom the route took a right into the woods a nice stretch of pure country riding that I hadn’t done before. This was a great stretch, no traffic just a narrow road winding through the woods.  I was pushing against a headwind that got quite severe at points at this time but the road wound around enough that it wasn’t too bad. Eventually I came out of the woods, rode through some suburbia and then turned into the small town of Fall City.

Fall City
Fall City

For some reason I thought the route took a turn east at this point and climbed up to Snoqualmie Falls. Looking at my cue sheet in Fall City I found that it actually took a turn NW to Carnation. Well there was a stiff wind roaring down from the direction of the Falls so i wouldn’t miss that. On the other hand I’d planned on hitting up the Snoqualmie Brewery for lunch. Oh well, I decided to stick to the route and see what Carnation had to offer.  The route took a  road that followed the Snoqualmie river through farmland. This road was apparently closed at the end and thus there was no traffic to be seen. I did see a group of cyclists all kitted out in the same gear and horses and cows on the farms. Much prefer these sights!  Eventually the road ended and I had to weave through a barrier. Then I was on the heavily trafficked Carnation/Fall City road. This had a good shoulder though so overall it was fine.  I was passed by a group of four cyclists not too long after I turned onto this road, but they then pulled off just ahead of me as one of their members had some sort of adjustment to make. I pressed on and after a few more miles entered the small city of Carnation.

Pretty much just a small little dairy town Carnation has tried to pretty itself up as a bit of a tourist burg. But it doesn’t seem toSandy's Espresso have much by way of eateries.  So I ended up at the next control spot, Sandy’s Cafe. An espresso stand much beloved by the local randonneuring community, it is a place I’ve often stopped at myself.  I stripped off my cycling gear and at this point removed my leg warmers and cardigan. For the first time this year I was going to ride in shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt.  Inside as I waited for a chance to order there was a bit of a to do at the drive through windows. A guy waiting on his drink, shouted to the guy behind him that he should shut off his engine as it was loud and stank. That guy then jumped out of his car ran to the first guys car window an proceeded to spew an incredible range of expletives and threats at him. Apparently the guy in the car said something along the lines of  “You must be from Carnation” to which he was informed that yes he was and proud of it. With a lot more expletives of course. He was then advised to get out of his town.  Anyway his drinks came up and he took them and drove off. The townie then pulled up and was all sweetness and light apologizing for “scaring the customers” but made it clear that he had no choice. Ah humans.

Anyway I got my double tall cappuccino, a bottle of water and some sort of berry scone.  Leaving SandysAlas my cappuccino wasn’t very good, I like them dry and this was pretty much a latte. I think though the barista was stressed about the incident and she was trying to squeeze me in before the obnoxious townie.  I give her a pass. I rested for a bit, ate my scone (which was pretty decadent) and also some gorp. Feeling energized I set out in warm weather my bare white legs free for the first time in a long time.  The next 15 miles or so were up the flat Snoqualmie valley and was just prime country riding. The sun was warm but never hot, the wind was at my back and the road was mostly flat with gentle hills now and again. The route took a few side roads through farmland, derelict houses and one unpleasantly aromatic feedlot-esque place. Mostly the route was on W. Snoqualmie Valley Road which I’ve ridden a number of times in the past, though always the other direction. This time though at the road that I’ve often first joined this route I continued on W. Snoqualmie valley road and some genuinely new territory.


Snoqualmie River and the Cascade mountains

Out on these country roads you typically just see three types: the country folk usually in trucks, other cyclists, though not so often and motorcyclists. It seems that only motorcyclists enjoy going on drives in the country and honestly I’d say that’s for the best. Automobiles just have too much of an impact for too many people to be just driving recreationally.  On this stretch of road I saw a couple other cyclists going the other direction which was nice to see. A lot more friendly waving out in the country then you see closer to the city where the humorless roadies are out “training”.  Many motorcycles usually in little gangs out there winding them up on these narrow country roads.  I knew that eventually I’d have to climb out of the valley and it’d been a long stretch of easy going roads. Beautiful sights of snow tinged Cascade mountains, green farmland and the muddy Snoqualmaie river had been my companions for over an hour. But now the road began to wind up the valley wall and into the woods. The sights were that much more scenic when there were openings and I crossed several bridges over little streams that had carved deep cuts into the valley wall.

At last this road ended and I took a turn up the valley on Welch Road. This would have been another coWelch Roadntrol on the populaire but being just a wide spot in the road there was nothing there. Nothing but an epic hill that is. This hill went on for nearly two miles and had some decently steep sections on it. This was the only hill of the day that hit that grind point where it really wasn’t too much fun.  At this point I’d ridden about 45 miles and was definitely not as spry as earlier in the day. I also was feeling not having had lunch. Though I was keeping the calories going with nuts, candy bars and the like I tend to need a bit of real food over the course of a long ride.  Eventually Welch Road flattened out and I came onto Lost Lake. A tiny little lake out in the countryside it of course was completely surrounded by houses.  The road was now pleasantly flat with a bit of rolling hills and it worked it’s way past Lost Lake and then Echo Lake. After a short time on Echo Lake road was a fun little segment on first a gravel road and then a dirt path through the woods. Well more of a muddy path through the woods that had me dodging huge mud puddles throughout its short length. I always love little connectors and paths though the woods so this little route had me grinning.

The dirt path ended in a cul-de-sac for some big housing community. I wound through that and Dirt Pathended up on the Woodinville-Duvall road. This is a pretty heavily trafficked road that I’ve done many times – it is the route I’ve often taken to West Snoqualmie Valley road. Luckily today’s route was only on it for a couple of miles and then turn off into less trafficked roads. There are a number of roads that cut behind the Samamimish valley wall and the route took a nice selection of these to avoid busier roads and much climbing. This was familiar territory for me as we were just over the valley from Woodinville where I lived for years, so I’ve ridden these roads a lot. Eventually I came to the point where the route decided to cross the valley wall and I was off for one last climb. This hill wasn’t too bad though I was definitely feeling it at about 60 miles now. It also was getting cold enough that I was about ready to don my leg warmers and cardigan again, but as the route ended just a couple of miles ahead I figured I’d just wait till then.  After climbing up the valley there was a bit of a plateau and then a fast descent into the Sammamish valley. A short couple of miles on the Woodinville/Redmond Road and I was at the Redhook Brewery, the official beginning and end of the ride. Hooray!

Now obviously this wasn’t the beginning or end of my ride but I was hungry, tired and cold now so I figured I’d stop for dinner,Redhook put on my warmer clothes and then complete my ride.  Forecasters (the Redhook brewpub) was packed but I got a little table in the bar and soon enough was enjoying a Blackhook Porter. I rarely come to Forecasters as I think Redhook is kind of a mediocre beer, but Blackhook, especially on the Nitro is definitely drinkable. I ordered some snow crab ravioli in a Gorgonzola sauce and pretty much inhaled it. So without having spent too much time there I put on my warmer clothes and headed back out. Only about 6pm and still plenty of sun left in the day. I was out of water so I figured I’d ride up to a local Creamery and get and ice cream cone and refill my bottles there. This creamery was on the first part of the official route so I was able to stick with my route for now.

At Theno’s Dairy I got a bottle of water and a coffee ice cream cone. I just got the stTheno's Dairyandard cone but man was it a huge scoop of ice cream on there. I don’t eat ice cream too often, but of late when I do I’ve been rather obsessed with coffee ice cream. Very few are really good as they often use inferior coffee. Well I’m happy to report that Theno’s Dairy, who I knew made good Ice Cream from previous visits, makes a great coffee ice cream. I sat outside and savored my cone as the sun began to sink over the valley wall. One last climb up that valley and I was on my normal commute route. I was able to mindlessly take that route, choosing the shortest option as I was definitely done for the day. Soon enough I was back home done with ride as the sun was sinking over Lake Washington. A beautiful day and a beautiful country ride with a nice mix of hills, flats and always great scenery.

headin home
Headin’ home.

All told I rode 72 miles with about 6 hours in the saddle. According to the SIR info on this route there was 3250 feet of climbing. You can download the cure sheet for this route on the SIR page for the populaire this route was prepared for. My entire collection of photos from this ride can be found here.

Mixed Terrain Ride

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Entering Watershed Park

I had nothing going on this Sunday and was itching to get out on my bicycle. It was almost perfectly clear weather with little wind and with a week of clouds and rain forecast I wanted a bit of this winter sun. As usual I dawdled around my house until the early afternoon and didn’t set out till around 1pm. This was okay on this particular day as I figured a nice four hour ride would suffice – this would be my first longer ride in three weeks, it was pretty cold and I was still riding the Safari which I find uncomfortable for too long of rides. So I set off with thoughts of doing that classic loop around Lake Sammamish. A favorite early season ride of mine I figured it’d be and ideal ride this morning. About 30-40 miles, depending on options, it would perfectly fit the constraints of time and distance I was under.


My Safari in the park

First though I wanted to cut through this park that I had first ridden through in late November (I lost the pictures of that ride in a computer problem I had in early December last year). This park has a nice network of trails that were within my abilities to handle and actually were easily ridden with the Atlantis so I thought it’d be fun to return on the more trail oriented Safari.  There’s been plenty of rain so I wasn’t sure of the trail conditions but they turned out to be totally fine. Only in the inital climb up to the ridge did I have to push the bicycle due to lack of traction. Possibly with more off-road oriented tires even that would have been okay. At the top of the ridge is this large concrete bowl that must have formerly had a huge cistern or some such but now was abandoned. I was assuming that I’d be able to find a trail out of this park that would put me on a route toward the lake so I took the paths here in the direction I needed to go. This put me on a couple of sections of the park trails that I hadn’t ridden before including a fun descent into a little valley. From there I found a path in the direction I needed to go and headed on. This trail was right along I-405 and was pretty sketchy, I rode when I could and walked a few sections. It was real narrow, overgrown and rough. Fun though.  It came out behind an apartment complex pretty much where I’d figured it would and I made my way to the 520 trail.


Mount Rainier as seen from the park

This trail runs along interstate 520 from Redmond to where the 405 and 520 intersect. Its got some good ups and downs for a cycling trail which keeps it a bit interesting. Riding right next to the freeway a little less so, but it does give one a greater appreciation for the less trafficked portion of the ride. This trail ends right at Lake Sammamish Parkway, the road that runs all the way around the lake. I’ve written up this route at length in this post, so I won’t go too much into it. But it was a fantastic day for riding; very comfortable in the sun, a bit chilly in the shade with fantastic views all along. I saw a lot of other cyclists which is nice, often this early in the year even on nice days like this I only see a few other riders.


West Lake Sammamish Parkway

My timing had been right on and for the first time in a long while I rode the east side of the loop in the daylight. I often am chasing daylight at this point as I tend to ride home from Redmond and thus it’s toward the end of my ride. I was feeling really good on this part of the ride better then I had on the other side of the lake. Perhaps it was because I was more in the sun here, the other side being more shaded. Possibly a slight headwind had just made it a little tougher. Either way I kept up a steady pace and ended up at Marymoor park where this route ends at around 4pm. From here its about 6-7 miles home though its about 3 miles of climbing. That was a bit tougher at this point – it was well in the shade and the sun was finally about done for the day. Still its a familiar route so I just slogged along and soon enough I was home. It was twilight at this point but still light. A perfect amount of riding for the amount of time I had and the level of fitness I was in. All told it was 36 miles, not too far really, but just right on this day. For more pictures of this ride checkout my First Ride 08 photoset on Flickr.


Sunset over Kirkland and Lake Washington.

First Ride 2008

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008
Safari in the park
My Safari on the way to work.

Finally after far too long (almost three weeks) I’m back on the bicycle today. As you can see from the above photo, I rode in on my back-up bicycle. As initially planned I was kitted out in rain gear, had loaded up the Atlantis and headed out Tuesday morning. I actually was about 20 minutes earlier then normal and thought I’d do a couple of extra miles. I did a quick swing around the cul-de-sac in my block and my right pedal felt wonky. I headed back home and saw that it wasn’t threaded straight. I grabbed my pedal wrench and as I unscrewed it found it wobbly. This was a bad sign and it turns out my fears were justified – the threads were stripped. I think I did this when I put on that intermediate set of bad pedals -they had been very difficult to get on. Anyway this was lame, yet another problem and now it was too late to get the backup bicycle ready to go. So the car again.

One of my complaints w/r/t the backup bicycle is that it is insufficiently lit for my current commute. Also I had pulled my little Cateye light from it to use as a standlight on the Atlantis. I was tired of switching this light and as I said it is a tiny light and not good enough for seeing at night (okay for visibility). I decided that as a backup bicycle the Safari was useless without a light good enough to at least do my current commute on. So I went to REI after work and bought the brightest Cateye without an external battery pack they had. This is far brighter then my current one, so I expect it will suffice – I’ll know for sure tonight. So while I await for parts to fix the Atlantis I should be set.

Riding in today I experienced that familiar sensation of joy to be back on the bicycle clashing with the physical sensations of not having ridden for three weeks. Add to that some lingering congestion from this long running cold that had kept me off the bicycle for so long and I was definitely feeling it. Still it was so good to be back riding and I felt like this exercise was the final step of recovery. So it was just my usual commute, but I’m back baby!

Plateaus and Valleys

Thursday, November 15th, 2007
My Atlantis heading downards

I’ve been working a lot of late and that has cut into my rec riding. So when after a week of long hours it was determined that we didn’t need to work over the weekend I took full advantage of this. I still wanted to sleep in and laze about a bit so as I usual I got off to a fairly late start. This is more of a constraint as we ride into the waning of the year, with the light more limited and the temperatures dropping more severely. But I have my bright lights and my layers of clothing so I figured I’d live with some inevitable after hours riding. I also wanted to do a different route instead of an old favorite, or a free form wander – I had dreams of new roads and different sights. So I found the cue sheet from Cascade Cycling Clubs annual Flying Wheels Century ride online and decided this would be my route. This was a good choice as it’s start point was only six miles from me and it had 50, 70 and 100 mile options – so I could make the ride as long as I felt up to.

The little trail behind the Redmond Town CenterI set off from home around a bit after noon and heading up the Sammamish Valley wall that lies between me and Redmond (the self-proclaimed “Cycling Capital of the Northwest”). I have to ride over this every day on my commute so a familiar hill to me, though I took one my more infrequent routes. It was immediately clear what a fantastic day this was for early November – mostly clear, with some painterly fluffy clouds, cool and crisp but warmer in the sun. In fact in my wool shirt, cardigan, leg warmers and socks I was a bit warm when I was climbing. As I had left around my usual lunch time I pulled into Larry’s Market in Redmond for a panini and stocked up on the usual cycling supplies – water, granola bars and the like. I ducked onto the little trail behind Larry’s and took a shortcut to Lake Sammamish Parkway. Not too much later I passed Marymoor Park and I was on the Flying Wheels route for an afternoon of hills and valleys.

The route began at Marymoor Park and then quickly turned onto East Lake Sammamish Parkway. From where I was at Larry’s I rode a bit on the trail that runs behind the Redmond Town Center directly to Lake Sammamish Parkway, skipping the park. Lake Sammamish Parkway is a familiar route that I’ve ridden many many times, sometimes for the loop around the lake, sometimes as a connector to other rides. Today’s ride only had about 4-5 miles on it before turning east up the first longer climb on the route: Inglewood Hill. This half mile long climb, with grades up to 12%, wends up from the lakeside bringing you up to the Sammamish Plateau. From the top the route gently makes it’s way through suburbia into the stripmall city of the Sammamish Highlands. Outside of this things climb again for a decent interval. As I reached the top of this an old man doing some yardwork informed me that “…the hard part is done – it’s all downhill from here”, to which I breathlessly replied “excellent”! Indeed it was downhill, a descent grade at first and then some flats and gentle grades. I followed the signage to Union Hill road grateful that for once that meant I was going down one of these hills. At last Snoqualmie valley opened up in front me and I exited the woods for this wide valley and its farmland.

A bigger concern then you'd thinkFrom the valley floor was the option for the three loops. With the sun behind the valley walls and it already feeling a lot cooler I knew I really didn’t have the luxury for the longer routes. So choosing the easy fifty mile loop I rode up the valley past the Nestle Training center (what exactly is it they are training for?) and at the red barn turned toward Carnation. Riding into Carnation I decided to stop for a bit of a break at Sandy’s espresso – a popular destination amongst long distance riders. I enjoyed a really well made double cappuccino (dry as god intended) and a home made cookie. Remembering the banana in my hobo bag was also a welcome occurrence. I didn’t spend too much time there, daylight was not long for this part of the world, so I saddled up and rode out. The route heads through town and then crossing the Tolt river and immediately you hang a right onto Tolt river road.

I’ve ridden this road before and there is a long, steady climb after you ride over small one lane bridge. But the Flying Wheels route had me take an immediate left after the bridge onto what turned out to be my favorite section of the ride. A mostly flat meander through farmland, past a golf course and just generally fantastic country riding. A narrow road, pretty much one of those you’d have to pull over to pass if you were in a car, I saw only a couple of cars the entire time I was there. A protected wetland was on one side if it initially with gnarled trees, swamp grass and lots of birds. The sky was streaked with fragmented clouds which had a golden hue to them from the “magic hour” sunlight. The wetland opened up as I passed the golf course (the only thing marring this road) and then there was wide feilds and the cascades in the background. Really an enjoyable ride that bypassed the Tolt hill. However after this nice country road intersected with the Redmond-Fall City Road the cue sheet informed me I was beginning a three mile climb.

A beautiful evening on a beautiful road

A bit intimated by the length of that climb I pulled over and unbutton my cardigan and rolled up the sleeves – I knew this would be a hot effort. I ate a granola bar and then set up. The road when up and curved around and then flattened out. Spray painted on the road just before this was the note that this was the half-way point, which gelled with the cue sheet.  The road stretched ahead for a bit and then bent steeply upwards into the trees. This was a decent bit of climbing, steep for a bit and then it curved and became a bit more gentle. The climb was like this for about a mile and half – up and then flattening out with a few hairpin curves. After this mile and a half though there was a fairly long descent, also with some curves. Well I thought to myself this isn’t a three mile climb, I’m sure it’ll climb again at the end but a half mile descent in the middle really just means I was climb something like 2.25 miles out of three. Or really a 1.5 mile climb and then later a .6 mile climb. So really it turned out to not be that bad.  Once I did the final section of climbing I was back on top of the Sammamish plateau. I rode on the ridge for a bit and as I passed a school that was an official food stop on Flying Wheels my cue sheet ran out. It had wanted legal sized paper and I only had letter and for some reason acrobat just stopped printing instead of printing on another sheet. But I’d been able to follow the Dan Henry’s for most of this ride so I figured I’d take that last turn and keep my eyes peeled.

Wending up to the Sammamimsh PlateauI was out of water, so as this part of the route was in a strip mall bit of the City of Sammamish I pulled over at a Shell station and bought a large bottle. I refilled my bottles from this an ate some walnuts and cranberries. The sun was pretty much set now and it was twilight now with the clouds painted by the setting sun. I turned on all my blinkies and my dynohub and set off down the hill. This hill descended for over a mile and then hit East Lake Sammamish Parkway about five miles south of where I had turned off it before. It was nearly dark now, very deep twilight, with a few high clouds still beautifully lit up. However this road was a big shoulder, I had great lighting so I didn’t really have a problem with the lack of light. It was getting cold but nothing like vigorous exercise to warm you up. So I put it into gear and headed home. During this part of ride I was passed by two single riders and a pair of riders. The first two had absolutely no lighting and only the first audibly signaled. It was still a bit light when he did and he was hauling ass so I suppose he didn’t ride too much in the dark. The second rider though, passed me in the pitch darkness, didn’t signal so I wasn’t able to move over for him and he just swung into the road. Crazy. When I was less then a mile to Marymoor park I was passed by the two riders and they gave me a jaunty greeting as they passed and then continued with their conversation. They had full lights on the front, one looked like it was generator based, and plenty of blinkies, rear lights and reflective clothing. Much more like it, I suspect these practical riders were randonneurs used to riding in the darkness.

Sunset on the ParkwayNot long after they passed me I was at the turnoff to Marymoor Park, which I took and I was done with the official ride. The Flying Wheels “50 mile” route turned out to be about 43 miles but the extra 12 miles I had to ride to get to and from the start point would push it to a 55 mile ride for me. I stopped briefly in the park to use the facilities and pull on my rain jacket (I was cold now) and then set out to repeat the route I had taken in. The climb up the Sammamish valley wall immediately warmed me up and I was too hot in the jacket. I was definitely worn out, its a fascinating thing that 50 miles in the cold is as tough as 100 miles in the summer. Also I guess the long tiring hours I’ve been doing at work probably added to this. Anyway I finally crested the long two mile climb up the valley and then descended to my house. Now I was glad for the jacket! After 55 miles I arrived home at 6pm and after a shower when out for some hot and sour soup and a green curry. A great late fall ride.

Total miles: 55.1 in about 5 hours ride time
See my gallery of pictures (and check out the slick new slideshow!)
Check out a map of this route at Bikely - you can see the three cutoff loops for the different distances.
Download pdfs of Cascades official map and cue sheet.

An epic journey through Snoqualmie Pass – part 2

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

If you haven’t read Part One of this trip report. that link will take you there. Or scroll down! Anyway one with the story, which finds me at Rattlesnake Lake State Park 20 miles from the Snoqualmie Tunnel but resolved to go on.

I lingered just long enough to drink some Gatorade, eat a granola bar and grab a map. The map indicated 20 miles to the Tunnel, then of course the 2 miles through it. So 44 miles round trip from here and it was already after four in the afternoon. I knew I was pushing it and that if I did this I’d be riding back in the dark, If I made good time I could be back here before 8 pm, which would be pretty deep twilight, especially with the heavy cloud cover. I nearly abandoned at this point, but this was as far as I had made it earlier this summer and I had to complete this trip. Riding through the Snoqualamie tunnel is one of those things that every PNW cyclist needs to do once, like the STP and riding the San Juan Islands. I also knew the odds were low that I’d make it back here this summer, so I pressed on. As I was heading out a group of cyclists came down the Iron Horse trail on their way to the Snoqualmie trail. This is interesting as the other times I’ve been here I saw few or no other cyclists. On the first half of this trail I would see a many of them, all returning to Rattlesnake Lake. At one point I passed a group of around eight off road unicyclists! I have to admit that made me grin and feel a lot better about the effort I was expending.

One of the many trestles on the IHT

I really was expending a huge amount of effort at this point. The trails
packed dirt and gravel was murder on my hands, I was tired and I wasn’t
really packing enough water at this point. There is no potable water on
this trail and while it crosses several streams I had no purification
on hand. I had a bottle and a quarter of water and I’d say that’s about
half of what I’d typically go through on a forty-four mile route. So I
was conserving water even as I was eating trail dust. There was tiny
cracks of sun filtering through the heavy clouds but as I climbed it
became increasingly foggy and cloudy. I was chasing daylight this whole
time, but I was struggling to get my speeds over 10mph. The rough
surface just dragged me down and while its 3-5 % grades are almost not
noticeable you are climbing for 20 miles. I began looking at my
odometer constantly, marking off each mile as I slowly rattled myself
into complete weariness. At about 10 miles to go it began to mist, then
rain. I stopped in the trees and pulled on my rain jacket (good thing
I’d packed that, though alas not the pants) and resolved to plod on. At
this point I was pushing it, I was cold and wet and I knew the tunnel
would be even colder. Then there was going to be a fifty plus mile ride
back after I had finished this. But I had to do it, I had to finish
this ride.

The rain came and went and finally I man’d my way the last few miles and made it to the tunnel entrance. It was raining good and hard now as can be seen by that picture. I had been slow coming up and was really pushing the clock so I hurried on. I turned on my E6 and headed into the tunnel which rapidly became absolute darkness. Not to far in I thought I saw a light ahead but it shortly disappeared so I had it pegged as a reflection. Riding in such darkness is pretty strange, it is hard to keep a straight line with no other reference points but your patch of light ahead. My Schmidt Dyno-hub/E6 performed really well in this situation and I was glad I had such a light. The tunnel was bone chillingly cold and with my wet clothes this was an issue. I rode as fast as I could trying to warm up but I was chilled through. Occasionally drops of ice cold water would fall on me shocking me with the intense cold. Less then half way I estimate I passed two people on foot with their dog that were the source of the light I had seen earlier. They had turned it off as they saw me as I provided enough light for them to see by. I kept riding with a mumbled greeting and soon the darkness swallowed them up. The tunnel just went on and on, cold, wet and luckily flat and decently surfaced (though still gravel). Eventually I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and came to the end. This was fairly abrupt as I think there must be a bit of a bend in this direction. I parked my bicycle at the end and stayed just long enough to take pictures and venture a bit out the other end. It was 7pm and I knew I wouldn’t even make it back to Rattlesnake Lake before nightfall.

The IHT contines on for another 80 miles to the east

One odd thing before I leave the eastern end of the tunnel, was there was a collection of stuffed animals, a backpack and typed up poems hung from the wall at the end. I have no idea what that was all about, but I didn’t spend
much time wondering before I turned around and headed back in. The
light again faded quickly and I was alone in the dark with only the
light generated by my own activity. I pushed my pace now and buoyed by
success I made it through in good time. Long before I came to the end I
saw a faint dot which slowly expanded as I got ever near it. This was
the cliché of the Light at the End of the Tunnel, and it was pretty cool. I’d say it was about half the distance that I could see it as a speck at first
that then became the huge entrance. I passed that couple and their dog
heading back and right at the entrance two young people on bicycles
just getting ready to go in. I assume they were parked on the east as
it was serious gloaming now and I was seriously pushing it myself.

Push myself I did and I had to. It was still raining and I had 20 miles to
the end of this trail and then from there about 35 miles back home. And
I was seriously chasing daylight, up here in the mountains the sun was
gone and the thick layer of clouds and fog were not preserving the
twilight. I rode fast toward lighter skies and now the slight gradient
was in my favor. But I had to mind rocks, potholes, loose gravel and
big puddles of water. It was a stressful, manic ride but now my ride
was getting shorter with each pedal stroke. The water situation was
dire but here I think the rain help. I drank about a 1/3 of a bottle of
water on the entire ride to a store, about 25 miles. Slowly I began to
lose all light, at first when I’d be in the trees but then also in the
open areas. I could no longer read my computer and was judging distance
and time on the few landmarks I recognized. Oh yes those porta-johns
were at about 5 miles in. Eventually it ended in pitch black at a gate
above a road. I had turned onto a slightly different entrance at
Rattlesnake Lake then the one I was used to but it was just a ways up a
road from the lake. I road down and it was such a relief to be off
gravel trails. The Iron Horse trail doesn’t have any call for
suspension but that many miles is murder on ones wrists. You have to
hold the handlebars more firmly then you would on the road or they
rattle around in your hands. And that leads to wrist fatigue and
numbness. I was definitely feeling it but it felt better to be on the
road.

I was so happy to be on the road that when I saw a sign
for North Bend at the point where I’d turn on the Upper Snoqualmie
Valley Trail I decided to risk the unfamiliar road then get back onto
gravel trails. This road soon started to descend and threw in some big
curves as well. There wasn’t a lot of traffic but enough to keep me on
my toes. My lighting performed admirably this whole ride and I really
can’t recommend the Schmidt/E6 combo highly enough. But here and in a
latter fast descent is where I wish I had a secondary light. That is
definitely going on the “to-buy” short list. Anyway I rode down this
twisty decent till I came to the I-90 and crossing it found myself, as
I had hoped, at that intersection not far from where I had entered the
Snoqualmie Valley trail so many hours ago. From there it was a couple
of miles to North Bend and I stopped at a QVC for much needed water and
food. Rarely have I been so happy to come into a town.

DoubleshotI loaded up with water and in need of real food I got some bread and cheese which I proceeded to eat in the QVC’s Starbucks cafe. Needing calories I also ate some gas station donuts – Hostess raspberry filled donuts. While I have moved on from such crappy food in general, I do have a fond place in my heart for these. My dad used to only get these at the start of long road or fishing trips when we’d get up at literally the crack of dawn. I almost never eat these now but occasionally, and usually on road trips, they become necessary. And they were essential now. I really can’t recall the last time I’d had these, but they turned out to be pretty flavorless, and I did have to eat the whole box. Luckily I had a lot more miles to go :)  I was pretty short on energy at this point, I had ridden 92 miles now of which more then 50 were on gravel trails and had climb the height of Snoqualmie Pass. I recalled a post from Kent Peterson extolling the virtues of the Starbucks “Double Shot” energy drink when in need of a serious pick me up. I was in need so I downed one of those and while I like my coffee black and hot I found this amazingly satisfying. Soon afterwords I refilled my water bottles, deposited my remaining food in my pannier, made sure all my blinkers were on and visible and headed out.

It was almost 10pm when I left North Bend and I was heading back to Kirkland taking the fastest most direct route I knew. This though was all on
roads, mostly with good shoulders, but also a decent amount of traffic.
The first part was especially worrying, the descent from Snoqualmie
down to Fall City. Just past the Salish lodge at the Falls, the
Snoqualamie-Fall City road drops a lot of feel in a series of
switchbacks. The first and only time I rode this (which was on that
trip earlier this summer to Rattlesnake lake) the road had been grooved
for repaving and considering the speed and traffic was terribly
dangerous. So add in night and exhaustion and you can see why I was a
bit concerned. As I passed the Salish lodge it was pretty packed with
cars and the unmistakable sounds of techno leaking out. This also was a
bit worrying as Saturday night drunks were not something I wanted to
encounter. Nothing to do though so I pressed on. A couple of cars
passed me just as I began the descent and that was going to be the
trend – a few cars now and again with some breaks between. Luckily the
road had been resurfaced so that fear was gone. So another fast descent
down twisted roads with cars coming both directions in unpredictable
rates. Only one problem when a Saab had to actually wait for a couple
of cars on the other side to go by before they passed me, flying the
finger as they finally went by. Otherwise not a bad descent and I
managed to keep up a good pace on the flat and gentle hills of the rest
of the route to Fall City. At one point during this part of the ride I was chased by a pair of dogs. I tried Wille Weir’s technique of making yourself look big and barking back at the dogs, in order to establish yourself as alpha dog. It didn’t seem to work so I just poured it on and left them behind. I’m not a fan of dogs, no cyclist is really, but I was glad to see they didn’t get hit by any car before they gave up the chase.

The Fall City-Redmond Road is a road I often find myself on at the end of a tiring day of riding. This was the latest I’d ridden it but it is a pretty familiar road to me. It has fast traffic and a steady stream of but it has a wide shoulder for most of it (there are these short bits where barriers almost force you into the traffic) but it is a straight shot into Redmond. At night there was less traffic but always some and always it seems at the worst time. How is it that you can go miles on a road with no traffic and then the first time you say a car in ages there is another one going the other direction at just the right time so the car passing you can move over? That seems to happen far beyond statistically probably amounts. Again my lights served me well and it really was just a head down keep on pushing. The end of this road as it comes into Redmond is a frightening combination of road work and a couple of climbs followed by more road work and a fast descent in heavy traffic. The road edge comes and goes and traffic cones and barricades block your path at inopportune moments. But I survived all of this and made it into Redmond in good time. A bank mounted clock informed me that it was 11:30 which was much earlier then I had figured I’d be there. I figured there was a good chance that it was denying Daylight Savings time but I just couldn’t be sure without stopping and checking my phone. I wanted to get home so I figured I’d find out when I get there.

I was now on the final leg, Redmond to Kirkland. The downside was that I had to ride up the Sammamish Valley walls, there is no route that fully avoids that. I was at about 115 miles now, the furthest I’ve ever ridden in a single day. I made my way through town and negotiated the streets to Old Redmond Way. This begins with a steep curving climb, which then settles into a  steady climb. These road climbs, then flattens for a light and repeats
this pattern for three lights total. Over a mile of near constant
climbing and then I’m over and heading downhill all the way to my place
in Kirkland. As I pull in my Odo hits 120.6 miles and I find that it is
12:15 in the morning. 14 hours I was out riding around 11 of those
hours on the bicycle.  Not a fast pace and even below my other
centuries a factor which I think those gravel roads and that continuous
climb to the 2600 feet of the pass. My Atlantis performed amazingly in
the rain, mud, gravel, fast descents and steady climbs. A long day of
riding but satisfying.

Read Part One of this trip report and check out my Flickr gallery from this ride and my gallery of this route on my cycling site.

The Pub My Destination

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007
The Mill Creek McMenamins
The Mill Creek McMenamins

My favorite form of cycling is the ramble, where I simple head out and ride and end up where I will. I may decide on a direction, or a set of roads I want to check out but there is no real destination in mind. However I do often pick a direction figuring that I’ll hit a pub that I know is a certain miles away. Always a vague plan and sometimes I’ll skip the pub if I turn out not to be in the mood, or stop at a pub I haven’t seen before. Now this isn’t something I do for every ride and it isn’t the excuse to ride but in the hot days of summer when I know that calories are being more rapidly spent along with liquids and electolytes the Pub isn’t far from my mind. Additionally due to my late start habits I often need to have lunch or dinner en route and pub fare is often a good choice. So from time to time I’ll document the recommended pubs that I encounter on my routes.

The Mill Creek McMenamins Beer MatLast Sunday I was off on the vaguest of plans. I have a few rides I like to do every so often and I was mentally weighing which to do. They were all to the north so I spent the first 8 miles or so trying to decide. As I hit the drop dead point I knew I need to get some food (and more importantly beer) so I choose to head toward Mill Creek where I happened to know there was a McMenamins Brewpub. Now this is an odd thing in my mind as the McMenamins are a fairly classy chain of pubs that specializes in retrofitting classic buildings into brewpubs. Based out of Oregon they have a number of locations in Washington but none so odd as the Mill Creek McMenamins. A couple years back I was riding up the Bothell Everett Highway in a general exploration ride (looking for the furtherest north I could connect to the Interurban Trail) and I saw in a strip mall a sign that said McMenamins. Thinking this couldn’t be the chain of brewpubs I had to pull over and see. To my surprise it was and I happily enjoyed a Hammerhead. Mill Creek is a strip mall based exurb of Seattle and while it has that Kamazotz feel that these places usually do it has all been built up recently and there is decent cycling facilities. Bicycle lanes on many roads and several little trail segments running behind the strip malls and through wetlands. Clearly an affluent area as there are a lot of nicer restaurants, shops and grocery stores. And a McMenamins which following the local look is in a strip mall. Its location is pretty good for the cyclist as it is just past the turnoff you’d take for the easiest route to the Interurban.

McMenamins makes a pretty good beer and I especially recommend the Hammerhead Pale Ale, their Terminator Stout and when something refreshing is needed the Ruby raspberry ale. They have a lot of seasonal and specials on Nitro which can be great on a case by case basis. I had a special Nitro IPA on this trip that was worth the trip. They also have excellent bar food with several things that makes a vegetarian like myself happy. I had a smoked mozzarella and pesto sandwich with tater tots. Good eats and drinks and with the free WiFi I was able to keep myself entertained while I recovered a bit from the hot humid ride. Also of good cheer is the outdoor beer garden where you can pull your bicycle right in so you can keep it unlocked by under watch. So this is a great pub in an unlikely location that is actually pretty useful for the northern rambles.