Selected Reports

Plateaus and Valleys

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.

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