Saturday January 16th I left my place on Beacon Hill a bit after 8am and rode across Mercer Island and south on Lake Washington to Newcastle Beach Park. I was meeting an ad hoc group of SIR and CBC members engaged in the second of six Winter Training Rides. Most of these rides are a bit too far away for me to ride to, thus I’m only dipping into the series. I wasn’t able to do last weeks ride (though ironically due to ice it was shifted to noon which I could have easily made, but by then other plans had been made).
When I got up this morning it was pouring rain, but I was committed and pressed on with my morning routine. But the time I left my apt it was just a heavy mist. It was mist and very light drizzle all the way to Newcastle Beach Park. I arrived about fifteen minutes before roll out – just about right. I’d registered online, so they just had to check my name off a list. The drizzle increased a bit at this point. There was maybe sixteen riders or so a mix of rando’s and club riders predominately wearing Showers Pass jackets. We rolled out right at nine and as we climbed out of the park a couple of riders were coming down the hill. They simple swung around and joined the pack.
I rather pushed myself to get to the park before the start of the ride, so I tried to pace myself for this ride. Thus I pretty quickly fell toward the back of the pack, riding in the back quarter for most of the early part of the ride. When I’d first glanced at the route (see above) I felt that it was mostly on roads that I was familiar with. Well while I was familiar with most of the regions we were riding in, I was familiar with probably only half or two-thirds or so of the roads. So within fifty miles of Seattle there was a lot of new riding! It began on the Lake Washington Loop but at Renton it forewent the typical route through town to the Cedar River Trail and instead cut through the east side of town and up to the Renton Hills. This stiff climb separated out some of those riders for whom the WTS was their first ride of the winter. Not being in great riding shape myself at this point at least my bicycle is geared for these hills. I’d fallen behind the pack due to hitting a series of red lights in Renton – I was riding with just one other rider on a Disc Trucker – but now I was back in the back third of the pack.
Crossing the Cedar River
We entered a park and at the end of the park there was a really unclear jog on the map and I ended up going the wrong way. I figured this out after about a km and climbed back up the hill and was back on track. But I would never catch up to the main pack again. The route now descended down to the valley and I crossed 109 and onto the Cedar River Trail for just a couple of kms. Then left the trail, crossed the Cedar River and followed the excellent Jone Rd along the river for a spell. This was great country riding, not to far from the Renton-Maple Valley freeway, but with the Cedar River between you and the highway you could barely sense it. Steep, wooded valley walls to the north and the little farms and the river to the south. The route wound around the river with ups and downs and was just nice riding.
I crossed the highway again and then the route climbed the southern valley walls. This was a good stiff climb and part the way up I encountered another rider checking his cell phone. He said he though he was the back of the back and I said I’d taken a wrong turn. He asked if we were supposed to turn at the next road and I replied that it looked like we were on this road for a while. I continued up this hill for a while and it was a tough climb and I was feeling my lack of riding. At the top I had to stop and eat an apple I’d brought. The roadie continued on, but not long after I set out again I encountered him again checking his phone. He said he just was unsure where we were. So he followed me for a while occasionally pulling ahead and then double checking his phone. Finally we entered Covington and he said “Now I know where we are. I’m back on track again, thanks to you” and he took off. I stopped at the AM/PM to refill my water bottles and to eat some lunch I’d brought.
Trestle on the Cedar River
After this stop for lunch I knew I was pretty much never going to catch back up to the pack, so I pretty much switched into solo riding mode. The route skirted the rest of Covington and then climbed up to a plateau. The riding was in that kind of forested exurban neighborhoods you find around here. Fairly busy roads, a decent amount of houses, most of them with pretty big yards. Not much density. I was on a pretty busy arterial when I heard that sound you hear when a pebble shoots out from your tired. But it sounded more like a puncture. A couple of blocks further on it was clear it was a puncture. Well that’s the price of these lightweight, “supple” tires. I pulled over and made the change. I have to say their is definitely an advantage in disc brakes for the tire change. I had some trouble with this new small pump I’d brought but hadn’t really used. Eventually though everything was back and I was about ready to head off. At that point a rider stopped checking on me and he, and two others, turned out to be later joiners to the ride. They rode on and I never saw them again either.
Not much further on from the tire change the route descended into Maple Valley and was in territory I was familiar with, but on a different route. It crossed the Green To Cedar Rivers trail, a soft surface trail that connects to the Cedar River Trail that I’ve ridden on a few times and then ran on back roads to the actual junction of those two trails. It was kind of neat to be on this side road I’ve seen many times from the Cedar River Trail. Eventually though the road joined up with the Renton-Maple Valley highway and ran on it for a short time. I missed a turn that was almost immediately off the highway so I rode on it a little further and took the next exit and doubled back a bit. It began to rain at this point.
I was now on very familiar roads as this is a route I’ve done many times connected Issaquah to the Cedar River trail. It climbs up over the valley wall and then onto high farmland. You take the Issaquah-Hobart road the bulk of the way. This road is pretty busy as drivers have figured out this nice back way between Renton and Issaquah but it makes for okay riding. Hobart literally has one store and a church and is about the most quintessential small country town around. Before reaching Issaquah the route turned west on May Valley Road. This is another great riding road that alas is a bit overly trafficked. I tend to enjoy it more coming west to east (and in the summer!) which is a bit more downhill, but more because you are on the open side of the valley which is all fields and farmland. These lowlands were all quite flooded on this day and in the now pretty strong rain it wasn’t abetted.
Taking a break at Squak Mt. St. Park
As I made my way up May Valley, the rain which had been pretty heavy for the last hour or so petered out and there was even some gaps of blue and bright sun. There would be a pattern of sun, clouds and rain for the rest of the ride. I pulled over a Squak Mountain State Park for a short break and to use the facilities but from there it was pretty much a straight shot home. My left knee was hurting a bit and I wasn’t sure if it was just being out of shape, or that the still relatively new NFE was precisely adjusted or an old injury to it flaring up. Probably all three. The pain would come and go but made this last stage a bit unpleasant. There was one last new bit of riding for me and that was into the Newcastle Hills. The route seemed to inexplicably turn off the standard way back to Lake Washington and up a super steep hill right into a gated community. But once up that hill the route wended it’s way through suburbia eventually onto a narrow one way road that skirted a greenspace and then joined Lake Washington Blvd. A very clever backroad route back to the Lake WA. Loop!
I didn’t bother riding back down into Newcastle Beach Park, certain that the ride was long done. I continued on and backtracked my route there: Lake Washington Loop, I-90 Trail, cross Mercer Island, Mountain to Sound trail then the Beacon Hill Greenway back home. I made it back a bit after 4pm in dwindling light.
I ended up riding 126km (~78.4mi) total of which 93.5km (~58mi) was the WTS route plus my off-route additions
A few pictures from this ride (iPhone pics alas) can be found in my WTS #2 album on flickr.