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Tourus Interruptus day 3

Sunday, January 29th, 2017
Tourus Interruptus day 3 - NFE at Salmon la Sac

NFE at Salmon la Sac

Day 3 dawned clear, cool and sunny. It was wonderful being in the midst of the mountains along the talkative Cle Elum River.  I made breakfast and packed up and then enjoyed a second cup of coffee sitting on a rock in the river. The plan today was to ride a trail to Cooper Lake which wasn’t many miles away. There I would setup camp for a few days and hike around the area and spend time in the mountains.

Tourus Interruptus day 3 - Looking north on the Cle Elum River

Looking north on the Cle Elum River

In no particular rush I meandered up the Salmon La Sac road along the Cle Elum River. Stopping frequently to take pictures, checkout trailheads and to monitor the river.  Stopping at the bridge pictured above looking down into the river I spotted bright red spawning salmon! Truly a glorious time in the mountains.  A bit further up the road was the Salmon La Sac Campground, which was a quite large and quite empty campground.

Tourus Interruptus day 3 - Little Salmon La Sac River

Little Salmon La Sac River

From the campground there was a short stretch on a dirt forest road before I reached the Salmon La Sac trailhead.  I stopped for lunch at this point during which time a barefoot woman in a bikini walked out of the trailhead.  Seemed a little casual for hiking into the mountains. However after a short stretch on the trail along the Cooper River, there was a wide bend in the river that created a deep turquoise swimming hole where there was a number of college kids sunbathing, Mystery Solved.

Tourus Interruptus day 3 - Swimming hole on Cooper River

Swimming hole on the Cooper River

The trail along the Cooper River to Cooper Lake was billed as a “mountain bike” trail, but it clear was a horse trail that had been opened up to mountain bikes. I assume that very technical riders with a fully suspended mountain bike and no load could navigate this trail, but it was not rideable on a fully loaded touring bicycle.  Rocks, roots, short super steep sections, torn up trail and so on made for a surface that I pushed the bicycle on more than rode.  After some time of this I decided that several more miles of this wouldn’t be a good time.

Tourus Interruptus day 3 - Horse and Mountain Bike Trail to Cooper Lake

Nice easy stretch of the horse and Mountain Bike Trail to Cooper Lake

Luckily there was an alternative route to the Owhi Campground on Cooper Lake. There was a forest road that took you to the south side of the lake and then you could hike around the lake to the north side where the campground is. I decided to take this, most likely less scenic, but certainly easy to negotiate route.  So I rode back to Salmon La Sac Campground and then Road heading toward that bridge where I was looking at spawning salmon just  few hours earlier.

Tourus Interruptus day 3 - Killer Pothole

Killer Pothole on Salmon La Sac Road

Rounding a corner on the road, gaze on the river or mountains, I glance at the road and spot the above pothole moments before my front wheel entered it. I tried to ride around it, but was two late and I dropped into it and nearly immediately slammed into the far edge.  I popped out, wobbling and miraculously didn’t fall.  My tire had popped of course and the wheel was way out of true. I figured I’d popped a few spokes. I pulled over and noticed how mangled the wheel was.  Taking it off at a picnic table I discovered that I had completely bent the rim at the edge and this wasn’t roadside serviceable.

Tourus Interruptus day 3 - Destroyed front wheel

Destroyed front wheel

There was a woman walking on the road right when I hit the pothole and she came over to see if I needed any help.  As I pulled off the wheel and inspected the damage I allowed as I did.  Her husband was off riding trails on a trials bike (something I was completely unaware of) and she said that after he came back they would haul me into Rosyln which had a bicycle shop. If it was unfixable she offered to take me back to Seattle when the left the next day.  Really generous and friendly I gladly accepted her offer. As we waited, we walked down to the Little Salmon La Sac River which was shallow and rocky at this point.

Tourus Interruptus day 3 - Last view of the Little Salmon la Sac River

Last view of the Little Salmon la Sac River

This would turn out to be my last encounter with the rivers and mountains in the Winatchee-Okanogon National Forest.  Back from the trails, Julie’s husband made some attempts to pound out the dent (but just look at how severe it is) and failing that we loaded my bicycle into their van and drove into Roslyn.  They walked around the town while I took it into the NW Bicycle Improvement bicycle shop. Nice helpful guy there but as I suspected they didn’t have a viable replacement rim in stock.  So I was prepared to return to the campground and stay overnight and return with Julie and her husband tomorrow.  But while I was in the shop they talked it out and decided to just haul me back right away, cutting short their weekend camping.  That was super generous and of course while I said I’d be happy to return the next day, I gladly accepted.  So back into the van with the bicycle and now it was a reverse trip down I-90 back home. I had them drop me off near the Bellevue Transit Center where I was able to take a bus home.

So this is the first tour I’ve been on that got cut short due to mechanical issues.  I’ve had many mechanicals on tour and have fixed most of them in situ, for at least long enough where I could get professional help. But this was unfixable by anyone on the road.  While I was lucky with there being people willing to help immediately on had I have to say at no point was I worried or scared.  To me handling the unexpected is part of what you are training for in each tour.  Just up the road from the accident was the camp host for one of the campgrounds and I knew I could get a ride into Roslyn from them. From Roslyn I could either wait out a replacement wheel, or work out a bus back to Seattle.  So while there definitely would be some much less fun effort involved I never felt that I was stuck.  Too me the biggest downer was that my mountain camping was cut short right at the point I was really interested it: hiking in the Alpine lake regions.  Well I know for sure that I will be back!

Photos taken today: Tourus Interruptus Day 3
Complete Tour photoset: Tourus Interruptus

Spring Populaire

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Echo, blinded by the setting sun

For various reasons this year I’m going to have extremely limited options for bicycle touring, most likely limited to overnights and three day weekends. For me what I really love about touring is the mindset that you get into, a form of mindfulness where you are in harmony with your surroundings, bicycle and body.  After all my touring I’ve found that I’ve been able to slip into this mindset on longer day rides, where I just let go of the thoughts and concerns of everyday life and just ride. I tend to have no problem coming up with rides that I like to do, but motivating to get up early and do really long rides can be lacking. This is one of the reasons why I really like the PNW summers where you can start late and still be rolling in the twilight well after 9pm.  But it isn’t summer year round and so I’ve finally decided that this is the year to dabble with randonneuring.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The throngs preparing to set off

Almost every time I return from tour, I say to myself that this year I’ll start randonneuring in order to keep my tour fitness. Hasn’t happened.  But for the reasons listed above I finally made a start of it with the SIR 2015 populaire.  Not a brevet, so not quite randonneuring proper, but a good start. A 200k will certainly be in the cards for this spring, but I was happy to do my first organized ride in years.  Another stumbling block for me and randonneuring has been the early starts, but in the last year I’ve completely switched from being a night owl to being an early riser.  Now most rando events start pretty much well after my normal rising time.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Stripped down Atlantis

March 7th was the SIR/RUSA 100k Spring Populaire and it was a beautiful warm late winter day. It was no problem for me to ride to the start at Woodland Park about 8 miles away, arriving a good 30 minutes early.  It proved to be a well attended ride with over a 100 riders pre-registered and plenty more day of registrations.  I wandered around drinking the free coffee and checking out the diverse bicycles. As with any organized event, you are going to see all kinds of ‘cycles from classic 70s steel bicycles, to the au currant low-trail, big boxy bag, 650b machine, to the latest carbon fibre racing machine.  Some lovely bicycles there for sure. As for myself I was riding my venerable Atlantis, but stripped down about as much as I ever had.  While a populaire is not what I’d consider “big deal” distance, even with the ride to and from the start, I knew it’d be much faster than my usual “spacing out” pace.


The big group set off right at 9am riding along Green Lake in the morning sun. The day was already beginning to warm up and not too long from now I’d have to stop to remove my wool cardigan and switch to short fingered gloves.  The route took us east from Greenlake – including a short gravel stretch through Cowen Park – to the U-District and onto the Lake Washington Loop.  Then it was up to the I-90 Bridge Trail across to Mercer Island.  By this point things had sorted themselves out, with the fast riders jackrabbiting off and the rest of us settling into little groups of similar pace. I ended up riding with a group of guys from Olympia and Seattle who were perhaps just a bit faster than I would ride, pushing me nicely the whole way.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Gravel riding in Cowen Park

I’ve ridden all the parts of the ride many times and had even ridden the reverse of this one last autumn (modified to start and end at home of course) so it was familiar territory. But out on this sunny winter day, pushed on by 100+ riders it was definitely a different experience. Of course there was also the controls which I’ve not had to contend with before. No big deal; you just have a card with a series of locations that you either get signed by a SIR volunteer or you answer a question proving you were at the spot. It does require you to be self-policing for the most part, but really any cheating on the routes or anything is just cheating yourself.  There’s nothing to win, so no real point.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - On the I-90 bridge

The route worked it’s way around Issaquah (where I’ve rarely ridden to without a stop at the Issaquah Brew House!) then out on some more country roads as it worked it’s way to the Cedar River Trail. We had the first Info Control just outside of the (always) quite crowded Tiger Mountain Trailhead, where had to note what was written on a particular sign. Then it was back on the road to take nice wooded roads to the Cedar River Trail.  There was a short stretch here where I was riding alone and of course this was the one place where the sign for a turn was obscured and easy to miss. But I only rode fifty feet or so past it before feeling I should check it out looking back saw the sign.  Glad I did as it was above to do a long steep downhill dive that I wouldn’t have appreciated backtracking on.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Control with snacks!

Where we entered the Cedar River Trail there was another control, this one stocked with snacks and water and such. I got my card signed, refilled my bottles and ate a few snacks. It was about noon at this point and I realized that not bringing some real food with me was a mistake.  Snacks are fine for some quick energy but I’ve found on any decent length ride I need to eat some actual food. I compensated as best I could with peanuts and other snacks with some protein content, but pretty much figured getting to the pizza place at the finish was my best bet.  So back on the bicycle and on the Cedar River Trail.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Cedar River Trail

I figured the Cedar River Trail  was an opportunity for some easy, fast riding to eat up some of the remaining miles before returning to the city and the several climbs to the finish point. It did begin that way, but due to a constant headwind, it slowly wore me down. That and the aforementioned lack of food made for the last few miles on the trail to be kind of a slog.  Once I was in Renton though things perked up a bit. We wound through side roads until we reached the Renton Airfield and were back on the Lake WA Loop route.  It’s a pretty fast ride from here into Seattle Neighborhoods though Rainier Ave is a pretty trafficked and loud route.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Riding on Lake Washington

As we made it to the Rainier Beach portion of town there was a blocked off chunk of road, for some utility work it looked like. I hopped on the sidewalk and through a parking lot of a park to bypass it staying on route.  Past that it was a bit of a climb and then a descent down to Seward Park and we were back on the edge of Lake Washington. A lot more cyclists on this stretch of road, which is certainly on of the more popular Seattle Riding destinations.  It leaves the lake with a classic winding climb up in the Washington Park neighborhood and then across the arboretum.  This route through the arboretum is not one I’d done before (I just typically stay on the main road through) and it was I much nicer option, though a wide paved trail across the park.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Riding into the Arboretum

Once out of the arboretum we cross the I-520 and were back in the U-District. The route took us on a short stretch of the Burke Gillman Trail to Fremont, up Stone Way and then Fremont Ave until we had climbed up Phinney Ridge – always nice to end your ride with a good climb! Phony Ridge featured the Zeeks Pizza where the ride ended.  I had completed my first SIR event at 5’20” – about middle of the pack it appears from the results.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The finish at Zeeks Pizza

I got into Zeeks and immediate ordered a Veggie Thai Pizza (my favorite thing from them) and a beer. Ended up hanging out with a few of the riders I’d ridden with for some of the time, plus several others. Everybody was really nice telling many a story of brevets past and speculating on those of the future.  The 200k was just the next weekend, but alas I had a prior commitment. But I will be back for the next one!

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The Sound, the Port and Mount Rainier (in the distance)

Feeling really well recovered I took a different, slightly longer, route home along the Seattle Waterfront. It was packed with people of course, so I set a nice leisurely pace. The sun was going down and everything was lit with the rich light of magic hour. I was feeling pretty good after this ride, which as I suspected I did at much faster pace than normal. But of course I did have to climb Beacon Hill to get back home – as noted always good to end your ride with a good climb.
Check out all of my pictures from this ride on Flickr: Spring Populaire 2015.