Sunday, January 25, 2009


I got a note a few weeks back from my old friend Peg, saying she and Duane were planning to ride Oly-Brinnon in a couple weeks and it would be fun to have the ‘Olympia boys’ along for old time’s sake.

Anytime I’m referred to as a boy, my ears perk up. I’ve got a bucket load of excuses for saying no, and of course that was my first instinct: root around in the excuse bucket and come up with one or more of the standard no-can-do lines. But it occurred to me that just last weekend I’d been on a “planning retreat” with my crack support team and head soigneur (Mrs. C) at which time I’d written down a few riding goals for the coming year. I’m big on planning so goal setting comes easily to me. Then you fill in the blanks with an implementation plan, and of course, like a Christmas tree, you can just keep hanging frilly gewgaws (benchmarks, monitoring, ervaluation, strategies, objectives, outcomes, outputs) on the plan until eventually you can’t find the plan for all the great ‘enhancements” you piled on. This epiphany often comes weeks, maybe months after the inspiration for the plan and so, time has gone by, and you might as well just stick with cribbage, coffee, and TV until next year.

So of course, this invite looked like a startling opportunity to break from this non-action planning cycle. I said ‘sure’. Of course I couched it in all kinds of conditions: you know, not too hot, not too cold, if my back pain gets better, if I can get an appointment to get my pedicure done, empty the cat box, oh there are so many things that must be done before one actually swings a leg over and rolls down the road.

The stars aligned and I found myself slurping a quad shot and a cup of Starbux oatmeal like food product as John V rolled up at 6:30. We chatted, considered taking bets on how late Duane might be, but that seemed awfully cynical for so early in the year so we just assumed he’d be on time …ish. It was great to see Peg and better still to hear that she had brought Duane along. The four of us were the team, and I could not think of a nicer group to ride with, except of course if you had been along it would have been even better.

The thermometer at the auto mall said 29, but it seemed like a warm 29 to me. I was fearfull that the weather would be a little more cantankerous. I recall riding this route some years ago when we started in freezing fog and I went down on my butt about a block from the house. None of that this time out, it was cloudy and darkish but the roads were good, mostly dry and the company was great.

By the time we were bombing down Delphi toward Mud Bay I had to stop and take a pic of what looked like a promise (or a tease?) of more sun breaks to come (it turned out to be a tease).

This route starts with a fairly long stretch along Hwy 101, and it is pretty unpleasant in terms of traffic and scenery most of the way to Potlatch. But at that early hour there is not much traffic to contend with and the wide shoulder was surprisingly clean. Once you reach Potlatch, at the bottom of the great bend of Hood Canal things get decidedly better in my opinion. Along the way I was surprised to find the Purdy Creek bridge being replaced. I can’t imagine how many times this stretch of road has been flooded. The old bridge was built around 1932 so I guess it takes about 77 years to figure out what to do.

Past Potlatch it appeared that Claude Monet had been messing around with the scenery. Who could resist such a point n’shoot moment?

I must say I’m fairly disappointed in the unwillingness of the local avian residents to sit still long enough for a huffing chuffing brightly clad cyclist to dig through the front bag to get the camera out. Three Kingfishers did a great job of teasing me, and then there was the raven on top of the American flag pole (a decidedly NW finial) and the multiple, skittish bald eagles were just playing with me.
Into Hoodsport I quickly stopped at the shell for my deep fried bbq beef burrito and several potato wedges (they were all out of stale pizza pockets) which I spirited away to the Hoodsport coffee shop for another espresso. I learned something new here: My typical order is for an Americano triple shot. Occasionally the barista will ask, would you like a fourth shot free? I’ve always assumed it was just my “fourth shot’s fee” charm. So I asked the guy and it turns out those fancy Eye-talian Ex-presso machines dispense shots two at a time. “If you don’t want it, we just dump it.” (so much for charm) This might seem like a no brainer, the brain always says yes, but, in my case it is usually best to consult with the boiler room first. Mild protestations but a fourth shot seemed like it ought not to sink the ship. Soon the others rolled up and after a potty break I was off, knowing that they’d all catch me soon enough.
The stretch from Hoodsport to Brinnon is a mixed bag for me. For some reason I frequently loose time here. I know it is partly because I stiffen up pretty fast if I don’t keep my off bike time very short, but also I have history with this part of the world.
You pass a series of rivers whose names alone would sear them into your memory: Lilliwaup, Hamma Hamma, Duckabush, Dosewallips. You also roll past a little cabin down on the beach af Fulton Creek which in its day was sitting on swifters suggesting it had served as a floating cook house or logging crew bunk house. This little shack is where my family lived when I was born. Hard to imagine a family with four little kids in this little place, but my dad was nothing if not a big dreamer, and my mom was willing to follow. In that time this country was remote, a long way from cities. There was no Hood Canal Bridge so it was a long drive no matter which way you came from.
There on the flats of the Hamma Hamma I found the one lone Heron willing to wait as I fumbled for my camera, I must have seen three of four previously who were having none of it. (He's in there, you either have to squint, or click on the picture to enlarge it.)

It was also along this stretch where I tweaked my back in a way that let me know I was going to have to do things a little differently whether I finished this ride or not, but especially if I wanted to get this one in the books. Clipping out of the right pedal, and swinging the leg over were ‘exquisite’ reminders of how versatile the human body is. An awareness that nearly brought a tear to my eye. I think I said ouch or gosh, or some such.
When I rolled into Brinnon Peg and John were in the rando squat on the curb, the requisite eclectic rando feast spread before them: chocolate milk, sports drinks of various colors, cheesencrackers, candy bars, all the good stuff. I zipped in and got a Coke, a bottle of water, and two packages of turkey breast lunch meat. This is the turnaround for this perm and I noticed that I was half way through the ride and still had more than half the time available left. But no much more and I also noticed that my average speed had dropped measurably since Hoodsport. I made short work of the provisions and was back on the bike just behind John. Duane rolled up as I was heading out. I learned long ago not to worry about Duane making it into a control or the finish of any brevet within the allotted time: There is no one on the planet better than him at getting all the fun out of a brevet there is to be had. (he beat me fair and square for the Lanterne Rouge at Gold Rush Randonee in 2005)
The ride back was fine, though I rode most of it to Hoodsport solo. Just before Lilliwaup my head lights blinked (metaphorically speaking) a sure sign that If I don’t make adjustments I will be into a deep bonk within about 15 minutes.
In my opinion nutrition is one of the four big challenges for success on long rides; It’s also the most personal. I am generally a less finicky eater than most, and as you might suspect I have on occasion been referred to as the human flux capacitor, a machine touted as able to run on household waste. I don’t think I could go far on coffee grounds and banana peels, but coffee and a banana will get me a fair way up the road.
I rooted around in my bag and found a packet of caffeinated hammer gel: 100 calories of cake frosting was not calling to me. There was a Mojo Bar, sort of like a rice crispy treat with nuts, that was a good start. I knew there was an ancient Cliff bar in there too but again, it didn’t really appeal. And then I came upon the two ziplock baggies; one with fresh (dried) apricots and one with cashews. Suddenly it occurred to me how brilliant I really am (I had forgotten both my brilliance and the road treats). These two treats fit the bill; there is a reason that nomadic Bedouins relied on dates stuffed with almonds. As I leaned against the jersey barrier gazing out at the canal I not only recharged my batteries but also smiled at the notion that this was possibly as good as just about anything else I could be doing on a frozen Saturday in January.
Back at Hoodsport I got something to top off the flux capacitor and rolled on. John was getting on his night gear and I made sure all the lights were on and working. It wasn’t dark but the sun was long ago over the hill and it would soon be dark.
I was feeling just a bit queasy (flux capacitor may need a tune up) but I was also really motivated to finish this ride. I’ve had a lot of trouble (stomach) with the last few long rides I’ve done and I figured the only way I was going to get back to the truck was on my bike so I might as well do what was needed to get there within the time limit. Normally I enjoy night riding, though this stretch is a little nerve wracking the closer you get to the big city.
Past the Skok bridge you encounter the only hill of note and it was here that I once again encountered the immutable first law of rando-physics: “What goes up, must slow down.” I carefully shifted to the little ring (it had been giving me trouble earlier) and also moved my mind to it’s happy place and just kept the pedals turning over. I’ve been navigating recently with a GPS and this one has a back light but I just made sure that it was off so I could not obsess over how slow a human can actually go on a bicycle without tipping over. In no time at all I was up on the flats and well warmed. I was hitting my stride in these last few kilometers. Peg caught me and we rode together for awhile, (until I suspect she couldn’t stand plodding any longer).
I think I made it to the finish simultaneously with the point at which I was done. I’m not sure I had many miles left in me, which is a good indicator of how far I have fallen. I could feel sorry for myself but I’ll take satisfacion knowing that better finish times are ahead of me.Peg Duane, and John showed up shortly and we all had a good chat in the coffee shop. The Barista girls were duly fascinated and Duane let slip that this was R-40 for him! John is a couple rides short of his next R-12. As we were heading our separate ways Peg said “See you next month!”
Which got me to thinking: Is this the start of my next R-12? Maybe so, I know it is a great way to maintain a modicum of fitness and it does fit in with those grand plans I mentioned earlier.


  1. Duane Wright1/26/09, 10:53 AM

    Great recounting of a wonderful adventure. We definitely lucked out with the weather.

  2. Holy smokes! A real, honest to goodness ride report from the Doctor himself! Wonderful pictures and a great story. Let me know when you have rides in the future. Maybe I'll tag along and block some wind.

  3. Robert:

    Yes, breaking with the tradition and actually doing it as opposed to just pontificating.

    Next ride? How does your calendar look for February 7th? I read this simply FASCINATING article about how to ride an R-12 so, barring dangerous weather I'm focusing on the first weeekend in February. I appreciate you offer to block the wind but believe me, at my speed a rhino probably encounters more wind resistance.

    I'll be looking for another lowland 200K. I've read those reports (yours included)of the newer rides starting in the Seattle area and frankly they seem a little urban, or maybe sub-urban to me. Not that I have a Hood Canal fixation but I'd rather ride in the country; I'm thinking maybe Hood Canal south.

    See you at the Bremerton Ferry Dock (I'll be on the Peninsula side) at oh-dark-thirty?

  4. I read that article too. That guy doesn't know what he is talking about. You need to wait until the last weekend so you have lots of motivation to finish it.

    I'll get back to you on the 7th. The thought of the Hood Canal kind of makes me shudder at this point, but I'm dumb enough to give it another go.

  5. Alrighty then, are you up for a little adventure?

    If the Permanent Kings and Princes back at RUSA Towers pick up the pace just a bit, Lacey-Raymond-Lacey should be pretty close to a virgin route on Feb 7th. If so that might make a reasonable and un-urban alternative.

    I don't know about these days, but there was a time when the Brooklyn tavern was quite the place.

    One interesting thought though, you'll want the best 'ruff stuff' tires you can get on that Sonmbrero or Picadillo or whatever it is you're riding these days.

    Leaving civilization at 7:00am?

  6. Count me as a tentative yes (provided the wife doesn't say otherwise).