Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I’m registered for the SIR fall 600K this weekend (Sept 11th) that runs across the Cascades to Eastern Washington and back. I’m excited, and a little nervous. Though I’ve ridden all four of the passes involved it has been awhile. The climbing will be a real challenge. At least, being familiar with the route I will be able to focus my attention on just getting the pedals to turn over. In a perfect world, this is not the 600K I would choose to reacquaint with the distance, it’s going to be like the first day of football practice in late August, but I need this, the climbing, the long days of riding back to back, the reorientation to seeing the country side from the seat of a bike.

It’s a great course with fantastic views.  Here is a fine pre-ride report by the Poet Laureate of Rando, mileage master, Vinnie M:

Specialization is for insects, truly, a specialist is one who learns more and more about less and less. The end should be "one" who knows everything about nothing. I lately have been "hating" on my real or imagined reputation as a K-hound. It was Mark who educated me on the value of recording my rides, similarly, Geoff made me aware of RUSA records. Ah! yes! an education, for a school without walls, the world is a classroom.

It seems like only yesterday, I started riding with SIR, and already we all grow and frequently into a niche, yet trying to soft pedal through the Carson C1200 recently, relying easily on sleep deprivation, not speed, to make times. Michaels words "Pie eating contest" would creep in easily. I tried to spin it with the old story, sure, about 2 bulls on a hill, the one about the younger one suggesting we rush down and get one them Heifers in the valley, you know what the older one says.

I ramble, but Joe, bless his heart knows that Vinny is not competitive, just really likes his bikes, and he told this to the Texans. the rest of my friends Gary will have to convince them.

What does this all have to do with the 600K. Simple, I had to ask myself where I really belong. What I really like is Randonneuring, what? long distance (not a day ride) unsupported (really unsupported) cycling. Well the support of your buddies is always a plus, as in last years Portland to Glacier and more recently the Crater Lake permanent. Robert gave me the chance to solo pre-ride this one, hence this report.

Marta and Jamie in my office know the routine. Jamie is especially good at it now, but this time it took just one phone call, to Mt. Gardener. I spend the nite at the Motor Inn. there is a Dennys within walking distance with wi-fi and a special area with plug in outlets. My buddy Kole kindly mapped a BRT "tcx" it is a relatively simple Course to follow. I muse that a pre ride should simulate the ride as closely as possible and I elect to start at 0600, but life is a box of chocolates, I wake up to a "flat" that costs me 24 mins, "no worries" the first control is all the way in Leavenworth.. The initial part of this Course is the part that requires any significant navigation and I am careful not to fall further back, time-wise. The first delight is climbing up to Stevens on the "Old Cascade Hwy" and there are 3 sections of this. The first section has rail tracks a good thing for a speedy cyclist to know especially if it is wet. That little town you come across, that is Skykomish, if you have never seen it from that side, a chance if you need restocking that early. The next 2 section have packed gravel, no washboard. In the last section some "portage" across a quaint bridge is almost certainly necessary. it is worth it.

Then the usual long descent to Leavenworth to control at the Subway where they will never look at you quizzically for asking for initials and time on a Brevet Card. The wind direction is usually favorable as you ride from here on to Lake Chelan on 97Alt, through a little climb that passes thru a rock tunnel but life is a box of chocolates, anyway by now we have time in the bank. When you reach the Columbia river, if pedaling seems effortless, look for surf against the flow of the River, the wind is on your side. Travel easy on the rollers to Lake Pateros, then go back to find Hwy 153. Here the Big Dipper seemed set to scoop me up, the cloudless starry sky has my eyes and the Methow River my ears. eventually the sullen moon joins in, rising above the mountains to the right, sorry on that one.

At the junction with US 20, I look to the right, I curse Loup Loup one time and I headed west. Passing Twisp to Winthrop all is asleep, not even the usual head wind that makes Mazama seem so far is stirring. Did I mention that life is a box of chocolates. The Mt Gardener Inn is sitting right on the left side of the road as I enter Winthrop. There is an envelope with my name stuck on the Front office door with a Key to Room 103, the note says the sprite is in the refrigerator. Sprite or Coke, resting a while or riding thru, the Ponderosa Lodge at Sisters did the same when Michael kindly let me pre-ride the memorable Willamette Headwaters. There is also "organic pizza" on the table but I have barely digested all the "crap" that I ingested at Pateros. I chill out for a couple of hours pack the pizza and I head out to climb Washington Pass, there are no supplies till Marblemount. I summit with the first rays of morning light and run into a rainstorm, it is just above freezing and I am not geared quite right and have to pronounce OMMM several times thru chattering teeth to keep up my Core temp. Carry warm clothing, both Loup Loup and Washington Pass were blustery yesterday.

At Marblemount, it is warmer but still wet. I pedal faster to Darrington and then back to Arlington, despite my late start, I finish in less than 32hrs. This was a beautiful ride, I did not get blueberry pancakes for breakfast but I may still get my chance. It could be a fast course and yet it maybe a challenging course, all good reasons not to miss it.

See y'all out there this weekend.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The weather of course is the wild card. It looks like it will be showery on the west side (SHOCK!) and sunny in Eastern Washington. In the mountains all bets are off, and with four mountain passes that’s a whole lot of betting in the dark.  On the plus side, the kids are back in school so the tourist traffic should be a little lighter, there are no fires currently burning in the Cascades, and the weather could be absolutely fantastic.
So I’m not just nervous, I’m also getting ready. Having read Vinnies report and looked at the forecast, I went to work on the big horse and reinstalled the fenders. Good bye carefree summer, hello smartwool and mudflaps. I also gave the bike a thorough clean up and checked all the nuts and bolts that might likely come loose.

I’ve scrutinized the cue sheet, I have a pretty good idea of where we will be going and I have looked at the curious parts of the route with google maps. I printed out my trusty check list and have begun slowly rounding up the gear I will want with me. My on-bike bags are pretty well stocked but I will re-inventory the meds, spare parts and tool bag just to make sure there are no surprises when they are least appreciated.

I guess I waited too late to get a room at the start motel. A bother because it is far enough away that I need to spend the night up there and as long as you are going to that trouble, it is nice to be able to get up in the morning and walk out the door and be at the start line. Oh well, it is kind of a dive anyway.

So, in terms of getting ready, I’m on track: I like to be assured that the bike is ready first, that way if there is some part or adjustment needed there is time to take care of it without entering panic mode. The gear, clothing, food, meds etc is sort of an iterative process. I just need to go through the stock stuff and see what needs supplementation and in the case of these slightly longer rides, what if anything needs to be added.

Tomorrow night I hope to have most of the things I want to take either in the bag or in a pile next to the bag. I’d like to get to bed early Thursday night, then get up Friday, and roll out by noon or so to avoid the swirling vortex that is rush hour traffic between Olympia and Everett, which includes Tacoma, and Seattle.

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