Sunday, April 3, 2011

Super Powers, April Showers, and Rando Ubiquity

Careful, there’s bicycle content in here!

First let me apologize for the long lapse. I have a million excuses, possibly billions if you count raindrops, but they are all just excuses, and mostly just the usual suspects: work, weather, work, family health issues, work, etc.

Since it is early in the month I thought I would get out for a permanent, I chose Millison Fambles’ Olympia-Rochester-Rainier #887. Though it obligated a drive to the start (most of these things do for me) it would be on familiar roads. I like that as I prefer not to have to think too much on a solo ride.

I am beginning to think I may be endowed with an amazing if somewhat annoying super power! When I went out at 6:00 am to check the fish and load the bike I was pleased to note that it was not raining, the pavement was dry, and there were patches of blue sky above. Such good fortune! 5 minutes later when I took my change of clothes bag out ….rain! I took the day before off work to catch up on projects around the ranch.  I had inside and outside projects, the outdoor projects being more pressing. It was then that this annoying pattern surfaced. Most annoying! But this has been going on for the last three weekends. April Showers? I think not!

Ah well off to Olympia, rain or no.  In a recent post I mentioned coming across a pack of blue shirts out on the road while I was scouting a permanent route. Like the Borg (and possibly Microsoft), in Randonneuring, resistance is futile. Here is further proof:

I parked at The Bike Stand, the local bike shop of preference. As I was readying myself for the short ride up to Starbux (the official start), a couple pulled in and began getting ready for a ride. He looked vaguely familiar, but I’ve been riding these parts now for more years than I care to admit so assumed we’d crossed paths at some point. As I rode out I bid them a good ride.

At S-bux I ordered my espresso and then headed for the men’s room. When I returned who should I encounter but the couple from the Bike Stand. We introduced ourselves and I asked where they were headed. Scott and Laura were riding a timed event called a permanent, Olympia to Rochester, Rainier, and then back. I chuckled and said I too was riding that perm, and as it happened, we had selected the same start time. The chances are only astronomical if you resist the notion that 'we' are everywhere. We leapfrogged for the first few miles, Scott is in the process of making peace with a new saddle and I just chugged along at my glacial place.

The first part of this route is an old friend. Years ago when I was single (before there even was a Starbucks on the corner) I lived three blocks away. I’d regularly ride up Capitol Way to meet up with friends Cathi and Dave at their place in Tumwater, sometimes Brian, Chuck, Dan and Gina and whoever else was along. We’d ride out for the hinterlands, those were fun times.  The stretch west across the shoulder of Tumwater hill used to be through fields and woodlots but now it’s all new houses packed tight together.

Once across the hill we turned onto Black Lake and now we are on my bike commute route. As we rolled along this part Scott and I chatted.  He and Laura had ridden the Oly populaire and had taken an interest in randonneuring. About that time my rear tire went squishy and I pulled over to fix a flat, it’s always the rear, isn’t it? It was a remarkably large granite cinder, leaving a noticeable hole in the tire carcass so I booted the tire as cheap insurance. That was the last I saw of Scott and Laura.

In these first few miles we had experienced several of the showers that would continue to visit for the rest of the day. By the time I was at the Waddell creek cutoff on Delphi that SW wind was making it’s presence known right on cue. I figured by the time I popped out on Mima Gate down by the Weyerhaeuser tree nursery I was going to get a workout from the invisible coach.
And so it was; the farther south I rode the stiffer the wind. By the time I was approaching the turnaround at the Chehalis Tribe minimart I was working hard to keep it in double digits. It was raining hard along the last stretch on Highway 12 and as those semi’s went by that swirling vortex they create rocked me and the bike and doused us with 150 foot road grit rooster tails. Why do we do this again?

Into the minimarket there was a line up. Cigarettes must be real cheap there; people were buying them by the carton. The guy at the head of the line had six cartons of Camels, oh, and a six pack of Bud Light (10:30 am, breakfast of champions). Of course he was having trouble with his credit card so was fumbling with his wallet and other options. I could see this was going to take some time so I plunked my bottle of water and bag of smoked almonds on the side counter and headed off to the men’s room. As I was finishing my business it dawned on me that I probably didn’t have a lot of time in the bank. I hurried out to the counter and made my purchase. The time on the cash register receipt: 10:52:35. Holy crap 27 miles into this thing and I was 35 seconds outside the time limit! Mercy please, oh Permenators.

I assumed that when I turned and headed to the west that monster tailwind would just push me along for the next 20 miles or so to Rainier. If you ride bikes much you probably know what comes next: The wind had died off. At least it wasn’t raging in exactly the opposite direction. As I rode on the wind did pick up and I got a little pay-back push. Nice to be spinning along at 18 miles an hour without breaking a sweat.

At Rainier I had plenty of time in the bank so I took a break for a little cup of fried rice and something that looked like pot roast chow mien. It was a strange brew but looked like rocket fuel. There were diced potatoes, peas, carrots, onions, celery, and chicken in a broth that looked like chow mein sauce. I also noticed lots of those little red peppers. I asked the Hispanic counterman if it was hot. He said on a scale of one to ten it was probably a five. Hmmm whose scale are we talking here? I took a chance and was glad I did. I was soaked through and that sharp wind added a distinct chill factor. This warm bowl of spicy goodness made the last 20 miles look positively enticing. Well, bearable anyway.

By the time I rolled into Olympia the wind was howling, though the sun was out (and then rainy, and then sunny again).  I had a hot cocoa at Starbucks, "Don't tell me, you need a receipt, right?"  (resistance is futile).  I called Mrs C who said she’d be delighted to join me for a meal in the big city and then headed back down to The Bike Stand to change into dry clothes.

I am disappointed to say that I believe my Showers Pass rain coat has arrived at the point where is no longer a rain jacket, but just an item of après cycling apparel. I’ve washed it faithfully, even did the steam ironing thing as per instructions but on this day it was about as effective as wrapping myself in terry cloth towels, and has been so through much of the winter. It’s been a great item for years, but as a rain jacket I think it’s past its pull date.

While I was waiting for Mrs. C I browsed the offerings at the Bike Stand. Sheesh! Showers Pass has really expanded their line. I’m wishing now that I had taken advantage of the offering that RUSA arranged with SP last winter. I hope they still offer the make and model I have. I think it is the Elite, a heavy duty raincoat with pit zips. (With any rain garment I need ventilation!) I’m sure it will be expensive but some things you just shouldn’t scrimp on and a cheap raincoat in our country is about like buying a cheap parachute when you are a frequent base jumper.

The sun is out, perhaps I’ll try to mow the lawn … or more likely finish that project inside the garage.


  1. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  2. Paul....the RUSA Showers Pass jacket offer did end on 1/31/11 - but IMO you can't do better than their Elite 2.0 out of eVent fabric. Definitely *THE* Gold Standard ( with full pit zips and multiple venting options. I'd be hard pressed to find a better cycling accessory investment.