Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Don't Lose Your Marbles Alleycat

I thought the racing season was pretty much done now that the rains are here. But there was one more before Halloween.

What a fun race too. The format was what I have come to think of as the standard alleycat. Meaning, a race with stops in any order. It did come with a twist though. The manifests were not at the start though. Instead we had to pick up the manifests at South Lake Union.

Once I got the manifest I picked out my route. There were six stops, I started with Queen Anne. There I did mess up a bit. I didn't realize the stop was on the back side of the hill. It would have been easier going up Dexter, but oh well. Then crossed the Aurora bridge and down into the U-district. Up through the arboretum. Then down to Judkins park along 23rd. (Probably should have used MLK.) Then to the convention center. At the stop on Union I picked sand a Pokemon song and picked up two more checkpoints. I hit Pioneer Square first, then through the Seattle Center. That was a mess on Saturday. The last stop was on Capitol hill so I busted up Denny. That is the straightest/steepest way to get there. If you want to race in Seattle to have to be ready for hills. I then headed to the I-5 colonnade for the finish. In all it took a little over an hour and half. I came in 3 minutes behind the race leader, and for the fourth time this year I took second place. I guess that is just my number.

I did come away with a few prizes. I got a t-shirt and some tri-flow. Both of them from Seattle Bicycle Collective. Thanks to JT and the guys who put it on. I had a blast and I am looking forward to the pictures.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Sher Kung Memorial Ride

For all my excitement to head off to NACCC the trip did start off on a sad note. A woman was killed riding her bike to work on 2nd avenue in Seattle that morning. I didn't find out any more details until the following week. As it seems is usual in these cases the victim isn't a reckless scofflaw riding through stop lights giving the finger to the cops, it is someone just like Sher Kung. A regular person with a regular job. A mother of a small child. Someone who was working to make her community better. She died doing something as mundane as riding a bicycle. An activity so safe we let young kids do it.

The cyclists that I ride with had all talked about how dangerous the bike lane on 2nd was. The term "deathtrap" gets used a lot to describe it. I am sad to say that is now true. Something that makes this even more tragic is that the city knew about the dangers and had a plan to change the bike lane in place. Those changes came to late.

I am also not convinced that those changes will make a big difference. I never rode in the old bike lane. I have no intention of using the new one. I feel more comfortable moving with car traffic and having room to maneuver. Maybe other cyclists will feel more at home in the protected lane. I am not sure that the changes will eliminate the dangerous turns though. I guess time will tell.

Today there was a memorial ride for Sher Kung. I was very impressed. The Seattle Police cleared the way for the group of bicycles on 2nd down to the Garden of Remembrance where the accident happened. There were some speeches and a moment of silence. The mood was somber and respectful.

The ride then continued down to pioneer square for a more charged discussion about the state of bike facilities in the city. Again, the group was guided by Seattle Police motor cycles. There wasn't much talking either.

I was struck by one image though. That is of a couple of kids no older than ten biking along with us. I don't know if they really understood what was going on. They were having a great time. Enjoying having a street all to themselves. No fear of having to dodge cars or getting honked at. Without the police escort I doubt they would be able to ride down second. Some bus or car would ride them off the road in short order. I realized that it wasn't the road that made it dangerous for these kids, it was the drivers. We have come to expect a level of danger in the people who operate very dangerous machines. There is no legal reason why those child cyclists could not be operating on the road. Instead it is our continued toleration of aggressive and callus driving that would normally regulate those kids and most others to back streets and bike lanes.

I hope that what we as a society come away from this tragedy with is not that we need more green paint on the road, but instead that we need to drive better. For all of you who drive like I do, take care. Slow down. Be aware of your surroundings. The person you share the road with may be a 10 year old boy, or the mother of a 7 month old girl.

If you want to help out the family of Sher Kung there is a fund set up here.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

NACCC 2014 - Minneapolis

It has been a year since I went to the NACCC here in Seattle. That is the North American Cycle-Courier Championships. It really changed my life. It set me on a new path. I became a bike courier last winter in hopes of being able to compete. While winter is not a really great time to become a courier, I was set. My goal was to ride in the NACCC in 2014 in Minneapolis.

I landed in Minneapolis at just after 10:00 PM on Friday. I reassembled my bike and rode out from the airport. (That was the third time I have done that.) The night started out well, it was a warm night sticky with humidity. In the distance I could see lightning. Before I had gone a mile I was riding through a thunderstorm. Other than the rain, it was a great ride though. I made it to the place where the NACCC contestants were hanging out. I got the time and place to meet the next day.

Waking up on Saturday I headed to the qualifier. I signed up and even had time to ride through the course a couple of times. Then I got ready to race. This isn't like any bike race you see on TV, though. It isn't rated in time or distance, but in "money". Each rider gets a list of jobs. These jobs all list a pickup location, a drop off location, and a value. Longer jobs earn more. But the race is as much about being smart and organized as it is about being fast. Racers get one hour to make as much money as possible.

My race started at high noon. I spent the first ten minutes without a clue what I was doing.  Then I got organized and started making some real (actually fake) money. I was going fast and racing through my stops. I was feeling great about how everything was going. At the end I had maybe enough time for one more job, but I didn't take it. I was worried about going over time.

The organizers of the NACCC then lead a huge group out to a secret lake. (I would have called it a pond, but anyway...) I met a bunch of really cool people from all over the country. Went swimming until the sun set. Then we raced back into town for the after party.

The party was held in the alley behind a bike shop. Super fun, but I think the best part of it was Taco Cat. Normally they will only deliver you tacos on a bike. However for this party they had set up to server fresh tacos to all the NACCC participants. It was amazing. The tacos are so good. If you get to Minneapolis, please try some.

The only bummer of the night was that I missed the qualifier by two places. They took the top 60 racers, and I was number 62. To put it another way, I was short of qualifying by 25 cents. Dang. I guess I should have done that last job. Oh well.

I did stop by to watch the finals the following day. Before the race began the racers were all looking for last minute gear. "Can I borrow a pen?" "Can I borrow your bag?" One girl even borrowed my arm watch. It makes sense. The final race is three hours long. Some of the jobs have a time limit. So being able to manage your time is very important. It took a while to get everything organized and begin the race. Once it started I did find a great spot on the far side of the course to watch the race from.

After an hour of watching the riders go round in circles I figured it was time to get going myself. I hadn't flow half way across the country to sit around . Having never been to Minneapolis before I decided to explore the city.

The city itself has a great mixture of old brick buildings around the edges. More steel and glass in the center. I was shocked at the number of sky bridges. It probably makes a good deal of sense in winter. It seemed like you could walk most of the way across the city without setting foot outside, though. Also, the city is very flat. Coming from Seattle it is a bit weird to ride across town without hitting one hill.

I spent some time at the sculpture garden. Meh. It seemed a lot like the one in Seattle. Neither of which I am very impressed with. Still, it was a gorgeous day and nice to be in a park outside.

I got back just in time to catch the end of the final race. Not that it was all that exciting. Again, it isn't about being the first person back, it is about earning the most "money". The real winners would be announced later. The organizers did put on a few extra challenges though. Foot down. Quick lock. I hung out and talked with more people. Meeting so many different people, it is crazy to see how different they all are. Race, ethnicity, education. Then only similar thread between all of them is that they love riding bikes.

After the challenges were over a group of people headed to a secret spot on the Mississippi river. We didn't even get out of the city though. The secret spot was a collection of decaying structures overgrown with trees along the river bank. On top of the cliff above were some old factories. It felt like being in the middle of nowhere even though it was only a couple of miles from down town.

Just before sunset the group headed over to a bar for some food and to announce the winners. We were enjoying the patio for a bit before more thunderstorms rolled in. The whole mass of soggy, sweaty cyclists jammed into the tiny place. After the winners were announced I said my goodbyes and headed out into the rain. I had an early flight to catch.I am looking forward to the next one. Denver here I come!


Monday, September 1, 2014

Dream Machines Alleycat

Went to another alley cat on Friday. Started at Back Alley Bike Repair. So a big thanks to those guys for helping to put it on. The race itself was pretty simple and short. It took about an hour. Four stops in a little zig-zag across the city.

I even came in second place! So that felt pretty good. I even got a cool new Knog light.

I was talking with Face, the guy who won the race, and Fred afterwards. They were heading out to the NACCC. Fred left for the airport just after I got there. That reminds me I should look into that again.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Joeball Mountain

Date: July 3rd & 4th, 2014
Distance: 42 miles
Song of the Day: See You Later - Heatmiser

Since this year Independence Day falls on a Friday, that give us in the states a three day weekend. The crew from Point 83 made a plan to ride out to Joeball Mountain. It was an short ride from the Bremerton ferry. Not necessarily an easy ride though.

The first thing to do was get to the ferry. I got off work at 5:00 PM and rode as fast as I could down to Colman Dock. When I arrived I was greeted by about 40 or 50 members of the club. I guess everyone wanted to get a good start to the weekend. That didn't take long. As soon as we boarded the ferry we hit the top deck. It was a nice day and we could sit in the sun and smell the ocean air.

The ride from the ferry didn't get off to a fast start though. There were a few mechanical problems getting out of downtown Bremerton. One involving a keg of beer falling off the back of a bike... Outside of town most of the ride was up hill. Remember, this is a camping trip to Joeball Mountain. Plus for a number of people this was their first bike camping trip. There wasn't anything really to complain about. I was riding my bike with good friends on a sunny evening.

The last three miles to camp were dirt, and steep. I was riding in the back making sure that everyone made it to camp. I got to watch the sun set over the mountains. Beautiful, but it was dark by the time the last crew rolled into camp.

We made a fire and had some food. Someone even brought up a bunch of stuff for s'mores. The evening wasn't cold, but we crowded 'round the fire to join in the merriment.

The next morning I got up and rode back to the ferry. It was a gorgeous day to be out on two wheels. Happy 4th everyone.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Busy Solstice

Date: June 21st, 2014
Distance: 74 miles
Song of the Day: Africa - Toto

The first day of summer has come. I had been looking forward to the solstice and change of seasons. But when I woke up, I didn't have any plans. But I could see right away it was going to be one of those perfect Seattle days. Warm, but not hot. Bright blue skies to the horizon.

I didn't have any plans though, except for a midnight bike race. To get myself out the door I picked up a shift with Postmates.

I got my bike and headed out to deliver the lunch rush. I didn't envy the cars around. Two of the freeways 520 and 99 were closed. The marathon was blocking of a large section of downtown streets. The Solstice Day Parade was blocking things in Fremont. On a bike it wasn't a problem. I slid past the traffic gridlock on first. I rode along with the runners for a bit. I even accidentally became part of the parade. I also ran into a few people I knew and chatted with them. I didn't have to worry about parking or holding up traffic.

After my shift was over I headed to Ballard. I went met up with a friend I hadn't seen in months. I got to take in a bit of the World Cup (Nigeria vs. Bosnia).

My room mates texted me to join them at Magnuson Park, so I rode out there. We hung out in the sun and went swimming before they had to head back home.

I still didn't have plans for the evening but I didn't feel like riding home. Instead I went to Gasworks. The place was wild. The air was filled with the sound from a half dozen different brass bands. People were dressed in wild costumes, or just a thin layer of body paint. Some of my friends spotted me and gave me the usual "get a car hippie" greeting.

From Gasworks we rode to Wallingford. Another friend was having a house party there. We hung out there until it was time to head off to the race.

I showed up at Greenlake about an hour before the race started. There were already people hanging out and good music playing. Eventually about 45 people showed up. It was nice to see such a large crowd out there. I realized while I was talking with people I had put on a bunch of miles already. It turns out that I was right around 50 miles already, and I still had the race to do.

The race started right at midnight. It was four laps around Greenlake. The loop is about 3 miles, so the race was 12 miles. It was dark and the sprinklers were on for the first section. I didn't mind much. I like a race with a few obstacles. After each loop there was a stop under the bleachers to get your spoke card stamped. I rode as fast as I could, but missed the lead group by just a few seconds after the first stop. After that I never caught up. Wound up coming in 5th, which wasn't bad. It was fun, and good times. I really appreciate all the people who came out and made the race happen.

I took left right around 1:00 AM with a few friends. But I was on my own after Pioneer Square. It was such a quiet night, I couldn't help but think of what a day that had been. I love the times where you can just go with the flow. I left that morning not knowing what I was doing, but that was okay. I didn't need any plans to have a good time.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ben Country 9

Date: May 3rd & 4th, 2014
Distance: 137.6 miles (over two days)
Song of the Day: Another Way Home - Valley Maker

My friend Ben hosts an annual ride at the beginning of may for his birthday. It is also a good way to kick off the bike camping season. While Ben Country is hard, it isn't as difficult as what I did back in March. That also meant there were a lot more people out. I think I counted 32 people who rode out there. It is amazing to see that many people out on bikes heading to the woods to go camping.

I almost missed it too. The start was 14 miles from my home. I had also been up late working on the bike. I had to manufacture new mounts for my front rack. So I didn't get much sleep. I was almost on my way out the door when I forgot about the flag. I made the flag for Ben Country last year, so I thought I would bring that out again. It took me about 10 minutes to find it an zip-tie it to the bike. So I ended up leaving my place late. I would have had just enough time to get to the start though. Except the lower Spokane Street Bridge was open. That took another ten minutes I didn't have. After the bridge I raced north as fast as I could. I missed the group by two minutes. I had to chase them down on the way to Edmunds.

After that it was all pretty easy. We caught the ferry to Kingston. Then took mostly back country roads out into the mountains. It didn't even rain.There were the usual amount of flats along the way. That just gave us time to hang out in the sun on a beautiful day. I wish I could express how amazing it feels to be part of a group of 35 people riding along. Especially loaded with camping gear and supplies. Who else does that? I can only feel lucky for being able to be part of it.

After a late lunch at a redneck burger joint, it was off into the mountains. No pavement. Steep climbs. Nothing I hadn't seen before. It did take quite a bit of time though. I wasn't really in any rush. I kept toward the back of the group to make sure that everyone was getting on okay. I passed Derrick, one of our founding members on the side of the road. He turned to me, totally exhausted, and said "Every fucking year." I could only smile. He knew what he was getting into. Besides, rule 54 is "do not follow Ben up a mountain."

By the time I reached the top I was actually surprised out how tired I had become. Sure I had done more miles in worse conditions with more weight on my bike, but not in a long while. The highest point of the trip was just a couple of miles short of the camp. The first few were even paved, and with a gentle slope made it so easy to glide almost all the way in. Almost. The last mile was a steep decent on a windy dirt road. One one side was the mountain about and on the other was a drop five hundred feet into the valley below. Who the hell makes a road like that?

I was the last rider into camp, and that suited me just fine. Everyone made it safe and sound. I even arrived before dusk. That gave me time to pitch my tent before nightfall.

As soon as the sun set thought it began to rain. Then it began to pour. Fortunately the advanced party of riders had set up a tarp to keep the rain off. We did get a fire going, but that took a bit of doing. For an hour or so most people just huddled under the tarp. As the evening wore on the rain let up. We stood around the fire. Talking. Singing. Drinking. Having a great time.

The next day the camp broke up into small groups. The folks in cars somehow escaped first. I made off toward the end with another dozen riders. We took our time riding back. It was raining again. The dirt roads had become muddy and slick. We did have a bit of time on some great country roads, but then it was onto the shoulder of the highway. Not as fun.

We wanted to regroup for food at Port Gamble, but the BBQ place was closed. The people who were tired headed back towards Kingston. I was in a group of seven who decided to mash down to Bainbridge. And we cruised. We set a great pace moving fast up and over the hills. I loved being loaded up and still being able to haul. We arrived at the ferry with just two minutes to spare.

I had such a great weekend. Doing almost 70 miles a day reminded me so much of being on tour. I love being on the road with everything I need to get by right there on my bike. And being with a group of great people who are having a great time. I really can't wait for the next trip.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Driving in the Rain

I am still shocked by the inability of people in this city to drive in the rain. Seattle is known for being the rainiest city in the country. (It isn't actually. For most inches of rain in the country try along the Gulf of Mexico. Mobile Alabama seems to have the top prize. For the most days of rain in a year try the rust belt or Portland Oregon. But I digress...) You would think that people who live here would have learned how to drive in it. But that isn't true.

I was reminded of this last Tuesday while doing my usual Postmates shift. I rode my bike by the aftermath of two different car accidents. I saw four different people going the wrong way down a one-way street. Two at the same time. Cars running red lights and stop signs. Plus I saw more people than I could count acting in some way aggressive or stupid.

I think when it rains about 65% of people tend to slow down. I would normally think this isn't a bad idea. Relax, enjoy your drive. The problem is these people also tend to miss things like red lights and stop signs. It is as if they are so worried about not being able to see in the rain, they forget to actually think about what they are doing.

Then another 30% of drivers spend all their time trying to pass someone who is going just a bit too slow. These drivers aren't any better. They aren't thinking about what they are doing, but just on passing that guy. So you get a lot of people who roar past another car only to slam on their brakes for the red light they forgot about. 

Then there is the 5% of drivers who are just crazy. Like the rain starts falling and turns them into some sort of weird car driving maniac. I would like to explain a little story about one of these guys...

I had finished my shift and was heading home. It was late, and the rain was coming down harder than ever. I was traveling south on 5th Ave. under the monorail, in the right lane. A car pulled in behind me and shortly after began to honk. I was a bit confused about this. I get that someone might think that bikes don't have a place on the road. They are wrong, but I get it. But there were two other lanes on that street. Plus I was hitting every green light. The light goes green and I went through. I figured there was no way the guy was  honking at me, so I ignored him. But he kept honking. So I did my usual thing. I turned around, smiled real big and waved. Usually that is enough to get people to shut up. It did, sort of. Instead of honking the driver then pulled into the right turn lane, passed me, and slowed down. That happens sometimes. A driver thinks that you made them wait, so they slow down in front of you. I laughed. It was late. I was tired and wet. If the driver wanted to go slow, fine by me. Then he did something I didn't expect. He took a left turn onto Stewart. In other words, he took a left turn from the far right lane, the wrong way down a one way street. The driver almost hit the two cars going the right way on the street. All three started honking at each other, and I continued on my way.

I did make it home safe. No crashes. No flat tires even. But be safe out there. Watch out for the crazies.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Light rain & Heavy crashes

I don't think I have mentioned it yet on the blog but I have been riding as a bike courier for a company called Postmates. They are a delivery company, mostly for food. It is an interesting service. If you live in New York, San Francisco, or Seattle, check them out. Usually my job is to stop at a restaurant and pick up and order and deliver it.

So far it has generally been pretty fun. It isn't all crazy riding a bike like a madman through traffic. It pays to be fast, but it is more important to be smart. Navigation and planning are absolutely crucial to getting stuff where it need to go on time. Basically, if you are blowing through red lights to make a run, you messed up your planning. For the most part this makes it pretty safe.

Until Tuesday that is. I picked up an evening shift starting at 6:00 PM and it was dead slow. Took almost an hour before I got my first job. After that things started to pick up. Then it started to rain. I don't really mind, but it had been a couple of weeks since the last good rain. All of the oil came to the surface and make the roads slippery like ice.

And I chose to go down Denny. Remember what I said about choosing the right roads? Don't chose the steepest streets when it rains like that. I was trying to be careful though. I was trying to go slow, but it was hard on that grade. I was also trying to be cautious of objects in the road. There was a metal expansion joint for the bridge over I-5 that I didn't wan to slide out out. I did that fine, only to look up to see the car in front of me at a dead stop. I grabbed the brakes and started skidding out. I landed on my butt and slid another ten feet on the pavement. It is an odd feeling to know that you are just sliding along the road and can't do anything until you have stopped. I got up calmly, walked my bike over to the sidewalk. A girl came over and asked if I was okay. Other than some scrapes I was fine. My bike was fine too. I am glad I wasn't carrying an order at the time though.

In the end, it turned out okay. I was actually able to finish out my shift. Got another couple of orders in. But the title of this post was about crashes, plural. I crashed again going home. Who puts trolley tracks a the bottom of a steep grade? Thanks SDOT. That time my tire slid out the opposite way though and I landed on my elbow. I think I even cracked a rib or two.

Needless to say I crawled to bed that night very sore. I am hoping for less rain in the next couple of days. I am also going to avoid tracks and steep hills.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

327 Words 57 Varieties Time Trial

Well, it is another week and I have been doing more crazy stuff on bikes. This time it was a race! In the rain...

The race in question was Professor Dave's 327 Words 57 Varieties Time Trial. I went to Dave's race last year and had a great time. This year was no different. It even started at the same place, 20/20 cycles.

It was a group start. Dave was letting groups of about 8 or 10 go every five minutes. I was in the last group, which was fine by me. I even took the lead in my group pretty much right away. From there it was up to water tower at Volunteer Park. Then it was up to the top of the water tower. I am glad the steep metal stairs came at the beginning of the race. One of the rules Dave has is "don't die". If anyone dies, there won't be any prizes.

The next a stop at Dick's on Broadway for fries. But since I was in the last group, they were out of fries. I guess they didn't expect such a rush. So I lost a couple of minute waiting for a new batch of fries. When the fries arrived, I crammed half the bag of fries into my face and took off. I was racing down Broadway trailing fries as I went.

Raced up to Beacon hill. Stopped at Jefferson park. Down to Graham. Then up Graham. Several racers were pushing their bikes up the hill there. Then down Graham again. Even though the ground was wet, I felt very in control going down the steep street. Until the last ten feet that is. Coming to a stop at the bottom my back tire started going sideways. I was able to ride it out though and didn't fall. Behind me one of the other guys did just about the same thing and came sliding through the intersection.

Then it was north to Leshi. Up the hill to Dave's house. Back down to Madrona Park. Then back up to Madrona town center. It isn't a Seattle race unless you do hills, right?

All in all I was pretty happy with my time. I got checked in and hung out with everyone. The after-party is half the fun of these races.

After everyone checked in and Dave checked the times, it turns out that I came in second place! Torrey was in first place again. So that is the second race this year I have come in second to Torrey. Still, a second place finish is really good. I am quite proud of that. Plus I won a hat!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Clam Slam Adventure Ride

The last couple of years Jake and some of the .83 crew has gone out to the Washington coast for some razor clamming. It is a great excuse to get together and fool around outside for a weekend. Yet for some reason I have missed it the last two years. This year I decided to change that. Well, sort of.

One of the other .83 guys, Ben, wanted to ride out there. It is 126 miles, which sounded like something I would love. At first I thought it was going to be a one day, on paved roads. Instead it was going to be two days over forest roads. In the rain..

I met up with Ben and Fred at the ferry docks in Seattle. We sailed to Bremerton and rode out from there. It was a bit wet and riding along. The section of Highway 3 was noisy, but not too bad. But it was just a short section. After that it was a quiet highway off to Belfair. We stopped at a store for supplies and food.

From there on the trip was beautiful. The night was cool, but not cold. Most of the roads we were on were back country highways. Quiet and peaceful. Not many cars to disturb the silence. Instead we could hear the frogs, or watch the stars merge into the lights along Hood Canal.

We stopped again next to Highway 101 at an abandoned roof. I guess it used to be a shack, but there was no sign of the walls that I could see. Instead it was just a roof sitting in the gravel on the side of a highway. We ate some food and grabbed something to drink. The three of us were having a great time. Joking and laughing. Talking of past adventures. I couldn't help but think about how few other people would ever get to have an experience like this. There is no way to take a picture of a moment like that. Enjoy them when they come.

From there it was up into the mountains. A couple of miles of good paved road before everything became a steep gravel road. We stopped just before midnight to eat again. (Touring like this burns lots of calories.) Ben and Fred discussed where to camp. I wasn't familiar with the area, so I let them decide.

Eventually the plan was set to go to the Brown Creek Campground. This may not have been the best idea as it began to pour. The brief respite from the rain was over and making up for lost time. By the time we reached Brown Creek all of us were soaking wet. We set up tents under the awning of the Brown Creek signboard. It took a bit, but I was able to keep the wet off of most of my dry things. I crawled into my sleeping bag and slept fairly well inspite of the downpour.

Ben was not as lucky. He spent the night shivering in a wet sleeping bag. So he bailed out early. It was down to Fred and myself.

We took a bit more time getting ready, but eventually got on the road. Conditions hadn't improved much. The roads were still dirt. It was still raining. The first big challenge of the day was a thousand foot climb up and over a ridge. I thought the decent was worse. It was cold and I was soaked to the bone in spite of several layers of wool and a rain shell. The rain on the downhill slope had turned to sleet. It was a chilly ride to the bottom. When Fred and I got there, it was only to do it again. We had to climb up and over another ridge about the same height. It hailed on us going down the back side. That part was an exquisite misery and I had only myself to blame.

We stopped for lunch at the Wynoochee dam. There is a little gazebo overlooking the dam that would get us out of the rain. Fred and I stood around shivering and cramming food into our faces. I wasn't sure if we were using up calories more for cycling or took keep from freezing to death. Just before we left I stepped in to the bathroom next to the gazebo. I was only inside for a couple of seconds before turning around. I asked Fred "Why are we being idiots and not standing inside the heated bathroom?" Fred rushed over and also noticed a hand dryer on the wall. We had that thing running for the next five minutes straight.

The next 20 miles or so were pretty good. The rain was petering out. For the first half the roads were still dirt, but mostly flat. The second half was paved and we could cruise along the rolling landscape pretty well.

We crossed over 101 again and headed off into some forestry land. Half a mile in we met the first obstacle. It looked like the road just ended at a river. Almost. On closer inspection we found a raft of logs had been tied up there with steel cable. It was now grown over with grass and trees. You couldn't get a car over it, but a couple of bikes weren't a big deal. Onward from that point it was a maze of logging roads. They were usually well marked, but not always. There was one other problem. The roads listed on the map were exactly the same as the ones that actually existed.

The road we were supposed to be on kept getting worse and worse. Eventually, it was became overgrown with trees and then stopped all togehter. A look at the map suggested we weren't on the right road, and headed back down to find it. It turns out that one didn't fair much better. Two miles short of what the map said the road just ended. Actually, the road became a creek that continues in the open for a bit before being swallowed by the forest. We could have continued looking for another route, but there was no guarantee that the map would be any more accurate with those road. We knew we weren't far and on occasion could hear cars driving along the road.

So Fred and I ended up bushwhacking through the forest and swamp for about a mile. I was generally leading the way with Fred looking on GPS to make sure we were heading the right way. Dragging my expedition bike through deer trails wasn't easy. On a few occasions I came to a clearing that I thought would be the main road. Instead, these were just large puddles. At least trudging through six inches of water was easier. My legs were wrecked with scraps from bushes and twigs. Twice I found an old gravel road bed. Sure, overgrown with trees, but clear enough I could even ride for a bit. Each time I would think it had to lead to the main road. But both times, I was disappointed. The road would just die out in the forest without connecting to anything. Around 7:00 PM I finally found the road. I can't tell you how relieved I was to see it.

Once we had found the paved road, it was a pretty easy ride to Pacific Beach. Fred let me draft off of him most of the way in, so the miles flew by. We ended up at the campsite just after sunset. Some of the folks there were just starting to get worried. But we made it, and shortly started to eat all of the food. Fred and I spent about half an hour eating everything left out on the table. The rest of the evening was spent getting warm around a fire on the beach.

In spite of the hardships I had a great time. Or, maybe it is because of them. Food tastes better when you are starving. The fire is warmer. Good friends more important. There is also something to be said about being outside and enjoying the wild places. I was traveling areas I had never been to and never knew existed. It is an experience I don't have too often these days.  I look forward to the next trip.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

FH... ARRRR - 2014

Yes, the annual pirate race was last weekend. This year was fantastic.

I was checking the weather reports the night before. I was told it would rain all morning. It was raining just a bit as the ferry was docking, but it only misted during the race. This year was a bit different. There was a different end-point. We also had a mass start from the ferry. So as soon as the ferry crew let us go, the group was off and racing.

I started out in front as we raced off the ferry dock. I was a bit worried someone would sprint past me during that first hill. Then I was a bit concerned about missing the turns. But I found the way. By the first stop sign I was with a group of about 5 other .83 riders. I was still leading the pack though. That is until...

...my chain fell off. That first steep descent on Bainbridge gets me every year. Out of the 4 years I have done the FHR I don't think I have every kept my chain on in that hill. Oh well. I could see the pirate flags ahead of me and I knew I had to catch up.

For most of the course I was cranking with as much energy as I could stand. I passed Stephen and then Rob. After racing up Baker Hill I passed by Kevin on the back side. I was in third place at that point. I didn't think i could catch up to Daniel and Torrey in the lead. Then rounding the corner I saw Daniel (who won the FHR 2013) on the side of the road. He was pulling out his tube to fix a flat. I asked if he was okay. With a bit of chagrin he said he was. I didn't stop.

The last five miles flew by. I was feeling great. My energy level was high. I never did catch up with Torrey. I found him at the finish. I had come in second place!

After that it was some chili and a chance to hang out. The clouds finally broke open and it started to rain. Prizes were given out. The whole time was a bunch of fun. A great way to begin the year.