Saturday, October 30, 2010

Columbia River Run 400k (Oct 2010)

Super Seattle Randonneur Geoff Swarts organized a couple of late-season 400k brevets out of Wenatchee for October 22nd and 23rd that peaked my interest. The first reason they got my attention was there would be new territory to see. But more significantly, if I finished another 400k this season, that would mean having completed the equivalent of two Super Randonneur series (in addition to the Oregon Blue Mountains 1000k) during the 2010 season, something that I didn’t think was in the realm of possibility a couple months earlier.

The first 400k was called the Eastern Washington Loop, and would leave East Wenatchee at 12:01 AM on Friday the 22nd, heading out to George, Lind, Ritzville, Odessa, Ephrata, and back. The second 400k was called the Columbia River Run, and would go from East Wenatchee up to Tonasket and back, leaving at 6:00 AM on Saturday the 23rd. I thought this pair of rides was a brilliant idea for anyone in the market for 800k with a proper night’s sleep in the middle.

But I was only in the market for 400k, and the latter suited my schedule better. Susan Otcenas was also interested in riding 400k, as she hadn’t done that particular distance yet this year. Also, the 23rd was her birthday, and what better way to spend it than pedaling your new Sweetpea for 250 miles.

Susan and I tentatively agreed to carpool. But a few days before the ride, I got a most interesting conflict … the opportunity to pick some grapes up at Syncline Winery near Lyle, WA on Friday morning. After Susan and her partner Jeff agreed to pick me up in Goldendale on the way to Wenatchee later that day, the extra little gig was on! (Harvesting grapes has always been on my wish list, and this was a serendipitous opportunity.)

Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
So on Friday morning, I took an extra half day off work and headed up to Syncline to lend a hand in picking syrah grapes. After a couple hours of filling buckets, we were treated to an informative tour of the facilities by winemaker and founder James Mantone.

From there, I drove to Goldendale (via Centerville, on the route I missed during the Bikenfest 200k earlier in the month). I checked with the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce for a safe place to leave my car, then established phone contact with Susan and Jeff just before they arrived. After loading my LeMond, Jeff drove the remaining 2 ½ hours up to Wenatchee.

The three of us checked in at the “East Wenatchee Inn at the River,” then were joined by Geoff Swarts and Lyn Gill at a local Mexican restaurant. It was then off to sleep before the 6:00 AM start.

lake chelan
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
There were a grand total of eleven riders at the start, and within one mile we had crossed the Columbia River on a pedestrian/bike bridge. I kept up pretty well with other riders for about 20 miles (till around the town of Entiat), then I started to fade on the Navarre Coulee Rd grade up to Lake Chelan. Vincent Muoneke started on the slow side (as he was experiencing tendonitis after the previous day’s 400k), then passed me shortly after the first contrôle on Lakeshore Dr. The rest of the ride (except for the last 5 miles) would be solo.

linear trees
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
After Pateros, I was truly in new territory, as the Northern Cascades 600k route six weeks earlier turned off at this point towards Twisp and Winthrop. This time, though, I was riding along the varying Northern geographies of the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers. Kind of desert-like, but well-irrigated desert. (Agriculture’s big up here.) After Brewster, I stopped for some warm protein at the KFC in Omak. Twenty-three miles later, I arrived at the turnaround town of Tonasket (which is almost spittin’ distance to the Canadian border). From that town’s Shell station, I texted the following to my Facebook friends:

     in Tonasket, WA with 2 1/2 hours in the bank.
     215k down. 185k left back to Wenatchee.
     No leisurely riders on this 400k, so it looks
     like another lanterne rouge at this distance.
     Left hamstring/quad/thigh is pretty sore.
     A lot of time in smaller gears.

nocturnal whirring
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
The return trip took some slightly different (as in quieter) roads between Omak and Brewster, but still essentially parallel to the Okanogan River. It got dark well before Omak, and started to rain around Brewster. South of Pateros (before Hwy 97 crossed the Columbia) there was a State Patrol Officer detouring traffic because of a prior fatal accident. The officer waved me through, and by the time I arrived “at the scene,” the last barricades were being removed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the ride happened well after the town of Orando, about 5 miles from the finish. There was a quasi-familiar car pulled over to the side of the highway with its flashers on. Nothing registered initially, but I finally figured out that the driver calling me over was Jeff Mendenhall. Turns out Susan was in the car. At first, I thought they had driven out along the route to see how I was doing. (Quite unnecessary, I thought!) Then Susan asked me if I wanted company for the rest of the ride. What I didn’t realize was that Susan had seriously bonked a couple hours earlier (to the point of nausea), and that Vincent had called Jeff to drive out, warm her up and revive her. By now she was ready to continue the ride, and my late arrival on the scene gave her the final impetus to finish it off.

jeff and susan
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
The two of us rolled into the East Wentachee Inn at the River at 5:59 AM, one minute under 24 hours. Jeff greeted (or re-greeted) Susan with a small birthday cake he had bought in Leavenworth (and pedaled back with). Both Susan and I finished later than anticipated. I could reason that two 600k’s within the previous six weeks had slowed me down. But Susan’s experience was clearly more scary and dramatic.

I’m glad to have done that ride, and completed two “super randonneurs” for the year. And I’m really grateful for Susan’s and Jeff’s lift from Goldendale to Wenatchee and back. Also, many thanks to Mr. Swarts as well for putting this ride together. I don’t know how those monster-mileage SIR guys do it.

Pictures are here on Flickr.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pacific Coast Hwy 600k

For some reason near the end of September, I got a bug in my head to ride another 600k this season. And lo and behold, after a little researching, I discovered the PCH Randos out of California were putting on just such a ride. It would take place on October 9-10, and head southwards from Salinas to Moorpark via the Pacific Coast Highway.

This ride became particularly intriguing because it was an opportunity to bicycle on some fabulous roads that I had only ridden by motorcycle decades earlier. It would also be an opportunity to hang with some of my family, whom I hadn't seen in a few years.­­

It took some planning to make this happen. But thanks to some flexibility in my sister's and niece's schedules, the travel logistics came together rather nicely (particularly if one doesn't mind spending a lot of time on I-5).

I drove down to my sister Bunny's home in Vallejo, CA on Thursday, October 7th. My niece Melissa happened to be in Vallejo as well, and the two of us drove down to the Salinas the next day. We checked into the motel from where the 600k would commence, and found Jim Verheul already there. He had bicycled up from Orange County!, which means he would cycle

riders meeting
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
a PBP-length 1200k or so by the time the weekend was over.

Bunny drove down to meet Melissa and me in Salinas for dinner later that evening. The two of them then witnessed 34 of us cyclists taking off in the wee dark hours of the next (Saturday) morning.

dawn over the coast
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist

The whole of the Monterey-Salinas Hwy was dark, as was the town of Carmel. But by the time we had a few miles of the Cabrillo Hwy underneath us, a beautiful dawn over the Pacific Ocean emerged. The first contrôle was in Big Sur, where my stop coincided with that of an English gentleman named Terry, who had come up from Running Springs (in the San Berandino Mtns.) to ride this 600k. Thirty five miles later in the coastal hamlet of Gorda, PCH Rando volunteer Patricia Thompson "manned" contrôle #2. From there it was seventy-some-odd miles of beautiful California coast to San Luis Obispo. On the way, I made a brief stop in Ragged Point (near San Simeon and Hearst Castle) for some overpriced refreshments.

The San Luis Obispo contrôle was at the home of a gentleman named Lance (not Armstrong, although he was in a Mellow Johnny's yellow t-shirt). Excellent spread! Real food! Then onwards to the overnight in Lompoc (via Pismo Beach and Guadalupe). I rode much of the dark part of this stretch with recumbant rider Dana Lieberman and one other gentleman. Once in Lompoc, we elected to ride the next segment, a 50-mile nocturnal loop to Buelton and back, before konking out for a not-long-enough nap at the Motel 6.

Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
One interesting rider I got to know a bit was Mel Cutler of Century City, CA. (I worked for a couple years in Century City back in the 80's.) He bike commutes down to Hawthorne, and was astonished to hear that one of the things I was most looking forward to in California was having an In-N-Out Burger. Well, he passed me on the Sunday morning ascent out of Lompoc (having gotten more sleep than me), but not before we managed to get a little more chatting in.

taken while riding
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
Once over the Gaviota grade and onto Hwy 101 (El Camino Real), it was onwards to Santa Barbara. This was perhaps the most sentimental part of the ride, as the route passed through Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Montecito, which is where I spent two Summers at the Music Academy of the West, back in the '70's (and a few seasons commuting to the Santa Barbara Symphony a decade later). Ah the beaches! The art fairs! And the memories!

at long last
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
Lotsa little bike trails leaving Santa Barbara County. I stopped for coffee in Carpinteria, then proceeded on new-to-me Rincon Rd. Back on Hwy 101. About 12 miles of beachside freeway later, I arrived at the Bicentianl Bike Path, which took us into Ventura. Hmmm. Lotsa construction. Lotsa confusion about how to exit and continue on the path. I had to ask directions how to get to Harbor Blvd. But in the meantime, I found an In-N-Out Burger establishment, right there in Ventura! Great meal!

Upon leaving Ventura for Oxnard, though, I was mis-directed way beyond Gonzales Road (where I should have turned left towards Oxnard proper), and ended up with a 10-bonus-mile detour beyond Channel Islands Blvd.

finish in moorpark
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
Once back on Gonzales Rd, and having gotten a receipt at the penaltemult contrôle (a Texaco station on Ventura Rd in Oxnard), there were about 40 ascending kilometers left along Pleasant Valley and Santa Rosa Roads before the finish in Moorpark. I pushed it fairly hard for the last couple hours, arriving at Lisa and Greg Jones' home at 8:36 PM, with a finishing time of 39 hours and 36 minutes. With only 24 minutes to spare, I was about 10 minutes in front of lanterne rouge Vickie Backman.

I had phoned my sister Bunny from Ventura to tell her I'd be arriving by 7:30 PM, but had to call her again from Oxnard after my 10-mile mistake. She was at the finish to greet me, as was long distance Orange County finisher Jim Verheul, who was about to embark on an additional 80-mile ride home.

After some delicious pizza and refreshments at Greg's and Lisa's, Bunny drove me to my niece Melissa's home (in Sylmar), where a mini-family reunion of sorts commenced with my sisters Meredith and Bunny, nieces Tiffany and Melissa, and Tiffany's husband Alex. We even made plans to get together again, during the Christmas holidays, at my place in Oregon!

I think the most astonishing thing about the PCH 600k was to be reminded how undeveloped the rugged California coast is. Hwy 1 between Carmel and San Simeon has to be one of the most stunning roads in the country.

Many thanks to Greg and Lisa Jones and the rest of the PCH Randonneurs for organizing this.

Lotsa pictures of the PCH 600k are here on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bikenfest 200k (2010 version)

I like John Kramer’s Bikenfest 200k. He changes it up a bit every October. This year (on the 2nd), it started at the Heritage Park-and-Ride near White Salmon (on the Washington side of the Hood River Bridge).

Unfortunately, I was already running late when I missed the turn onto the bridge from Hwy 84. (Confusing signage due to construction.) So after driving a few extra miles to Mosier and back, I started the 200k about 20 minutes after everyone else.

The route headed East on Hwy 14, where, after a few miles, I found Nat Beagley walking along the side of the road looking for a pedal. Hmmm. The roadside was doing an excellent job of hiding this fallen-off bike part.

Onwards, the route headed up Old Hwy 8 and used Syncline Winery (one of my favorites!) as its first contrôle. (How cool was that?) Then back to Hwy 14, I missed the turn out of Lyle towards Centerville, and mistakenly rode Hwy 142 up the Klickitat River instead. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I was over 20 miles up the road. I was ready to abandon (and head straight to Glenwood) when I saw a sign that said 11 miles to Goldendale. “Hmmm,” I thought. “If I hustle, I can still make it before the contrôle closes.” And that's just what I did, arriving just as the last of the other riders were leaving. With three extra bonus miles cuz of my mistake, I called John to let him know where I was, then continued the journey towards Glenwood.

I passed half a dozen riders on the next segment, then met up with Ray Ogilvie, Lynne Fitzsimmons, Susan Otcenas, and Scott Peterson in Glenwood. ‘Twas the first time I’d seen Scott on a diamond-framed bike. I rode mostly with Lynne and Susan to Trout Lake, then after a few pictures of their beautiful Sweetpeas, I took advantage of momentum and continued onto White Salmon alone.

I rode some of the final leg with Alaskan Bill Estes and his son Theodore Eugenis (who lives here in Oregon), and reached the finish a little before Lynne and Susan. Lynne was particularly enthusiastic at the end, exclaiming, “it’s still light!”

Kramer said I may be the only one who’s ridden all four Bikenfest 200’s. A little research seems to have born that out.

Pictures are here on Flickr.