Saturday, September 25, 2010

North Cascades 600k

I initially planned to ride Michael Wolfe’s "Willamette Headwaters" 600k in late August, and was very much looking forward to it (even though i knew it wouldn’t be easy). But a conflict came up. A conflict called the OBRA Masters Track Championships. Now I’m not a "velodrome jock." But I do spend a fair amount of time at the Alpenrose track. And my coach is a track jock. And he wanted me to do this event.

Enter a 600k option from the Seattle Randonneurs, a mountainous ride starting and ending in Arlington, WA two weeks later (september 10-11). Joshua bryant’s friend Robert Higdon was putting it on. And even though it would involve a bit of a drive, the route would introduce me to some significant new territory (a good thing).

Ed Groth expressed interest in riding this 600k as well, so the two of us ended up carpooling to Seattle the day before the ride, and onwards to Arlington the morning of.

The ride commenced from the Arlington Motor Inn before sunrise, and headed East and Southeast towards Sultan. I fell off the pace of the main group (as it were) about 10-15 miles in (‘round Granite Falls), then proceeded to miss a turn onto Bollenbaugh Hill Road (around mile 32) which cost me about 5 bonus miles.

eastbound summit
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
A lovely feature of this ride was the use of Old Highway 2 up to Stevens Pass. Robert, wife Jane, and friends Chris and Emily operated at a secret contole at the first turn onto this scenic and lightly traveled bypass. A footbridge further up ensured there was little car traffic. Upon reaching the summit, I texted to Facebook that "Stevens Pass (elev 4061 ft) hasn't gotten any easier! Leavenworth here I come!"

Leavenworth (34 miles past the Stevens Pass summit) has now become a familiar controle town, complete with cutsey signage on even the mainstream businesses. Once again, I ate and had my card signed at Subway and its adjoining convenience store.

Just before hitting Wenatchee, the route headed North along the West bank of the Columbia River on Alt Hwy 97. Now I was in new territory!, heading towards Entiat as the sun ducked behind the mountains on the left. Several hours later (but before 11:00 PM), I arrived at the controle in Pateros (fabulously manned by Joe Platzner and Vincent Muoneke) with over four hours in the bank. I then proceeded on the noctural journey towards mean Winthrop.

I was still dark when I arrived at the overnight controle, but the cooks had already switched over from chili to pancakes. There was still some of the former left, though, so that's what I ate before a crucial two-hour nap. By the time I left Sunday morning, I had used up three of my four precious hours ... 1/2 hour on dinner, 1/2 hour on breakfast, and the rest in bed. None of that time would be made up on the second day.

westbound summit
Originally uploaded by tangocyclist
After a gentle climb out of Winthrop, the last 16 miles up Highway 2 to Washington Pass were ... well ... long. Any spring I may have had in my pedal stroke the day before all but vanished. But eventually, the summit arrived. And with it, rain. Steady rain. For most of the way to Marblemount. No fast descents for this country boy!

The town of Newhalem arrived later than anticipated, as did the controle in Marblemount (after some ups and downs along the Skagit River). But now, Arlington was less than 100k away.

I stocked up on caffeine at a convenience store in Darrington (first cell connection since Pateros), then found the energy to "hoof it" the last 28 miles to Arlington. Arrived at the motel at 8:59 in the evening, one hour and one minute before the 40-hour deadline, and eight minutes before the laterne rouge. Was checked in by cheery Chris and Emily (in a motel room full of pizza), and greeted by Ed (who finished an hour and a half earlier).

Without lingering terribly long, Ed and I drove back to my friend Barbara's house in Seattle, where we were fed a lovely steak dinner. We rode a few warm-down laps around Greenlake the next morning, then drove the rest of the way back to Portland.

Thanks to Robert Higdon for organizing this memorable 600k, and to the SIR for this opportunity to complete a "super randonneur" series in 2010.

Pictures are here on Flickr.

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