Late Saturday morning there was a mid-ride deluge that caught many of us off-guard. Yeah, the forecast said rain after 11 AM, but for some reason most of us didn’t believe it. I was at the intersection of May Valley and Issaquah-Hobart Road when the raindrops started to fall and I spent the next hour trying to stay warm as I pedaled home in the cold downpour. The transit across the I-90 bridge was one of the worst I can remember and I still have road grit embedded in my eyeballs from the horizontal spray that was blowing from the south across the bike path. I spent an hour in a hot shower trying to get my hands and feet to change from cold blue to warm pink.
Add to the list why I’m not a Randonneur: Based on their activity reports Saturday’s weather was ideal for one of their 300 km events.
After Saturday’s mini-epic, Sunday’s fair weather was a green light to go long. Inspired by discussion on High Performance Cycling‘s team web site, a group of us decided on a “classic” loop around the south end of Puget Sound.
Our version of this fine route started at the Chelan Cafe and finished at the Southworth Ferry. I was keen to pedal at least 100 miles, so I cycled to the start and we did a “victory lap” around West Seattle to finish the ride. I ended up with ~109 miles including the ferry ride.
The crew consisted of three High Performance Cycling teammates–Adam Morley, James Catterall, John Pottle, and Cheasty Boy Peter Adachi.
Adam, John and I have ridden hundreds (thousands?) of miles together, and I’ve infrequently ridden with Peter when I’ve joined the Cheasty Boys for one of their challenging Wednesday night or Saturday morning rides.
Adam is also a Randonneur, and his 2014 project is to complete an R-12, which is to ride a 200km (or longer) randonneuring event in each of 12 consecutive months.
John and I were teammates in last year’s Race Across Oregon.
James is a relative newbie to High Performance Cycling and has ambitious goals for 2014 including some gravel Gran Fondos and Death Ride.
I had done this particular route once before and dutifully sent out a link to the gps file, but alas the file was corrupted and wouldn’t load in any of our devices. Since the technology didn’t work we had do go old school and rely on human memory, which in this case belonged to Peter. Peter had done a similar route just a week earlier and it was fresh in his legs if not his brain.
There are more direct ways to get from Seattle to Tacoma by bike, but this particular route is probably the most scenic because it hugs the coastline and offers numerous vistas. The frequent dips out and back to the water’s edge translate into numerous challenging climbs along the way.
As this route approaches Tacoma there is ~10 miles of flat terrain through an industrial section. James was riding with a power meter, and would periodically let me know his current wattage. After a strong pull into a headwind along that flat section he announced “240 watts,” which started to worry me because I didn’t think I could sustain that kind of effort the entire distance. We were fully half way into the ride and the “bloom had not yet come off the rose.”
As it turned out, the pace remained strong all the way to Southworth.
Although the pace for most of the ride was hard, we did take time to snap pictures at some of the vistas, and as we rolled through downtown Tacoma, we got a personal history lesson from Peter who is a Seattle native. His early memories of Tacoma were olfactory and visual: Tacoma’s predominant industry was pulp and a visit to Tacoma meant breathing acrid air and seeing a run-down industrial waterfront.
Downtown Tacoma’s clean modern look reveals little if any of its industrial past.
Point Defiance Park is another optional portion of this route, but it is gorgeous so why avoid it after pedaling all the way to Tacoma?
It was Easter Sunday, and we had surprising difficulty finding a place for lunch in Gig Harbor. The bayside sandwich and espresso shop we had visited in the past was closed (maybe permanently), and as we rolled through town it seemed like we might not find anything. Just as we were about to turn north we spotted The Gourmet Burger Shop, which turned out to have just what we needed to fuel ourselves for the final ~20 miles to Southworth.
During lunch we estimated how long it would take us to get to Southworth, and how long we might have to wait for the ferry. If we pushed hard enough we thought we would have time for ice cream, which was all Adam needed to hear to put the pace into overdrive.
Although there are no major climbs on this route, there are plenty of short steep pitches and rollers that eventually take a toll. On one long roller I did my best to re-enact Andy Schleck’s chain drop on stage 15 of the 2010 Tour de France. I re-engaged the chain without dismounting, but lost the meager momentum I had and helplessly watched the group disappear up the hill.
Fortunately, Adam noticed and retreated from the group to ride with me and pull me back. At that point I felt like it was significant accomplishment just to hold his wheel.
We made it to Southworth with 25 minutes to spare and plenty of time for an ice cream bar: Mission accomplished.
During the ferry ride, our demeanor became subdued and relaxed as the narcotic biochemical by-products of the days’ strenuous efforts titrated through our tissues.
At the Fauntleroy terminal we briefly debated the details of the final miles and decided on rolling through Lincoln Park and Alki. Given that it was a dry Easter Sunday afternoon, we had to navigate numerous pedestrians, strollers, and dogs on leashes, but the making the scene in Alki and enjoying the view of downtown Seattle was a perfect way to end a great day on the bike.