Sunday, March 29, 2015

Permanent #2678 -- George Weasley Populaire

This is a fun one! Well, Fun for me, at least. YMMV.

Like #2600, this is a trip to Ellensburg and back. Unlike that route, though, this one takes a much more interesting way to head north.

You go the same way through Selah, but head northeast onto Wenas Road instead of going along the Yakima River's canyon. This climbs gradually for about eighteen miles, with consistently nice views of desert ridges and one lake that will seem rather inviting on a hot summer day.

At mile 26, there's an info control to make sure you're actually doing this silly ride, then the magic happens: the pavement ends, gravel begins, and the road starts going way the hell upwards.

Or, specifically: it goes up about 900 feet in 3.7 miles. Hardly the highest amount in the world; it's a little tougher in sheer elevation than Cornell Rd in NW Portland from 25th to Skyline. A lot tougher in practice, though, since it's mostly exposed desert roads covered in dirt and loose gravel.

With that said, as the photo indicates, I was able to pass through without too much trouble on 23mm tires back in the early fall. After you summit at about 3100ft, there's a little bit of gravel descending that's mostly straight-ish and not too hairy; then, thankfully, the rest of the downhill back into Ellensburg is on pavement.

Get some fast food (I recommend the cheapo chicken sandwiches at Carl's Jr), then it's back to Yakima via WA-821. It's flat-ish compared to what you did earlier in the day, all on good pavement, and will offer a little cool air coming off the Yakima River in even the hottest weather.

There are two long stretches between services on this ride, so be careful and pack plenty of water especially in summer: from mile ~20 (a RV park with small market) to Ellensburg at mile 45, then from there to Selah at mile ~75.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Permanent #2675 -- Dobby (A Free Elf) Populaire

A couple of weeks ago, I rode out from my house in Yakima to meet the great folks from Desert River Randonneurs in the middle of their customary "Flat Yak" 200K -- a great recurring ride that starts and ends in Richland. I plotted my route to join up with theirs, successfully met a trio of riders near Toppenish, then headed home and went to work on a Yakima-based permanent based on what I rode that day.

This is the end result, of course; Tri-Cities-based riders will perhaps be happy to know that it only overlaps with "Flat Yak" for about five miles of the course, so you can come to Yakima and experience a nice amount of new, pleasant riding.

You start, fittingly, at the Safeway near my house in West Yakima. Nob Hill Boulevard becomes WA-21, then you go onto back roads south of Moxee to Konnowac Pass Rd. Don't let the name frighten you, though, the climbing only amounts to about 350 feet.

At the end of that, you begin 15 miles on the fairly quiet Yakima Valley Highway to the mid-ride control at Granger. From there, WA-223 connects to Track Rd, and guess what -- you parallel some railroad tracks, making a nearly as-the-crow-flies beeline towards the next stop in Wapato.

Cross a bridge over the Yakima River and take an underpass under I-82 and you'll reconnect to the north end of the Yakima Valley Highway. That follows both the river and the highway for a few miles before becoming Thorp Road heading back slightly east, rejoining the same roads you use for the first seven miles of the day.

It's a flat and fast route. No truly breathtaking views but a lot of pleasant country roads, with generally low traffic aside from the first and last five miles of the day in Yakima.

Permanent #2600 -- Fred Weasley Populaire

If you have time to do one day of biking in or around Yakima, this might be your best bet -- WA-821 a.k.a. Canyon Road offers some of the best riding and scenery in the area.

It's a simple out-and-back, through Selah to the turnaround in Ellensburg. The 821 follows the Yakima River for most of its 25-mile duration and is generally flat, with one hill near the southern end of the route that climbs up about 350 feet.

The canyon has several parks/campsites/rec areas, though as far as I know there's no drinking water available at any of them. In the summer, it'll be quite hot, and you'll quickly go through two bottles' worth of water -- a lesson I learned the hard way the first time I traveled this stretch in near triple-degree heat. So, leave Ellensburg with an extra little bottle of water in the summer, and you'll be totally fine.

While it's not at all drinkable, the Yakima River does provide some great cooling spots. Most of the parks along the river have boat launches, so you can bike right down to the river and dip your toes... ankles... knees... well, as much cooling as you'd want.

The worst traffic is from around the truck stop/fast food options for your turnaround in Ellensburg. The canyon itself is generally great for riding -- hardly silent or remote, but with plenty of shoulder space and a light mix of commercial traffic, local travelers, and all sorts of recreational visitors (fishers, birdwatchers, boaters, campers, and more!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Permanent #2579 -- Minerva McGonagall Populaire

Several months later, a new permanent in Yakima!

This is exactly a 100K, starting and ending on Nob Hill Blvd in the west part of town (near my home, obviously). Goes further west to the boundary of the Ahtanum State Forest, on a gradual climb up to 3,000 feet elevation.

I rode the route (or at least the general area) a couple times shortly after moving here in the fall, then checked it out again last week during a surprising warm spell. The weather now is back down to mid 30s at best, so the road conditions are certainly iffy -- but the roads aren't permanently closed in winter or anything, so it's technically a route that's open year-round... so long as you can find a period of nice weather.

This 100K certainly has the potential to be a fast one. There's maybe four or five intersections with a stoplight or sign and, while you do go up from a starting 1100ft to nearly 3200ft elevation, the climbs are all super gradual. Back in August, for reference, I did the full course (way before submitting it as a permanent, so no card or credit) in 3:33 elapsed time... about 50 minutes faster than any other 100K I've ever done.

I can't promise you the same results, of course, but it's a fun and easy one that's waiting for you next time you're in central Washington!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rapture ride!

After missing the inaugural VeloDirt Rapture Ride in 2011 because of a sprained ankle and the 2012 version for some completely lame and unremarkable excuse, there was no way I'd be left out of the ride when it came back around for this year.

So, I met up with Jennifer for a carpool at 8 and, only a few minor wrong turns later, we were pulling our bikes off the rack and assembling everything we'd need at the start point, the Flying M Ranch a few miles west of Yamhill. There was a decent group of riders -- three dozen, maybe -- with probably 75% cyclocross bikes (or similar), plus a handful of hardtail, FS, or rigid mountain bikes.

Out of the gate, I found myself on the tail end of the "lead" pack, a handful of fat and fist dudes wearing kits from teams they actually belonged to, on fancy and fast-looking modern bikes.

Then, of course, the first hill came, and I got passed and passed and passed and passed. Didn't fall off the back by any means, just firmly settled into somewhere around the 70th percentile of riders. I also stubbornly tried to get up in my 39T middle ring and avoid the smallest ring of my triple, which meant at one particularly bad ramp my cadence halted to a near-stop, and I barely unclipped in time before having to walk my goddam bike at mile four.

The terrain for this first stretch -- which gained 2400 feet in about nine miles -- was some of the worst on the ride, with a bunch of golf-ball sized rocks in place of more traditional "gravel". Here and there you could find a worn-down truck path to follow and ride more smoothly, but those had a bad habit of starting and ending abruptly, leaving you to swerve across deep chunky sections in order to find the next more rideable portion.

The road rolled up and down a little bit for a while, and I got to the top of a big descent at mile 14 after a little less than two hours. Yep. Still, the hardest part of the ride was done; the next dozen miles were almost all downhill towards Trask County Park, then the "summit" of the return trip over the coast range was over a thousand feet lower than what I'd just done.

For the first mile or so of descent, I rolled down cautiously and conservatively, as the road surface stayed fairly poor (though much better than some portions of the climb). After lifting my Trek up and over a second gate, though, things took a turn for the better -- the road turned into softer and smoother dirt, and I let myself pick up more speed as I started to lean into turns, pass the more conservative (i.e., smart) riders, and bunny hop (I know, it's not really a bunny hop if you just lift up on clipless pedals) some potholes and other debris.

Then -- unsurprisingly -- that whole coming-in-hot thing bit me in the ass. At a 130-degree turn at mile 20, I low-sided and went down fairly hard on my left side.

Instead of bitching about that too much, though, here's a handful of optimistic ways to view that crash:

-Gravel and dirt is much softer than asphalt
-It was an "inside" corner so I wasn't at risk of sliding off the side of the road
-I didn't actually slide at all, basically stuck in one spot
-Nobody was following too close and I wasn't run over
-Other riders WERE close enough to quickly attend to me, one kind guy hosed out my wounds with his Camelbak
-I generally avoided breaking valuable bike parts by taking most of the impact with my body

I wound up with a nice scrape on my knee, some smaller scratches on my arm, and -- most painfully -- a gash right where the pinky meets my palm. After making sure I could walk and the bike could roll, I waived on the few people who had stopped behind me, then gingerly re-mounted and rolled super-cautiously down the last couple of winding turns before reaching Trask County Park and cleaning off my wounds (with the only tap water available anywhere on-course!).

I first fashioned some first aid with chamois cream/kleenex/armwarmer (instead of bacitracin/sterile pad/gauze); but a few minutes after that, an AWESOME rider whose name I forgot rolled up with an actual first aid kit and I got myself properly wrapped up and felt a big mental boost for the last 38ish miles back to the ranch.

The tap water at Trask is super sulfuric (i.e., rotten eggs); I figured I'd just make some tripe-strength Gatorade from powder mix to mask it. And, it mostly worked (if I took care not to breathe in while drinking it), if it was sickeningly sweet and almost syrupy. Oh, and a bit of the powder blew into the cut on my hand... citric acid and (trace amounts of) salt, not a good feeling.

I was briefly tempted to bag the rest of the ride and instead go see my grandma in Oceanside, but I realized that I'd have no way to tell Jennifer that I was abandoning her carpool; and, for that matter, her house was only about ten miles closer than the endpoint back at Yamhill.

So, it was back onto gravel, and back into a climb. I had met Maria shortly before my crash; we relaxed together for a bit at the campground, then wound up riding together for nearly the rest of the way home.

Like I had expected, going up along the Trask River was much nicer than our initial climb out of the ranch. It had turned into a legitimately warm day, but we enjoyed fairly thick tree cover and abundant shade.

My minor crash wounds quickly moved to the back of my mind; instead, though, I started to get just plain tired. Maria and I rolled up the hills at a less than brisk pace, and I made liberal use of my 30/32 low gear. At mile 46, we came upon the Barney Reservoir; Maria had a story or two about getting giardia from drinking dirty water, so I held back from scooping handfuls of the lake straight into my mouth; I did, however, thoroughly douse myself to at least cool off. A short bit later, though, we came across two of the organizers from 21st Ave Bicycles using a chemical water treatment on a little roadside stream. We each had about ~6 ounces of water left at that point, so they were kind enough to mix up a potable bottle for each of us to help bring us home.

There was a little bit of climbing left; by mile 50 or so, we'd gained probably 6500 feet of elevation, which basically marked the end of the day's hard work. I was weary enough (and still slightly bleeding) to take the last descent back down to valley level at a fairly cautious clip.

The ride's last "bail out" option was at mile ~57 -- a direct turn towards the ranch would end my day in five miles, or the "official" route had an extension for another 700 miles with some nasty little hills. I didn't hesitate, immediately deciding to take the easy way in.

Rolled into the start/finish area just before six: 7:39 total elapsed time, and about 6:30 riding time, good for a moving average of just under ten miles per hour.

I pulled off my socks and shoes and bibs, made a bee-line for the Base Camp kegs, and stuffed myself with chips and salsa, and bullshitted with my fellow riders for a while 'til the 21st guys got the grill up and running.

I think I went though five or six beers, a good half-dozen tacos, and another 30-40 ounces of water in two-ish hours I spent at the endpoint before we drove back... and somehow I was still hungry and thirsty by the time we reached Hwy 26.

I'll definitely be using North Fork and Turner Creek roads again -- as a highway-free route to get into Tillamook. Toll Rd & Murphy Camp might have to wait for next year's Rapture event. Oh, and then there's my nascent idea to find a similar logging route between Timber & Foss... it's gonna be a fun summer, at least if I can keep the rubber side pointed down.

(photos to be added later)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Went down to the valley and it was, like, you know? Totally.

Seized the opportunity of a totally free Saturday with a not-terrible weather forecast to go ride a new 300K with David, down through Aumsville and Jefferson and Scio and such as.

Ta-da, on Strava, with four phone photos.

The pace/result was somewhere in between the last two 200's I did with David (a 13-hour slog through Scappoose/St Helens hills, and a 9-hour attack of Ripplebrook). With a handful of lazy convenience store snack stops and a shifting fairly stiff wind that only occasionally pushed at our backs, I wrapped up the ride in 15:54. Got back into inner SE in time to head over to Sparky's for a huge greasy slice of two dollar pizza (or, you know, four slices for eight bucks), but couldn't quite bring myself to ride past Boise St and just flop onto couch then bed.

Other than providing a faceful of wind for several hours, most of the outbound leg was great -- Boones Ferry and Howell Prairie, then Liberty and Lake and Ankeny Hill. Coming back was much more familiar territory, dating back to my one-way rides to Salem or Corvallis or Eugene from the last few years, but the Canby-Boring connection was excellent, especially a steep descent down Henrici in the last remnants of daylight.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gravel ground-up

David Parsons and myself went out on Saturday for an inaugural running of my new 205K Irma Pince permanent and, well, it was indeed a bike ride.

A handful of thoughts:

  • There's no (legal) way to connect the far end of Pumpkin Ridge to anything. Burgdorfer, on Google and other maps, is a gated driveway. Murphy Rd works, I think, to go back to Greener/Dairy Creek, or of course there's Smoke Ranch heading east.
  • I misread my own directions and took the first left after the Smoke Ranch gate, onto what turned out to be Wilderness Rd. You can take a right turn shortly after that to get onto Tupper Ranch and, in theory, over to some of the Pisgah/Bacona roads, but the way we went just became a dead-end. Fun riding for a couple of miles, at least.
  • The extension into Scappoose is definitely needed, you'll want full water bottles for the climb ahead...
  • Speaking of which, Mountain View Rd is ridiculous. A couple of 10-14% grade ramps to net you almost 1,000 feet of climbing in under three miles. Ouch.
  • And after that hard work has you hating life, the "reward" descent on Pisgah-Home is about as bad. Gravel, potholes, more double-digit grades, and tight turns. Yikes.
  • Everything from this point forward, though, is great -- three miles on Scap-Vern (or the dirt trail which parallels it), then an awesome romp around Yankton. More climbing, but all at a gradual grade, lots of actually enjoyable descents, little or no traffic (on a Saturday afternoon).
  • The Yankton general store is about a block off-course, and I'd probably recommend it to most riders rather than going from Scappoose to Deer Island without any available water. It was a mild day with some slow riding, but both David and myself were completely out of fluids by the time we reached Hwy 30.
  • The last 45 miles are mercifully flat. I'd actually never ridden in to Portland from that far out on Hwy 30, so... a token amount of new roads. Plus, a nice backside Scappoose loop for extra mileage to make it a legitimate 200K.
A couple of photos:

We took a whopping 12 hours and 59 minutes to finish -- by pace, easily my slowest ride ever that didn't involve stopping to sleep somewhere. I guess that's some motivation to get out and try again, aiming for a better time. Maybe.