Monday, April 20, 2015

RUSA Permanent #2679 -- Dudley Dursley Populaire

Sometimes, a route is too perfectly simply out NOT to go out and ride it.

This permanent, for instance, has exactly one navigation cue between the start and the first control at mile 33, and that cue is "go straight". So, you get a nice two or three hours of riding on Highway 14 -- and as is often the case with mid-size highways, the road gets nicer and nicer the further away from Yakima you ride. It's mostly gradual climbing to about mile 24, then downhill until your control at the Silver Dollar Cafe on the northern end of Highway 214.

241's climb is not nearly as gradual; it's still far from horrible, but does throw just under a thousand feet of elevation at you in about four miles. The south side of the highway's high point is more gradual; you get about eight miles of descent before a right turn onto Independence Rd, towards Zillah.

The next (and last) mid-ride control of the day comes in that small town, just short of 100K into the ride. A little gas station convenience store on the corner of 1st and Cheyne has a bunch of delicious greasy fast food options, or of course small stuff like Gatorade and potato chips if you're in more hurry.

Cheyne connects you to Yakima Valley Highway, another pleasant low traffic stretch since most car traffic uses the parallel freeway. You rejoin 14 at mile 80 -- right at Bale Breaker microbrewery, wink wink -- then have another five miles to get back to the start point.

RUSA Permanent #2667 -- Neville Longbottom Populaire

Rimrock Lake is gorgeous!

This is an almost-exactly-100-mile ride that takes you on a loop of it, which means riding a lot of Highway 12 towards White Pass in the Cascades. The peak elevation by the lake is just under 3400 feet, making this a three-season ride in most years.

Highway 12 isn't the most quiet or best maintained stretch of road in the Pacific NW, but it's also far from the worst -- lots of nice views, moderate traffic, and generally adequate shoulder space. It's also graded very nicely on your way up towards the lake, with all of your climbing coming at a gradual 2% grade or so.

Your turn-off for Rimrock Lake comes at mile 36, giving you a full sixteen miles of glorious off-highway biking. It's all smoothly paved, and you'll see some campers, fishers, and boaters in the area on most days. There's an info control at mile 40, then another when you re-join Highway 12.

When you head back down the highway, be aware of one thing -- there's an unlit tunnel at mile 59, so pack a tail light even when you're guaranteed to finish well before sunset. There's no "bike warning" system, either, as you might find in other places (Highway 101 near Cannon Beach comes to mind); so, make yourself seen, ride straight and safely, and you'll be totally fine.

Aside from start/finish, the route has only a pair of info controls -- but there's several options for food/water stops along the route as needed.

RUSA Permanent #2684 -- Gilderoy Lockhart Populaire

You want hills? Have some hills.

Well... at least "hills", by Yakima standards, organized into a relatively easy-to-navigate route -- it's certainly no De Ronde. I could add another thousand or so feet with zigs and zags here and there, but reading cue sheets is never the best part of bike riding.

Starting once again on West Nob Hill, your ride starts going straight west out Summitview, then onto Cowiche Mill Rd to the first info control at mile 13. It's a somewhat major road closer to Yakima, but always has a nice shoulder and gets quieter and prettier as you leave town.

From there, dart back down to the little town of Naches, and grab some mini-mart fare if you're in need. The way out of town brings by far the worst climb of the day -- starting in the middle of mile 22, you'll run into a couple of switchbacks up the hillside at about 8-10% grade. Nasty stuff, but less than a mile in total length.

After a little descent with beautiful high desert views, you resume climbing at a much more mild pace, heading up North Wenas Rd (the same stretch of road used for the more fun way to Ellensburg). Instead of attacking some gravel and crossing the boundary into Kittitas County, though, you just take a U-turn after an info control and enjoy nearly 20 miles of gradual descent towards Selah.

You'll finish up on some back roads to the west of Selah, which add a few final small climbs before taking you back south of the Naches River over Powerhouse Rd. From there, it's all city roads and a little MUP to wrap up your adventure.

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!