Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 5: Elma, WA to Long Beach, WA

65 miles (of 85)

I checked out the weather report for today and expected high 40's-low 50's for the ride start. So I packed the leg warmers, headband, and full gloves in my ferried luggage. From the time I loaded baggage at  6:30 am to my 7:15 start the temperature had dropped to 38. Many people decided to "bump"--catch a SAG ride--to the first or second stop at miles 18 and 38. I decided to set out through the morning fog, with about 20 feet of visibility, using my index finger as a windshield wiper for the condensation on my glasses. I do have a flashing strobe light on the rear of my bike to alert cars approaching from behind.

When I reached the first SAG stop at 18 miles I was beyond cold. Air temperatures were still very low and the fog continued. I decided to hop into the SAG wagon and bump to the second stop. It was a very good decision. Even 20 miles later I was still shivering with teeth chattering. In addition, the mileage I missed was not particularly attractive. I was on the verge of bumping another stop when I checked a road map of the route and realized that the town I was in, Raymond, is very near the coast. The sun had finally come out and the air was beginning to warm. I forced myself out of the cocoon of the SAG wagon, warmed in the sun for a few minutes, and set off for the final 48 miles.

As the ride opened up there were many beautiful vistas of coastal farms, tidal rivers, and salt marshes. There were many long hills, all with a grade that was possible to pedal.

Our hotel tonight is on the beach, our first encounter with the Pacific. Despite being quite windy and cold at the end of the day, Sunnye and I decided to take a short beach walk with our pre-prandial brews to compare notes on our first few days of cycling.
Editorial note:  only one belongs to me

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 4: Bremerton, WA to Elma, WA

70 miles

Getting out of Bremerton was a huge challenge as it is a city of hills. I had three walking hills of varying length in the beginning few miles. The terrain was not particularly attractive with no real views. Clear-cutting of forests was evident in many areas. There were many political signs along the way and I noted that the surnames of many candidates were identical to street and town names--the Old Boy Network lives on. This is the first day of the ride that I gained some momentum and rhythm as there were a couple of ten mile stretches that were relatively level or slightly downhill. The weather was overcast and in the high 50's to low 60's, perfect for the amount of climbing we did.

I must have managed this smile before I realized that I left my computer and all electronic hookups in the Bremerton hotel (and it is the only photo of the day due to lack of scenic opportunities).

I confirmed my fear at the next SAG stop and began to figure out the logistics of shipping to a future hotel as we move every night. I will not reveal all of the details of the final plan but, upon arriving at tonight's hotel after completing 70 miles of riding, I set out on a three hour roundtrip to retrieve my lifeline to family, friends, and news of the world. I know that many of my readers are hanging on edge waiting for the latest post and I did not want to disappoint. Tomorrow there's no wifi so I'll reconnect in a couple of days.

Almost forgot to mention--I was intentionally run off the road by a car with two post-adolescent males in charge, the passenger sneering at me as I headed to the grassy ditch. A bit later an older pickup driver turning left waited until I reached the top of the hill before quickly making his turn in front of me. Just letting me know I'm riding in their neighborhood.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 3: Bremerton, WA

Rest Day

The main attraction of having a rest day in Bremerton, particularly so soon after the ride start, is its proximity to Seattle. After a good night's rest and popping a few Advil, I was ready for a little sightseeing. Our hotel is strategically located next to the ferry terminal and the ride is a beautiful 45 minutes to downtown Seattle. While the Pike Place Market is a tourist magnet, I enjoyed the vegetable, flower, and fish markets. I spent the remainder of the day catching up on news/newspapers and relaxing with friends.

This charismatic bird captures the expression we get from folks we meet along the way when they ask where we're cycling from and to. Maybe they know something we don't.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 2: Port Townsend, WA to Bremerton, WA

56 miles

Today was slightly warmer than yesterday in the morning with no fog, both welcome circumstances, and the afternoon was quite balmy. Today the elevation gain was 3500 feet with another sea level to sea level route. The hills were relentless and steep but no walking hills as there were yesterday.

The road surface on the secondary roads resembled Texas chipseal. After about 30 miles there was a short section of decent pavement and I spotted a sign for Bremerton, 23 miles, the same as the cue sheet instructions by a different route. I pondered what to do for a few milliseconds and decided to go off-route with the better road. All went well for a few miles with quite long hills but very doable grades, perhaps 5-7 %. Then the highway became divided with limited access. As I approached closer to Bremerton it became very clear that I was on a busy freeway with on and off ramps coming in greater frequency. Being a veteran of interstates on the Southern Tier, I didn't panic but rode with an excess of caution. With  five miles to Bremerton I recognized a road name from the cue sheet and exited. The only open building in the vicinity was a high school academy where I confirmed directions into the city center in the school office.

The clearer skies today opened up some nice vistas along the way.

Olympic Range from Hood Canal Bridge
To be quite honest, I was exhausted when I arrived at the hotel. The woman at the reception desk checked me in from across the lobby as I sat in a stuffed chair. In a minute or two I had my room assignment and headed up the elevator. When I reached the sign pointing me right or left depending on room assignment, it took me longer than I'd like to admit to figure out which way to turn.
Despite having a major overhaul of my bike pre-trip, I had many chain and derailler issues yesterday and today. There just wasn't enough time to deal with it yesterday at the late hour I finished the ride. Michelle, the trip leader/bike doctor, checked things out today and made some adjustments to the shifter cables and chain that should correct the problems.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 1: Bellingham, WA to Port Townsend, WA

80 miles

Today was baptism by fire. Eighty miles (including bonus miles due to wrong turns) of constant hilly terrain through fog, mist and, finally, sunshine. While the hills did not approach the grade of those in Italy they were tough nonetheless, reported by those with GPS to be 14-18 %. We started and ended at sea level but had an elevation gain of 3000 +.

Despite the morning fog and mist, the terrain was quite beautiful--a rural road shaded by tall spruce, a gravel bike path beside the water, and gorgeous, well-tended farmland.

Along the bike path we encountered a group of local first responders practicing mud rescue.They reported a man the previous week was pulled out after he had sunk to chest level in the slough.

The most spectacular views of the ride were from the bridges crossing Deception Pass. The two bridge sections were completed in 1935 connecting Whitbey and Fidalgo Islands. The currents and tidal changes in the strait are significant.

Aerial photo from archive
At the 67 mile mark we had to catch a ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend. I thought I had the 3:30 ferry in striking distance when I made an unfortunate wrong turn. It became abundantly clear that the 3:30 would not happen and, when the steep, long hills continued, I began to wonder if I would make the 4:30. I arrived at the toll booth with plenty of time to pay my fare and to drop my wallet, credit cards, and cash on the pavement before collecting myself and walking calmly on board. Here I found several of my co-riders looking about as energetic/comatose as I felt.

Our accommodations tonight are on Officer's Row at Fort Worden State Park. Located on Admiralty Inlet, FortWorden was an active Army base from 1902-1953. The location was considered to be strategic to the defense of Puget Sound. More recently it was the setting of the film "An Officer and a Gentleman". A beautiful setting.

Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bellingham, WA: Final Prep

The trip leaders held the organizational meeting for the ride this afternoon. There are now three trip leaders and 31 riders. The vast majority of people know other riders from previous Womantours offerings so it's an experienced group. This being the inaugural Pacific Coast ride, the entire group is really looking forward to it. Because it is a large group there are logistical challenges, particularly for the chef who creates masterpieces from her small quarters.

We will have a send-off dinner this evening, then early to bed for 6 am breakfast with a ride start of about 7:30.

Some may wonder just what DOES Tony do with his time while I'm away on these jaunts. Here you have it from the horse's mouth:  "I to soldier gamely on in Sarasota, monitoring our pool salinity, picking the odd low-hanging tangelo, and cooking my famous black beans and rice five nights a week.  Carol to link up with her women's group and cycle down the West Coast.  They take a ferry across Puget Sound, cycle through redwood forests, stop in San Francisco, then head along Big Sur, pass Monterey, tour San Simeon, check out Santa Barbara, and end in Ventura.  Lord that sounds tiring, doesn't it?  Glad I got the better of Carol again on the coin flip." For those already shedding a tear or two for the poor chap, Florida's soaring conditions should be perking up at about the time of his return as well as decent cycling weather.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Training: Part 2

Boulder was our choice this year for our summer relocation. It is a prime cycling destination and has a well-regarded soaring club, micro-breweries galore, and all else that a large college town has to offer. We are fortunate that our house rental is in the midst of the best cycling the area offers, through the towns of Niwot, Hygiene, and Longmont. I quickly developed a few routes through gorgeous farming country with views out to Boulder and Long's Peak, the only 14'er in this part of the state.
Flatirons and Boulder from Niwot

Long's Peak from Hygiene

My typical route passes the Ryssby Church, named after a village in Sweden. Emigrees left Ryssby for the United States in the late 1860's and traveled west on the recently completed Transcontinental Railroad. Many established farms in what was then the Territory of Colorado. This church was constructed from stone quarried from one of the homesteads and was the center of the community for decades. It is set next to a pleasant stream with a footbridge leading to the church entrance.

The mid-point of my ride lands me smack dab in the middle of Hygiene, a hamlet that could be plucked down in the middle of Vermont and fit right in. Mary's Deli is the focal point, and the numerous shade trees and lawn furniture beckon those in the cycling community to take their rest stops here.

Our summer travels also took us to Salida for several days of soaring and cycling with the Collegiate Peaks as the scenery. It never gets old.

What the ladies do while the men soar
A few words about weather and cycling conditions are necessary. Boulder had record-setting high temperatures this summer with many, many 100 + degree days in June and temperatures in the 90's for most of July and August. June also had high winds and several devastating wildfires that created a constant thick haze. Combining these factors and the elevation of the area (~5400 ft.) resulted in some difficult cycling conditions. Perhaps it will have enhanced my training--I'll soon find out.

My bike mileage for this summer was 1,311. That brings the total training regimen to 4,492 miles in ten months. A concern is that I have not done many longer rides since arriving in Colorado. Those first few long days will be an adjustment, perhaps offset by the adrenaline that flows when starting such a trip.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Training: Part 1

Having signed on for the Pacific Coast ride in August, 2011, I had 13 months to whip myself into cycling endurance mode. Tony and I had a two-week cycling vacation in Italy which was to jump start that process. Without divulging all of the gory details, and while we enjoyed Italy tremendously, it was less successful on the cycling front. An unfortunate tumble on rain-slicked cobblestones while heading down one of those famous Tuscany hills resulted in a visit to a hand surgeon and a cast on my right hand through mid-November.
Tuscany, pre-accident
Therefore, training in earnest began in late November. Sarasota has a vibrant cycling club, the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club, with group rides at all levels almost every day. I rode 5-6 days per week and managed to rack up 3181 miles between late November and early June.

The highlight of the winter was participating in Bike Florida in late March. It is a one week ride that visits different parts of the state each year. This year's location was a major attraction for me, on the panhandle due south of Tallahassee in an area termed the "Forgotten Coast". The town where we had our rest day, Apalachicola, also happens to be the epicenter of Florida's oyster industry and I can attest to their well-deserved reputation. Another incentive was the longer mileage days so I could gauge how my training was progressing. Having covered 300 miles in the week, I felt confident that I would be capable of increasing that to the 350-400 miles required on the Pacific Coast ride. I was fortunate to have two folks from the cycling club also on the trip along with their friend from Arizona and, most days, we rode together.
Bike Florida:  Terry, Patty, Amy, Carol

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pacific Coast Ride: The Plan

In August, 2011 I signed on for a cycling trip down the Pacific Coast from Bellingham, WA to Ventura,CA, commencing next Tuesday. The planned ride covers 1,539 miles with 24 riding days at an average of 64 miles/day and four rest days.
As with my 2009 Southern Tier cross country, I am riding with WomanTours. I will be accompanied by three woman from the '09 ride, a woman from my Florida cycling club, three trip leaders, and 24 other riders who I will meet for the first time. The arrangements will be identical to the last ride with overnights at hotels or B & B's, breakfast and dinner cooked by the WomanTours chef, luggage transport,and support on the road from four SAG drivers. The main difference for me this trip is that I will not be a SAG driver. My goal is every mile every day but, as weather or health dictates, I may need to amend it.