"Intrepid Cyclists Fight Wind Across the Not-So-Frozen Tundra"
Okay, not really the Tundra either--definitely a prairie though. A very windy prairie!
Since this was a Saturday Team ride, we started at Tumwater Falls Park. One of the guys called the route (supposed to be a 75 miler), and we took off riding in the direction I had just come from. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 riders. The good thing about riding toward my house is that I know I won't have to do extra miles to get home. I can just peel off when we get close to my house.
We didn't go right by my street, but turned on Rich Rd. We took the back way off of Rich, then back to Rich, and over to Fir Tree Rd. We rode Fir Tree to Rainier Rd. Once we were on Rainier Rd, we were dodging branches and pine boughs galore. There happened to be a very large branch taking up most of the shoulder. I saw it in time to swerve around it as did most of the others. Unfortunately, one of the other gals didn't see it in time. She tried to bunny hop over it (it would have required a full-sized RABBIT JUMP), but wasn't successful. She went down. She said she was okay, but her front wheel was messed up (sound familiar?). Her and her husband turned back.
The rest of us continued on to Spurgeon Creek Rd which brought us back to Yelm Hwy. We continued out Yelm Hwy. At Meridian, a number of riders turned to do a shorter route out Evergreen Valley. There were 10 of us left (3 of us original 6 women). At Hwy 510 we went right and rode single file to a road a short way past Red Wind Casino (and off the Reservation). We turned right, regrouped, then crossed the hwy and headed down a road that goes onto the JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McChord--Army and Air Force Posts). This was a pretty decent road with very little traffic.
We continued on this road (do not know the name of it--maybe at some point it is Range Rd?) down to a bridge over the river. There was a closed gate on the other side of the bridge. We had to shimmy through a narrow opening on the side of the gate. Then it was up the hill (I once read something that said you can look at a map and tell where the hills are based on the blue lines--rivers. You always have to go down to the river, then back up the other side.).
Once we were back up, away from the river, and out on the prairie going past the gun ranges of the Army Post, the wind really picked up. A guy I met today named Tim was great at protecting me from the wind. He would signal me to tuck in tight behind him (which I gratefully did). At several points we had a nasty crosswind. Tim would signal me to move to whichever side took me out of the wind. Due to his frequent protection, I was able to stay with the group--even when we were over 50 miles into the ride. He is one totally awesome dude! He also made sure everyone else was keeping up too. If a couple of people, or even several, fell back, he would drift back and pull them back to the group.
We made to the turnaround at the Scouts Out Gate (this is a much more substantial gate--not sure we could go around this one even if we wanted to--there was a sign about it being an ID Checkpoint). From there it was just back the way we had come. I heard someone say it had been 17 miles since we turned off Hwy 510.
Not too long into the ride back, Jean got a flat. Ron took over and changed it for her (I've heard this is fairly common of the guys--they probably think we women can't change a flat fast enough. Truth is, and I'll admit it, they are probably right. The fastest I have ever changed a flat is 15 minutes and that was in my garage.).
We continued on and a few more miles down the road, Jean got another flat. Ron did the honors again and, at least for the rest of the time I was with Jean, she didn't get another flat.
We shimmied around the gate at the bridge again and climbed the much steeper hill up the other side. Prior to that, I was falling back a little. DJ asked if I was okay. I said I was "good enough". I knew my way home, so I was fine. He said no one was going to be dropped anyway. I hooked on to his wheel and he pulled me back to the group. This is typical of most of the guys on the team. They are very kind and helpful. There are a few who are not so nice, but I don't keep their names in my head.
Back at 510, some of the group (Jean and my new friend, Tim, included) were going to throw in another leg down Reservation Rd to the Nisqually Valley. A few of us opted to just head straight back at Yelm Hwy. I made the turn from 510 to Yelm Hwy. No one was with me for about half of the ride back until Dave and Bob (?) caught up to me. Dave told me to hook on his wheel, so I did. The wind was pretty nasty. Dave made sure I stayed with him. The only problem was that his buddy flap is not so buddy-friendly. I finally fell back a little just so I wouldn't be hit with so much dirt and water. I was close to home anyway, so it was okay.
Other than the wind, the weather was quite nice for most of the ride. We even had some nice stretches of sunshine! It only started to spit some rain with about 15 or so miles to go (for me).
Total miles: 69
Average Speed: 17.2mph