Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Adventures in Ice Avoidance

This New Year's Day ride plan changed more times than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles! All because of the blasted icy weather. It was sunny (sort of), but sunshine in a Pacific Northwest winter generally means cold temps and that was certainly true today. The highest temp we saw today was a brief 37 degrees. Mostly, it was in the low 30s. I know people bike in much colder weather, but here, where it is wet, that means ice--frequently of the black variety.

The original plan was to go the same route the team was planning, (minus Zenkner Valley Rd--too hilly) south through Bucoda and over Tono. But with the cold and ice, I didn't want to gain too much in elevation (it is quite a climb over Tono). So, we planned, instead, to go further south on 507 to the outskirts of Centralia, then cut over on Reynolds Ave to Old Hwy 99 and back up through Grand Mound. It would have been a 58 mile ride. We also pushed our 11:00 departure to 12:00 for more chances of warmer temps and thawing. The team also pushed their departure to noon.

However, as we were heading south on the trail rather cautiously, I suggested to Debbie that maybe we should cut the ride shorter and just do the Johnson Creek/Skookumchuck/Crowder loop. Debbie had never done Johnson Creek. Briefly, I thought of doing it counterclockwise (for some reason, I think that is easier), but since we would go back home on 99, it made more sense to do it clockwise. The road was better than the trail as far as icyness goes. There were the usual I-got-gun-for-Christmas-so-I-must-go-to-the-woods-and-shoot-it people along Johnson Creek Rd. The first gunshot scared both Debbie and I. Then, we got used to them (although, I'm not sure Debbie was convinced they weren't shooting toward the road).

It was increasingly cold and foggy as we progressed south. At the Johnson Creek and Skookumchuck intersection, I changed from my rose-colored lenses to my clear ones (this is where I wish I had the orange lenses of my old bike glasses--made every day a sunny day!).

We rode to Crowder via Northcraft Rd and back into Tenino. There was quite a bit more snow in the Tenino area. As we headed toward 99, Debbie suggested we take the trail back instead (99 would likely have a lot of sand/gravel on the shoulder and the traffic was less than gracious today). That was fine by me, so we headed to the trail. Well, the trail was a mess! It was covered in icy snow! If I'd been on Stella, I probably would have ridden through it okay. Not so on Star. We stopped to reevaluate this plan. Debbie suggested 507 to where the trail crosses. Then, if the trail was better, we could get on it there or continue to Military Rd and go that way. So, we turned around and went back to the trail entrance, got off and rode over to 507. As we were riding along 507 I remembered Old Military Rd (it parallels 507 from Tenino to just before the trail crossing). Only, we had gone too far on 507. Since this was the day of changing plans, we turned around and went back to a road that cut over to Old Military.

We came back to 507 near the trail crossing and could see the trail was now clear. Back on the trail, we rode back the way we had come before turning onto Johnson Creek. As we were riding past the equestrian center, we both heard this whistling sound. We both thought it was just my phone (it makes a bird whistle when I have a new email). But, it kept doing it. We both glanced over our shoulders at the same time, and there, coming up between us, was another cyclist. He startled both of us! He had on the Valley kit, so he is or was a team member. We chatted briefly, then he continued on at his much faster pace.

We knew we would have to do the Stedman detour around the closed part of the trail (we had done it on the way south), but when we got to Stedman, the trail was open (well, the fence was down and out of the way). So, instead of going up the hills on Stedman, we stuck to the trail. It looked like the trail maintenance had involved removing a couple of trees that had fallen over the river and created a dam of debris. Most of the debris was still there, but the trees were gone. There is a section of the trail that needs to be repaved (currently it is gravel). We thought maybe the tree removal damaged the trail.

The further along the trail we rode, the more we thought that, perhaps, someone had moved the fences illegally. That would mean the fence at the other end (103rd) would still be in place. Uh, yeah, that turned out to be the case. But, just as we were nearing the fence, we saw another cyclist come around the side. At least we knew we didn't have to go back! We shimmied around the end of the fence and resumed riding. The rest of the ride was uneventful.

It was a good idea to go the shorter route (10 miles shorter) as it was about 4:00 when we got back. With the slow going in the icy spots, it would have been dark by the time we finished the longer route. Another day for that ride...

Total miles: 48
Total changes of plans: Oh...I don't know...but it was a lot!

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