Saturday, June 15, 2013

Paradise...At Last!

Over and over my attempts to ride to Paradise at Mt. Rainier have been thwarted (okay, maybe not over and over, but twice). But, no more! Today I had the opportunity to ride with the GGGs and CBC from Ashford to Paradise. The weather could not have been better--blue skies, mid-70s...perfect!

Taryn generously allowed me to, once again, ride in her Van...of...Awesomeness (cue the echo).
This time our trusty partner was Brian. He rode in the back as he felt the chicks should stick together (so true!). Our usual Van-of-Awesomeness Atmosphere O'Hilarity ensued as we made our way to our starting point at Whittaker's Bunkhouse (named after the famous Mt. Rainierian, Lou Whittaker--his picture is in the cafe, anyway).

There were about 13 of us who started, 8 of which were women. It was 5 miles to the Entrance Station of Mt. Rainier National Park. A few people in the group had Discover Passes. Each pass allows up to 5 people entrance to the park. I went in on Maggie's pass (thanks Maggie!). Once through the Entrance Station, I caught up to Anne, as she was riding alone, and we seemed a good fitness level match.  

The going was pretty easy for quite awhile. I didn't even need to drop off my big ring in the front. That was encouraging, because I had wondered if Tessa would be a good bike to bring (Star is the bike with the triple). However, with Tessa's 30 tooth cog in the rear, combined with the compact double, and the lighter weight, we had no problems with the climb. Oh, I did eventually get into that easiest gear, but only in the last few miles.

Due to the fabulous weather, we had beautiful views of the mountain and the surrounding wilderness. At one of the viewpoints, where a lot of cars were pulled over, I remarked to Anne how biking up really gives one the full experience that just can't really be obtained from a car. On a bike you really have time to soak up the views, and there are spectacular views around nearly every corner! 

It took Anne and I 2:23 to make it to Paradise. Our average speed was a respectable 10.4 mph. We stopped for photo ops along the way. Here is a photo of Tessa (white mountain, white guardrail, white bike)

Anne and I were the second pair to arrive at the top. The two fast guys (Mark and...Scott? Not sure if that's who the second fast guy was) got there first and had been there for a bit because they were well into a couple of good-sized slices of pizza by the time Anne and I arrived. Bit by bit the others arrived with the exception of Steven and Lori. After we had been at the top for about a half hour, we went ahead and took a group photo minus the two who hadn't made it yet.

We refilled our bottles, donned warm layers for the descent, and headed down. I, quite possibly, overdid the warm layers (arm warmers, leg warmers, jacket, and long finger gloves). I was comfortable, but I would have been just fine with less too.

I flew through the curves, treating it like a Crit--in the drops, little braking, and rolling over the rough sections of the road. It was a blast! I was in a good no-traffic pocket (nothing passed me for a really long time, and no tour busses ever passed me). After awhile, when the descent was no longer as steep, I had to pull over to take off the extra layers. A couple of others did the same, however, I had a few more items to take off than they did (cue the stripper music). Feeling much better, back to shorts and jersey, I caught back up to Anne. We rode together for awhile. I took the lead to give her a break from the wind. After coming out from the Entrance Station, I lost Anne. I then caught up to Maggie and Bob. The three of us rode the last few miles together.

I rode 49 miles with a final ride time of 3:25 and an overall average of 14.3mph. My max speed was 38.4. Because Taryn was the ride leader, and an all-around nice person (Brian too), they came in much later. They had gone BACK UP to the summit with the two riders who had fallen behind, then rode most of the way back down with them! Impressive ride leadership!!!

In the meantime, I had found where Taryn left the keys to the Van-of-Awesomness (thanks to Carol and Maggie reminding me) and was able to change clothes and put my bike in. I had some ice cream from the cafe, and waited in a chair in the shade under the trees.

 I could have stayed there all day, but not long after, Taryn and Brian came cruising in.

Taryn was carrying a bag of someone's stuff in her jersey pocket (see what I mean about impressive ride leader?). The other two came in a short time later.

We got everything loaded, and after making sure everyone was taken care of, we headed for home.

So, I finally rode to Paradise. I have to say, I'm rather glad to have NOT done it, loaded, on Betsy or Stella. Riding Tessa was very fun and just the right amount of challenge.

Here are a few more of the great photos from today.
 Taryn and I at the Entrance Station.
Christine Falls
Anne and I, and, her majesty, Mt. Rainier!
The mountain reflected in the windows of the Visitor Center.

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