Sunday, March 15, 2015

It's More Fun to Gravel Ride in the Rain Than to Race in the Rain

I had two riding options for today. Race around Mason Lake for the second weekend in a row, or do a gravel ride. I chose to gravel ride with Karen. We were going to go up to Capitol Forest, but since it was raining pretty solidly, Karen suggested JBLM. I called, and Area 20 was open. 

We accessed JBLM at the end of Johnson Rd. I've been this way a few times. It wasn't too bad, just a few puddles to dodge here and there. We came out of the trees and onto the prairie. The gravel road then comes out to Rainier Rd. Since we'd only gone about 10 miles, we continued down Rainier, and got back on JBLM on the oil and graveled road. But, that was only for a moment as we took a road parallel to Rainier Road. Not wanting to just ride on the gravel roads across the prairie, we took a road that pretty much goes along the edge of the prairie at the base of a ridge. I had done this before (when it was a whole lot drier). We came to a small lake (okay, it was a puddle-- but a really big puddle). It covered the whole road. I opted to ride through it, thinking it probably wasn't that deep. Yes, it was that deep! I was splooshing through the lake with water coming up above the bottom bracket. I had my boots on with the gaiters, but the water still got into the boots. Karen watched me, then...walked around the water. Good choice!

We continued on, going around puddle after puddle. That section of gravel came back to the "main" gravel road, but there was also another offshoot that, again, stayed closer to the base of the ridge. Being the adventurous sort that we are, we decided to continue on the offshoot. It could easily be called "The Lake Route". In some places we had to go on the side, through the grass and mowed-down Scotch broom (which leaves stubby sticks poking up, making one wonder if they could puncture a tire). 

We came to a steep road that goes up the ridge to the upper prairie. Last time I was out this way, I saw this road, and later tried to find it from above. I wasn't successful. So I asked Karen if she wanted to go up that way, so we could see where it came out. There was just one little problem. There was a huge body of water between us and the base of the road. The only way to the other side was to go through it. We decided to save it for another, drier day.

We still had to negotiate more lakes. At one point, I was "off-roading" in the prairie grass for about 100 feet. I was thinking, at some point, I needed to get back to the road. There was finally a break in the puddles, and I bounced my way back to the road.

We came out at the oil and graveled road. We decided enough was enough. We would head back. So we rode the oiled and graveled road back to Rainier Rd. When we got back to the place where we had come out to Rainier Rd, we opted to go back the way we came on the gravel instead of riding Rainier Rd all the way back. We came to an intersection. I, mistakenly, thought we were supposed to go straight to stay on the road we had been on earlier. Pretty soon, both Karen and I were questioning if we were on the same road. We kept riding, thinking there were more puddles because it had continued to rain. Eventually, we came to the conclusion we were not on the same road (JBLM can be tricky that way). In my experience, most of the roads either loop around and come back to the main road, or they come out to Rainier (or 510 if you are on the other side). We continued on, thinking we would probably come out on Rainier some point. We seemed to be looping back in the direction we had come from. Finally, we stopped to look at my phone (good thing is, I got a Lifeproof waterproof case for my new iPhone 6--bad thing is, it wouldn't scroll the map very good to allow me to find out where we were in relation to Rainier Rd.). Not really being able to tell if we were headed toward Rainier or not, we continued on. Maybe 300 feet more, we came out to the road we had meant to be on in the first place! Whew! Now we knew where we were. 

We were both getting cold, so we were happy to get back on the road and ride the rest of the way home. We rode 27 miles. That's three more than I would have ridden at Mason Lake, but it was much more fun! I apologize for not having any photos, but it really was a rainy day. Photos would not have turned out very good.

No comments: