Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We Brave the Cold for a Ride into the Forest

It was another Wednesday gravel ride for those of us who don't work between Christmas and New Year's, or those, such as myself, who don't work between January 1st and January 1st, or those who just took the day off. It was just myself, Maria, and Sarah who were willing to brave the cold temps (but glorious sunshine). When I left my house, it was 25 degrees. 

We met at McLane Elementary School. I rode over from home (11.4 miles). It took me almost an hour as I was being a little cautious with the frosty stuff on the road shoulders. I managed just fine, and I t was a good warmup. 

We headed down Delphi, and up Cedar Flats (have I ever mentioned how not flat Cedar Flats is???) to Maple Valley, then through the little bushwhack hike-a-bike to the gravel road. From there it was the usual, seemingly, never ending climb up B-8400. I managed, once again, to make it to the top without stopping. That is due to having the 34 tooth small ring on the front, and a 32 on the back. Both Sarah and Maria had cyclocross gearing, thus making it much more difficult to make it up the steepest parts. However, in gravel riding, there is no shame in walking!

We made it back into the sunshine. Sarah had added extra leg warmers at the start. It was now time to take them off.
Warm work climbing!
Haven't seen this view for awhile!

We continued on, reveling in the sunshine, convincing ourselves it was quite warm (okay, not really warm, but at least the illusion of warmth). As we came up to the higher elevation, we started to see some snow. Fortunately, the tracks on the road were clear (except for occasional spots of ice which I gingerly rode over). When we got to the highest point, Maria noticed she had lost a screw from her front fender stay. None of us happened to be carrying any zip ties, so we took the zipper pulls off three of Maria's backpack zippers, connected them together, then tied the fender to the fork. It looked pretty sturdy. Then I took a photo of the snow.
This is not the road we were riding on. It's just a side road.

What we failed to do was check the tightness of the other screw on the other stay. That was a mistake. When Maria got to the Rock Candy Mtn. Trailhead parking lot, she noticed the other screw was gone. With no more zipper pulls to scavenge from her backpack, she had no choice but to remove the fender. Between my pocket knife, and her multi tool, we were able to get the fork crown screw and nut off. Then the question was, what to do with the fender? Calling once again on our MacGyver abilities, we managed to attach the fender to the outside of Maria's backpack. 

Our plan had been to head across Hwy 8 and go up the S-line to the end, then bushwhack down to the road near Steamboat Island Rd. Sarah was not too keen about riding on the Hwy. But, by then, we thought we shouldn't push our luck (plus, it would have been hard for Maria to bushwhack with a fender on her back). We opted to head back to town on the highway. It's not a bad highway to ride on. The shoulder is wide, and in this case, it was fairly clean. We had a brief respite at Winslow Dr., then returned and rode until Old Hwy 410. It was, maybe, 3 miles on the highway. Even Sarah said it wasn't so bad. 

We made it back to McLane, and Sarah and Maria's cars. Both offered to give me a ride home, but I was fine riding. Our loop had only been 16.4 miles, and I needed the calorie burn anyway. Plus, by then, although it was still cold, it wasn't that cold. I enjoyed my ride home in the sun for a total of almost 40 miles for the day. Not bad for sub-freezing temps!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

It's the Most Adventurous Gravel Ride of the Year...

There were mud bogs to slog through, and bushes to whack you, but we had lots of fun--it's the most adventurous gravel ride of the year! (You all know the tune, right?)

Today's ride was brought to us by Joy Ride Bikes. It was off schedule in that it was Saturday instead of Sunday. There was a great mix of riders, including 3 on mountain bikes (2 of which were singlespeed), for a total of 13 adventurous souls. There were just four of us gals--me, Karen, Jean, and a new gal, Katie. Since Karen was able to come, I didn't have to ride up to the meeting place (Skep and Skein). I only had to ride to Karen's.

The group headed to Delphi, then up Cedar Flats and Maple Valley to Capitol Forest. We rode up B-8400 as usual. What was not usual was that I wasn't last! That's right! I...was...not...last!!! We continued up and over to the Rock Candy Mtn. Trailhead. From there we crossed Hwy 8 and headed, on the pavement toward Summit Lake (one of the guys left us and headed home via Hwy 8).

Just after the Boy Scout Camp we turned onto the Summit Lake Shore Rd. Just a short way up the road we went under a gate, and back onto the gravel. We rode for a couple of miles on this nice gravel road. Then we came to the beginning of the singletrack (okay, I'm not sure it could be considered singletrack. That would imply that bikes regularly travel this way. I don't think so. I think it was really just a hiking trail. Although we were able to ride short bits, mostly we walked the half mile or so to Kennedy Falls. Of course, the mountain bikes were able to ride more than those of us on our gravel bikes.

There were lovely sections of muddy bogs with slippery logs. We did our best to not sink in the mud, but I will say my gaiters have never been so dirty! Soon, we could hear the sound of the falls. When we got to Kennedy Falls, some of the guys walked down closer to the water. Most of us stayed up above.
The Falls from the safety of above.
Below the Falls.

We took some time to snack, take photos, and admire our accomplishments of making it to the falls. 
Karen and Jean.
Derik, Dusty, and Bill (fondly referred to as "T-shirt Bill" for obvious reasons).
Derik trying some new kind of helmet accessory.

At first the plan was to go back the way we came. The trail did continue, but no one really knew how far it was back to the road. However, phones were consulted, and it was decided we would take our chances and continue on instead of going back the way we came. Afterall, "the road was just over there!" Once again we did more walking than riding. Then, it was more bushwhacking than trail. Finally, a couple of guys walked ahead to do a little scouting. They went up a ridge, but it looked like we were going to have to turn around. Upon further scouting in a different direction, the actual trail was found. Funny thing was that we still ended up having to hike-a-bike, and we ended up going up the ridge anyway. At least we were on a semblance of a trail.

Finally, we found the road. We rode for a short time before coming to an intersection. More phone consultation determined the way to go was left. A good sign we were headed back to civilization was when we passed some people walking up the road we were coming down. Eventually, we came out to Old Olympic Hwy. When we got to where we would turn onto Hwy 101, we decided to have just a little more adventure. There is a short section where the old highway continues parallel to 101. I've always wondered where, and how far it went. Turns out, not too far before it turns into more of a trail, and climbs up. We turned around deciding to save that adventure for another day.

From there we just rode 101 back to the Steamboat Island exit. One of the guys got a flat, so we stopped while that was fixed. Then it was down Madrona Beach Rd. to Mud Bay, and back up the hill into town. 

We ended up doing about 31 miles. It was one of the best gravel rides so far! Of course, it helped that for the first time, it wasn't raining!

Here's a collage of photos Ron Jones took. Notice the one of us bushwhacking. The group shot is when we finally found the road.

Who knows what the next gravel adventure will be???

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I'm Dreaming of a White Gravel Ride...

...Wait, it's not a dream! But it's Wednesday, you say! Gravel riding on a Wednesday? Yep!

Geraldine and Karen, along with Geraldine's daughter, Juliann, planned a short gravel ride for today. I got to go too! Geraldine lives very near Capitol Forest. We met at her house, and rode up Waddell to C-9000. It was raining rather heavily, but I was wearing my new Endura rain jacket.

Juliann remarked, at the beginning, that this route was all uphill. While it may have seemed that way, because it was a loop, it couldn't be all uphill. However, we did do quite a bit of climbing (according to Strava, 1857 ft in 14.3 miles). 

C-9000 is closed to traffic. Therefore, the road has more loose rocks than the other gravel roads in the forest. It not a problem until it gets pretty steep. On the first steep part the three of us "old" ladies had to walk, while the "young" mountain goat girl managed to get to the top without resorting to walking. Okay, this young mountain goat girl is going to Cyclocross Nationals in two weeks!

As we continued climbing, the rain started to turn to a rain/snow mix, then full-on big fat snowflakes. We didn't hang around long enough to see if it was going to stick. One must keep moving so as not to freeze one's butt off!

 We came to the end of C-9000 and turned to come down a singletrack trail. This is where the adventure really began. First of all, Cross Bike Hal would have no problems. Gravel Bike Hal, on the other hand, was not so easy (read--a little bit scary!). The main issue is the fenders. The toe overlap with the fenders is horrible. The slightest turn, and my feet hit the fenders. Plus, with the gravel tires, there is more slippage in the soft stuff (be it mud, or a blob of wet leaves). It all makes for less confidence coming down the singletrack.

Not long after I got Mama Cass, I did a ride with Derik, DJ, and Trisha. We ended up doing C-9000 and this singletrack. Of course, it was summer. I remember pretty much freaking out on the singletrack then. This time? Not so much...well...less freaking out. Except for one part. The others rode it. I chickened out and walked it. 

Then we came to a creek. More adventuring! Here's a photo Karen took of me fording the creek.
Believe it or not, my feet stayed dry! Love the boots and gaiters!

Then there were a couple other hike-a-bike spots before we got to the part clearly designed for mountain bikes. We walked the trail next to the precipice of death (okay, maybe not death, but definitely the precipice of pain should one happen to go off the edge), and forded another creek. 

There were still a couple of obstacles, but before long, we reached the paved road. From there it was just a couple miles back to Geraldine's, where we congratulated ourselves on a job well done!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Never a Dull Gravel Ride

As I was heading over to Karen's for a ride up to the forest for today's gravel ride, I thought I probably wouldn't do a blog post for this ride. Afterall, how different could it be? Rain? Yeah, we've already experienced that. Sun? There wouldn't be enough of that to warrant a blog post. Oh, how wrong I was...

I think there were 13 of us to start with. The chick roster was, me, Karen, Jean, Jen, Michelle, and Geraldine. Although, Geraldine would turn back at or near the top of the first climb--a climb that was, from the cars, a good 7 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain. As for the guys, it was Tim, Derik, Ron, Cam, Henry, Brad, and Dave (on his new gravel bike). 

So we did that first long climb. As we were climbing, I started noticing snow on sides of the road. Tim had mentioned he'd gotten into some snow yesterday. I thought, well, that's not too bad--just a bit on the sides. Of course, the farther up the road we went, the more snow there was. I just tried to stay in the tire tracks from vehicles that had driven before us.

We finally got to the top. Ron took this photo.
I'm in the blue jacket. Thanks Ron Jones for allowing me to use your photo!

Going up in the snow was okay. Coming down was, well, a little scary. Everyone, except Karen and I, seemed to have no fear. Karen and I quickly fell behind (better to fall behind, than to fall down). After awhile, we descended out of the snow. Then I was able to pick up speed. At one point I was going 30 mph! Woo Hoo--that was fun! Karen and I kept going down. On the last two rides, whenever there is a turn, the group, or one person will wait to make sure everyone makes the turn. Karen and I didn't see anyone, so we continued on the road we were on. 

Down down down we went. The road was pretty steep and bumpy in places, but at least we were going down. Still, we saw no one. We couldn't really tell if there were tire tracks. There were too many bumps. Then, I saw a paved road through the trees. There were quite a few cars on this road I could see through the trees. I thought, "That's a lot of traffic for the D-line." That was a lot of traffic for the D-line. That's because it wasn't the D-Line! Nope, it was Hwy 12. I knew, as soon as we got to the highway, that it was Hwy 12. I told Karen we definitely missed a turn. We consulted Google maps to see just exactly where we were on Hwy 12. As I thought, we were west of Oakville but before Porter. I was pretty sure we needed to go left to get to where the D-line paved road goes back into the forest from Hwy 12. We turned on our tail lights and headed down the road. Before too long, we came to the D-line. I told Karen we could just take it to Bordeaux, and get back to the car on the road. It would not be what we planned, but I could get us back to the car. 

We started up the D-line. Just as I had decided I needed to pee, Derik comes up behind us. When they realized we were no longer with them, Derik deduced where we had probably gone (and he followed our tire tracks), and came to find us. I told Derik we were never lost, we just went a different way! 

Thr three of us continued up the road. When we got to the E-line, Derik could tell the rest of the group had already been there (his tracking skills are quite good). Karen suggested he take E-line, and we would stay on D-line (shorter and paved). We would meet him at the top at D-4000. If he caught up to the group, he could tell them to wait for us at D-4000. If he didn't catch them, but got to the top before us, he would wait for us, and we would take D-4000 back to the cars.

Even though Karen and I stopped for a little break on our way up the D-line (it's paved, but it's still a bugger of a climb), when we got to the top, no one was there. We waited (I finally got to pee) for Derik. We waited about 15 minutes. A rain/sleet mix started to fall rather heavily. There was no cover. We were getting cold. We discussed our options. We could continue on D-line to Bordeaux. Or, we could go up D-4000. My concern was that Derik would arrive and wait for us, wondering where we were. Karen had the smart idea to make a sign out of sticks saying, "WE LEFT". I looked at the map of the route, and thought we could figure it out. So, off we went. 

We climbed for awhile, came down some, and resumed climbing. At one point the road got kind of steep. Neither Karen or myself remembered if we had come down (two weeks ago) such a steep section. We started to wonder if we were, indeed, on the right road (there had been options for turning that we had passed). Again, we pulled out our phones. I also turned my Garmin Edge Touring on. I knew I could just put in Sherman Valley Rd., and it would route us there. Before the Garmin could acquire the satellite, what was left of the group, came up behind us! I think they were just as glad to see us, as we were to see them! I noticed Ron, Jean, and Michelle were not with them. Ron and Jean had taken the D-line to Bordeaux, and back to the cars that way (our original plan before Derik caught us). Michelle had, apparently, headed back much earlier. 

So, we were going the right way! We continued riding. There was only about 30 minutes more, and more downhill than up. However, before long, Karen and I were alone again. We laughed about it. Then we came to a fork. Again, no one was there. Fortunately, Derik was behind us. He came upon us, and saw the tracks. Karen and I saw them too, so we knew the way they went. 

We made it back to the cars. Jean and Ron were already there. It turned out that, even though Karen and I didn't do the exact same route, we did the exact same number of miles--38! I guess this just shows, there is never a dull gravel ride (however, this one might be hard to beat)!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Maybe Not Epic In Distance, But Definitely Epic In Weather!

I finally made it to a Joy Ride Gravel Ride! This is the third one Joy Ride Bikes has put on. I was still cross racing for the first one, and out of town for the second one. This one was billed as an epic ride of 50 miles with roughly 6000 ft of elevation gain. Fortunately, there were a few of us who had no intention of doing the whole thing (as much as I wish I could). There were some bailout points. 

The weather ended up being quite nasty, with a lot of rain, and a cold wind (especially chilly when you are wet). We were meeting at a place called Skep and Skein on the Westside--about 9 miles from my house. I rode up there. There were 15 hardy souls that showed up. The women's posse numbered 6--Jen, Michelle, Monica, Jean, Erin, and myself. 

The original plan was to do the "Sub-Black Hills" over to Delphi. Tim said it would be bad--impossible to ride up or down with all the rain we've had. So, scratch that--fine by me! Instead, we headed straight over to Delphi, then up Cedar Flats to Maple Valley, and into the forest. We did a short hike-a-bike to get to the gravel road (B-8400...I think). It's a heck of a climb up B-8400. When I first did it on Stella, I had to walk. The couple of times I've done it on Mama Cass, I've made it without walking, but MC has much lower gearing. I didn't know if I'd be able to make it up on Hal without walking, but I did! Granted, I was very very slow (possibly, I could have walked faster). Everyone made it without walking. Michelle and I were matched pedal stroke for pedal stroke. I could hear her telling herself, "Don't walk, Michelle. Don't walk." I told my legs to listen to Michelle. 

It had actually stopped raining while we were climbing (great, because I had taken off my waterproof rain shorts-they tend to fall down when I'm climbing, making it harder to pedal). But, as soon as we started the descent, it started raining again. I was plenty warm enough. Soon enough we were back to climbing. Those who are faster than me (which is everyone) would wait at the top of each hill, or at every turn. The super fast people would add extra by either coming back down, or going up another spur, then coming back, only to pass me as I was slogging along. 

We came down the long descent. At the bottom, we had to make a decision. This was where we could bail, and take the highway back from the Rock Candy Mtn Trailhead. But, we had only come about 10 miles or so--a little short. We decided to continue. They were not going to go all the way up to Capitol Peak anyway (one of these days, I'd like to do that--maybe in summer). There were two more big climbs, then we would get to come down C-8000 to Noshka Rd. 

The rain was really coming down. Water was running down the road. I said to Erin that I didn't know how the salmon could do it. I was having a hard time "swimming" upstream! We finished the first climb, then got to ride along the ridge for awhile before heading up the next climb. At one point, the front group was told to go right at a fork in the road. By the time I got to it, Derik, chasing after the others, said the correct way was left. The few of us who were behind continued to the left. At another fork, Jason wasn't sure, so I stopped and waited. I looked back as the group was coming and saw Lee bunny hop a branch, and then crash! He was okay. Erin said he shouldn't have done the bunny hop as he has crashed and broken various bones before. Fortunately, not this time.

As I was riding along, Derik rode up and said, "Didn't we go this way on that ride where we all got really cold?" At first I didn't think so, but then I realized we must have. That was my third gravel ride on Stella. At least this time, even though the weather was close to what it was that time, I was not cold...yet.

At the top of the last climb, the wind was blowing and quite cold. We got moving, only having a few hundred more feet to go before we would turn onto C-8000. At the top of C-8000 I put my rain shorts back on for the descent. My thighs were a little chilled from the windy part. I knew I would freeze coming down the long descent. Those who had taken jackets off, put them back on. Some changed gloves. 

The ride down was fun and scary. Part of the descent is very exposed--great views, but you'd hate to make a wrong move. I've only come down C-8000 once when it wasn't raining. After getting back into the trees, the road is not quite as steep. Then it's really fun. You can go faster without having to brake. At that point, I didn't look to see how fast I was going. In the upper section, where I was on the brakes the whole time, I saw I was going 16mph (on Stella I had gone 12 mph at the most).

After a brief bit of an uphill, we came down and popped out onto Noshka. At this point, I was really wishing the cars were waiting at the "Y" like last week. Alas, no. We would have to ride back to town. At least there was the downhill part of Waddell Creek Rd.

At the intersection of Waddell and Delphi, I told everyone I would turn at 62nd and go around Black Lake. That is the shortest way for me to get home. Although, I would have liked to join the group at Skep and Skein, I knew if I stopped, I would not want to get back on for the remaining 9 miles home. Nope, better to just keep moving. Monica said she would go that way too. So did a few others. It was actually shorter to get to Skep and Skein going on Black Lake Blvd. 

I left that group when I turned to go over Sapp. From there it was just me. I was tired, and counting down the hills I still had to go up. At least it didn't matter that I was slower than a turtle. By then, my hands were pretty cold (lobster gloves can only keep out the water for so long).

I made it home. Turns out, I did 52 miles (counting the 9 to get to the start). Total elevation was over 3800 ft. Not bad work for a dreary day! I say it was epic, even though we cut it short! As always, a rainy day on the gravel is much better than a rainy day on the road, or sitting at home watching the rain from the couch!

Ready for the next one (okay, maybe not exactly ready...but I will be)!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Gravel Ride Where Henry Was My Hero

First of all, I apologize for no photos. When you spend the bulk of a ride just trying to catch up, you don't take time to take photos.

Tim called this gravel ride. It's awesome to go on gravel rides with him because he knows Capitol Forest really well, and he is very kind to those of us ( who are slower than molasses. There were 9 of us with myself, Karen, and Jean being the women's contingent. The guys were Tim, Derik, Henry, Cam, Jason, and Kyle. We met at the intersection of Waddell Creek and Sherman Valley roads--aka, "The Y". I rode over to Karen's, and we drove up.

I had converted Hal to a gravel bike by swapping out the cross tires for some 40mm Kenda Happy Mediums--a gravel tire, slapping on some 50mm fenders, changing the cassette from an 11-28 to a 11-32, and finally, putting a 34 tooth small chainring on the front instead of the 36. I was hoping it would give me a low enough gear. Oh, and two bottle cages. Needless to say, Hal weighs considerably more as a gravel bike, than a cross bike! 

The weather called for a fair amount of rain, but it actually wasn't that rainy. It was also almost 50 degrees (at least at the start). We took off, heading for the C-line. I was excited, because I'd never done C-Line. As like most of the roads into Capitol Forest, it's a climb. Right away, I was dropping behind. Not terribly surprising, but I was really dropping behind. Okay, to back up a bit, Friday, I went in to the doctor and found out I have a bladder infection (hmmm...explains the back pain, and general crummy feeling I've been having all week). So, I'm on Cipro, and a prescription strength NSAID for 5 days. The doc said I was okay to go on the gravel ride if I felt up to it. However, one of the potential side effects of Cipro is tendinitis and/or tendon rupture. Soooo....when I picked up the prescription, the pharmacist told me NOT to engage in exercises such as yoga and Pilates. He didn't say anything about gravel riding...of course, I didn't ask him either. Needless to say, I was probably not functioning at 100% today. But, I was determined to go on this gravel ride!

We climbed for awhile, then leveled out a bit before continuing to climb. The real steep stuff started about 10 miles in. I was struggling to keep the pedals turning when Henry came up behind me and put his hand on my back. He pushed me up the hill helping me to catch up to Jean and Karen. He asked me if I was okay with him pushing me. Oh, most definitely, I was okay with that! The thing is, this is a no-drop ride. If I can, in whatever way, get up the hill faster, then the rest don't have to wait so long, and get cold. It doesn't make it easier, I just go faster. I was grateful. Plus, Henry was very encouraging (and incredibly strong to be able to pedal himself, and push me at the same time). 

There were parts that, even with Henry's help, I could no longer pedal (partly because I was already tired from the climbing thus far). Then I walked. Jean and Karen were walking by this time too. After one rather prolonged bout of walking, Henry (sticking with us gals) told me to try and get back on. I did, and he came up behind and started pushing again. It was still really hard, but we made it. 

Finally, the steepest parts were over. We had just some easier climbing to go, then a nice long downhill back to the cars. For part of it, all the guys except Tim (who was kind to stay with us gals) took a singletrack trail, and met up with us later. Of course, Derik, Cam, Jason, Kyle, and Henry are all very experienced mountain bikers...even though they were all riding gravel bikes. Amazing!

So, I made it! We did 26 miles and 3,435 ft of elevation gain. I am very tired, but would not have missed this for anything! Afterall, feeling crummy outside on a gravel ride is far better than feeling crummy at home on the couch! And, thanks to my hero, Henry, I don't think everyone else had to wait too long for me.

Hopefully, I will be better for next week's epic 50 miler (although, I doubt I'll do the whole 50).