Monday, May 23, 2016

Mama Cass and Stella Go Touring Together

But, you say, how is that possible? You can't ride two bikes at the same time. Don't worry, I didn't.

My friend, Annette, came over from Spokane to do a shakedown ride in preparation for our tour next month on the Selkirk Loop. This was Annette's first time riding a fully loaded touring bike. She would ride Stella, and if they got along together, then Stella would go to Spokane with Annette. I will be flying to Spokane with Tilmann. Lucky for Mama Cass, Tilmann is not finished quite yet, so she got to go on the shakedown.
Annette with the two loaded girls.

Originally, we were just going to go to Millersylvania. But, turns out, Annette has been doing a fair amount of riding. Instead, we opted to ride to Schafer State Park which was nearly 50 miles from home (versus Millersylvania's 34--if we took the long way). Now, you might be thinking, if you've read my previous blog post, why would I want to ride to Schafer when I just raced out there last weekend? I won't say it is a completely different world touring versus racing, but it is a whole lot slower! Slowness allows for viewing the scenery--seeing something besides the wheel in front of you. Besides, we went the opposite direction, and everyone knows that's totally different! 

We planned a 9:00am departure from my house. Amazingly, we left at 8:50! That rarely happens, especially when you have someone who has not toured before. We even did some last minute saddle adjustment (Annette is a bit taller than me). 

Full rain gear.

Unfortunately, it was raining. We put on our rain gear. I decided to try my new Showers Pass waterproof socks. I opted for my full length rain pants instead of my waterproof shorts. The only bad thing was that Mama Cass does not have fenders. I put front and rear racks on (going with panniers instead of the trailer), and there is not enough clearance for fenders. Annette had to stay back a bit to escape the rooster tail of water that MC was spitting out. Later, she decided it didn't really matter as she was already getting wet from the rainfall.

We headed west out of Olympia. There is quite a bit of climbing. Going up Old Hwy 410, I noticed Stella's rear tire looked a little low. I realized I had not added air before we left. We stopped, and I pumped up both tires to account for the added weight. 

We made it to McCleary at about noon. We stopped at Subway for lunch. It had rained the entire ride there. We both formed good size puddles under our chairs. 
"We made it!", said Annette (to lunch, anyway).

Annette had to take care of some business with her son over the phone, so we had a good long break, and dried out some. I hopped across the street to the Ma and Pa's Kettlecorn roadside stand and bought a bag of caramel corn for later.

Back on the road, we stayed off Hwy 8, instead, taking the backroad. After awhile, we noticed the rain has eased up a little, but it was a bit more windy--a headwind, of course. We made it to E. Satsop Road where we had to go up the steep hill that I came down in the race. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Also, the rain had stopped, which was awesome! Setting tents up in the rain is no fun!

We arrived at the park, and the ranger said we could choose whichever non-power site we wanted as the park was mostly empty. He still only charged us the primitive site cost of $12.

Woo Hoo! 

We decided on #8. We wanted to be near the river so we could listen to the sound of the water, and 8 had two nice flat spots for our tents. Annette is using my REI Quarter Dome T2 tent. I helped her, after I reminded myself how to set it up. I'm using my MSR Hubba Hubba NX. We got everything set up. This was my first time sleeping on my new Windcatcher sleeping pad (first saw it on Shark Tank--the technology has now been licensed to Thermarest). The pad inflates by blowing into a large opening from about 4 inches away. As I blow into it, it sucks the surrounding air in as well, therefore not requiring as many breaths. Once it is mostly inflated, the opening rolls up and latches closed. Then the small valve is used to fine tune the firmness. Overall, it seems to inflate faster than pumping my Exped. Even if it doesn't, this pad is much lighter and takes up less space. So far, it seems pretty comfortable.

Our campsite by the river.

For dinner, I made my favorite pasta with sautéed veggies. I used my new Sea to Summit XPot and bowl (I also have the cup). The pot is collapsible silicon with a metal base. It has a lid with strainer holes. It worked great! I really like how I can leave the lid partially off without it continually sliding back on so it doesn't boil over. I was a little concerned that the small handles on the side of the pot would make it hard to hold onto to drain the pasta water. It was actually very easy. When stored, the cup and bowl both fit in the collapsed pot. It makes for a tidy cookset. I give it a thumbs up!
Cooking dinner

After dinner, Annette really wanted a fire, so she bought a bundle of wood. While she was attempting to start the fire, I went to the restroom building and washed the dishes. I returned to find Annette still trying to start the fire. There were a couple of problems. First, the pieces of wood were too big. There was a little kindling, but nothing in between that and the big pieces. Also, we were trying to use a glossy brochure about the Selkirk Loop as fire starter material. Glossy paper does not burn well! Annette was still determined to have a fire. I suggested going to some nearby campers, who had a nice fire going, and asking if they had a hatchet we could borrow. They did, and we're happy to let Annette go about turning our firewood into smaller, more burn worthy pieces. While Annette hacked at the wood, I started to rebuild the pyre. Realizing the glossy paper just wasn't going to work, I finally pulled out the ultimate fire starter...toilet paper. After all, it can start a forest fire (true story--last summer, a guy in Idaho went to burn his tp after doing his business and ended up starting a forest fire)! Sure enough, that got it going.
Fire, at last! I'm sure Bear Grylls would be appalled at our lame fire starting skills!

We sat (well, I sat because I brought my chair), eating carmel corn, and admiring our pyro handiwork. Annette returned the hatchet. I asked her if she had asked if we could "borrow" some marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars (and some sticks too, for the marshmallows). she did not.

The fire burned down (one $5 bundle doesn't last long--especially when you hack it up into tiny pieces), but that was okay because it was nearly 8:30 and time to retire to our tents. I was planning to read my Kindle, but accidently broke it when I pushed down on it while it was hidden under part of my sleeping bag. Oops, now only part of the screen works. It's hard to get the gist of the story when you can only read the bottom 5 lines. It's not the end of the world, I have another one at home. I just don't get to read myself to sleep tonight. Instead, I'm writing this post. 

So that was about it for today, I'll add to this tomorrow for Day 2 of the shakedown ride.

Tomorrow (which is really today, because we are home now)

Well, after sleeping on my new sleeping pad, I can give it a thumbs up too! It's a little narrower, but I didn't fall off or anything. 

It didn't rain during the night, nor when we got up this morning either. Yay! We packed up our stuff, ate breakfast, and hit the road about 9:45. It was a little later than yesterday, but we also slept until 7:30. 
Heating water for our oatmeal.

We decided to continue around the race course loop, even though it was about 3 miles longer. It was a nice ride, and even some blue sky appeared! However, as we were heading back toward McCleary, it started to rain. I stopped to put my saddle cover on my Brooks, and took the opportunity to take a photo of the Satsop Towers. It didn't rain for long though.

Annette had told her son she would talk to him at lunch again. We stopped again at Subway in McCleary. The same two gals were working today as yesterday. I asked them if they had missed us. Unbelievably, when we said we would have the same as yesterday, they didn't remember! 

While Annette was on the phone with her son, it started to rain again. But, by the time she was done, and we were ready to go, it had stopped. Perfect! We got back on Hwy 8 at the end of Mox-Chehalis Rd. It was raining off and on, but I had looked at the forecast while at Subway, and it was supposed to quit. It did...for awhile. 

We were riding along side by side. Annette decided to get behind me. Just as she was moving in behind me, a big truck went by and pushed a gust of wind (we already had a tail wind). The wind pushed Annette and Stella, causing them to bump Mama Cass' rear pannier, and effectively pushing MC and I off the road. We just rolled with it (didn't try to get back on the road). Unfortunately, Annette and Stella crashed. Neither were hurt (Annette landed in the grass, Stella's panniers cushioned her fall). Annette got back on Stella, and we continued. 

We got back to Mud Bay and had to go up Mud Bay hill. Annette was getting pretty tired, so I told her we would stop at the new Blue Heron Bakery for a break after we climbed the hill.
You can do it, Annette!

As Annette crested the hill, she was about to ask me if her rear tire looked low. I said, "It's flat." We rolled up onto the sidewalk at the intersection. We got the wheel off, and I found a small sharp triangle of plastic (or something) imbedded in the tire. Since the tires are Marathon Plus, it's hard telling how long that had been in there before it finally punctured the tube (and it still wasn't completely flat). We realized that was why Annette was feeling so tired!

After fixing the flat, we made our way to Blue Heron. Annette said the riding was much better! We had snacks at Blue Heron (some cocoa and a apricot chocolate chip macaroon for me, blueberry croissant for Annette).

From the bakery, we had about 10 miles to go. For something different than we'd done yesterday, we came through town, and up the Woodland Trail. Annette had never been on it. At the roundabout, we stopped for a photo.
Only 4.5 miles to go!

Over the two days, we rode 99 miles. Our average speed was 11.4 and 11.5, yesterday and today. Annette and Stella seemed to get along well, so Stella is headed to Spokane with Annette tomorrow morning. I'll miss Stella, as she is my workhorse around town. Hopefully, Tilmann will be joining the stable soon. I think we are going to have a blast on the Selkirk Loop. I can't wait until next month!
Bye bye, Stella!

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