Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Mother-lode of Olympia Cyclists

First, a little background info. I saw a Facebook post earlier this week from a gal I don't know, to a friend of mine. The post was inviting my friend to a women-only "Meet the Team" ride. There were actually three rides. One was that night, another was today, and another next Sunday. I commented on the post asking if I could go too. That set off a bit of a firestorm of comments resulting in a resounding YES! Well, I couldn't make the Thursday evening ride, but I could do both today's ride and next Sunday. The ride was to begin at Tumwater Falls Park at 10:00. Perfect! Tumwater Falls is about 7 easy miles from my house.

I planned to get there a little early. However, when I went out to the garage to take my road bike off the trainer, I discovered the rear tire was flat! CRAP! So much for getting there early, and why would I get a flat on the trainer??? Earlier in the week I had done some work on Star. One of the things I did was rotate the tires. I did have some problems getting the bead on the rear tire to seat into the rim at the valve stem. When I got home from the ride and repaired the tube, as I suspected, the hole was near the valve stem. Curiously, when I looked at the other spare tube (already patched once), I noticed the patch on that tube was in the same place as this one. Hmmmm...coincidence? Also, both tubes were size 18-28. The tire is a 28mm. The new tube I put on is a 28-32. Anyway, I changed the tube quickly and was on my way.

I managed to pull into the parking lot at Tumwater Falls with plenty of time to spare. The first thing I noticed when I rolled in was that there were guys there. In fact, there were more guys than gals. The next thing I noticed was most of the people were decked out in their Olympia Orthopedic Associates Team kit (nice red and black). I rode over to some women and asked if one of them was Michelle (the person who had done the Facebook post). Turns out Michelle wasn't able to make it. I recognized a couple of the other women (and at least one of the guys) from when Lorraine and I did Corner Marshalling for one of the races. Fortunately, there was a handful of non-OOA kitted-out riders such as myself. By the time we were ready to take off, there were close to 50 riders! WOW! 50 Olympia cyclists all assembled in one place! The team president welcomed all the new faces and told us the route (a 32 mile loop south through Tumwater, down Tilley to Goddard, to 183rd, to Case Rd., and back to Tumwater Falls Park). He also introduced the sub-group leaders (Cat 1-4, Masters, and Women). Okay! Was this going to be more than I bargained for? It was supposed to be a "Social Ride". No one would be dropped (hmmm, I've heard that before).

All the introductions and announcements being completed, we took off. Due to traffic lights through Tumwater, we were almost immediately split into three groups. I was in the second group. Once we were off Capital Blvd and onto Linderson, we were able to ratchet up the speed. When we got out of town, there was still a group ahead and a group behind, but the middle group was now only three of us (due to another traffic light that a few of us had just squeezed through). Our little threesome was another gal (not a team rider) and a team guy and me. As we were riding just out of reach of the lead group, the guy drifted back and said I should try to ride within a foot and a half of the wheel in front of me. Yes, I know this, but I don't know this gal in front of me. Then, he said we were in a tough situation because we weren't catching up with the group. I said, "Why don't we catch up with them then?". The gal in front of me said she was good with that too. The guy said, "Well, okay!". We easily caught up to the front group. I think the guy was a little surprised.

As we were riding along, a gal I know, who runs Go Get It Gals, rode beside me for awhile. We talked about her France trip and my New Zealand trip. It sounded like they had a great time.

Later another gal rode beside me named Chris. She is part of the OOA team. She asked me if I ever raced. I told her no, that what I really liked was touring. She asked if I mountain biked (no, I don't like crashing). She then asked if I ever did cyclocross (also no as I don't have a cyclocross bike). She thought I would like cyclocross (maybe--but I still don't have a CX bike).

One little annoyance on the ride was whenever we were riding on the chip seal roads, my rear fender would work its way loose from the chainstay cross piece and start to rattle. I would reach down and shove it back down (no easy task when you are a foot and a half from the wheel in front of you). Finally, we had a short stop at Maytown and Case Rd intersection and I was able to at least get it closer to the right place. Still it came loose again. When I got home I got it completely into the right place.

As we were getting close to the park and the end, a team guy, Jeff, rode up beside me and asked if I rode with the team often. I told him I had never ridden with the team before. He said, "This is your FIRST ride???" I told him yes and he immediately launched into how I could join the team, the rides they do, how I could get good deals on equipment and the team kit. At the end, I told Chris (one of the team gals) what Jeff had said. She said that's because I'm a strong rider. She said I should race cyclocross. Jean (another team gal) said no, I should road race. Hmmmm...maybe I'll investigate this further.

So, in the end, I did okay. I stayed with the front 8 or so Team riders. They said I was a strong rider and invited me to all the rides (although when I asked Jeff what the pace of the Wednesday rides was he said, "Oh, it's pretty slow, 18-20mph." Maybe I'm not understanding what they mean by pace. 18-20 sounds pretty fast to me, but maybe "pace" is not the same as "average".)

Miles ridden: 48 (my house to my house)
Average speed: 17.5mph

Oh, and Chris and I exchanged info as she wants someone to do longer rides with in the winter. That's totally awesome!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Holding My Own

Back in May I joined my local bike club. I figured it was about time. Today was the first chance I've had to go on one of their rides.

Conveniently, the ride started just a mile from my house. I got to the meeting place and met Doug, the ride leader. He handed out cue sheets to all the riders--there were 9 of us. I met a couple of the other guys, Bill and Johann. Bill used to come to my water aerobics class. I didn't recognize him, but he has lost 100 lbs! There was one guy I knew, Brian. He was surprised to see me.

We started out promptly at 10:00. Ride leader, Doug had a wedding to go to so we couldn't waste time. We headed toward Yelm on the road. Right off the bat, one guy got a flat. And then there were 8. Then another guy stopped to check on the guy with the flat (I think he was his buddy--didn't catch either of their names). Then we were 7.

We had a nice 18-19 mph pace going. I was behind the leader, a guy I later learned was Dave. Next thing I know, Dave is waving me by and I'm leading! This is my first club ride and I'm leading? I don't know how fast they want to go, so I just go my speed and see what the group does behind me. Oops, a little fast, because pretty soon it's just me and Bill. I slow down a bit and ask Bill what's the protocol here. Does everyone just regroup at the first planned stop? He said we could pull over and wait for the group. So we did. The rest caught up and we took off again. This time I was about third in the line. After a bit, the lead guy waves off and I'm now second behind the same guy I was behind before. Pretty soon he waves me on and I'm back in the lead. As I took the lead again, I thought to myself, at least I know the way to Yelm!

I led all through the Reservation to the outskirts of Yelm. I would have continued leading, but I wasn't sure if they were planning on staying on 510 or taking the 510 Alternate. At Yelm Elementary I was able to wave the group on and drift to the back of the pack (which was now at 6--Brian was no longer there).

We took the main 510 route into Yelm to our first rest stop/regroup at a gas station on the corner of 507 and Bald Hills Rd. I took the sleeves off my jacket and had a few Clif Shot Blocks. I told the guys I didn't know how fast they wanted to go along 510, but they said I was good because they don't like that section and wanted to be done with it as quick as possible. Doug said Brian had stopped to take his jacket off, but he never showed up at the gas station. Neither did the guy that had flatted or his buddy. I guess you'd say they got dropped.

After the break we headed onto Bald Hills Rd. I made sure to not be so close to the front. The group of 6 of us (did I mention I was the only female?) cranked back up to about 18mph. Pretty soon I was back in the lead again, but not for too long this time.

At Vail Cut-off we went straight. What's this? A new road for Colleen? The new road was Smith Prairie Rd. It was quite nice, definitely a prairie, and not too much traffic either. Then it was a right on Lawrence Lake Rd. I could see the lake off to my left. We took a left onto 153rd which brought us back to Vail Rd. At the gas station on Vail at 153rd we had another break. All 6 were hanging together pretty good. I took off my leg warmers and arm warmers and had the gal at the espresso stand fill up my water bottle. At the pace we were going, I was plenty heated up!

From there we were back on roads familiar to me. We took Vail Loop Rd off of Vail which just comes around and returns to Vail Cut-off.

At 507 Dave, Mark and I stopped to wait for Doug, Bill, and Johann. A pickup pulled up and asked if the three guys back there were our friends. Dave said yes and the driver proceeded to tell Dave how they were "stopped in the middle of the road" and how he almost hit them. Dave (who is a self-professed bit of a hot-head) said that "cyclists have just as much right to the road". The blah, blah, blah went back and forth. I just stayed out of it. I didn't see any good coming from it. The driver was not going to change the mind of the cyclist and the cyclist was not going to change the mind of the driver. Instead of getting all righteous, I think, if I were doing the talking, I might have just pointed out that the road has little shoulder and they might have had a flat tire or something. Turns out they were just taking a break and they said they were as far off the road as they could get. I think cool-headedness is usually a more advantageous way to deal with these sorts of situations.

Anyway, the other three caught up and we proceeded on 507 into Rainier. We took another small break so some of the group could refill water. Then we went up Minnesota to Rainier Rd and rode Rainier back to Lacey. For awhile, I was behind Bill, but he was getting pretty tired (still moving along at 15-16 mph though). I passed him on a downhill and caught back up to Dave and Mark. Doug joined us and we rode the rest of the way back to our starting point.

From there I rode home. Total miles was 50, and my average speed was 17.2 mph! Drafting is a wonderful thing, but I definitely held my own with the boys!

Monday, September 3, 2012

No Need to Worry About Raccoons

For my last night camping I was in the Hiker/Biker site at Potlatch sandwiched between a large group of people (I mentioned in the last post, they had 8 sites). Well, nothing like being in the middle of a party and not being invited! They were eating dinner until around 10:00, then they had the music cranked up and were laughing and generally being loud until, the last time I looked at my watch, about 2:00. Fortunately for me, I still had the earplugs I had gotten when I went to the World Parrot Refuge. They came in very handy! At least I didn't have to worry about any raccoons trying to get into my food (too much action happening). Last time Carol and I were there, a very bold raccoon wanted to see what we were having for dinner. I had to chase him off twice. When I got up in the morning, I didn't feel compelled to be quiet.

I was on the road by 8:20. It was pretty chilly and very foggy. Just when I'd think the fog was burning off, I'd come into more even heavier fog. It did burn off, but remained overcast until I got to Olympia. Then the sun was shining for the remaining 12 miles home.

I made it home by 12:30. All my stuff is now cleaned and put away until the next trip.

Total miles ridden was 634. Total miles travelled was far more. I had 19 boat rides that included ferries of all sizes and a passenger freighter. All the boat rides were enjoyable, but it was sometimes not so enjoyable being tied to the ferry schedule (especially on the 5 boat ride day). The days where I didn't have to catch a boat were the most relaxing. Because I wanted to make sure I was at a ferry terminal in time, but not knowing exactly how much time it would take me, I spent alot of time waiting at ferry terminals. Usually, that was no big deal as it gave me the opportunity to meet more people. I generally seemed to always find someone to talk to while I was waiting.

My CouchSurfing hosts (Chris and Nathan in Port Alberni and the Conovers in Anacortes) were, as always, fabulous. I have yet to have a bad CS experience. I was very happy to get to connect again with Diane on Pender Island (met her in New Zealand). We could have talked for many more hours!

I also enjoyed all the people I met while camping. I'm thankful to Val for sharing her campsite with me at Sproat Lake. I really enjoyed meeting the two car camping families and their kids as well as Boyd and Mary Ann at Welcome Bay Farm. I look forward to keeping in touch with Claire, Guy, and Lucy (and their little dog Bijou) who I also met at Welcome Bay.

Overall, I had fabulous weather and NO Mosquitos! My tent was dry every morning except the first and last mornings. In general, the Provincial Parks were okay, but they could use some showers and flush toilets (except Rathtrevor which had both). The US State Parks are much better equipped in that regard. My favorite Canada campsite was at Welcome Bay Farm. Favorite US campsite was at San Juan County Park on San Juan Island. Favorite boat ride is a tie between the Frances Barkley to Ucluelet and the cute little ferry to Newcastle Island. One was the longest boat ride (5 hours) and the other the shortest (10 minutes).

The one flat tire came, appropriately, from a fish hook. Otherwise, I had no other mechanical issues.

All in all, I give the Bike and Boats Tour a Thumbs Up!

They Did Something Right!

In my second to last day, I am on familiar territory just going in the opposite direction.

I thought of stopping for pie in Chimicum, but it was still pretty early so I rode on by. Then I thought I would stop for second breakfast in Quilcene. But, I didn't feel like it when I got there. At least, I wasn't hungry enough for a whole meal. I did stop at the Forest Service Info place and ate an apple and some trail mix.

Next up was the climb up Walker Mountain. I'd been told yesterday by four Canadian cyclists that had come from Potlatch (where I am tonight) that a road crew had recently chip-sealed the section of Hwy 101 going up Walker Mountain (up for me, down for the Canadians). They said they left the uphill shoulder alone. I was pleased to find that to be true. So, where the lanes of traffic and the northbound shoulder had rough new chip-seal, the southbound shoulder was nice smooth pavement. It made the climb so much more enjoyable (if a 3 mile climb can be called enjoyable). At the top the chip-seal ended and everyone had smooth pavement. I don't know if it was planned to leave the shoulder un-chip-sealed, but they did it right!

When I got to Brinnon, the apple and trail mix was gone from my system, so I stopped at the Halfway House Restaurant. The food was good, but I had to wait quite awhile to get it. The place was hoppin'! A nice day at Hood Canal on a holiday weekend and everyone comes out!

Back on the road I still had about 28 miles to go. There was a bit of a head wind, but not too bad. The road is a series of rollers until A few miles north of Hoodsport. From there it is much more flat. I was thankful for the flat as I was getting rather tired. This was my longest day of the whole trip.

I stopped in Hoodsport at the grocery store to get something to drink. The clerk asked how I was. I told her I was thirsty. She said I looked kind of thirsty!

It was only a few more miles to Potlatch from Hoodsport. At first I thought about setting up near the water in the marine campsites, but there were a ton of day-use people there (like I said, nice day on Hood Canal...). So, I headed up to the Hiker/Biker site. I am the only cyclist here (it's 7:45 so, I suppose someone could still come in). The rest of the park is full. I've never been here when there were this many people here (holiday weekend). I just met one of the guys from the site next door. They have 8 sites. In a few minutes, Calvin told me, there will be about 40 people eating dinner next door. All I know is they have been cooking the dinner since I arrived here at 4:45.

I didn't take many photos today since I've already been this way once this summer, but here is a photo of the great shoulder going up Walker Mountain.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Last Boat Ride

This morning I spent a leisurely morning with the Conover family. Olivia and I looked at pictures on my iPad. Jennifer made delicious pancakes and I even got to take the leftovers with me!

I hit the road at about 10:30. I picked up the Tommy Thompson Trail then headed up Hwy 20 toward Deception Pass. It was a beautiful day to be going over the bridge. Lots of other people had the same idea.

This time, instead of turning off before Oak Harbor, I decided to ride Hwy 20 through Oak Harbor. I don't know that it was necessarily shorter, but it was different. I was back on the route at Madrona Way and rode into Coupeville. I was going to stop for ice cream, but the place I was picturing in my head never materialized. Oh well, I didn't really need ice cream anyway.

As I was heading out of Coupeville, a couple of folks on recumbents caught up to me. They went ahead, but then I met up with them at the ferry terminal. They were Chet and Lynn from Port Townsend. They were out for the day, but have done some serious touring. There was also another touring cyclist going down the Coast. He was from upstate New York. Chet and Lynn invited him to stay at their place for the night. Me, I'm headed to the park so I can get an early start in the morning for tomorrow's 64 mile day to Potlatch.

There were a number of bikes on the ferry and not a single one used the second level bike racks. The ramp is just too steep to get a bike up (and even harder to get one down).

Currently, I am at Safeway in PT where there is free wifi. As soon as I get this posted I'll head to Old Fort Townsend State Park. I'm not worried about the park being full because they have a large Hiker/Biker site.

Here are just a few photos from today. Also a couple of the photos from yesterday and my princess Bandaids.

Princess Bandaids for my Boo Boos

Once again I didn't have many miles to go today since I was taking boat ride #18 from Orcas Island to Anacortes (which is still on an island--Fidelgo). I leisurely packed up my stuff and rode the mostly downhill ride back to Eastsound. Yesterday I stopped at a pie place. This morning I decided to share the wealth and stopped at the bakery. Truth is, I wanted to stop at the bakery yesterday, but it was closed. Today it was open so I was able to stop in for a mid-morning snack. I had a delicious caramel pecan bun and some orange juice.

After the bakery, I rode over to the library and posted yesterday's blog. After that I headed out of town for the ferry. My plan was to catch the 2:20 ferry, but I ended up getting to the ferry terminal just as bikes were loading for the 12:05 ferry. I figured I may as well take that one. I called and left a message for my CouchSurfing hosts that I was taking an earlier ferry. It didn't really matter to me if they were home or not because I could just hang out at the park next to their house. Which is what I did.

When my hosts got home, I wheeled Betsy over to their house. First I met Olivia, their darling little three year old daughter. She invited me in the house so she could take me to the backyard and see her chickens. She is a "chicken whisperer". She just walked right into the coop and picked up "Frizzle" (a little black bantam). She handed Frizzle to me but Frizzle was not too keen on me holding her.

Olivia noticed the scrapes on my leg from tipping the bike over on my way to Victoria. She thought I should have bandaids for my boo boos. I told her they were okay now, but she told me she had princess Bandaids. Well, I couldn't turn down a princess bandaid!
It was determined I needed three Bandaids for my various boo boos. Now I have three princess Bandaids covering the boo boos on my leg.

Later while the pizza was cooking for our dinner, we went to the children's park next door. It is an awesome park with a great kid's playground.

Once again I have lucked upon a great CouchSurf experience. The Conovers couldn't be nicer (and I adore little Olivia)! David even introduced me to "Honey Boo Boo", a reality show of epic proportions!

Anyway, tomorrow I head for Port Townsend and my last boat ride of the trip. Then I'll be home in a few short days (okay, actually, two medium days and one long day).

The first photo below is of Olivia's chickens. The second is a leaf I saw in the bushes at my campsite.