Saturday, May 25, 2013

Zero Freeway Miles

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us. Debbie and I had originally planned to ride up Mt. St. Helens on Sunday. However, the weather did not look good for a ride up a mountain, so we cancelled. Instead, we seemed to do nearly as much climbing (just not for endless miles) overall as if we had done the mountain ride. 

I heard from fellow teammate, Maria, that it was now possible to go north to Tacoma without going on the freeway. I'd been wanting to check out that possibility. Previously, the only way involved a 3/4 mile ride on I-5 from Mounts Rd. to Center Drive. It was not that bad, except it could be problematic if there was heavy truck traffic exiting at the weigh station between Mounts Rd. and Center Drive. But, it would be great to completely eliminate the freeway. Even better, would be a way that only bikes could access. 

Well, I'm happy to say there is, indeed, now a way! It is due to more houses being built in Dupont. So many, that the housing development now reaches all the way to Mounts Rd. All the cyclist need do is ride over the freeway on Mounts Rd to the Dupont neighborhood. There is a fence separating the neighborhood from the road, but they have been so kind as to leave an opening wide enough for bikes to pass through. 

From the fence, it is a good climb up, appropriately named, Hoffman Hill Blvd. Hoffman Hill comes out   McNeil St. From there it is a straight shot to downtown Dupont. However, we didn't need to go that far. We were headed to Dupont-Steilacoom Rd. I had noticed the latest Rapsody ride had used this route (saw the Dan Henrys). It makes me think this non-freeway route has been available for awhile. Hmmm...I think I rode on the freeway last summer on my way to Canada when I didn't need to! Anyway, I noticed the Rapsody route turned onto Bob's Hollow Rd. (now there's an interesting name!). We also made the turn. That took us to a bike path, which then took us over to Center Dr. at Palisades Rd. I'd say this is a fabulous way to get to Dupont without going on the freeway! It is a wee bit longer, but worth it!

As for the rest of the ride, Debbie and I rode to Pt. Defiance Park. I took her the nicer way along Vassault. We did the 5 Mile loop around the park, then came back up Pearl in order to get some lunch at Subway. We made it back as far as North Gate Rd before the rain caught us (or we caught the rain). We pedaled hard, enjoying the sensation of water hitting our backsides from our fender-less bikes (okay, not really enjoying). We reversed our route back to Mounts Rd. through the neighborhood. The fact that it was raining made it extra nice to not have to endure the spray from the traffic on I-5. 

We rode a total of 80 miles, 0 of which were on the freeway! Next weekend it's back to racing. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bumper Bikes!

And's back to racing!

Today was my first race since returning from my tour. The race was in Ravensdale. Where's that, you ask? Yes, I too, had not heard of this town (I'm still not convinced there is much of a town). What there is of it is about 7 miles the other side of Covington, which is just off Hwy 18. The road out to Ravensdale is through the 'burbs until we passed the Kent City Limits sign. Then it was more rural.

We raced early this morning at 8:39. The Cat 1,2,3 gals started just 3 minutes before us (I thought they would lap us, but they didn't). The course was a 9 mile loop that we would do 3 times. Maria, Jean and I had a plan that we had worked out on last Thursday's group ride with Michelle's assistance. The plan was that Maria would lead me out, because it was an uphill finish. My job was to stay with Maria, be behind her on the first hill of the finish (there were three), then shoot past her after the 200m mark and sprint to the end.

We had about 30 gals in our race (28 finished). We rolled out and were racing after passing the fire station (never saw a fire station). However, what I've come to determine as normal, we weren't going that fast. We went up the first hill of note without too much trouble. Everyone was settling in (maybe people were realizing we would actually have to go up this hill 4 times). I was mostly working to keep Maria in my sight. After the first corner, the course was mostly downhill. I saw Maria out on the front. I had an opportunity to go up the yellow line to give her a break. I stayed on the front until Maria told me to go to the left. I did and some gals came by on the right. That was fine.

At the bottom of one of the downhills, and I think the beginning of the next lap, we had a very sharp right turn. Of course, we slowed down. On the second lap, at that corner, one of the gals yelled, "Slowing...Slowing...ALOT!" As we made the corner, everyone sped up. I said, loud enough for that gal to hear, "Going...Going...ALOT!"

On the last lap, I purposely stayed off the front because in the second lap I was on the front from the finish line to the first turn. If I was supposed to sprint at the end, I needed to save some energy.

When we came around the sharp corner in the last lap, Maria, Jean, and I (and Debbie too!) were all together. As we started up the big hill for the 4th and final time, I moved up behind Maria like we planned. I was right on her wheel, waiting for her signal to "shoot ahead". Near the top, Maria slowed down and moved slightly to the left. I thought, okay, this means I'm supposed to go now! As I'm coming up on her right, another rider comes up on my right and effectively squeezes me between her and Maria (seriously, I'm a Lycra sandwich here). Handlebars started twitching. I leaned more into Maria to keep us both from crashing (like we learned in the Cycle U class). We managed to stay upright, and I went ahead (but, others had already passed us). As I'm trying to give it all I've got, another gal comes up on my left and clips me. Again, I manage to keep the bike upright, but, at that point, I'm done. I'm not risking a third contact because, well, third time being a charm and all (in this case, a crash), it's just not worth it. I coast in behind Maria, Jean, and Debbie, slightly rattled, but pleased to have played bumper bikes and not crashed.

Turns out, Maria was NOT executing the plan. She slowed because she kept hearing someone yelling her name. Oh well...that's the way it goes...

Two good takeaways from this race--I made serious contact with other riders without crashing, and Debbie didn't get dropped--she even beat me! Oh, and our average speed was 21.5mph--not bad!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Wrappin' It Up And Puttin' A Bow On It

Back home after 36 days of the "Classical to Rock 'n Roll Tour" and Southern hospitality!

What this tour lacked in scenery (unless your idea of beautiful scenery is miles and miles of farmland--I'm sure for some that is quite beautiful), it more than made up for in history, culture, and family. The alligators, armadillos, and birds were pretty cool too!

The history of the South is something I learned about in school, but actually being there made it much more real. Seeing the battlefield in Vicksburg, knowing that the contour of the land where a part of the Civil War took place has not changed, makes it easier to imagine what it was like. The plantation houses and the mansions, especially in Natchez, showed a history of wealth that was not always easy to see as we pedaled through the small towns along our route.

Even though I was a little young during some of the Civil Rights struggles, the concept of equality, or inequality, is not something I've ever dealt with face-to-face. Seeing Central High School in Little Rock, where nine extremely brave students struggled just to go to a school where they could get an education equal to what white students took for granted, made me realize how difficult (and crazy) that time was in our history.

The culture of the South is in everything from friendly faces to food. Men were far more likely to speak to us when we would stop, but everyone was very kind and helpful when we would ask questions. Just a few examples--Steve inviting us to stay in his backyard in Gay Hills, TX, even though he wasn't going to be there. Bubba inviting us to stay with his Pampered Pedalers at Mexican Hill Farm in Richards, TX. The salon gal in Thicket, TX leaving the door unlocked to her salon so we could use the restroom during the night. Shannon giving us donuts and MREs at Chicot State Park in Louisiana. And, Boris going back to his office to let us get water, then showing us where the primitive campsite was on our first night of the MRT. There were many experiences like these.

As for the food, except for Subway Restaurants (had food from 13 of them--no avocado in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, or Tennessee), it was not easy to get fresh veggies and fruits for lunch (except in the grocery stores where all the apples came from...Washington!). Much of the food is fried. I did eat catfish (it was good). I also ate fried okra (that was good too). I never ate gumbo or étouffée. I had grits once (but I've had grits before), and ate BBQ a few times (all good).

Family was the bookends of this tour. In Austin it was Dillon. I had a great time hanging out with him and hearing how well his music is improving and fulfilling for him. At the other end in Arkansas, I got to spend some quality time with my sister and brother-in-law, Kim and Gary. Even though Kim and I were raised completely apart, we do have many similarities (nature vs. nurture?). I felt completely welcomed and at home with them. I was thrilled to see my nieces and to meet their husbands. Haley and Brittany have grown up to be beautiful and successful young women. And soon I will be a great-aunt for someone whom I actually share genetic material! It was also a treat for me to get to meet Kim's mom, Betty. She is a wonderfully sweet woman (makes me wonder...but, if not for the course of history, I suppose I would not have existed...). I look forward to seeing all of them again (and not waiting a decade or more to do so!).

As for Christian, he is still my best touring buddy. I think we get along well, in part, because we are both comfortable touring alone. At first look, that doesn't make sense, but what I mean is that we are both okay if we are not together the whole day while we are riding. Yet, it is always great to have someone to talk to in the evening (even though we sometimes struggle with the language barrier--fortunately for me, his English improves, because my German sure doesn't!). I see more touring in our future!

Of course, no wrap up would be complete without a bow, and that would be the stats.

Total miles ridden: 1599.5

Average miles/day for the entire 36 days: 44.4 (obviously higher if not counting the short days in Austin, the days off in Chicot, West Memphis, and, for me, Little Rock)

Longest day with Christian: 81 miles (longest day for me: 89.1 miles)

Days of free camping (not including Austin and Kim and Gary's): 10

And, finally, because I actually kept track this whole tour...Amount spent (not including the stuff for Dillon in Austin): $1296.74 (including airfare) for an ave/day of $36.04. Do you know of any vacation of 36 days where you average $36 a day? Only on a bike tour!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I Feel Like a Claustrophobic T-Rex

I'm headed home. The flight I'm on is full. The guy sitting next to me keeps leaning toward me, taking up the entire arm rest, and then some. I feel like I'm practically sitting on the arm rest next to the window! He is a bigger guy. I have told him a few times to please move away a bit. He does for awhile, then he's baaaaacccckkk! It's driving me crazy! In order for me to do anything, I have to pretend I am a dinosaur with very short arms--aka T-Rex. Also, he does these loud heavy sigh/yawns. Seriously, dude, must you?

The guy next to Space Hog is drunk. At least he is sleeping. Earlier he tried to buy me a drink ( thanks).

One and a half more hours...I'd rather be riding...