Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saving the Hardest for Last

Ahhh...the last day...

I've climbed somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 Passes over the last 36 days. Some were quite challenging in their length, and some were challenging in their steepness. None of them were as cardio-thumping difficult as the last hills I climbed in Seattle today. Walls would be a more accurate term!

I was, once again, up at the butt-crack of dawn to get packed and out of the park where I was stealth camping. Actually, I wasn't entirely stealth camping. Last night at about 9:00, after I had set up my tent, I was walking to the potty shack as a gal was walking her two dogs (a Boston Terrier and a Great Dane--really, the Great Dane was walking her). We talked for a moment and she happened to mention that there was a King County Sheriff's Deputy sitting in his car just beyond where the potty shack was. I thought it might be wise to go over and declare my presence (and explain why I was camping in a park that clearly didn't allow camping). I don't think he would have ever seen me. I had moved even farther away (to be out of the sprinkler zone--which never did come on). From the road, I couldn't even see my campsite, and I knew where it was!

He did tell me there was no camping at the park, but he didn't seem overly concerned that I was there. I told him I'd be gone early. Turns out there actually was a campground just on down the road a very short distance. In fact, if I had gone down Preston/Fall City Rd. yesterday, instead of the road to Redmond, I would have seen the campground sign. Oh least it was a free night of camping!

Not far out of Fall City, I picked up the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail where it crossed Preston/Fall City road. First I had to go up a very very steep section to get up to the former railroad. Since I had very little weight in the front panniers, I had to walk, as I was doing little wheelies.
Why does a photo never do justice to the steepness of a hill?

This trail was paved, and had a steady, but gradual climb to the beginning at High Point Drive.

I got on High Point Dr, but realized there was more trail parallel to the road. Eventually, I did have to go on the road. I was on the outskirts of Issaquah when I passed the Bicycle Adventures Building (back at the top of McKenzie Pass, I had eaten lunch compliments of Bicycle Adventures).
I would have stopped in, but no one seemed to be around--it was pretty early.

As I continued on the road, I spotted a trail sign to the left. This trail, the Issaquah-Preston Trail, was gravel, and it wasn't very long.

At the end of the trail, I went from nice quiet trail riding to the noise and 70mph speed limit of I-90. Fortunately, it was downhill (so I was able to do the speed limit--just kidding!), and I got off at the next exit. From there I had to pull out my phone to see which way to go next. I went left on Sunset down into the old part of Issaquah. At Newport Way, I turned right and picked up the Newport Way Bike Route. It wasn't a path, just a bike lane. 

I came to another intersection and bike route option. Once again, I pulled out my phone. It looked like I should continue straight on Maple to 12th. I should have turned, but there was something overriding my innate sense of direction. 
This is what made me go straight! If I had turned, I would have missed this opportunity to publish yesterday's blog post...and have a doughnut...or two! Besides publishing the post, I also opened up the Bike There app and got directions to the King Street Station from where I was. I mostly needed the route to get to the I-90 Trail, and how to go once I got across Lake Washington. I took a screen shot of the directions, and placed my mini iPad into my map case.

Everything was pretty good getting to the I-90 Trail. 
Crossing Lake Washington on I-90.

There were tons of cyclists out for day rides, but only one touring cyclist (me). I saw lots of kits for teams I have raced against.

After crossing the lake, the Bike There directions got a little wonky. No, check that--a LOT wonky! First it gave a street name that did not appear to exist. Then it said to turn left on Dearborn, and stay on it all the way to downtown. I turned left and went up the two cardio-thumping-stand-on-the-pedals-in -super-granny-gear block-long hills, only to discover that Dearborn does not go through (unless I wanted to go up a staircase)! I cut over to the next cardio-thumping uphill street. It also ended, but at least it was a sidewalk instead of stairs. I got off and pushed Betsy up the steep sidewalk (one of those ones with little ridges so you don't slip). It was not easy! In fact, it reminded me of my first day where I had to push Betsy up the trail to Dairy Creek Campground. I've come full-circle.

Dearborn was still just a staircase, so I just continued to Jackson and gave up on Dearborn. I still had more hills, but none as bad. Tim had texted me (he was supposed to pick me up at the train station) saying there was a Mariners game and, therefore, no parking. I told him I was coming down Jackson. He met me as I was on my way down.
Puget Sound at last!

It was 28 miles from Fall City to where Tim picked me up. 

Another tour successfully completed! On the whole, it was a great trip! The variety of scenery from the Coast, the mountains, and the dryness of Eastern Washington made for a never-boring ride. The mix of challenging and easy days was perfect. Spending time with my boys in Eugene and my friends at the cabin provided great breaks, even though I still rode while I was there. I liked having route maps (Sierra Cascades), but I've gotten pretty good at on-the-fly navigation too. Now it's time to start planning Europe!

Here's some stats...

Total miles for the whole trip: 1217
Average mileage per biking day: about 48 (not totally accurate)
Highest maximum speed: 40mph (in Eugene without gear)
Highest daily average speed: 12.1mph (Money Creek to Fall City)
Lowest daily average speed: 7.9mph (Ellensburg to Blu-Shastin RV Park)
Total free nights of camping (not counting Eugene, Hood River, and the cabin): 7
Total number of Subway restaurants: 0 (planned it that way)
Sunset on the mountains from Fall City--my last night camping.

Stealth Camping For Real

I'm not where I was planning to be, but I'll get to that in a moment.

After a relatively good night's sleep (the river was kind of loud, as was the whistle of the periodic trains passing by), I was up at 6:30, and on the road by 7:45. Hwy 2 was mostly downhill, with a few uphill sections.

Even though I have driven this many times (to get to/from the cabin), it was different biking it. I had the time to really see the mountains.
Notice the waterfall? I've never noticed it before when driving.
Wouldn't be able to stop and get this shot with the moon if I was in a car. There is no place to pull over.

I rolled into the outskirts of Sultan at 9:30. There is a McDonalds there so I stopped to publish yesterday's post. I also looked on the map to see how many more miles it was to Carnation (28 for a total of 49 for the day). In doing that, I discovered a way to get off Hwy 2 and bypass the high traffic area of Monroe. Since I had taken care of all my wifi needs at McDonalds, I had no reason to stop in Monroe. The "new" route was only a mile longer.

From "downtown" Sultan, I turned left on to Mann Rd. 
Mann Rd.--a nice alternative to Hwy 2.

Then it was a right turn onto Ben Howard Rd. The road wound through farms of mostly corn or cows. There wasn't much of a shoulder, but there also wasn't much traffic. Basically, a nice country road. I was still following the Skykomish River, only on the other side.
Here's the photo of crossing the river.

As I was riding along, thoroughly enjoying this peaceful road, I thought to myself, "This is so great, I don't even care if I have to climb any hills!" As I came around the next corner--seriously--not kidding here--the road went sharply up! HA! I just popped Betsy into Super Granny (the only time the whole day) and pedaled up the hill. It was about 1/3 of a mile. The equally steep downhill on the other side was nice.

All too soon, I was back to the main road, now Hwy 203 (or Monroe-Duvall Rd.). I was going to take a break in Duvall, but ended up just continuing to ride. 

Shortly after leaving Duvall, I could see a trail to my right as I was riding on the Hwy. At the next available access, I rode over to the trail. It was the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. 
As you can see, it's not a paved trail, but Betsy did just fine on the dirt and packed gravel. After a couple of miles, I met a family walking on the trail. I asked them if it went all the way to Carnation. They said it actually goes all the way to Preston. Then I asked if it went through Tolt-McDonald Park (my intended destination). Turns out it doesn't, but they told me where to get off in Carnation (there was even a sign on the trail pointing the way to the park).

I got off, and rolled into Carnation. The turn for the park was just a short distance on down 203. As I turned onto the park road, I could see there was something going on up ahead. When I pulled up, I was told I couldn't camp at the park unless I had a ticket to the Timber Music Festival (a two day affair costing $45 just for the festival part) going on at the park. Well that's just great! The whole reason I went this way was because this was the only place that had camping.

After trying, unsuccessfully, to get them to let me camp anyway, I asked where the next nearest place was that I could camp. The guy said I could camp at Fall City Community Park. He said it was 10 miles down the road (turned out it was 6). With a few parting words of how it is just plain wrong to turn away a cyclist, I headed for Fall City. 

I came upon the park and noticed it had picnic tables, sani-cans, and trash cans. It did not have an obvious water source (besides the Snoqualmie River). I rode on into Fall City and, since I'd had nothing since Sultan but a Clif Bar, I stopped at a place called Small Frye (where their specialty is grease, salt, sugar, and caffeine). I had a chicken sandwich, fries, and a coconut milkshake. I also filled my two 1-liter platypus containers, and my two water bottles. That should be enough water to get me through the night and into tomorrow. 

I returned to the park, and chose the furthest away picnic table in the shade of a big tree. There is a trail nearby that goes to the river. Several people have walked by on their way to the river. I won't set up my tent until near dark. My main concern is the sprinklers. I may even move to a spot that is nearer to the road, but not in the path of the sprinklers...we'll see.
I might move over there, near the sani-can (but not too close--although, on my potty shack rating scale, it merits an 8. It only gets docked 2 points for being smack dab in the sun, making it a sauna-can. Otherwise, it is well-stocked, and clean). To the left is a horse track. There have been a few horseback riders.

I walked on the trail to the river (locked Betsy to the picnic table) and went for a swim. It's better than nothing for the second night with no shower. Of course, I just went in with my bike clothes because I left my swimsuit for Lorraine to bring back, thinking I wouldn't need it. I just made myself a river rock flat spot to sit and dried off in the sun.
Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

Tomorrow I will ride on into Seattle. I'm hoping to take bike trails as much as possible.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Show Me the Money!

Money Creek that is.

The hardest part about today was not riding over Stevens Pass. No, the hardest part was saying goodbye to my friends, Annette and Lorraine. I'm back on the road for the last three days of riding.

I left the cabin at 8:10 this morning. 
Pulling out of Bronco Lane.

Annette rode with me as far as the junction of 207 and Hwy 2--about 10 miles. One last photo together, and I was back on my own.

I know the part over Stevens Pass to Skykomish very well from doing the Courage Classic Bike Ride for four years. So, there would be no surprises. I stopped at the Nason Creek Rest Stop for a quick potty break, and minor refill of water from the people operating the coffee and cookies stand (missed the root beer floats that are served there during Courage). I chatted a bit with the two ladies staffing the stand. The usual questions were asked and answered.

From the Rest Stop, the road begins climbing, but this is not the climb to the Pass. This is one of those climbs where you gain a bunch of elevation only to lose it before having to regain it all. This is almost more difficult, mentally, than the actual summit climb.
Almost to the top of the faux summit.

As I rode along, I was reliving my Courage Classic rides...only slower. But, it really wasn't that bad. There are places of shade, and places where the road flattens out some. For long stretches, I wasn't even utilizing super granny gear!

I reached the summit at 12:15. I thought that was a pretty good time! There is a pedestrian bridge over the highway.
I rode it over to the lodge area.

Since it was lunch time, I pulled up to a table on the patio of the lodge area to fix myself some lunch. I talked to a couple of guys that had been hiking. One of the guys, Warren, was a bike "collector" and owned several, including a folder. Sounded like he didn't ride them much.

Stevens has a couple of "Terrain" parks. Betsy wanted to ride the curvy one.
Might be better to get a running start at it!

After lunch, I refilled my water, and took Betsy down for the summit sign photo.
As you can see, Stevens is not quite as high as Old Blewett.

The ride down Stevens can be a little hairy. Mainly due to three things--wind, traffic, and snowmelt runoff grates. There was a little construction, so that narrowed things for a short distance.

Then there were four lanes, so I was able to ride out in the outside lane to avoid the grates. I didn't really need to brake because the wind was doing its best to blow me back up the Pass.
Here's a panorama of the road down. The grey spot down below is the road I would eventually get to.

After I made it down the steep part, I turned onto Old Cascade Hwy. This is my favorite part of the route. There are a few sections of the old highway left. This one is about 4 miles long. It's all downhill, and mostly shaded.
There is a creek to the right that babbles along as you are riding. I did not see a single car. I try not to go too fast through this so I can make it last.

I popped back out on to Hwy 2 and continued toward Skykomish. I had another opportunity to ride on Old Cascade Hwy to come into Skykomish. First I had to wait for this train to go by.
The "CC" Dan Henry is for Courage Classic.
The end was not a caboose, but two engines.

I rode into the town where I found the caboose to the train.

Apparently, there is a way to get to Money Creek Campground without going back out onto Hwy 2. Unfortunately, the road is closed, so I came back out to Hwy 2 for the last couple of miles to the campground.

Although the campground is called Money Creek, my campsite is situated on the Skykomish River.
As you can see, the river is quite swift near my campsite.

I have not found Money Creek (nor have I found any money for that matter!). Perhaps I'll go for a stroll and see if this campground can show me the Money!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lunch Above the Little Wenatchee

Today we did one more ride before I take off tomorrow. Way back at the top of McKenzie Pass where I met Lori from Leavenworth, she told me about this ride along the White River. We decided to check it out.

We headed down Beaver Valley Rd to 207. We took a right onto 207 and stayed on it when it became Wenatchee Lake Rd. We rode several miles along Wenatchee Lake, past Dirty Face Mountain.

We came to the turn off for White River Rd. Instead of making the turn, we continued on the lake road. By this time, we had reached the head of the lake and we could no longer see the water. The road kind of curved and went across a meadow/wetland area.

Not long after the meadow, we came to the end of Lake Wenatchee Rd. However, the road did continue on as FS 65. There was a gate that allowed passage of snowmobiles and, at this time of year, bikes, but no cars. The road was paved, but lots of downed trees lined the road. Clearly cut to allow passage.
The road was shady and really pretty good.

We rode about 4 miles of a gentle incline to a spot high above the Little Wenatchee River (we found out its name from a guy we saw later on).
The Little Wenatchee

When we were up above the river enjoying the scenery, we decided it was a good place for lunch. First we took some photos.
Mastiff Mountain

Annette and I on the precipice of death above the Little Wenatchee.

Lorraine had gone ahead a bit more. When she came back we parked our butts smack dab in the middle of the road and broke out the lunch food.
The lunch is in the red pannier.

As we were eating lunch, a motorcycle came up the road. They had plenty of room to get by. Shortly after the motorcycle, a jeep came up the road. Turns out it was a guy named Clayton who actually lived up the road (the only private property owner). He is the one who did all the chainsaw work along the road. We chatted for awhile, then finished our lunch and headed back.
Here's the gate on our way back.

As we got back on Wenatchee Lake Rd, we turned and rode North Shore Dr. There are some beautiful homes along the lake. Many are for sale.
Lake Wenatchee

We returned to the main road and rode back to the cabin. In all it was about 38 miles. Another beautiful day for a bike ride!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Hats and River Rats

What a great day off the bike and on the water!

A couple of days ago I made reservations for the three of us to go rafting with River Riders (river on the Wenatchee River for Lorraine's birthday. We had a 1:00 reservation. 

We wanted to stop in Leavenworth first to replace Annette's blown tire. I also wanted to go to The Hat Shop to get a hat for my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower (an Alice In Wonderland Tea Party theme). When we replaced Annette's tire, we also convinced her to replace her 15 year old helmet. 

At The Hat Shop, I quite quickly found the perfect hat. Here is the photo of us "New Hat" ladies (and Lorraine participating just by wearing her hat)
Yes, my hair is in multiple braids, compliments of Annette.


We drove over to the River Riders place (the depot) and arrived with a few minutes to wait before lunch was served. We read (sort of) and signed the liability waivers. We met our guides, John (aka Sunshine) and Brad. They said we had two options. We could either ride in the raft, or each paddle our own inflated kayaks. If we did the kayaks, we would have to wear wetsuits as we would definately be getting wet. We decided we would do the raft so we could be together. Also, it was too hot to be wearing a wetsuit. 

Then, John showed me the boats. He said the kayaks were very stable, one could even stand up in them! Hmmm...that looked like more fun. The river was not flowing too fast, so the raft would be more of a float. Hmmm...the kayaks were looking more attractive. Well, we thought, maybe, we would do the kayaks. There was still the issue of the wetsuits. As the morning group came in, the kayakers said the wetsuits were not necessary, as it was so warm. Sunshine then gave us the option to not wear wetsuits. That sealed it for us. We would do the kayaks. The others (a family of four) were still doing the raft.

A BBQ lunch of veggies, fruit, potato salad, baked beans, and chicken or hot dogs was served.

After lunch we got our PFDs and piled into the van for the ride upriver.
We towed the boats behind us on the trailer. I, of course, requested a red kayak.

We went through Leavenworth (John pointing out the various sites of town such as the town pool--"the  port-a-potty", the "Bavarian" McDonalds, and downtown--known as "Disneyland for old people"), and along Icicle Creek Rd. to the launching place. 
Chumstick Ridge above the Wenatchee River.

After our pre-boating lesson (including a separate lesson for us kayakers), we got in our boats and practiced paddling across the river.
Lorraine making it across.

The first 1/2 mile or so was pretty flat and easy. We spent the time getting accustomed to our boats. We spun them around, paddled backwards, and then, when the water was deeper, got out of the boats and practiced climbing back in. Lorraine and Annette were very fast at getting back in. Me, with my ample chest, compounded by the PFD, took a wee bit longer to haul myself back into my little red boat (and, no, there are no photos of that!).
Annette paddling like a pro.
A selfie of me.
The three of us (taken by handing my camera over to Brad).

As we approached the first bit of rough water, Brad told us how to negotiate our way through it. Basically, we just followed him. We made it through without any incidents.

We "eddied out" after Boulder Bend and had an opportunity to float through the rapids in our PFDs.
Here's Annette!
Here I am!

We got back in the boats, went a short distance and eddied out again to jump off a big rock. Both Lorraine and Annette jumped off. I took the photos.
Leaping Lorraine!
Annette after attempting to do a pike.

Back in the boats, since we were now "seasoned" kayakers, Brad told us to just explore and have fun. We wove our way through rocks and small rapids. At one point I got stuck on a rock. I could not get off. Brad said to back paddle. That spun me right off the rock!

We pulled off one more time for snacks of pineapple slices and cookies. As we continued downriver, we saw an Opsrey nest with two babies about to fledge.

We made back to the pull-out spot. Everyone helped to haul the boats back up. All in all, it was a great ride. We are so glad we chose the kayaks (the people in the raft looked bored)! 

Now I can add River Rat to my list of accomplishments!