Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all who follow my bike ramblings! I managed to get in a Christmas morning ride with a few friends.
Thanks for the ride Cindy, Jan, and Chris!

In Christmas letter fashion, here's my year in review (if you loathe Christmas letters, feel free to stop reading now).


I had a short racing season this year. I did just 8 races before leaving for Europe in May: one time trial, and 7 road races. I won the first road race in Sequim. It's only because most of the Cat 4 women don't ride much in the winter, or the newbies haven't figured it out yet. Basically, I seem to "peak" in the first race. From then on, it's all downhill (figuratively, of course--if it was really all downhill, I'd do great!).

I also experienced my first crash in a race. I was lucky as I ended up in the ditch and only received minor scratches and a whole lotta mud in my hair. My friend and teammate was not so lucky. She ended up on the pavement with a broken collarbone and thumb. The next week, I raced the same course again. I didn't think I was nervous, until I got dropped and felt such relief. I knew I wouldn't crash if I was by myself.


I left May 19th for my longest tour yet. I started in Mainz, Germany with my friend, Christian. We rode north, visiting Berlin, then family, and friends (especially Alex and Markus in Bremen) before crossing into Denmark. After a couple of short days in Denmark, we crossed into Sweden. We rode the coast to Norway. We were in Oslo for the Summer Solstice (a very big deal in Scandinavia). There were parties everywhere, and it was light until the early hours with the sun rising again by about 4:30am.

Christian stayed with me until we got to Bingen, Norway to visit his friend, Jon. Christian had to return home and go back to work. I continued on the North Sea Route up the coast of Norway to Stavanger where I flew to Aberdeen, Scotland. In Scotland, I explored the ruins of Dunnotter Castle, and had to walk my bike up the steepest, most desolate (except for sheep) road I have ever been on. 

I ferried over to Northern Ireland, and worked my way into Ireland and over to Galway and the Atlantic. From there it was a straight ride across the middle of Ireland to Dublin. I had planned a day off in Dublin, but found no room at any inn (except the most expensive inn in Dublin). I stayed in the expensive room, but ferried the next day to Holyhead in Wales.

I followed National Cycle Route 5 up the coast, at one point, experiencing the most amazing tailwind ever! I crossed into England on a bike trail (there was even a sign). I met up with my friend Chris in Oxford. He gave me a local's tour of the town (the best kind of tour), where I saw the college used as Hogwarts in Harry Potter, and got to ride a double-decker bus! As I worked my way toward London, I spent a night in Slough with a great gal named Jane. She took me home when I couldn't find any place to camp in or around Windsor (doesn't Her Majesty want people camping around her castle?). 

In London, I stayed at Crystal Palace Caravan Park about 7 miles from the center of London. I spent 3 nights there, and rode down into London for two very full days of sightseeing. When I left London for good, I somehow ended up going to Greenwich (south of where I needed to go) where I cycled up to the Observatory and the Prime Meridian. 

I left England on a ferry from Harwich to Hook van Holland. In Hook van Holland I met Olga, a French gal on her first ever bike tour. We were going the same way toward Amsterdam, so we rode together on her last day. We finished at her friend's house in Haarlem where I was also invited to stay the night. Jonas and his parents were very nice!

Amsterdam, the next day, was not to be as there was a very bad storm that caused the storm drains to overflow and flood the streets with raw sewage. I reached the city sign for Amsterdam, and took a right heading back south without actually going into the city. Instead, I explored Rotterdam the next day, going through the Heinenoord Tunnel...twice. On my way across Holland back to Germany, I found the Hovenring elevated bicycle roundabout with a little help from Mariella and her cousin Daniella. 

I left Holland at Venlo, returning to Germany where I met up with Christian near Düsseldorf for the last few days of riding the Rhein Radweg back to Mainz. I flew home on August 6th. I had spent 2 1/2 months cycling 3786 miles around Europe.

Super Biker Grandma!

September 3rd, my oldest son and my daughter-in-law had their first baby. My sweet sweet Grayson! I'm not being biased when I say he is the cutest baby on the planet!!! I love being a grandma, and try to get to Eugene as often as possible to get me some baby hugs! I will be in charge of all things bikey!

A New Girl in the Stable

After returning from Europe, I turned my sights to the next couple of tours. These will be dirt road tours.  Joyride Bikes just happened to have the bike I wanted for them--a Surly ECR. "Mama Cass" is a mid-fat bike with 3" tires. I was fortunate to get to take her over to Twisp with my friends, Bill and Melody, to do some gravel/mountain biking. It was a blast!

So, that brings me back to today. I thank all of you for reading my blog. I wish you many adventures in your own lives in the coming New Year and beyond!

                                          Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Braver Than the Elements Ride, and a Moon Cycle Ride

It's December, and that means braving the elements, and riding to see Christmas lights. Actually, those were two separate rides. 

First, was the Rapha sponsored Braver Than the Elements Ride. Jean and I headed to Seattle for the women-only ride. This was one of several happening all over the country. The ride started at Cascade Bicycle Studio, a bike shop (and the only Washington dealer of Rapha apparel) in the Fremont District. We arrived much earlier than we thought we would, and no one was there. It was raining, so we just waited in the car. Bit by bit, women started arriving. The bike shop opened, and we all gathered inside to sign waivers, and find out what the plan was. Some gals were buying rain jackets and embrocation to help them stay warm and dry. Jean and I, being very used to riding in the "elements", were well prepared. As were our bikes. Jean was riding her cross bike, and I was on Star, my rain bike. Both our bikes have full fenders and long buddy flaps. With the exception of Mindy, the ride leader, we were the only ones with buddy flaps. Several had fenders, but without the long flap in the back, your "buddy" behind you is not really protected from the spray. Some gals didn't have fenders at all. Yikes! We tried to stay away from them!

Twenty of us headed out into the rain. We rode north, up and out of Fremont. Our turn around point was a cafe in Edmonds. For a good chunk of the ride, we were on the Interurban Bike Route, including a nice bike path. After getting off the path, we had to negotiate some busy streets, and then the hilly portion of the ride. We regrouped frequently, as there were several levels of riders from Cat 3 racers to a gal on a flat bar commuter carrying a pannier.

All 20 of us descended on an already crowded cafe (but, they knew we were coming). I had hot chocolate and a cookie. By the time we were ready to leave, some were not looking forward to going back out into the rain, knowing we would be cold because we were all wet. But, hey, this was called the Braver Than the Elements Ride! And, we had a big hill to go up (several, actually), so everyone would warm up quickly. As we were about ready to leave the parking lot of the cafe, one gal realized she had a flat. Emily (a Cat 3 racer) had the tire changed for the gal pretty quickly, but we were all still cold and ready to get going. Sure enough, no one was complaining about being cold once we were heading up the first hill (except for some cold hands).

We pretty much returned the way we had come. The last couple of miles were mostly downhill. We were going pretty slow (not sure why), but we eventually made it back to the start. We all received Braver Than the Elements patches for our effort. The ride was only 28 miles, but it was still fun to ride with and meet some new gals. Of course, they were all Seattle gals. I think Jean and I were the bravest of all, coming all the way from Olympia (so, okay, we drove to Seattle, but we still had to get up earlier than any of them)!

Ride the Night to Christmas Lights

Today was the Winter Solstice, and a group called Moon Cycle (they apparently ride once a month on the full moon) planned a ride to see the Christmas lights at Ken Lake. None of my Oly Chick posse were able to go, but I decided to go anyway. It wasn't raining, and the temperature was warm. Besides, after just 28 miles yesterday, and only a 5 mile walk/run today, I needed to burn more calories. 

We met at 5:00 at the Tivoli fountain at the Capitol campus (I rode Stella). Eight and a half of us showed up (the half was the little 4 1/2 year old son of one of the women). A few had decorated their bikes with LED battery operated Christmas lights. This was definately a group of commuter cyclists. Not a clipless pedal in sight (except for me), and only one other bike with drop bars. But, great headlights and tail flashers!

 No one seemed to know the exact plan to get to Ken Lake (a neighborhood on the Westside). Well, of course, I knew how to get there. They seemed to prefer I lead the way. Well, alright, that's fine with me! 

We worked our way at a leisurely pace to the Westside. We arrived at the Ken Lake neighborhood, and started our ride around the loop. Years ago, when my boys were little, we drove there to see the lights. I remembered there being several houses with fairly extravagant light displays. Now, there seems to be only one that is over the top. Oh, there were several houses with lights, but nothing huge. The one house is quite worth the trip though. The light display is set to music. The program is about 10 minutes long before it starts over. They accept canned food donations for the Food Bank. After the whole program ran through, the guy who owns the place took our picture in front of the lights.
I'm fourth from the right.

We rode back through town, dropping people as we went. There were a couple going to a cafe/bar, but I opted to head for home. It was a nice 25 mile ride at a very leisurely average of 10.8mph. It was fun, though, and I may consider doing more of these Moon Cycle rides!

The best thing of all? From here on out, the days will be getting longer!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Over-estimating Our Mountain Biking Skills

For our last day, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise! The mountains were bathed in a pink hue, and the sky looked promising.

We did our usual walk with the dogs, then came back and got ready to ride. Today's destination was the Bear Creek Figure 8. The first loop was a level 3. Okay, we had done level 3 yesterday. The second loop had some level 4 stuff. Hmmm...could be scary!

We rode from the house again (of course that meant coming back up the loooong hill at the end of the ride). We went out the same way as before. Although the sun was shining, it was pretty chilly in the shade, and we were in the shade most of the way to the beginning of the Figure 8. I looked at the temp on my computer. It was 36.6 degrees. But, that was okay because we were climbing. Only my toes were a little cold.

We headed up the dirt road toward Loup Loup Summit.
It was a very long climb, and I was very slow. Bill and Melody were great about waiting at every turn to make sure we all went the right way. 

After what seemed like a very long time, we made it to the double track part of the first loop...and continued to climb. There were tons and tons of larch trees (a needled tree that is deciduous). They are now golden yellow, and the needles cover the ground.

This one still has some green to it.

We reached the top, and the beginning of the singletrack descent. Here's Bill starting down.

Melody and I followed our fearless leader only to have to get off and walk about 20ft into the trail due to it being very steep and rocky...and Melody and I's desire to remain upright and uninjured. We seriously toyed with going back to the road and doing the Bear Mtn. Loop, then going back down the way we had come up. But, we decided to go a little further. Bill said it got easier. Welllll...not really. Clearly, in the exuberance of yesterday's Buck Mtn ride, we thought we were such accomplished mountain bikers, that we could handle this. Bill did pretty good (although he still had to walk a bit too). Melody and I would ride 10 feet, then have to get off and walk. In all fairness, I think Melody might have tried to ride more, but I was in front of her, and I was way too chicken. We did manage to ride some of the sketchier bits, but, for me that was only when I didn't feel like I was going to fall off the side of the mountain! And we also discovered that, although some of the spots looked absolutely terrifying, the more we rode, the braver we a point. Fortunately, our caution paid off, in that, neither Melody or I bit the dust.

We came out onto a logging road (this after I rode down a steep, rocky bit, giving a running commentary while my life was flashing before my eyes!). At this point, the trail crossed the road, and continued down for another .8 miles. Looking at the map, Melody and Bill determined that the logging road would take us back out to the dirt road we had ridden up. It was 2 miles. Melody and I decided to abort the rest of the Bear Creek Figure 8, and take the logging road back. We'd had enough of death-defying singletrack. Bill opted to finish the first loop, but also bail out on the second loop that was supposed to be harder. Then he would go back to the yurt to finish the ditch digging before we left for home.

So, Melody and I took the logging road, and ended up coming out where we had started the double track part. That meant we had the entire descent on the dirt road back to the turn to Loup Loup Summit. WOO HOO! It was a blast! I got up to 30.6mph! Here's Melody finishing it!
Coming down with a big grin!

Since we hadn't really gone that many miles, and we still had plenty of time, we decided to go and do Pipestone Canyon (level 1) again. First we had to go up and over the ridge on the way to Campbell Lake. We tried, briefly, to ride a trail that went alongside the road, but it was too deep of a rut and my pedals kept digging into the sides of the rut. We returned to the road. 
Going up, so we could go down.

Pipestone Canyon was just as fun the second time! 
Looking back into the canyon.

We came back out to the road. We still had to ride back up the road to the yurt. Even though I told myself, again, that I could walk, I managed to ride the whole thing, albeit very slowly.

Melody and I showered, then took the dogs for one more long walk before they would have to ride in the car back to Olympia.

We came back and started the process of packing up and cleaning. We finished and were on the road by about 6:30ish. 

I had so much fun these four days! What great adventures in mountain biking we had! I loved the walks with the dogs, and hanging out with Bill and Melody. I can't thank them enough for allowing me to join them! WOO HOO! WE ARE MOUNTAIN BIKERS EXTRAORDINAIRE!!! (At least we like to think we are)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cattle Herding Mountain Bikers Are Us!

We started our third day with another great walk/hike to wear out the little man, Mariko, before heading out for another mountain biking adventure. It was raining just a bit, but nothing we couldn't deal with.

Bill, once again, loaded up the bikes (thanks again, Bill!), as we would be starting our ride in Twisp again. This time we would be heading into Winthrop, then up to do Buck Mtn., and Buck Lake.
Not a super clear photo, but this is the bike/ped bridge over the Methow River from Twisp over to Winthrop.

We had about 8 1/2 miles of pavement to get to the beginning of the Buck Mtn. Loop. Then we were on a dirt road for about three miles. Along the dirt road, we encountered some cattle being herded along by a guy on horseback. It appeared he could use our help, so we obliged.
Actually, we just rode behind them until they got to this spot where they could get off the road and we could safely pass them.

Continuing on, we climbed until we reached the double track section, then...we continued climbing...of course!
Following the little yellow bike signs.

As we continued climbing, the double track turned into singletrack. This was, for me, the most challenging singletrack so far. It was steep ups and steep downs, but we managed to negotiate most of them. Bill went down a steep hill that had a sharp right turn, then steep semi-off camber uphill. I heard him yell, "Sharp right!" When I got to the beginning of the downhill part, and saw the sharp turn at the bottom, I opted to avoid the likely crash by walking Mama Cass down. In the meantime, Bill had gotten off his bike, and slipped in the mud (the non-bike crash). Yes, this was much more challenging than our previous rides! However, the scenery was spectacular!
Beautiful vistas!
Melody on the singletrack.

After a brief wrong turn where the trail then disappeared, we got back on the main trail, and started a most incredible descent through the sage brush, and down the mountain.

Eventually, we popped out at a road. Bill and Melody were trying to figure out where we were in relation to how we would get to Buck Lake. Since they weren't sure, we just picked up the trail across the road and continued on. Then we came to another road that had a sign directing us to Buck Lake. 
Very nice Fall colors!

From the lake we were on a dirt road for a long descent. We didn't come out quite where Bill thought we would, but it was okay. We rode about 10 miles of pavement back to Winthrop, and then the short bit back over the bridge to the car. 

Today's ride was 36 miles. The singletrack was rated a 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. We now consider ourselves official mountain bikers!

When we got back, we took the dogs for a long walk/hike in the hills. I tell ya, if I did this everyday, I would be in the most awesome shape for road racing!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cross Training, Mountain Biking, Followed by More Cross Training!

Day 2 at Bill and Melody's began with another great walk (Cross training session 1) with the pups. This time Bill came along as our bike ride was going to be leaving from the yurt (no driving). We went back up the hill behind the yurt, but continued farther. Here's some photos.

Mariko waiting patiently for a treat.
Mikayla and Mariko
The yurt far off in the distance.
New plants springing up after the fire.
Oh look, it's me (photo courtesy of Melody)!

Bill and Mariko

Once back to the yurt, we suited up to ride. Today we rode from the yurt. Going out the door for the ride makes it less likely I would forget something.

It was still pretty chilly, but there was no rain in the forecast. I wore my rain jacket for warmth, until we started climbing. Then, the jacket was stowed for the remainder of the ride. We did lots of climbing on a mostly dirt road that was pretty smooth.
Heading up, up, and away!
Trees and hillside burned in the fire.

At the top, it was an awesome descent. Mama Cass flew down the road! At the bottom we hopped onto some singletrack that was really great. Here's a couple of shots of Melody and Bill coming down the road.

There were two short bits on the singletrack that I had to walk, but it was just for a few yards. Oh, and we had to step over a burnt tree that had fallen over the trail. Bill told me to get a good run at it. Yeah, right!

We returned to a road. Before long, we were looking at another great descent and beautiful views of the mountains.

I made it up to 31 mph! It was awesome!!! We did some more descending on the pavement right into Winthrop. We rode over to the bike shop (so Bill could look at the possibility of getting some shorts--unfortunately for him, none in his size). I got the Revelate Gas Tank. It goes on the top tube just behind the stem. I was able to put a couple of bars in it, and my camera. It will hold more.

After the bike shop, we went to the Rocking Horse Bakery. Yum yum!
Soy hot chocolate and a carrot cakelette!

Back on the road, we headed up and up (and up some more--Mama Cass just cranking along in super granny) Bear Creek to Campbell Lake. The ride along Campbell Lake was mostly gentle downhill (it seemed like I was going really fast, but that was just because I had been going so slow to get there). Then we got on the Pipestone Canyon doubletrack. It was so much fun (I even got the Strava QOM for Pipestone!)!!! 
Pipestone Canyon
Melody coming out of the canyon.

We continued riding the doubletrack until we came out to the dirt road. Along the way there was a spot where we could see the yurt (and the road we had to go up to get back to it!).
The orange colored spot left of center is where the yurt is. The orange color is from where the fire retardant was dropped to help save their place in the big Carlton Complex Fire last summer that was started by lightening--curiously, we rode through where the fire started. You can also see the road up to Bill and Melody's place. Yes, it's a steep one, but I managed to ride up the whole way (even though I kept telling myself I would walk).

When we got back, it was time for Cross Training session 2. While Melody took Mariko for a long walk, Bill and I headed down the driveway to do some ditch digging. Because of the fire, all the vegetation was burned. We needed to dig in places so the water runoff won't wash out the road. I lasted about an hour before I could no longer swing the pick. It was a good cross training session. I'll probably repeat it tomorrow as there is still a lot to do.

All in all it was a great day of mountain biking. I am really really liking this!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mama Cass Goes to Eastern Washington, Or...

...I Saved His Butt, He Saved My Hands

A few weeks ago, my friends Bill and Melody asked if I would like to go with them to their place in Twisp to do some mountain biking. Well, sure I would!

So, here we are! We left yesterday evening and arrived after midnight (it's about 5 1/2 hours). Of course it was pitch black when we arrived, so I had no idea what it looked like until morning. Bill and Melody have a beautiful yurt (we're not talking Oregon State Park type yurt here). It's all light and beautifully bright woodwork with windows all around, and a big skylight at the top of a center post wrapped in white lights. It has all the comforts of home, including an outdoor shower (there's an indoor one too).
The very cool outdoor shower.
The backside of the yurt.

I woke up to light streaming through the window in my room. I couldn't wait to see the view! And what a view it is!
Fog in the valley.

After breakfast, Melody and I took the dogs for a walk. 
Mikayla the Queen, and Mariko the Prince (3 months old-- he'll be as big or bigger than Mikayla when he is full-grown).

We walked up the hillside behind the yurt--up and up.
The yurt in the distance.
Even higher!
Panorama from the top.

Mikayla is a dog of advanced years, yet she made it the whole way (at her pace).
I'm coming!

When we returned from our walk, Bill had the bikes loaded on the car. We changed into our biking gear. Bill forgot his bike shorts. I offered up my Icebreaker shorts to save his butt. He accepted. 

I filled my hydration pack, and made sure I had snacks. Apparently, food is the most important thing to me, because when we got to where we were starting, I discovered I had not put my bike glasses in, nor had I put in my gloves (geez, you'd think I'd never biked before!). Fortunately for me, Bill had an extra pair of long finger gloves. Thanks for saving my hands, Bill! 

We headed out toward Sun Mountain. We did about 7 1/2 miles of pavement, a good chunk of it uphill. Mama Cass and I are not so speedy going uphill on pavement. Bill and Melody got ahead of me, but I knew they would not turn off without me. 

When we got to the start of the trail, I took my rain jacket off. I was cooking in it! What was supposed to be 60% chance of rain ended up being mostly sunny! 

We took Chickadee Trail up to Thompson Rd. We climbed quite awhile up Thompson Rd. There were some great views along the way.

The colors are spectacular!

Once we reached the top, we picked up some double and single-track trails. This was pretty easy, so Mama Cass had no problems. In fact, the downhill portions were so much fun! I am getting braver in letting the bike run.

We came out to a viewpoint called "Room With a View". Yep, it sure was!

We continued riding. It started to rain, but it didn't last long. Soon we were back to sunshine. During our ride on Rodeo Trail, I couldn't help but have a running soundtrack of Aaron Copland's Rodeo running through my head! 

Coming along Beaver Pond, I had to stop and take this photo.
Beaver Pond in Fall

We continued doing ups, and longer sections of downhill. The dappling of the leaves on the trail made for such pleasant riding! 

We came back down Chickadee to where we had started the trail. Instead of continuing on the road, we took another trail that was mostly downhill...screaming-good fun downhill! I managed to glance at my speedometer to see I was going 26.1 mph! This was a part single, part double track trail! 26.1 mph! WOO HOO!!! I had a hard time wiping the grin off my face!
Goin' down, down, down!

All good things must eventually come to an end. We popped back out to the pavement. All that was left of today's ride was to ride back to the car.
Still a nice ride!

We rode a total of 33 miles. It was awesome!

Here's a few parting shots.
Rockin' those shorts, Bill (and also blending in nicely with the Fall foliage)!
Mama Cass shadow picture!