Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Curious Incidents of the Owl and the Train on the Night Ride

I stopped doing blog posts about the night rides after my first season. We ride north or we ride south same ol' same ol'. Tonight started out like all the others. About 15 of us showed up. Maria, Jean, and I were the only gals...also same ol' same ol'. 

Since it's Thursday, the route is South on the trail. Off we went. The pace was pretty peppy. We were getting close to where the Deschutes River flows alongside the trail. All of a sudden, from the right side, at the height of our front wheels, well, the front wheels of the guys on the front, there was a blur. It was a large owl that came flying across the trail! It smacked into Dave's wheel. It careened off and into Maria's wheel. There were feathers flying, people yelling, and through all of it, no one crashed! Those bringing up the rear said the owl even managed to fly off (albeit a few feathers short). Whew!

It took a little bit for everyone to settle down, but soon we were back up to speed. We got to the Y. The guys planned to go down the Yelm-Tenino Trail to Military Rd., then back to the trail. Us gals knew we'd just get dropped going up the hill on Military. We opted to turn around and go back on the trail. We knew the guys, not having to wait for us, would hammer hard, and eventually catch us.

As we were coming back to where the train tracks cross the trail, I noticed there was actually a train! Never in all the years and hundreds of times I've been on that part of the trail have I ever seen an actual train there! We stopped and watched as train car after train car slowly passed by with no end to the train in sight. stopped...blocking the trail. There was no way around. A number of vehicles were also stopped on the road that passes close to the trail and over the same tracks. 

After a few minutes, Maria starts saying how we could just climb over the train. Both Jean and I said, "No Maria! What if the train starts moving?" So, we waited a little longer. When it seemed like the train was not going anywhere anytime soon, Maria, again suggested going over.

By this time, even the guy in the car on the same side of the train as us, who had previously told us to be careful, was saying we could probably make it. Maria says she's going for it. She climbs up the ladder. Jean hands her bike up to her. Maria walks across to the other side, lowers her bike down, and climbs down so she can lay her bike down. Jean climbs up, I hand her her bike, she goes across, gives Maria her bike, and comes back to grab my bike. I climb up, walk over, and climb down the other side. Success! We got back on and rode off. The guys finally caught us just before Rainier Rd. They had also climbed over the train. Nothing like two strange incidents in one night! 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wrong on Paper, but Right in My Head, or...

How Five Women With Four Maps and a Garmin Still Managed to Come to a Dead End

Last summer I did a gravel ride with Trisha, DJ, and Derik. In fact, it was my first ride in Capitol Forest on Mama Cass. Today, my plan was to recreate that ride, but without going up to the top of Rock Candy Mountain. I looked at the PDF map I have of Capitol Forest, and wrote down the numbers of the roads I thought we needed to go on.

We met at McLane Elementary. It was me, Jean, Jan, Chris, and Trisha. I was really happy to see Trisha because she had gotten hit by a car a short while ago, and it was good to see in person that she was okay. Also, since she had been on the ride in August, it was good to have her knowledge too.

It was foggy, but the temperature was already 50 degrees. Just after portaging our bikes over the boulders, I took the sleeves off my jacket. We did the long climb through the fog on B 8400. At one point, Jean asked if we were at the summit. We just couldn't see the road continuing up (after a short short downhill). 

In my mind, and on the paper, we needed to turn left onto B 8000. Trisha also remembered going that way. As we were climbing up B 8000, Mama Cass started to feel really bouncy. Uh oh, flat rear tire. At a break in the climbing, we stopped so I could fix it. I was a little nervous because the last time I had a flat on MC, it was very difficult to get the wheel back on with the horizontal dropouts. It is also hard to get the bead of the tire away from the rim. Trisha and I both wrenched on it until the bead came out. Then it was easy to get the rest of the bead off. Running my fingers along the inside of the tire, I found the culprit--a small piece of metal, probably from a car tire. I'm sure I picked it up on the road, and it took that long to work it's way through the tire to puncture the tube. Anyway, new tube in and inflated, it was time to put the wheel back on. Jean and Trisha held the bike while I slid the wheel back into the dropouts. I figured out that I needed to simply pull the chain back, put it on the smallest cog, then slide the wheel into the dropouts. Piece a cake! It's amazing how, when you figure out how to do something, it's really easy!

We continued on B 8000. We came down a very rocky, recently graded section, and popped out into the sun! Boy did that sun feel good! We continued riding. We came to B 8900. I looked at my paper. Nope, we didn't want that one. I looked at my Garmin. B 8900 was a dead end. We continued on B 8000. Oops, B 8000 also came to a dead end! What? Where was the turn for the B Line (the next road on my paper list)? Did we not see it? With nothing to do but go back until we could find the B Line, we pedaled back up that which we had come down. As I was slogging back up the rocky hill, I thought to put the intersection of Noschka and Sherman Valley Rds in the Garmin and see if it would give us a route. Sure enough, it did. We continued backtracking for a little while longer until the Garmin said to make a left onto B 8500. That was another climb, of course. But, we came out to some incredible views. I thought I remembered this section, but, then again, I wasn't sure. As we came to another fork in the road, it appeared we should stay left, because the alternative was, essentially, a trail. After much discussion, map looking, and Garmin checking, we decided we did need to go on the trail. I remembered doing a trail like this before, but I had no idea if it was the same trail. 

We pushed our bikes up the trail. It was too steep and rocky to ride. We met some hikers who were coming down. We asked them if there was a road up ahead. They said there was, but first we would come to a big mud puddle. We came to the puddle. It was, indeed, quite big. Trisha rode through a part to the right. I walked, pushing MC through the puddle while I walked on the edge to the left. As Jean came to it, I said to go to the left wheeling the bike through the puddle, meaning, to walk the bike. Instead, she stayed on the bike using her left foot on the edge to scooter through. That was going well, until the puddle got quite deep...about halfway-up-the-crank deep. Jean's right foot was now submerged in the puddle. We all had a good laugh. Good thing it was a warm day! Jan and Chris did the walk alongside method. 

One more push up to the top, and we were able to ride the remainder of the trail. We came out to the road that, if we went left, would take us up to the peak of Rock Candy Mountain. By this time, Trisha and I were certain we were on the same route we had done in the summer. 
The view just before coming to C 4000. The fog had NOT burned off below.

Soon, we reached C 4000. Now we were back on the paper list. As we came to a big 4-way intersection, I knew exactly where we were. I knew we needed to go left on C 8000, but the Garmin was saying to continue straight. I followed C 8000 on the Garmin, and saw that the Garmin route eventually came back to it, but further down. I also knew continuing straight meant another very steep climb (Geraldine and I had discovered this the first time we went this way). We turned left. The Garmin eventually recalculated. 

C 8000 was the super long downhill. Last time, it had been recently regravelled, and was a bit of a wheel sucker. This time, the surface was perfect and I was able to go a lot faster. At one point I glanced at my speedometer. I was going 25 mph! Woo Hoo! Trisha, Chris, and I decided that was the most fun of the day! Jean and Jan experienced tired hands from braking. I know exactly how that feels, because I had the same experience the first time I came down, riding Stella! 

The next obstacle ahead was the washed out road part. This was the part where DJ carried my bike across the log while I just had to walk across. We had determined we would use teamwork to negotiate the log with our bikes. As we came down, we crossed one bridge, and then we went across another bridge! Yay! They had fixed the washout! 

From there it was just a bit more until the pavement of Noschka Rd. We continued to Sherman Valley, Waddell, and Delphi. I left my intrepid pals at Delphi and 62nd, and headed home.

When I compared the route from today with the route from last summer, except for our going to the end of B 8000, and not going up to the top of Rock Candy Mtn, it was the same. So, although my paper list had a different part, what I thought in my head was the way I wanted to go. What should we have done to follow the paper? We should have not turned left onto B 8000, and instead continued almost to the Rock Candy Parking area to pick up the B Line. Then we would have gone to B 5000, which would have taken us to C 4000. Oh well, maybe we can try that way next time.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

If We Keep Going Straight This Way...

Said Geraldine as she was looking at the map on her phone while we were standing with our bikes amongst the bushes on what may or may not have been a trail.

Geraldine, Maria, and I met at McLane Elementary this morning at 10:00 for another gravel ride in Capitol Forest. Geraldine had planned out two possible routes. One was a route we did last winter, and part of one I did this last summer, and the other was something mostly new. Since I knew the first option might include having to hike-a-bike across a ravine while walking on a log (last summer DJ or Derik was kind enough to take my bike across), I suggested we do option 2. Afterall, if we wanted epic, what's more epic than unknown roads for unknown miles?

We came into Capitol Forest off Maple Valley Rd. Someone has placed a big pile of large boulders to block the dirt road. We had to carry the bikes over them. A short while later there was another pile, but it was easier to go around. Our guess was that they didn't want any motorized vehicles accessing the Forest there. Fortunately, we gravel grinders can manage.

We went up the first long steep climb with Geraldine seeming to climb like it was flat, Maria turning the cranks on her cross-bike (not the easiest of gears) until she couldn't, and me on Mama Cass bringing up the rear (thankful for that 23-34 gear combo--slow, but the pedals can keep turning). We had a bit of downhill, but then back to climbing. 

We reached the turnoff to go up to Rock Candy Mt. (to the left). I was thinking the next right turn would be the Rock Candy Rd that would take us to the entrance off Hwy 8. We made the turn, and started another steep climb, only to find out it wasn't the right way. At least we got to come back down! Back to the main road, we continued on until we actually came to Rock Candy Rd. There were a couple of trail runners that popped out onto the road right as we came by. Since we were climbing pretty slowly, we told them they could probably go faster than we were. I could hear their footfalls coming up behind us, but then we had a short downhill, and we stayed ahead of them. They also went off onto the trail.

We finally came down the big descent to the entrance at Hwy 8. We crossed the Hwy, and picked up the S Line. I had tried to do the S Line a couple months ago, but ended up going the wrong way and, coming upon an active logging operation, had to turn back. I had figured out which way I should have gone, but it was too late. So, today, I knew exactly where to go.

Of course, there was more climbing, and then...more climbing! Geraldine continued to exhibit her super-human climbing skills (I may be Super Biker Woman, but Geraldine is Super Climbing Biker Woman!), reaching the top of each climb well before Maria or myself. 

We knew the S Line dead-ended (according to the map). We were prepared to do the out and back, but we were hoping there might be a trail that would bring us out to Whittaker Rd. near Hwy 101. As we were riding along, we began to hear traffic down below. This sounded promising! Soon, we came to the end of the S Line. There were two options of less-travelled double-track. Geraldine surmised that the one to the right was the correct direction to come to Whittaker Rd. We rode on, dodging tree branches, until the double-track ended. Again Geraldine looked at the map and said, "If we just keep going straight, we should come to the road." There was a slight semblance of a trail going in the direction we needed to go. Well alright, let's do it! We wanted epic! What's more epic than bush-whacking your way through downed branches, trees, and brush while pushing/carrying a 30+ pound fat bike? Geraldine and Maria just slung their bikes up on their shoulders as if this was a cyclocross course. All the while, Geraldine is continuing the mantra of "just going straight and we'll come to the road."

We came to a pile of timber, and there we found a logging road that took us to...Whittaker! Woo Hoo! We did it! Now, which way to Hwy 101? Both Geraldine and I thought right, so off we went. Riding along, I mentioned how I'd always wondered where this road went. Turns out I got to see exactly where the road went because, we ended up at the end...the wrong end. Oops! Turn around! 

We came out to the Steamboat Island exit. From there we took Madrona Beach Rd to Mud Bay, and back to McLane. Maria and I said goodbye and good ride to Geraldine as we went left on Mud Bay, and she went right to go home. I left Maria at her car at McLane, and rode myself home. 

Now I can say I've done the S Line. Even with the bush-whacking (just maybe because of the bush-whacking), it was another great gravel ride with loads of adventure and the right amount of epic-ness! 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Girls Go a Gravelling!

L to R: Sarah, Chris, Karen, Jean, Geraldine, Julianne, Annie, Cindy, Maria, and me (not pictured, our lone dude, Annie's dad, Andy)

I love gravel riding, and I go, even with the fast guys, and it's always great! But, today was extra special as it was an all gals gravel ride (plus Andy)! It was Karen's idea, and I just ran with it (or rode, as the case may be). I put out an all-call post for gals who have been wanting to do a gravel ride, but were worried they wouldn't keep up. There was an enthusiastic response, including some who wanted to come, but couldn't.

We met at the Mima Falls Trailhead parking lot. A Discovery Pass is required to park, and those who drove had their passes. Sarah and I rode with Karen, our three bikes fitting easily into the back of her truck. 

The weather forecast called for 10% chance of rain, but still cold temps. There was ice on the puddles, and the ground was still fairly frozen. We all dressed warmly. I knew we'd be plenty warm once we got near the gravel.

There were those on cyclocross bikes, a few on mountain bikes, and me on Mama Cass. When we headed out it became quickly apparent that the cross bikes were faster on the paved part. But, no problem, as we regrouped at the beginning of the gravel.

The E Line gravel begins with a long, rather steep climb. I may have failed to mention to the gals just how much climbing we would be doing (a total of 2,868 ft). Oops. But, we all made it. This was Mama Cass' first go on the E Line. With her tiny front ring of 23 teeth, and her big rear cog of 32, she goes up the hills pretty easily.

We regrouped periodically, but the faster gals on cross bikes were getting cold waiting for the rest of us to catch up. As soon as the last person would catch up, the front group would continue on. That was good because then they didn't get so cold, yet they didn't get so far ahead. I waited for everyone at the ambiguous turns to make sure everyone went the right way. Sometimes, it's hard to spot the signs.

We went up, we went down. We rarely went flat. Mama Cass did great. However, I noticed that even with the mud shovel fender, I still got pretty dirty on my legs. The Mucky Nutz front fender did a good job of keeping my face clean. Those without any fenders looked like their faces were suffering from some kind of black pox. At the end of the gravel part, some were sporting nice mud facial masks.

In the end, we did 27.4 miles in 3 1/2 hours. The paved D Line back to Bordeaux and Mima Falls ate up a chunk of those miles, but everyone was ready to get off the gravel (except maybe Mama Cass who does so much better on the gravel vs. the pavement). The D Line has it's own steep hills to contend with, but once you reach the top, it's downhill most of the way back to the cars.

We all made it back to the parking lot. Everyone had a great time (though some are saying they'll bring cross bikes next time). I suspect girls will be going gravelling again soon!