Sunday, July 20, 2008

My first R-12!

July 20, 2008: Prologue

The first time I heard about this R-12 thing, I thought it was crazy. Riding in the cold, icy months weren't very appealing, and so I conveniently filed that under the "I am not doing it because it is too hard" category. It's funny how repeated mentions on the SIR mailing list and casual conversation can force you to refile things under the "I wonder if I could do it" category! Several of our club friends and American Randonneur reinforced the opinion that R-12 honorees from the Pacific Northwest were studs. Keen to prove my stud credentials, I started my R-12 quest in March of 2007.

And then the "I am not going to France because of the USCIS" malaise hit me, and I forgot to ride a single 200k in July of 2007. Oh well! Started again in August of 2007 with the 400k ride of Poor Man's PBP, organized by the Oregon Randonneurs. Peg W, ever the subtle motivator, told me that I was being "crazy", trying to ride outside during the winter.

This July is my final 200 towards my first R-12. I was planning to ride the Tahuya 200, but I wasn't sure I could finish that ride in time (my confidence is at an all time low), and as insurance I planned to ride a permanent the weekend before, and picked a "new" permanent: Redmond-Carbon Glacier. Thai Nguyen, Shan Perera and Galvin Chow are perpetual riders of this route that takes you through Issaquah, Cumberland, Buckley, Enumclaw, Wilkerson and Carbonado, to the lovely Carbon Glacier entrance on Mt Rainer National Park, and then back. They were full of praise for this route words. I'd never ridden this route before, so I looked forward to some new, some old, roads.

Start to Cumberland

I set off from home for Sammamish Valley Cycle, around 6.45 in the morning. The air was chilly, and the descent down the winery hill was cold. I stuck to the trail, and saw the earlybirds running and cycling along. A couple of miles after I entered the trail, I was forced to stop for geese crossing the trail, a once in a lifetime shot that my early-morning-brain failed to recognize. That moment is lost forever! When I got to the start at around o710 the shop was closed! I knew this, so, I visited the nearby coffee store, Victors to get my receipt. Victor's Celtic Coffee is very highly recommended. It is the creme de la creme of local coffee houses!

The day was forecast to be warm, so I had taken my CamelBak, but forgotten my camera. The wussy cellphone camera would have to suffice. The route starts off completely flat, save for a few bumps on East Lake Sammamish Parkway, and I made pretty good time to Issaquah, which was just barely awake as I cycled through. The roads were empty, and I knew that it would be a handful on the return journey. I passed the Darigold plant on Front Street and thought about the vast amounts of Chocolate milk consumed on randonneuring rides across North America. These guys should sponsor us! The first real turn after getting onto East Lake Sammamish Parkway would be the left turn onto Kent-Kangley Road, and so there is a minimum of navigation required to the first control at Cumberland.

Lapsed Randonneur Kent Peterson lives in Issaquah, and as I crossed Sunset Way, I thought of him. I came into randonneuring reading Kent's mentions (and reports!) of PBP on the touring mailing list. Kent has been nothing but helpful whenever I have approached him for help, and it would have been nice to have shared this day with him. However, Kent is no longer a member of RUSA! Terrible! Come back Kent!

South of Issaquah, the first few rollers are encountered, a recurring theme through several sections of the route. Not new roads by any means, as this permanent is a combination of some of the roads from last year's Spring 600 and the Greg Cox 200 out of Kent. The terrain was rolling, and had very few true flat spots, and there was almost no traffic for much of the morning. Lots of cyclists were out enjoying the day, capped off by the two lovely ladies who passed me on the uphill just before the turn onto Kent-Kangley road. There was a nice tailwind going to Cumberland, but these being the summer months, a headwind on the way back was inevitable.

I reached the first control at around 9.55a, a bundle of sweat.

Cumberland to Carbon Glacier

The Cumberland store functions as the control, and since a lot of riders do this permanent, the store owner at Cumberland was more than conversant with who we were. He had nothing but glowing words for the behaviour of past permanent riders, which is always good to hear. I didn't expect anything else. I called my wife to let her know I was making good progress, and set out, spending not more than 10 minutes off the bike.

Familiar roads followed but not for very long, and the stretch on SR-410 was fairly high in traffic, not to mention the presence of "objectionable" members of the passenger population. Some yelling, some screaming, some cussing, but little in the way of harm. I was glad to get out of this road, and onto SR-165, which features moderate traffic, but the vehemence of the drivers on SR-410 was missing.

I think the beauty of the next 16 or so miles cannot be overstated. It starts out being very ordinary, but rises to a crescendo in the last 13 miles. Great scenery with decreasing traffic the further you went along, this stretch was truly enjoyable. I would recommend refilling water at Wilkerson. I ran out of water at Carbonado and turned around to get some water at the house of a very helpful gardener. "If you run out of water on the way back", she said, "feel free to stop by and use my hose again". Her help and friendliness were most appreciated, on a hot day, and made the next 10-odd miles even more enjoyable. SR-165 soon transforms itself into a twisty narrow two lane road which gradually snakes its way up to the turn onto Carbon River Road and features great views of the flowing river. It also features a narrow bridge which accorded great views of the surrounding hills.

Carbon River Road has an even lower volume of traffic, which I am sure none will complain about, but gently tilted up in the direction of travel. More chance to enjoy that scenery I keep yammering on about. The chipseal was only a minor deterrent, and progress was strong towards the end of the road. There are some road markings which inform you of the distance to the end, but those are for some ride that stops about a mile short of our intended destination, the Carbon River Ranger station. Just before the control, somebody had drawn the male anatomy using a spray gun. I chuckled to myself as I rode past, hoping that this little piece of "art" wouldn't survive for long.

I finally got to the control around 12:20p, and wrote down the info control answers. I visited with a couple of New York, who had driven across America, and were now going back to New York, through Canada. They were very interested in what I was doing, and I chatted with them about our sport, the places one should not miss in Canada [Icefields Parkway], and was glad to find that they planned to go along that way too.

Carbon Glacier to Cumberland

I knew the next few 15 or so miles would be mostly downhill, and I was eager to enjoy the tranquility of these roads again. I hammered the downhill to SR-165 and stopped for a picture of the narrow bridge. The days heat had started melting the tar and as my bike went over the little bubbles that form on such days, I could hear their pops. Since I had water, I didn't bother to stop in Carbonado, and thinking I had enough water and feeling good, I rode on without stopping at Wilkerson, which in hindsight was a colossal mistake. I had food, but I ran out of water about a couple of miles past Wilkerson, and suffered in the heat of the day. I should have made excellent time back to Cumberland, but somehow it took almost the exact time to head back to Cumberland as it took to get there from Carbon Glacier, this despite the route back featuring a large downhill section. I resolved to get water at Wilkerson from now on, no matter how good I felt.

I finally got to Cumberland around 2.45p.

Cumberland to the Finish

I really wanted to see if I could crack 10 hours on this ride, but unfortunately, I had lost that opportunity on the stretch back to Cumberland. I sat down and ate some food inside the store, as the heat outside was not inviting. Cold water, some nuts and an ice cream later, I was ready for the ride home. The wind had picked up, but luckily it became a cross wind, which wasn't that bad. I was on the home stretch to finishing up my R-12 and that felt good.

There was a 10 minute construction fuelled delay near Issaquah, which allowed me to eat some more and drink some more, but the days heat was getting to me. I dreamed of stopping somewhere out of the sun for a while, and sure enough there was a McDonald's on East Lake Sammamish Parkway. Not my preferred stop, but I got some ice-cold water, gratis, out of their soda fountain, and chilled out while feasting on an Apple Pie. I spent about 20 minutes here, and then finally took off for the home stretch.

Through the efforts of one Ms Amy Pieper, SIR is the adoptee of a section of road on East Lake Sammamish. I stopped by the sign to adore it, gloat and take a picture. I remembered that cold morning that we gathered together, to clean our stretch for the first time. I was in a cheerful group and we got through our portion in no time at all, sorting garbage and recyclables. I wasn't in town for the second cleaning, but will not miss it the next time.

Traffic through much of the core area of Redmond was busy, but around 5:51p I turned onto Sammamish Valley cycle, and my R-12 quest was over! Well, I need to start R-12 quest #2. It was a beautiful route, and I highly recommend you check it out someday. It features an average amount of climbing, and features great scenery. What's not to like?


Shan said...

Wooohooo!!! Congratulations on a hard earned R-12. This one sure takes a lot of commitment.

Albert said...

Congratulations on the R-12. It's a crazy award but a pretty medal - if I don't get off my lazy you know what and take a picture of mine and put it on the web site you can send me a pic of yours when you get it.

Donald Boothby said...

Narayan: Congratulations on a job well done, my friend. This is a monumental achievement, and one that takes an incredible amount of personal determination. Keep up the good work.

Jon Muellner said...

Congratulations!! OK, I'm going to start this August with the 10th Anniversary 200km. It'll be all permanents for the winter; what should one choose for the snowy wet months??