Saturday, August 16, 2008

Happy 10th Birthday, RUSA!

Many thanks to Eric Vigoren, Maggie Williams and Peter Beeson for organizing an awesome ride. There was another woman volunteering at both the bad carb and good carb controls, but I didn't catch her name. Thanks go to her too! A very enjoyable day.


It has been 10 years since RUSA came together thanks to a few visionary randonneurs and randonneuses. To celebrate this August (pun intended) occassion randonneuring clubs across the nation organized rides, and the Seattle Randonneurs were no exception, hosting a 100k populaire and a 200k RUSA brevet out of Bremerton. Lured by the tantalizing pictures of the medal, I set out to ride to the ferry terminal from my house in Kirkland, at 2.35 in the morning. The roads were mostly without traffic, and the highlight was the 45 mph swoop down Kamber Road in Bellevue. Some things are worth climbing for. I reached the terminal at 4.05a, a bit too early for my tastes. I could have had atleast 30 minutes more sleep. Several riders showed up slowly, but I can happily say that I was the first. I was wearing the SIR wool jersey, but had my Canada Goose jersey in my saddlebag as insurance. However, I had forgotten my camera, and lousy cellphone photos would have to do. I can imagine Dave Read chuckling.

I didn't realize this at that time but I would also go over 10,000k in brevet/permanent distances, if I successfully completed this brevet. Now, when compared to the accomplishments of several randonneurs, this is a very puny milestone indeed. Karen Smith completed 40,000 brevet kilometers last year, and Ken Bonner has probably a million kilometers under his belt. But 10,000 was where I was, and I hope the next 10,000 doesn't take 5 years!

People slowly started arriving at the ferry terminal, and I sat and chatted with the riders who arrived. When the counters opened, I went first to pay, and the woman asked me if I was paying for everybody. You should have seen the look on her face when I said "No". The huge number of cyclists completely swamped her, and I am sure they had fun with the 30 or so cyclists each paying individually. Is there a better way ?

Registration and Start

We registered on the ferry, and Peter Beeson took our money and made us sign autographs, and arranged for some entertainment from a fully stoned young man on the ferry ride to Bremerton. There were about 40 riders at the start, and I spotted several familiar faces: Robin and Amy Pieper, John Vincent, Dan Turner, Chuck Pailthorp, and a few others. A few words from Eric about the route, and we were sent off in one big bunch. The first hills on SR 3 had me at the back of the pack, my rightful place. Huge warships lined the Bremerton waterfront to our left, as we headed on "familiar" roads (we had just ridden this stretch on the Tahuya 200k). A very relaxing stretch along the waterfront with Dan Turner later, we were at the Bad carb Control, staffed by several people, including Peter, Maggie Williams and Eric Vigoren. The cookies were delicious, but the strident calls for poetry began to be heard. Paul Johnson pulled in, and then pulled out immediately afterward. That was the last I was to see of him.

Bad carb control to Good carb control

Thoroughly sated, and fully protected from the sun, I set off with Dan, who promptly dropped me while cheating with his aerobars. Banner Road certainly caught my attention, but thankfully it was only a mile and half or less. The info control question was a big vague, and I put down both possible answers to it, while promptly spilling the entire contents of my wallet on the ground. Charles Pailthorp, the genial professor from Olympia (who makes killer fruit smoothies) picked the contents up for me, and we left the control with cries of "Bring back Fleche Gordon's space cadets". True to the words on the cue sheet, we endured the rolling hills, some better than others, and it is a very easy guess as to how I endured them. The day was warming up and that proved to be a challenge as well.

SR 106 has some of the nastiest chipseal and I made my way to the control, hoping all the while that history would not repeat itself: I have suffered flats each of the last three times I have cycled along this route (though in the opposite direction everytime). Thankfully, my luck held, and I didn't suffer any flats. A lot of riders were making their way back to SR3, and Shan Perera was ahead of almost everybody. The good carb control was at Twanoh state park, which is right on the waters of the Hood Canal. There was a new, massive landslide across the water on US 1o1, and I wondered about how they had patched the road up. Riding the North Hood Canal permanent seems to be imminent. Responding to comments that I look "toasty", I took off my wool jersey, and donned my Goose jersey, to which Robert Higdon remarked "Keep it on buddy". Ouch! I had a two V8s, some chips, some bananas and a bagel. I bonked a little before the control, and wanted to make sure that I was well fuelled.

Good Carb control to Camp Union grocery

After enduring several requests to write poetry, but hardly budging, I set off to do the Tahuya portion of the ride, on many new roads. Accompanied by a hot sun, and a nice westerly wind, progress was somewhat unspectacular, but the sight of the day was the wooden bicycling sculpture advertising some local politician. I hope she wins!

The turn onto Old Belfair road was not so hard to spot anymore (not to Matt Mikul however), and as I was merrily chugging along when I was caught by the ever smiling Ray McFall, who aparently did some "bonus" miles. "How is your navigating?" he asked. I replied that I was slow but not that bad at navigating, and he responded by staying with me till the turn onto Bear-Creek Dewatto Road. This road however starts climbing at a decent clip into the hills of Tahuya, and even though we both were seriously bothered by the heat, Ray pulled away. I plodded along, stopping at whatever shade I could find. The road gently climbed after its initial assault, into logging territory, just like any other road in Tahuya. We were blessed with some new and nice views of the mountains, before the control at Camp Union. Ray was chilling out there, pointing me to water and a nice bag of ice left behind by some kind soul.

Camp Union to Liquid Carb control

I filled my CamelBak with water, drank about a liter of it, and then proceeded to fill it with water again. After I filled the bag with water, I put some ice between my back and the plastic to cool me down further, as I rode further. Ray set off before me, but I got my card signed and took off into the heat of the day. We may have left the general vicinity of the Tahuya Hills, but the climbing had not come to an end. Eric does not organize "cake walk" routes, that's for sure.

On Clear Creek road, the first mechanical problem of the route reared its head. When shifting up from the granny to the middle chainring, the chain slipped and fell between the small chainring, and my chain stay and lodged firmly there. Attempts to pedal my way out of it didn't help, and it only got further lodged in. I laid the bike down, and then after several attempts finally got the chain free and back on the middle chainring. Of course, Clear Creek also featured some headwind, but the downhill on Sherman Hill was lovely. I saw a huge group of 100k riders at the Bond Road intersection, and recognized Mark and Chris Thomas.

Big Valley road, although mostly flat, had some wicked headwind, and I was clearly not my best here. I suspect I was bonking here, as the road didn't seem particularly harsh, and I remember it fondly from previous brevets. I stopped at the info control, and was now on some very familiar roads. The last few miles of my first ever 600k was in these parts, and I remembered being passed by Chris Menge just before the Hood Canal turn.

I saw the huge giraffe, but went toward the driveway past it, but I had to turn back around to head to the control, where I was met by Eric and Peter. Jon Muellner was fixing a flat, and set out before me. This control was awesome, and I spent a little too much time here. I drank a small beer (which I almost never do) to celebrate RUSA's 10th birthday, compliments of the club. This beer at controls is a fabulous idea. Maybe we should have them at the end of 600 PBP qualifiers! I stuffed myself silly at this control: courtesy of some veggie dogs which Eric very kindly made, Sprite, Chips and water, I was a new man! I spent about 25 minutes here but what the heck? It's not often that RUSA celebrates its 10th anniversary! In fact, after careful analysis, I concluded that it would only happen once.

Liquid carb control to the finish.

"How good are you at navigating?" asked Dan. Hadn't I been asked this question already? Dan dropped me (again!), and I could not catch upto him, despite his stopping to lend Jon Muellner a tube. Poor Jon was fixing another flat! Tyre woes! It would have been nice to stay with him, but he assured me he was okay. After helping Dan with the left turn onto SR 308, I slowed down to enjoy the ride , as I was not going to make the next ferry anyways. The nasty bad pavement towards the end was a downer, but I made it to the finish in 11 hours and 5 minutes. A fantastic way to spend a day on the bike!

Happy Birthday, RUSA! I have to wait 10 years for the next Anniversary ride ? Bummer.

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