Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fall Colours, rain and euphoria


My October has looked like this: work work work, vacation (or pacation, as my nephew puts it), and sickness. Each of these things eliminated all the nice weekends. My addled brain somehow remembered that an October ride was yet to be recorded, and ailments be damned, I set out to do Leschi-Auburn-Redmond-Leschi, under the threat of oodles of precipitation. Fact of life in the Northwest.

I took the bus out to Montlake from my house, and then rode the 3.5 miles to Leschi in the early morning darkness. It wasn't cold and it wasn't raining yet. The pavement on Lake Washington Boulevard was atrocious. The wet pavement sucked up all the light my E6 was shining on the road. I got lost a few times, but made it to the start around 6.45a. It wasn't the last on this day. After munching on an Apple Fritter, I set off under threatening skies. It was dry, as of now. I briefly pondered abandoning the ride and restarting my R-12 quest #2 again, but pulled that thought out of my head pretty quick. It must have been the Apple Fritter at work.

Oh, and I forgot to take my gloves. I only had my Outdoor Research rain mitts; it turned out to be the only glove I would need all day.

Leschi to Ravensdale Market

The first part of this ride is almost completely flat, with very few inclines to worry about, but the steep little pitch to get to the turn on Seward Park Ave woke me up. The traffic on this road and on Rainier Avenue even at this early hour was enough to keep me on tenterhooks, but the turn onto Perimeter Avenue brought some respite from the automobile. I got completely confused by the directions to Cedar River Trail, and spent a good 1o minutes trying to find the parking lot mentioned. I chased after a passing cyclist (riding on the wrong side of the road), and asked her for directions. She pointed me the right way, and I resolved to update the route sheet when I got home.

It was one thing to find the trail, but another thing to follow the right trail. I took the right fork, and that lead me straight to huge pile of gravel. I beat a hasty retreat and was greeted by a little suicidal dog. I slammed on my brakes and yelled "hey!", while its owner about 50 feet away walked without a care in the world. The morning was cold and foggy, and the trail was chock full of leaves. The hills that parallelled the trail were full of trees changing colours, and I felt like a complete idiot for flying to the East Coast to see the fall colours. Much leaf peeping can be accomplished right here in the Pacific Northwest.

A couple of hours into the ride, and the rain started. It started slow, a gentle mist, and rose to a crescendo and pretty much stayed there until I got to Issaquah. Places to pull over and don some clothing were hard to come by. I kept on, passing the Maple Valley IGA that a few SIR riders have missed (while riding the Leschi-North Bend-Leschi permanent), not realizing that I had to get off the trail here. I thought briefly about it, but then continued on, thinking that the trail would end with a way to get to Highway 169. I found a nice tunnel to stop and don my helmet cover, and avoided wearing my rain pants and booties. I should have.

I must have paid more attention to my cyclecomputer. I overshot my turn, and ended up where the paved trail ends and the gravel starts, without a nice way to get back to the highway. I turned around mad at myself for missing the turn. Leaving the serenity of the trail to head over to the truck-infested Maple Valley Highway was hard indeed. The next two or so miles were some of the longest of my life: I kept thinking I was lost as the street numbers first went up, and then down, and then up again, making me want to stop and reconsider my route each time this happened. I eventually reconciled myself to just riding bonus miles when suddenly 244th St appeared to the left putting me out of my misery (in a good way!). The next little stretch was hilly with narrow roads, but beautiful as we went through steep pitch after steep pitch, making up for the ugliness of SR 169. The rain had thickened, and my lower body was completely drenched by this point. I arrived at Ravensdale market, completely drenched.

Ravensdale Market to Auburn

The look the woman womanning the store gave me was one of pure pity. A guy in a pickup, buying his favourite cancer stick asked me if I was commuting or out on a fun ride. When I mentioned I was out for fun, he said "Some fun this is!", and left after a cheery "stay safe out there!". I donned my rain pants and my booties, and my rain mitts, and not wishing to lose anymore of the measly 30 minutes that I had banked, left into the rain.

I got to SR 160, and the directions mentioned an immediate right turn onto Auburn Black Diamond Road, but I only saw Roberts Dr. Figuring that the route sheet was wrong, I kept on, hoping to come across an Auburn Black Diamond Road somewhere in the next half mile or so. Unfortunately, after about 2 miles in the pouring rain, I didn't find it. So I did the unmanly thing and asked for directions. I was told to head back the way I came and turn on Roberts Dr. (I came home and found out that the route sheet hadn't completely printed. Roberts Dr was mentioned in line 2). I had bombed down and climbed up some rollers and I had to repeat all of this again. I had lost precious time, and wasn't pleased.

The rain intensified, and though I was covered from head to toe in waterproof gear, my rain mitts had started letting water in, and my fingers were quitesoaked. I rued starting, and just hoped the ride would be over. I even thought about calling Sound Transit and plotting a bus ride home. I wasn't even halfway there, and I was already hating this ride. Thankfully not long after this low-point I found myself in the Valero gas station. I had all of 40 minutes in the bank. My excursion had probably cost me around 20 minutes.

Auburn to Cumberland

I must have been quite a sight as I entered the store and got my food and receipt. The woman at the counter looked oddly harried, and I did my best to not worsen her mood. Another dude in a bicycle stopped by and bought his favourite cancer stick. Of course, I have never met a rando who smoked. We may be of questionable sanity, but we aren't stupid. The restroom at this gas station was terrible though. I recommending going somewhere else.

I set off once again with a half hour in the bank. This was going to be one of those days. I felt weak on the bike, and weak between the ears. Neither did I have the power to make this ride go any faster nor did I have a way of making it more enjoyable. So I wallowed in a sea of self-pity, and cursed the weather in colourful language. I knew that the first few miles on Green Valley Road (from Greg Cox's Chili Feed 200) were mostly flat, and I looked forward to that stretch of road. Of course, Green Valley Road also features a climb for the last 2 or 3 miles, but all of it is pretty gentle grade. The farms along Green Valley Road were bare, but the stench of manure was thick in the air. In the spring Canadian Geese make their homes here in these farmlands temporary immigrating to the south. But this late in the year, they are probably in more comfortable environs.

My mood was quickly lifted up by the next few miles of road. I wasn't going anywhere fast, but at least I was in pleasing surroundings. The hills along this road featured trees of glorious yellow, the last hurrah of the leaves before they fell down dead. The trees were shrouded in fog and it was a very pleasing sight. I love the combination of fog and trees. The climb upto SR 169 was slow and painful, but completely bereft of traffic. There would be no stops at the Black Diamond Bakery, as we turned off onto Lawson. Feeling a bonk coming, I stopped and ate food in the rain, as car after car drove bemusedly by.

Some parts of this leg were completely new to me. I looked forward to the Green Gorge Road, as I was sure there would be some climbing, and I would get warm. The gradual plummet towards the gorge was pretty good, though the slippery conditions meant I couldn't quite let it rip downhill. A police car drove slowly by, and the officer waved to me as I started the climb out of the gorge. I arrived at Cumberland Grocery at 1.40, maintaining my nice 40 minute cushion. My only hope of banking some time would be on the flat stretches of E Lake Sammamish and the Burke Gilman Trail.

Cumberland to Woodinville

The stop at the controle was short, as I purchased supplies and left intent on eating on the go. The next few miles were familiar roads, and I knew that short of a mechanical problem, I would gain some time. The rollers before Issaquah went by, with my strength gradually returning. The rain stopped about 5 miles away from Issaquah, and while it didn't do wonders for my speed, it did make me feel better. I fought the traffic through Downtown Issaquah, and made it to the lakeside in one piece, where a fat shoulder insulated me from the cars. The hills to the west of the lake were chock full of leaves and the fiery reds in the sky from a sun making its way down were a special sight indeed. Not many cyclists out on the road, but I did see a few getting their rides in. The one thing about this route is it passes tantalizingly close to my house, but I resisted the call of home (near Chateau St Michelle), and pulled into the 7-11 dreaming of more food.

Woodinville to the Finish

A fast, flat and familiar section awaited: I left about 10 minutes after I arrived, but sunset was fast approaching. I donned all my reflective gear, dumped all my raingear and took off blissfully, knowing full well that most of the hills were done for the day. The trail was full of leaves and bicyclists without lights! I got confused by the "Turn RIGHT towards Hec Edmundson pavilion" clue and since I am not that familiar with the U-district pondered over why I had to ride in the opposite direction. The cue for Hamlin was a left turn, and that set me straight pretty quick. The last few miles are very turn heavy, so I carefully stopped at each turn making sure I wasn't getting lost. 12 hours and 20 minutes, but I had finished. My October Permanent is in the books. I hope I can recover well for getting in a November ride.

A highly recommended route!


Mark said...

You make it sound so fun!

Congrats on keeping the streak going.

Duncan Watson said...

The fall colors this year have been especially good. I loved your ride report.

Robert H said...

That's it... I'm selling my bike and driving everywhere scenic from now on.

(Good job on the ride!)

Rando Rider said...

I updated the route sheet ... hopefully it will be easier for the next rider ...