Hillacious & Gracious – Chilly Hilly 2012

26 Feb

Today marked only the third time I’ve swung a leg over a saddle this year… and about midway through the Chilly Hilly ride, essentially a zig zag around the perimeter of Bainbridge Island, across from Seattle, such unpreparedness began to show.

In the run up to today’s ride, and while thinking I’d be feeling peppy if not exactly prepared I’d decided, Why not ride to the ferry dock and then home? No problem!

Nice sunny view of Seattle from Bainbridge Island

And in truth the ride to Seattle, along the buttery smooth new section of the Burke Gilman (a related post for that will come soon) seemed plenty speedy. I was in a hurry to catch the 9:35 ferry in order to cross over to Bainbridge Island. Feeling pleased with the progress I had a joyful bunny hop on that one street corner as the Burke winds through the UW campus, you know the one, and I couldn’t help smiling.

It also helped that the sun was radiantly rad, after a snowy and haily start to the ride in Mountlake Terrace. How can you not smile when the sun is shining in February in Seattle?

Well soon after my bunny hopping happiness I was struck with some exubiserance (exuberant hubris): I ran into a huge mess of beer-bottle glass (thank you drunkie poo students). I held my breath, hopeful but somehow I just sensed I wasn’t going to luck out. Seconds later I cringed when I heard that hated sound — the loud psssshhhhh. Damn.

I pulled over and got to work replacing the tube. The piece of glass was very easy to find as it was damn near the size of a nickel with one jaggedy piece sticking out. As I ran my hand along the rest of the tire I noticed with some alarm just how worn the rubber was! Yikes. It makes sense, as these were the Schwalbe Marathons that had been the SurlyLady’s original set on her Cross Check, then I cycled them over to the Long Haul Trucker before putting them on the Vaya. So, maybe four years of continuous riding? I think Daddy needs some new rubber! Wait, that sounded weird.

Speaking of Salsa Vayas, a chap on one stopped and said I was the first Vaya rider he’d run into. He had one of the slick-looking black ones, all tricked out with monster tires and a touring set up. (Also, I noticed a couple on the ferry back to Seattle later in the day who each had a brown Vaya… how romantic!).

I circled back down to Recycled Cycles as I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it to downtown Seattle in 15 minutes, but they was closed. It wound up being okay however as that wonderful little Lezyne pump does an amazing job… I think I was able to get up to 60 PSI without too much of a sweat, which is good enough.

Flying down the Eastlake hill I saw that the Grand Central Bakery was open and before you could say ‘cinnamon roll’ I was inside, eating a sticky bun and squinting over a cup of steaming black tea. Yummy!

Very Ferry

Then on to the ferry, after first waiting in the waiting lot with a bunch of roadies. But don’t mistake, I did notice an amazingly high percentage of Brooks saddles and Long Haul Truckers, as a matter of fact. It’s positively heart warming! Which was a good thing as it was a chilly day.

On to the hilly part. I won’t go into crazy detail, but pound for pound, or mile for mile, the Chilly Hilly has as much elevation gain as the High Pass Challenge. Which gives you some context, but also broke my warmed-up heart as I realized how far I’d fallen since freakin’ September. Oh, the hills today were humbling. At first I was full of vim and vigor, like Vim Vinders on a vender. But about midway around the island I started crawwwwling up the many short, sharp hills. There were a couple of killer long hills on Bainbridge, but mostly it’s a series of high rollers.

This will be an amazing training ride as I get ramped up for the High Pass Challenge, not to mention being so picturesque and full of bakeries… highly favorable assets for a ride.

As I pulled up to the ferry dock I could tell my legs were not doing so well, they had that old familiar rubbery feeling. So I called the ‘Lady to see if she would kindly pick me up over near REI. The day was so nice and sunny suddenly, although ominous clouds where peripheraled, I almost regretted calling for a ride as, again, a sunny Sunday in February is a gift not to be taken lightly. But, not only was I glad to see the ‘Lady, I have to admit I was pretty darn knackered and grateful for the ride home.

Back in Seattle...

And now, as the perfect finish to an exciting day on the bike, we’re having turkey chili! Gotta go!



27 Dec

Before someone calls CPS on this blog, please know that we know this isn’t okay. How is a bike blog supposed to flourish, left all alone in the dark while we live it up on two legs? The excuses: we’re busy! The lad is starting up about 1200 start-ups, and my work is its own special kind of special right now. Also, we have actual living things to nourish, like this guy;

Of course, if this dog had his way we’d spend 23.15 hours a day on the couch and .45 smelling butts, so we’re trying not to let him call the shots too much. In fact, we just wrote up our 2012 to-do lists and butt-smelling didn’t even make the top 10. Bike-riding did, though, so stay tuned!

The blood stirs…

2 Dec
Hartsel, CO

Hartsel, CO

I haven’t even looked at a bike in over a month. Other than when I head to the washer/dryer, that is, but then only peripherally. I believe there was maybe one or two rides in October, on top of that.

It’s okay and there are some okay excuses as well. Partly it’s burn out, partly it’s that darn Burke-Gilman closure which just makes the commute such a bummer (way more shaves with cars going the alternate route than I like). I caught the start-up entrepreneur bug pretty hard and had a close call with the big time. Then on top of that I was offered a new job at my current company, one I’m super excited about… plus I get to work with my old pal KonaLad!

Also this November I participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge, like last year. In itself that month-long writing slog is like a day-long riding slog, the mental challenges being equal to if not greater than the physical ones. There were some nights I was just tapped out and couldn’t muster a measly sentence. Other days I was on fire, churning out close to 5000 words in a case or two. However I stuck with it and it’s done and I’m immensely proud of myself, and it! I intend to self-eBook-publish it, as well as last year’s Tandem! novel.

[Literary aside: I’ve crafted this book to be a mediocre American’s homage to Raymond Queneau. It’s kind of a hoot wrapped in a farce wrapped around a kernel of semi-serious philosophical over-pinnings. I even manage to include a special appearance by Barbara Wright, as herself, as she helps foil the bad guys, naturally. This book is a keeper. I had a ball just inventing stuff on the fly, those flecks of mud that whistled up through the best-laid plans proving to be the best parts of all…]

[Donation aside: please consider going to NaNoWriMo and donating to a good cause, I’ve done so both years because I so appreciate what they’re doing!]

It’s good to take some time off of two wheels in the sense that, when I return to them, I’m sort of starting from scratch. I’ve definitely added my November/Thanksgiving weight gain (I tried going to the gym several times a week, but… it’s really not the same thing). I can feel muscle tone disappearing.

But then tonight I watched the Ride the Divide documentary and could feel the old bike blood running warmer and warmer. I feel like an old bike chain has been coiled around inside me and seeing that scenery tonight and just watching those riders, those pedal motions, those cadences, those roads, has inspired me, given me a few drops of chain oil to get the mental kinks out. (Ray was the mental kink, btw, but Dave would be okay with that). The picture above is of the Hartsel jailhouse, taken on our recent road trip. I was reminded of this pic as I saw that same building from a different angle in the Ride the Divide documentary tonight! Driving through Colorado this past September already prepped me for seeing Ride the Divide and now that I have I’m more than ever convinced I want to do that route… at a touring speed fo sho.

Turning over a new... mile

So with the November writing challenge done I’m going to take some time off from the computer and spend some time getting my hands dirty nursing the bikes along for a nice bit of winter riding. The current plan is to keep the La Cruz, put some aluminum VeloOrange fenders on it, some nice Panasonic Pasela TourGuard tires (same as what SurlyLady has on her Casseroll) and convert it to be my main commuter rig. Then I’ll take that nasty rack off of the Vaya and let her remain true to her all-purpose, off- and on-road roots, to be my main adventure bike. I’ll take the Woodchipper bars off of the Cruz and put on a spare set of Short and Shallows. I think I’m also going to butcher the brown B17 saddle, put some drill holes in it and sew it up a wee bit. Then I’m going to put some new wheels on the Sarthe, the Schwalbe 25c tires and rewrap the bars… and start to think about riding it this spring and summer to prep for the High Pass Challenge! As of today I’m officially in training mode!


24 Oct

It’s been such a long time since we posted! And, maddeningly, since we’ve ridden. I’ve been off the bike, other than for a few scattered commutes, since the High Pass Challenge on Sept 11. We’ve been on a cross-country road trip, I’ve been further obsessed with work research (to the loss of the poor wee uns in the bike room), some family weirdness erupted and absorbed me for a few weeks, one of my old bands is going to get together to do a reunion show… and in truth after so many days on the road it’s been really nice just hanging out in our little domicile, and especially lounging on the couch.

On a lost weekend in all that mess we also traveled to Winthrop to finalize details on our new Curtlo bike. Yes, that’s plural, as in we’re going to have a tandem made! We combined our orders and went for it. I’m spec’ing a 650b tandem, something we can take for light touring/camping as well as all-day rides such as STP. I’m already looking forward to doing a one-day STP next year with the SurlyLady along for the ride. She’ll be armed with a super soaker to keep off the drafters, hah!

As for that cross-country trip, I intend to make some posts along those lines, but not tonight. Here’s a teaser picture for you, however.

I so want to go back there...

This was taken in the mountains above Lake City, CO. In my head I’m making some big plans for a return to Colorado for some road and mountain-bike riding someday soon. It’s an amazing state, from Colorado Springs to Gunnison to Buena Vista and all points in between…

Yesterday the ‘Lady and I went for a ride on the Centennial Trail. It’s a great ride to ‘reset’ yourself after time off the bike. Imagine our surprise when we realized the connection to Marysville appears to have been completed! You’ll basically be able to ride from Snohomish up to the Skagit County line now on a gorgeous paved trail now. Sweet.

I imagine we’ll be using that a lot this winter as we get back into cycling shape.

High Pass Challenge 2011 – Done and Done

12 Sep

Not the least equipment consideration is how much ketchup to use...

Another year, another silver medal! After the ride I was disappointed, but in retrospect (and some introspect) really I kind of think I did way better than I should have.

First, before the whinging, yesterday’s ride was so much fun. I was smiling for most of the miles. Miles 89 and 101 – 112 not so much perhaps. I started off in good form (in spite of my habitual insomnia) thrilled to be doing so with the crowd and not 15 minutes late like last year, feeling like I was perpetually catching up all day.

High Pass Challenge 2011 starting line

Watch your line!

With the forecast for the mid 90s I knew I wouldn’t need any warmers in the morning; although it was 49 degrees according to the car, I didn’t feel it at all for some reason as the SurlyLady dropped me off a short ways off from the shindig area. Things did warm up fairly quickly thanks in part to the sun emerging onto the long pastoral stretch between Packwood and Randle. I semi-drafted off a group of amateurish types (figured I’d fit in) in sub 20 mph trim for about half of that 15 miles or so until a pro-ish paceline came by and then we all caught on to that. The ragged line turned at Randle, went a short bit on flats and then bam I took off up into the hills, happy to be pulling away from the chattering crowd (both voices and teeth from the cold). I was feeling very, very good. Visions of golden splendor danced at the periphery of my potentiality meter. I quite enjoy the stretch between Randle and the Iron Creek stop; shady trees, lung gasping hills to get the blood going, followed by pleasant rollers, little roadside ponds and of course Iron Creek itself. There were plenty of flats and dips where I was able to crank up to 30mph for spots at a time. I barely stopped at Iron Creek, just enough to take a pee. I figured I didn’t need the food (still had a bagel in the old belly) and I’d hardly had any water yet, and decided rather to push on to the Wakepish water stop and stop there for water (and to wake up and toss off an imperious “Pish!”). After spanking along at a good clip, at said water stop I grabbed a banana, listened as the chap attending the tent said the first riders had only come in about 45 minutes ahead of me, and that the worst bit of the day was in the next 4 miles. Yikes! I might be able to do it, I thought to myself, or rather, mumbled thoughtfully as I was eating a banana. I slapped on some sunscreen, filled the bottles and took off.

And promptly hit a wall.

I did fairly well on the next 4 – 5 miles to Bear Meadow, much faster than last year… but achingly slower than I hoped. I just wasn’t able to get the revs any higher; I could feel the heart rate etc getting too much in the red zone. Alas. Somewhere in an alternate universe the SurlyLad from a year ago, trapped behind invisible glass, was jumping up and down in frustration. What’s that? Why does he have a house arrest anklet on? What’s going on in that alternate universe anyway? Aside from free Netflix, a semi-permanent extension of the socio-political climate of the 70s and a wildly popular breakfast cereal called Soybean Grean?


They call it High Pass Challenge for a reason...

One piece of wisdom I gained on this ride: if you’re going to wear a polka-dotted jersey, you’d better be able to back it up. (Same logic applies if you’re in a polka band.) No, I didn’t wear one, but I did watch a chap blow by me who was, and who was backing it up. That’s him ahead of me in that steep picture. I got to the Cascade Peaks food stop but made a snap decision to press on to Windy Ridge, which is really only about another 5 miles further on. But oh, there’s still a lot of climbing in those intervening hills! This is where my dreams of gold truly came crashing down. First, obviously, I just didn’t train enough this year. Second, the heat was really starting to get to me. I started to suffer a little bit, and one of the first signs of such as many of you will know comes in the mental form. I just didn’t want to tilt for too long at this particular windmill. A SurlyLad in a separate alternate universe, from a future year, proudly bearing a gold medal ’round his neck, at this point started shaking his head in shame at my meekitude. Wait. Why does he have a house-arrest anklet on too?

Mt. St Helens

A wee bit of a landmark to aim for...

As I settled into my amended goal- and mind-set the gold-medal guys (and girls) started whizzing by heading in the other direction, buzzing freewheels and rubber-on-chipseal sounding like TIE fighters from Star Trek** causing a sound wave to approach and then recede along with a flash of colorful lycra and carbon. A very inspiring sight to see… you really have to be there, those winding curves along the way to Windy Ridge where you can see ahead and behind for miles as other bikers as small as ants wheel away or toward you or, closer up, as you’re crawling up a sharp hill in your easiest gear the speedsters come hurtling the other way… it’s really something! Doing the mental math and taking personal inventory, yes, I decided to dial it back (like I had a choice) and go for silver. But the cool thing was, seeing those teams and solo riders heading the other way, looking exultant, leaning into the corners, I could almost palpably feel how close I was… really it’s just a matter of degrees and then I could be right there with them!

**(I know, I know, fan boys… I was just baiting you.)

Mt. St Helens

Opposite of Pole Position...

On to Windy Ridge then. That reminds me, although it was fairly hot at least it wasn’t windy, an issue from years past that I’ve been lucky enough to avoid in my two HPC rides. I stopped for a bit, took some pics, then slogged back out toward the Cascade Peak stop for some lunch.

Mt. St. Helens

Sainted Helens

I grabbed some chow: a cookie, three fig newtons, a spare granola bar for the miles ahead. I filled the bottles, put on some more sunscreen and did some stretching (that’s another big difference, I don’t seem to have to do as much stretching this year as last). Deep breath and then back into it. It’s a bit of a cruel grind coming ‘down’ from the nominal turnaround spot and actually having to climb back up to Bear Meadows. This is where I really started to suffer and slow down. I was chugging water like crazy. Usually I’m a miserly sipper but not on this ride, in that heat. A guy on a Gunnar kept stopping to take pictures and I’d slowly go past. Then he’d spryly spin ahead of me until the next vista when he’d stop to take another picture. Growl. Young fellas ain’t showin’ no respect.

I slowed to a crawl in some spots yet kept grinding on, figuring I’d spin myself back into a happy place. A tandem passed me at this point (a tandem! how cool!) just at Bear Meadows (redux). I followed them down the hill briefly but then phew they were gone. There must be a good and glorious 5 miles or so of crazy curvy downhilling back to the Hwy 25 turn. One downside of such nice weather was the amount of traffic on the roads. Lots of sightseers in seersuckers were out and about, especially motorcycles, which I don’t mind, but also way too many RVs, which aren’t nearly as fun for cyclists. I also almost got hit by a big 4×4 truck. Oddly enough he carefully skirted around a biker further down the road, but not around me. I felt his wide side mirror whiff right past my head. Not cool… I think he just didn’t see me.

Back to the Iron Creek stop, another cookie and banana, and then pow, along the 76/Cispus Road through the shady trees.

Cispus Road

I was feeling much better through here, including the fun 50 feet of gravel.

Gravel Cispus Road

This is really a pretty stretch. I remembered it fondly from last year as well. Then the left turn at Tower Creek, over the bridge:

Cispus Road bridge

Cispus Road bridge

What I wasn’t as fond of, and what I despaired of last year as well, were the rollers and climbing up the 23 road toward Randle. Way too cruel for elevation to be there at that point of the day, around 80 – 90 miles into it… way too cruel! But then there’s some nice downhilling to the ‘wide spot in the road’ water stop. All in all it was an odd experience seeing some of the familiar landmarks. Last year’s HPC was so… EPIC. This year it was painful and pretty and amazing, it just seemed that the landmarks were coming a lot faster. Perspective change.

Speaking of which. I was starting to dread the coming flat stretch between Randle and Packwood. Past Randle a bit I looked at the clock and saw it had just turned 2:00. So… counting on fingers… I was around 15 miles shy of the gold cutoff. That’s not too bad! I stopped at a gas station, got some Pepsi, put on more sunscreen and then resolved to race the rest of the way in. But oh boy was it hard. I’d been riding solo all day and now, just as I secretly hoped I could find some nice tall group of paceliners to shelter behind nope, I was all by my lonesome. It was hot. Dang hot. 93 degrees according SurlyLady (who told me afterward). I began this individual time trial at a good clip, about 20 mph but after a few miles it started creeping down until, a few miles outside of Packwood, I was only doing about 16. Then I started to see some of the outlier buildings in Packwood. Hooray! I upped the auntie and got back to around 20 and hustled the rest of the way in. I was more than a little dazed at the finish line, and barely recognized the SurlyLady as she and the pups walked up to me. (‘Course she did straighten her hair and was wearing her ‘V for Vendetta’ mask.) In an alternate universe, a version of SurlyLad in a parallel position, who’d had toast and an egg for breakfast, and not a bagel, and who had accidentally stepped on a butterfly that had flown in from Chile, and who was currently polishing his gold medal by breathing on it gently and then rubbing it with a ‘Bueller Brand’ diaper, looked up and laughed at me as I almost wobbled a few times while walking over to collect the freebie HPC ditty bag they were handing out. I didn’t spy any choco milk in the vicinity, only BBQ which just didn’t sound as good to me at the time, so I hopped on the old Poprad and headed off to a nearby gas station to get me some Darigold goodness. The ‘Lady met me at the parked wagon and it was only then that the soreness started to hit me. And the wooziness.

In the next few hours as I sort of limped and winced around the cabin I must honestly report I don’t think I’ve been as sore after a ride… well not in a really long time. Today I’m tip top and happy again, already planning for next year. Rather than a scant 1500 road miles, I’m going to try to put in at least 3000 before the HPC (as a point of reference, I’d done nearly 5000 miles by September last year). I’ll continue with the yoga and kickboxing. And weightlifting. So more saddle time, and then a whole lot more purposeful hill training. I virtually did none this year. I’ll do STP, the century version of the 7 Hills of Kirkland, Chelan, Flying Wheels and anything else I can find! One way of looking at it, as the SurlyLady put it when trying to cheer me up: basically this year I reeled off a tough ride with nothing more than general fitness to assist.

And another thing — this might come as heresy to some of y’all — but I think I’ll take the Sarthe. The Poprad was fine, no complaints but, I think I’ll sacrifice comfort over speed for next year’s version, see where that gets me. Plus, those demi-ballon Grand Bois tires aren’t exactly screaming cornerers. Comfy on the ups and the flats but a little hampering on the downhills.

All in all we had a lovely time in Packwood. The ‘Lady had a good time on her hike, as did the pups. I fought through the heat and matched my time from last year which I’m very happy about! It was a safe ride and it was fun to be around a lot of great folks. I’ll not forget the chap on the BMC as we turned onto 99, near the Wakepish stop. He didn’t look like he was having the most joyous time. I looked over and couldn’t help grinning: “Now the real climbing starts!” He groaned. I did see him toward the end so obviously, he was able to recover.

Cascade Bicycle Club puts on an awesome event, in an awesome setting. I can’t wait to try the torture all over again!

Side mirror

Objects may appear larger in retrospect...

High Pass Challenge, here we come!

10 Sep
Hood Canal

Getting to the root of the Hood Canal

It’s finally here! I’m so excited to get down to Packwood and do this again. Memories of last year have come flooding back this morning… the fear of the unknown, the 3 hours of sleep due to said anxiety, the rush to get to the 3pm cutoff (a chap I was riding with was mistakenly convinced the silver cutoff was at 3pm; turns out it was 4) and then the delicious surprise of a silver medal at the end. Now that I’m on the verge of the ‘big ride on the calendar’ for the year I also can’t help but review how things have gone over the recent calendar. Overall I couldn’t be happier with life. This past week I had two huge presentations at work — one with the biggest of wigs in my building, pitching a new job for myself, and another with biggish wigs in a different building, pitching the idea of growing an entirely new platform to position our company for the next 10 years. In other words this past week has been a ‘mental’ high climb challenge and I did well – possibly gold in one, probably bronze in the other, which equals silver I should think!

Beyond the mental and overall life happiness, I do feel this year that I’m leaner and tougher — I met my target of losing 17 pounds, and all that yoga and kickboxing I hope has helped as well. But I don’t think I have the same kind of engine I had last year. We’ll see. I suspect I’ll be faster going up the hills, but maybe slower on the flats as the endurance runs out. I have until 4:00 for silver so it’s all good. ‘Silver’ trim is good for a dude who just a few years ago was nearing 300 pounds! I intend to really enjoy the ride this year, take a few more pictures, and not totally concentrate on the odometer… which, BTW, I replaced with a new one after I couldn’t appear to revive the old faithful.

One thing that’ll help is the ‘C-Line’ road is apparently closed, and so we have to head back to Randle and take Hwy 12 back to Packwood. I think this alt was a semi-sanctioned option in the past but this year it’s a requirement. I say it might help in that I remember C-Line road being demoralizing last year, the rollers and bad chipseal — I could feel it soaking up my energy. One other small item of note that probably won’t help are the predicted mid-90s temps. Oy.

Salsa Casseroll Salsa La Cruz

Ferry-tale ride...

We’ll soon get the pups in the car and head down south. But first a quick mention of our training ride last weekend – we rode down to the ferry at Edmonds, boated over to Kingston, then roamed out to Port Ludlow and back. I took the La Cruz for its shake down ‘cruz’… probably not a good idea a week before the High Pass Challenge. I kept fiddling with the fit, moving the saddle up and down etc. My knee started hurting with the odd fit/feel. The Woodchipper bars… naw, they’re not going to work on the La Cruz. Not enough steer tube to get them high enough, and I really just prefer having more ramp. I far prefer the Bell Lap or Short and Shallow over the Woodchippers for on-roading; I can see however why they’re so popular offroading.

As for the La Cruz itself, it’s a very nice frame, has a nice solid-yet-lively-enough feel. I put it exactly between the Long Haul Trucker and the Poprad. It’s not has heavy as the former, nor nearly as light as the latter, even though the front triangle is OX Platinum tubing. In fact, in that respect, it is very similar to the Vaya. The effective top tube winds up being just about that of the 57cm Vaya and so I have no complaints about the sizing, it’s spot on. The steel fork, like that on the Vaya, is more confidence inspiring than the Satellite one on the Poprad, but then it’s also heavier. The bad news about trying the Woodchippers is that, if I don’t turn this into a purpose-built off-roader, then really it doesn’t fit any niches beyond what I have with the Vaya or Poprad. A small surprise to the peanut gallery I’m sure. However, I really, really liked the ride of the frame! The parts components worked great too, Sugino triple, mix of XT and Tiagra and bar ends. I was even able to keep up nicely with the SurlyLady even on knobby tires.

Okay, we’re off. Good luck to all the other HPC riders! I can’t wait to be there and see all the colors and bikes and people!

Salsa La Cruz

Seriously fun bike!

Spada Lake, then Lake Roesiger

29 Aug

Last Friday I decided to go on a wee adventure ride… not too long, maybe 40 miles or so, as I was planning on a ride with JamisLad on Saturday, around the Snohomish area, and then Sunday the Discovery Trail over on the Peninsula with KonaLad (which I wound up bailing on).

I drove (guiltily) up to Sultan, WA with the idea in mind of parking in the little downtown area and riding up to Spada Lake, with some rambles around the forest service roads in the environ. I wrote guiltily because really I could have ridden out to Sultan from home, it just would have taken a lot longer time, and left me more tired than I needed to be. However, it would make an awesome out-and-back ride some day: Mountlake Terrace, Kenmore, Woodinville, Paradise Lake Road/Maltby, Monroe (pronounced Maaawn-Row) and over to Sultan on the Mann Road; from there up to Spada Lake and then, lickity split, back home.

Boy was Friday hot. Oy! Even at a relatively early hour, when I got started, I was feeling the heat. In town I’d noticed on Google Maps a green line indicating a bike trail, looping off from a school or similar, up at the terminus of Eighth Street. I cruised along said street, spotted the gravel and dirt path and then, whoa! was off to the climbing races. That was a very steep start to the day. It definitely got me huffing. My quads were feeling it from the Iron Horse ride the day before. But damn it felt good to be alive… riding in dirt, on a road bike, on a sunny day in August, when most other folks was off at work, me getting to play at being a kid again.

Sultan Basin Road

Soon enough I was on Sultan Basin Road, a lovely shelving climb up into the hills, surrounded by placid farms populated by even more placid horses, munching underneath crackling powerlines. I wish I’d gotten a picture of how it looks coming out of Sultan… a definite “whoa are we really going to ride up all that elevation” as this road goes off straight up into the distance. But don’t get me wrong, it was so lovely, hardly any traffic, nice surface condition, lots of shady trees and again, pastoral views everywhere. This stretch strongly reminded me of Tennessee, just without the August heat index of 114.

Soon enough you’re out of the farm-urbs and into more of a managed forest, state parks feel. The road becomes swoopy with rollers and fun curvy berms. There are lots of creek crossings:


And then you’re more and more under the trees. Soon enough, after maybe 10 more lovely miles of winding, deserted road, you come to the end of the pavement and are faced with several miles of seriously steep gravel:

Made in the shade to make the grade...

This was a definite leg burner hill. The few cars that passed, likely weekend campers, gave me astonished looks as I spun along. I almost turned around, feeling a little tired, but I hate giving up on things so I plugged away and soon enough, after ignoring all the intriguing-looking side roads I finally came to Spada Lake:

I tried to capture the cool little whispy clouds gathered on those peaks...

The main south shore access road was closed for construction which meant I wouldn’t be able to follow along the lake east- and northward as I had planned. Oh well. At least there was a nice bathroom facility nearby:

Much better than a Honey Bucket.

From there it was mostly downhill back to Sultan. My hands got tired from gripping the brakes coming down those gravel hills but oh man it was so much fun overall! Loved it. I think there may be a loop you could put together with Kellogg Lake Road, with only a dip or two onto Hwy 2. Add that to a close-to-circumnavigation of Spada Lake and you’d have maybe a 50-60 mile ride along some very quiet backroads with nice scenery. I particularly enjoyed the way the road up to Spada Lake followed a creekside path. And then of course Spada Lake itself is amazing, with a very nice blue shade to it. Best of all, once you hit pavement again all that uphill you put sweat equity into earlier pays off; there are several sections where you can cruise at 17mph while barely turning a pedal. Overall a very pleasant day.

The next morning JamisLad picked me up at 6:30 am (whose idea was that anyway!!!). I hadn’t slept very well. I’d had all kinds of good work ideas the evening prior, fueled in part by the meditative qualities of the Spada Lake ride. So I started off a little rough, with legs that felt out of it and a groggy brain that definitely was. We parked in Snohomish and took off north on the Centennial Trail. Perfect! It allowed me to warm up and wake up a little. By the time we got to Granite Falls I was feeling bonky so we stopped at the grocery store and I got a chocolate donut. Which, as JamisLad pointed out, probably wasn’t the best idea, it sure put some carbs in my tank because we lit out of Granite Falls at a good clip. In fact as we rolled up to Lake Roesiger JamisLad was chugging along so hard that at one point I pulled up next to him and asked, “Was this *the* hill already?” Turns out he was just as surprised. He’d been saving his energy to go all-out on the hill, but we’d already done it! I think that’s a good sign. I honestly had been wondering when the climbing was going to start. Maybe I won’t totally suck at High Pass Challenge after all, ha.

We chewed up the miles, anticipating the massively steep hill leading to Oil Well Road. It’s the one we’d encountered earlier in the year that had dispirited most of us, and had excited JamisLad. That was some serious steepage but we made it, deciding at the top we didn’t need to go back down and re do it. Soon enough we were back in Snohomish, procuring choco milk on our way out of town. It was a great training ride, and the weather just couldn’t have been nicer.

As we rode Saturday I was reflecting a little bit on work, and on this year’s biking mission. For the work stuff I realized that, for years, I’d concentrated on finding the ‘ideal’ job. This had been a fallacy. Even if my company had an ideal job title I’m pretty sure I’d be frustrated within a matter of weeks because of the environment. With that line of thinking it dawned on me — rather than simply changing jobs, I needed to change the environment. It’s a precondition for all the other things I want. For instance, I don’t want to be a Project Manager in an environment where I’d be working on a project that has (literally) two other Project Managers each representing different bureaucracies. I don’t want to be in Requirements meetings where there are 10 manager-level participants and only three knowledge workers. As far as Golden Ratios go, we’ve got that one backwards. If anything it should be reversed; more ideally, it wouldn’t just be 10 knowledge workers to three managers, it would be the three-to-five knowledge workers self organizing the hell out of the directive handed down by the one manager. There’s a lunacy at work at my work and I don’t want to join in as things are currently structured. Instead I want to change the system, for the better, possibly from a different vantage point of leverage. Then I might consider jumping back in the PM circus or, perhaps, looking at other companies.

As for bike training, I haven’t been a very good PM at all. I’d blown off STP thinking I’d focus on RAPSody. Then RAPSody decided not too long ago to forgo their one-day option. My Flying Wheels ticket was spent on the 25-mile option riding with my pops. These were all choices I’d made. Clearly my priorities are different than they were last year. To rationalize it, I’ve been taking this viewpoint: last year I met and exceeded all my goals. I coasted through the 200 miles of STP; I struggled but survived RAPSody; and then I came in for a silver finish at HPC; each successive month I was expanding my horizons, surprising myself with what I was capable of. It was a grand summer, one I’ll never forget. This year, I met my weight goal (under 170 pounds, wearing size 32 Levis) and am proud of that, but in a way the horizons I’m expanding are at work. I’m having a ball, creating brainstorming sessions with diverse groups, coming up with crazy huge ideas that are going to benefit the company in substantial ways, coaching and mentoring lots of folks and seeing some of them attain successes and moving to dream jobs… hearing from someone I’m mentoring via IM “Guess what! I got the job!!” is as exciting to me as hitting some long bike ride.

Here’s the perfect sign: my bike computer on the Poprad hasn’t worked in a while. I’m not even sure I’ll do anything about it for High Pass Challenge. Now, that’s detachment!

Sleepy time...