An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride -- Doing the Deed

It is a good day to die...
Leading up to this day was a crazy week, with both my wife and I scrambling every which way to get things done while juggling child-care between the two of us.

And the weather all week had been so nice! Three days over 70 degrees, one of them over 80, and I was loving it.

But the weather turned for the weekend. With a 50% chance, it was pretty much a sure thing we'd get wet. I got the final directional signs placed Saturday morning, my wife finished up the food preparations (bless her for volunteering to do that!), and after some family obligations Saturday afternoon and evening, The Day dawned to mostly cloudy skies. Which quickly turned to intermittent rain...

The Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride was on.

There were six brave souls who ventured to Elbe for the ride:

  • Chris Wood, a high school classmate of mine who started mountain bike racing a few years ago, and has branched out to cyclocross and road racing as well, riding a road bike with 30mm 'cross tires.
  • Chris Bonner, a young man who's been on several of the Saturday shop group rides, is new to group riding and very strong, riding an ancient Raleigh road bike with 28mm touring tires.
  • Jason Critzer, another one from the Saturday morning shop rides, a never-say-die attitude and arms that most cyclists would find intimidating, riding a mountain bike with narrow slicks.
  • Doug Dennet, the tallest man on the shop rides, who travels all over the country and does the Dirty Kanza every year, on his 'cross bike.
  • John Palmer-Rye, a tall-as-the-trees mountain man, who I just met for the first time that morning, riding his 'cross bike.
  • And myself, on my low-slung gravel bike, 1.5" road tire on the back and 1.75" diamond pattern on the front. Though I was kinda committed to being there, since I was the organizer and all...
After signing our lives away on a standard release form and a brief stop at the rest area for a final unloading, we cruised out of town with a light rain falling, heading north on the SR-7. After two stops for a flat (one to pump it up, another to change the tube), we were cruising through the S-turns on our lead-in to the first gravel section.

Pack Forest is a University of Washington facility, and I'd gotten permission to access the service roads there, emphasizing that the directional signs would be removed post-event. The roads are in fantastic shape, and the slopes are gentle and consistent. Two miles of well-maintained crunchiness brought us to Kirkland Pass, where we regrouped for the descent.

Heading down, we kept our speed in check so as to not cause issues with hikers or equestrians, and exited back onto SR-7 near the Eatonville Cutoff road. Three miles of road took us to Eatonville, headwinds blowing, then we turned east again with the wind at our backs, up the Alder Cutoff road, and to the Scott Turner road. This is a "dead end" in name only -- the pavement stops about 6 miles in, after some steady climbing, but that's where things just start getting interesting.

My wife set up the water and food stop at that point, the 25 mile mark of the ride. Perfect for the challenge that lay ahead. Much kudos go to her for waiting there for over an hour for us to arrive (I had overestimated our speed and underestimated the time it would take to get there, even after accounting for a slightly-after-9:00 start), with 8-month-old to entertain. Appreciated by all, we came in fairly tightly grouped, loaded up on some great carbs, filled the bottles, then shoved off again.

Scott Turner road becomes 8-road, part of the national park (Discovery Pass required for motor vehicles), and once past the first 1/8 mile, there is no civilization to be found. Though the road is in very good condition for a western Washington gravel road, it can still be rough in places. Chuck holes are easily avoided, though.

The climb hits in bursts of steep-ish pitches sprinkled among steady grades, with one cruelly-steep 1/4 mile near the top. This one claimed all but one of us -- Chris Wood gets the hard-man award for making the entire climb on his bike. He said he just couldn't stop, but was still wishing for one more gear. I guess that makes me the stupid one, since I knew what we were in for and STILL didn't have enough gear...

I gave him what encouragement my heaving lungs could muster as he passed me.

We regrouped at the turn-off to the Elbe Truck trail road, which has a little more climbing, almost not noticed after the steep stuff we'd just come up, and then a five mile descent back to Elbe. And descend it does. It doesn't take much to go out-of-control on this, almost as steep as that cruel patch, but downward, sometimes wash-boarded, with some loose gravel on the surface. Staying on the brakes was a must, while keeping the arms loose so that the head didn't rattle around like a bobble-head.

Oh, and add the rain again.

The descent was deemed just as difficult as the ascent.

Rolling back into town, the last 50 yards on smooth pavement, was sweet victory. And no more flats!

A victory celebrated with burgers and brew at the Elbe Bar and Grill. I had a burger they called "the Boinker" -- a bacon burger with peanut butter! I'd never even thought of PB on a burger, so I had to try it. It was actually quite good, worth coming back for. It took quite a while for the shivering to subside for most of us (John seemed to be the only one not affected -- mountain man that he is), with a lot of glassy stares. By the time the burgers were devoured, though, life seemed to be returning.

We all thought it was a good ride, challenging, worth maybe making a regular thing (though there were votes for doing it in warmer weather). I'm looking at some other possible routes in the area as well. Chapter 2 of this ride may be based out of Eatonville, but that remains to be seen.

I deem the event a success. The test-bed for future mixed-surface rides, no one getting hurt (always a bonus), and no one calling me bad names (at least to my face) and refusing to ride with me ever again.

Future plans are for a ride around Capitol Forest (possible a two-day affair), and also another route utilizing Pack Forest and surrounds.

And if we do this route again, I'll bring more gears...

No comments: