An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Four Days, Three Rides

My wife was joking when she said that when she and the little one go out of town, I get a vacation.

Last Wednesday they boarded an airplane and headed east to visit her family. I had already scheduled Friday as a vacation day from the day job to make sure I wasn't too harried in getting ready for the Tacoma Bike Swap, which was to be my public debut for Mjolnir Cycles (my bike frame building business), but Wednesday was still fairly young when I decided to take Thursday off as well. The weather forecast was for sunny and warm through the weekend. I quickly mapped out ride routes.

Thursday was a mix of familiar and new, with plenty of climbing, and some gravel and dirt roads. I started at about 10am, just late enough for the day's warmth to start creeping in. Diving down the hill from my house, I discovered that the bead on my front tire hadn't quite seated properly, and it was oscillating fiercely. I stopped and got it situated and re-inflated, then continued on my way.

Fiske Road is a very steep climb, and even though it's fairly short, it's long enough to be a good test. Some gravel across the top, and then a descent back to the main road. A few miles later hits the second climb up Camp One Road, which dead-ends at the little hovel of Ohop. I avoided the community by jumping onto a gravel road which meandered back to the other dead-end spur at the Electron Reservoir. Having the Garmin pre-programmed made trail-blazing easy -- just follow the purple line.

A little hike-a-bike got me back on the road and back towards home. A few more short hills and I was back at the start with 3.5 hours in the saddle.

Friday's ride was a mostly-gravel day on "silently legal" terrain. Joint Base Lewis McChord has hundreds of acres of land they use for training exercises, and it's laced with gravel roads, and not more than 50 feet of elevation change in any direction. Great for a recovery-type gravel ride of about any length you want. However, it is technically closed to the public. I've talked with many people connected to the base, and they've all said that there really isn't a problem  riding there, but in the case that exercises are being run, an escort off the property could result.
I started the day off from a nearby Walmart, parking in the far reaches of their lot. I cruised south and caught my loop west. I could tell every time I got close to where my route crossed a paved road -- mounds of dumped garbage would dot the trailside. Sometimes people just suck. But the riding was great, the views serene and beautiful, and even Officer Friendly who informed me that I was on closed land (fortunately I was within 50 yards of being done with the gravel riding) didn't dampen the day. It probably helped that I showed him a picture of the apparently-abandoned car I'd seen out on the trail. I got back to Wally World with a little over 2.5 hours of ride time.

Saturday was the Tacoma Bike Swap, which I will document in another post. I did get an hour on the trainer early in the morning to check that off the day's list.

Sunday was set as a dry run (and it was dry, thankfully) for the Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride in two weeks. This ride last year was on this weekend, and we ended up in rain most of the ride. I moved the date out two weeks hoping it would increase the chance of dry weather. So the day was beautiful for the dry run. And I sincerely hope it's something close to that in two weeks.

Anyway, I started out at the time of the event, 9am, and headed north on the Mountain Highway. Nine miles later I turned into Pack Forest and the first gravel sector. Pack Forest is private land owned by the University of Washington, and used by the Forestry Department for various educational purposes. It's also laced with trails and well-maintained gravel roads, and open to public use. Up the initial climb to Kirkland Pass (where we then descended last year), I turned right and continued up. While this makes for more climbing, it rewards with great views. A descent down dirt paths gets back to the Mountain Highway.

I added a small loop here, with another gravel sector under power lines, and then a short run into Eatonville, where our rest stop will be for the event.

Leaving Eatonville, the up and up starts, all the way from town, then up Scott Turner Road. Six miles up S-T, the pavement ends, and the real climbing starts. There's a half-mile stretch near the top that is a killer, and it was the final climb last year. This year, we continue up, but it makes the descent easier. Anyway, I made it up this stretch without walking this time around, and paid the price by hanging over my handlebars on the side of the road, unable to do more than heave my lungs for 5 minutes. I then gingerly restarted, and got the rest of the way up and then down the other side, picking my way through the washboard switchbacks. Back to the Mountain Highway, and a seven mile slightly downhill run back to Elbe, I finished the day with just under 4 hours "behind bars".

Today is back to work, and I pick my wife and young daughter up from the airport early this afternoon. 

Four days, three great, long rides. And I think I'm well tired now. I need a break from my vacation...

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