Southern Puget Sound that is. On a whim, I signed up for RAPSody, a two day ride put on by a coalition of bike clubs in that area of Washington State. I was riding it solo, but did know a couple folks in person, and several other riders through the Cascade Bike Club forums - we all have multiple cycling organization memberships. (I belong to, at last count, three).
Standard a couple days before rummaging around for the camping gear. Phone call made, desired sleeping bag returned :-) I decided to take tiny tent, and leave the decision to sleep in the gym or out on the field at Shelton HS a late binding decision. After all, it might rain. You never know.
Drove up to Tacoma the night before, and stayed in the adequate Days Inn. There was breakfast the next morning, but too late for me. I'd figure something out.
Did grab a cup of coffee on the way out, and got slightly lost in Tacoma, looking for Tacoma Community College. Orchard Rd did a strange split, and I went right instead of left. Fortunately, Google Maps on my phone came to the rescue.
Found Leo Stone before I was even in the parking lot. He was heading out, but turned around and came back to visit for a bit. He hadn't seen Claire, David or Ross yet, but they were just driving over from their homes. We figured we'd run into each other later, so he headed out. Picked up my ride number, dumped off my bags, said hi to Gene from Tacoma (bag loading detail)... He had to come look at Pretty New Sweetpea :-)
Lots of good snacks at the start, so I loaded up and called it breakfast.
And, a bit after 7am, I was off. First up, the route had us crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Oh, that is a VERY pretty bridge. It took me awhile to cross, because I had to stop and take pictures. Many pictures.
We then headed north with views of the sound to our right from time to time. I say "we" and "our", and I know there were approximately 400 other riders on this ride, but mostly I didn't see more than one or two of them at a time, except at a rest stop. Remarkably uncrowded for such a pretty ride.
The terrain was Not Flat. I knew this going in and figured it would be good for me. Nothing really long, but not very much flat. About 20 miles into it, I started eating my hoarded Lemon Cream cookies. I figured they'd get me to the rest stop at 30 miles.
Passed the Yellow Brick Rd, and eventually popped out the coast around Southworth Drive. Followed that around to the first rest stop in Manchester, where I found Ross and Shaun D. Nice view of Seattle across the Sound, too.
I knew this ride was different when I was offered lots of fresh fruit, and a yogurt (my choice of plain non-fat or vanilla full-fat) granola strawberry-blueberry parfait. And homemade cookies.
After visiting, went back to retrieve my bike and found Claire and David just arriving. I followed Ross, and his friend David on the route out, following the coastline around. Eventually I waved them off; couldn't hang on to their pace.
There was soon a large grey aircraft-carrier type ship across the water. Hmm. Must be Bremerton. Then into Port Orchard, which is very cute. Houses on the water, lots of sailboats in the marina.
After Port Orchard the route headed uphill, passing through forest and farms and more (managed) forest, until it dropped down into Victor (time to snack on a Clif Bar), and followed the water around to the Allyn rest stop (63 miles).
Where I found Leo, Ross, Claire, David and Shaun. I admit it, I had fun watching people look at my bike. The Allyn rest stop featured hot calzones and boiled potatoes and watermelon and pretzels and... Had a nice long sit and visit. Decided the Brooks really wanted to be further back, and then found out that the bag, which was SUPPOSED to have a multitool in it... didn't. I borrowed Leo's and did the adjustment. Also realized I hadn't drunk much, and resolved to do better for the balance of the ride.
Rode with Leo for several miles out of Allyn, then pulled ahead. It is really nice riding with an LCI - he stops at stops!
It was really weird. I kept thinking that I was way slow and way behind, but really, it was only about 1pm (if that) when I left the Allyn rest stop.
A bit more coastline, then up again into the forest. Made a brief pause at the water stop (ice water. Ahhhhh.) 30 miles in total again, and I was at Shelton HS.
Found Ross and David. David's back was bothering him and he was calling it a ride. I got myself a root beer float and joined them. Ross wondered if I wanted company or preferred to ride alone. I like company, so we made plans to meet up at the first rest stop the next day.
I had decided to sleep in the gym - that meant the plumbing would be indoors, too :-) Not many in the gym; I had my pick of spaces. Had a lovely shower, called home, then stumbled onto Leo and Kevin and Shaun, waiting for dinner to be ready. So I waited, too. Then it was dinnertime - lasagna, baked potato, salad, cake, lemonade, coffee... I started with the salad and lasagna, then went back for the baked potato, then a piece of cake.
Plots were being hatched to have our own private beer garden. No drinking on the school grounds, and no one seemed inclined to go into Shelton proper. We hiked over to Fred Meyer, procured beverages of choice, and I learned how to open a bottle with a key. We then decided that the Wal*Mart parking lot across the street had some nice shady areas and relocated there.
Mischief managed, we hiked back to the school, and enjoyed the band until they finished up around 8pm. Got about an inch knitted on my sock, and taught Kevin how to knit cables. Seriously.
Early to bed. Learning: I am too old to sleep on a gym floor with a Thermarest. Next time - air mattress!
Slow awakening the next morning - got up about 6:15, packed, dressed (OrRando wool jersey, perfect for the temps), and over to breakfast around 7. Found everyone (addition of Claire and David) at a table and joined them. My plate mysteriously acquired more sausages when I was getting coffee, but I managed to pawn the excess off on my tablemates. Eggs and cheese, sausage, French toast, fruit and coffee. Mmm.
And it WAS a good thing I slept in the gym - the field sprinklers went off in the middle of the night, 60 psi spraying horizontally into the tents. Ack.
Loaded the bags in the truck, and was getting ready to head out when.... "I was going to ask if you were a real randonneur, but then I saw your bike.... you people are crazy!" :-) Mmmhmm. I must wonder what a real randonneur looks like.
Leo and I rode together until the first rest stop, occasionally joined by Shaun. Climbs, pretty farms, stretches of Hwy 101, and a nice pause at the Blue Heron Bakery (Leo was saying something about the Great God of Caffeine; works for me).
There I met Eric S, also from the Cascade Forums. But I didn't want to keep Ross waiting too long, so off again to the rest stop just outside of Olympia proper.
And there was Ross and Claire (and David, but he was off finding more food). Another yummy yogurt parfait and some more fruit. Silly picture taking. More tweaking of the Brooks.
Ross and I headed out through Olympia - I'd never been there. Olympia is something I drive by on I-5. Nice downtown.
Then north along some waterfront (Budd Inlet). Leo rode with us off and on. We then picked up the Chehalis-Western Trail for quite a ways - deep green fairytale forest, open areas, and not any traffic to speak of.
I think Ross and I talked nonstop the entire time. Eventually turned onto Yelm Hwy - not so much fun, and my blood sugar tanked. Here I was happily cruising along at 16+ and then everything slowed down. Ross said the rest stop was just ahead, but I sucked down half a bottle of Gatorade anyway. That helped.
Found the usual suspects at the stop, and a lovely assortment of food. Also saw Duane W (Seattle randonneur). The mechanic there was transfixed by my bicycle. He wanted to know what lighting I was putting on it, and did Natalie build many rando bikes and... Even after I went in search of food he just kept staring...
The wind picked up, and it got a little chilly. Pulled the armwarmers back on. The route here changed - we were meant to ride along Chambers Way and through Steilacoom (and I was really looking forward to this), but some national golf tournament was taking up the road and we were re-routed. Descended to the Nisqually River (not a long enough descent :-) ) and climbed back up (not so bad), then had our promised mile or so of I-5 shoulder.
Ross: "you should do RAMROD." Who? What? Me? As he's the second person to have suggested this, totally out of the blue, maybe I should toss my name in the lottery next March.
Then in through Dupont and along the western border of Fort Lewis, into Lakewood, and working our way north through Tacoma back to the start. There were three soul-sucking climbs (8-9%) on Mildred St, and then we were done.
Got my Creamsicle and some chips and we all settled down for a post-ride snack. Everyone else had a relatively short drive home. I got my shower and changed, and picked up a few more snacks for the drive (135 miles, give or take a few).
One stop for free rest stop coffee and cookies. Home by about 8pm.
Day 1 90.02 miles, 1:01 faffing around, 13.74 avg mph, 5406 vertical feet
Day 2 82.11 miles, 1:21 faffing around, 13.44 avg mph, 3435 vertical feet
All the pics here
Ross's pics (which you may or may not be able to see...)