Saturday, October 26, 2019

SIR Fall 2019 Dart Pop - Team Shaodach

Friend Susan noted at some point this summer that I’d better cross over my Mondial distance while the weather was still nice, if I wanted people to ride with me. She did have a point.  Looking at the calendar, I couldn’t find a good weekend to invite folks to join in, but the SIR Fall Dart Populaire was at about the right time/distance point, and there would surely be a lot of folks I had ridden with over the last 12 years at the finish.

I mentioned this to Ray.  He secured approval (and transportation) for the venture, so I set about recruiting some others to fill out our team.  Michal, of course, because we did a lot of riding together before he decided to be fast and longer distance and I got slower.  And RB, because we’ve been riding together with Ray.  Mind you, I met Ray on my Very First 200k back in 2007 (The Birkie, original route).  We rode along together for awhile, and have been riding together off and on since then.  Michal became a riding partner in early 2011, when he rode up to Cecil and me and asked to follow along, because we looked like we knew where we were going.  He encouraged me to go for the Super Randonneur, something I thought I’d not be able to accomplish.

So.  Foraged around for something to create a route from, shortest viable distance of course.  I borrowed Michal’s fleche route, trimmed off the ends, moved the finish to the event finish point, and started casting around for a start.  Found the Carnival Market, a convenience store in the Westside Hwy, sitting all by itself, and, on Susan O’s advice, moved the route to Military Rd, rather than going through Vader.  Something about Pleasant Hill Rd, Berry Rd, and loose dogs.  There was a steep climb at the start of Military Rd, but it wasn’t long.

Haunting Epic Ride Weather, the forecast finally settled on a very small chance of very light rain and a tailwind or quartering tailwind the whole way.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Michal and Cyndi drove up the night before, RB showed up bright and early on the day, and we were loaded and on the road by 7am, arriving at the Carnival Market before 8am.  Ray and Barb pulled in right after us.  As we could not start riding until 8:30, there was a lot of standing around, kicking the tires, some spirited discussion on tubeless tires, clipless pedals vs flat pedals (me, aside to Barb: “gonna be a long 8 hr ride”), clothing rearrangements (warmer? Need the rain gear?) and such. (For the record, three riders with flat pedals, one with clipless pedals and hotfoot issues, one rider with tubeless tires and a slow leak).  Michal, who holds that there is never a wrong time for ice cream, bought and consumed an ice cream sandwich.

By Cyndi Wenks

Finally, time to go.  Starting photo taken and off we went, into the light fog and mist.  First stop was 1.5 miles along, for a bathroom break, as the Carnival Market does not allow use of their bathroom.  The Westside Hwy rolls along, and the traffic can’t said to be light.  However, just about everyone was respecting everyone’s right to a relatively unstressful use of the public right of way.  We followed the Cowlitz River for most of the way, skirting around the west side of Castle Rock, and, just after 18 miles in, started the steep climb onto Military Rd. I did walk, but it wasn’t long.  Military Rd was wonderfully wide open, the mist had cleared away, and the views were fabulous.  On my first STP I’d ridden the northern stretch from Napavine to Winlock HS in 2003, but I was really tired at that point and not properly appreciating the view.

Ray: “Do we get a trinket for this ride?”  Me: “I get a trinket!”

Eventually we ended up in Napavine, where we briefly paused at the convenience store for snacks and beverages.  Continued on north, arriving at our first info/photo control at the corner of Rush Rd and Newaukum Valley Rd.  We took a selfie, not without a lot of snarking from Ray and RB.

Newaukum Valley Rd and Rogers Rd was another super peaceful bucolic section of the route.

We then merged onto Shorey Rd, which led us onto Riverside Dr/Louisiana Rd, just south of Chehalis, which was not nearly as pleasant, to put it mildly. We were to go around the back of the airport.  I was last in line at this point, and everyone else went straight, rather than turning left.  I couldn’t even see them ahead, and certainly couldn’t chase them down.  Called Michal’s cell (and HE was riding with a GPS, go figure), left a message.  Called Ray’s cell, and surprisingly, he picked up.  He reported that Michal and RB were headed back, and he’d be right along.

After regrouping, we proceeded along the supremely peaceful and untrafficked Airport Rd, to our second info/photo control at the golf course.  By now, Michal’s tire was making him a very bad ambassador for tubeless tires; it had a slow leak and he had to keep pumping it up. Ray and I offered him tubes, but he thought he’d keep on the same path unless it got rather worse.  (see earlier note about flat vs clipless pedals and tubes vs tubeless.  Post ride note: a week later, it did seal up.)

We then had to turn left onto Airport Rd, which was very high traffic and no signal.  Michal noted a bike path on our side of Airport Rd, and “let’s take THAT.”  We did, and it was much nicer.  However, we were entering Centralia, graveyard of empires (as in, I'm not sure I've ever ridden through it without getting a bit confused), and the bike path took us up to Mellen, which was past where we wanted to turn to be on the other side of I-5.  They’ve rearranged the roads into one-way streets, so, technically, we couldn’t turn right into Centralia and get onto Ellsbury.  However, there were several handy crosswalks and a sidewalk, so we did work our way over to Ellsbury with less trouble than we might have had.  I’ll remember this for the future.  Maybe the Airport Rd routing is good in the middle of the night, but not midday on a weekend.

Misplaced RB; he eventually showed up.  By now we were headed through Centralia, and Factory Outlet Row, home of many fast food establishments.  I wouldn’t have minded pausing at the Burgerville, but it was now only 12 miles to our 6 hour control, and we all had enough food with us to get there.

Riding past the Factory Outlets was rather not fun, too many entrances and exits and junk on the road, but once past that, it wasn’t too bad.  I have a fairly high tolerance for heavier traffic, but don’t like debris on the road.

Again, falling off the back, found RB at the Great Wolf Lodge with a flat.  Michal and Ray were stopped a long block ahead; we waved them back, and had a bit of a break while RB fixed the flat.

We ended up on Case Rd, which is just not a favorite stretch of pavement for me.  Riding it in a downpour, wearing all my wool gloves and hats, in the middle of the night, staving off hypothermia, solo.... yeah.  This was the first time ever I’d ridden it with company.

However, right around mile 57.1, I did roll over 40000 cumulative RUSA km; all of us but for Ray, who was ahead, stopped for a commemorative picture.

A few miles later we were at our 6 hr control, with 15 minutes before we could depart.  Michal had tweaked the cue sheet to show time checks at each cue, and according to that, we could leave at 6:20 elapsed and, riding at minimum pace, still finish in time.  Which was good, because the Farm Boy service seemed a bit overwhelmed. Michal and I split a burger and fries.  I also had a Pepsi (the blue ambulance), and inhaled my half of the cheeseburger in about 2 minutes.  Six minutes after the control opened, we were back on the road.

There was a brief discussion on “we have to stay together now”, “together” being defined as we can see each other.  So we did stick together more than we had earlier, although we really hadn’t spread out all that much before.  There was also actual navigation required, so we definitely had to stick together because not everyone had a cue sheet visible.

The tailwind decided to make itself noticeable and useful, and we zipped along at a consistently higher pace (for me, anyway).  Once we got into Tumwater/Olympia proper, and I realized we had less than 10 miles to go, and a lot of time left, I relaxed.  We rode into downtown along the Deschutes Parkway, which was a better and more scenic entry than on Capitol Blvd/Capitol Way, and then proceeded to hit just about every red light through downtown.

One last hill (Puget St), and a bit more go to (by now, out of downtown), and there we were, at 4pm.

By Cyndi Wenks

Several teams were already there.  I promptly scored a beer and chips, and eventually started in on the food.  And visiting.  Found many people to catch up with, and met several new riders.


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