The world at 7 mph

I have had many posts about the name Mountainstroh (as in my web page so I won’t get into detail here of its origin.  Suffice it to say, the name was inspired by Mt. Rainier, a place I have gone to since I was in grade schoolKids rainier

Thursday, I took the day off, threw the bike on the back of the car, and headed up there again. It was the perfect day.

With me getting into the RAMROD (Ride Around Mt Rainier in One Day) this year; I have been in training mode.  Last month was all about getting miles under my belt, and increasing the stamina. (The RAMROD is 168 miles in one day).  This month, it is climbing practice.  You can’t climb hills on a big ride if you don’t climb them in practice.

Now, I could just ride around my neighborhood, which has plenty of hills, and go up and down them 20 times, (UGH) and there may come a time I do that for the extra work out.  However, since I am going to be riding in the National Park, then the best place to train is in the national park!


I love riding at Mt Rainier for a few reasons.

1) its gorgeous

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2) The speed limit in the park is a max of 35, and frequently its less.
3) The roads are in good shape and usually have a wide shoulder, and
4) Drivers seem to be nicer in the park than on normal roads.

My plan was to drive into the park and park the car just inside the entrance.  Then I would first ride the bike up the 12 mile incline (2400 vertical foot gain) to Sunrise Visitor Center. Then I would bomb down the hill, and then climb to Chinook pass (7 miles or so, and about 1400 ft of elevation gain) and then bomb back down the hill to the car.  This is the closest I could come, for that day, to the ups and downs of the RAMROD.

It’s over an hour drive from my house to the entrance of the park.  I was up and gone by 445 AM and heading down the road.  I went digging before I left, and stumbled across my old CD carrier for the car.  It was an 80s extravaganza! (Bon Jovi, Journey, Van Halen)

I also got lucky.  I remembered just as I got to Bonney Lake that the State Troopers like to hang out just at the top of the hill with the radar guns.  Sure as hell, there they were, and they pulled over both the cars that passed me like I was standing still!

I found a place to park at a trail head, and at 7 AM I was heading up the hill.  I made the decision early on that even though this was a training climb, it was also going to be a fun ride as well.  I was going to soak in the scenery, check out nature, take pictures and enjoy myself.

This is pretty damn easy when you are riding along at a blistering 7 mph.  Yep, 7.  I was climbing steady, breathing well, feeling good, and eating up the miles, albeit slowly.  But this is, above all the items listed above, the best thing about riding in the National Park.  Even at 35 MPH, slow by freeway standards, cars blaze by some of the coolest parts of the park.  Even if they do see it, many times there’s no place to stop.

But on a slow bike…  I miss nothing!

I rounded a corner and saw this:



My buddy Stu tells me this is called a Devil’s Post Pile.  In ancient times, a lava flow hit a glacier. The ice cooled the lava quickly, forming this rock pile.  I have been up this road a few times on a car, never seen it!  The last time I rode this route on the bike, I was head down, dying as I climbed.  This time? I enjoyed the hell out of it and missed nothing!

I was also able to stop and admire some small road side waterfalls as well

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Motorists give you different looks on this road when you are on a bike.  Motorcyclist’s give you the Cyclist Wave out of respect for the hard climb (this is the only time this happens).  Some car drivers give you thumbs up as they go by, others just look at you like you are nuts and shake their heads.  Me?  I just keep the legs cranking and gaining altitude.

Well gaining unit I did something stupid!

I had stopped to take pictures of Mt Adams and a small snow field

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and I decided to shuck a layer as it was getting warmer.  To do so, I had to take off the camel back.  I took the pics, stuffed the coat in the bag and headed UP the road (and I do mean UP!!)

Half a mile further up I realized “DAMN!!” (Ok I used a bit stronger word than damn) I had left the camelback on the wall where I stopped….

I honestly debated just leaving it there…  but I turned around, went ALL the way down to get it, then turned back up the road.  We’ll just consider this interval training. (OK half a mile downhill is not far, but it annoyed me being dumb!)

Slow and steady works, and I found myself at Sunrise! Elevation 6400 ft.




See that little patch of snow?  That is ALL there was.  In normal snow years, the road is still buried in snow till next month sometime when they finally get it open.  There should be NO green anywhere.  This year, it looks like this:

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The ride down was truly amazing!  I didn’t turn the pedals at all, and rarely touched the brakes.  I came close to hitting 40 MPH, it was fantastic!!  It is why I climb these long hills, I love bombing back down again!

I made it to the bottom and started to climb up to Chinook pass at 5400 ft.  My legs, shall we say, were a bit displeased with me.  Its the first time I’ve done a double hard climb.  After a mile or so, though, they calmed down and felt as fresh as ever.  Where the Sunrise road was mostly empty of cars, this one had a few more, but all were respectful and gave me plenty of room.

Soon, honestly sooner than I thought, I rounded the last corner to the top of the ride once again!  And, as before I was amazed at the lack of snow.  Here is Lake Tipsoo, at the summit of the pass, on Thursday.



Pretty, YES!  But this is what it looked like on the 4th of July last year



And this is how deep the snow was at the end of May in 2009 when I went snowshoeing up there

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It no wonder we are worried about water this year!

All in all, a perfect day for a 50 mile ride.  I had fun, I got the climbs in, I felt great, and I took the time to smell the smells, see the sites and thoroughly enjoy a place that very few riders go.  I am not saying I will have no issues with the RAMROD, hell I may not get done in the 15 hour time limit, but I now know I can take any climb they throw at me!

Bring it!

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