A quick glance at the calendar tells me that the RAMROD, my big ride for the year, is a little over a month away. This means I am rapidly running out of weekend days left to me to get training rides in.
Because of this, even though it was Saturday morning, my alarm went off at 4 AM. After slapping the snooze button twice, I finally drug my butt out of bed at 4:30. There were a few reasons for this early start.
The most important reason will be understood by most guys out there. Michelle and a friend of her’s have been on Boston for the last 4 days. Now I have not gone hog-wild and pig crazy, nor have I had any wild parties. BUT, looking around the house last night I realized it was ‘guy’ clean, not woman of the house clean!
Getting an early start would allow me to get back and spruce things up a might (including me! I needed a shower something fierce!)
The other reason was the weather. Today was forecasted to be a record setter, and sure enough it hit 92. (A blazing inferno for Seattle!) I wanted to be down the hill and back in an air conditioned car before the true heat of the day hit.
Mt Rainier is about a 1.5 hour drive so after leaving at 5, I was heading up the first climb at 7. Two weeks ago when I did this I was wishing I had brought a stocking cap. Today, it was already warm, even in the shade, and the mountain was out in all its glory.
Today’s plan was to ride up Highway 410, then turn off to go down a very long and steep hill to the Steven’s Canyon entrance of Mt Rainier. The initial climb was easy, only 4 miles, and I came to the turn off and headed down.
I leaned something today. LONG downhills (9 miles or so) are NOT as much fun when you know you will soon be turning around and going back up…. I kept watching the odometer turn (at 30+mph) and knew I was in for a very long climb. But hey, that was plan!
I got to the entrance, and instead of turning right around, I called an audible and went into the park. Of all the parts of Rainier, the Steven’s Canyon part is one I know the least about. This was proven to me when I saw the Ohanapecosh river just inside the entrance. At 8 AM, this already looked inviting enough to jump in!
I was moseying up the road, admiring the scenery, getting a decent climb in when ‘Skippy’ showed up. He was an early 20 something, ear bud wearing chatterbox who decided to slow down and, well, chat as we climbed.
Now I am not opposed to saying “Hi” to other riders. Or, if the natural pace keeps us together for a bit, passing the time, but this cowboy settled in for the long haul. Mile after mile he talked about the rides he liked, and where he was going today, and how much he enjoyed riding…
He also started talking about the RAMROD, and I said I was doing it next month. He looked at me, and said “You look like you are in pretty good shape, you shouldn’t have too much trouble…” I started looking for a convenient stick to hit with.
And the conversation continued, the kid didn’t even seem to take a breath. Did I mention I was going UPHILL. Talking and uphill do not always go together. Plus, in talking to him, I was missing what I like best about Rainier riding: quiet and scenery….
So, when I realized he was not going to head out on his own, I said “There it is! That tree is my 5 mile turn around point!” And did a U turn. Ahhhhhh, piece and quiet again!
Soon I was back at the base of the long climb! What was a 35 mph downhill scream, was a 6 – 7 mph slog uphill. Add to it the day was getting warmer, so soon, these started looking more and more appealing to stand under!
However, as before the slowness is the best part of cycling in a National Park (something I am truly starting to like more all the time!) For example, there is no way I would see this tree from a car. And, if by some chance I did, there was no place to pull over! Now look closely, does anyone but me see a badger and bear face?
Here is a close up
Creepy but cool!
Speaking of trees, Rainier is special when it comes to its trees. You can be tooling along, and suddenly, right next to the road, is an old growth Douglas Fir!
And, once again, being on a bike, I can give you a better perspective on the size of the trunk.
There is no way I could get my lock around that sucker!
Finally, a little over an hour after I started, I made it back to 410. I wanted to get one more climb in, so I took a right heading for Chinook pass. Folks, about a mile into this climb, the sun hit me full on, and I decided “Today my climb ends here!” It was time to go down. I am a heat woos, and I admit it. If it is this hot on the RAMROD I will suck it up, but today, no dice.
In the end the ride was only 42 miles, but 21 of it was uphill, which is not a bad training ride. My 1.5 hour drive ended up be 3 going home. I had to fight through the “Lumber Jack” Rodeo traffic in Buckley, the carnival traffic in Bonney Lake, and Seattle, well Seattle is always bad.
However! The house is clean! Michelle is in the air and its time to head for the airport! All in all it was a great day!
Like the wind!