Friday, June 30, 2006

Brad's Ride -- Monroe to Farmer and Back

My pal Brad Hawkins has this great habit of going on cool rides and then sending wonderfully descriptive stories from his journeys. Yesterday he sent me one of these reports and gave me permission to share it with all you folks out in the blogosphere.A bunch of pictures from his trip are here:

Ride Report: Monroe to Farmer and Back 6/25-6/27

Dear Friends,

The legs are still a little sore but I feel good enough to write you all about. The Seattle Randonneurs held their Cascade 1200K ride around Washington and I was drafted into providing some support at Farmer Washington. For those of you who don't know about Farmer, well, it's a very nice wide spot in the road about 15 miles east of Waterville up on the plateau east of Orondo. I'll just let that sink in for a while. It has a grange hall and some grain elevators, no running water, no toilets, no trees, no nothing unless you happen to have a key to the grange hall and can get out of the blinding sun and heat.

I had a wedding to play on Sunday afternoon so I was a little pressed for time as I got ready Sunday night with my bike and such. When I got to Kirkland, I realized that I had forgotten my helmet and a change of clothes so I drove back to Seattle. Claire was very understanding and didn't even mention what a hairbrained idea this was but she kissed me again and I was off driving out to Monroe, Washington.

I parked at the Holiday Inn where many fine, abandoned cycling cars were lining the sidewalks and parking lot of said hotel. Good enough. I pulled the bike off the van and took off. It was 8 PM.

The tailwind was delightful and the temperature perfect as I raced through Sultan, Startup, Gold Bar, Baring, finally alighting in Skykomish where I picked up some trail mix, milk, and filling my water bottles. The Chevron at Skykomish is used to seeing cyclists and the guy behind the counter was only concerned as to why I was leaving so late. No biggy though, he'd seen it before. It was 10:15PM.

The hills up to the pass were a bit of a surprise to me as I've never done this ride all the way from the flats up to the top of the pass from this direction before. Lessons to the newbie but I was still having a good time.

I stopped at the pass and took a picture but as you will see in Claire's site, photo flashes are somewhat uncontrolable so it's impossible to show how high I got up until the way back. It was midnight.

I put on all of my clothes available and gloves as well for the descent and cruised down the mountain. This is one of the best descents I've ever done as it seems to go down hill all the way to Wenatchee. All the way in your big ring. Now that's cool.

After a while though I felt the need to fill the bottles and stopped at the highway rest area west of Leavenworth. Among the sleeping truckers and RV'ers was a motorcyclist sitting at a park bench. I waved and he came over. It turns out that "Eric" was on his way to the Tri Cities and didn't want any heat so he was riding at night. The twist in this plan was that he seemed amped up on some kind of meth. Cool guy, very friendly, he was probably awake for the next two days.

I arrived in Leavenworth around 1:30 AM. This city sleeps very soundly and I didn't even hit the brakes. Cashmere was reached an hour later and I treated myself to two corn dogs and a quart of chocolate milk. This is my recovery food of choice and incorporates all that is good in american dining. You can eat it off a stick and drink directly from the carton. The best part is that it works quite well if you are burning the calories. $3 works out to something like 2200 calories. Mmmmmmmm! Don't forget the mustard.

Wenatchee has done the most ridiculous job on their bridge across the Columbia river you could ever imagine. They scraped off the asphalt which looked to be relatively new judging from what they left on the shoulder and deposited it somewhere else in town. No equipment is in sight. It's just a big, scary mess of sliced asphalt and road rocks everywhere else.

The sun started coming up around Orondo and I started taking pictures again. The grade out of Orondo is a singular experience and I stopped 4 times. Once at the top, the craggly rocks and water cut canyon turns into endless wheat fields and broomstick roadways reminiscent of North Dakota or west Kansas. It was a nice change of pace.

Waterville is a cute little town that I came upon at 7AM. The only water to be found was at the only open business in town, the espresso stand. This stand is famous among the long distance cyclists as apparently is the Orondo grade so I had to stop. After Waterville, it was a short hop out to Farmer where Fred Mulder some nice guy I can't remember, and Mark Thomas greeted me with smiles and understanding questions. These two are veterans of overnight and long distance rides and instead of puffing up the experience to them, we could just sit in deep understanding of this crazy cool sport. I arrived at 8AM; just in time to support the fast riders coming up from Quincy on the 1200K.

I made sandwiches and helped out until 1 PM with about an hour of sleep in the middle just to catch up. There were all kinds of DNF's the day before because of the heat and the volunteer list was swelling as the growing cadre of DNF's formed a sort of Dead Head caravan. Some guys would find a ride, others would drop out and then ride along just for fun. All had suffered, some were having a whale of a time.

After cleaning up and helping Dan Turner and Fred pack up the last truck, I bid them farewell at 2:30 PM and rode back to Waterville. This time I took some pictures and then really enjoyed riding back down the hill that had caused me so much heartache and pain that morning.

At the bottom, I found the best cherries I've ever had, rolled into the traffic menagerie that is Wenatchee, didn't stop and then cut up past Cashmere and then, just east of Leavenworth at about 7 PM, I found a nice spot in the Wenatchee river to strip off and bathe. It was just a perfect ending to a hot, hot day where the temperature reached 109. As I rubbed off the road grime, I noticed two young ladies across the way just enjoying the show. I waved, they waved, and that was the end of it. I'm just glad that I can be the subject of someone else's story and that I don't have to just come up with my own.

Dinner was pretty good, German fare for a change. After leaving the "Durndel" zone, I trotted up the canyon and found a nice camping spot that is marked "no camping". As a cyclist, I hate to flout the laws but I never know where to put the forest pass on my bike so I just don't. I hope some of you will understand.

Nine luxurious hours later, I awoke to a rushing river and perfect blue skies. The ride up the pass westbound was cool and nice. I happened upon a road crew broken down along the grade who had been broken down for two days and perhaps were waiting two more as a starter motor was being built in Yakima. The wind was a kicker once I got to the top but didn't get in the way too much.

At this point I was ahead of schedule, having passed Stevens at 12PM this time and gotten much better pictures, I rode down to the Old Cascade Highway and followed Kent Peterson's route. Kent, if you are reading this, the Iron Goat Trail is even better but requires about 60 ft of portage over a new bridge and some gravel. Highly recommended.

Being early, I started looking for any reason to stop. Dead snakes, other bikers, historical markers, interesting side roads, etc. I had 5 hours to coast into Monroe so I took it. I saw the fish hatchery, the reptile zoo, a gravel pit with a precariously place boulder replete with smiley face, and a long time friend, Weldon Grant, who showed me around the Monroe Hospital business office. It was a joy.

At 5PM or so I rambled back to the Holiday Inn where I helped the riders coming in after 1221 challenging kilometers. It was a party atmosphere with all you can eat pizza and pop. The riders had to get in by midnight and everyone expecting to make it made it, the last four by seconds! It was cool!

General statistics for the ride are as follows:

Ride Start: 6/25 8PM
Ride End: 6/27 5PM
Miles logged: about 340
Hours slept: 10.5
Average speed: perhaps around 13mph with stops
Dead Snakes by the side of the road: >15
Amused ogling ladies: 2
Important numbers for the trip: 8 and 12 (I seemed to start at 8, end at 8, and Stevens pass was reached at 12AM and 12PM respectively)

Have a great day and thanks for letting me waste some of your workday,

Brad Hawkins
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