Monday, May 16, 2016

Phoenix Rising: 2015 Tour Cancelled, Resurrected in 2016

Last year was a dismal bust... many, many hours spent in the saddle through the spring and summer (1500 miles + training), steeling myself for the big tour, yet in the end... all I got was a ride that became a distant past aspiration. As you may recall (or not...), my Dread Not! Five Double Aught tour was canceled by extreme heat in June and then, when I postponed it to August - wildfires ran amok through out the state! By about about end of summer, the writing was on the (side) wall of my new touring tires... it ain't gonna happen this year, give it up lil' buckeroo. And so I did.

Fall came and went. I hibernated in December and January. Gained a few punds too. February peeked out and it was time again to start something. Slowly churn, churn for a "ridea" (ride idea!), ride somewhere... Where? Where? Crank up the big fly wheel of creatomotive force. Where? Where? Churn some more, let the fly wheel inertia spit something out... BOOM! The solution was pretty clear, dust off the "oh-fifteen" ride plan and stamp it with a big fat "2016". And, guess what? This was utterly brilliant... a turn-key plan, for the upcoming summer!

So, in a few six days, I will be heading out for this year's ride. No fancy tour name, have I. Just this. I leave from my front door and ride to Hood River, Oregon. Five days, 300 miles. Three double aught? Yep.

Here is the route:

If you scan back through last year's blog, I did give a few tasty bits in terms of the ride details. I have three days of previews, but that trip was eight days of riding (who could forget I was heading all the way to the Oregon coast?).

Well, at some point, I had to stop writing about the 'plan' and start focusing on the weather. No more previews, I was consumed by a major heat wave gripping the PNW. In the end, I postponed that trip. Ack!

Anyway, this year looks much better weather wise. So, it's a GO! Monday the 23rd is the Grand Depart. Yep, right out the front door of our little 1964 bi-level and off I go. Five days later, I'll be in Hood River where my side kick and Luna the Wunder Pup meet me for four days of wine tasting and juz' lounging around. I plan on posting pics and some musings on Facebook. But, expect a full trip report once I am back. Cheers Mates!

Monday, November 30, 2015

O Rider, Where Art Thou?

Ok, a gratuitous, silly play on words, stolen from the movie title by the Coen brothers about the Great Depression based on Homer's epic Poem, Odyssey. Hang with me though.

I have not pedaled a bike in quite some time, nor blogged of said activity in even longer time.

Tis true, the rider/writer has been missing for some time.

I think it was end of August since the last time I blogged. The title of that blog entry was "Probable Tour Cancellation - Washington Fires". 

O Rider, Where Did Thy Go?


The Dread Not! Five Double Aught tour was indeed cancelled. (If you recall, this was the post-poned tour from June).

End of the Odyssey? Hell, it never started.

So what happened? What caused the cancellation?

Well it was not, not being ready. I had trained all spring for the tour. I logged 1500 training miles by bike from February to June. Best training year - evah!

What it was, was three things: 1.) Blistering heat, 2.) winds of vengeance and 3.) wildfires (no adjective necessary!). The only thing missing was the locusts swarms.

June, saw me postpone my original tour due to RECORD breaking heat in the Pacific NW. It was brutally hot. Not fit for old-ish peddlers like me. So, I pushed my tour out to August.

Cancelled and rebooked all the logistics - not too big of deal. But, trying to maintain your peak fitness level for another two months- was challenging and actually hard to take! I did not do the best job of keeping the fitness levels up. Heck, by July, if I've toured in June, I'm ready to kick back and enjoy the summer. Not this year. I had to keep riding though July and August.

Fast forward to go time, I am indeed ready to go. But lickety split, the LARGEST wildfires to ever hit Washington State torch the north central part of the state and parts of south central as well. My route is affected. Wildfires, smoke and high winds. I throw in the towel for the year. It caught fire, blew away and disappeared into the smoke!

And no writing, nor riding, since then - just left it all behind for a while.

In fact, lying in a state of suspended animation since August is my garage where my tour packing and prep area was. You can see remnants of the scene in the photo. The Burro still stands, getting loaded up, with the US Flag ready to fly. I need to clean this crap up. Jen needs to get her car in the garage.

Ok, as I asked for you to stay with me in the first paragraph... time to tie this blog entry all together.

There are many wonderful fun scenes in O Brother, Where Art Thou. I always have to write something corny about the amazing things one is gifted with by bicycle touring. In 'O Brother', the character Blind Seer really (ok its a stretch) hits the railroad spike on the head when he speaks: 

"You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains. You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first... first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell. You shall see a... a cow... on the roof of a cotton house, ha. And, oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation."

"Ob-stacles..." Love it!  I had lots of "Ob-stacles" this summer to launching and completing the tour.

But, bicycle touring is an odyssey and I do believe great fortunes are granted those who pedal far and away distances.

"Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation."


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Probable Tour Cancellation - Washington Fires

Well, was all slated to head out for my postponed tour (original tour in June was moved to end of August due to an epic NW heat wave) on this Saturday but it looks like current wildland fire situation in Washington is going to be very difficult to have a safe tour. As you may recall I was heading east over the mountains and then dropping through the Yakima valley and over the Simcoe mountains to the Columbia River and then to Hood River and then a three day circumnavigate of Mt Hood and then back to Hood River (~400 miles total). Basically the center of the state is rimmed with fires in our state and Oregon and Idaho.

And where there is fire there is smoke.

So at this point, while not a definite NO GO yet, I will need to make the GO, NO-GO decision by Thursday to cancel my lodging reservations.

If I don't go, I will certainly be disappointed. This would be two attempts this summer derailed by environmental issues. First it was the June record setting high temps and now the record setting fires. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tour Postponed - Record Breaking Heat Wave Derails Trip

Ack! Ugh! WTF! Are you kidding me?

It is with considerable disappointment that I have postponed my bicycle tour. I was to embark this Thursday and be on the road for eight days. But, if you have been paying attention to the regional weather - IT HAS BEEN FREAKIN' HOT. June records for high temps have been broken all through the northwest. Yakima, which would have been my second day, is normally averaging about 84F this time of year. Not so this year.

And the heat wave is very sustained. It started really kicked up about June 23rd and will not break until July 14th or so!

It took me about a week to reach the decision to postpone the tour. Back and forth, back and forth, go, don't go, go, don't go. I really struggled with the decision. Its just really difficult, after all you have planned for and trained for (six months!) - to deal with the disappointment. All the miles trained (1000 miles year to date), all the planning, all the expenses, all the support given from family - seem now for naught. I have to keep reminding myself that the decision not to go was based on extreme weather conditions and was mostly tied to being safe on the ride (um... heat stroke not fun). Also- how fun would a tour be if the weather is at the extremes? Sure- we do like challenges in our rides, but the ride would have become all about the heat and managing the issue.

Ack! Ugh! WTF!

Now in a way, it back to the drawing board. I need to re-plan the tour, re-plan my training (yah how to maintain my current level of fitness for another two months, w/o getting burned out?) and refocus the mind to that future date, to be determined, that is the "go day". Back to the start in a sense and then to just keep moving forward - all the while not loosing my motivation and not just deciding to bag it all in since one is tired - of the now months long commitment.

Ack! Ugh!

You can tell I'm not in the best state right now.


I guess I do feel some comfort in knowing that given the heat wave locked over the northwest right now, me sidekick and certainly Luna will not have to fret and worry about me slogging all through that awful heat. This was a big factor in my decision to postpone - I did not want the family to worry. They are super supportive - but sometimes we can ask too much of the clan.

Ok. Fine. This to shall pass.

As of this morning, I do have a new plan and new dates. The tour will be 90% the same and the dates are in the early September time frame. It will be cooler then for sure. And it gives me some time between now and then to further improve my fitness and also fine tune my gear list. There were a few items I could not secure for the tour since I simply ran out of time. Now, anybody know where I can order a spoke oiler?!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day Three Preview - Dread Not! - Five Double Aught Tour

Day three preview. Day three of eight. Three eighths into the ride. Destination is the lovely town of Goldendale Washington. Here is an aerial of the town for your viewing pleasure.

I've been in this town more than a few times - usually just passing through on my motorcycle. Some great roads in the area. Motorcyclista and bicyclerati share a common interest... two wheeling on beautiful roads of beautiful scenery. I have do have a passion for both activities.

The days start is in Yakima. 67 miles and 3200 feet of climbing later - I arrive in Goldendale. The route is two main sections, the Yakima River valley and the highway 97 portion over the Simcoe Mountains. That is it. Not much to be excited about on this day. But, that is how it goes on some tours. Everyday can't be a hoot! The one caveat to this day - is it is 4th of July. I am going to get up at the crack of dawn, ride my lil' heart out and be done before the first pop bottle rocket goes off! That day can get a bit crazy- I be happy to hole up in my hotel. If I had my druthers, I'd be with my sweetheart on this day. We'd have a bunch o' fun I know. But this years tour fell over the fourth for various reasons. Actually, now that I think about it - G-dale may have some sort of fireworks... I may need to venture out!

Anyway... without further ado...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Day Two Preview - Dread Not! - Five Double Aught Tour

Day two. Day two of eight. What does this day have in store? The destination this day is "beautiful" downtown Yakima. Its long day at 76 miles. But, its all down hill baby. This day I am looking forward to in the tour. The entire day is paralleling the Yakima River - down stream. The first half is from Lake Easton State Park to Ellensburg. I will pass through Cle Elum and will make a stop for breakfast here. Once I get to E-burg, I follow the river and head south down Hwy 821 and into the Yakima River canyon. This is a meandering ride, down a beautiful high desert, austere canyon. Geotechnically (is this a word?) the river cuts through Umtanum Ridge Water Gap. Here is what Wikipedia says:

Umtanum Ridge Water Gap is a geologic feature in central Washington state in the United States. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1980.[1]
The Umtanum Ridge Water is a water gap cut by the Yakima River through Manastash and Umtanum Ridge anticlines, which are part of the Yakima Fold Belt near the western edge of the Columbia River Plateau located in central Washington. This National Natural Landmark is characterized by a series of steep-sided ridges in the Columbia River basalt which are cut through axially by the Yakima River. It is also referred to as the Yakima River Canyon, and is located between the cities of Ellensburg and YakimaWashington State Route 821, originally the main route between Ellensburg and Yakima, parallels the river through the canyon.
Wow. I had no idea until I Googled it. But, I have been through the canyon last fall in a car, with the side kick and the wonder pup Luna and, well, to me, it is quite pretty. Of course, I'm a big fan of all things central Washington. I love the open landscape of the Columbia basin and the 'scrublands'. 
So the canyon peters out at the south end and dumps me into Selah. From there, its a short five mile ride to the hotel. Yes, this night I am popping for a hotel. Once in... I'll spruce up and head to the local brew pub, to which I have already mapped the walk from the hotel! 
Cheers! Enjoy the pics.
[click pic for larger pic]

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Day One Preview - Dread Not! - Five Double Aught Tour

So day one of my tour will be like no other this year. It is truly a unique day in the saddle. Comparing the prior two tours as well... this day has no rivals. I am riding from Rattle Snake Lake to Lake Easton over Snoqualmie Pass on the old railroad bed of the Milwaukee Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad! The railroad was converted to a 'Rails to Trail' trail. It is the John Wayne Trail of Iron Horse State Park.

Here is what the brochure says:

With more than 100 miles of trail extending from Cedar Falls in the Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River in central Washington, the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is perfect for long or short trips. The trail leads travelers past high trestles with spectacular views of the valley below, mountainous terrain, sagebrush desert, arid scrublands and charming countryside farmlands of the Columbia Basin. 

My ride on day one will take me about 45 miles total starting at Rattlesnake Lake. From Rattlesnake Lake, I'll climb steadily (only about 2000 feet for the day) through dense forests as I make my way from King County into Kittitas County to reach Hyak, about 20 miles east of the trail terminus. A highlight of this section is passage through the abandoned 2.3-mile Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel (tunnel #50), one of the longest rail-trail tunnels in the country. It passes 1500 feet under the pass! There are no lights in the tunnel - you bring your own. Kind of freaks me out!

At Hyak, the trail heads south with a slight elevation drop along the western shores of Keechelus Lake, the Yakima River, and Lake Easton. Between the two lakes is Whittier Tunnel (#49). Another tunnel (#48) is accessible near the small community of Easton. Once I get to Lake Easton, I'm done for the day. I'll pitch my tent and cook some dinner. 
So, as you can see, this indeed will be a fantastic day of riding. Now here are some pics to enjoy.
[click pics for larger size]