Sunday, August 31, 2014

Windy Ridge Ride Cancelled So We Did "The Climb"

Author:  Mike Hassur

Well, this was the weekend when we were supposed to be doing the Mt. St. Helens “Windy Ridge Ride” which is a favorite amongst our group (great scenery, comfortable length (~65 miles), plenty of climbing (~6500 feet), and a single lane road devoted mainly to us for a good part of the ride up).  Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate (rain), and we had to cancel the ride.

This short blog post is about our alternative ride on Saturday morning.  Leon, Les, and I decided to go to The Climb and just do some hill repeats there.  Our reasoning was as follows:
1.       It was close.
2.       We could drive our cars to the base of The Climb and devote whatever time we had there to climbing.
3.       If it started to rain, we were never very far from our cars.

I got there at 6:10 AM.  Leon’s car was already there, but Leon was nowhere in sight.  I got my bike out, mixed up some energy drink for my bottle, and headed up the road.  I hadn’t ridden very far before I met up with Leon who was heading down.  He had gone part of the way up and turned around figuring to meet me near the bottom.

We visited as we rode to the top together, and Leon mentioned that he had seen a couple of elk just a bit earlier.  The closer we got to the top, the more it misted/sprinkled; until, at the top, it was just raining on us.  We headed back down and were soon out of the rain.  Near the bottom, we saw Les coming up.  By this time, it was not raining at all, and the roads were dry; so we turned around and started back up together. 

Once again, as we approached the top, the rain increased.  We headed back down to the upper hairpin, turned around, and headed back up again.  This time at the top the rain was more pronounced.  I said that I would like to head back to the cars to change my wheels.  I had my light-weight racing wheels on the bike, and I was not confident how well they kept moisture out of the hubs when riding in wet conditions.  I had brought an extra set of wheels that were more impervious to moisture just in case.  Leon and Les said that they would head down with me.  On the way down, Les and I were talking with Leon riding about 50 yards ahead of us.  All of a sudden, Les said “look up ahead”!!  I looked up to see a herd of six large elk crossing the road just ahead of Leon.  They scattered and headed into the forest on both sides of the road, but not before we got a pretty good look at them – pretty amazing.  It was an awesome sight to see six of these large animals all at once.  

After seeing the elk, the intensity of the rain gradually increased; and, by the time we had reached the cars, it was raining hard.  I raised the back hatch of my van and used it as an umbrella while I changed my wheels.  Once the wheels were changed, the rain had let up some; and we decided to head back up again.  We had not gone far when the rain picked up again.  It was raining pretty hard; and, for some reason, I was struggling to keep up with Leon and Les – even though they didn’t seem to be working that hard.  The rain finally got to me, and I told the guys that I was heading back to the cars.  I turned around while Leon and Les headed on up to retrieve some water bottles that they had hidden by the upper hairpin turn on our previous trip up.

It wasn’t until I got back to my van that I noticed that my rear wheel would barely turn.  I had not tightened the rear skewer tight enough when I changed out the wheels, and the wheel was rubbing firmly against one of the brake pads – NO WONDER I WAS HAVING SO MUCH TROUBLE KEEPING UP WITH LEON AND LES EARLIER!!!

Les told me later that the rain let up almost as soon as I turned around and that they had a good ride together.    This just wasn't my day, but seeing those elk made it a pretty memorable experience.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014_08_23 Puyallup Cyclopaths' "Ride the Tour de Blast Route"

Author:  Mike Hassur

What a ride!!  Last Tuesday (8/19/14), Leon and I were talking about possible options for a ride on Saturday (8/23/14).  One of us came up with the idea of doing the “Tour de Blast” route on Mt. St. Helens (Leon claims that it was my idea, but I’m not so sure).  Anyway, the more we talked about it, the better we liked the idea.  I talked to Les Becker the next day, and his face lit up in a smile that lasted the rest of the week.  Leon talked to Tom Peterson; and, surprisingly, Tom was free to go (he is busy with two sons playing soccer and tennis at a high level).  In the end, we had six guys going:  Leon, Les, Tom, Mark Delrosario, Dwaine Trummert, and myself.

 We met at the McDonalds at the junction of Highways 512 and I-5 at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning.  Our goal was to be leaving McDonalds at 5:00 AM and heading toward the town of Toutle where our ride would
Ready to go: check out the new shorts...
begin.  We hoped to be starting our ride by a little after 7:00 AM.  Leon, Mark, and I rode in my van; while Les, Dwaine, and Tom were in Les’ van.  The trip down I-5 to the Mt. St. Helens’ exit went smoothly, and we were on our bikes heading out by 7:00 AM.  We had gotten our new Puyallup Cyclopath clothing the week before, so most of us were wearing our Puyallup Cyclopath matching shorts for the first time.  You can judge for yourselves how our new “kits” look, but we thought they looked good. 

This ride is 85 miles long and offers approximately 7200’ of climbing.  There are three major climbs.  The first half of the ride includes a climb to Elk Rock Lookout, followed by a long descent, and the climb up to the Johnston Ridge Viewpoint/Observatory.  At that point, you simply turn around and head back the way you came (which includes the long climb back up to Elk Rock). 
Early in the ride with lots of energy...

It didn't take long for the scenery to be pretty awesome...

The weather was great, and everyone was in good spirits and ready to go.  The first thing that we noticed was the quality of the road.  The surface was nice and smooth, it was well maintained, and there was a really nice shoulder.  In addition, we encountered very little traffic on the first half of our ride.  We cruised up to Elk Rock at a nice pace – enjoying the scenery and the good company. 

After Elk Rock, there was the long descent to the base of the second climb up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.  That long descent was especially fun, because we didn’t have to worry about the quality of the road surface. 
One of a number of impressive bridges that we crossed...
In addition, there were a number of beautiful bridges that we crossed.  These bridges were all relatively new and in great shape having been built since the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.  There was a lot of speed and “passive aggressive” behavior on this descent. 
Final part of descent before we climbed to Johnston Ridge...

These "rainbow bubbles" can be devastating should a rider come in contact with one...??!!

Starting the climb up to Johnston Ridge...

The final climb up to Johnston Ridge was long and pretty steep (mostly 7% and above).  Leon, Les,and Dwaine forged ahead while Tom and I paused to remove the long sleeved shirts that we were wearing under our jerseys (it was starting to warm up some, and we were generating plenty of heat).  I can’t speak for their group, but the ride up with Tom was fun.  We rode up pretty briskly, but we still managed to talk and enjoy the climb.  We felt some fatigue from our efforts by the time we reached the end of the road, but the views from Johnston Ridge were well worth it.  Not only did we have a very impressive view of the mountain; but we could see part of Spirit Lake, and we thought that we could see the Windy Ridge Viewing Area where we will be this coming Saturday – pretty cool!!
Dwaine, Les, and a "groupie" at Johnston Ridge...

The view from Johnston Ridge...

The descent from Johnston Ridge was really fast and fun.  Before we knew, we had started the climb back up to Elk Rock.  Early in the climb, we hooked up with Mark. 

Mark had been sick and was not in his usual condition, but he persevered...
He had ridden at his own pace on the outward bound portion of the ride as he was just recovering from an illness and didn't want to overdo it.  We rode as a group – sort of – to Elk Rock and then on back to the cars.  We encountered more traffic on the way back; but, since they were heading in the opposite direction from us, it was not really a problem.  By the time we arrived back at the vehicles, it was getting pretty warm.  It was a good time to be finishing (both in terms of heat and in terms of fatigue). 

This was a really good ride, and it will be on next year’s ride schedule. 

Next week, it is back to Mt. St Helens – just on the other side for the Windy Ridge Ride – can’t wait!!

To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link:  Puyallup Cyclopaths' "Ride the Tour de Blast" Photos

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quadruple By Pass Ride

Author:  Mike Hassur

Our “Quadruple By Pass Ride” took place a week ago on Saturday, August 9th; and I’m just getting around to doing the blog post now.  That’s what happens when you have a son home visiting for a week, you get the Puyallup Cyclopath clothing order in and are trying to sort it out,  go to work, etc.  -  i.e. that is what happens when “life gets in the way”.  I know for a fact that some of you are far busier than I am, and I marvel at the way that you can manage to “keep all of those balls in the air” and still manage to stay sane.

This ride begins in the parking area by the Ranger Station on the east side of Mt Rainier National Park (near Ohanapecosh), climbs up to Backbone Ridge and down the other side to Box Canyon, up the long climb to Reflections Lakes, and on up to Paradise.  From there, we retrace our steps back to the starting point.  After stopping at the cars to shed clothing, restock drink and food supplies, and hit the bathrooms; we proceed up Cayuse Pass (with the bonus climb up to Chinook Pass for those still feeling energetic).   From there, it is back to the cars and home.

The nice thing about this ride is that, no matter how well prepared (or ill-prepared) you are for it – you will be okay.  If you get tired, you can turn around and it’s mostly downhill all the way back to the cars from any point on the ride – a definite plus. 

Bull elk - what a way to start our day!!
We met at the top of Cayuse at 6:00 AM:  Conor, Leon, Tom, James, and I.  We drove down the south side of Cayuse Pass toward our starting point: the parking lot for the Grove of the Patriarchs (just inside the park past the Ranger Station).  On the way down, we rounded a corner and came upon this large bull elk with a full rack of antlers, just standing on the shoulder of the road.  When he saw us, he ran along the shoulder for 30-40 yards before running across the road right in front of us – pretty spectacular.  From there, it was an uneventful trip down to our starting point.  While we were unloading our bikes, Nick Iverson showed up.  He said that he was going to drive up to the top of Backbone Ridge and start ahead of us from there. 
James, Tom, Conor, and Leon getting ready to go...

We got started up the climb to Backbone Ridge about 6:40 AM.  The road surface was smooth (we felt as though we were gliding up the climb), the temperature was good (middle 50’s), and there was absolutely no rain in the forecast.  The good company and the fact that we are all in good shape by this time of the year made the climb go by quickly without us feeling as though we were working very hard. 

The view from Backbone Ridge was its usual stunning self, so I lingered to take some photos.
View at the top of Backbone Ridge...
  When I was done, everyone was long gone except for Leon who had kindly ridden slowly so that I could catch up.  By the time that Leon and I made our way to the Box Canyon area, the other guys were already out of sight.  Conor had told us that he was going to “time trial” the segment up to Reflection Lakes and the rest of the guys had gotten away from us while I was taking photos.  Leon and I set about getting into a nice rhythm that would carry us up the climb through Steven’s Canyon.  Part way up. Rob Critchfield caught up from behind us.  He had arrived late and hustled to catch up with us.  He said that he wanted to “time trial” on up and would meet us in the Reflection Lakes area.  We maintained our pace and, eventually, caught up with Tom and James.  Our group then proceeded on up to the lakes where we regrouped with everyone.
Mike, Nick, Conor, Rob, Leon, Tom, & James...

We rode as a group up to Paradise, ate and drank, took some photos and headed down the east side of the Paradise Loop back toward Reflection Lakes.  From there it was the fast descent , down through Steven’s Canyon,
Just below the hairpin turn above Steven's Canyon...
back up the short side of Backbone Ridge, and down the fun and curving descent back to the cars. 

We stocked up with food and drink, headed out of the park, and started the climb up Cayuse Pass.  The Cayuse Pass climb is about 10 miles long and gains roughly 2500 feet in elevation.  I cannot describe this particular day’s climb in too much detail - I made the decision to accompany Conor and Rob up as far as I could.  Suffice it to say that there was not a lot of conversation on this climb – just a lot of effort!!  Ordinarily, I would not do this climb as quickly my two companions; but Conor was beginning to feel the effects of having done this entire ride the previous day (with Les Becker), and Rob had used up a lot of energy “time trialing” up Steven’s Canyon earlier in the ride.  In the end, we rode all the way up together in a time that was by far my fastest time ever on this climb (50:49).  Unfortunately for me, I had forgotten my Garmin that morning.  I was able to get the time based on Conor’s Garmin info, but I had no official Strava time – bummer!!  It’s kind of like the old saying “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound” – same thing for Strava Segments which cannot be officially posted on Strava.

When we got to the top of Cayuse, Conor and I were done and were looking forward to the ride down to the car.  Rob – on the other hand – who just a few minutes earlier on the last portion of the Cayuse climb had uttered the words “you guys are killing me” turned to us and said “when we get back to the cars, I think I’ll do the Backbone Ridge and Steven’s Canyon climbs again”!!  I think that Rob has “LOTOJA Fever”.  For those of you who don’t know what LOTOJA is, keep reading the blog – you will find out in a few weeks.

Leon and Tom soon joined us at the top of Cayuse.  Leon headed on up to Chinook Pass, while the rest of us headed back down toward the cars.  Conor and I loaded up the bikes, bid farewell to Tom Peterson, and headed back up Cayuse where we picked up Leon as he was heading down.  Rob was on his way back up Backbone Ridge, and Nick somehow finished the day with over 10,000 feet of climbing.  What an awesome day!!

Can’t wait until our next ride.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Author:  Nick Iverson


Having ridden up to Paradise several times, a trip up 410 down Cayuse and back in April, riding the Triple Bypass and 5 century rides plus the “STP” in one day (Sumner to Portland), and a ride up Forest Rd 26 at Mt. St. Helens, I was looking forward to the RAMROD.  I consider myself an addict of this ride, as this was the 16th “Ride Around Mount Rainier One Day” this year.   The day before the ride was a scramble, as I had a full day doctoring in the clinic, then dashed out to Enumclaw to get my packet.  There is always SOMETHING that needs to be done in order to be able to get to the start finish line around 5 AM.  I went through the list:  bike in car, helmet in car, gloves in car, bike bottles in car, riding glasses, Zone bars in jersey, bike shoes, number and NSA electronic strip on helmet, number on bike, computer on bike, video camera on bike, headlight on bike….  Check, check, check.  Putting out food for morning.  Duh.  Setting the alarm, check.

Morning of July 31, I woke up BEFORE the alarm on my Eye Fone, however the time was set one hour late!  I slept in my bike shorts, so I was able to yank my awesome Cyclopath jersey over my head, guzzle down a glass of chocolate milk and a Zone bar, race to the car and head for Enumclaw.  I parked there in my secret parking place, and rode three blocks to the start line and was off at 05:15.

The ride to Eatonville was rather uneventful except for the CHIP SEAL coming into town on WA 161. I made a quick stop to buy some real food at the Shell station and was gone.  Up and over the cutoff and CHIP SEAL DESCENT to Mtn. Highway.  Rode well in a pace line with a bunch of riders younger than my kids until I spotted #1.  I dropped back to talk to him, and he preferred to ride alone.  I then chose to chase down the pace line.  Mistake.  Red zone.  I was dropped and at 9mph pulled into the store in Ashford.  I ate, felt much better, but at the RAMROD was told that I had to ride through the check point or get pulled over.  (I assume by the NSA).  I saw Mark Delrosario, and told him he would catch me down the road, as I had stopped only 3 miles before this stop.
Skate Creek View:  RAMROD 2014
On to Skating Creek Death Road….  There is perhaps one of the most scenic views of Mt. Rainier (the Mountain that I wanted to see up close), so I stopped to take a picture or two, took other riders pictures, found a secluded place over the hill to get rid of the Coca Cola that I consumed in Ashford, then headed toward Packwood on the road that I traveled alone on the Cyclopath Hypothermia Ride.  With bright sun, and my marginal vision, the Death Descent was downright terrifying.  I finally picked a “couple” of riders, who passed me, but not at supersonic speed, and assumed the female rider would have more sense than the guys, and followed them like a dog on a leash.  When they were on the wrong side of the road, I could see the sink holes, curb sized splits in the road and a bit of gravel that they were avoiding.  Eventually the road becomes smooth and there are a few miles of relief coming into Packwood.  There was Mark D, wondering how he passed me without seeing me, undoubtedly when I was offloading Coca Cola.

Next is the thrill of riding with the semis, Winnebagos, and giant pick up trucks pulling boats and trailers, with blasts of soot from their diesel engines.  After crossing Highway 12, I almost wished we were going to ride up White Pass, there is another check point with flies and food, and narrow Blue boxes that substitute for the bushes at the side of the road.   Next is the Cayuse climb, and I was still not 100% from my earlier red zone, but Mark kept encouraging me on up the hill.  After a half bonked ride to 410, there was the rapid descent to Crystal Mt Blvd.  That stretch of road was IT.  A down the middle of the road, ears pinned back, relaxing full speed ride with NOBODY PASSING!!!  However, just at the entrance to the Park….  SOME MORE CHIP SEAL!!!   ARGGGHH.

The food stop was great, but the trip back to Enumclaw was not fun.  Mark and I were eventually able to get our two person pace line organized, and took turns pulling.  For some reason, my right arm kept getting tight, and we made a short stop at Greenwater at Wapiti Woolies for a smoothie for Mark, and Mocha for me.

Except for questions about my bike being crooked (it is now in the hospital getting new handlebars), we checked it out, and descended Mud Mt. Road.  Mark was fantastic at helping to get that last run down.  Normally, I ride on aerobars on the stretch from the Deli to Enumclaw, but I removed them before the ride, as I did not think I would be comfortable with them on chip seal.  I doubt I would have used them.  It was Mark whose motto “No Cyclopath left behind” that got me back.

As far as the ride went physically, I was not thrilled with my performance, but the biggest disappointment was paying for an entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park, never needing the ticket.  My “addiction” to the RAMROD is predicated on riding up the beautiful climb toward Paradise, crossing by Reflection Lake, then plummeting down Stevens Canyon.  That descent is thrilling at age 69, and is one of the best views of cyclists several miles ahead down across the canyon.  After Box Canyon food stop, there is the short Backbone Ridge climb, then THE MOST AWESOME DESCENT OF THE RIDE!!!  But this year there were not great views of Rainier, no  flowers, no Reflection Lake, no Box Canyon, no Stevens Canyon, no Nisqually river, no old growth forest early in the ride.  The RAMROD was just a ride.  Period.  I can do a similar ride up to Carbonado, Greenwater, Orville Rd. or just drive to Greenwater, ride up and over Chinook Pass, descend to Sunrise cutoff, STOP AT THE RANGER STATION…..  then ride the climb to Sunrise, and the fun descent down.  Next year, the Park plans to pave the upper portion of the road.  I think you may see me volunteering at a rest stop. 

Author:  Mark Del Rosario

My 2014 RAMROD Experience

The last month and a half leading up to Ramrod was not an ideal training period (low miles, lack of climbing, incomplete club rides not by choice mind you).  So I forced myself to suffer a bit thru back to back 70+ mile Saturday and Sunday rides the weekend before.  They were not intended for physical training but more for mental toughness and confidence.  No amount of last minute riding would make a difference in my fitness level.  On the Skate Creek Loop Sunday ride (2nd attempt this year), I felt no shame in not keeping up with five of our strongest cyclists (Conor, David, Mike, Leon and Brent).  At least I could enjoy the Paradise climb, Backbone Ridge and the Steven's Canyon descent that were being omitted from this year's route.  The more I heard of changes to the route and road conditions I started to wonder how enjoyable this year's Ramrod would be. 

It was a good thing I took Wednesday off.  After doing an hour spin on the trainer, I prepped my bike for the big ride only to find cracks on the rear wheel where the rim, nipples and spokes meet.  Two options, ride my original heavy wheels, which I did use on my maiden Ramrod two years ago, or see if anyone carries the Shimano wheels I have been eyeing.  Luckily the Performance Bike in Tukwila carried the Ultegra 6800 wheels.  Three hours later I invested in new wheels.  Many props to them for taking care of me.  It is not ideal to ride with a new configuration the day of an event but safety was the overriding factor.  In the long run I can say they will be a good value purchase.

Pre-sunrise Thursday morning Mario and I rolled thru the starting gate under near perfect weather conditions.  We maintained a steady pace and hitched on to a larger group at South Prairie using the descent of Pioneer Way to bridge the gap.  I settled in amongst the front riders and I could tell Mario was itching to go faster.  He even went to the front before the left turn to Orville road to drive up the pace.  Considering this area as home territory I was ashamed that the drivers of a black Prius and the trailing truck failed to yield as we all signaled a left turn.  Possible car-cyclist disaster avoided, the large group proceeded together uneventful from that point on to the climb up to Eatonville.  We were cruising along with an 18+ mph average.  Mario might not be thankful that I insisted on holding back the pace in the beginning but I am sure it helped him to finish strong.  It was surprising when one cyclist thanked me for ferrying the group to the rest stop.  If I had a choice I would cut back on the 30 mile slog of stretches in the beginning and at the end of the route.

Out of the rest stop, I told Mario to go on and not to wait.  It took me a while to loosen up and find a groove in the rolling terrain.  As I turned left from the Alder Lake cut off, a big group, Cycling Tuesdays, merged into the side of the road where I was at.  Next thing I know they were barking orders that I need to take the lead or drop back.  Pardon me?  What happened to a courteous hello, nice day to ride or how are you doing?  I happened to be on the road and your group converged into my space.  I don't know if it is etiquette but I feel it is the faster group's responsibility to pass on the left instead of commandeering the entire side of the road everyone has a right to be on.  I watched as they did the same to other people.  Be forewarned wannabe race team Cycling Tuesdays the next time we cross paths you will have to take my spot on the road because I won't be as willing to yield.  I was not impressed with their group riding because it was a mob hogging the road from cyclist and driver alike.  Nor did they have a pace line rotation they so claimed.  It was painful following with all the wasted energy of yo-yoing because they couldn't hold a steady pace.  A few miles out of Elbe I saw the group envelope Mario.  Having enough of this madness I decided to ride the remaining miles solo to the Ashford rest stop. 

Apparently we passed Dr. Nick as he stopped at a store in Ashford.  Saw him ride thru the rest stop.  Mario took off ahead of me up Skate Creek.  That would be the last time I saw him the rest of the ride.  I started to feel better on the ascent and it was nice to crest the climb and then go on the long descent which became technical because of the road conditions.  There were no bugs harassing me like the Sunday before.  Maybe I was going faster this time.  Somehow managed to pass Dr. Nick without knowing it.  I decided to wait for him to refuel at the Packwood water stop.  Two Cyclopaths set off together on Highway 12.  I went on to pick off the riders that had passed us.  I waited at the next rest stop at the Highway 12-State Route 123 intersection.  Dr Nick did not spend much time at the rest stop and he took off ahead of me up Cayuse Pass.

I took off solo, picked off groups of riders and then I stopped at the 4 mile mark to suck down a gel(which is my last resort food and because I don't like the taste.  I wasn't bonking or tiring but intervening in advance of  the steeper climbing ahead).  I re-passed the same riders and then found a group I could settle in for a while.  When they eventually tired and the stronger cyclists began to pull away I resumed my own head hunting.  Eventually I came across Dr. Nick.  I adjusted my pace to ride with him.  The longer we were on the ascent and in the heat I felt stronger.  It helped that I wasn't trying to redline myself.  Since I am a Cyclopath I thought to myself I should feel at home in the mountains so this is worth enjoying every moment.  Definitely have come a long way from my first Ramrod where I had to break up the Cayuse climb into four segments so I can survive the hump over it. 

At the halfway water stop a lady gave me a high five over the extra climbing from my erratic zig zaging and circling.  As an outside observer I would have thought this cyclist has gone mad wasting a lot of energy.  Again Dr. Nick took off ahead from the stop and the cycle from the earlier half repeated itself.  One guy complimented me on our club's jersey and asked if the cyclist behind was my grandpa or something.  I said he was a teammate.  He said he would have just waited at the top but I said I'd stay in front of him like a carrot to a rabbit.  I was more than happy to be in the mountains with fellow cyclists (a teammate and other enthusiasts).  For a change I was enjoying the freedom to go at a pace I could set for myself and take the experience all in.  Exhaustion usually determines the pace for me but it wasn't having its way this time.  We finished off Cayuse glad to reach the high point of the ride.  As my reward I passed whomever was in sight during the fast descent.  Boy I was looking forward to the sandwich and a coke at the Crystal Mountain rest stop.  Real food is a nice break from our usual sugary snacks. 

We embarked on 410 not looking forward to the newly chip sealed road.  Why the state DOT wasted money to ruin an already safe road leaves me puzzled.  A patch here or there would have sufficed.  Turned out we did not need a pace line because we worked together to put the power down.  We gained back 1.5 mph on our average ride speed on the fast return.  A motorcyclist going by cheered 'way to go Cyclopaths.'  I think it was Rick (Erik's friend).  We were making such great time we stopped at Greenwater for a smoothie and an iced coffee.  After Greenwater, the slight bends in the terrain and headwind can wear on you but I thought back to a happy time this spring when Leon, Andy and I rode out that way.  I was determined to have a good close to the ride.  This is in contrast to my first Ramrod which at this point my legs were hurting and my bum was sore riding the remaining 30 miles solo from Crystal Mountain to the finish.

A group of three passed us on the descent of Mud Mountain.  Once at the base of the hill I used a steady pull to bridge us back to them.  From there we hitched a ride for the last few miles to the finish line.  Mario was there to greet us.  I hoped he hadn't been waiting for an extremely long time.  He did great averaging 16.8 mph on his maiden Ramrod.  He is a strong cyclist and enjoys riding with other cyclists in challenging events like this.  He was complaining about not talking to the gal racer from Fisher Plumbing whom he pulled from Forest Road 70 to the finish.  Now if he wasn't so concerned about driving his average speed up he could have ridden with her as opposed pushing hard to the end.  Don't worry I am working on making their acquaintance.  

I finished my first Ramrod in 2012 in survival mode.  I was nervous over what to expect and how I would fair on a ride that was 50 miles longer than my longest ride and an additional 2,500 feet of climb higher than I had ever ascended.  Plus it was only my second season cycling.  It is a boost in confidence having ridden the same roads Cyclopaths traverse on during our training or club rides.  This Ramrod felt like having home field advantage in a big playoff game.  I felt much better throughout the entire ride having never doubted finishing, never felt in the red and never worried about my time or pace.  In summation, my 2014 Ramrod experience was about sharing the event with a friend, enjoying fellowship with cyclists and riding the journey around our beautiful Mt. Rainier.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

2014_07_31 Leon & Mike: Our Alternative To RAMROD

Author:  Mike Hassur

Leon didn’t get into RAMROD.  I did, but a non-traditional course, miles of new chip seal surface, and a route that was 170 miles long rather than the normal 150 convinced me to pass on this year’s event.  Instead we opted for a route concocted by Leon.  Our route started at Longmire, headed up toward Paradise, over to Reflection Lakes, down Steven’s Canyon to Box Canyon, up the Backbone Ridge Climb, down the east side of Backbone Ridge to the east Ranger Station for Mt Rainier, up Cayuse Pass, and then back (retracing our route back to Longmire). 

Our goal was to start from Longmire at 6:00 AM.  We were on the road heading up toward Paradise at around 6:10 AM.  Leon had said that he wanted to set a brisk pace for the first half of our ride (to the top of Cayuse), so that he could see how we compared with last year’s RAMROD in the same section.  As a result, you won’t see many photos for the first half of the ride. 

Photo taken on the climb just above the Nisqually Bridge...
Our ascent from Longmire to Reflection Lakes was pretty uneventful.  The weather was cool which was ideal for climbing.  Leon was pretty focused on setting a brisk pace, so I just tried to get into a rhythm and keep pace.  Before we knew it, we were passing Reflection Lakes and heading down the Steven’s Canyon
descent.  At the upper hairpin turn (just above Steven’s Canyon), we came upon two cars parked in the middle of the uphill lane.  The occupants had noticed a good photo op and had just stopped in the middle of the road, gotten out, and were busy taking a group photo.  Normally, this would not be a big deal; but they were blocking the road on the uphill side of a blind, hairpin turn.  Hope their photos turned out good.  After that, it was the long, fast descent of Steven’s Canyon. 
Mt Rainier and beginning of Steven's Canyon descent...
It is so much fun and so beautiful, that I have to constantly remind myself to be careful (there is a cliff and no guard rail – keep your eyes on the road, Mike, and don’t get too close to the edge)!!  Awesome…

We flew by Box Canyon and were soon climbing the west side of Backbone Ridge.  Three miles of a modest grade meant plenty of time to visit with Leon and enjoy the trip to the top.  The view from Backbone Ridge is spectacular, and today was no exception.  We were in a hurry though, so we didn’t stop at the top.  We just took off down the east side. 

We stopped at the rest area near the ranger station at the east park entrance (bathroom break).  After that, it was the Cayuse Pass climb.  Again, we maintained a brisk pace up toward the pass.  The RAMROD support crews were already out setting up check points and water station. on the climb up Cayuse. 
RAMROD check point near top of Cayuse Pass...
It was impressive and reminded us what a fine job they do of organizing that ride.   When we reached the top of Cayuse, we talked to one of the RAMROD support people who was stationed there.  We told him to watch for a “slender kid who would likely be leading RAMROD at that point”.  We asked him to let “the kid” know that we said “go Conor”.  He said that he would, but we figured that he probably would be too busy to remember (Conor later reported that he did indeed get the message while passing the check point at the top of Cayuse).

As we descended, we did some rough calculations and figured that we would probably be turning off of the RAMROD route (and heading back up Backbone Ridge) about 30-45 minutes before Conor would get to the same spot while doing RAMROD.  Our calculations were fairly accurate based on later conversations with Conor.

The Park Ranger at the east entrance waved us through without making show our Park Passes… nice guy.  After that, it was a quick bathroom break, shedding some clothing, and heading back up Backbone Ridge.  The road has been resurfaced so the climb was smooth and pretty effortless.  The views were great at the top of Backbone, but I had to settle for a couple of photos while on the move – we weren’t stopping. 
Backbone Ridge...

Once we passed Box Canyon, we started climbing the lower section of Steven’s Canyon.  It was starting to warm up, and we were hoping to make it up through the canyon to Reflection Lakes before it really got hot.  We figured that we had about 2,000 feet to climb in roughly 10 miles – about the equivalent of going up The Climb twice.  “No big deal” we told ourselves – and it really wasn’t bad.  We got into a nice rhythm and maintained a good pace to the top.  We felt tired (but not wasted) when we arrived at Reflection Lakes.
Obligatory photo at Reflection Lakes...
After that, it was downhill pretty much all the way back to Longmire and our car.  Leon did a marvelous job of mapping out this ride.  There was no new chip seal; and, by starting at Longmire, we missed all of the road construction that was going on between the Nisqually Entrance and Longmire.  We ended up with a ride that had lots of climbing (five passes with about 9000’ of elevation gain) and that was a nice length (80 miles).  Nice job, Leon!!

Can’t wait until our next ride:  Quadruple By-Pass.