Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015_03_29 Early Season Cycling: The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the Olympic Peninsula, and Fox Island

Author:   Mike Hassur

Scott Larson, Les Becker, Kurt Maute, and I got together for a short, but hilly, ride this past Sunday.  Our plan was to meet at the Tacoma "Park and Ride" near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  Everyone showed up on time, and we were off by a little after 8:00 AM.  Our goal was to cross the Narrows Bridge, head a fairly short distance across the Olympic Peninsula to Fox Island, ride around Fox Island and then to return.  It was not a long ride (36 miles), but it was hilly (3300 feet elevation gain); so it provided plenty of challenge for our “early season level of fitness”.

We started by crossing the Narrows Bridge.  For those of you who read our blog and who are not familiar with the Northwest, the Narrows Bridge(s) are really impressive structures (over a mile long and arching almost 200 feet above the Puget Sound).  The bike lane is separated from the automobile traffic by a large barrier, so the only concern as you cycle across is whether you have any latent fear of heights (as you definitely get the sense that you are way up in the air).

After enjoying our ride across the bridge, we made our way south of Gig Harbor through the rural countryside with its rolling terrain.  Most of the hills were long and gentle and easy to climb, but there were a couple with grades of 16-18% which certainly got our attention (at least they got mine)!!

Eventually, we came to the Fox Island Bridge which was fairly short and easily traversed.  Once on Fox Island, we immediately encountered the Fox Island Wall.  Les warned us that there was a formidable hill just ahead, but that didn't prepare me for what we encountered.  My Garmin cyclocomputer registered the grade to be 26% at one point of this relatively short climb!!  I believe that it is the steepest hill that I have ever ridden up on my bike.  Scott powered up the “Wall” (as you will see in the accompanying video) and recorded the 5th fastest overall time for that Strava segment (if you are unfamiliar with the term "Strava segment" Google it).  Pretty amazing for a guy who has a 15 month old son at home and has not been riding much at all this year.

After “The Wall”, we rode the rolling countryside to the far end of the island where we encountered the Fox Island Fishing Pier.  This is actually a beautiful little park associated with a really nice fishing pier (again see the video of our ride).  We stopped, took a few pictures at the pier, and started our journey back toward the cars.

The ride back seemed easy.  It was mostly downhill or flat which was most appreciated at this point of the ride (at least by me and my “March fitness level”).  We cruised back across Fox Island, through the Gig Harbor area, across the Narrows Bridge, and back to our cars with relative ease.

This turned out to be one of those early season rides that are so much fun because you are getting out with buddies who you haven’t ridden with in a while, you appreciate the improving weather, and it’s just so nice to be outside on your bike again.

To see the 10 minute video of this ride click on the following link (and turn on your speakers):

Can’t wait for the next ride!!