Monday, July 6, 2015

2015_07_03 Triple By-Pass

Author:  Conor Collins

Over the past four years I have participated in twenty Puyallup Cyclopath rides.  Yet this was my first time doing Triple Bypass. Quite possibly the most original of all the names us Cyclopaths give for our rides; and the longest, most self-dependent ride we do as a group.  It’s shameful that it took me this long to add it to my list. Regardless of my greatly postponed Triple Bypass introduction, this ride was nothing short of what one should expect for a Puyallup Cyclopath undertaking.

I would assume a good blog post would document the span of the whole riding experience, so that’s what I intend to do. After the usual pre-ride day chat with Mike the night before, I jokingly questioned his logic behind starting the ride at 5:15am; our meeting place would be the Cayuse Pass junction, (an hour and twenty-five minute drive from Puyallup) and the thought of waking up earlier than the roosters earliest crow (3:15am) seemed absurd - yet that’s exactly what we did. My alarm rang at 3am, and I was out the door to meet up with Leon and Mike by 3:30.

For those of us willing to venture on the road at such an early hour, I think we can all agree there is a distinct reward for our efforts (besides the lack of traffic on the roads). The pureness of the cool morning air with nature’s light show just beginning to cusp the horizon redefines any pre-existing delineations of natural beauty. One case in specific is the sunrise we witness while driving up Cayuse Pass; the sun’s morning rays illuminate only the upper body of Mt. Rainier’s east face, a surreal sight that is only fully appreciated first hand.

We reached the designated starting area of the ride right on time - with the fourteen others arriving just after. The temperature at Cayuse was 50°, a fairly comfortable temp for a day that was forecasted to reach the 90's. Just like every ride, at least ten minutes are spent pondering the optimal amount of clothing to keep one’s self “comfortable” throughout the ride. Most of us went with a vest and some thin arm warmers, aside from Leon who sported his thick mountaineering mittens for the early parts of the ride.

Cayuse Pass (5:25 AM) ready to go...

The first four miles are spent on the scenic, gradual grade of Chinook Pass (the first pass in our Triple Bypass journey). The sky was perfectly clear, not a single cloud obscured our view. Mt. Adams stood tall in the distant southern horizon, along with a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier as we turned onto the only western facing switchback on eastbound Chinook. The group stayed together for most of the short initial climb, with a brief re-grouping at the top. I managed to catch a glimpse of a young buck walking through the meadows right past the top of Chinook, just as the morning light was beginning to strike the slopes of the canyon.

Chinook Pass at 6:00 AM...

After a quick re-group we began the twenty-mile descent to Whistling Jack’s Lodge, our first scheduled stop of the day. Rob Critchfield and a few buddies of his that were joining us for the ride bolted down the eastern side of Chinook. I remember Mike saying, “Look, there goes Rob!” Naturally, I took that as a cue. In my highest gear I still found myself spinning out, especially when my pace was higher than 40mph. I never managed to latch onto their tails, and decided it would be wise to let up on the pursuit and fall back to the main group for some fun pace-line work to the first rendezvous.

Once back in the group, and with an eased heart rate, I began to notice the significant drop in temperature. I remember Les Becker saying the temperature had dropped “13 degrees” from what is was at the top of Chinook Pass—funny how the temperature dropped the lower we rode.  Although averaging a high rate of speed wasn’t difficult on a downhill grade, there was one unusual challenge:  the sun. Kind of like how Stonehenge focuses the light depending on the time of year, the trees on eastern Chinook must do the same during the first week of July. The light was right in our eyes -making it extremely difficult to focus on the road and the person’s tire in front of you.

Cruising down the road at speeds around 30mph, I remember, for the briefest of moments thinking to myself: “This ride is going to be a breeze.” For the typical, superstitious cyclist, those thoughts are unwelcome in the mind, especially when there’s over seventy miles to go. After about an hour of speedy downhill riding, we rolled up at Whistling Jack’s Resort (in Cliffdell).  There, we met up with Rob’s group. Leon and Kurt decided they would rather keep riding to find some sun, and the rest of us took a quick break to get food and answer nature’s call.

Bathroom break at Whistlin' Jack Resort... we were so early that Whistlin' Jack's general store wasn't open yet... fortunately, the bathrooms were outside and available...!!

After a short break, we were ready to get into another groove for the next twenty miles to the junction of highway 410 and highway 12 – the point where the long White Pass climb begins. Rob’s speedy group that dropped us all on the Chinook descent pulled out first and took most of our fifteen man group with them except for Mike, Les, Mark, and a few others who decided it wouldn’t be in their best interest to burn all of their matches quite so early. They may have been right (see addendum)… We were flying down the road, averaging at least 30mph, for the whole stretch.  Although not smartest of choices for an endurance ride, it’s really hard to pass up such a thrill! We passed Leon and Kurt so quickly during their sunbath they didn’t even notice Mike, Les, and the rest were still far back.

Heading up toward White Pass...

We reached the turn onto U.S. 12 in no time and rode for about a mile until we reached our next re-grouping location.  After re-filling our bottles and waiting for a few minutes Leon and Kurt rolled up.   We decided it would be best to continue to the store a few more miles up the road, where we could wait for the rest while re-stocking our food supply.  Using those miles as a “recovery” from the high intensity of the rapid pace-line, it was nice to have a slight break after fifty-five miles of riding.  We reached the store… and no lights were on… we realized we were a bit too early.  It didn’t open until 9, and we were there at 8:45!! Leon and John decided they weren’t willing to wait for water and tapped the sprinkler in the adjacent yard to suffice their water needs.

To our surprise, Dr. Nick was the first to roll up, beating out Mike and Les.  Although Nick can be speedy, we didn’t realize he was that close to our lead group. When I asked him how he managed to make up so much ground so quickly he replied: “I hitched a ride with a gentleman in a truck.” I didn’t believe him. That sounded like a classic Dr. Nick joke that needed a photograph to be even mildly believable.  Sure enough however, when I asked Mike how Nick managed to be so close to us, he seconded Nick’s story… So, Dr. Nick, kudos for your resourcefulness! When Mike asked the store manager if the sprinkler water was safe to drink, he was told it was a mix of unfiltered river water and brown water from the store… it was too late for Leon and John, but they seemed to manage just fine the remainder of the ride!

A few of us decided waiting three more minutes for the store to open wasn’t worth our time, and we continued up to Rimrock Lake. The climb’s pitch increased slightly along the way the closer we got to White Pass, but leveled off for a few miles as we paralleled the shoreline of the lake.

The second-to-last stop came at a small café along the lake, where Rob was generous enough to buy us some cold water that would keep us refreshed for the real climb to White Pass. While getting ready to finish the climb, Mike’s group had just appeared and was rolling around the bend; we hitched with them until the pitch increased for the final four miles to the top. I pulled off the front to scratch the itch I had left in my climbing legs (even knowing we still had the massive Cayuse Pass to climb). Regardless, it was great enjoying the beautiful vistas around White Pass.

When I reached White Pass, Leon had already arrived having declined the stop at the café and was looping back to ride with the others. I was told to stop at the summit store where I got some great chicken strips and a Gatorade to refill and replenish my nutrition. Over the course of twenty minutes we regrouped and rested in the shade before beginning our final descent and climb to the finish.

Typical expressions after the White Pass portion of Triple By-Pass... John, Scott, Mario, and Les...

Chris and Aaron at White Pass...

Lanny (walking) and Rex (on bike) - White Pass...

Aaron, Rob, and Chris...

White Pass was the last real time I saw everyone in a group; a few appeared to be on the cusp of bonking at the top and took their time on the descent, while others had mechanicals or no interest in going fast.

As always, the climb up Cayuse was Nature’s reminder of her ultimate power… and my ultimate “highway to hell” as I decide to sit back and finish off the ride in a peaceful state of mind. As for Mike, Leon, Les, Mario, and the others who finished with or around me, I think it’s fair to say Triple Bypass was as challenging as it was fun. For the rest who were behind us, hopefully you will all be back for our next ride as a team; it’s not as great without you!

** To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link: 

Addendum (by Mike Hassur):   I think that it is fair to say the following about Triple By-Pass and the final (Cayuse Pass) portion of Triple By-Pass:
1.       This is a long, difficult ride.  Even for the best of riders, it can be exhausting…
2.       The enthusiasm and vigor with which you start the climb up Cayuse is seldom found by the time you reach the top…
3.       The decisions that you make earlier in the Triple By-Pass ride can play a major role in how that final, brutal climb up Cayuse Pass plays out…!!  

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