Author: Mike Hassur
When you do this ride, “The West Side of Mt. St. Helens to Johnston Visitor Center and Back”; you know that you will be getting up early. In order to get started on the bikes by 7:00 AM, our group usually meets in Tacoma (the McDonalds at the junction of I-5 and highway 512) around 5:00 AM which dictates getting out of bed around 4:00 AM. That was the pattern that we followed again this year.
|Les and Dwaine - ready to go...|
|Tom and Conor - all set to go...|
|Leon - it is difficult to get a really sharp photo of him as he is always moving!!!|
Les, Dwaine, Tom, Conor, Leon, and convened at the appointed meeting place and were heading out in our little caravan toward Toutle High School (our starting point) by a little after 5:00 AM. The drive down was uneventful. After a quick bathroom stop at the Toutle McDonalds, we arrived at Toutle High School and were on our bikes by 7:00 AM. This ride is about 84 miles long with a little over 7000 feet of climbing. The roads are in great shape, and the shoulders are wide which makes for a safe as well as challenging ride. Finally, the scenery is usually great on this ride; but not so much on this particular ride. It was cloudy which meant nice cool temperatures for the entire ride but no scenery (not even a view of Mt. St. Helens).
Not too far into the ride we started on the first of the three main climbs of this ride. Leon immediately took off which usually means that there is a Strava Segment lurking nearby. Sure enough, he was waiting for us at the top of the first climb having taken over 1st place in his new age group (65-69) – way to go, Leon.
|Mike, Tom, Les, Dwaine, and Conor at the top of the day's first climb (Leon not pictured)...|
Our group enjoyed the descent from the first climb. Soon, we were headed up the second major climb of the day to Johnston Visitor Center (the end of the road). Again, Leon was soon out of sight – another Strava Segment. Once again, Leon is now the “King of the Hill” for that segment. As the rest of our group, made our way up this climb, Tom had a problem with his chain popping off of the rear cassette and diving down between the cassette cluster and the spokes of the rear wheel. I stopped to help Tom. By the time we got things fixed and adjusted, the rest of our group was out of sight. Tom and I sort of “visited our way to the top” which was easy and enjoyable. When we got to the top, Les said that they had seen a herd of elk on their way up. Drat, I would have loved to have seen that!!
At the Johnston Visitor; we ate and drank, refilled water bottles, and hit the restrooms. Soon, we were headed back down the way we had come – AND IT WAS COLD (mid-forties). Most of us had not anticipated that it would be this cold and had not brought warm enough clothing. The first few minutes of the ride down were uncomfortable. In fact at one point, Les turned around and rode back uphill a ways, just to warm up some. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to descend far enough to find warmer temperatures. We gradually made our way up the final climb, and were then left with about 25 miles of mostly downhill to get back to our vehicles. Needless to say, this last part went by very quickly.
Today's ride was of particular interest, because we were planning to do a race in British Columbia the following week which had slightly less mileage and climbing than this ride. Hopefully, this ride might serve as somewhat of an indicator for how things would go in the following week’s race. Things seemed to go pretty well for everyone, though I some fitness issues. A problem with my neck and some right arm numbness and tingling when riding had limited my riding over the preceding couple of weeks. Some changes in my seat and handlebar height seemed to be helping a bit, but I just wasn’t confident that I had enough fitness to make a decent showing in the following week’s race – more on that in our next blog post.
We made it back to the vehicles just in time to avoid the first rain shower of the morning – whew!! The long drive down to Toutle is a pain, but this is a great ride. It should be a fixture on our ride schedule for most years to come.
Next ride “Windy Ridge on Mt. St. Helens” – September 26th. Can’t wait!!