Monday, August 22, 2011

West Coast Tour: Vancouver BC to Seattle

With six days off in a row, I was forced to have some type of adventure. After checking with the usual partners who where grinding the wheel, I had to chose a solo event. Since I have a new not so shiny touring bike I decided on a ride from Vancouver to Seattle. The trip starts when I arrive at the Vancouver airport at about 3:00pm, spend my 2 hours setting up my bike and heading South.

As usual, I didn't really plan much... or not at all. So I stopped by the visitor center to get a map and ask questions that no one could answer about where to ride your bike. Thankfully the Vancouver city bike map has recommended bike routes.
Heading south out of town I took the east route to Stevenson Wharf where I had an excellent Slab of Salmon. Then after enjoying the sunset over the lake I road east to a curious Louisiana Voodoo community at the corner Dike and Number 4 road.
worth the visit, as long as its not dark anyway. Then onward to my grassy industrial camping site, which had the best blackberries I've ever had. Early the next morning I was up and packet to catch the George Massey Tunnel shuttle at 7:00am, then on to the rail trail near highway 91. In retrospect I would probably try to camp on this trail next time. Following the trail south through watershed park I took my one and only wrong turn (if such a thing is possible on a tour) but got to see some of the famous BC extreme mountain bike trails. Few of which I would have tried even on my 7 inch travel bike.

After leaving watershed park I headed south to Mud bay then East to White Rock for the boarder crossing into the US. It turned out to be uneventful, although completely unmarked for the rookie cyclist. After that I headed South to Blaine where I picked up the bellingham map with recommended cycling routes, perfect. See sometime lack of planning can be an excellent plan! I then took the very direct Portal Way drive down to Tenant lake Park for night number two. It was at this not so exciting bird refuge like park that I spent the night next to a large, ruminant stomach animal. I would keep waking up to snorting and loud breathing and of course the associated chewing.
I was too tired, and even less brave to do much but move around so that the large creature at least new I was there and didn't step on me. Thankfully in the morning when I woke up for good, it was gone.

After secretly leaving my campsite behind I road to the Bellingham Pier for a breakfast of oatmeal and peanut butter bagels. I made a stop at the shop in town to get some much needed anti-chaff stuff.... oh so worth it. Then I continued on via the amazing Chuckanut drive:
must see if your in the area. After that through the rain shadow filled with lavender to a little town of Edison where the Farm to Market Bakery is. Another place that you need to stop, have something wonderful from their menu, and bring cash because thats all they take.
After Edison the road is Mid West like until you hit highway 20 where you get to experience Washington traffic for the first time. Not so fun, but worth he sacrifice. There is a very large shoulder and plenty of room. Once you hit the bay, its actually pretty interesting too. After crossing Fidalgo Island head South to Deception Pass State park. I spent the night here, and it was well worth it. They have 5 campsites just for bikes, and they are away from everyone else so you don't hear the generators or screaming children. They also have token run showers... pure bliss after 3 days of sweaty touring. The beach and the forest are amazing too. If I was going to take an off day, this is where I'd want to spend it.

The next day was a marathon, that I didn't really plan on, it just happened again due to lack of planning. Whidbey Island is a beautiful place and well worth the ride. A good friend of mine just happened to grow up on the island and mapped out a route for me to ride, perfect.
After passing through oak harbor make a hard left to Coupeville then south to Fort Casey, back east to the N Bluff road along the coast, and through the forest. Basically follow the Holmes Harbor shore road to the Earth Sanctuary. From here I was on a time crunch (at least I thought) and so I took 525 head down and grind style to catch the ferry... which I missed by like 30 seconds. Finally at about 6:30 I was back on the mainland in Mukilteo thinking I just had a little while to get to a friends who I was staying at. Unfortunately it was still 35 miles to go. The greater Seattle area has excellent cycling maps with preferred routes in PDF form on the internet. The only problem is they are a little big for the iphone to process so you get to spend lots of time waiting for it to open. I'm sure the ipad would be excellent.

My good friend Todd who has a wife and 2 girls under the age of 5 was leaving the next day for Utah but was nice enough to stay up and wait for me to arrive at his house at 1100pm. I had an excellent time, although had a 1 close call with a mini van mom. She of course never even knew it. One thing I learned is that the bike paths and routes are very well planned out, although sometimes its difficult to find the quickest route, as the most direct may not be the fastest. I caught the BG trail at the North end of Lake Washington thinking I was almost there when within a mile the trail was closed for construction. They generously had planned out a detour, but it clearly wasn't a biker where set the route, more like a construction worker, or a sports car driver because it was ridiculous! Continuous grades up to 15% that take you to the highest point in seattle, just to bypass a short section of trail.
unseasoned cyclist would have been left crying on the roadside in the fetal position. When I got to the top of the ridge the detour promptly headed backdown to the shoreline. I elected to bail since the place I was staying was up on the ridge. I found my own way from there, with only one hill left. So when traveling in Seattle, don't take the detour, find your own way. There was one more such detour around the university bridge, luckily this time I checked the map and chose the better route. The next day I just hung out with old friends, spend some time cycling in downtown seattle, and promptly missed my flight out.

Sunday morning I was much more motivated to get out so I planned out my ride to the light rail, then the light rail to the airport... Unfortunately they didn't update there light rail times online, just in reality so when I showed up, the door where locked and they didn't run for another hour. After much stressing and suffering I just bit the bullet and took the $40 taxi to the airport. It turned out to be the better choice as I still was a little tight on time after the bike packing and checkin. For the first time ever, my bike actually arrived in SLC with me. I even just went straight to the lost baggage counter without checking, since thats where I always end up.

All in all it was an excellent tour. Next time I would probably do an Island tour like most of the other tourers. Starting in Victoria BC, doing the San Juan Islands, Whidbey, and back North. Or I would just do the Island's all the way South to the Olympic Peninsula.
Next section: Seattle to Portland

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2 Canyons, 2 basins, and 3 ski resorts

After being seriously fatigued, suffering from anti-running disease, and feeling like I'm a month behind on my training, I decide to give up on the Wasatch 100. After finishing the speedgoat 1 hour 10 minutes slower than last year, and feeling like death I calculated an estimated time at Wasatch of between 33-38 hours. Clearly time is not everything, and its a great accomplishment just to finish the race, at any time. But I don't think I'm really willing to give up my life for another month of the summer to running when my time is almost certainly going to be slower than before.

As you can guess, the last month or two of training is where your friends and family suffer the most because your gone pretty much all the time running. So to have the chance again in the future to get a better time, save a little wear and tear on the menisci and other such body parts, I think I will wait for another year. Plus, I may not even get a belt buckle this year and we all know its really about the belt buckles.

As soon as I settled in with the thought of riding my bike, climbing, chilling out, and NOT running all the time I of course got right back into.... you guest it, running. Here is one of my runs from this week that I particularly enjoyed.

Distance: 11.6
Time: 3:20
Ave HR 138
Max HR: 174
Cal: 1920
Pace: 17:09
Altitude: unknown

Since the map ended up super small, and I can't really tell whats happening I'll give you the route.

Start out at Brighton Ski resort, take the Catherine's pass trail to the ridge between big and little, then take a left up the steep climb to the South, follow this trail through the sand pit to the top of Alta. Catch the Alta road all the way down to the bottom of Albion Basin. After you leave the camp ground, as I did, you may take a short trail detour up to the top of the ski for free lifts, then back down to the road on nice single track. Then follow the road down toward the entrance to Grizzly gulch about 1/4 mile before the first big switchback (going down) catch a steep trail on your rights that leads up to the power lines. (the same route you would skin up Grizzly) Follow it until reaching the top of the last basin before Twin lakes pass and watch for a double track turn back to the left on Davenport Hill tell the low saddle into East Silver Fork. From there, the trail deteriorates significantly and sometimes you either have to carefully go from karn to karn, or just make your own trail.

Go past the old mine via a nice trail and then follow the faint trail down the ridge, as it weaves around. You will lose the trail a number of times, but with a little luck you usually pick it up. After lots of steep, lose, rocky decents you will make it to the real hiking trail at the bottom. Take it all the way to the pavement where you will stay left until you reach the cheater trail onto Solitude Mountain Resort's, Queen Bess trail. From their follow in East up the canyon until you merge with the paved solitude road, take it down to the town and finish by the lake. Without a shuttle you will want to continue via the solitude road past the pond all the way to silver lake. From silver lake straight line it to your finish.