This adventure started out like so many others. A series of seemingly unrelated events aligned and I found myself in an interesting situation that I now feel inclined to share.
A theme for this ride was timing. That theme was kicked off on the Wednesday before when I was doing commutervals on my way into work. If you imagine one of those days when you hit every light red it was like that. Streets that are nearly always deserted had cars backing out of driveways with groggy drivers. It just kept happening and finally I made a game of it.
A half dozen men who sport the orange were planning to ride to the top of Hurricane Ridge and it sounded like a fun time. Once a year they open the road to cyclists. Perhaps a more accurate statement is that once each year they keep the freaking cars off the road for five hours and let the cyclists enjoy the view without the stench of exhaust or the threat of being mowed down by a Winnebago with a WALL DRUG bumper sticker.
I managed to meet up with the guys at the ferry just as they pulled up. I took the perfect timing as a positive sign. Despite the sign saying there was a two hour wait we got on the next ferry. Timing worked out again.
Big John had a friend with beds so we were able to crash near the ride start the night before and skip catching a pre-dawn ferry. The place was right out of middle earth complete with a forest dweller who offered us some vegetables right out of the ground. After a fitting pre ride dinner we crashed and crashed hard.
I woke a bit before sunrise and could hear my mates stirring. I checked the clock and it was one minute until the alarm was supposed to sound. The perfect timing continued.
Our morning unfolded like most do and before long we were dressed in matching costumes and anxious to get going. With road names like Chicken Coop and Kitchen Dick we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. I guess one of the selling points of living in Sequim is you can win a lot of bar bets with people trying to spell the town name. The street names are no less unique.
We followed the cars with bikes on them to registration where got our wrist bands and it was time to go. I’ve been doing races and Fondos for the last few years so the casual "start when you want" format felt odd. We rolled out and our ride followed the script we had all agreed upon. We would each ride to the top at our individual paces. We were free to go fast or slow as our conditioning, genes and mood dictated. The sorting took shape almost at once. John shot out first, his Pavlovian instincts quickly overruling any emotions or logic that might have slowed him. The Silver Bullet and I settled into a good tempo and we were locked in for the duration.
The Silver Bullet rolling just fine
I like to think that I do fairly well on long steady climbs. During my road racing career and on overly competitive group rides when we hit something that takes more than a minute to climb I am dropped straight away. It takes me a couple minutes for my body to shift into climbing mode. I don’t know if it is a cadence thing or what causes this but I’m good on short kickers and long steady climbs but in between I’m just crap.
On longer climbs like Cougar or Sauk I get dropped right at the bottom then I get in gear and soon pass some of the riders who dropped me. In addition, I had lost a couple of stubborn pounds so I was hoping that would translate into increased climbing prowess.
I watched my HR slowly climb and I felt good. I had ridden this road two years ago with only passing cars for company on the road. This day I had other riders around me so I could target them and pass them. Over the course of the day Barry and I would be passed by only four riders, one of whom we would later pass back so the net was three riders. Not bad for old men.
My legs started whining and I was still in zone four. I tried to embrace Rule # 5. This did not, however, result in any increase in speed. My HR held solid in zone four and would be there pretty much the entire climb. That was all I had this day.
The road soon emerged from the forest and the views opened up. Barry and I were passing people at a good rate. The riders included the full range. Fast and slow, skinny and large, young and old were all riding and enjoying and suffering as they chose. There were Schwinns and Pinerellos . Carbon, Ti, Steel and Aluminum were all present and accounted for. There were bike with racks and tubulars. This was a real smorgasbord of cycling.
Apparently the "bike only" rules were not well enforced and there were a handful of recumbents. Men and women with grey scraggly beards, tie dyed shirts and smelly wool shorts were plodding along. My observations indicate you have to be at least seventy years old to even buy a recumbent. It was disgusting. Flags and streamers and stuffed animals were attached to the filthy contraptions. I waited to see if any of the clowns were juggling. I followed the code and refused to acknowledge their existence. One of my mates offered some encouragement to a recumbent "driver" and I quickly coached him to ignore them in the future. That is what friends are for.
As the air grew thinner the views got better and better. We continued to pass people and the wonderfulness of not having to look over your shoulder or listen for cars was awesome. The bike-only environment was so refreshing.
We were getting closer to the top and as we rounded a corner I could see the road ahead was higher than I wanted it to be. I also knew that the high point I could see was not the high point of the ride. We continued to churn the pedals. Before long we were on that corner and then we could finally see the final turn. We had more climbing ahead but with the target in sight we kept pushing.
We could hear the faint sound of drums. As we got closer to the top the sound grew louder and it provided a needed mental boost. Soon we were rounding the corner and the grade was letting up. Our speed picked up and my chain zipped across the rear cassette.
As we rolled into the parking lot at the top with some speed there were people cheering. I noted many riders with their heads dropped, spent from the effort. For those who were in good shape this climb, though far from back-breaking, demanded a serious effort.
You're at the top of the road !
I looked around at the riders who had finished the climb their faces revealed the relief at only having a long downhill between them and done. This was not our plan today.
Someone told them they would get free beer for doing this.
Some people are so easily fooled.
"But wait, there’s more! If you act now we’ll double the offer!" We found Big John and the three of us headed down looking for the others from our team who had driven over that morning and thus had started much later.
After a speedy descent we spotted our brethren and our fingers got busy shifting from big rings in front and small in back to the reverse. We then climbed it all over again with our mates. It was all about timing. We kept it "real" but still found ourselves passing riders. We were even passing some riders we had passed on our first ascent. Ouch !
At the top we took group photos and enjoyed the view. The Cheetah commented that he was going to do this ride every year. It was a pleasant change to do a ride that was challenging yet didn’t leave us physically destroyed.
Can you spot the black sheep ?
The descent was long. It was sobering to think we had just climbed all of this. Even more sobering to think we had climbed it twice. It kept going and going. As we descended the thousands of feet our water bottled collapsed because of the pressure differential and on an innocuous curve a team bottle fell out of the bottle cage of one of our group necessitating a short retrieval activity. Realizing what had caused the bottle to disembark I popped the valves on my own bottles and heard a "woosh" sound. Then as I returned to the downward ride I looked and saw a handful of strewn bottles on the side of the road. Lesson learned.
Like food, only not as good for you
Back at the parking lot we changed clothes and partook in the provided post ride meal.
We parted and I was glad I wasn’t the one driving. Soon we were stuck waiting for a submarine at the hood Canal Bridge which wasn’t all bad. It was all about timing after all. We elected to return via the Kingston to Edmonds ferry which saved my life. We got in line and relaxed. The Silver Bullet bumped into someone he knew and Big John and I did our best not to embarrass him too much.
We made it back in plenty of time for dinner so once again, the timing worked out just fine.