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Redlining the (type 2) fun meter
An account of the Olympic Peninsula 1000 km brevet
Ride Dates: August 5-8, 2017
by Bob Koen

“I ache in the places where I used to play”
Leonard Cohen, 1988 (no relation to the author)

I love the long rides. These rides are where randonneuring truly separates itself from the everyday humdrum of the active lifestyle. And in BC the 1000s are true adventures because there is no pre-ride. All the mistakes that are certain to happen when a cue sheet is cobbled together from Google Maps get discovered during the ride. Some improvising skills and route finding savvy are definitely required.

Earnest Hemingway said that there are only 3 true sports, those being mountain climbing, bull fighting, and motor sports. All the rest are merely games. The theory being that these are sports where you can die.

I guess Earnest never did a long Rando ride.

Day 1 (361 km 3460 meters climbing)

This ride started off well enough with 4 happy bike riders rambling along, sharing witticisms, and enjoying the sun rising in a blood orange hazy ball in the east. The sunrise was beautiful but the wrong color entirely due to the smoke from the forest fires in the interior.

The first sign of trouble occurred as we were clearing US customs. The customs officer went on a rant about us not using the bike rack. Will and I ended up hustling Jodi out of the border control shack before we all got thrown in the Homeland Security slammer for inappropriate leaning of bicycles against their nice building. She was right that it was a piece of crap bike rack that wasn’t suitable for high end bicycles. But it may have been best to not the customs officer that.

Shortly after that I fell off the back of the pack when the pace got too much for me. Jodi and Will did a good job of keeping up with Jeff. We all regrouped at the first control in Bellingham and spent far too long replacing the calories that we had burned off so far. Shortly after that I again fell off the back of the pack on the Chuckanut drive. I have done enough long rides to know that going over my lactate threshold early in the game will make the latter part of the game even more extremely painful than it is inevitably going to be. So I watched them disappear down the road and settled in for a long solo ride. I caught up again at a newly opened brewery where Will and Jeff did an abrupt hard left into the establishment to unload old coffee and reload with fresh beer. Jodi had more sense than to be drinking beer for breakfast on a long ride. I had less sense than that but arrived too late to partake. This was the last I ever saw of Jodi on this ride.

After the beer break we continued on south through the hills of Fidalgo and Whidby Islands to the ferry at Coupville. I was again off the back but was surprised when Will showed up after me. He had been misled by an errant cue and did some unplanned sightseeing on south Whidby Island. Jodi and Jeff had caught the previous ferry so now we were two teams of two.

After the ferry Will and I rode on through more hills for a couple of hours until he stopped in a gas station for some food and I carried on. I stopped later in Port Angeles for a meal.

At this point I had another Leonard Cohen tune rolling around in my head. The smoke had cleared just enough that I could make out the Olympic mountains above Port Angeles. Part of the tune goes “It’s real but it ain’t exactly there” which perfectly described the ethereal nature of the view. Leonard was actually talking about democracy in the USA. Don’t get me started on that topic.

It was getting dark and I still had 100+ km to get to Forks for the overnight control. I
was pretty depressed when I made the turn onto WA-112 and saw a sign that read “Fresh chip seal next 41 miles”. Arrrrgh! Chip seal was to be the bane of my existence for the rest of the Olympic Peninsula. They have pretty much buried what used to be beautiful pavement under horrible chip seal for most of the rest of the roads that we cycled on the peninsula.

Once it was fully dark I slowed down and plodded on. I could hear the ocean pounding on the shore, quite close in places. I suspect that this section is really beautiful but I never actually saw any of it. After many hours where I kept riding slower and slower and revising my ETA to later and later I finally got to Forks at 2:30 am. The control closed at 5 am so I was looking at maybe 1.5 hours of sleep plus time for a shower. Jeff was there and still wide awake. He had stayed with Jodi for the entire 180 km ride from the ferry and they had got in not much earlier. Jeff gave me the sad news that Jodi had decided to abandon the ride. This was her first attempt at an ultra distance brevet and in hindsight it was probably not the best one to choose for learning the hard lessons about how to do a really long ride. I have no idea how she got home from Forks. Will had not yet arrived.

Day 2 (323 km 1970 meters climbing)

The motel alarm failed to go off but somehow I popped awake at the desired time of 4:30 am. Much to my surprise there was Will fresh from taking a shower. He had just recently arrived and had no time to get any sleep in a bed. He had taken some ditch naps and he looked pretty good. The three of us went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant that opened at 5:30 am. I left before the other two and this was the last I ever saw of Will during the ride. I started off on a long section of much easier terrain than we had seen on day 1. This part went through Olympic National Park with its big trees and wide ocean beaches. After 60 km I stopped to adjust clothing and Jeff caught up to me and then quickly dropped me. I caught up to him again at a convenience store in Amanda Park at the 102 km mark. That was the last I saw of Jeff that day. The route eventually left Hwy 101 and headed out to the coast at Moclips. From there on down to Ocean Shores it was pretty urbanized but quite beautiful if a little hilly. In Oregon these would be Capes. In Washington they were just hills. Either way they were short and nasty.

Eventually the route brought me into Ocean Shores. This turned out to be a master planned community where the plan seemed to have gone off the rails at some point. It was a straight shot to the control but after that I had routed us through some subdivisions that looked interesting on Google Maps. They turned out to be very interesting. After a few km there was a turn onto a “gravel path” for 1.1 km. This turned out to be a dirt road that soon deteriorated into a thicket of coastal scrub that forced me off the bike. I walked for a while but then turned around when the bush got ridiculously thick. I backtracked and found a way around this mess. I later found out that Jeff had persevered and ended up crawling under bushes dragging his bike behind him. I have not yet heard how Will dealt with this mess.

After finding my way around to where the ‘gravel path’ exited the thicket I soon encountered more difficulties where the master plan got modified. One road ended in a parking lot. Another ended in a pedestrian mall that was still under construction. Some creative route finding plus some local knowledge gleaned from people out walking their dogs eventually got me out of Ocean Shores and back onto roads that were actually on the cue sheet. I probably lost an hour dealing with this mess. To me this is the kind of thing that appeals about these ‘adventure rides’. You never know what problem solving skills you are going to need to get through.

From there the route followed some busy roads to Hoquiam and then through the less desirable neighborhoods of Aberdeen. After that it got dark and my pace again slowed to a crawl. However I was now on familiar roads from the Oregon Coast and Cape Disappointment rides so I knew what to expect. The route climbed very gradually and then dropped steeply into the next overnight control at Shelton. I arrived at 1:30 am with a whopping 3 hours in the bank. Jeff was there sleeping and Will was nowhere to be seen. I showered and got two hours of sleep.

Day 3 (317 km 2600 meters climbing)

Will was not there when we got up. But the blinky in the window had failed sometime after I got in so it was possible that he had arrived but been unable to find the room. We found out later that was not the case and that he was sleeping in a ditch somewhere short of Shelton.

We knew that there was a 24 hour Denny’s restaurant about 3 km off route but decided to ride to Belfair at the 40 km mark and look for some food there. The route soon got hilly and Jeff got ahead once again. When I got to Belfair I found 2 coffee kiosks and a McDonalds. I circled the McD’s looking for a bicycle and seeing none I carried on.

As I rode into Bremerton on an extremely busy road I passed a new looking aircraft carrier docked in the Navy complex there. I am not a big fan of war machines but I was impressed by how big that boat was.

The route through Bremerton didn’t take me past any likely looking breakfast restaurants. There was one donut shop but even in my now very hungry state it didn’t satisfy my criteria. As I was riding north out of town I was caught from behind by Jeff. He had been in the McD’s after all. Shortly after that I finally found a pancake house that satisfied my requirements very well. Jeff joined me for his second breakfast. We split up after that and Jeff eventually finished the ride in 66:15.

I rode on through the day on mostly pleasant roads and some increasing heat and smog from the wildfires. Once I got to the ferry at Port Townsend I was back on roads that we had ridden two days earlier. After that my goal was to get to Bellingham by dark. I just made it. But now that it was dark again my pace slowed to its usual speed through the night. By now I was one hurting unit. My legs were bathed in lactic acid and my butt wanted nothing at all to do with my bicycle seat. And I was desperately tired. I napped 4 times that day and night. Eventually the end drew near and I arrived at the finish in 71:18.

I suspected that Will was pretty much doomed by this point. But I have learned over the years to never underestimate Mr. Danicek. He did complete the route in the end by using almost every minute of time available. Chapeau! I doubt that I could have done what he did.

Hallucinations

I heard voices in the forest on a lonely section of road late on the second night. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. But it didn’t matter because they weren’t real.

I saw an amazing Technicolor bush by the side of the road. This was also on the second night. It was beautiful, but all wrong. I think my brain pulled this bush out of the forest in the movie Avatar.

I saw the most amazing blood orange colored sunsets and sunrises on this ride. The full moon was also a spectacular blood orange color. But this was real. It was due to the forest fire smoke drifting out to the coast from the BC interior.

On the third morning after two nights with no sleep Will thought he was being served coffee by topless women in a coffee kiosk in Belfair. But wait, this was real also.

Conclusion

This was a terrific ride. It had adventure and spectacular scenery and plenty of challenge. It is not quite an instant classic because of some very busy roads and a whole lot of chip seal. It should be offered again perhaps as a June 1000 but also would work well for an August or September 1000 because it avoids the interior and therefore isn’t likely to be stinking hot. I have rerouted the mess through Ocean Shores and added a lot of notes to the cue sheet so that if the ride gets done again riders will have slightly less adventure and slightly more sleep.



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August 12, 2017

 

 

 

 

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