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Oregon Coast 1000 - Day 1
Making it to Montesano
June 22-25, 2013
by John Oswald

In four parts: Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Epilogue

If it's dark, you are out of breath and you're sweating through your carefully chosen outfit as a strobe light flashes, you are probably at a rave...or late for the start of a rando ride. As I charged through the back roads of the False Creek Flats on the way to the Central Station near Science World I wondered if I'd make it to the start before the group pulled out. Given that the organizer, Bob Koen was riding, I had left myself with a pretty slim margin.

I had soaked up a lot of experience from Eric Fergusson on our Flèche ride earlier in the Spring and one of the things he made clear was that sleep before the ride mattered as much or more than sleep on a multi-day ride. I took his advice the night before the night before the Flèche and it allowed me to ride through the night on less than 10 minutes sleep. The same practice had allowed me to ride through on the Merritt Loop 600 and get a great time despite three flats. While I had slept well Thursday night, I had gotten greedy and pushed the limits of my ability to get on the road quickly by taking an extra 15 minutes of sleep this morning and I was now paying for it.

As I rounded the corner on Station Street at 4:58 I was relieved to see a landing strip's worth of rear flashers in the park but when I pulled up to register, I realized I'd forgotten to get cash last night. Once again, Eric saved me by pulling out an American $20 bill and saying I could get him back later. I was confident this would work itself out since we were rooming together at the overnight controls. We were underway almost immediately and since I was already warmed up I found myself pushing the pace and leading the group all the way to the Canada Line Bridge. Once we had cleared the bumpy construction site east of the bridge, I pulled out of the group and soft pedalled while I ate the scrambled eggs I'd made at 4:45 and carried until I had a chance--on Vulcan Way--to eat them. Having cleaned out my Gladware I put in a little push and re-joined Eric, Will Danicek and Dave King in a bit of a pace line along River Road.

I am still a bit of a noob when it comes to South of the Fraser route finding and I appreciated having Will to direct me through the maze of sidewalks, gravel paths and bike routes on to the Alex Fraser Bridge. South of the bridge was more route finding and some steep climbs but it did keep us off the beaten path and I always like to learn of new roads I would never have found without the route sheet.

When we came out onto Colebrook Road I began to settle into the reality of the ride and realize that I didn't have to pedal at the limit as we still had another 960km to go. The ride up King George was peaceful at 7am but I did pull off at a Petro Canada to unload some Canadian change so I would not have to carry it 900km.

As I sped to catch Will before the Peace Arch I saw Sigi ringing a cow bell at the roundabout at the base of King George--nice! Once across the border, I rode with Will and Dave King for a while and the stretch to the Birch Bay Control was really calm and enjoyable. After riding past the BP plant the group spread out a bit on the rolling terrain until Dave caught up with me at the lights in Ferndale. We had crossed paths with a local group ride at Birch Bay and when we saw them again outside of Bellingham, Dave dropped off my wheel. Since I had eaten my breakfast on the ride, I decided to get onto Chuckanut early while it was still cool and grab a sandwich in Edison.

There was a triathlon race going the opposite direction and it was fascinating looking at the different outfits and body shapes in the race. I wonder what they thought about the collection of idiosyncratic loners riding the other way...

You know you live a charmed life when you want to rush through Chuckanut because you've ridden it 'too many times' in the last two years but I was looking forward to getting off Whidbey Island ASAP and onto new (to me) roads on the Olympic Peninsula. In Edison I ordered a sandwich to go--putting on sunscreen while they made it--and was rolling out in less than 15minutes. I probably should have ordered the smaller sandwich (the last time I got the large the tandem stoker ate 1/3) but I managed to get over the distended abdomen before the bridge to Anacortes. It was cool to find a third route around town and after crossing over Hwy 20 I waved to a guy on his deck who promptly invited me in for burgers. Having just begun to digest my sandwich I declined but they did smell good. The route sheet said to turn onto Gibraltar which was a bit ominous...The climb lived up to the name but fortunately it was in the shade. There was another bit of climbing to get up to Hwy 20 and the bridge.

After re-filling my bottles at the rest stop just off the bridge I saw that I had 1.5 hours to get to the 2pm ferry 30km away so I got into my Fabien Cancellra fake aerobars breakaway stance and got after it. Despite hitting every single one of the 327 traffic lights in Oak Harbour in the heat of the day, I managed to get to the ticket booth with 5 minutes to spare. On the ferry, there was actually a bike ramp on a set of stairs... that lead to a bike room...with a proper rack that I helmet-locked my bike to. After using the facilities and refilling my bottles I met an androgynous looking guy on his way to, "an mystic book store," in Port Townsend--gotta love the island life! He told me Hood Canal (our route) was a nice ride and it was...but it took a while to get there.

The hot climb out of the ferry terminal and over the rise to US 101was crowded but most of the traffic headed to Bremerton--suckers!--and I had the road to myself for long stretches the rest of the day.

This part of Hwy 101 had interesting concrete arched bridges and ran against the west bank of the canal so it was nice to ride in the shade for most of the 78km. The sky was that deep blue that you get in the early evening of a nice day and I could see Mount Rainer looming above Puget Sound in the distance.

I stopped for 'dinner' at an IGA and had a quick conversation out front with a SIR guy who asked if I was on a 400 or 600km ride. Between hurried bites of a Corn Dog and desperate gulps at a Starbucks branded beverage I explained that it was a 1000km to Eugene and he wished me luck. I continued on in hopes of reaching Montesano in the daylight. There was one little cottage community on a lake with views of the mountains but most of the final fifth of the ride after the canal was through clear cut forest lots. The two exceptions on the landscape were sobering reminders that not everything in life is a ride down the coast: a federal corrections facility and a nuclear reactor.

At the prison the clients were out in the yard and it was quite a strange feeling to be flying by with nothing but open road ahead while <100 yards to my left hundreds of men only had the prison yard to work with. I even spied one of the bad boys in cuffs (who appeared to have lost some privileges) being lead around by his entourage who, I presumed, were there to prevent him from being cheap-shotted by rivals while out in the yard. The little bit of knee pain I was feeling didn't seem like that much of a big deal after that.

Just before turning onto Monte Elma Road I saw the reactor on the horizon. You can find yourself feeling pretty complacent in BC knowing that most of our power is hydro-electric and that we are immune to the dangers of nuclear power. Being reminded that the nearest reactor is within a day's ride is a good way to rip the smug off your mug.

I rolled into the motel in Montesano at 9:48, grabbed some adult recovery drinks for myself and Eric and ordered enough pizza for the two of us. I got up to my room and washed my clothes to the melodious tone of the smoke alarm's change-battery warning beep. I left a message at the front desk about the problem and jumped into the shower. Of course the pizza guy and the girl with an new battery arrived while I was finishing the shower and I had to conduct all that business in a towel ("How you doin'?"). With all visitors having departed, I chowed all the pizza and beverages I could, left a note for Eric to enjoy what remained and promptly fell asleep.

Go to: Day 2


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September 7, 2013