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Cascade 1400 Recap
by Del Scharffenberg

2022 was the 9th Cascade ride. The previous eight were all 4-day 1200 km rides, with this one lengthened to 1400 km (874 miles) in 5 days, complete with 45,000 feet of climbing. So it was the second-longest ride I have ever done. (Only my 15-day PacTour in 1997 was much longer). The extra day this year was a day one loop around the Olympic Peninsula before the usual 4-day loop over the Washington Cascades and back. Organizers announced it was the first 1400 km in the USA.

The limit of 85 riders filled up early, with another couple dozen on a waiting list, but for many reasons only 67 riders actually made it to the start. Canadian Nigel Press could not get his passport in time. Final tally: 6 from Canada, 3 from Japan, 3 from Australia, 1 from Spain, 1 from Ireland. 53 USA riders: 24 WA, 12 CA, 5 OR, 2 CO, 2 TX, 2 VA, 1 each MT, AZ, MA, MD, IL, GA. Mandatory pre-ride meeting and bike inspection was Thursday afternoon, June 23 at Bainbridge Island. The first six Cascade 1200s looped from Monroe, WA, where we could leave our cars at the host hotel. Logistics for the 2016, 2018 and 2022 rides have been much more complicated. This time my son Erik drove up there with me, took my car home, then returned to Arlington five days later to drive my tired body home. I was introduced as the oldest participant (without specifying age) and the only rider to complete all eight previous versions. Lots of questions during the ride about my age, especially from the other 60+ riders.

Day 1. 212 miles around the Olympic Peninsula. About 48 degrees for the 5 am start. I rode the same Cervelo that I rode in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018. I foolishly tried to ride with the fastest group (like I could do 8 years ago), kept up for only about 15 miles until I dropped back from the remaining 15-rider pack. The first control was Port Ludlow at 26 miles, temp still in the 40's. A huge pack of riders came in just as I was getting back on the road in about 20th place. We rode many miles on the Olympic Discovery Trail, which was quite scenic, but did keep average speeds quite lower than out on the open road. I rode mostly solo, sometimes with Eric Larsen from California (his photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzY1Zs). Rode through Port Angeles on the waterfront trail with views across the Salish Sea to Victoria, Canada, 80 miles at about 11 am and temp still in the 60's. In the afternoon we rode the Spruce Railroad Trail along Lake Crescent, including original railroad tunnel. Again very scenic but somewhat slow going. I had not previewed the route as I usually do, so was disoriented by water on my left rather than on my right. It warmed up to 80 degrees late in the afternoon, we had a staffed rest stop at mile 177, about 7 pm with 35 miles still to go. The last few miles on US-101 were somewhat unpleasant. I rode into Lake Quinault School at 9:47 pm, finished the day with Karel from Montana, my roommate the previous night. Good food prepared in the school cafeteria, showers and sleeping space (gym floor) at the small school at Amanda Park next to Lake Quinault. Everybody finished, some as late as 3 am.

Day 2. 201 miles. I am not an early riser, so was one of the last to wake up and get on the road Saturday morning. After the first day you can start whenever you want as long as you get to the next checkpoint before it closes. Today that would be 88 miles by 6:22 pm. I headed out on US-101 at 6:25 am, 51 degrees. 25 miles south on the highway, then we turned east onto less-travelled roads and headed toward the Cascades. I saw no other riders, as most had started much earlier. Headwind was discouraging through Montesano and Elma and it was near 80 degrees by 10:30 am. I pulled into a minimart in Elma and the little bump in the pavement surface was enough to break the KlickFix seatpost attachment and my rear cargo bag fell into my rear wheel. So happy that did not happen on one of the fast downhill mountain passes! But I needed a way to carry all my spares, tools, extra food and clothes. I attempted to tie it to my frame or handlebars, but results were very awkward. No way I could ride up the mountains that way. Just a few miles down the road there was a craft sale going on at the Sharon Grange Hall. I went in and saw a little red backpack just inside the entryway. Asked if it was for sale and was told no. Looked around at the needlework for sale, again asked about the backpack, was told it was in a donation box, so I suggested I could donate cash in exchange for the pack that I desperately needed. "Make an offer"..."how about $5?"...and I had a solution to my problem, wore that for the next 600 miles! But it had cost me a couple hours of time too, so here I was on a warm afternoon with 135 miles still to ride. Three other riders happened by, so at least I had some company for a while...until I had my only flat tire of the trip about 20 miles later. That was just a few miles before the staffed checkpoint at a rural fire station. I rode in at 2:19 pm, 4 hours before cutoff time. Several other riders were there, 82 degrees warm. I continued riding solo to the next checkpoint in Vader, arrived at 5:43 pm, 87 degrees. One of the volunteers there had a floor pump so I could fully inflate that front tire, which I had not thought to do at the previous stop. Vader has often been an STP checkpoint too, so I was finally back into familiar territory. One more staffed checkpoint, at Cinebar on WA-508, 70 degrees at 9 pm with 50 miles still to ride after dark. My Petzl headlamp that I use for night running fits under my helmet, so was my solution to reading my cue sheet and my Cateye in the dark. I also learned it is nearly as bright as my headlight and doubles up for lighting the road at higher speeds. I might have been the only rider using only the cue sheet and not a ridewithgps track. That was a problem transitioning from WA-508 to US-12 in Morton in the dark night, where the street names were not agreeing. Another rider came through and set me straight after I wandered around several blocks. The last 20 miles to Packwood were rather nerveracking with debris on the highway shoulder and a serious rumble strip to keep away from. It was slow going compared to other times I rode this stretch in daylight. I could see a couple other taillights far ahead of me, including the guy who had set me straight. I did not arrive in Packwood until 1:47 am, 54 degrees. Good food was still being served by the outdoor fire pit. A few riders were still arriving from a long day and some of the faster group were already queueing up to start day 3 before the sun rose to warm up the day. My roommate Karel was asleep and I tried not to disturb him, showered, plugged in 4 devices to recharge (headlight, taillight, phone and headlamp), had a good sleep but much shorter than needed. Karel was gone when I woke up and he was hours ahead of me the rest of the trip.

Day 3. 187 miles including 4500' White Pass and 4124' Blewett Pass. As I finish later and later and get too little sleep, I also get off to later morning starts. Today that was 7:17 am, 56 degrees, immediately climbing White Pass on US-12. Its a long steady climb that I have done many times before. I passed two or three riders, took a short break at the little store on top, bought some much-needed lip balm, met up with Canadian Rick den Braber, another of the senior riders, who I ended up riding many miles with over the last three days. I cautioned Rick that in past years while coasting down the hill riders had missed the right turn to Clear Lake (myself included). He responded that downhills were for going fast as possible, not coasting. We did find the checkpoint at Clear Lake Day Use Area just after 11 am, then continued the route around two lakes before reconnecting to US-12 sixteen miles later. The highway here was quite awful. It parallels the Tieton River, which is very nice, but the shoulder is narrow to none, with a constant stream of campers towing boats and trailers. And it was getting hot, 90's. Quite a relief to cross the Naches River and ride on the Old Naches Road into the town of Naches. A past Cascade 1200 had spent a night at the Naches School and I recalled a great ice cream place we had visited nearby. So I went off course a while to find it and what I found was a busy burger drive-in there. Disappointed and 10 or 15 minutes wasted, I wandered back through Naches just in time to meet Rick again. We found Sticky Fingers Bakery & Cafe, they did have ice cream but only vanilla. I ordered a root beer float and one of their giant cinnamon rolls, we sat outside in the hot shade, another rider rolled in just as we were leaving. That was not a wise combination to eat on a hot 90 degree afternoon and I was soon stopping at the park outhouse along the Naches Trail. Then Rick was disrobing before visiting said filthy outhouse? Oh sure...bib shorts...and why I will never wear them. From here we had to climb several steep suburban hills to reach the Selah checkpoint. 3:42 pm and 90+ degrees at the minimart. Cue directions were very confusing here and fortunately a ride volunteer popped by to point us in the correct direction toward Ellensberg. It was a hot, slow 30 miles on WA-821 through Yakima River Canyon. I stopped at Flying J truck stop and got a giant drink, then met up with three riders just coming out of the nearby restaurant, so had company navigating through Ellensburg. Before we turned onto US-97 for the Blewett Pass climb, we stopped to put on our lighting and reflective clothing. Six of us were riding together, but somehow Rick and I, the oldest and slowest of the group ended up pulling ahead. (We learned later than one of the group had DNF'd). It was dark, getting cold but I refused to stop until the checkpoint. And finally we got there at 11:25 pm. A huge canopy was set up, a giant support van, quite a few other riders there, quite a party going on! It might have been 50's or 60 degrees, but I went into the van and put on all my warm clothes, dreading the long dark descent. Four of us rode together, or at least started together. I was much slower and more cautious than the others. Seattle rider John Nguyen slowed down to take care of me. Down where US-97 meets US-2 was confusing, even for the three riders with gps. We stopped to figure out where Deadman Hill Road was (yes, a very appropriate road name at the time), then continued on the hilliest, most circuitous route to Wenatchee, still 20 miles away. Route designers must have taken great pains to show us the cool bike infrastructure, but all four of us were just gripeing as we several times made five turns in a mile, seemingly getting nowhere, many expletives. Finally arrived at the Wenatchee High School overnight stop at 3:25 am, 64 degrees. Nice spacious gym floor, shower room and cafeteria space.

Day 4. "Only" 137 miles. It was refreshing to wake relatively late, come out to breakfast and find a lot of other riders still here, including the other two Portland riders, Jay and Taylor. They invited me to ride in their little group, with very strong young Japanese Mari Muto. We left at 9 am, 70 degrees. We stopped at a local fruit market to sample the local Rainier cherries and the ice cream. Down the road I lost contact briefly, but rejoined them at a short stop in Chelan. After a while we were again on US-97, riding north along the upper Columbia River. And it was getting hot, 90's or even 100+ and just like yesterday when it got hot after my food stop, I had to find a rest stop. Lucky for me there are several rustic boat ramps with pit toilets along this deserted stretch of river. After my stop I could still see my little group disappearing far up the road, but was pleased to find them, along with quite a few more riders cooling off at the Pateros check point. I checked in at 2:22 pm, 94 degrees in the shade, much hotter out on the open road. Ride volunteers were handing out great quantities of ice. I consumed several refills. Then we proceeded up the Methow Valley to Twisp and Winthrop. The group quickly dropped me again and I made slow progress this afternoon, stopping to refresh in the sprinklers at the park in Methow, then Caroton General Store where I met Rick and a couple other riders, then finally feeling pretty good again and overtook a very large group of riders resting at Hanks Market in Twisp. It was still 90 degrees at 7:27 pm at the info control between Twisp and Winthrop. I was feeling quite good, riding solo and feeling smug about keeping ahead of the big bunch not far behind me. Then I really blew it. There were half a dozen quick turns in Winthrop, but the street corners had no sign posts. So I just took what appeared to be the main through route. And I met and chatted briefly with Vinay who was photographing the ride. I was on course, was supposed to go up E Chewuch Rd, but somehow was instead on W Chewuch Rd, which took me to the correct info control, 84 degrees at 8:32 pm. I recorded the answer to verify my passage, put on my reflective night gear and cleared out of there before the other riders arrived. Cue said to turn left here, which I did...and headed way off course. After dark and another 7 or 8 miles I realized I was off course because I should have been back on the highway in 11 km. Now I was seriously confused, had no map, was out of cell or internet range, nobody caught up after I had stopped 10 minutes. Nothing to do but u-turn and trudge back up that long hill I had just come down. Headquarters had noticed my tracker roaming far astray, so sent somebody out to round me up. I was by then back on course and in a very foul mood, but nothing left but to get the day over with. I came dragging in to Mazama at 12:55 am, 60 degrees, 2 or 3 hours behind. What a waste, because I had a beautiful luxurious room all to myself and no time to enjoy it. It took me a while to figure out, but it turns out that way back in Winthrop I should have gone up East Chewuch, turned left at the checkpoint onto West Chewuch. Everybody's been telling me I really need to get one of those electronic gps gadgets...maybe they're right. Excellent food and lodging at Mazama Country Inn. This is the only overnight site that has been used for all nine Cascade 1200/1400 rides, and the latest by far that I have arrived.

Day 5. A mere 135 miles to the finish. (Cutoff time 1:40 am June 29). No intermediate control stops today. I slept well, but just not enough hours. Mazama always has the best gourmet breakfast, but you don't want to eat too much because the day starts right out climbing Washington Pass, the highest point of the entire ride, about 17 miles away. I departed at 7:44 am, 63 degrees. For the first time in the nine events, I rode the entire hill without seeing another rider until the summit, where I arrived just after Rick. It was nice to have a friendly aid station set up next to the snow at the view area. Then instead of a fast coast, I had to pedal into a strong headwind to make downhill progress. There was major road construction on the highway through North Cascades National Park, forcing a short truck shuttle for about two downhill miles. We exit the National Park at Newhalem, where there has always been a store open, but this year it was closed, so no ice cream. I was surprised to meet Jay here though, waiting for Taylor, Mari and Andrew, who were still behind us. So I also waited and rejoined that bunch for the last 75 miles. It went well, we rode quite fast, stopped at Marblemount and Darrington stores, met a couple other groups along the way. It started raining with less than 20 miles to go, and like the finishing approach two nights ago, about 15 turns in the last 5 miles to the finish at Best Western in Arlington. Finished at 8 pm, exactly 111 hours after we started. Nice little party going on, pizza and soda and beer. Erik had been waiting patiently for many hours to pack up and drive me home.

HERE is the daily rider tracking spreadsheet.

And this spreadsheet https://goo.gl/Vm4RhP lists worldwide RM riders with ten or more finishes. Although I had not done one since 2018, there are still only three dozen riders with more than my 18 finishes.

 


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August 17, 2022

 

 

 

 

 

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