|Newsletter - 2023 Archive
2022 Cascade 1400
This story was originally finished in December 2022. I held on to it until now, December 2023, to give you something to read on these short wet days and long cold nights. The winter months can be lean for riding adventure stories.
As I write this, there is 25cm of fresh dry snow outside. While I would like to go for a ski, I will wait a day or two before the roads are passable before venturing out. Instead, I will spend the day clearing snow from the sidewalk, roof and lane of my house and my inlaws place. When recovering from that, why not spend some time writing? The Cascade ride was exactly six months ago, and the idea of riding a bike today is not first and foremost in my mind, though I am feeling somewhat knackered, as though I had just completed day 3 of the Cascade.
Prelude (pre ride day)
The first big ride since PBP 2019. Paul Van Wersch and I drove down to Seattle together. It was my first time out of Canada since late 2019. Same for Paul. Our intent was to park in a parking lot close to the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Unfortunately the parking lot, and address, did not exist. We circled twice around the block to confirm, and indeed, it did not exist. Paul had booked the parking online, so we made the choice to drive onto the ferry with the end goal of leaving the car on Bainbridge Island. The weather was really nice, moderate temps….not too hot, not cold. We met our first two Cascade riders on the ferry; Marie and Takehiro from Japan.
On arrival on Bainbridge, we made our way to the hotel, but check in was a few hours away. We spent the time putting bikes together and meeting some arriving riders. Thai Nyugen, Renato Arnoco, Francis Lim, Ian Flitcroft were a few I can remember.
We gathered up the road at a school for the bike check and pre meet. This was the first meeting I had with a mechanic, Chris, from Oregon, who was going to be providing his services for the duration of the event. I came to know Chris quite well over the course of the event. Susan Otcenas welcomed all the riders and gave some info about the route, including the cold weather of the pre ride, which we were unlikely to have for our ride. Susan wanted riders to be aware of day 3, especially with the potential for warmer temperatures (the first real heat of any kind in the NW states, as well as in my home province of BC. Theo Roffe, whom I first met on the Cascade ride in 2014, was volunteering for this round of the Cascade and was at the bike check/pre meet. Great to see him again.
After the bike check and pre meet, riders went their way to make final prep for the ride start. A number of BC riders including Rick den Braber, Barry Chase, Etienne Hossack and Paul VW went for dinner. I had some food which I had to eat prior to the start, so enjoyed my dinner solo in an air conditioned hotel room. Settled in that night early as day 1 start was 0500 hours.
Start - Bainbridge Island, Washington
Day 1 – Bainbridge Island to Amanda Park
A very typical start; lots of group chats to control 1. The scenery was already pretty awesome; There was a big line up of riders getting their cards signed at the convenience store control. Paul and I rode together out of control 1, but perhaps 15 minutes out, we were just riding different paces and we each ended up going solo from there. I found myself at one intersection, trying to determine right or left turn, as the road signage was unclear and I have no garmin. Eventually another rider came along and I was able to proceed the correct direction.
Along the Discovery Trail, I was riding solo. At about 80km, I met up with a rider from Ohio, Randy Anderson. We chatted for a bit and were riding a similar pace and ended up riding together….. for the rest of the Cascade. Through the afternoon of day 1, we rode with Renato and a few other riders from California? I don’t remember tons of the detail for the afternoon and evening of day 1, but as we neared Amanda Park, we linked up with Ian Flitcroft with about 40km to go and finished off the day. The dinner was in the school at Amanda Park and was very yummy. Great volunteers who made the evening pretty easy for me. Food, shower, prep for day 2 and then time for bed around 11pm. No mechanicals up to this point.
Cool creek on Olympic Peninsula
Day 2 – Amanda Park to Packwood
Randy and I had talked about leaving at 0500. We were getting ready and Paul was not quite ready and he suggested we ride out ahead of him. We left and were enjoying the early morning mild temps as the sun slowly made its way up. We met up with a big group, 5-6 riders, including Jay Nadeau, Marie, Taylor, Ray Whitlock, Peter Curley and another rider from Seattle. I had ridden parts of the 2018 Cascade with Jay and Chris Cullum. I had met Ray Whitlock on the 2019 PBP I believe, and/or possibly at an earlier Cascade event.
The group of 7-8 eventually broke up (was it that hill?) and then all of a sudden, as happens in a long ride, Randy and I, along with Ray Whitlock and Peter Curley, found ourselves riding behind Vernon Smith and Nyssa Hartokolis. Vernon and Nyssa were really strong, and were just trading the lead between the two of them. The day was starting to get hot, and the temperature was supposed to be climbing for the first bit of heat for the northwest summer of 2022. Nyssa was wearing all black. It just looked uncomfortably hot, but I always ride hot. I was hoping that they did not. Peter and Ray chose to drop off the pace line. I was gauging how my body was feeling. Would I be able to ride at this pace without paying the price of blowing up? I was feeling the pace was manageable, and let Randy know that if I felt like I was pushing too hard, that I would have to fall off the back, and that he should continue to ride with Vernon and Nyssa if he was feeling good. I forget how it ended (probably another hill) but all of a sudden it was just Randy and I riding. The day was definitely getting hot and humid at this point. We got our first great views of Rainier. I believe it was somewhere around when we passed under interstate 5. The last 30-40 km of the day were on familiar roads for me as we approached Packwood. The temperatures had started to ease up a bit in the evening and we rolled into Packwood just after 2030 hours, so it was still light out. The outdoor bbq was in full swing, and I enjoyed sitting down, not on a bike, getting some yummy calories in me and then making my way to the room to settle in for the night. I had some mechanicals on day 2 and was glad to see the mechanic, Chris, at the Packwood control. He diagnosed a sketchy headset bearing and was able to make the bike rideable for the following day. Thank you Chris!! I asked Chris if he might be able to source parts for me in Wenatchee, knowing that my arrival in Wenatchee might be cut short by a mechanical, and hopeful that a new headset bearing would solve my problem. I knew I would be counting on Chris’ service again before the Cascade finished.
Looking east at Rainier. Heat and humidity starts.
Paul and I were sharing the room and I chose to settle in on the floor, leaving the bed for Paul. As this was a hotel, I had packed my sleep apnea device in my drop bag. For any riders who have had to share a room with me in the past, they can attest that I may snore a little bit. I finally got the “snore no more” device in November 2021 and this Cascade event was my first chance to try it in the shared motel rooms. We did have two drop bags on the Cascade, one for the school gymnasiums and one for the hotel rooms. I have only the one device, so my staying in the school gyms, without the device, was potentially going to be where I would be snoring loudly. What I had told myself prior to the Amanda Park school and the day 3 overnight at the Wenatchee high school, was that I would sleep only on my side and never on my back. On my back is where I snore the worst. I was hopeful that Amanda Park had been a minimal snore night. I heard Paul come into the room but I was already almost asleep.
Day 3 – Packwood to Wenatchee
The first 3 days of the Cascade make up about 70% of the total distance. An early morning start means, hopefully, an early finish that night. Randy was thinking a bit later start, but our early finish on day 2 had him reconsidering that earlier might be better. The climb out of Packwood is almost immediate. And beautiful. 30 kms up the mountain pass, with cedar and balsam being the primary audience overseeing our uphill toil. I was passed by a few riders, among them Eric Larsen, whom I had met years earlier on both the Cascade and VanIsle 1200s. Eric is a big photographer, and his camera is always at the ready. I mentioned to Eric that he must be a backcountry skier, as he already has that BC skier look to him. Eric laughed and said he was not, but Eric, if you read this, please consider taking up the sport.
When we arrived at the White Pass summit, which is also the base of the White Pass ski resort, a bacon and egger beckoned from inside the gas station/convenience store. It was very yummy. The descent from White Pass was not yet busy, but I was still happy to take the diversion around Rimrock Lake. By the time we eased back on to highway 12, the traffic volume and speed had picked up considerably as we rode towards Naches. Before landing in Naches proper, we were happy to take the Old Naches highway, a scenic two lane backwater road through light farmland with almost no traffic.
White Pass climb and view from SE of Rainier
We rolled along through some farmland on our way to the town of Selah. The town is in a valley, and as we descended, I noticed a fairly steep and exposed road on our left, up a hill with some large and new houses on it. I thought to myself “that looks rather gruelling. I am glad I am not riding that”. It reminded me of the third night on the Oregon 1000 that Bob Koen put together. I remember some climbs in the darkness of night 3 that prompted me to rename that ride the “Gruesome 1000”. Back to the Cascade….I have to admit, I am guilty of not watching my hard copy route sheet when riding with others who have navigation apps. When Randy and I arrived down in Selah, Randy told me had missed a turn notification on his garmin. I knew, for some reason, that we would be climbing back up to “that road”. And climb we did; gentle on the main road back towards Naches and then much steeper on that exposed hillside scramble. We were travelling about the same speed as a runner who was ascending that road at the same time we were riding. We were able to carry on a conversation, short as it was, as we slowly passed them on the left. Once at the top of the gratuitous climb, it was an equally steep descent down to the control in Selah. The gas station had some shade that allowed us to stay out of the direct sun which was definitely making its presence felt. The temperatures had been climbing steadily all day, and this Yakima Valley is known for its dry, hot arid weather. The greatest benefit to riding in heat is one generates a bit of breeze just by pedalling. I don’t know that I would like to run in such temperatures.
Randy and I rode up SR 821, the Yakima River Valley, which is a road I have never been on in 3 previous Cascades. It was awesome, both because it was a new road for me, and also because it was a large body of fast moving water that probably brought the temperatures down a little. We pulled off at a park to spend some time dipping in the river to cool down. Eric Larsen had the same idea. Back on the bike, my jersey which I had soaked in the river, dried off in 20 minutes. As we approached Ellensburg, we met up with Ian Flitcroft and Bob Lagasca. We were all thinking food, knowing we had potentially a very long pull after Ellensburg with limited food options. Wendys was the fast food of choice, and it really was pretty good. We could have chosen to cook some eggs on the sidewalk as that would have been feasible given the temps. In addition to a large lunch, everyone was busy trying to hydrate. As we pulled out of Ellensburg what I thought was a bit of a tailwind made the passage of kilometres seem pretty easy. We climbed towards Blewitt Pass in the afternoon. We did find one store which was open where we stopped for some water. This was the same store that Nyssa lost their wallet at, which was found later, in the outdoor garbage can, by a passerby associated with the SIR group. Amazing.
The climb up Blewitt was made easier by the volunteer staffed control which gave riders a bit of a rest, as well as some food/water. Thank you to all the volunteers who make it easy to “just ride the ride”, without having to think about where the next food/water is.
At the top of Blewitt, the four of us got ready for some nice easy descending. It was now about 6pm?? and so still light, with a reasonable amount of traffic. On my first tuck I got a high speed wobble that scared the crap out of me. Even gripping the top tube with my knees didn’t calm down the shimmy. I had to bring the bike right to a stop. I was leery of having that happen again, and kept my descending speed to much less than optimal (maximum) for fear of getting more shakes. The descent off Blewitt goes on forever. When we got down the other side and had to pedal for real, we paralleled much of Highway 2/97, on a number of side roads that somehow reminded me of Paris Brest Paris. We started to lose a bit of light here, and once again, I was happy to follow those with the garmins. The ride in through Wenatchee was all in the dark, but a bit easier as the roads were well marked and not prone to steep ups and downs as they had been 45 minutes earlier while paralleling Hwy 2/97.
I handed my bike off to Chris the mechanic as soon as I got into Wenatchee around 1030pm, as he had been successful in getting a part for me. I so appreciated his being there. Did I mention that yet? Food for dinner was from the food truck and it was so yummy (Mexican deliciousness). I would have put some in my lunch for the next day, but that might have been a bit messy. The school is huge. I found the showers, eventually, and then found the gym, or one of the gyms?, that housed all the riders. I was quite impressed because I found everything without a garmin. Once in the gym, I chose a far distant corner, hopefully away from as many riders as possible, in the off chance that I snored. I vowed to again sleep on my side to limit the snoring. I think it worked. No one woke me asking me to be quiet. Randy and I had agreed to leave at 6am for the start of day 4.
Picture of bridges, Wenatchee.
Day 4 - Wenatchee to Mazama
I woke naturally at 0345. The first person I met was Del Scharffenberg who had finished day 3 just 20 minutes prior. We exchanged hellos and I headed for food, and I think Del headed for some shut eye?? Randy and I got out of Wenatchee pretty quick and cruised along with the Columbia River on our right. In the words of the Avett Brothers, we were headed north. And then we turned west and climbed to a beautiful valley that eventually dumped us down to a state park at Lake Chelan. On our ride towards Pateros we met up with Vernon Smith, whom we had ridden with on day 2. We rode together, a group of three, until Vernon decided an apple orchard looked like a good place for a bit of shut eye. Randy and I continued on to Pateros. The vegetation on this part of the Cascade is so different from the first and last days. So dry, so rocky! There is greenery in the orchards, likely supplied by the Columbia River. I enjoyed it, but I am somewhat a west coaster and especially like the greenery.
Footbridge on the Methow River.
Leaving Pateros, we retraced back Highway 97 for a few hundred metres, before bearing right. We were heading up the Methow River, right from where it empties into the Columbia. Again, I had never been on this section of road. In prior events, the Cascade scaled Loop Loop Pass from state route 20 further north, arriving on the Methow River closer to the town of Twisp. The coolest thing I saw on our ride up from Pateros was a number of old suspension bridges across the river. None of them were passable, but the skill and ingenuity to make these crossings is amazing. I thought one looked possible to cross, but that would probably be famous last words, as the whole span is likely to collapse under the weight of a person. You know….one foot in and one foot out (Avett Brothers again). Randy and I made it up to Twisp after a quick break from the heat under a well placed tree that was in close proximity to a water sprinkler. Heavenly. We joined up with Vernon again, fresh after his nap, as we rolled into Twisp. We rolled up a new road for me, up a side valley from Winthrop. I was looking forward to getting to the Mazama control early and having a nice relaxing dinner followed by an early bedtime. We met up with Ian Flitcroft with about 8 km to go to Mazama and the 4 of us rode in together. The overnight in Mazama is one special place; green, forested, beautiful construction of the main building. And the food is primo. We ate dinner with a number of riders who I either had not yet met or met only briefly. Paul VW rode in shortly after us. He and I were sharing a room here. We had trouble cooling the room down and ended up with the slider door wide open midway through the night. I was feeling quite fatigued having just completed 1200 of the total 1400 km, and was looking forward to not having to sit on the bike site beyond the next 200+ kms.
Looking down Methow River leaving Mazama.
Day 5 – Mazama to the finish at Arlington
We rose at 0400 with the intent to leave at 0500. Randy and I left around 5 minutes behind Ian F and Bob Lagasca. The climb up Washington Pass brought just a little bit of rain, low down. It was really short lived though, and dry for the rest of the day. I found myself sitting side saddle a little bit. Probably time for a new seat. The route to Darrington was pretty spectacular and the wind was howling at the lookout to Diablo Lake. Paul told me later his bike actually jumped at that part of the descent when he got hit by a cross wind. It almost sent his bike into the guardrail at the side of the road, beyond which there was not much more than a long drop. Yikes.
Washington Pass from Mazama & Avalanche chute near Washington Pass summit.
By the time Randy and I rolled into Darrington, we were still about 5 minutes behind Ian and Bob. We all stopped for a sit down lunch outside the local grocery store. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I was carrying food from Darrington to the finish in Arlington. The four of us rode together, trading pulls down that last big stretch. As we pulled into Arlington, we had our first flat of the entire ride. We were able to change it fairly quickly, and as we were doing so, Paul VW passed us on his way to the finish. We rode the last few kms through bike paths in town, eventually making our way to the finish hotel. It felt really good to get off the bike and after some social time and a bit of food, Paul and I made our way to our hotel, just a short way up the road. Both of us were pretty tired, so we went out for a quick dinner and then back to the hotel. I think I was asleep by 2015. My knees were quite sore and I had to sleep with 3 pillows tucked under my knees, to keep them bent and supported. Not sure what that was all about.
The Cascade was a great ride, and one that I do really enjoy and look forward to riding. The volunteers do a great job in making the riders life easy. Thank you Susan Otcenas for managing the event and having a great team behind you.
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December 10, 2023