Monday, July 30, 2007

Olympia 2

Sometimes the ups and downs come from more than the terrain. On a day marred by tragedy (see note about Steve), we rode the Olympia 300km brevet. Brian List, Dave Read, and Peg Winczewski developed a nice route through the back roads of Thurston and Lewis Counties. More than 50 riders showed up - probably a record for one of our summer brevets. Gregg Bleakney came out to take photos, which can be seen here.

We started with a blistering pace out to the first control (less than 10 miles out). Corey Thompson, back from teaching in France, signed cards for the riders. We started to settle down after that - still making good time out to Steamboat Island. The 9 miles out to and 9 miles back from the turnaround at the end of Steamboat Island afforded a nice opportunity to see all the riders. The long gentle climb up SR-8 felt terrific. I saw Steve Hameister, who was having a terrific ride. After the control at Malone, the tougher hills started.

At the top of Gerrard Creek road, we encountered the usual Olympia brevet oasis - Peg and Brian with food, drink, and chairs. Brian noticed casing showing through Peter McKay's rear tire, so Bob Brudvik and I (right) took advantage of the repair time to relax. On the way down the hill, we encountered the PBP-bound tandem of Peter Beeson and Max Maxon coming back up. Some mechanical problems would take them out of the ride at this point; later in the afternoon they would get the bike fixed in Olympia and would be back for the 200km brevet on Sunday.

The climb up Curtis Hill is a tough one. Last summer, I had struggled up on my single speed. I was very happy to have a full complement of gears this time, especially as I watched Bob grinding up the hill on his single speed PBP steed. Bob was having an uncharacteristically tough day, and the steep hill was no help.

At the bottom of the hill we stopped at the Curtis Store for a break - ice cream, sandwiches, ice, and drinks. Here's where we first heard about Steve - a driver came by to let us know that there was a cyclist in the ditch on the other side of the hill. She was not from the area and a little vague on location. We hoped/assumed that riders behind would be able to help. As we were trying to figure out how to get help to the cyclist (no cellphone service there for at&t or T-mobile and virtually unusable service from Verizon). At that point, the driver of another car indicated that aid was on the scene. We were eventually able to contact Brian List and Peter Beeson, who let us know that aid was indeed at the scene, that the rider was Steve Hameister, that Steve’s wife had been contacted, and that Steve would get care at a hospital in Centralia. We were at the Curtis Store for quite a while and received reports that extensive CPR had been performed at the scene and that defibrillator was used to get a pulse. Frankly it didn’t sound too good to us, but with Steve in professional care, a somber group headed out.

I would finish (130km later) with the group that formed at the store - the Jameson tandem (Don & Elaine), the Jensen tandem (Jim & Ann), Bob Brudvik, Peter McKay, Bill Dussler, Rick Haight, and I. We're all headed to PBP and really enjoyed each other's company. The Vader store provided the next ice cream stop. After Winlock, we climbed a series of rollers to some high farmland. At one point, Bill and I passed two little girls by the side of the road with notebooks. It took a moment, but we realized they were looking for mememtos from the riders, so we turned back. The whole group signed and wrote notes in their books. That was a sweet and uplifting thing, but when I used my cameraphone to take a picture I noticed a voicemail from Peter Beeson. Frankly, I assumed that it was an update on Steve and that it wouldn’t be good news. Unfortunately, that was correct. For the next 10 miles or so, I rode like someone had punched me in the gut and let the air out of my tires. I tried comforting thoughts out on myself (like, “he was doing what he loved”), but it wasn’t helping much. Peter McKay did much to help me then – drawing in part on how he dealt with the loss of his brother in a jet ski accident. Good friends, good cycling, and the thought of the smiling little girls reminded me that life is good, even with all of its messiness, unevenness, and tragedy.

Steve Hameister 1954-2007

Lost a friend on Saturday. SIR member Steve Hameister suffered a heart attack during our 300km (not long after this picture). Efforts to revive him at the scene and in the hospital were ultimately unsuccessful.

Steve started riding with us in 2005. Never one of the fastest riders, he was always one of the most determined. He rode his first full series with us last year, combining it with rides in CA and OR for a RUSA 2000km award. This year he rode a difficult 1000km in poor conditions as part of his training for Paris-Brest-Paris. I supported that ride; Steve was matter-of-fact about the challenges and determined always to finish, which he did - one of six (of eleven starters) who finished that weekend. He came in wet, happy, tired, and proud.

Steve gave back to the club as well. For last month's 400km, I needed a volunteer to sit at the top of Stevens Pass all night to man a control. When I put out a last minute request for help, Steve was the first to respond. Manning a post over 100 miles from home, Steve was a welcome sight to the riders at the end of a difficult climb.

Paris-Brest-Paris was on his agenda. He'll be there next month, but only in our thoughts and memories. Thanks, Steve.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Olympia 1

In part to help riders prepare for Paris-Brest-Paris, SIR scheduled two days of rides in Olympia at the end of July - a 300km brevet on Saturday, July 28 and a 200km brevet on Sunday, July 29. Proponents claim the benefit of two successive days of riding in a row before the 3-4 day PBP. Others suggest that a 500km weekend less than 4 weeks before PBP might be too much. I take the Deep Purple view of this: "Too much is not enough." So on Friday, I headed down to Olympia to add a 200km permanent to the weekend's festivities.

Frank Kaplan carpooled with me from Redmond and John Vincent joined us in Olympia. The route was RUSA Permanent #202 from Olympia to Brinnon to Olympia. Frank and John will be first-timers at PBP next month; I enjoyed their infectious enthusiasm for the upcoming event.

The course is good PBP preparation with similar amounts of climbing and types of climbing. Great weather, nice Hood Canal and mountain views, and good coffee shop stops enhanced the experience. Somehow, in all my previous stops at the Hoodsport Coffee Company, I had overlooked the fact that in addition to friendly folks and good coffee, they also have ICE CREAM (good ice cream, too). Today I remedied this oversight.

Good riding pace and relaxed stops and regroups brought us back to Olympia in just under 10 hours, followed by dinner with Peter Beeson and Eric Vigoren for dinner. Looking forward to the 300km tomorrow.

-- "You've got it bad, you're hopelessly addicted"

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mount Baker Climb

Sometimes you just get lucky. A weather system full of rain decided to park for a week over the Pacific Northwest. (Believe it or not, rain in the NW in late July is news). Dan Turner and I decided to take the best looking day and ride the Mount Baker Climb permanent today. Geoff Swarts joined us. We rode 150 of the 200 kilometers including all of the Mount Baker climb and most of the descent with no rain. Very nice.

We couldn't quite get to Artist Point (end of the road) because of ice and snow still on the roadway, but we did get within about a half-mile of the end (about 5000ft elevation).

Looking forward to our gathering of PBP-bound SIR members tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hey Mambo!

Running a bit late, with a ferry to catch, I picked up Wayne Methner at his house in Lake Forest Park on Sunday morning for the drive to the ferry at Mukilteo. Arriving at the ferry dock at the last minute, we see a great sight - we're among 20 SIR members waiting to board the boat. Earlier in the week, Peter McKay and I had decided to ride the 250km Whidbey Mambo permanent, named for the Mambo Italiano Cafe - the nice restaurant at the northern point of the route in Bellingham. We let word out on the SIR mailing list and e-mails streamed in from riders interested in joining us.

Sixteen riders would ride the permanent. Erik Andersen, recovering from a nasty recent crash, came out to test his fitness before next month's PBP. Two of SIR's four PBP-bound tandem teams were present - Elaine & Don Jameson and Ann & Jim Jensen. Riders eagerly sought their wheels all day, with mega-mileage man Rick Blacker being the most successful. Michael Norman showed up on the correct day this time (in the fall, we rode a Sunday permanent for which he showed up on Saturday). Galvin Chow worried during the week about the possible fast pace of the ride, but had no trouble at all other than an early-ride flat. Frequent SIR riders and volunteers Shane Balkovetz, Peter Beeson, Bob Brudvik, Ray McFall, Peter McKay, Albert Meerscheidt, and Mike Richeson rounded out the permanent group. In addition, Jan Acuff, Ken Krichman, Pete Liekkio, and Wayne Methner came to ride the hills of Whidbey Island, but not the whole permanent.

Physically, I had a tough ride, starting with a "rookie" mistake of not eating or drinking at all on the way to the first control in Coupeville, while riding hard. I never really dug myself all the way out of that hole. At one point, I observed to Peter Beeson, "You know how some days are better than others? Well, this is one of the 'others' for me."

Nonetheless, the Mambo was a treat. Friends waited for me to catch up along the way. With most of the group PBP-bound, conversations readily turned to our plans for next month. The ride north up Whidbey Island was fast, aided by tailwinds and pleasant temperatures. Scenic highlights included Deception Pass at the north end of the island and Chuckanut Drive along the water into Bellingham. The friendly folks at the Mambo Italiano Cafe tolerated sixteen sweaty, hungry cyclists and served us wonderful food. Equally scenic on the return, Chuckanut drive provided the treat of a Kent Peterson sighting. Kent was on his way to Bellingham on leg two of his around the state bicycle odyssey for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

In a stroke of unexpected good fortune, the winds shifted over lunch and our expected headwind turned to a somewhat inconsistent tailwind, but a tailwind nonetheless. Blew us right to a huckleberry ice cream stop in Conway. Fifteen of the last 20 miles of the ride in from Arlington have little to recommend them, all the worse this time for a detour onto I-5 because of a bridge closure. But after a nice stretch from Everett back to Mukilteo with great Puget Sound views, we regrouped at the finish for beer and food at the Diamond Knot Brewery. The tandem led group were in at 5:40PM (11:10 ride time) and the rest of us arrived at 6:00PM (11:30 ride time).

Tailwinds, good friends, a great lunch, beautiful scenery, and beer at the finish. As Rosemary Clooney would say - 'Ats nice!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Chinook Pass 200km

What a wonderful day for a ride.

This morning 14 riders set out from Yakima for a 200km to the top of Chinook Pass and back. PBP Ancien Mark Roberts (1991 & 1995) brought his son Sean and his son's friend Luke Armistead. Mark Roehrig came out for his first brevet after his hip injury. Ward Beebe, John Morris, and Sal Ortega made this their third ride of the Yakima camp. Shane Balkovetz, Matt Dalton, Ken Krichman, and Ray McFall were on their second brevet of the camp. Alison Bailey and Peter McKay came over for just this ride. After supporting the first two days, I was a rider today. Paul Johnson and Owen Richards managed the brevet.

I'm not sure how it could have been a nicer day for a ride. Although we rode out into a headwind, the temperatures were moderate this morning for the climb to the summit. We rode out of the west end of Yakima on backroads (Powerhouse Road and the Old Naches Highway) with a brief stop in Naches where Owen had a secret control set up.

The climb up 410 was marred by a few flats - Sean Roberts, Peter McKay, Ward Beebe, and Ray McFall. The scenery, however, along the river was simply marvelous. We stopped at Cliffdell (27 miles from the summit and the last services) for water and food. I had left Peter to fix his flat (with my pump), but compensated by shopping for him at the store. Peter and I left the Cliffdell store first, but were overtaken within 10 miles by John Morris (who had had awesome rides on Friday and Saturday) and Mark Roberts and the teenagers. About 4 miles from the top we encountered Sean who had pulled up with an angry knee. He and his dad would end up walking to the top. (Stubbornness must run in the family).

Peter and I reached Paul Johnson's control at the top before noon. John was there already. We also ran into Pete Rankin and a few friends who were riding from the west with plans to do the Chinook summit and Sunrise today. While we were up there Luke and Ward came in. We learned that Mark Roehrig had turned around after about 50km with some pain in his hip.

John, Peter, and I left the summit at about noon. Ray McFall was almost to the top and was stopped to take pictures of riders descending. John soon left Peter and me behind. In addition to Ray, we saw Allison, then Ken, then Sean and Mark on foot, then Sal, then Shane, then Matt. The descent just screamed - lots of elevation to give up and a brisk tailwind to boot. Peter and I were just loving life and congratulating each other on choosing this ride on this day. Once again, we declared that "It's a beautiful day. And we're on our bicycles."

We could see John in the distance as we approached the SR-410 / US-12 intersection. The tailwind remained consistent along most of US-12, but it was hot and there wasn't much downhill left. We kept pushing, however, and when we passed John stopped at a store in Naches, we were shocked to realize that we were in a very unaccustomed position at the front of a brevet. We found Owen at the Starbucks at 2:35PM. For me this was a personal best 200km (8:35). I've been riding brevets since 1998 and my fastest 200km time was my very first brevet - until now, sixteen 200km brevets later, when I cut two whole minutes off that time.

At 4PM as I write this, John Morris (8:42), Ward Beebe (8:49), Ray McFall (9:09), and Allison Bailey (9:55) have all finished. I'll post updates as the others arrive.

Shane arrived in 10:02, Matt, Mark, and the teenagers arrived in 10:11, Ken arrived in 10:16, and Sal arrived in 10:37. A great day!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Yakima 400km/300km

Last night at 10, five riders headed north on the 400km ACP brevet. The route would take them through the Ellensburg canyon to Ellensburg, then over Blewett Pass (where Ray McFall mans a secret control) to Leavenworth, up to Stevens Pass (where Steve Hameister awaits them), and then back. The riders were Ken Carter, Ryan Hamilton, Chuck Hoffman, Brian Ohlmeier, and Paul Whitney.

This morning at 6, eight riders started the 300km RUSA brevet on the same route, but without the Leavenworth-Stevens Pass-Leavenworth segment. The starters were Shane Balkovetz, Ward Beebe, Matt Dalton, Ken Krichman, Ted Lundin, John Morris, Sal Ortega, and Owen Richards.

Steve Hameister reports that 400km riders Brian and Ryan came through the Stevens Pass control at 6:50 this morning, Ken at 7:45, and Paul and Chuck at 11:40. All were doing well and should make up time coming down the long hill.

Ray returned to Yakima a little while ago. All the 300km riders made it to the Blewett Pass summit outbound by 12:30 or so.

Ryan and Brian finished the 400km at 3:13PM looking hardly the worse for wear (17:13 finishing time).

4:31PM - Ken Carter just finished the 400km.

John Morris is the first 300km finisher, arriving at 6:53PM for an great time of 12:53. Ward Beebe came in less than an hour later at 7:51PM (time = 13:51).

Shane Balkovetz, Matt Dalton, and the esteemed Dr K (Ken Krichman) finished the 300km at 9:42PM (time = 15:42). Still waiting for Chuck Hoffman and Paul Whitney (400km) and Ted Lundin, Owen Richards, and Sal Ortega (300km).

Paul Whitney (400km) arrived at 11:15PM (25:15 ride time) and Sal Ortega (300km) came in at 11:25PM (17:25 ride time) after a bit of a misdirection adventure on the bike trail close to the finish. Owen Richards and Ted Lundin (300km) finished at 11:42PM (17:42 ride time).

At about 1:30AM, Chuck Hoffman came in. After struggling with stomach problems all day, he was happy to have finished (even though outside the time limit).

Friday, July 6, 2007

Yakima Valley 225km

Six riders decided to brave the heat today and try out our new Yakima Valley 225km RUSA brevet route to Bickleton and back. Sal Ortega and Ted Lundin from OR and Ward Beebe, Ray McFall, John Morris, and Owen Richards from WA started off at 6 this AM.

By 10am all riders made it to the secret control / water stop at mile 53. With temperatures still reasonable and a cooling breeze, all were in great spirits.

4:06PM - Ward Beebe and John Morris finished. Current temperature 96F.

5:59PM - Sal Ortega and Ted Lundin finished. Still 95F.

6:35PM - Ray McFall and Owen Richards finished.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Always full of good ideas, riding buddy Peter McKay decided that a 200km permanent would be just the way to celebrate the fourth of July. We decided on a new one - Black Diamond to Sunrise. Mark Roehrig had established Randonneurs USA Permanent #243 this past spring, but the road to Sunrise had not opened until mid-June, so ours would be the first ride of the permanent.

The Sunrise lodge and visitor center perches at 6400 feet on the side of Mount Rainier. The road to Sunrise may be the highest paved road in Washington state. Black Diamond is at about 600 feet (and you go downhill to the Green River right after the start), so there's a very good climb built into the route.

Peter advertised our plans on the SIR mailing list. In keeping with the holiday spirit, we picked 7:30 as our leisurely start time. Five other riders met Peter and me at the start in Black Diamond on Wednesday morning. Peter Beeson joined us fresh from his RAAM-qualifying 17-day ride across the US with PAC Tour's Elite Transcontinental Tour. Geoff Swarts had also completed a transcontinental ride earlier this spring. Bob Brudvik, Rick Blacker, and new randonneur Tim Hennings filled out the group.

After playing with my new iPhone (source of this picture of Peter M. and Bob), we headed off to Cumberland via the Green River gorge. Chatting away, we blithely missed the turn at the bottom of the hill and found ourselves back up on SR-169 not far from our start point. We considered ignoring the mistake and chalking up a no-credit ride to Sunrise, but Tim mentioned that this permanent was part of his R-12 award quest, so we headed back down the hill to go up the correct direction.

The day could hardly have been more spectacular. Great company and great scenery. As usual, I brought the rear up the climb, but most of the guys were waiting at Sunrise Point. Peter Beeson lied nicely and said they had only been there for a few minutes. A bystander took our picture with Rainier in the background and we headed the rest of the way up to the lodge. On a permanent with friends, we tossed all our well-practiced brevet time management skills out the window and had a nice lunch (including ice cream at the top). Geoff and Tim realized that our casual pace was likely to interfere with planned evening activities, so they hustled down the mountain ahead. The rest of us high-tailed it down the hill after lunch. We spent nearly 7 hours reaching the top and just over 4 hours to have lunch and come back down.

It was a beautiful day! And we were on our bikes.