Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Mountain is Out

When the skies are clear in Seattle, locals may say that "the mountain is out." Although we are surrounded by mountains of various description, the phrase has a specific meaning - that Mount Rainier visibly looms over the area. This spectacular sight is one of the great joys of living here. The mountain offers many ways to experience its grandeur - climb it, ski it, hike it, or just gaze at it. Given my own obsession, it should come as no surprise that my favorite way is to ride my bicycle around it.

Cycling Mount Rainier plays a key role in my history with randonneuring. Shortly after I started riding seriously and riding longer distances (a 2-day Seattle-to-Portland double century in 1996 and a 1-day STP in 1997), I set my sights on a classic of the local cycling scene. Each July, the Redmond Cycling Club (RCC), with which SIR shares many members, organizes RAMROD - The Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day. I had heard that high demand made entries difficult to obtain. Not realizing that it wouldn't matter, I joined RCC in hopes of increasing my chances to ride. One benefit of membership was the RCC newsletter, which among other things, listed rides of possible interest to the membership. My first newsletter included a mention of a Seattle International Randonneurs 200km brevet. It seemed a bit extreme to ride 125 miles at the beginning of April, but I signed up anyway. Ten years later, I have ridden over 50,000 randonneur kilometers (a mark I passed without noticing on the 400km brevet earlier this year), but it started with me trying to get a leg up on a ride around Mount Rainier.

In addition to RCC's terrific event, the ride around Mount Rainier now also exists as a RUSA permanent (#126). With nice weather in the forecast, for the weekend, I sent an invitation to the SIR mailing list to join me in riding the permanent. Takers included Rick Blacker, Steve Davis, Amy Pieper (on her first permanent), Robin Pieper, and Mark Roberts. One other rider came to the start, discovered his helmet was missing, and unhappily headed back home.

With great company, jaw-dropping scenery, delightful weather, heart-pounding climbs, and screaming descents, the day was simply perfect. Highlights: The first views of the mountain as the sky cleared approaching Ashford. Singing (ok, only a highlight for me) on the long climb to Paradise. (Along with Blood Sweat & Tears, I was "gonna get me a piece of the sky" as I ascended). Relaxing in the sun outside the newly remodeled Paradise Inn. High speed descent to the park entrance at Stevens Canyon. Riding companions waiting patiently atop the long slog up Cayuse Pass. Passing a closed deli in Greenwater, audibly lamenting the missed ice cream opportunity, being heard by the owners relaxing outside, and then enjoying cones in the open-for-us deli. A fast paceline down from Greenwater to the finish.

Simply marvelous.


Susan France said...

We had a "5 mountain" day. The number of mountains you can see from the hills west of Portland. Hood, Jefferson, Saint Helens, Adams... and on the clearest days it include Rainier.
This last weekend and this week have been perfection.

GreatDane said...

I'm glad you guys had a good time. This is the first time I've forgotten my helmet - I really hope it'll never happen again (but I did clean my flat a bit). Anyway, I had a really good ride around Tiger and Cougar mountains yesterday.