SIR 600K

June 3-4, 2006

A Ride Report by Kent Peterson

Hwy 101 in the rain

After work on Friday I ride my bike to the downtown ferry terminal and sail on the 4:20 ferry to Bainbridge Island. I then pedal north over the island and across the Agate Pass bridge. The cross-wind on the bridge tugs at the rear of the bike, grabbing at my usual Rubbermaid rear trunk and also at the Z-rest and bivy I have strapped to the rear rack. My tiny down sleeping bag is tucked snugly in the plastic trunk..

I make it safely across the breezy bridge, turn north and ride up to Kingston. While many of the Seattle International Randonneurs will be taking the ferry from Edmonds in the morning, several members of the club opted instead to spend tonight in Kingston. Two of these riders are Ralph and Carol Nussbaum and I meet up with them and we have a nice pasta dinner at Bella Luna. Ralph and Carol and several other randos have booked rooms at Smiley's Motel but it is a warm, dry spring evening and I seldom pass on a chance to sleep unroofed and unwalled. Exploring the edges of Kingston in the fading light, I find a lovely secluded corner of Arness Roadside Park. On a tiny strip of grass between a flowering bush and the beach, I unroll my bivy and my bag. Listening to the waves and the sea-birds and the distant metal sounds of the marina boats and the low pulsing rumble of a ferry sailing for Seattle, I fall asleep.

I wake and pack up in the morning before the Kingston coffee shops are open. Shore birds are wading in the lightly clouded morning light while gray gulls and dark crows drift on the gentle morning breeze. The AM/PM gas station has both biscotti and the machine that makes cheap caramel lattes. I am blessed with a rather unrefined palate and am still dazzled and delighted to awaken in a world that holds such wonders.

I take my morning fuel and head over to the parking lot where I sign in with Eric Vigoren. Other randonneurs join us and when the ferry docks the parking lot quickly fills with riders dressed in wool and lycra and various bright bits of reflective gear. The randonneuring machines sport an interesting variety of fenders, lights and bags and there is the usual talk of gear and the weather and the road ahead.

Peter Beeson gives the standard pre-ride briefing with warnings of hazardous bridge crossings, promises of spectacular scenery and reminders that we are all ambassadors of our sport. Peter and the other pre-riders had avoided all rain last week but the forecast does not predict similar luck for the nearly fifty riders gathered here today. The course loops out through the Hoh rain forest so the odds are quite good that our rain gear will get a workout at some point in the next 600 kilometers.

At 6:30 AM we roll on down the road. At Port Gamble we pass by the hundreds of tents belonging to mostly still sleeping folks here for some sort of Renaissance Faire. Turning onto the Hood Canal bridge random good timing gives us an informal police escort as a local patrol car drives along at a bicycle pace just behind my subset of the SIR riders. The speedy riders, folks with names like Jan (pronounced "Yon") and Urs, are already far off ahead while the rest of us persist at our own paces. The hills and our unique natures divide the riders. Some ride solo, some form alliances and stay with one group for the duration.

I roll into Port Angeles and get my control card signed at the Safeway at 10:28 AM. I use a Jandd Frame Pack as a feedbag and I've been munching Clif bars en route, so I don't need to get much here. Speedier randos have left half-full gallon water jugs so all I need to buy is a quick pint of milk and a banana before I set off again. I wind up riding with Wayne Methner, Bob Brudvik and some other folks on the way out of Port Angeles and I get to quiz Wayne as to whether or not he is related to some smiling insurance agent whose face graces a billboard that I'd spied on the eastern edge of town. Wayne says that he's not sure but there certainly seems to be a family resemblance.

The hills west of town break our little group apart and at the Joyce General Store I stop for a cool drink and a chocolate bar. The skies above are blue but to the south things are darker and that is where the road will lead us. I ride part of SR-112 with Narayan Krishnamoorthy. We both marvel at the good weather and wonder how long it will hold. Narayan is a strong and cheerful rider but he's having some hot-foot issues and I'm a bit faster on the climbs. I tell him about a time years ago when Eric Courtney stopped along this section of road to cool his feet in a stream. I also speak from experience and recommend SuperFeet dress-shoe insoles. These plastic insoles don't absorb water and are one item I credit with my long-term lack of foot and knee issues. I also am a firm believer in PowerGrips but I save that sermon for another day.

Soon after I turn north at the SR-112/SR-113 intersection I see other riders heading south I ride north to the Clallam Bay control point and get my card signed at 2:25 PM. The friendly clerk tells me that she made extra sandwiches in anticipation of our group's arrival. I wash down one of the best turkey sandwiches I've ever had with a nice pint of cold milk. Jon Muellner had gotten a bit of a late start and had a flat tire en route, but Jon is a speedy fellow so he's caught up with me now. Jon is riding his single speed Heron today while I'm enjoying riding with a couple of more gears. A couple of days ago I'd outfitted my Kogswell Model G with an old Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. I've often said that it really doesn't make that much of a difference how many speeds you have, we are all here for some kind of challenge. I don't think anybody is riding fixed today, but I know of at least three single-speed riders on this brevet and we have folks with the latest in thirty-speed drive trains as well. And I'm sure that Jan is somewhere kilometers down the road on a bike with a few very old, very reliable and very stylish French gears.

Jon and I leave Clallam Bay together but on the climb up Burnt Mountain Jon drops me just like I'd dropped Narayan. It's nothing personal, we all just ride at the pace that makes sense at the time.

It's still not raining when I pull into Forks at 4:38 PM. It's a rare thing to see Forks in sunlight and there are many cheerful randonneurs here. Shane Balkovetz tops out my water bottles and I buy random items that interest me: Tiger's Milk bars, a Frappuccino, Kozy Shack Flan, a small tube of petroleum jelly and a can of Starbucks Double Shot. The Flan and Frappuccino are immediate fuel, the petroleum jelly is lube for the biological parts of the drive train and the Tiger's Milk and Double Shot are items that I'll save for a dark and stormy night. I roll south.

The miles now are a mix of hills, clear-cuts, sea views and trees. Sometimes there are signs that say things like "Big Cedar Tree" with an arrow pointing somewhere. Once there were lots of big trees out here, now I'm reminded of the line from the song about taking all the trees and putting them in a tree museum. The Big Cedar Tree sign isn't the only odd thing I encounter. Pulled over at a wide spot in the road I see a Ford Explorer SUV. Nothing odd there until I notice a small sticker on the back window. I'm enough of a sticker nerd that I recognize the font and can tell you who printed the sticker, it's the Microcosm folks out of Portland. The Microcosm folks are great, grass-roots people who mostly run their business on human power. But this sticker must have been issued out of their irony department because it reads "ONE LESS CAR" I can't help thinking that maybe the Explorer owners should've gotten one of the other Microcosm stickers as well, the one that reads "Environmental stickers don't mean shit when they are stuck to cars!"

I ride for a while with Matthew Newlin. Matthew's bike is like mine, a silver Kogswell Model G, but he's running his bike with a single-speed freewheel. Earlier in the week I'd sold Matthew my old but still plenty good White Industries single-speed freewheel as a replacement for his alarmingly creaky, cheap and increasingly worn freewheel. So I'm surprised when I hear his bike squeaking and groaning like an arthritic hamster. Matthew confesses that he realized that he lacked the proper puller to remove the old freewheel and lacking the time to get over to a shop to get the freewheels swapped, he'd decided to just keep going with his existing, problematic drive train. The squeaks don't seem to be slowing Matthew down to much and he pulls away, leaving me to enjoy the relatively quiet sounds of my tires humming on the road and the waves rolling into the beach.

At 7:18 PM I pull into the control at Kalaloch Lodge. The big SIR tent is here and many riders are enjoying the hospitality provided by Ted, Bill and Lorene. Cup-O-Noodles soup and sandwiches are popular items here and the comfy chairs are perhaps a bit too comfy. I avoid the chairs but do down a bowl of soup before I once again head southward.

I meet up with darkness on the way to Lake Quinault and as the light dims certain thoughts become clearer. I see a couple of riders up ahead, one is wearing a yellow vest while the other is dressed in blue. The blue fellow does have a fairly bright tail light but in the dim light, the yellow vested fellow is far more visible than his blue companion. The ideal would be a yellow vest and reflective gear and bright lights. I've made similar observations over the course of many commuting miles and my wardrobe features a lot of yellow.

There are small particles bouncing off my yellow vest and at first I think it's the start of the rain or maybe a swarm of bugs. It takes me a few seconds to correctly identify what I'm riding through: it's pollen. The lush plant-life of the Hoh Rain Forest is renewing itself yet again and long after we have passed away to memories and rust, the green world will remain. At least that's what I like to think as I ride into the darkness.

My friend Max and her friend Yun are running the control at the Lake Quinault Lodge. I pull in a bit before 10:00 PM. Max and Yun have all kinds of food and beverages here and I feast on a great roast beef sandwich. Other riders arrive at the control a couple of minutes after I do. This is Matthew Newlin's rookie year of randonneuring, but he's got the "quick at the control" thing down and he takes off about a minute ahead of me. I watch his tail light fade into the distance as we turn back onto 101 heading south.

I'd known all day that the rain couldn't stay away forever and the rain is falling lightly now. Back at the lodge I'd pulled on my Rainlegs and layered my Marmot DriClime Windshirt under my yellow vest. I also have my Rainshield O2 Rain Jacket tucked in my trunk in case of a real downpour but on many of my trips I've been amazed at how well the DriClime works in the persistent Northwest drizzle.

The rain keeps dripping down and I keep rolling south. I keep myself occupied by trying to remember every song I can think of that mentions rain. It's a pretty long list of songs. As I watch the miles tick on by, I munch on the Tiger's Milk bars and think about how nice it will be to get to Aberdeen. I also think about how smart I was to buy a can of Starbucks Double Shot back in Forks.

This is the thing you have to understand about a Starbucks Double Shot: it is not just a drink. It is not a performance enhancing drug. It is not a mere mix of coffee and heavy cream and sugar. It is, instead, a canned concoction that is capable of bending the space-time continuum. Distances warp, space bends and my relationship with time is altered upon ingestion of a Starbucks Double Shot. I was on 101 heading south. I remember opening the can and now, now I'm at the Red Lion Inn in Aberdeen. I remember something about some wet roads, some police cars with flashing lights, some rain-slicked metal bridge decks but the specific details passed by me in some kind of detached blur. I imagine that this is the way a squirrel might interact with the world. It's 2:04 AM and I am in Aberdeen.

Trent and Melinda are running this control and it is warm and dry and they have a working microwave and noodle soup and Kraft Easy Macs. If you do not believe Easy Macs are one of the greatest foods ever made by the hands of man then perhaps you have ridden too slowly or perhaps not far enough. I feast on Easy Macs and know that life is very, very good.

A major key to having a fast time on a brevet is minimizing your time at the controls. Of course, this must be balanced with the desire to have good time on a brevet and when it is raining in Aberdeen and it is dark and wet and kind of cold outside then the idea of good may take precedence over fast. Experienced folks like Bob Brudvik are talking about things like ibuprofen and sleep while speedy young fellows like Matthew Newlin are blabbering about pressing on into the darkness. Other riders are fumbling around in drop bags, looking for dry clothes and other creature comforts. Some wander off to other rooms to sleep, Matthew wanders off into the rain and I doze next to the now sleeping Mr. Brudvik.

I wake an hour later and it's still raining and still dark and I really don't have to leave just yet. I go back to sleep.for another forty-five minutes and then have a breakfast of Easy Macs before I head out into slightly brighter darkness and slightly drier rain.

The road out of Aberdeen is is a soulless bit of concrete and steel and rain-slicked bridge decks but in the early dawn hours of a Sunday at least there isn't too much traffic. It is good to finally turn onto the road less traveled by, Pioneer Avenue which soon becomes the road to Elma and McCleary. Elma Elementary has one of those cheesy inspirational signs saying that "The word of the month is Determination" but I'm full of enough Easy Cheesy Macs to be convinced of this. Somewhere on the edge of town I find a gas station with a coffee robot and some morning cookies.

I see some riders roll by while I'm having my coffee and later I ride a bit with Greg Cox. Greg and I reach the AM/PM Control in Shelton at 8:22 AM and while we are not exactly riding together or at the exact same pace, we leap frog each other for much of the morning. Twenty-five more miles down the road and we are both at Eldon, stopping again for food and drink. The sky is trying to clear and things are warmer so we stow our rain gear. On the way to Walker Pass I see some comfy chairs set out at the roadside, with cookies and refreshments and a sign encouraging the SIR riders. That must have been a very welcome sight for those who pressed on through without sleep.

The climb up Walker Pass is a sucker play and Greg and I are suckers. The rain begins again lightly and we're warm from the climb so we keep on and don't stop to put on the rain gear. We each have our vests but arms and legs get soaked. Sure we could stop at the top of the pass but it's only five more miles to Quilcene. It's best to push on through.

I have actually been colder on a descent, I've come down off Rainier in October, but the run into Quilcene is definitely nippy. Greg and I are putting the coffee robot through it's paces at Peninsula foods when Kentner, Patrick and Thai roll in. Kentner is wisely bundled up in his rain gear. I unpack my DriClime, put it on and it does its magic trick of wicking the moisture out of my wool. The thing that has consistently amazed me about this garment is that it actually manages to dry itself even while the rain is still coming down. It's really the damnedest thing but this trick has made me extremely fond of this jacket.

I need to get moving to get warm and I leave the others behind at Quilcene. I haven't spoken much of gearing until now, but the three-speed has proven to be a fine choice for this journey.

My main cruising gear is 46/20 direct drive which works out 62.1 gear inches. Lower than the fixed gear I'd grown used to but still zippy enough for probably three-quarters of the miles thus far.

My gear for the dark times, the Burnt Mountain gear and the Walker Pass gear is twenty-five percent lower, 46.5 gear inches. Low enough that I can sit and spin and still have enough energy to curse. Perfect.

My favorite is the big gear, 133% of normal,  82.8 inches of crank down the road and by golly it feels like you are doing something. The gear for going down the passes, running with the wind or winding it out when I need to get warm.

I'm on Center Road and I need to get warm. I click the forty-three year old lever into it's farthest position and I don't downshift when the road goes up.

It stops raining by the time I turn onto SR-104 heading east. The last miles are warm and dry and quick. I pull into the final control at 3:11 PM. Karen and Duane and Peter are here and there is pizza. I'd figured that Urs and Jan would have logged speedy times and sure enough they finished about ten hours ago. I'm surprised to learn that Matthew Newlin hasn't been seen yet but just as we are starting to worry, Matthew rolls in. "I spent several wet hours huddled somewhere wishing I was dead, but then I realized I could wish I was dead while pedaling," Matthew says by way of explanation. We all nod knowingly. I have some pizza, copy the times off my control card and then ride back down to Bainbridge Island.

A few pictures from the SIR 600K can be seen at:

SIR 600 km Brevet Results - June 3-4, 2006
Last Name First Name Time
Austad Dan 37:17
Bailey Allison 37:45
Balkovetz Shane 36:08
Beebe Ward 33:39
Beeson Peter 36:55
Boxer Daniel 35:25
Brudvik Bob 35:25
Carter Ken 31:58
Cottingham J Kentner 32:51
Cox Greg 33:03
Dalton Matthew 36:08
Gray Patrick 32:51
Haight Rick 33:55
Hameister Steve 37:19
Harper David 35:48
Heine Jan 22:48
Himschoot Ron 37:45
Huber Michael 35:15
Last Name First Name Time
Huelsbeck David 26:53
Johnson David 33:05
Johnson Paul 37:26
Koen Bob 37:30
Koenig Urs 22:48
Kramer John 33:22
Krishnamoorthy Narayan 36:42
Liekkio Peter DNF
List Brian 35:45
Llona Joe 33:45
McKay Peter 36:55
Menge Christopher 36:31
Methner Wayne 33:55
Morris John 31:38
Muellner Jon 34:45
Newlin Matthew 32:56
Nguyen Thai 32:48
Nichol Ross 37:30
Last Name First Name Time
Norman Michael 34:35
Nowlis Suzanne 34:48
Nussbaum Carol 38:06
Nussbaum Ralph 38:06
Ohlemeier Brian 26:53
Peterson Kent 32:41
Rankin Peter 31:38
Read Dave 31:38
Richeson Mike 33:22
Ringkvist Victor 37:17
Roehrig Mark 32:23
Slaback Dennis 35:15
Thomas Mark 36:55
Turner Daniel 36:40
Vigoren Eric 36:55
Wennstrom Jason 33:22
White Charles 33:05
Winczewski Peg 37:45

600K Map