Saturday, October 11, 2014

Too Much Pavement--Not Enough Gravel

I really wanted to ride Mama Cass on JBLM today. Of course, none of the areas near me were open. I probably could have ridden area 22 (the area closed because of a butterfly), but if I got caught, I wouldn't be able to say I was just on my way to 20. Sooooo, where to go?

I thought about Capitol Forest--going the way I've gone with the guys, but I think there is still a good possibility I could get lost. I looked at the PDF map I have and saw there was the S-line on the other side of Hwy 8 at Summit Lake. It looked like a fairly straight forward out and back. Okay, S-Line here I come! I headed out at 11:30.

It had started raining just as I left the house. Might have been a good idea to bag it, but no, I headed out anyway. Except for my torso which was encased in my new Showers Pass jacket, I was thoroughly soaked by the time I reached the Westside. Might have been a good idea to turn back, but no, I continued in the hopes that I would reach the blue sky I could see ahead. 

I did reach the blue sky, and was beginning to dry out, when, as I was coming down Mud Bay, it started to pour again. So much for drying out!

Once again, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. I stopped while it wasn't raining to eat a bar, then continued out to Hwy 8. From home, it was a little over 17 miles just to get to the Summit Lake exit. The S-line takes off to the right as Summit Lake Rd goes left. Finally, I was on the gravel! And, as an added bonus, it hadn't started to rain again! 

Before I'd gone far, the road forked. Now, the smart thing to do would have been to get out my phone, and look at the map. I didn't do that. I opted for the left fork. The road started climbing. I caught up to 4 guys in hunting camo and orange vests, with rifles slung over their shoulders. Ah yes, hunting season. Perhaps not a good time to be riding in the woods. At least I had my bright yellow rain jacket on (which I would have liked to take off as I was quite warm from the climbing, but didn't as I did not want to be mistaken for a deer--albeit a very SLOW deer). They asked me if I knew where the road went. I told them what I thought (but I was wrong). They then asked if it just kept climbing. I told them I hoped not!

It didn't keep climbing. In fact, there was a pretty steep downhill that curved. As I was nearing the curve, I thought to myself, trust the bike, or slow down? I opted for slowing down. Such a chicken am I...

After a few more ups and downs, I could see I was coming upon an active logging operation. Time to turn around. I went back the way I'd come, stopping to tell two of the hunters that this particular road went to where they were logging (I don't know where the other two guys went).

I returned to the fork and decided to take the other road. I think this was the real S-line. I rode for a short distance until the road started to climb. I knew I still had more than 17 miles to go to get home. It was about 2:45. I decided to turn around. When I got back to the pavement, I added air to Mama Cass' tires for the ride home (less bouncyness). 

I like the Surly saddle when I'm on the gravel. However, for prolonged riding on pavement, I'm not so sure. My butt was not enjoying the ride home so much. Of course, it could be that I haven't done much riding in the last 5 days (in Eugene visiting my grandson).

Out of a total of 43 miles, 35 were on pavement. That's too much pavement. I don't mind riding to the gravel from home (I don't have much choice), but I'd like the gravel miles to be at least half of the total miles!
Cresting one of the climbs.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jasmin and Colleen's Most Excellent Sub48

You've heard of Sub24, well this was more than 24 hours, so I'm calling it a Sub48! It could also be called, "The Tour Where We Rode Some Hills, and Talked A Lot!"

Before I left for Europe, my friend Jasmin asked if I would "please please" take her on a bike tour. Of course I would! I returned from Europe, and we planned our adventure. I wanted to do something that would be relatively short in miles, but someplace I hadn't been. Using "Bicycling the Backroads of Southwest Washington", we settled on a two-day route along the Lewis River. I should say, I convinced Jasmin that she could do this two-day ride along the Lewis River! She was skeptical because it was described as hilly (an apt description).

Lists were made, panniers were borrowed (thanks Julie!), food was determined--our plan was set. Jasmin picked up Betsy and I Sunday morning. We drove to Woodland, Washington (about 1 1/2 hours south of Olympia on I-5), parked in a one of Woodland's free Public Parking lots (how great is that?), and prepared the bikes.

Jasmin had just a rear rack. She used my Ortlieb Sportpacker Plus panniers, and bungeed her sleeping bag, pad, and pillow on the top of the rack. I carried four panniers, so I could also carry her tent and all the food (except snacks). 

Day 1--Woodland to Battleground Lake State Park--20 miles

All packed up and ready to roll!

Since we only had 20 miles for the first day, there was no rush. We left Woodland around 12:15. It was sunny, and the last day of Fall was heating up. We followed Pacific Hwy to La Center. Along the way, we went past NW Lishan Rd. Lishan is my maiden name, and this is where my dad's family homesteaded. I have actually been this way before (Sierra Cascades--detour in 2011), coming from Vancouver, but it was fun to stop and take another photo.
Last time I was on Stella. This time Betsy.

In La Center, we found this great park to have our lunch.

It had some interesting Native American animal...carvings?


After lunch we made a quick stop at a grocery as we realized we had forgotten spices for our dinner. We continued on. It was getting pretty warm. The hills were mostly rollers--up, then down. For all Jasmin's fear about climbing the hills, she did great! She stayed right with me on every one. 

At the beginning of a rather steep and longish hill, I went to shift into the small ring, and dropped the chain. It did it's nasty thing of wedging between the folding bolt and the small ring. We pulled into a driveway so I could get the chain out. As I was trying to take the chain apart at the master link, the owner of the house came out to see what was going on. When we asked his name, he said it was "Georgie Porgie"--funny guy. I was finally able to get the chain to dislodge without having to take it apart (I must remember how I did that for next time). We said goodbye to Georgie and made our way up the hill. It was the steepest hill so far. At least it was all shady.

We continued following the route directions. We were on nice, fairly quiet backroads.
All smiles!

It was getting quite warm, and even though I had plenty of water, my mouth was very dry. We were fantasizing about nice cold lemonade. Unfortunately, we didn't go by anyplace where we could make that fantasy a reality. But, before we shriveled up and turned to dust, we arrived at our destination of Battleground Lake State Park.

We paid our $12 and found a nice campsite. First we found the water, drank a gallon each, then sat down and chatted. It was 4:00 when we arrived, and before we knew it, it was 7:15! We decided we should probably set up our tents and stuff. That done, we cooked dinner. We had a delicious meal of pasta, with zucchini, mushrooms, olives, garlic, and avocado. 

We made our way to the restroom/shower building and took turns taking showers. When we got back to the campsite we had our dessert of chocolate and more chatting--until 11:15! After one more foray to the restrooms, we crawled into our respective tents and drifted off to sleep in the peaceful quietness of the virtually empty campground.

Day 2--Continuing the loop--36 miles

Not having brought my watch, I woke up in the morning thinking it was probably about 6:30 or 7:00. I turned on my phone to see it was 8:00! Nice! We would still get an earlier start today, because we didn't have to drive an hour and a half first!
Good morning everybody!

We packed up the insides of our tents, then cooked breakfast. We had a nice leisurely meal with, of course, much talking. We finally decided we should probably pack up and get on the road. By the time we got breakfast cleaned up, and the tents packed up, it was almost noon! So much for the earlier start!

Still, before we left, we went down to the lake itself. Battleground Lake is a spring-fed crater. It's a great lake for swimming as the water is very clear. 

The beginning of today's route was pretty easy. We rode along the East Fork of the Lewis River. We stopped at Lucia Falls and ate lunch (okay, so we'd only been on the road for 6 miles, but it was already past noon, and we were hungry!)
Lucia Falls

A short distance farther down the road, we came to Moulton Falls.
Moulton Falls

After Moulton Falls, we departed from the river. Three miles later we rolled into Yacolt. We stopped at the General Store and got water. Jasmin got a couple of souvenirs for her boys. 

In Amboy, we began a long steep climb. It was definately the longest climb of the day. Jasmin's legs were getting tired, but she was still doing great. We just took frequent breaks. At one point the sun came out, and it started to rain. Yes, rain! Fortunately, it didn't last long. After reaching the top, we were promised, and delivered, a nice long downhill. The narrative for the route didn't mention any more long climbs, but it should have, because there were a couple of doozies! 

Jasmin becoming a climbing machine!

We made our way back toward Woodland, now riding along the Lewis River.
The road was a little busy, but the shoulder was wide.

Jasmin asked me what mileage we were at. I looked, and we were at 35.7 miles! Woo Hoo! Less than a mile to go! Sure enough, we came down a hill and found ourselves back to Woodland!

So, compared to my usual touring mileage, we didn't do a whole lot of miles. But, it was one of the most fun two days I've had touring! We both had a great time, hills and all! Can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Thanks to my friend, Brian, I now have my JBLM Access Permit! This morning, after making the required call to find out which areas were open, and then leaving my permit number, where I was going, and when, I headed out on Mama Cass.

To back up a bit, let me explain this whole Access Permit thing. To get the Permit, you must go to Range Control on the Main Post. You give them photo ID, and your phone number. They give you a pink card to carry, and one for your vehicle should you want to park on JBLM. When you get the permit, which is good for two years, they also give you a brochure which tells what you need to do prior to going on post. It has a map that shows all the areas. What you must do before going, is call the number listed in the brochure to first find out which areas are open, then leave the info I mentioned above. The areas closest to me are 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23. Area 23 is the closest of these. 

Today, only 20 and 21, of the areas within riding distance from home, were open. The map in the brochure is not very precise. As best I could tell, Area 20 could be accessed from the end of Johnson Rd. I've been that way a couple of times, so I knew where it was. Here's the tricky part. There are no signs out there telling you which area you are entering, or are in. Since the map has very few reference points, it's very easy to accidentally cross into a closed area--in today's case, Area 22. However, when I was looking on a website, it listed Area 22 being closed due to an endangered species of butterfly having been found there. So...I knew, if I accidentally crossed into 22, I was not likely going to run into any troops on maneuvers! But, also, how do the butterflies know not to cross into Area 20???

Anyway, I think I remained in Areas 20 and 21--at least until toward the end of the ride. I had done some looping around, and ended up back on a road I'd already been on. The second time, however, I turned, at an intersection, in the opposite direction as the first time. Since I knew where the other direction came out, I thought I knew where this way would go too. Turns out, not really. I thought I would come out on Rainier Rd near Spurgeon Creek Rd., which is Area 22...I think.

I started seeing signs for "tree falling", but I didn't hear any chainsaws or machinery, so I kept going. I came down a steep hill, and found myself in the middle of a logging area. I stopped to listen. Sure enough, I could hear a chainsaw, and the cracking sound of a tree falling. I turned around and went back up the hill. 

When I got back up the hill, I could see a house. There was an overgrown road that I attempted to ride that went behind that house and a couple of others. When it became too overgrown, I turned around and went back to the first house. There was a bit of a path that lead into the yard of the house. I knew there must be a road that led to the house. I walked MC along the edge of the yard (I don't think anyone was home) to the driveway. The road ended up being Tucker Ave., which becomes Meridian. Meridian is not far from Johnson Rd, where I went onto JBLM! That is, of course, nowhere near Rainier Rd!

Anyway, it was just over 37 miles by the time I got home. Did I see any military personnel that I could proudly show my pink card to? No, of course not. I did see a guy out on the prairie training his four lab pups--two black, two chocolate. They were 5 and 8 months old. One was not quite so obedient yet, as she followed me for awhile, even though her owner was madly blowing a whistle!

Sorry for there being no photos. Just not much to photograph. Maybe if I'd seen one of those endangered butterflies...

Sunday, August 31, 2014


"No sir, I'm not military. No, I do not have an Access Permit." Alas, until I find a way to get said Access Permit, my JBLM dirt riding days are over.

I decided since it was Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, Mama Cass and I would do some exploring on the dirt and gravel roads of JBLM. Brian, Melody, and I had been out last Wednesday, and I wanted to go back and do some roads we hadn't done. 

I went back in off Rainier Rd. where we had come out on Wednesday. Going that way avoids one of the really steep hills along the pipeline that, even with MC, I have to walk. This way intersects with the pipeline road. Having done the pipeline a few times, this time I continued straight. I had an idea where it would come out (I was almost right). 

The road was a decent double-track that gradually climbed somewhat parallel to the pipeline road, but further west. Even though a couple of sections were fairly steep, the rocks weren't too loose, and MC just motored on up. It was much more wooded than the pipeline road, and quite peaceful. 

After coming down one hill, I encountered a big tree down across the road. Someone had unsuccessfully tried to chop it with an ax (this tree would require a chainsaw). I picked up MC and hefted her over the tree. Then I hauled myself over and continued riding. I climbed again and came out to a nice vista through the trees.
When I got home and looked at the Strava map, I could see I was looking down in the area of Offut Lake (couldn't see the lake from where I was).

From the nice vista, the road went down.
It was pretty steep and rocky, so I did brake quite abit, but still less than if I'd been on Stella.

As I came to an intersection, I could hear a vehicle coming. I pulled over to let it pass...except it didn't. Dang! It was the Military Police. Two boys got out and asked me if I was Military. When I said no, they asked if I had an Access Permit. Nope, didn't have one of those either. Then they asked for ID. I didn't have my Driver's License with me, but I had my USA Cycling license, and my AAA card. They asked where I had come in. I told them. They asked me again. I told them, again. They asked if I had seen the "No Tresspassing" sign. Well, of course I had seen the sign! I said I had, but I had ridden there before. They asked where I had parked. I said I didn't; I rode from home. Then, of course, they wanted to know where home was, so I told them. They asked me again which direction I had come from. Apparently, they were following bike tracks, but they weren't mine. They asked if I'd seen anyone else (I hadn't). They also asked me if the tree was still down (I said it was). They also admired Mama Cass. The one officer even asked me (if I didn't mind) how much she cost. 

I gave them all my info. They didn't seem to care about looking at my "ID". They said I could get an Access Permit that would be good for two years. I knew about the permit, but I thought it was only good for the day you were there, which wouldn't do me much good, because I'd have to go get the permit on Post, and then the day would be over. 

They only gave me a warning, but now I'm in the "System", so if I get caught again without an Access Permit, I will be arrested. So...I guess I'll see about getting me one of those Access Permits!

They did allow me to ride out to Rainier Rd. The road I was on brought me back to the pipeline (if I had been able to continue my exploration, I could have come out to another part that I have been on). I could have (was supposed to) continued straight out to Rainier Rd. However, I opted to ride the pipeline road back to where I had crossed it. I wanted to ride as much on the dirt and gravel as possible. I figured if the military boys found me again, I'd just tell them I knew the pipeline would get me back to where I had come in. 

I had hoped to do more exploring, but I don't think it's wise to mess with the Military Police! 

The total ride was only 18 miles. The JBLM part was probably only about 10 of those miles.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Putting Mama Cass to the Test...

...And finding her worthy.

Derik posted an impromptu gravel ride last night for today, Sunday. I thought, "Heck yeah! I wanna go!" The meeting time was 9:00 at McLane Elem. That's about 10 miles from my house. I got up at 6:30, and left the house at 7:45. Could have slept until 7:00, and left at 8:00. Mama Cass moves faster than you think (or, at least, I thought).

I had no idea, besides Derik, who was coming. Turned out it was just Derik, DJ, Trisha, and I. I was fine with that, as I really like riding with all three of them (and they never get impatient with my slowness). I hadn't seen Trisha since the Minot Peak ride (aka Minot Make It). It was great to ride with her again. Sergio caught up to us partway through, but turned around later on.

We did the route that a bunch of us had done in early Spring. The one where it rained, and we cut it short because we were all freezing. The one where I was scared to death coming down in the rain and mud. The one where I did a lot of walking because the ups were so steep.

Today was a different story--TOTALLY different story! First of all, the first climb that I walked up most of the way last time? Yeah, I rode that sucker all the way to the top! Still wheezing like a donkey, BUT NO WALKING! 

At the top of that first climb, Derik let a bunch of air out of MC's tires. That was better for the rest of the ride. We did a bit of downhill, then more climbing. This time, we went all the way to the top of Rock Candy Mountain.
Rock Candy Summit. Most excellent view!

Today's posse--Derik, DJ, and Trisha.

Coming down was a blast! I was still a little scared, but I was going about 5 times faster than on Stella. The others still are more fearless and faster than me. DJ has no fear whatsoever! There was a couple of times where I thought he was gonna die, and we would have to somehow transport his lifeless body the rest of the way down the mountain! Fortunately, that didn't happen. However, Derik did get a flat, which allowed me to catch up (even though they always wait for me).

We came down the long 7 mile descent, and came to a spot where the bridge was gone. We had to walk across a log that spanned a small stream. DJ was kind enough to take MC for me (it was enough of a challenge for me to just walk myself across the log). Then, we found some thimble berries and blackberries, and ate a handful or two.

This time, after a short bit on the road, we took the road we had wanted to take last time (I think B9000). It was more climbing. Trisha and I commented that we could tell we were getting tired. She loses her form, and me, having no form to start with, just go slower. DJ and Derik were watching for a trail we would take to come out at Alpine Dr. WAIT...trail? As in singletrack? For real mountain biking? YIKES!!! 

Yes, I even did a bit of singletrack! It had its fun moments, and its terrifying moments. I kept up a running commentary through the terrifying moments telling myself it was okay with an occasional (maybe more than "occasional"), "OH CRAP!" I managed to survive my first mountain biking experience. I might even do it again!

The rest of the ride was on the pavement. I left the Posse at 62nd to ride home. Oh, and Trisha was giving me some pointers on how to ride the descents fast, yet safely. I tried it, and it was better (still not so fast in the corners). I will soak up any wisdom they want to share with me!

Total miles for me from home to home: 54

Mama Cass is definately a worthy steed for the gravel rides. It was really fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

There's a New Horse in Town!

Yep, pulled the trigger on this bad girl today!

In keeping with tradition that all my bikes are female, I'd like to introduce Mama Cass! She is a Surly ECR. This is Surly's Off-Road Touring machine. I've had my eye on this baby for awhile now. It's been my plan to get the ECR to do Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route, and more importantly, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

Besides all her cage bosses, and awesome gearing, here's a couple of photos of her cool Jones H-bar and 3" fat tires.
Check out the huge amount of real estate on this bar!

Ready for anything the Divide can dish out!

So, the Divide ride is not until Sept. 2016, and Idaho won't be until next summer, but MC will be pretty great on some gravel rides here. Will I be able to keep up with the others now? Not likely, but I'll sure have more fun trying!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Going Home

Christian and I were up at 5:30 this morning. I put the last pannier into the Chinese Shopping Bag, and we were out the door before 6:30. At the airport, I was sad to say goodbye to Christian, as I don't know when I'll see him next. Of course, we'll keep in touch, but it's not quite the same.

I had no problems checking my bag and Betsy. I was perilously close to the weight limit with the combined weight being 45kg (limit being 46). It's a good thing I sent the first bunch of souvenirs home! This time I didn't have to weigh my carry-on. 

Passport control was not open yet. I had to wait about 30 minutes. After going through it, and going to Gate C4, Security was not open. It's interesting at Frankfurt Airport. There is individual Security for each Gate. My flight was at 10:15. At Baggage Drop, I was told the plane would begin boarding at 9:00. Well, Security didn't even open until almost 9:00! I was not the only American curious about this. A long line began to form before Security opened. I just sat until they opened, then stepped into the line from where I was. 

After Security, I handed my Boarding Pass to an airline employee (who tore off the half). Then went to the waiting area. So, when it came time to finally board the plane, I just showed my stub and walked on the plane. We took off about 20 minutes late.

It was strange to look at the map on the screen in front of my seat and see my route! I think it's going to take some time to process the idea that I rode 3786 miles through 10 countries (counting Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and England as separate countries) in 79 days!

I noticed yesterday, as I was packing Betsy, I can see the blue of the Kevlar on the rear tire. Still, I did not get a single flat! Schwalbe Tires are awesome!

It's difficult to sit for such a long time on a plane after spending day after day riding and being outside all day and night. At least I have an aisle seat and can get up now and then.

Later...I'm home! Dillon and Connor came to the airport to pick up Betsy and I. Souvenirs have been distributed, a shower taken, first batch of laundry done, and now...bed.