Sunday, February 20, 2011

Roller Coaster: WSCC Version

Olympics were larger than life, and so were the waves

I met the RCC/ Goosebumps group in the parking lot at Lincoln Park and, not having seen the crowd in several weeks, enjoyed some chatting, the "secret handshake" and hellos. More followed on the ferry ride to Southworth, in between the oohs and aahhs of the views and the rocking of the boat. I mean literally the rocking of the boat; strong winds were making Puget Sound into a big bathtub and the ferry was a little rubber ducky, being tossed and turned.

Once we found our legs again, we disembarked and headed out from Southworth toward Port Orchard, fighting the wind at times, but I managed to find shelter behind other, bigger riders (names intentionally left out). We had a close encounter with the powers of nature as we rode along the shore. The full moon's high tide plus the high winds had brought the beach onto the road and we walked a section that was covered in seaweed, shells and rocks.

At Manchester, I bid them farewell, as I was meeting a group from the West Sound Cycling Club who were doing a shorter ride around the Peninsula. The "group" ended up being two guys, Dan and Leo. It seemed that the high winds had deterred riders in this normally hearty group. They had fought a headwind to get to Manchester and chose to return the way they had come to get the reward of a tailwind. And so we departed toward Port Orchard. Arriving in town, we came across Lynn M who was making arrangements to ditch the ride altogether (via bus) due to strong winds. While bigger riders are great to hide behind in such conditions, we riders of slight build have a tough time keeping our bikes moving in a straight line. Leader Dan convinced her to join us and we four set off to go inland.

For the first few miles, we followed the Rollercoaster route, then journeyed into a neighborhood, then east to cross the many ridges of the peninsula and on to Long Lake and some really nice scenery, then back via Olalla Valley Road and a nice downhill finish.

The route is here and is just shy of 40 miles, a nice alternative to a 60-mile ride with lunch which tends to last all day. However, the 40 miles we rode were consecutive and not broken up by a stop for coffee or pie. My legs were unfamiliar with this concept and nearly stopped working somewhere along the way. But our kind leader, Dan, was patient and slowed down for me, while Lynn kept vigil behind me so I didn't slip into the vastness of the landscape.

We arrived back at Southworth as the ferry was unloading, thrilled at the perfect timing that Dan had managed to provide us. Back at Fauntleroy, Lynn and I climbed the last hill to our cars, said goodbye, then I was off to have my delayed pie snack.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Sweet Ride!

pies and cookies, mmm
It was a weekend of sweet rides, meant literally and figuratively. Both were fairly short, for one reason or another, but scenic and interesting in their own ways. The first, on Saturday, began in West Seattle at Jack Block Park near Alki. A flat ride to Alki with a little headwind, then uphill toward White Center. The reward: pie at 3.14 Bakery. That's "Pi" Bakery to those of us with a memory for math. Apple pie for me, plus a strong mocha. Strong and sweet, that's how I like it.

From White Center, I headed north on 16th Avenue which was ok, but had a line of parked cars and a road seam not far from them, so it was a little dicey to choose where to ride. After I while, I turned on Myrtle St and went to 21st Ave, a real find. The avenue is on a ridge and is in a quiet neighborhood with off-street parking, speed bumps and low speeds. In fact, I didn't encounter any cars the whole time I was on it, but I did see a mother with her son on bicycles. That was my kind of road.

Toward the northern terminus of 21st Ave, I turned left to Andover, then a quick right to 22nd Ave. The map indicated there was bike trail access but I wasn't so sure once I made the turn. Just as I started to dread the climb back up the way I'd come, I rolled up on a driveway and onto the trail that goes under Spokane Street and Marginal Way. I made my way to Harbor Avenue, just as the winds from the south picked up, blowing me back to the park. Now that's sweet! Here's the route.

Pilchuck River Valley

On Sunday, I joined a BIKES of Snohomish ride, starting in Machias, just north of the town of Snohomish. I've ridden with these guys before and they are great. They always look after me, even when I am ahead of them ;-), but on this ride, there were three of us who rode a little faster, drafting one another and pushing the pace. We were accused of having too much testosterone until I, ahem, pointed out it might just be the estrogen. We enjoyed the smooth pavement of a new road in Granite Falls, I got my Columbian chocolate fix at the store there, then we were on to fun, quiet roads as we made our way back to Snohomish.

I start a lot of rides in Snohomish and that is because there are beautiful, quiet roads out there that roll and climb, but also because of the Snohomish Pie Company. After a fast, sweet cruise back to the car that put a smile on my face that not even chocolate can evoke, we all met up at the Pie Company in downtown Snohomish for a little more sweetness.
blue-ish skies

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wine and Dine Weekend, January 29 & 30

Blackwood Canyon vineyard
There was some hiking this past weekend and some of it was dicey. And there was some wine tasting, and some of that was dicey, too. Six friends, either by direct association or friends of friends (actual friends, not the kind on Facebook) got together for a weekend of wine tasting and hiking in the Yakima Valley. We had received a generous offer from our friend-in-common, Becky, who was the highest bidder at the Bicycle Alliance's auction for a winemaker's dinner at Mercer Estates Winery in Prosser, WA.

we called this area the North Face, as it was solid ice

We were all cyclists and all active so we wanted to get a little fresh air and exercise on the drive over to the eastside. As the appointed Recreation Leader for the group, I chose the Umtanum Creek Falls hike, just outside of Ellensburg and a short, nearly flat 3-mile jaunt to a 40-foot waterfall. I had read reports on the WTA site that the area near the falls could be icy in winter, but that was only a small part of the dangers on the trail.

Umtanum Creek Falls
despite the snow, there were signs of spring

While the 5 miles of dirt road was wet and dirt-splattering, the parking lot was a sheet of ice. Half of us donned some type of traction device and/or poles, while the others relied on balance and luck. Through sheer will, the help of friends, some trail detours and maybe some sharp fingernails too, we all made it safely to the falls which were pounding with the recent melt. Nearly all of us took a fall at some point, but it yielded in dirty clothes or a slice of humble pie, but no immediate injuries. The three-mile hike had taken us a total of 4 hours and we had to trim our time-wasting to make it to the winery in time for the big dinner. 

At 5:30 pm, the wine tasting began and with it a nice dinner which wasn't over until nearly 10pm, at which point we had sampled nearly 20 different varieties of wine and our friend, Bruce, had won the double Magnum for being a wine expert. Leaving the winery, I felt a little like I was on an icy hike, gliding over the parking lot, a full pirouette toward the car (driven by someone less intoxicated).

Bruce proudly displays his prize

After a night of difficult sleep (not enough wine to pass out, but too much to sleep peacefully), we woke to snow flurries and some aches and pains from the previous day's antics (on the ice, I presumed). First on the agenda was breakfast, then to Starbucks, a welcome change from wine. What was in the works for the day's schedule... more wine tasting!

First stop was to Chinook Winery in Prosser which opened their wine-tasting room for us specifically. They poured a Cabernet Franc, Semillon and a couple others (who can keep this stuff straight – it's wine). The Semillon was nice and, since it was marked 50% off, I bought a bottle, figuring that was my contribution to Washington Wines. Then we set off toward Benton City, to a winery I had been to about 15 years ago and had not had even one sip of their wines since I finished my last bottle, not long after returning home from the tasting.
Mike Moore of Blackwood Canyon

Blackwood Canyon is well-known for a few things. Most importantly, they produce incredible wines. They also produce their wines and age them much differently than most anywhere else in the US, or even the world. But the owner is known as an eccentric and, in contrast with the stainless steel and scrubbed chemistry lab of Mercer Estates, this winery looked like the home of a mad scientist. Old computers, papers scattered about, stacks of this and that, starkly different in every way from the order and sterile environment of the winery we had seen the evening before.

No matter, we still wanted to taste his wines and, for a $10 tasting fee, had a sample of each variety of his offerings,  over 10 wines total. They were damn good. They were amazing. The wines had layers, they brought out the taste in the bites of food he served us (that he procured from somewhere amongst the chaos) and the food brought out more flavor in the wine. Two and a half hours later, we all stumbled out (mostly from fatigue brought on by the previous day), some with a case of wine, me with a couple of bottles. We were facing a long drive home and it turned out it was a very quiet drive (we were tired and hungry) and cramped (all the extra space had become occupied by wine bottles). It began snowing lightly outside of Cle Elum where we had stopped for dinner. As we passed a sanding truck on I-90, I thought, oh no, not more ice! But the rest of the journey was dry (pun intended, as I also refrained from any alcohol for the week following my return).