Goals for the week of 7/28, miscellany

So I have completed the Tenth of the Tour (woo hoo!), and the Rapha Rising challenge (that one was a push…)–now what?

So: goals for the week of 7/28. First off, it turns out there are other things in my life–projects and chores–that need to get done, so some of that is in order for this week.

Secondly, I did a lot of riding in the last three weeks, and a lot of climbing in the last week, and my legs are tired! Today and tomorrow are rest days, and for doing non-strenuous projects and chores…

Though a computer crisis (I’m very unimpressed with Sony and their laptop quality control) has somewhat derailed the first goal, it has abetted the second, as I have been sitting around waiting on computer stuff. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with my time, but I’ll count it towards my rest goal I guess, and call it good.

Thirdly, Wednesday I’ll be riding my bike on Mt Rainier again!!!! I enjoyed myself so much last time, and I’m really looking forward to being back there. Then I’m staying overnight and volunteering for RAMROD Thursday morning. Despite having to get up incredibly early for this (I’m not even willing to type the numbers of the o’ clock I’ll be starting at…), I’m looking forward to it also. I have been the beneficiary of fabulous volunteers at a number of events, and it will be good to give back a bit.

Lastly, on Sunday, depending on weather and life, as mentioned before we might do Ride the Hurricane.

And some navel-gazing miscellany:

Kicking around in my head is the awareness that, as much as this blog has already been really useful for me in setting goals and holding myself accountable, there are also much more systematic training programs that I could be following. I could have a professional cycling coach draw up a plan for me. I could get a power meter, and do targeted intervals. I could push myself harder more often.

Kicking around in my head also is that I have the tendency to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Just because I could be training better, could be improving more, doesn’t mean that what I am doing is worthless. (And this is a concept that I sometimes have a hard time with.)

I have gotten a lot stronger this year. I can see this both in absolute results, with steadily improving times on roads I do often, and in my attitude. I’m not having as much energy sapped by the worry that I can’t do something.

I really enjoy getting better on the bike, and I also enjoy enjoying myself on the bike. Sometimes those things intersect, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s fun to push myself as hard as I can up a hill, sometimes it just isn’t. And when it isn’t, I usually don’t. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit up and admire the scenery.

This summer hasn’t been as methodical as it could have been, but it’s been a lot of fun so far. I was looking back at my to-do rides of the summer post, and realized that I’ve done most of them, and had a blast in the process! Despite growing up here, there are a number of amazing places I had never been until I biked their roads in the last couple months. (And that includes some in-city nooks and crannies…)

Even though it’s important to me to get better, nothing is depending on it. It’s not my job. And even though I have a lot invested in this Italy trip, if I’m not feeling it, I can stay in the hotel for the day, or hop in the follow van, or turn around and  head back down the mountain. So why suffer more than I find entertaining to suffer?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that on the bike I’d rather do a mediocre job of getting better than do a mediocre job of having fun. So far, so good.

PS: our house has too many stairs. By which I mean it has stairs.

Hurricane Ridge by bike!

Yesterday was a beautiful, fabulous day on the bike! Spoiler alert: the climb to Hurricane Ridge (and the descent) is spectacular!

In the morning, I popped out of bed much earlier than I otherwise would have been inclined to, loaded up the car, and hit the road. A ferry ride and some scenic driving later, I was parked next to the water in Port Angeles. I figured if I was going to do this, I was going to start at sea level and get credit for every inch of elevation that I could…

Over the few days previous, I had obsessively read as many accounts of this climb as I could find (when nervous and/or faced with a new situation, I deal with my anxiety by what some might call over-preparation…) so I knew that the steepest part was in the beginning. That said, my bike computer never showed greater than 9%, and usually less than that. While 7-9% is nothing to sneeze at, it’s nothing like some of the vertical walls I’ve been making myself go up. I wasn’t competing to set a landspeed record, so I climbed at a pretty relaxed tempo, and still had a few gears in reserve.

Once out of Port Angeles, the road is shoulderless chipseal. Not great on paper, but the road is really wide, so cars can pass with tons of room, and right now the chipseal is worn enough that it’s relatively smooth. Still, there is some effort involved in biking uphill on a rough surface.

Then the miracles start (angels singing and all). First the slope lessens noticeably–after the previous couple miles of effort, I suddenly felt like Superman on a bike. Then you enter the National Park ($5 for a bike, an amazing deal) and the road surface turns buttery smooth. Double Superman on a bike!

From there the climb never quite gets as steep as the first part, and even almost levels off a couple times. But it’s pretty much relentlessly upwards–if your legs aren’t moving, neither is your bike.

And so why go to all this effort? Because it’s fascinating and gorgeous! At first you’re surrounded by lush woods–the air is so fresh and rich that it’s a taste more than a smell. Then you climb enough that the ecosystem changes–the trees thin out, the vegetation goes from moss and ferns to wildflowers, and the views start to open up.

A few flowers, and a little bit of the view

A few flowers, and a little bit of the view

I started to feel sorry for the people going by me in cars, because I was enjoying the climb so much. I was torn between wanting to get to the top and have that sense of accomplishment, and wanting the climb not to end. Of course it did end, I did get to the top, but by the time I did, my cheeks hurt from smiling.

19 miles uphill, over 5,000 feet of steady elevation gain, and I very much enjoyed the most delicious chocolate milk and hot dog that I have ever had. Thanks, Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center!

Proof that I made it!

Proof that I made it!

View from the Visitor Center

View from the Visitor Center

More view from the Visitor Center

More view from the Visitor Center

The descent was pretty great too–though I was very glad for the extra clothing that I had brought. The corollary of a not-too-steep ascent is not needing to touch the brakes on the way back down (unless you’re stopping to take photos, and then stopping again to, on second thought, go ahead and put on that wool cap you brought. And then stopping again for more photos.) There’s not as much admiring of the scenery on the way down–it’s a little more necessary to focus on the road–but that’s the part where you can convince yourself that you can fly, because that’s what it feels like.

Partway down, and you can see out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Partway down, and you can see out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Next weekend is the Ride the Hurricane event, where for part of the day, the road is closed to cars, and bicyclists have it to themselves. I’m thinking of going back for this, both because I really enjoyed the climb, and because once you’re out of the urban environment, you really notice how much noise cars make. My audio progress uphill was something like “birds, insects, wind–oh, I can hear a car way down the road that will eventually pass me–ahh, quiet again, birds, insects, wind.”

At any rate, for a ride that I was expecting to be a challenge, it definitely was, but it was also a lot easier than I had anticipated. This was partly because the slope is never viciously steep, partly because I wasn’t pushing to be fast (and the relative gentleness of the slope allowed me to pedal easily), and partly because it was such a rewarding environment to get to spend a couple hours admiring. The climb never felt dreary, or like I just wanted it to be done, as there was always something to enjoy.

So maybe next weekend (I’m not ashamed to be a delicate princess about the weather…) or maybe some other time, but it’s definitely a ride I want to do again.

A few more photos:

Trees

The really good patches of wildflowers were not next to road pullouts, so this will have to do.

The really good patches of wildflowers weren’t next to road pullouts, so this will have to do.

Another not-great photo of wildflowers that were pretty great.

Another not-great photo of wildflowers that were pretty great.

More from the Visitor Center

More from the Visitor Center

I am completely calm

We got an email from Cinghiale with trip info, release and medical forms to sign, etc. And we leave in a little over a month. I am completely calm. I am not bouncing back and forth between excitement and nervous worrying. Nope. Not at all.

And if you believe that…

But back to things that I am.

I am a badass because today I got on my bike in the pouring rain and did a piddly ride with a fair amount of climbing for the length of the ride. The ride was nothing too impressive, but did I mention the pouring rain? As in, today could possibly break a record for the amount of rain on a July day? It was very wet out. Very, very wet out.

I am likely going to bike Hurricane Ridge on Friday, if the weather forecast holds.

I am going to finish out the Tenth of the Tour. Which means I get a t-shirt!

I am going to continue to go through ungodly amounts of food.

I am going to have way too many awesome moments to keep track of while I ride, like catching my breath down by the lighthouse in Discovery Park.

Why are lighthouses invariably on the other side of a big hill? At any rate, going up and over that hill a few times was the purpose of the ride. The view out over the water at the end was a nice bonus.

Why are lighthouses invariably on the other side of a big hill? At any rate, going up and over that hill a few times was the purpose of the ride. The view out over the water at the end was a nice bonus.

And let’s not forget: I am completely calm.

Got ‘er done! (And goals for the week of 7/21)

Whoops, I’m supposed to be writing this post at the end of the week, so that I can tailor my goals to what I actually did during the week. Oh well. Too late now.

Yesterday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday’s ride, except I went all the way out to Squak Mountain, and then biked up Zoo Hill on the way back. And I made a bargain with myself that I only had to do Zoo Hill as far as the bus stop–many consider that the top of the climb (1000′ of elevation gain is enough, some think), but if you like, at that point you can turn left to get another 250′ higher in the air. Usually the rule is that I have to do the left turn also and ride until the road turns to gravel. Then I get to go back down (the rule says I have to do uphill, but I don’t have to do gravel uphill.)

No, I don’t know who makes these horrible rules.

Anyway, I bent the rules a bit, and continued straight at the bus stop, and it was awesome. I’m such a rebel!

The rain overnight had really cleared out the air, and going through wooded parts of the ride, there was a delicious green, growing freshness that was almost as much a taste as a smell. On parts of Zoo Hill, when my head wasn’t hanging down, eyes fixated on the pavement 3 feet in front of me, it was really great to look into the woods on either side and enjoy the lush growth creating the delicious fresh air. The woods are even more impressive for the nearly vertical hillside they’re managing to cling to and thrive on–the steep road seems flat in comparison.

Also notable was the guy who cheered me on from his car at the beginning of the hill, and again when I went past him working in his yard towards the top of the hill. Thanks dude!

I’m especially proud of myself for bringing my phone/cards/cash with me and actually knowing that I had them with me. I’m also very thankful that the under-renovation-Leschi-Starbucks is open all day long on the weekends. I even checked that info ahead of time, so that I wouldn’t have a repeat of last month’s sadness. Though now I know I should ask for an extra mondo amount of whipped cream on my mocha if it’s been a tough ride.

Anyway, I rode 100k (that’s 62 miles for those of you who like real numbers) and had 5300 feet of elevation gain. Not insanely hilly, but pretty good considering that too much of the ride is essentially flat.

So, here we go with goals for the week:

Monday, a rest day–I can’t check this off as accomplished quite yet, but I’m getting a good start on it!

Tuesday-Sunday–finish off the Tenth of the Tour challenge, and do some climby rides. I’d like to do Hurricane Ridge, but I’m keeping an eye on the weather forecast (which keeps changing!) because I’m perfectly happy to be a weather wimp… And that is making it hard to be day-to-day specific, as I don’t want to trash myself by committing to a really hard ride the day before trying out Hurricane Ridge. Which, if I started at sea level, would be a full mile up into the air… Climby! But somewhere in there I might head over to Bainbridge Island too.

So I guess this week’s strategy is to be incredibly vague about my goals, and then put my own interpretive spin on whether or not I accomplished them… Tricky!

Stay tuned for next week, which will mark the one-month-before-departure point (I’m sure I won’t be freaking out at all…) and will also feature Mt Rainier!

I really need to be better about taking pictures when I'm riding. But here's a jack o' lantern I make a couple years ago. I was quite entertained by it!

I really need to be better about taking pictures when I’m riding. But here’s a jack o’ lantern I made a couple years ago. I was quite entertained by it!

Up and down morning on the bike

I mean the title of this post figuratively–but literally too. Get it?!? Ha ha, aren’t I clever. Or something…

Anyway, I got on the bike at 8AM with the intent to ride over to Issaquah, do Squak Mountain, then Zoo Hill, then come home, maybe with some looping of Mercer Island thrown in. Climby! Ambitious! Did you catch that I got going at 8AM–on a Saturday?

I started riding, and pretty quickly was wondering what happened to all that training benefit I supposedly got from STP. I just was not feeling it. My legs seemed heavy and slow, and knowing I had some climbing ahead, I said “oh well” and shifted into easier and easier gears.

About 15 miles in to my ride I had a sudden realization that I could remember getting my phone/cash/cards together, but could not remember putting them in my pocket. I felt my pocket, and sure enough, empty. The first thought that came to mind was “oh dear, if something happens to me, not having my ID will really delay identification of the body and notification of next of kin.” Seriously. Then I thought “and so much for my plan of stopping partway through for coffee and a snack.”

So between my legs, and the lack of anything to buy something with or call for help with, I decided the better part of valor would be to do just Zoo Hill, then the direct route home. So I huffed and puffed my way up Zoo, tucked my tail between my tired legs, and pointed my bike homewards.

It was starting to warm up, so I finally pulled my wind vest all the way off and stuck it in my conveniently empty pocket–and what is this? It’s my phone/cards/cash… They were with me the whole time. Now I have tired legs AND feel like an idiot.

On the bright side, that meant I could stop for coffee!

Once home, I took a look at my guaranteed-to-be-depressing ride stats, and to my confusion, found that I had personal best times on a ton of the ride, including Zoo Hill… It was the oddest mismatch of perception and reality that I’ve had on the bike for a while, but I’ll take it!

So, 50 miles, 4,300 feet of elevation gain, some chocolate milk, chips and guacamole later, it’s time to watch today’s stage of the Tour de France, and enjoy other people making their way painfully up a hill…

Accidental genius–goals for the week of 7/14

Because I’m sure that all my readers are astute, observant, and good-looking (right?!?!), you likely will have noticed that I am posting my goals for the week of 7/14 considerably after the 14th. That is my accidental genius. You see, by stating my goals for the week at the end of the week, I can be sure to have accomplished them! Genius!

So, without further ado, my goals for the week of 7/14:

Take a rest day on Tuesday: accomplished!

Recover from STP: accomplished!

Continue getting my Tenth of the Tour miles in: accomplished! (So far.)

Starting Saturday, add more climbing back in, both on general principles, and as part of the Rapha Rising challenge (basically, climb a lot between July 19 and 27): whoops, here’s where the accidental nature of my genius shows, as I am writing this too early to report that I accomplished that goal. (Or to have a completely different goal in its place… Like lie horizontal on the couch for at least an hour…)

Anyway, this week has been a series of pretty piddly rides–getting miles in, but without ambition or extra credit. But what a difference challenging riding followed by an off day can make–I have felt strong and energetic the last couple days, and it’s not just my imagination. On a number of in-city climbs that I do regularly, I have set some personal bests, or been very close to a personal best time, and it has felt easy!

So, it will probably be another piddly day tomorrow, and then pushing myself this weekend and through the week. I think Hurricane Ridge will make an appearance soon…

And because the friendship between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen is about the awesomest thing ever–

Click to see more photos of them! (Scroll down)

Click to see more photos of them! (Scroll down)

STP

Another STP in the bag! Perhaps the best part was taking a shower at our Portland hotel… I mean, there was a lot of fabulous stuff on the ride and all, but that shower was amazing. (And my apologies to the two people in the elevator with me. I wasn’t enjoying being in the elevator with me either.)

This year was nowhere near as challenging as my first STP, when I didn’t even know if I could make it, but it was still plenty difficult. At the end, Ian overheard someone saying that as she was driving into Portland, her car thermometer read 100 degrees.

The heat was my big worry going in–my hope was to start with the first wave at 4:45AM, go hard and get as much as the ride done as possible before the heat really kicked in. It seemed we weren’t the only ones with this plan, as the starting crowd seemed to be larger than usual, and contained a number of two-day riders (who technically aren’t supposed to start until later). And astonishingly, everything went according to plan! (That anything goes right when you’ve set your alarm for 3:45AM is a miracle…)

The beginning of the ride is a little hairy. It’s crowded and there are always a few (usually young male) people trying to show off how macho they are or something, and who go too fast for the number of people and do stupid stuff, and other people not paying attention and doing other stupid stuff. There seemed a little more of that this year, but we made it through intact, and things eventually thin out and get safer.

We got to Centralia (halfway point) before 11, in temperatures that were pretty comfortable still. After some lunch, a re-up of the sunscreen, and an ice cube in my helmet, we set out again. It was starting to get hot.

But, it’s not a race (despite how some people ride it), and my job is not dependent on how quickly I can bike to Portland, so we didn’t push too hard, stopped to get more water when we needed to, and stayed at a couple of the rest stops a little longer than we otherwise would have.

One of my favorite parts of the ride is the stretch of Highway 30 in Oregon. A lot of people don’t really like this part, as it’s 40 miles or so of not-super-scenic, busy, noisy highway. But there’s usually a tailwind here, and I think (though I could be wrong) that the warmer it is, the more of a tailwind there is. So this year was pretty awesome.

At any rate, when I get to this part, I always feel like I’m flying. I’ve biked 150 miles, and all of a sudden it is so easy to pedal my bicycle! The psychological boost gives me a physical boost, and I always get a second wind through here. Usually I’m the one to ask Ian to slow down, or just watch him disappear into the distance–I think he has asked me to slow down twice in our four years of biking together, and they were both on 30 in STP… I just feel fabulous on that road!

And this year, after baking in the sun for the first part of 30, the second half of it or so is in the shade (and more so because we had stopped longer earlier, and were hitting 30 later in the day). Reaching that shade, with a tailwind, and Portland just a short bike ride away… That was bliss. For a moment. And then I noticed that it was still really hot even in the shade, I was getting hungry again, and was getting a bit of heat rash in some fun places. But it was a good moment while it lasted.

It’s nice to have a better result each year, and point to that as proof of improvement–this year, my on-bike time was the same as last, and the overall time was longer because we took more time at the stops. But I think that does represent improvement, given the difficulty that the heat presented. Rather than taking pride in being faster, this year I’m taking pride in the fact that I continued to sweat and pee throughout the ride. I was able to stay on top of my hydration, and though I was wishing it weren’t as hot out, I never felt in distress.

As a bonus, with all the hill work I’ve been doing, this ride has gotten flatter and flatter. The first year, I was not pleased with how many hills there were on this allegedly “flat” ride. This year, we overheard someone in St. Helens complaining about the hilly section coming up, and we exchanged puzzled glances–what hilly section?! It’s a flat ride!

A lot of people ask “why?!?!” And I’ll admit there were times on the ride I was asking myself the same thing. (Have I mentioned yet that the ride got really hot?) STP is nowhere near as scenic as other rides I do, there are rides that are more challenging, have less chaos and sketch group riding–in other words, there are a lot of rides that on paper have a lot more going for them than STP.

Yet it remains one of my must-do rides each year, and I really enjoy it. There’s just something special about STP. Part of it is the chaos–there is chaos because 10,000 people are getting on their bicycles together! It still boggles my mind! Part of it is the conceptual spiffiness of being able to hop on my bike and end up in Portland. And part of it… I don’t know. But it’s always one of the highlights of my biking year.

No pictures from the ride, because I'm smart like that. But here's my collection of 1-day rider badges! ("Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!")

No pictures from the ride, because I’m smart like that. But here’s my collection of 1 day rider badges! (“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”)

Meanwhile, in other news, the Tenth of the Tour challenge continues. I got my miles in on Sunday and today, and I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am to have a rest day tomorrow.

Also, I need to figure out goals for the rest of the week, but I can’t think about that right now. I think I will see how I feel later in the week, because all I feel right now is tired. And like I don’t want to do anything challenging or useful training-wise, because even thinking about Zoo Hill or the like makes my legs protest.

And to finish, one more installment in the “what do I think about when riding” series:
There are things I don’t like about bicycling, such as riding over rough pavement when I really, really, really, really have to pee.

FYI

It turns out that there are things you can do on your bike to get in an approximately 20 mile ride that are not hill repeats of Squak Mountain. Wow. Who knew?

For instance, you could do:

–a meandering, easy ride to Sunday morning coffee and croissant
–over to a friend’s house
–to STP packet pick up and the grocery store
–back to STP packet pick up because they gave you the wrong stuff in your packet the first time, and thence to coffee with friends

etc.

It’s been a relaxing week of easy riding. I’m still on track with the Tenth of the Tour, and I’m definitely feeling a training boost from the Rainier ride. My legs feel good, so here’s hoping I can get a lot of miles covered tomorrow before it gets too hot, and then take it easy into Portland.

 

BTW, goals for the week of 7/7–TotT, STP

So the Tenth of the Tour challenge continues this week, with goal mileage each day of around 20 miles, give or take.

Now, 20 miles can mean a lot of things–hill repeats up Squak Mountain for instance, or a relaxed flat spin around Alki with a coffee break in the middle. I’m going to incline towards the latter this week, both as recovery from yesterday (though I felt surprisingly good on this morning’s 25-mile ride for morning coffee and croissant), and to make sure I’m rested and fresh on Saturday, because I intend to spend the evening relaxing over a cold beverage after a little jaunt on my bike down to Portland, aka STP.

The 204 miles for the day will definitely cover my TotT Saturday goal mileage, with a little to spare, even…

Yay! Saturday will be my 4th Seattle-To-Portland ride, and I have had a blast each year. Sure, there are rides that are more scenic, or that are on less trafficked roads, or whatever. But nothing can compare to the delightful craziness of thousands of people sharing your insanity.

It’s also been a fun barometer of my progress on the bike, as each STP marks one more year of cycling under my belt. The first year I was nervous for months in advance, and very carefully following a training schedule (hmmm, sounds like this year re: Italy). I made it to Portland in pretty good shape, but it was definitely A Big Challenge.

The second year, I knew I could do it, wasn’t as rigorous about training, but was just out on my bike a fair amount. I was faster and the ride was easier. (STP is described as a flat route. It definitely helped the second year to know that there are some rolling hills in the second half, and steep ramps up to bridges. They aren’t too bad by any means, but when your mindset is flat, they are a rude surprise…)

Last year, I didn’t specifically train for STP at all, just did a kept riding, and added some new challenges, like the Wenatchee Apple Century that I enjoy so much. Again, I was faster and the ride was easier. The difficulty of a ride like this is mental as well as physical, and though I was definitely in better physical shape, the confidence I had last year was a great help too.

This year? Well, a couple days ago, Ian looked up from what he was doing and asked “STP is next week, right?” I thought for a moment and said “oh, yeah, it is.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the ride–it’s a blast!!–but I am not anxiously watching the calendar, worrying about my ability to complete it. I have to continue to avoid crashes or ride-ending mechanical problems, as it’s not a sure thing until the ride is over. But it’s a nifty feeling to think “ride to Portland in a day? Sure, I can do that!”

One more goal for the week: sit down with my calendar and figure out how many more times I can get myself to Mt Rainier this summer!

Mt Rainier by bike!

Yesterday’s ride was amazing! Biking up to Sunrise and Chinook Pass was so much fun, and stunningly beautiful. I want to go do it again!

At the last minute, my dad ending up signing up for the trip too, so the three of us got started first thing in the morning–judging by the traffic, a lot of people were still sleeping off their 4th of July parties…

(And for the record, even though it was super-fun to have my dad along, and I’m really glad he joined us, one has to wonder… Someone calls you up, and in the course of conversation mentions that because she is either stupid or a glutton for punishment or both, she is going to spend the next day–on a holiday weekend–riding up mountains. And instead of wishing her well and going on at length about the lazy morning you are planning, involving sleeping in, coffee, and a delicious breakfast, you say “sounds fun!” and join in. I am a little worried that I have inherited some questionable DNA here…)

Anyway. We started at Crystal Mountain Boulevard, and immediately headed uphill. There was a little downhill to the National Park entrance (bad… it’s elevation that we just have to re-climb), and then just steadily up from 3700′ to 6400′ at the Sunrise Visitor’s Center, the highest paved road in the state. It’s a nice climb–in the woods for the first part, and then the trees start to thin, and you start getting glimpses of the surrounding mountains–and their peaks are at eye level… Though constantly uphill, it’s not outrageously steep–I didn’t need my easiest gear, and felt very comfortable climbing the whole way.

View from Sunrise Point, 6100'

View from Sunrise Point, 6100′

We weren't the only ones biking up to Sunrise!

We weren’t the only ones biking up to Sunrise!

The last stretch towards the Visitor’s Center has you staring straight at the giant, so-close-you-could-touch-it summit of Mt Rainier. Though I still don’t have any interest in climbing it, seeing the mountain like that made me start to understand those who do.

We enjoyed lunch at the Visitor’s Center, and then headed back down for a super fun descent. Since it wasn’t overly steep, I didn’t feel like I had to ride the brakes (the steeper it is, the slower I tend to descend, as your speed can get away from you very quickly. Plus, it’s freaky-feeling to be pitched headfirst down a 15 or 20% slope…) Plus there were great swoopy bends in the road–not difficult, technical corners, just fun curves to lean into.

All bundled up for the descent from Sunrise. That cloud-shrouded looming presence in the background? Mt Rainier. It's really big!

All bundled up for the descent from Sunrise. That cloud-shrouded looming presence in the background? Mt Rainier. It’s really big…

Then, Chinook Pass (via Cayuse). I had been up Cayuse Pass two years ago, on an out-and-back from Enumclaw. It was my first time up a mountain, and I was pretty shattered at the end of the day. Granted, this time we were starting from partway up the climb (but after climbing several thousand feet to Sunrise), and it felt so much easier.

Up to Cayuse is a pretty steady climb, in the trees for the most part. Then you make the turn to go up to Chinook Pass, and suddenly this vista opens up as you go through a couple long switchbacks, with a view so silly amazing I was almost giggling. No photos of that bit–go see it for yourself.

At the top of Chinook Pass. Behind us, the road slopes down to Eastern Washington.

At the top of Chinook Pass. Behind us, the road slopes down to Eastern Washington.

From there it was all downhill–no more pedaling needed! After the Chinook Pass switchbacks, the road is pretty straight, and my speed didn’t drop below 30 mph until I was back at the car. Whee!

I already have planned a pre-RAMROD ride at the end of the month, and now I’m thinking that I want to get back there before or after that too. Or both.

And in closing, a plug for the National Park Service. Mt Rainier National Park is an amazing place, a true public treasure. There were tourists from all over the world there, wide-eyed. We had several interactions with Park employees, and they were all cheerful, knowledgeable, helpful, and very into their job. That even includes the people working the cafeteria. So support your National Parks, people!!!