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

Owwie Hilly

Well. My legs are certainly feeling the last couple days. I did the Chilly Hilly route to work again today, and my legs were just empty. Rather than fight it, I decided to work on keeping my pedaling cadence high, no matter into how low a gear I needed to shift, no matter how slowly I might end up going. And the beautiful thing about my bike computer–when I have the display set to show my cadence, I don’t see my speed at all, so I can pretend I’m going as fast as I want to think I’m going…

So–drumroll please–the giant TBD for tomorrow and Friday? The verdict is tomorrow I’m resting these poor puppies. And Friday I’ll do some sort of spiffy and challenging ride before working all weekend. But I think some quality couch time with my legs elevated is calling my name tomorrow.

In other news… We got an email from Elaine (Andy Hampsten’s wife, helps him run the tour business) with a list of suggested items to pack. The trip planning is underway! (Well, for me it’s been underway for a while, because I’m neurotic like that, but now it’s really officially people-in-charge-bugging-us underway!  I totally got a little wave of adrenaline when I opened her email…)

Heckling welcome for Friday–let me know just how spiffy and challenging of a ride you think I should do 🙂

 

 

Accidental riding

I wasn’t planning to do much riding today, what with teaching and all (especially after I decided to fill in and dance the prince’s variation in rehearsal–always warm up properly before jumping, kids. Whoops.)

But despite my I’ll-regret-that-later poor decision making while teaching, I was still feeling like my commute wasn’t long enough (said no one ever driving to/from work). So, thinking ahead to catching the ferry to Vashon to ride there some day, I got off the Bainbridge ferry and decided to bike to the Fauntleroy ferry dock via Alki. I’d never done this before, so I thought it would be fun, and a good opportunity to scope things out. Looking briefly at a map, it just seemed like a few miles, and nice and flat along the water.

The second of those statements was correct–great views, easy riding, but it was more like 13 miles one-way… I ended up biking over 35 miles on the day, not bad for a day I figured I wouldn’t ride much!

And really, how had I not biked this route before?!? It was so much fun rolling along on the edge of the water–from ferry to ferry, you get to see all aspects of Seattle. There’s gritty industrial (big machines! trains! cool stuff!), nature views, wacky people watching, different sorts of residential neighborhoods, parks, business districts, you get the idea. Or, if you’ve gone through there, you already had the idea. Anyway. But today did move the plan to bike around on Vashon up my priority list.

Ok, not that exciting of a view, but proof that I was there...

Ok, not that exciting of a view, but proof that I was there…

(Bike obsession TMI alert–I was riding on my single speed bike today. Though a single-speed can definitely make some things more difficult–any slope above 5 or 6% gets to be quite the core and arm workout, whew!–I kinda really like riding it when I’m tired. On my geared bikes, I’m always shifting up or down to try to stay in an optimal gear to keep my effort consistent, or thinking about how I ought to be shifting, or whether I should stay in a harder gear and stand up to climb, or would do better to go to an easier gear to sit and spin up a hill. There’s none of that with a single-speed–99% of the time you can put your mind at ease, secure and confident in the knowledge that you are in the wrong gear. It takes a lot less mental energy, and since my single-speed is a little undergeared for the flats, to preserve a slight hope of making it up hills, it also makes me take it easy a bit on the flats–no shifting up to go faster (and work harder). There were a couple exciting moments where I wasn’t sure whether I’d clear a hill, or slow to a halt and topple over sideways before I could clip out of my pedals, but overall, it made for a very relaxing day on the bike. Though had my route been less flat, I would be singing a different tune…)