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:


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


Fun Happy Sad Day

I talked myself across the Eastside, Mercer Island, and the I-90 bridge with “you’ll stop at the Leschi Starbucks, get chocolate milk and a banana, and it’ll all be ok. You’ll be ok.” Of course, I was forgetting that the Leschi Starbucks is closed in the afternoons for remodeling. I didn’t cry, but I did consider it.

This was the meat of the plan for the day:

Eastside ride

If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s an easy, flat ride around the south end of Lake Washington, a traverse to Issaquah, followed by a climb up Squak Mountain (not as much elevation gain as Zoo Hill, but plenty challenging…), then up Zoo Hill, then up to the Newcastle Golf course (not super challenging, but great views) then climbing Montreux, and home via looping Mercer Island.

Spoiler alert: I said “@#&% this ^&@*” to looping Mercer Island, and went straight across.

The day started off well–I enjoy the south lake loop, despite some busy roads, because it goes by such a range of stuff. I especially enjoy circumnavigating the Renton airport.

Riding out to Issaquah is nothing special–the special started with Squak. I hadn’t done this one before, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a very stairsteppy climb, with some of the steps eliciting a “you’ve got to be kidding me!” But it’s a fun challenge, with some great views, and a sense that you really biked yourself to somewhere.

On the way back down from Squak Mountain

On the way back down from Squak Mountain

Then, Zoo Hill with 40+ miles and one hell of a climb in my legs… Was fine. I actually like this climb–the first time I did it, I was super worried that I wouldn’t even be able to make it up to the top, as it is such a notorious climb. But if you just relax and take it a bit at a time, it’s fine. And the landscape changes throughout, eventually yielding some great vistas. Note that I am making no claims to setting landspeed records, but hey, it’s a hard climb and I’m still stoked that I can do it at all.

Another Zoo Hill view

Another Zoo Hill view

Over to the Newcastle golf course is a bit bumpy, but compared to the previous two climbs, hardly noticeable. I guess. Though it’s not an epic ascent, the golf course has a panoramic view that is well worth it. Plus, I always feel like I’m putting something over on snooty golfers by riding on “their” road…

That's right, I do feel smug about biking here when they all drove

That’s right, I do feel smug about biking here when they all drove. BTW, this photo is much better if you click to embiggen.

Montreux. I’d done this once before, and didn’t like it then. It has less elevation gain than Zoo Hill, but all of the difficulty and none of the redeeming features. It’s just a wide suburban road, with McMansions hidden behind high hedges–which also mean you can see nothing except the road rising in front of you. No vistas, no interesting neighborhood, no forest, no distraction.

Montreux was what broke me. Partway up, my day of fun challenges ended, and I was done. Finis. Kaput. I did not want to be doing difficult things on a bicycle any more. I wanted to be home. Horizontal. Preferably with beer. And nachos. And a blanket. And a teddy bear. Physically I was pretty tired, but it was my mental resources that just disappeared.

But I did not turn around and go back down the hill, I finished the climb (and was pissed about it), then rolled downhill and towards home (20+ miles away).

And as mentioned, I decided to omit the Mercer Island loop (oh yeah, I’m also getting hungry, and have eaten all my food), and take the direct route to Leschi Starbucks. All considering, I’m pretty proud of not crying when I got there and it was closed for the afternoon (did I mention I could see a big pile of perfect-looking bananas through the window?)

Luckily, there’s a bike shop next door, where I got a snack and some water–many thanks to the Polka Dot Jersey shop for making the end of my ride much better than it otherwise would have been!

And then home. When I later went to the grocery store to get some things I wanted for dinner, I grabbed a shopping cart specifically so I could have something to lean on. I’m pretty wiped out.

I recorded 77 miles and 6,500 feet of elevation gain–the vast majority of that packed into 20 miles.

Overall, it was a great day on the bike, but it took a lot out of me, mentally and physically. Which I guess is kind of the point of training.

I’d actually happily repeat the climbing insanity on the Eastside–but without Montreux. I’d rather do hill repeats of Squak and Zoo. As far as I’m concerned, the Montreux climb has no redeeming value, other than dealing with suffering for suffering’s sake. Have I yet made myself clear on how much I don’t like Montreux?

The ride’s elevation profile:


Why am I doing this?

Today’s not a big riding day–bikewise, I’ll just tootle my way downhill to ballet class, and do a couple errands. But since I (and others) think this trip to Italy to suffer on my bicycle is a pretty insane thing to do, I thought I’d post some of why I have been wanting to do this for a while (hint: has nothing to do with masochistic tendencies, or desire to be miserable!)

The photos in this post are one of the reasons (and if you want to read words, his account of the trip and how much fun he had count too).

The Fat Cyclist’s multi-post account of a similar trip (French mountains instead of Italian) is another. If you’ve got some time, start with part 1 here.

Looking back down the climb up the Gavia. Photocredit to user kimconyc

Looking back down the climb up the Gavia. Photo credit to user kimconyc

From the Stelvio. Photo credit to user kimconyc

From the Stelvio. Photo credit to user kimconyc

Islands were a bad idea for today.

So… I said I might ride around Camano or Mercer Islands today… And then I woke up, staggered downstairs, and contemplated the ominously dark clouds outside and my very tired legs. (The latter having, I think, less to do with Zoo Hill, and more to do with teaching hinges to my modern dance students yesterday. I knew better than to do that. But as previously discussed, I’m an idiot.)

So the islands plan was ditched. Instead, I relaxed, read the paper, and enjoyed my coffee.

Then I put my bike clothes on and got out the door for a gentle two hour ride up and down a few of Seattle’s hills. The ominous clouds were gone, replaced by blue sky and those cute fluffy white clouds, but I still thought it the better part of valor to stay close to home.

It’s actually really fun riding through Seattle neighborhoods, especially this time of year. Things are in bloom, some streets are arched by a canopy of trees while others open up gorgeous vistas, people are out working on their houses, buildings are getting built or torn down. There’s a lot of neat stuff to look at.

So, 26.1 miles later (taking about the same amount of time as would a world-class marathoner–though they generally don’t have to stop for stoplights and such) I got home just as the sky started looking dark again. I hope the predicted thunderstorms and rain start soon, so that I can feel really smug about the timing of my ride.

Still not bored of good views from my bike

Still not bored of good views from my bike