Monday, June 23, 2014

Skykomish (2014-06-21)

I decided to celebrate the Summer solstice with a ride into the mountains.

More after the break…

Part 1: To Monroe (SR-522)

I started at the usual time around 05:00. My rear brake was rather noisy so I stopped to fix it rather close to home, but then proceeded east along the Burke-Gilman Trail. I don't normally start one of my long rides with this trail, but it made more sense than any alternatives this time.

There are a few signs like these along the trail.

I found a map of the route, then transcribed it here.

When I got to Wilmot Gateway Park (my usual entrance to the BGT from points north), I left the trail and did my "from SR-9" route in reverse until I got to the junction with SR-522, when I got onto the highway's shoulder. There was a stiff climb over the ridge that devised the Sammamish River Valley and Snoqualmie/Snohomish River Valley, but none of that was too bad.

When I got to the area where it's being widened, the shoulders became very narrow or nonexistent. Unfortunately, there are only two general purpose lanes there, and there are posts separating them. This means that a lot of cars passed very close to me, and it was particularly nerve-racking when RVs did that. There's this spooky whoosh of air when a flat-fronted vehicle goes by. I was lucky enough to be able to time my riding through uphill shoulderless sections so that I was using long timeslots without any cars.

I stopped at a local park to use the restroom and eat. There was some sort of children's sporting event going on there.

From there, I went through downtown Monroe to get to US 2.

And onto the highway I went.

Part 2: US 2

The start of the rural section of US 2 was marked by a bit of a hill out of Monroe. I then passed by the Reptile Zoo. I recall an elementary school assembly when one of the guys from the zoo did a show for all the students. The huge python is what sticks out in my memory most from the show.

I then entered Sultan, where I was greeted with a guy with a huge flag and a camo hat.

I saw a sign for this place that caught my attention.

I then passed through the community of Startup.

US 2 is pretty nice.

Sat Jun 21 09:56:35 2014@Startup, United States

Traffic was surprisingly heavy on the road despite its having only two lanes.

Next up: Gold Bar. There was a shop there that was selling stuff for prospecting for gold.

The mountains started to make themselves known here.

This is also the easternmost reach of Community Transit along US 2.

After Gold Bar, the nature of the highway really began to change: grades became steeper, hills became more common, the road was narrower much of the time, and old, narrow bridges became more common. There were passing lanes, slow vehicle shoulders, and chain-up areas.

Tourist traps and diners also were peppered along the route. (The below diner was busy when I rode by it again on my return trip.)

There was a significant climb just before my next stop. I was surprised because I was able to do a lot of this climbing without resorting to my smallest chain ring, which I would normally have to do.

I stopped at a little espresso stand for the adjacent restroom. Around it were signs talking about how this wan the area where Harry and the Hendersons was shot. The movie is centered around Bigfoot. There was also a long line at the stand itself, even though this was the middle of nowhere.

It was basically impossible to ignore the mountains at this point. It also seemed like I was entering and exiting the Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest very often.

I ended up coming across the old route of US 2 a bit before Skykomish. As is indicated by the map at the time of this post, the route appears have been washed out by the Miller River.

I then went through a tunnel, which I almost never get to do on my rides.

Shortly after that, I finally hit Skykomish.

After crossing the bridge, I was in 'downtown.' A long BNSF train was going by, so I was stuck for a few minutes. (The guy in the photo below works for BNSF and he exchanged a wave with the train's engineer.) I both saw and heard a number of other trains along the rails near the highway throughout this ride, too..

The town was obviously created by the Great Northern, and the town celebrated that fact.

The town was the westernmost extent of the old GN electrification across the Cascades. (Locomotive in the photo below is a GN Z-1.)

Once the train passed, I crossed the tracks to the other side.

There's this miniature railway there, too, and it was running when I passed through.

Rather than turning back right there, I went a few miles further to make up for the miles I saved by taking SR-522 instead of going via Everett and Snohomish to get to Monroe. I had to stop at a ranger station, though, for water.

Even though I hadn't been using my smallest chain ring (controlled by the front derailleur) much thus far, I noticed how it was very hard to get the chain onto it. I tried to adjust the cable tension, but the barrel adjuster was all the way in. I thought I had helped some by twisting it, but it wasn't actually twisting the screw threads inside.

I had to adjust my derailleur tension east of Skykomish.

Sat Jun 21 15:04:48 2014@Halford, United States

From there, I started on my way back. Rather than going through the town again, I just used the highway, which bypasses it. The winds were pretty bad, and I couldn't even get my chain onto the small chain ring. Anymore

These winds are killing me.

Sat Jun 21 15:04:08 2014@Halford, United States

Notably, Index is on the railroad but not the highway, being located a bit north of it.

I came across a sign with a digital number display that said "18 DAYS SINCE LAST SERIOUS ACCIDENT" or something like that while speeding down some of the last hilly bits of US 2.

When I got to Gold Bar, I tried my best to undo the bolt that clamped the cable onto the derailleur, but I couldn't manage to do it. As a last resort, and partially inspired by my ride to Vancouver, I loosened the clamp that holds the derailleur on, and rotated it a bit. It took a couple tries to make it work well enough, and I couldn't use the couple fastest speeds of my bike after having done so, but it was enough to work since those speeds are usually outside my range anyway. A friend asked if I needed to be rescued, but I knew I could make it back.

The winds just wouldn't let up through the valley, and the cars only helped so much. I kept pushing and pushing since I knew my legs could handle it.

Something that caught my eye in Sultan was this seemingly abandoned weigh station in Sultan. Even though a permanent sign said "WAY STATION CLOSED," I saw an LED display in the window that was still lit.

Once over the hill to Monroe, I made a "two-stage left turn" to backtrack my route to SR-522.

Part 3: Return Home

Rather than taking SR-522 back, however, I just took my normal route to Snohomish, where I consumed some coffee to get my spirits back up. The winds didn't bother me as much here.

And following that was my typical route over SR-9. Even though I was pretty tired, I still managed to keep up the same pace as usual up the hill due to my clipless pedals.

And thanks to my "fix," my transmission made a lot of noise going down the hill to Woodinwille.

For the last leg of my ride, I took the Burke-Gilman Trail back to Seattle, leaving it after the University District detour to instead use Pacific and Northlake.

And through all that, I didn't have any serious foot pain. Such pain was a major limitation on my previous long ride.

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