Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bicycle Quarterly Un-meeting 2015 (2015-09-25, 26, 27)

I rode out with Mark to the BQ event in Cle Elum. Whenever I tried to ride with them, I had a hard time keeping up, and my pace was much slower than normal on my Surly Troll. As it turns out, my seatpost had been slipping ever since I had the bike fitted over a week ago and was 3cm too low!

Now I have to go to the next event on it to see if I'll have an easier time. Only rigorous testing will tell!

Throughout the trip, Mark proved to be a good source of information, inspiration, and a great riding partner. His trip wasn't done with the Cle Elum, leg, though, as his final destination of this ride was Portland.

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More after the break…

To aid in navigation, here's a list of the sections

  1. Day 1

    1. To Downtown
    2. To North Bend
    3. On Gravel
    4. Evening in Cle Elum
  2. Day 2: Around Cle Elum
  3. Day 3

    1. On Gravel, Again
    2. Return Home

Day 1: Outbound

To Downtown

Similar to other trips involving the bus to Issaquah, I left home at 05:30. I had the strange idea that it was Saturday like with my other rides, but it was actually Friday, which has a different bus schedule.

I really needed to use a restroom when I hit downtown, so I used the extra time to get some coffee to get an excuse to use the restroom.

As the Starbucks was in the ground floor of an office building, I had to call the security guard on duty and ask him to let me into the restroom.

I rode the 554 to Issaquah as usual for my rides in the foothills, as I really hate riding to Issaquah. The route options really show how cyclists are marginalized in the Eastside.

The rain became either slightly worse or remained the same as the bus approached Issaquah, so I was prepared for a damp ride.

To North Bend

I made my way through downtown Issaquah, then hit the Issaquah–Preston Trail. It was rather damp in places, and slippery and muddy in others. Thankfully, my 2.15" tires made it rather easy to deal with.

When I got to Preston, I jumped onto I-90 to save quite a bit of time. In the end, it cost me more time due to a small, sharp piece of square metal slashing my rear tire in the tread.

After trying to patch it and failing due to the plastic backing on the patch, I simply threw a new tube in. In doing so, I discovered that one can simply use the brake blocks to center the wheel, which makes wheel insertion so much easier! It was a nightmare doing all this with freeway traffic zipping by, knocking my bike over multiple times with its wind. (Mark said he would've pushed the bike to the next exit to avoid that.)

When I got to the bike shop where we agreed to meet, I had the mechanic take a look. His eventual repair was "ultra-booting" the tire with five "scabs" typically used by folks riding tubeless, which seemed like a pretty sturdy option.

While waiting, I met Mark and we chatted a little before he got supplies from the bike shop and I went to eat a breakfast calzone with some coffee to take the edge of the bad time off.

On Gravel

Once done in North Bend, we made our way to the trail. The pace we had was pretty relaxed since we had time, and we talked quite a bit all the way up to Cedar Falls. I learned that he's done quite a lot of frame repair and is quite skilled at brazing stuff. He didn't refurbish his own current ride on the trip, though, as he had Peter Weigle do it instead.

At one point on the incline, we stopped to reconfigure our 'kit' and Mark apparently lost his glasses. After searching, he found them hanging on his handlebars of all places!

Rather that jumping straight onto the trail, we hit the Cedar River Watershed Educational Center so I could fill my water bottles up for the long trip away from civilization. This also allowed us to enter the trail on a more gradual grade, as the switchbacks at the trailhead are definitely steeper.

Once on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, we kept the fairly relaxed pace for quite some time, stopping to snap photos here and there

Eventually, a group of other riders also headed to the event caught up with us, and our pace quickened quite a bit. I had a lot of trouble keeping up after a while and eventually ended up at the tail end of the group.

After stopping at the tunnel and later at the Hyak trailhead, we were off and I ended up in the last group again.

I was able to maintain a brisk pace for quite some time, until I ran out of strength again. I was dropped a bit before Easton and then met up with the group again to discover something:

We shared some Red Bulls and food, and the others left before I was able to finish my last bit of food. I tried my best to catch up and kept them in my sights in the distance for quite some time, but eventually injured my right knee doing so and gave up on keeping up.

I did pass them at one point while one of them fixed a puncture, but they passed me when I stopped to rest my knee and take care of 'business.'

As the scenery darkened, I kept up my slower pace all the way to Cle Elum, not bothering to take any photos at all since it was getting late. I did eventually make it to Cle Elum.

Evening in Cle Elum

When rode along the main drag, I noticed a large collection of bicycles in front of a bar and went in to meet up with the others.

At first, I was feeling terrible and sat off to the side. After some lemonade, I perked up a bit and joined in to a degree, though I didn't get too involved in any conversation.

While Mark and I had originally planned to spend the nights at the Aster Inn, which was open according to locals when I asked around, and had customers' cars out front, they wouldn't answer any phone calls and nobody ever showed up when we rung the doorbell. In the end, we stayed at the local Econolodge instead, which was plenty good. After I showered, I went to sleep, though I didn't sleep well.

Day 2: Around Cle Elum

Since everyone was meeting up at a bakery at 08:00, Mark and I decided to go to a place with more substantial breakfasts earlier so we'd have a more balanced nutrient profile for the ride. Some others in the group were there, too, as nobody was at the bakery at the time.

We then jumped over to the bakery and chatted with others in the larger group for a while until the leaders started giving directions. Said directions were a bit difficult to hear due to the ambient noise, but those who didn't hear just followed those who did when we rode out of town.

The route paralleled major roads, but followed backroads. The scenery was quite picturesque, which helped as I still had trouble keeping up with the others. While I barely managed to stay on the tail of the group, I eventually gave up. My knee pain was showing signs of returning a little while later, too.

After that, I turned back as I didn't want to end up effectively stranded in the middle of nowhere the next day. This direction was really easy due to the tailwind, too, so I wasn't too worried anymore.

On the way back, I hit the convenience store where we congregated for a few minutes to get something to drink and the use of the restroom.

Rather than following the earlier route in reverse, I jumped onto the highway when I discovered the stiff headwinds back into Cle Elum. My past experience has shown that drafting beside cars helps with those winds immensely.

Once back in town, I hit the Dairy Queen to nurture my mood.

While I was eating outside, some of the group showed up from up the hill and we talked for a bit. Rather than staying with them, however, I made the climb up that hill to hit the Safeway to acquire food for the return trip the next day.

At the Safeway, I ran into a guy who drove in to ride with the others. He had already changed into his 'street clothes' when I met him, so it wasn't immediately obvious. We did have quite a fun conversation, though.

After making my way back to the hotel, I unwound for a while before showering and going to sleep. My plan was to leave really early the next morning so I wouldn't be out super-late, which necessitated an early bedtime. Mark hung out with the others some more and suggested I go, but I really needed the rest (especially for my knee).

Day 3: Inbound

On Gravel, Again

I woke up very early for my day of riding home, "wound up," packed, and headed out before sunrise. Mark tried to sleep as I made the typical packing commotion as he was staying in Cle Elum for the day, awaiting his friends for their tour continuing to Portland.

It was dark and cold, to the point where I needed to wear two wool sweaters. Before fully leaving town, however, I snapped a few photos I'd been wanting ever since skipping those photo ops on the way into town.

I also had a bit of a skid-out on loose, coarse gravel after one road crossing. That was my only incident on the trip, fortunately.

When I finally made my way to Easton, I left the trail to seek warmth and coffee. I also got a couple slices of French toast.

I retraced my route back to the trail, then followed it for a while while something nagged at the back of my mind: On both this trip and the last one out here, I'd seen a sign on the west side of Lake Easton on the trail pointing to "Lake Easton State Park." However, no locals have any idea of a way to get to the trail along the western edge of the lake, and maps haven't shown it either. Rather than ignoring that sign yet again, I decided to check it out.

I'd say it was worth it. The dirt was even nicer than the gravel (at least when dry)!

After going back that way to the trail, I followed the trail all the way along Keechelus Lake to Hyak, where I refilled my bottles and got excited for the fast descent on the other side of the tunnel. Along the way, one guy from the BQ group passed me as he needed to get home early.

The descent was pretty uneventful, though I did slow down in spots to pass groups of folks comfortably here and there. I also stopped to snap some shots of folks rock climbing.

As I approached Cedar Falls, two more guys from the group passed me, and I passed a group of folks riding down while asking said folks about how far it was to Cedar Falls.

From Cedar Falls, I went down to North Bend at a brisk pace and ended up drafting behind two guys who I thought were in a group together all the way until the foot of the hill. After I crossed North Bend Way, the first guy (cyclocross bike) dropped me because the winds were becoming significant and the second guy (steel mountain bike) was still on the other side of the road. He didn't catch up with me until hours later.

Once I got to Snoqualmie, I left the trail and headed to downtown for coffee and a pastry. I ended up with coffee and two chocolate cookies instead.

To leave Snoqualmie, I took SR-203 to Fall City to avoid any more tire-destroying debris on I-90, then went up the road along the Raging River to the Preston–Snoqualmie Trail (which one guy in the BQ group said is supposed to be directly connected to Snoqualmie someday), and followed the trail to and through Preston.

After riding the trail a bit, the nagging suspicion about my seatpost's height got to me and I stopped to measure it. Oh boy, was I in for a surprise!

When I did, the guy from earlier caught up with me and we chatted for a little while. He was actually riding a Surly Ogre (my bike's 29er "big brother") with a Salsa Fargo fork, and had been in Cle Elum earlier as well (though completely separate from the BQ stuff). He offered to give me a ride back to Seattle (his spouse was driving), but I didn't want to impose or anything.

Together, we rode down the trail at high speed while talking for a bit before the trail got exciting (rocky). I dropped him after a while, and we split up at the end of the trail: he took the right and I took the left.

When I got to the transit center, I had barely missed a 554, so I had a half-hour wait. Not too bad at all, of course. It also gave me a chance to raise my saddle to a more reasonable height.

When the next bus arrived, I hopped on with my bags in hand and my bike on the bus's front rack and was on my way back to Seattle.

Return Home

Once back downtown, I quickly loaded everything up and headed up along the old route up 4th Avenue, then Dexter Avenue.

I stopped at the new Starbucks on Dexter for a restroom break that I'd been needing ever since Issaquah, which involved using a security badge as this Starbucks was also in the ground floor of an office building.

From there, I simply made my way home.

I made it back barely before dark, and after showering it was definitely dark. Unfortunately, similarly to earlier, I slept terribly until the caffeine was out of my system.

In the end, I never figured out why I brought that U-lock I never ended up using.

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