Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Benefits of Shifting to Cycling

The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy created a study that found cities could save $25 Trillion over the next 35 years by embracing cycling.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nice and Eightmile Creek

I travelled east last weekend to the Winthrop area to partake in yet more biking, hiking, and camping with the Velomihottie.  This time, we car camped, taking the bikes on the trunk rack and ended up staying in Nice, which turns out to be a campground in addition to being a cycling Mecca on the French Mediterranean.  The campground was a simple 3 unit affair that offered a great deal of shade, which would be handy in the summertime, but meant that it warmed slowly for us from the cold fall mornings.

The first morning, we rode up Eightmile Road after a hot breakfast and coffee and tea to warm us up.  The road surface changed from pavement to gravel within the first couple miles.  As is often the case with roads that follow rivers up a valley, the rise in the road is almost imperceptible, except that here, the false flat and gravel conspired to give the initial part of the ride a feeling like wheels had been dipped in sticky honey.  However, gorgeous views of colorful fall foliage on the valley walls beside awaited us every time the view opened up.  Even when secluded in deeper forested sections, the dry air brought a delightful scent of sage to our noses, which are more accustomed to the heavier wet air west of the Cascades.

As the road continued on, it began pitching up and flattening out at irregular intervals, accompanied by the sights, sounds and smells of the open pasture that this area is a part of.  We encountered several cows and calves along the route, who mostly seemed to not mind us riding through their midst.

On gravel roads such as this, often the descent can be more hair raising than riding up.  On some of the steeper downhill sections, the washboard road surface which had been only mildly annoying on the ascent as one tried to keep traction down became a major source of full body vibrations which on a couple of occasions made me feel like my head was buzzing acutely in a way that was somewhat like being tipsy.  But we both made it down with no more significant issues, trying to pick the best line between washboarded tire tracks, the less washboard but more rocky center, and pine needle covered edges that were less bumpy but not the greatest for traction.

All in all a great ride in a Nice area that was new to me and very unlike the riding anywhere west of the Cascades.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Carbon River

Last weekend, I enjoyed a backcountry camping road bike ride with the Velomihottie that was a great adventure.

How is this even possible?  The last 5 miles of the Carbon River Road in Mt Rainier National forest has been closed to motorized vehicle traffic since 2006, but remain accessible to hikers and cyclists.

The road winds along the river and leads to the Ipsut Falls Campground, which is still set up for car camping.  Based on a call to the Ranger Station in which the Ranger advised the road was probably 80-85% passable by bicycle, we decided that carrying packs with all the camping gear we’d need for the weekend would allow us to carry the bikes over any rough patches.  I also brought half a dozen inner tubes as flats seemed a distinct possibility over the unknown terrain.

All of these precautions proved unnecessary – we only walked our bikes about 50 feet over the 5 miles the road followed the river.  After setting up camp, we went for a hike to the Carbon Glacier, which is apparently the lowest glacier in the US.  This route also intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail where it crosses the Carbon River with a long pedestrian suspension bridge that bounces and sways as one walks across it.

After a restful, quiet night absent the vehicular noise which often accompanies car camping sites, we had a backcountry breakfast and coffee and tea, then headed up for another hike, this time toward Mowich Lake.  The scenery astounds and amazes with beautiful, lush, mossy greenery along the forest floor, and filtered light from the high canopy above enhancing the greenness, while occasionally opening up to spectacular views to peaks and ridges above.

Monday, February 23, 2015

North Cascades Highway 2015

I took my first trip of the year into the higher mountains to see what the status of the North Cascades Highway was.  The road is closed to motorized traffic at milepost 134 every winter, and reopens once it's been plowed all the way through and over Rainy and Washington Passes. This happens at different times each year depending on snowfall and avalanches, and there really is no way to know how far you can go without just getting out there and going.  Part of the appeal is riding this beautiful stretch of road without the cars, RV's and motorcycles which are endemic to it once open.

This year's winter has been both warmer and dryer than usual, and hence, I was exploring the route much earlier than I have in the past.

Looking down to Ross Lake on a beautiful, sunny February day.

There was a rock slide covering about half of the road about half of the way up the 12 miles it was navigable by road bike, and a couple of icy patches where water runoff crossed the road in the shade, but it was a wonderful day for a ride.

Climbing ever closer to the snow line.

Eventually, all good things must end, and after an initial crossing of snow across the road, the second snow field was much longer (and would only continue getting more so the further I climbed) so this was the point I turned around.

The proverbial end of the road.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


A good article here on how we are people cycling/walking/driving etc, and how framing it in this way can reduce the the tribalism of identifying as cyclists/pedestrians/drivers.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


You say the hill's too steep to climb,
You say you'd like to see me try,
You pick the place and I'll choose the time
And I'll climb
The hill in my own way
just wait a while, for the right day
And as I rise above the treeline and the clouds

I look down hear the sound of the things you said today

Pink Floyd - Fearless

One of my favorite things about climbing is that on the ascent we can sometimes ride out of the clouds.  On this day, on the Golden Gardens hill climb, which starts at roughly sea level and rises to only about 350 feet above; it was the right 350' to be treated to the above view.  I often describe such moments of beauty as church, for it's clear at such times that the earth is a sacred, living becoming.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Riding Tampa

This year, I scheduled a trip down to Tampa, Florida for Christmas with my family.  Upon seeing that the weather forecast for the week or so that I'd be there was for high temperatures in the 70's-80's, I was unable to resist the temptation to rent a bike and get some miles in.  A google search found City Bike in downtown Tampa, who kindly obliged me with a 58cm Jamis Ventura, which was adequate for the task and cost about $160 for the 10 days I'd be there.  They set it up with my pedals, and once I got to my sister's where I was staying, I went to setting the seat and handlebars to their correct positions.  I would rent from them again the next time I'm in the area for an extended period.

My sis's house is actually just north of Tampa, near the Hillsborough/Pasco county line, and as this was my home base, all of my rides in the area were in the north end of Tampa.

Florida is flat.  The first real ride I did that wasn't just exploring the neighborhood was up to San Antonio, which folks assured me was the hilliest terrain around.

This is about as hilly as it gets.
It was a fairly nice ride, and once I was able to escape the 6 lane divided highway arterials that are ubiquitous throughout the area and get onto some nice rural 2 lane road, the scenery was nice and pastoral.

Wide open spaces just south of San Antonio, Florida.
There is even a seminary along the way called St Leo's.  It is telling that the elevation gain on this hilliest of area rides is about as much as the flattest routes around the Seattle area.

The longest ride that I did was along the northern section of the Suncoast Bike trail.  I drove up to the northern end of the trail and started there, as there were storms coming in from the south that day and winds were out of the south at about 15-20 knots.  I much prefer having a tailwind on the way home during a long ride, and given the distance, and strength of the wind, this turned out to be a good decision.

The trail was very sparsely used, I encountered about 5 cyclists over the entire 50 mile route

I also discovered the aptly named Flatwoods Park, which is situated between Bruce B Downs and Morris Bridge roads to the northeast of Tampa proper.  I did a couple of rides here, the first day doing the south end of the loop and using it as a connection to continue south on Morris Bridge road.  On the second day, I took off on a dirt spur that seemed to be on top of a flood control dike.

The surface was hard packed sand.

Miles of gravel grinding goodness amidst solitude.