Saturday, May 17, 2008

Chehalis to Tacoma

As I mentioned in the previous post, today I rode up to Tacoma. I wanted to arrive as early as I could so I set off from my house at 5:30 AM. The pre-dawn light was sufficient at that point and with the temporary warm weather, it was 56 degrees. I was able to begin the ride in a tee, vest and shorts.
The route mapped to about 67 miles so I expected to arrive by 10:30 at my brother-in-laws house.
The first hour was very pleasant and uneventful heading north on SR 507. Then my work pager went off (I am oncall this week). Frustrated, I looked at the page and called in to acknowledge the incident. It took 40 minutes trying to get a hold of someone to work the problem.
With the done, I continued on, a little bit later I came upon some blue Camas in bloom. This area is known as violet prairie. Before it became populated, the whole prairie was covered in blue Camas and was an important food source for the native poeples. Now it can be found along fence lines and in occasional patches.
With the first real warm weather, I was in for several first of the season pleasures. One was the sound of a Swainson's Thrush here is a link to it's song.
Another treat was the smell of Scotch Broom in bloom and warmed by the sun. The plant is listed as a noxious weed that was brought here by a homesick Scotsman. I grew up around it and love it.

In Tenino, I connected with the bike path that connects Lacey, Yelm and Tenino. I stopped at the park first and ate one of the PowerGel packets and topped off my water bottles. I followed this path up to Military Rd.
Right before the turn off, the path passes an equestrian center and there was a Dressage show. I have a co-worker that manages shows like these and, in fact, she was doing so this weekend. I thought the voice over the loudspeaker sounded like her. I will have to check at work and see if this was where her show was.

After turning off of Military road and turning onto Rainier Rd, I passed through an area that I spent most of my youth in and around. Part of this road passes though prairie and forest in the Fort Lewis Military Reservation. I have not traveled this road in probably 15 years, but as I was riding along, I hit a spot and immediately it triggered memories. This spot forms the scenery for many of of my dreams, it must have become some archetype of an outdoor location.

I was now about 29 miles into the ride and the temperature was perfect, I felt excellent except for one problem. I needed to pee and there were no restrooms for miles. Worse, this was an empty roadway with forest on both sides. Unfortunately, being a military reservation, trespassing is bad news so I had to ride along fighting a mental battle whether to risk it or wait for the gas station at the turn onto Yelm Highway. I chose to wait.

When I finally made it there, I bought a chocolate bar, used the restroom and ate a banana and the chocolate. I set out down the Yelm Highway enjoying wide shoulders and smooth riding.
The next couple roads, Meridian and Mullen have very little shoulder and have a fair amount of traffic, but early on a Saturday is not bad.

Now the route traveled West on SR 510 and Old Pacific Highway. There are some real nice spots along this section. At one point it crosses the Nisqually River and the smell of the sun warmed river area was wonderful, one of the best smells of summer.
Then there is a climb up to the first view of Puget Sound with the Olympic Mtns in the background.
At this spot I ate another gel packet and reapplied some sun screen. The road enters Ft Lewis again and back into forest and cool air.
I reached I-5 in good time. and crossed on the overpass. It was at this point that things started to go wrong. My plan was to cross through the golf course on the road that showed on Google maps. I went the wrong way and had to turn back. While getting back to the golf course, I found a robins egg that the chick had hatched from, the shell was mostly intact. I put it in my handlebar bag to show the kids.
Once I got back to the golf course I wandered around on some roads and paths trying to find the way through. At one point, an employee in a golf cart came along and I asked him how to get through. He told me to head on a cart path and I would come to a gravel road. If I continued on that I would end up in Dupont he said. I thanked him and headed out.
About a half mile down the gravel road it branched. I tried all of the different ways and always either ended up on a green or along a high barbed wire fence with me on the inside with 'No Trespassing' signs on the other.
This golf course is on Ft. Lewis property and is open to the public but the military base is connected to it. I went along the fence line, with the knowledge if I was seen, I would be detained. I was desperate to get out of here and back out of the golf course. I eneded up pushing my bike through the greens and out. My hope was that this part of I-5 would allow cyclist on the shoulder. If it did not, i was in for a 30 mile detour which was mind punishing.
Total time wasted on this attempt: 1:15 hours plus an additional 4 miles.

Fortunately, the freeway did allow bikes and I only needed to make it to the next exit. There was a weigh station between the 2 exits and I thought it might be safer to pass through the weigh station. It turns out, this created another problem. The ramp back on the freeway passed under the onramp for the exit I wanted. I ended up bushing my bike up a bush covered slope and onto the right one. I was now more tired both physically and emotionally than I should be here and 2 hours behind schedule. This also put me 2 hours into the hotter part of the day. The temperature had now risen to 84. The distance was 52 miles.
Once one Center Drive though Dupont I picked up bike lanes and made good time to the Dupont Steilacoom Hwy. This road enters Ft Lewis once again and passed though training facilities, shooting ranges and vehicle storage. It is very hot and dusty. Then I entered a cool forest section before Steilacoom. The route follows along Puget Sound for 4 miles with outstanding scenery.

After following the water, there is an extended climb up to the Tacoma plateau. I was feeling ragged from the heat and emotional drain of being lost in the golf course.

Shortly after getting into Tacoma, I issed my turn onto Cirque Dr and got fairly off course. I looked at Google maps and picked a route to avoid backtracking. This was not a great choice as it turns out. I chose to go on Grandview to S 6th and follow 6th until Pearl. These roads were very ugly, busy and had not accommodation for bikes. This section of my ride was dreadful.
Once back on my route, I zoomed to finish the ride. Total Distance 72.44.
This ride left me in good shape. I was not saddle sore, my legs were tired but not sore.
I was well hydrated and did not get a sunburn. The main problem area for this ride was my shoulders and neck. I need to find a way to improve this area.

Observations from ride:
  • Needing a restroom is a reoccurring theme at about mile 30. Need to take better care of this.
  • Bullfrog sunblock is great for swimming but bad for cycling. It is tacky and bugs and road grime stick to your skin
  • Google maps can lead you into places that don't really go though like it looks. Be more careful of these traps.
  • PowerGel is not near as tasty as Gu Gel but getting it cheap will keep me using it.
  • I need to improve my arm, shoulder and neck comfort for long rides. Either strengthen this part of my body or get a bike fit.

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