Friday, October 9, 2015

Chuckanut Drive

Here is part 3 of my gripping recount of the 2015 Northwest Tandem Rally!

Back at the hotel, we were either eating or laying down. The tandem was running quite well, and now rested up against our hotel room wall. I had put a lot of smaller efforts pre-trip into getting it ready, and remarkably no major work was needed. It was a new-old-stock Santana Arriva. Size small, though still a bit long in the captain's ol' top tube, if you get my drift. I think it was a 2003. Quite honestly, for $975 it was a screaming deal to get us into a higher-end tandem bike. I had never seen 9-speed brifters in such immaculate condition.

We stopped by Fred Meyer's to stock up on bars and other foods. For some reason I get excited when I visit a new-to-me chain supermarket. Especially when they sell other stuff that isn't food. I got the same feeling when I first entered a Menards in Indiana.

The plan at that point was the get plenty of sleep and meet our new friends in the camping area that NWTR had set up for those who didn't want to hotel it. It was a few blocks away, and at 8AM we managed to roll up on our tandem. The friendly couple was living comfortably in a converted Sprinter RV. I'm way into Sprinters, so this was a good start to the day. My wife seems to have no qualms about potentially living in one in the future, so I'll keep that option tucked into my back pocket for now.

Our friends promptly got suited up, and we rolled out. The route itself was pretty straightforward, and we had timed our departure well enough to quickly meld into a small group of other tandem riders.

We only made it so far before an incident occurred. The front tire of another tandem bike got hung up on the edge of some pavement that was slightly elevated above the bike lane. It was akin to riding along a small sidewalk curb, causing the upper weight of you and the bike to topple over. This is something I see every now and then, and it’s tricky to see ahead of time or recover from if it’s a big enough lip. Both captain and stoker fell over, but they seemed okay. To be honest, I expected broken bones, but as I said before…ageism on my part.

The group started moving once again. The scenery was a mix of coastal homes and big trees, with faint glimpses of the cliffs and ocean below. We continued climbing higher along the coast, eventually getting nearer to the cliffs edge such that we could take in some nice views. The fires populating the Pacific Northwest had managed to cast a thin aura of smoke over everything in the distance. The views were nice, but my photos didn't really capture that...

My somewhat-demanding shifting style was being adopted reasonably well by my wife. I really hate shifting under power, as you can hear the entire drivetrain crackle and groan. We basically became accustomed to me stating “shifting!” whenever I was about to do so. Otherwise, my wife wouldn’t know to let off the pedaling a bit. It was more of a concern on chainring shifts, as you could run into other issues such as dropped chains and so forth. Other groups didn’t seem to abide by any timing of shifting. I listened to their chains drag across the gears. It sounded awful, but maybe you just accept this fate after some time riding together.

Our ride continued further, and we reached the first pit stop. I’m amazed we didn’t blow by it, actually. The turnout was on a very steep downhill, and not marked entirely well. It was a campground along the coast. It might actually be nice to stay at during a separate visit. We filled up our bottles, ate some fruit and donuts (the latter of which never seems to pan out well for me) and carried on with our tandem companions. The big hill continued downward until we reached a very flat region of farmland that ran along the coast. It was nice to drop out attention for a few miles. Bombing downhill on a tandem creates some additional excitement and it’s a bit nerve racking for both riders.

Speaking of bombing downhill, I should mention that prior to the trip the front brake was suffering from very chattery and squealing behavior. I changed the pads to some KoolStops, which helped somewhat. But the trick wound up being a brake bridge. It wasn’t even particularly fancy, just some $9 piece of plate steel cut into the proper shape. It boosted the stiffness of the cantilever mounts enough that the chatter basically disappeared unless you really, really, really went hard on the brakes. Now we wouldn’t draw as much attention to ourselves.
Yep...this little $5 thing solved our noise woes
The flat riding continued southward. At a major intersection, we opted to take a truncated version of the long route, versus the more direct medium route path. It led us out to  a peninsula. We had high hopes for scenery and so forth, but ultimately it was kind of a letdown. There was a fair bit of wind, we were already pretty tired, and a particular hill caused some grumpiness to well up inside of us. We came out of the peninsula section a bit worse for wear.

Fortunately, upon returning to that initial intersection where we’d pick up the return portion of the loop, there was soon another pit stop. We definitely needed it. The organizers had set up alongside a small farm. It was quite nice, for whatever reason, despite offering similar fare to the other stops prior. They did have Spam, to say the least.

We gently hopped back on to the saddles, at this point suffering sore behinds. I had picked up a new saddle from The Hub Cyclery. It was some vintage Specialized thing. Actually quite a nice fit, I thought, and it only cost $5, but obviously my buns didn’t have the proper endurance. My wife was having a hard time as well, and so we took turns  standing up and relieving some pressure. This return loop was another nice section of road. Effectively devoid of traffic, and with nice breezes and some shade.

There were a few particularly challenging hills to contend with. One of them even elicited a cry of “you need to put out some watts”. Yes, I was the one who uttered this very Fred-like phrase. To be fair, it was partially to amuse myself, partially to amuse my wife, and partially to convey some sense of urgency during the hill climb. Feeling a tandem bike start to wobble from lack of speed is unsettling, and we were having just that problem. But my pep talk, or pep line, I suppose, had also caused my wife to begin laughing uncontrollably. I quickly noticed that her laughter and her power output were inversely related. Every stifled, panting breath of amusement created more slow-speed wobbles. I tried to make up the difference, and basically blew myself up on this incredibly steep quarter-mile climb. I wasn’t annoyed, per se. Just very tired. At least we made it! It would set the stage for what we could pedal up. A good motivator when other hills showed themselves.

The last hill was a bit less funny for my wife. It was at the very, very end of the ~50 mile loop. Kind of unfair, she said. I agreed. But we made it up, and coasted all the way back into town, to a park where the organizers had set up the afternoon lunch and desert. Ice cream and sandwich wraps. And shade and a place to sit down. We were very happy to be there. The ice cream was from a place we had visited a day earlier, while walking around downtown, so we knew it would be good.

After recovering for about an hour, we reluctantly climbed aboard the tandem again. It was all downhill from here, in a good way. We rolled back to our hotel, and I can’t quite remember what happened after that, other than getting dinner and going to sleep. The next day would bring upon us another long ride, but one that proved much more challenging!

By the way, I actually got the GPS up and running for this ride. Here's a map of our route. Note the out and back on the southern peninsula.

No comments:

Post a Comment