By Brian Ecker
Since returning from The 508, I have been transitioning my training to my winter program which always includes a fair amount of riding, some solid time in the gym as well as some great off road rides on the cross bike. One of the pieces I enjoy most about the winter is taking the time to ride new routes and routes I haven’t done in a long time. This past weekend I organized a small group ride on a route totally new to me. I wanted to go long and I wanted it to be epic. Who else to join in but Mick Walsh and Chris Ragsdale; two riders who know a lot about going long, going hard, and enjoying it. We were also joined by Bob Brudvik, fresh off his solo ride finish at the 508.
Considering the recent weather, our goal for the day was a bit ambitious: catch and early morning ferry to Bremerton and then do a huge loop around Hood Canal. I upped the ante a bit a decided I would peel off at the 115 mi mark and ride north to Port Townsend and then after another ferry ride I would continue north all the way back up to Bellingham. (180+mi!) (http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/57811644/?open_ive_done=1&new_route=1)
Friday night I hit the Amtrak and trained it down to Seattle where Mick picked me up. Late to bed and an early rise had us out the door and on our bikes by 6:30am Saturday morning. We picked up Chris and Bob in Ballard at 7pm and were on the Bremerton Ferry by 7:30. While it was a bit of a cold and early it was a nice way to start the day: a short warm-up ride, a warm ferry, and lots of coffee.
By 8:45 or so we had disembarked in Bremerton and were rolling through the cool moist air (37F!) of the Kitsap Peninsula. Our route took us SW on the Old Belfair Hwy and onto Hwy 106 to Shelton. A generally flat route, traffic was light and the views were amazing. Lots of sea life and fresh snow on the Olympics. Soon enough we were on 101 and on our journey north began. We made a quick stop in Hoodsport which is one of the many small towns on the route. We filled up on food and drinks. The temperature continued to hover at 37F. Any stops had us soon shivering but once rolling up the highway our steady pace kept us warm. This stretch of 101 hugs the shoreline and for the most part has a pretty good shoulder. While there are not any big climbs the road does undulate up and down. The fall colors still clung (barely) to some of the trees and the nice south wind pushed us along in spots.
At mile 85, we started up the only real climb of the ride, Walker Mt. It is just under 2 mi and pretty gentle – about 4-5% the first mile and then 2-3% then 2nd half. Mick was kind enough to set a hard but steady tempo for us. None of us had a lot of snap which is easy to understand given the cold temps. It began raining at the top so I put the raincoat on for the 5 mi decent into Quilcene. Here we had a full stop for lunch at a local diner. Service was exceptionally slow but the food was good enough. Once we left Quilcene we took Center Rd so we could connect with Hwy 104 (which the Hood Canal Bridge is on). Center Rd is a great low traffic wide shoulder road. It has some steady climbing before you get up to the hwy.
At the junction of Center Rd and Hwy 104, Mick, Chris and Bob turned onto the highway and began their journey to Kingston. I continued north towards Port Townsend. With the long lunch delay I had pretty much assumed I wasn’t going to be able to make the 3:45 ferry but after a check of the time and some quick math I realized that I still had a good chance of making it. For the 45 min or so I put the hammer down and made it to the ferry dock with 15 minutes to spare. (Luckily the ferry was running as I had learned earlier in the day that they had shut the route down due to high winds!)
The 30 min crossing to Keystone went by quick and I soon found myself entertaining a nice tailwind heading north on Whidbey Island. By now I was running full lights. At Coupeville there is a small paved trail that parallels the highway which was a nice respite from the buz of Hwy 20. Unfortunately the trail lasted only a short while and I soon found myself back on the busy highway although the shoulder is wide. I had mapped out an alternate route that kept me off the highway but with a 140 mi in my legs and in full darkness I decided to keep it simple and stay on the highway. If still had been daylight I probably would have taken the alt route.
Once into Oak Harbor the shoulder disappeared and riding the highway became a bit sketchy. While stopped at a light on the north end of town I caught a strong whiff of teriyaki splendor. Over my right shoulder I spotted a teriyaki restaurant and with hesitation it was full stop for dinner. A full order of chicken teriyaki, rice, and hot tea seemed to relieve the weariness in my legs and spirit. Back out onto the road and out of the city limits the nice wide shoulder returned which made the nighttime riding a lot less stressful than I had anticipated. The temperatures were remaining below 40F and now a big east wind was beginning to kick up. As I approached the Deception Pass bridge I slowed for a gap in traffic and then took the entire lane for safety. I hammered across quickly without incident. The bridge is dark, narrow, and not a place to take chances. North of the bridge the road remains dark and narrow. Again, I had mapped out an alternate route but for a variety of reason I elected to stay on the highway. Relieved to be finished with the narrow section I happily rolled into the March Point area and took the Frontage road that parallels the highway on the north side. The east wind was at gale force now and the rain began to fall in earnest. Crossing over the bridge and onto the Skagit Flats the rain and wind picked up even more. I made a brief stop to put the rain cape on again and happily reached the junction at Bayview Edison Rd.
The rain and wind continued although the route had me sheltered from the bulk of the easterly and even picked up some sweet spot tailwinds. By 8:00pm I had finally hit Chuckanut Dr. and began taking on some gels to help me fuel up for coming rolling terrain. While Chuckanut is a very dark and narrow road there is such little traffic on it at night that it actually makes for really pleasant riding. I lucked out with some more tailwind which helped my tired legs labor over the many rollers. Finally, at 9pm I rolled into Bellingham wet and tired but satisfied. A beautiful ride with some great company on some great roads.
182 mi in 10hr 20min (ride time)
Avg Watts: 227 w/30% of the ride time at or above 270w
Total Calories burned = 7,100
TSS of 393 (As a comparison: The Donut Ride = TSS of 105, Arlington 100 = TSS of 276)