Browsing posts in: Bicycling

Sufferin’ Summits 2016

One of the downsides with being a ride leader is that whatever course your come up with, it’s your own fault. As I pull myself up some of the hills we ride in the evenings, I think to myself, “Who chose this route? Oh, yeah, it’s my fault”

This is the second year of Sufferin’ Summits, and I am fully responsible for the existence of this deliberately stupid ride. The premise of the ride is simple; stuff as much climbing into the smallest number of miles.

Last year I had to drop out after climb #5 because of some back issues, and I decided to resolve that by going to the PT in preparation for this year’s ride. And that is exactly what I was thinking the morning of the ride; going to the PT is an *excellent* idea. I should get on that. I did spend a fair bit of time rolling my back, doing exercises, doing stretching, and riding a lot of ugly hills, so I felt – well, “prepared” is probably the wrong term, so let’s say, “less unprepared”.

And I felt reasonably confident. Until I saw this:

image

The forecast was for the low 90s, which is pretty hot around these parts. I shifted the unofficial ride start time from 9AM to 8AM, and decided to just deal with the heat. I am no stranger to suffering on the bike in the heat – RAMROD 2009 comes to mind – but because reasons, never seem to do much training in the heat which is about the only thing you can do to suffer less.

Anyway, I got up at 6AM, had breakfast, got dressed, slathered sunscreen on, and headed out. Got there about 7:30, pulled out the bike, and got ready.

“Do a lot more promotion for the ride” was right after “make sure to go to the PT” on my list of things to do, so I’m really not expecting that many people, and I expect that a few will be scared off by the heat.

We end up with about 8 people when we pull out at 8:03, heading over to climb up Grand Ridge, the first of the 8 climbs we will be doing. Two of them had already done climbs 2 and 3 because they couldn’t find the first climb.

On reading that last sentence, I feel that I should make it clear that “two of them” refers to cyclists, not to hills.

So, anyway, we roll through the cool and quiet Issaquah streets, making our way to the start of the first climb and talking about the chances that we will feel cold the rest of the ride (the consensus prediction is 0% chance). My legs are a little tired on the first bit but not too bad and my back is a little sore, but also not too bad. Grand Ridge is a climb I really like; it’s not too steep (say, 15% at the worst, and that’s not too long of a section), and at the top it has some really nice views, though the houses they are building are cutting many of the views off. It’s also a cool 1017′ of elevation gain. I feel pretty good on the way up but am trying to moderate my effort as I know what is coming up later in the ride. We descend back down into the highlands, and then back down into Issaquah, making our way to our second climb.

The Squak Mountain climb is next on the agenda, and here we establish the usual pattern; I start the climb on the front and the rest of the riders slowly pull away from me as we climb. The climb doesn’t feel too long, which is a good indication that my fitness is decent. A look at my stats for the ride shows that I PR’d the climb, doing it about a minute faster (5%) faster than my previous best. Either an indication of fitness or an indication of me pushing a bit too hard this early in the ride. I actually get a bit cold on the descent as my sweat dries.  The climb is actually about 976′, but I’m going to round up and call it the second 1000′ climb of the day.

At the bottom, we stop at the ball field for water and a nature break. I’ve done through one bottle of water; I mix another and try to pre-hydrate a bit. After telling myself not to forget, I forget to wet down my sunsleeves (like arm warmers, but white) to keep cool.

Next up is a little development called Talus. Our route features a nice little climb that few people know about; in looking the Strava stats, I note that 48 people are in the list, but looking at the dates, well over half of those are from the two years of Sufferin’ Summits. The climb starts out brutally hard; 18-19% or so, curves around, moderates a little, and then turns into a little one-lane road through the woods. Near the top they are putting in some new houses, so we have to dismount and walk our bikes through the gravel, and then take a nice 20% connector between houses to continue to the top. Might be a bit steeper than that at the top; I get that “I’m not sure I can keep climbing without falling over” feeling. After the top of the first climb, we head over to do a small climb to the south, where we are tantalizingly blocked from the new upper section of the development by a chain link fence. Talus clocks in at around 550′; with any luck the upper section will be done by next year and we’ll be able to add a chunk to this section.

A descent and a short spin takes us to the base of Cougar Mountain, which has been a benchmark to separate the truly stupid for decades. While “have you done STP?” is by far the most common question non-cyclists will ask; if you are a serious cyclist, one of your riding buddies will eventually ask if you have done “the Zoo”. Which is why it shows nearly 2000 unique people on Strava. Once we get under the canopy, it’s fairly cool, and I spend some time talking with Jeanne as we climb up. Zoo is quite pleasant if you have the legs for it and are willing to take it easy. Instead of heading straight on the traditional climb, we head down to the next development to a particularly nasty connector section of 18-19%. As the group slowly rides away from me, I start tacking back and forth across the hill; I have the leg strength to ride straight up but I’m pretty sure I’ll need it later, and going back and forth chops the grade down to maybe 14% or so. This section is notable not only for how steep it is, but for how long it goes on; the first pitch is a full 250′, which is a long time at these gradients. At the bottom of the second section, I briefly chat with a group of women out for a walk, and they congratulate me. I’m not really quite sure why; perhaps they believe that anybody who is stupid enough to ride up that particular hill clearly has more than his share of problems in life and would therefore benefit from some extra encouragement. Seems like a decent theory to me.

At the top we connect with the traditional Zoo climb, and then hit the top in three separate climbs – Zoo top, Pinnacles, and Belvedere – each of which nets us another 250′ of hard-won altitude, and bringing up the total of this segment to 2030′. I am climbing okay, but the heat is getting pretty bad by now, and my heart rate is higher than I would expect for a given power output, which is a decent sign I am getting dehydrated. Up Belvedere, I average 200 watts riding 5 MPH with my heart rate averaging about 150, where 150 would normally net me something closer to 225 or even 250 watts. I drink as much as I can stomach and keep riding.

We descend a bit, do a short and easy climb up to the park for a rest break. I have cleverly arranged for my wife to run a food stop for us, and we snack on brownie bites, cinnamon rolls, and cheez-its, get cooled off a bit, do our best to rehydrate, and then head back out.

This next section is something special. And not in a good way; this first climb features the steepest section of the ride (measured at 23%), it faces directly south, and it’s 11:20 so it’s been baking in the sun so it is pretty hot. There is a steep section, a slightly easier section, and then it just gets nasty. I spend 11.5 minutes suffering up this 494′ climb, and I’m really unhappy, but this is not unexpected as this is the worst climb of the ride.

At the top – as usual – the group is waiting for me, and at this point I realize that although they are climbing faster than me – and working harder – they are also spending a few minutes in the shade resting, while I just keep riding. I carefully spray a bit of precious water onto my arms, my back, and my head, and find that it’s quite hot; somewhere between “hot tub” and “lobster boil”.

We do a smaller and not-quite-as-steep section to the east, and then finally climb up the Summit development which is just a twice-baked sufferfest at this point. I am dripping and crusty and dehydrated, but we hit the summit, hop the wall at the emergency gate, and descend to the north to a gas station, where I purchase the Coke Zero and half-gallon of water that has been calling my name for the 10 miles.

I buy a coke zero and a big chunk of water, and we all get out of the sun for a while. Everybody is looking a bit tired and hot, and is happy for the rest. We spend a full 20 minutes there and then head out for the next chunk, first descending all the way down next to Lake Sammamish.

This climb is another one I like when I take my usual route, but the route I’ve chosen for the ride features another really nasty steep part, nicely named “ay mamacita” by an unknown cyclist. I climb it slowly but the combination of a large infusion of liquid and wetting myself down at the stop makes it fairly tolerable, but as we go to the next section of the climb, my clothes dry out and the air is totally still; it feels much worse than the the Summit section we just climbed on the south side. I’m still trying to drink at a reasonable rate because I know I need to stay hydrated but my stomach is starting to rebel a bit, in the “I think I might need to pull off the side of the road and make a deposit” sense. Eventually, we arrive back near the gate that takes us into the development; I call a 5 minute break so that I can get my friend Mike out of the sun for a bit because he is not looking very good. It was a purely selfless gesture and had nothing to do with my desire to hop the fence of the summit clubhouse nearby and “accidentally” fall into the pool.

We descend down on Forest Drive and turn right to start climbing the Highlands. Luckily, this is three small climbs with a chance to recover in between; unluckily, it’s a single lane so you mostly have to go straight up. I turn off into the flat side streets for a small bit of rest before heading back up. I reach the crest and Jeanne is on the side of the road, confused because her GPS is trying to tell her to skip part of the course. We regroup, do one short climb to the top of Somerset (but not the real top), at which point I tell her of my plan.

My plan is to pull off in the shade on one side of the road and see if I can get myself cooled off a bit before I decide what to do next. And so I sit down for 5 minutes, stand up, grab a drink of water, and start riding down to do the last hill. On the way down, I cool down a bit and start to feel a bit more nauseous, and I continue to feel that way as I roll along the flat for the last climb. It would seem that I have made a tactical mistake, and a few alternate routes back flash through my head, but I decide to press on. I hit the first pitch and am surprised to discover that if I tack back and forth and ride really easy on the tacking parts and faster on the turns – averaging about 150 watts – I actually feel better than I did on the descent.  Weird. I keep this up on the other pitches, and after about 15 minutes, I get to the easier part, work my way to the north, and then head up a short bit back up to near the top.

And it’s time keep riding. There’s a voice in my head that says, “that wasn’t that bad; you can do the top bit here and then the two last hills”, a second voice that says, “did you *see* how slow you were riding on that last section? I was surprised that you didn’t fall over”, and a third voice that says, “Recalculating… You can return to your start point with 6 miles of descending and approximately 0 miles of climbing”.

I listen to the third voice, and it’s actually a good thing I do because I feel sick on the descent again, but manage to keep focused and riding. At a construction zone right before the end, the rest of the group catches up with me, and we ride to the finish together. The car claims it’s 102 when I get in; after a bit of driving it sheepishly corrects that to only 95 degrees, but whatever the actual temp, it was really, really hot.

So, that’s the ride. I’m going to declare victory and say that I finished the ride and that those last little bits didn’t really matter. I had the legs to keep climb up them, at least.

And onto the stats.

55.9 miles of riding in 5:34:54, for a blazing 10 MPH average, just 0.1 MPH less than last year when it was cloudy and about 25 degrees cooler. 8213′ of climbing. And, for all of that – a measly 2891 calories burnt. My climbing was at just a hair over 700 meters per hour (155 acres per jereboam in “freedom units”), which is decent.

Strava activity is here.








Big Island Bike Tour 2015

The offspring is starting her senior year of college this fall, and it’s seems likely that her ability to do things with us will be more constrained in the future, so we decided to do a nice family vacation. Going to the Big Island of Hawaii has been on our list for a while, so we chose to go on a Hawaii Big Island Family Multisport Tour for older kids, or something like that – all families, all with kids, but at least one kid needs to be 17.


And, to get something out of the way up front, I was sorry that I was in Hawaii and didn’t get a chance to climb Haleakala (10,0000’), because they have inconsiderately decided to place it on Maui. I looked up some information on riding to the top of Mauna Kea – which houses a lot of observatories because it tops out at 13,700’ or so – but it is not paved at the top, the ride is purported to be very hard, and the point of going is to be on a *vacation* with my *family*.


We flew Alaska from Seattle directly to Kona International Airport, where we deplaned, got our luggage (no bikes – we will rent), and grabbed our shuttle to the Waikola Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. It took a bit longer than that – shuttles always take a bit of extra waiting, and as soon as you go to Hawaii, you are on island time, so you need a relaxed attitude. Luckily, we had no place we had to be on the first day, so we just kicked back and tried to relax.


I’m am mostly on vacation to either get out and do things or sit around and relax; I’m not really into the resort side of things, and I’m pretty tired, so I mostly just sat around. I think Kim and Sam went shopping. Dinner was at The Three Fat Pigs, which was pretty good, though there were two strange occurrences; when we showed up at 5PM (8PM Seattle time, so we were hungry), we were told that we were lucky to get in because they were almost all booked. This was strange because only one of 30 tables was occupied at the time, and they never hit more than about 75% full while we were there. The second was a distinct lack of condiments on the tables. But, other than that, it was close to the hotel, casual, and we got back in time to watch the sunset.



The Waikola is fine; nice pool, and a nice beach that is set away from the hotel a bit. And, you can walk to the King’s shops or the Queen’s shops, which takes you to non-resort food and other stuff, which is nice.


The next morning, we were up early to eat and get picked up by Backroads, our tour company. Breakfast was something that we picked up at the aforementioned stores the night before.


We meet one of the other families while we wait for the van. Then we get our luggage to the van, meet our tour leaders. Rob and Lora will be the main leads, and Reggie will be the support driver who spends a lot of time doing behind-the-scenes work. We pile into the van, and head down the road to pick up the other two families. That goes quickly enough, and we head to our first spot.


I should perhaps say a bit more about what this trip is like. Guided tours run the gamut from hardcore tours where you ride a bunch every day and tours that have a small amount of riding every day to multisport tours like this one where you ride some most days but also do other activities. There are generally two or three distance options for the ride each day, and this can often be modified if you want more or less difficulty.



Day 1: Waipio Valley


The van drops us off at the processing and retail outlet for Ahualoa Farms, a very tiny macadamia nut company in the town of Honoka’a. We go and listen to a discussion about how the nuts are prepared and eat some samples while our leaders pull bikes off the vans, put on our pedals, and generally get everything set up. After a bit of bike adjustment, we stock our Ziploc bags from the treat table (too much sugar, not enough salt) and pull out on a out-and-back ride before lunch.


The three of us have different riding abilities and tolerances; Kim does a fair bit of exercise and rides to work in Bothell and back now and then, and Samantha hasn’t been on a bike for years. My plan is to sometimes ride with one or more of them and sometimes to ride by myself. We start out as a family.


It is hottish (we are on the wet side of the island), but the heat doesn’t bother me very much – it’s been pretty hot at home this summer and I’ve ridden in it a fair bit. However, at home, we think it’s humid when it hits 25% in the summer, and Hawaii averages 70-80% during August. And hurricane tropical depression Guillermo has been sending extra moisture this way, so the actual humidity is around 250%.


But, we’re riding together and the scenery is beautiful, so we keep riding, eventually reaching a overlook of the Waipio valley. I walk carefully down a really step path in my cleats to reach the edge.





This is a very crenelated section of coastline, with deep valleys that lead far back into the interior. There’s no easy access, though you can get down to the beach if you have a serious 4×4.


I ran into these two ladies and they agreed to let me take their picture.



After a few minutes there, we turn around and head back. We’re a bit slow because Sam’s getting her bike legs back. Somewhere in this section, one of the father & son pairs passes us, and a few minutes later, Sam says something like, “go chase them down and show them who’s in charge for me”.


So, I put my head down and chased. It was… uncomfortable; my heartrate went from averaging 88 BPM before I chased to 150 BPM for the remaining 5 miles. It’s hot and humid and there’s a 300’ climb in it, but I’m decent at suffering so I hold on and arrive back at our start.


Part of the reason I rode that way is that the longer option for the day was scrubbed due to some fallen logs from a recent storm, so I’d only be riding 20 miles for the day.


Samantha rolls in about 10 minutes later, the benefit of a “bump”. A bump is where you stop before a tough part, they toss your bike on the van and then drive you to the top. This is a great way to extend your riding ability and annoy your father.


Lunch is a typical backroads lunch; there’s some kind of meat (pulled pork IIRC), a few different salads, bread, some fruit (pineapple + mango), and various drinks. Their lunches have variety, it’s easy to find something healthy to eat, and the food is always tasty.


After lunch, we pack into the vans to drive up the coast to ‘Akaka Falls State Park. It is, of course, hot and humid, but we walk on the walkway  – because that’s what one does – to reach the overlook.



That’s 422’ of splendor. The walkway continues down so you can get a viewpoint of Kahuna falls, which, frankly isn’t worth the extra effort. But I did find this little feller on our walk out:



We finished the day with a trip up from Hilo to Volcano Town.


It’s a town! On a volcano!


Okay, so, technically, every town in Hawaii is on a volcano, but this is up high – at about 3800’ – and very near to the Kilauea Visitor center. We are staying in the Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant – well, technically, we are pretty much taking it over; by my count we have 9 of 11 rooms occupied. The lodge was built as a YMCA camp back in 1938, and is rustic in a good way. There is no TV but there is internet.


We have dinner that night in the restaurant. The apps are okay, but my Ahi is pretty tasteless. Probably the low point of our culinary experiences.

Strava. 20.2 miles, 1128’ of climbing.



Day 2: Volcano Day!


This is a multi-sport day. After a hearty but slow breakfast at the restaurant in the lodge, we van up and head to the visitor’s center (technically, Hawai’i Volcanos National Park), where we meet up with Tim, our guide for the day. We first walk out to a viewpoint, where – if I’m remembering the geology correctly – we can see the whole caldera (the part that filled with lava at one time), and then, in the middle, the steaming crater.



Perhaps this view will help:


image


You can see the edges of the caldera and the obvious crater. The previous picture is from the white buildings in the upper right. The caldera is about 2 miles by 1.5 miles


To the right you see a small crater called Kilauea Iki, which means “little Kilauea”. Back in 1959, it was the site of a pretty spectacular eruption, with lava fountains reaching 600 meters (1800’ in freedom units) high. The crater filled with lava, which then drained back after the event. There’s some cool film of it here.


We start with a climb down into the crater, which is mostly on a well-paved path, losing around 400’. We reach the floor:


 


The hill to the right was formed from the lava fountain; it’s around 600’ high. The far edge of the caldera is about 1.5 miles away. In the distance, you can see a lake. A lake… of LAVA. Well, cooled lava, anyway. That’s where we’re going.


Here’s a better view of the hill:



I have helpfully inserted some people to give you a sense of scale. The lava here is pretty jumbled and sharp, which is pretty common for island lava.


Here is a photo of the group:



We make our way to one of the vent holes for the eruption (daughter provide for scale):



At this point, we have reached the edge of the part where the caldera was full of molten lava. When the eruption finished , the lava cooled and the top few inches solidified. Then, a bunch of the lava beneath drained away, and when that happened, the top fractured as it dropped:



Looks very much like torn-up asphalt roadway. We keep walking more, and we get to a section where the lava cooled differently, and the surface gets much smoother. We can see our vans parked up at the top of the caldera wall.



As we reach the other end, we turn and look back:



Then it’s a series of switchbacks up and out of the crater to the road, and then across the road to Thurston Lava Tube. It’s a tube in the ground, it’s okay, but not close to as impressive as the crater we were just in.


Then it’s back in the vans to the lodge, where we have a nice lunch. And then, to the bikes! There are 3 options; a ride back into the park to a different overlook and back, a ride to the overlook and then down to a overlook of the ocean, and the ride down to the overlook and back. I would leave you in suspense as to which on I was planning on doing, but I think you will figure that out on your own.


We ride off into a heavy mist, the remnants of Guillermo. I stick with the family on the way to the overlook, and as we leave to head towards the overlook, it starts to rain, at which point I remark, “I don’t know about you but I am experiencing *the hell* out of this national park”.


We continue on as the weather switches back to on-and-off drizzle, which normally would be annoying, but since it’s 70 degrees it’s fine. We hit the turnoff to head down to the overlook, which is named Halina Pali. It’s a very minimal barely 1.5 lane road that winds up, down, and around the terrain the whole way down. It’s sort of a fun descent though you can’t get a lot of speed on it because you can’t see what’s ahead very well. We spend about 40 minutes on the 9.6 mile descent, and finally pull into the overlook, which looks like this:



Theoretically. What we see is this:




A quick picture of me, I refill my bottles, stuff my vest back in my jersey pocket, and head out on the climb back. I am not surprisingly the only one who thinks a 1600’ climb in the mist and rain is a great idea.


In the first few minutes, I meet the remainder of the group who is riding down to the overlook. As soon as the group finishes wandering around and the bikes are loaded, they’re going to be heading back up.


I have a goal. It’s to finish the climb from the overlook back to the highway before the vans make it out. 8.5 miles, and just over a thousand feet. I start climbing a little harder, it starts to lightly rain, which puts me in an absolutely perfect environment; it’s the first time I’ve felt cool and comfortable so I press a little harder. I don’t know the road and my GPS is hiding in my jersey pocket, so I’m not really sure how much climbing I have left. I hear a vehicle behind me a couple of times and expect it to be the van, but it is not. 47 minutes and 7 seconds later I hit the stop sign at the main road, turn left, and keep climbing.


Another couple miles and another 300’ of up, and I reach another turnoff. Still no van. I turn up towards the lava tubes, the road kicks, up for the last section of the climb, and the vans finally pass me by. Five minutes or so later I top out on the climb. That’s 1640’ in 68:17, or a little under 1500’ per hour. Not bad, and I feel pretty good, good enough to head out the park and hammer back downhill to the lodge. I drop the bike off with our leaders and head in to shower and change.


Stava: 37.9 miles and an even 2700’ of climbing, for a pretty good bit of riding. 


Back in the van for a really short ride to Volcano Winery, where I discovered a couple of things. First, a lot of the wine there is far too sweet for my palate, and it’s not really a great idea to go to a wine tasting when you only had a small snack before your wine tasting. Luckily, we have moved to the more sweet wines and I’m really not very interested in drinking much of them, so I concentrate on the crackers on the side plate.


After the winery part, we head to dinner at Thai Thai, an incongruously large Thai restaurant in Volcano town. The food is pretty good and the service is okay for a group of 19 people. I had a Thai basil stir fry with pork.



Day 3: Volcano to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach


This day looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun; we have a 3 mile climb and then we need to descend from 4000’ all the way back to the water. I love big mountain descents; a nice fast ride down is a great reward for the suffering on the way up. Or, in this case, the van trip up.

We start the climb together and then I jump and start picking off the people who started earlier, and start to descend.

And… it turns out that I’ve forgotten the basic topology of Hawaii. Hawaii is not an island with mountains on it. The island is a mountain – a very broad one – and 4000’ over 28 miles gives an average gradient of 1-2%. More of an “easing down” than a “descent”. I ride the section to the van stop, and then wait for Kim and Sam. We refill our bottles, and continue to head down, back into the heat. The route turns at Pahala, and after a short climb we hit a nice quiet agricultural road.



After a couple of miles, we finish that section and I get in front to pull into the headwind for the rest of the way down to the park. We pull in, I pound down a Coke Zero from the cooler, and then we walk around a bit.

Stava, 31.5 miles, 580’ of climbing, 16.8 mph

Some of our party took this chance to catch a little sun. The sand is, indeed, black, which makes it pretty hot. I brought clothes in the van so I could change, and I do so in a pretty typical park bathroom (ie sketchy), but I don’t want to swim and then be wet for the lunch and the ride in the van, so I mostly sit in the shade.

Kim keeps busy by taking 51 pictures of the beach, of the turtles, but mostly trying to catch the spray in the air. I like this one:


After about an hour we van up and head to our lunch spot. Everybody is overjoyed to be in the air conditioning; it was pretty hot and sticky at the beach.


We are lunching at Punalu’u bake shop, the southernmost bakery in the USA. As you can see by the sign.

I don’t ordinary choose my sources of leavened comestibles by their geographical superlatives, but it is not my choice today, so we wind our way past a musician to a rather nice covered lanai set back a bit from the main building. There are two women in separate tables having a snack and reading, but they soon decide that maybe, just maybe, their experience will be enhanced if they move away from the 22 loud cyclists to one of the other seating areas.

We had expressed our lunch preferences before we left in the morning, and they are (mostly) ready when we get there. IIRC, I had a somewhat average turkey sandwich on a really good bun, plus some pastry, plus some fruit. And I think I may have had a beer. The weather here is tolerable. After lunch, we van up and head out again.

We have a long drive from where we are to Kailua-Kona. On the way, we are going to stop at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, a historical place of refuge where lawbreakers and anybody else who wanted to stay out of a fight could claim refuge. Very much like making it to “home base” when playing “Hide and Seek”.

The park is a recreation of what life was like in Hawaii in earlier times. How much earlier, I cannot tell you, because a) I left my park brochure in the car instead of carrying it around with me, and b) the NPS website refuses to return any useful information. From what I can gather, they built walls out of rock, buildings out of plant material, and fish ponds out of whatever one makes fish ponds of, but mostly they just hung out at the bar in the party pond and drank pina coladas to escape the oppressive heat and humidity.

We thankfully vanned up and continued on to into Kailua-Kona and our hotel:

 

We hit the ABC store for some snacks and head up to our room. Kim and I have a view overlooking a roof that overlooks the small beach that the hotel has.

In the afternoon, we have signed up for dugout canoe trip? session? experience? Something like that:

We get the boat off the beach, get in, and head out of the little hotel harbor. We attempt to learn to paddle together as a team on one side of the boat, with limited success. We then learn how to paddle on alternate sides and how to switch our sides, also with limited success. Then we head back in, comfortable in the knowledge that, if circumstances ever put us in the seat of a competitive outrigger canoe race, we will be of little use whatsoever.

That night is “dinner on your own”, and the Gunnersons head out on their own to a local brewpub.

The service is good, and the food is good, but our enjoyable evening is interrupted by a gentleman – a gentleman named Guillermo, who has pushed some rain over to Kona. We move to another table, and, by the time we are done with our dinner, it has reduced to a light rain, the kind that Washingtonians such as us make a point of pride of walking in. The rest of the night is uneventful.

Day 4: Water day!

One of the reasons for travel is to expose you to new experiences, and you need to be paying attention or sometimes you may miss them. If you have your head buried in a book or are playing with your phone, you will miss out on natural wonders. This morning was one such instance; had I not been paying attention during breakfast, I would have missed seeing a young lady eat an entire dinner plate piled up with bacon – well in excess of 30 pieces by my estimation – followed by a dessert of fruit, bread, and another 10 pieces of bacon. I don’t think she weighed more than 100 pounds.

Today will be spent on the water. We start by getting into our water togs and vanning up for a short trip to Keauhou Bay. We are going kayaking and snorkeling today. All the kayaks hold two people, so we have already decided that Sam and I will be in one kayak and Kim will ride with somebody else. She ends up paired with Jim, who’s family thoughtfully brought along an extra child since Kim and I had the poor foresight to only have the one.

We have gone sea kayaking a few times in Puget Sound (and once in Alaska IIRC). The water there is cold, so you need a stable kayak that can keep you dry. One like this:



But, we’re kayaking in an area with warm water, so we end up with a kayak like this.

We are going to be snorkeling and swimming off of the kayaks, so our leaders give us a quick demonstration on how to get out of the kayak smoothly, and then how to get back into it. Getting out is all about the proper points of contact so you don’t rock the boat too much, and getting in is about swimming out and then rolling into the seat. Our leaders do this about as well as you would expect someone who does it a few thousand times a year.

We all have life jackets, though Sam and I have them deployed behind us to give us a little extra cushion. Sam has done a lot of swimming and loves the water, I suffered through lessons and a few years of swim team, and Kim grew up swimming in the surf in Key West so the hard part is getting her out of the water.

We launch from the dock and row out to a buoy in the bay to assemble the group before we head out. Kim and Jim decide that they want to practice the exit and entry procedure for the kayak; they do fine getting back into the boat but did not exit it in the approved manner.

And, it’s time to paddle. Sam is nice and consistent, and we settle into a steady rhythm. Except that the boat is consistently pulling to one side, so we have to paddle asymmetrically to get it back in line every minute or so. Unlike sea kayaks, these guys don’t have a rudder you can use to keep you on course, so it’s paddle for a couple of minutes, turn, paddle for a few more minutes, turn. With 9 boats doing this, it’s a bit of a comedy going out. We pause to regroup now and then. Along the way we run into a pod of dolphins – spinners, I believe – that cavort through our assemblage of boats.

Kim is having a horrible time:

Eventually, we reach our destination a bit down the coast. I believe it was near Kualunai point. The leaders anchor their kayaks and we all tie up to them, and then we get out to go snorkeling. I have my old Canon A20 in a waterproof housing (actually, it’s not my old camera – it’s my slightly-less-old camera since the old one suicided while snorkeling the last time we were in Maui), and Kim has her brand new Nikon waterproof Coolpix.

We swim around a bit. I do a few dives, but we are not equipped with fins, so I can’t get down more than about 10 or 15 feet or so, and to do so I thrash around enough that the fish just swim away. The snorkel is the old school kind (no valve), but that’s what I learned on so I’m okay. The mask, at least, is high quality; no leaks, and easy to equalize pressure in.

I had planned on showing some decent underwater shots here, but they’re mostly pretty bad, so I’m going to spare you the details.

After 30 minutes or so of swimming and diving, we group back at the boats to have some snax and cull the weak from the strong. You can see the weak up there.

I would, of course, have participated in this activity except that I’m wearing my contacts and would probably lose them. There could be no other reason I would avoid climbing a precipitous rock face and hurtling myself out into the void over some hard-looking water.

The young one does it:

The we circle the wagons, get everybody back in the canoes, and head back. This turns into a little bit of a race, which is fine, except that the boat keeps yawing to the port side (yeah, I’m gettin’ all nautical and stuff), so we have to stop paddling on the right pretty often. My left arm is significantly sorer at the end.

We eventually make it back near the dock, get careful instructions from our leaders about how to queue up so that we can get the kayaks out smoothly, which are then promptly forgotten by the majority of the boats as they rush for the ramp.

We finally disembark, grab our stuff, and head to rinse off in the outdoor shower. Nice to get the salt water off, a bit bracing as far as the temperature goes. Another quick change into normal clothes in another somewhat dodgy park restroom, and we head off to lunch.

Which is at Akule Supply, conveniently located a mere 25 steps away.

After the paddle and the swim I probably would have even eaten poi, but the food is good. IIRC, we had:

  • French fries
  • Deep-fried avocado with spicy sauce
  • Chicken something
  • Salad something something

I grab a Diet Coke from the cooler, and we sit around and talk until it’s time to go. We van a bit until we get to Kona Blue Sky Coffee.

At the plantation, we get to sample the different blends and learn more about how coffee is harvested, processed, and roasted. As a non-coffee-drinker, I am not paying a lot of attention, but I gather that there are elves involved.

We have another transit to do, this time to the Fairmont Orchid, so it’s back in the vans again, and we head out to the Fairmont, where we check in and chill until it’s time for dinner.

Dinner is at the Mauna Lani hotel just down the road a bit and their CanoeHouse (apparently spaces are rationed on this part of the island).

They have a large canoe hanging in the rafters so that you know that you are in the right place. I decide to skip the fish for a nice and have the rack of lamb; it is excellently presented, cooked to perfection, and utterly devoid of seasoning.

There is a bit of a pattern here – if you are in a resort, the food isn’t very good, and if you are outside the resort, the food is generally better.

But, it is a good night with good company.

Day 5: Waimea – Polulu Valley Lookout

This is the last day of riding. There are three different routes listed – a 9 (ish) mile route from the drop-off point to the lookout, an 18 mile route to the overlook and back, and then a 33-mile route out to the lookout and then back to Kawaihae for lunch.

The night before, the leaders offered the group the opportunity to ride from the hotel to the dropoff point, an extra 29 miles at the start of the day. I am the only one who raises my hand, and this means that I’ll be heading out at 7:30 in the morning. I get up early and put on my bike stuff and a lot of sunscreen, to try to avoid making my sunburn worse. A quick and light breakfast at the buffet (seems a waste to have a light breakfast at a big hotel buffet), and I meet Rob in the lobby, and we take a bit of a trek through the parking lot with me in my socks to where the van is parked. My bike is out and ready; I have decided to skip the tail trunk today because I expect it to be windy and I don’t want the extra drag.

I spin out of the hotel and turn left on Queen Ha’ahumanu Highway. The course that I am riding is part of the Kona ironman course, and I’m riding the last 29 miles to the turnaround point. As I get up to the next hotel, a couple of riders pull out in front of me. I’m sure one of them is a triathlete; he has aero bars and a water-bottle holder on the back of his seat. The second guy has a normal road bike. They are just getting started, so I pass them by and pick up my pace a little. The road is through lava fields, but it’s still pretty early and the weather is cool, so it’s okay. There is a slight sidewind coming down from the mountain.

At Waikui, I turn left onto Akone Pule HIghway, and the wind is now behind me. Unfortunately, there is a descent as well. That probably sounds like a weird thing to say, but that means that the descent won’t last long. Two minutes later, I’m back down by the water.

The cue sheet for this section, and I looked at the map the night before. It’s pretty straightforward except for when I get into Kawaihae, where it say “don’t take the turn to the Marina”.

I take the turn to the Marina.

I figure it out fairly quickly, and get back on the right road. During this excursion, the two riders that were behind me pass ahead. I slot in behind them and we keep riding. At the first hill, the second rider drops back, and I start talking with the first guy. He’s out training for a half-ironman that is coming up later this year. He warns me that the upcoming section is going to have some nasty sidewinds, and that there is a 4 mile climb up to Hawi. We ride together for a while, and then he stops to wait for his friend.

And wow, he was not kidding about the sidewinds. At times, the road is shielded by a hill cut, and then you come out to get hit by the sidewind. 20MPH is my guess. I ride for 10 miles over a bunch of rollers, and hit the base of the hill. I start up.

As a hill, it’s not very steep – my GPS says it’s only a couple of percent in inclination. But – and this is a big but – I’ve turned to the right, so the sidewind has turned into a headwind. It’s a nasty one. But, I know how to suffer, so I just keep climbing. At least the wind is keeping me cool. The view to the left is pretty nice, but it’s easy to get jaded after a week in Hawaii. After ten or fifteen minutes, the triathlete shows up and tell me his friend turned around, and he will be turning around in a little bit. He powers on ahead, and quickly pulls a U-turn to head back. At this point, the vans pass me.

The road has curved a bit more to the right, and now I’m headed directly into the wind. I climb, climb, and climb some more, and then finally top out in Hawi. The climb was about 5 miles, and only climbed about 500 feet.

I reach the vans just as everybody is getting ready to roll out. I refill my bottles and head out with the wife and offspring. My plan is to ride with them to the overlook, and then we’ll decide what to do from there. I get in the front to block the wind. The first section is mostly downhill, with a few intense uphill sections (one was a nice 20% grade). We keep riding until we get to the Pololu Valley Lookout, which is the same valley we looked at from the other side on the first day. We go and look – ho hum, another incredible view – and I stuff my face with some Maui onion potato chips to get some more salt into my system.

We turn around, Samantha decides to van back (or at least part of the way back), and Kim and I decide to ride back. Lara is going to ride with us.

As the morning has gone on, it’s gotten warmer and a bit more humid. It’s easier to ride with the headwind than the tailwind, but we have pretty much lost our cooling wind, so it’s getting a bit miserable. It takes us about 75 minutes to ride back to the drop-off point, which involves about 600’ of climbing. We are the back of the train right now, so we re-water and re-fuel and press on. We have 17 miles until lunch.

The first 5 miles – back down the hill – are great, kicking along at 25 MPH. That lasts about 15 minutes, and then it’s back to the rollers I rode through earlier, except this time the sidewind is mostly gone. It’s not too bad when we are out in the open, but when we get in the road cuts, the rocks (aka “lava”) are radiating heat, and it’s about 20 degrees hotter in those sections. After two water stops and about 300 hours more of riding, we get to Kohala Burger & Taco. I am well and truly cooked, but thankfully Kim says that she is done, so I don’t have to ride back to the hotel.

Strava, 62.8 miles, 4050’.


Pretty much everybody else has their food or is already done, so we head inside to place our order and cool off a bit. I drink two cups of ice water while we wait and then shotgun down a Diet Pepsi. Our tacos show up, and as we are sitting there eating, the first van loads up and heads back to the hotel. We finish our food (fish tacos, quite good, though my culinary requirements after that long on the bike are possibly a bit suspect), and Kim gets in line to get some shave ice. She finally gets to the front of the line, gets her ice, and we get into the delightfully cool van to head back to the hotel.

There’s a certain feeling after a hard ride when you get some real food in you, and we are feeling okay. As we pull out of Kawaihae, we notice some smoke to the right of us, which quickly resolves into a major brush fire.

The road that I rode from the hotel is closed and, as we watch, a bunch of emergency vehicles flee that area to come back towards us. We aren’t going to be able to get through on the road. But we have drinks and snax, so we’re fine. We head back the way we came and turn into a private gated development that climbs up the hill about 4000’. Then we turn and head towards Waimea, back south, and then – finally, back to the west and our hotel. That’s about 50 miles of driving to go 10 miles, but we didn’t have big plans for the afternoon and we had a great group in the car, so it was fun.

After removing 62 miles of volcanic grit off of my body, we get ready for our last dinner. We started with a reception at the bar near the pool. It is very strange to be having drinks with your daughter. And then we headed over to Brown’s Beach House Restaurant for our last dinner together.

We had pretty much that exact view, on an out-of-the-way section of the seating area. Which was nice. After a bit, the appetizers came – I had some of the beef cheeks, which sounds like a great way to convert a cheap ingredient to a $18 appetizers. I ordered the Big Eye Tuna, a bit of specificity that I assure you will become important soon.

And then we talked. Either we didn’t look very hungry or they lost us, but we waited a very long time for our food to show up. And then they showed up with the plates but didn’t know who had ordered what, which isn’t great if you’re charging $40 a plate. Mine came back as “Ahi”, which is technically correct but more than a little confusing when there’s a server walking around asking who had the ahi.

By this time, the restaurant was empty, but we did have time for dessert before we headed for dinner. I’m actually a little tired of appetizers + entrée + dessert at dinner and am hoping for something simpler in the near future.

Day 6: Petroglyphs

This morning includes an optional historic activity, but the brush fires still have the road closed, so those of us who are left take a short hike to some nearby petroglyphs. It’s a nice trek over a golf course, along the beach, through a parking lot, and then back through a whole bunch of scrub forest.

When you get there, the petroglyphs do not look at all like these, which are recreations right next to the parking lot.

They look like this:

Then it was back to the hotel and into the van to head back to our original hotel, where we hung out, went to a food court for dinner, and watched the sunset. And then got up the next day and flew home.


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #8: Somerset & Traverse

Highland/Somerset <= Somerset & Traverse => (mostly) down to the finish!

Breaking news!

I came up with a new climb that takes the bottom and tops of “The Zoo” and stuffs the ugly Montreux => cutoff right in the middle, and I have used it to replace the existing Montreux-Zooma climb in Hill #4. The change adds 14’ in elevation and cuts 0.2 miles off of the entire route.

I’m calling the new climb “ZooMonZoo”. I’ve updated the description for hill #4 to the new route and included a brief discussion of why I chose it.

Anyway, onto the description of hill #8, the last one in the ride.

+++++++++

For many years, I thought that “Somerset” meant climbing up the road we just descended, because that was the only route I had ridden. At about 450’ and a nice section of about 16%, this is certainly a challenge. And then, one day, I was looking at maps (because I lead a Tue/Thu night ride and like new routes), and I realized that there was a route from the west that I had never heard about.

So, I went and rode it, and found out why I had never heard about it.

The route is mostly easy to follow, though there are a couple of places where you need to pay attention. Start up the first pitch, and when the road ends, turn right. Take the first left and continue climbing, following the road as it curves around. After the big curve, you are looking for the first turn to the left – 136th Pl NE. If you miss it and you run into Highlands drive, turn around and come back.

After the turn, there is about a half mile section that will end at Somerset Blvd – the one we descended down earlier. We turn right, then right again on 139th Ave, and a final left on SE 47th. This section is easy to navigate; just keep turning on the streets that go up. At the top, turn around, and enjoy the last great view of the ride.  We don’t have the altitude we had at the earlier climbs, but there is nothing in front to block our view.

Now, it’s time to traverse to the east towards the finish.

We descend back down to Somerset Blvd and turn right. The first pitch is a steep descent with a stop sign at the bottom. Turn right, and then take the first left on SE 49th. Continue straight until it ends at 151st Avenue, which we travelled earlier on the Summit climbs. Turn left and take the first right on SE 48th. This will curve around and change names a couple of times, and finally end at 159th Pl SE.

Turn left, and then take the first right on SE 48th drive. This will take you to a short bike/ped section and then a steep descent down to 164th with the usual stop sign at the bottom. Turn right on 164th, ride up to the stop sign, turn left, and then after a quarter mile, turn right into the shopping center.

Go inside the market and buy yourself something cool to drink and maybe something to snack on. You have made it; all that is remaining is a 3.5 mile ride back to the starting line, which features a 1 mile screamer of a descent (with, unfortunately, we need to turn off of in the middle) and a whopping 39’ of additional climbing.

So, that’s the course. Unless I change it.

4.6 miles, 861’

image



Sufferin’ Summits: Hill #7–Highland/Somerset

#6 Summit North <= Highland/Somerset => ?

This section is mostly a portage from our last descent to where we will start section #8, but there is no reason that a portage can’t be fun.

We find ourselves back on Forest Drive. After just over half a mile, we turn right on Highland Drive. This climb goes steep/flat/steep/downhill/steep/flat, and will take us into a notch between Somerset hill to the west and Summit to the east. After a short 1/4 mile rest, we turn left on Somerset Blvd, hit the crest, and then continue down to the North. Nice views here, but at 15-16% you will be needing to use your brakes.

We eventually come to an exit where you can see a traffic light to the left. Turn left to the light, and then turn left to get onto Newport Way. Once again, we have a descent that we are going to be turning off of, so watch your speed. After half a mile on Newport, the road will curve right but we turn left on 130th Place SE, then left on 130th Ave SE. Continue straight on this road; you’ll know when you’ve reached the start of the next hill.

3.9 miles, 359’ of climbing

image

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #6 – The Summit Strikes Back: from the north

#5 Summit South <= #6 Summit North => #7 Highland/Somerset

*************************************

Note: I hadn’t ridden the section on Squak for a while when I wrote it. I rode it last weekend and re-wrote that section. You should go read it now so that you understand what the descent is going to be like and don’t ride your bike off the road.

*************************************

After the nice descent down from Summit and replenishing our food and water supplies, we’re going head west and do something a little different and easier.

Ha ha! I make joke! We’re actually going to climb right back up the hill that we just came down. This is a climb I do fairly often; it’s near my house, the roads are good, traffic is light, and there’s a surprising amount of up. And there are a few different routes to take.

We, of course, are going to take the hardest way up. It’s a bit convoluted, so you’ll need to pay attention.

Starting way down near the water, we turn right on East Lake Sammamish, and then turn right into the Forty-One Point Five development. Follow the road as it turns right and then – you guessed it – starts going up steeply. After a couple of left turns, it will top out. As the road turns left, look for a path on the right; I *highly* suggest getting off your bike and walking it as there’s a tight turn and it can be mossy. Turn left on the path and descend down to the bridge, and ride over it the other side, and turn right on Newport Way.

After a easy 1.2 mile climb – enjoy it because it’s pretty much the only one all day – the road flattens, and we turn left on 155th Pl SE. Just look for the very steep hill. Follow the road as it winds up; when it flattens, turn left, and when it flattens again, turn right. When the road ends at SE 46th, we turn right. That road ends on 150th, where we turn left and climb up on the road we descended recently. Keep climbing until you reach the park:

IMG_6913

and then follow the road to the left. Take the first left, and that road will lead you back to the gate you climbed over earlier.

IMG_6916

Cross it again. Turn right when you hit the main road, work your way around, and descend down the south side. Watch your speed as there is a stop sign at the bottom.

Turn right at the bottom, and follow the road down until you hit Forest Drive.

It isn’t the most continuous climb around, but this section nets us 1100’ over 5.9 miles. That is our 4th climb over 1000’ in elevation gain.

Route and climb info. Click to view.

image

 

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #5–Summit South Complex

#4 ZooMonZoo Complex <= #5 Summit South Complex => #6 Summit from the north

 

As we continue to work our way to the west, our next hill is the very uncreatively-named “Summit”. We will continue the theme of climbing the same damn hill three times, but there will be a nice descent when we’re finished.

Turning left out of Lewis Creek Part, we descend for about half a mile and turn right on Forest Drive. This road is a great descent, but pay attention; we need to turn right after 1 mile onto 142nd Ave SE. The road will wind around as it climbs and oscillates from steep to really damn steep. It will eventually turn right and the gradient will ease. Continue straight until the road ends, take the connector path, then turn right at your next opportunity and descend back down. At the stop sign, turn left.

Turn left into “West Summit”, and climb straight up, follow the road as it turns right and loops back down. Turn left and exit down the way we came in, and turn left at the entrance.

After a short steep section, turn left at the entrance shack into “Summit”. This road is undulating; hard/easier, harder/easier, hardest/easier. When you hit the stop sign, turn right and climb up until the road crests. There are some decent views to the north here, but they aren’t as good as Pinacles or Belvedere. Ho Hum.

IMG_6920IMG_6921

Continue straight and take the first right, then look for a “Dead end” emergency vehicle access road on the left.

IMG_6922

This will take you to a gate that you’ll need to carry your bike around. Turn right at the next two intersections and you’ll be on a nice straight descent to the north. The Sufferin’ Summits road crews have been hard at work repaving this section, so the pavement is exquisite.

Before the road hooks to the right, turn left on SE 46th, and then right on 148th. At the second stoplight, you’ll be in eastgate, with a gas station (food & water) on the right. There’s also an Albertsons in the same complex. You will definitely want food and water for the next section.

Turn right onto 148th (well, 150th now), and immediately turn right on SE 37th. This will take you under the freeway, through a stop sign , and then right again onto 164th Pl SE, which takes you all the way down to the shores of Lake Sammamish, the lowest point of the ride and the perfect spot to start our next climb.

1105’, 8.6 miles.

 

image

image imageimage


Sufferin’ Summit Hill #4 – ZooMonZoo Complex

#3 Talus <- #4 ZooMonZoo –> #5 Summit South Complex

This section presented me with a real quandry.

For a long time, “The Zoo” was the king of the climbs – and with good reason: it was the hardest/tallest/closest climb around, and it had a nice fast descent. Just down the road was little brother Montreux, also a hard climb but only about half the total elevation.

I made an attempt at melding the two of them together using a cut-through path on this route, but not really successfully; the cut through was gravel – deep gravel – and it didn’t really make the climb any harder. I did it once, but never went back.

Then, something unexpected happened – the City of Bellevue paved a path that connected the developments above Montreux to the Zoo route, and Montreux-Zooma’s revenge was born.

Which returns me to the quandry. Which route should I choose? It seems wrong, just wrong, to have a hard ride and not climb the granddaddy of hard climbs…

But, in the end, I decided I had to go with the difficulty, and so we’re doing Montreux-Zooma…

And that’s how the original description for this section went. But, I got to thinking about it a bit. The reason that Zoo was dethroned was not because of Monteux, it was because of the climb that connects the top of Montreux to Zoo. And there’s a way to combine the first half of zoo with that part – using the cut through I had abandoned before – into a new climb, which I’ve named “ZooMonZoo”. it looks good for the ride on paper, with a tiny elevation gain and an overall reduction in ride length of 0.2 miles.

So, I went out and rode the new part to see what is was like. I hadn’t done Zoo yet this year – mapping out this ride generally put me elsewhere – and I’d forgotten what it was like. Montreux is a hard and painful climb through a nice and boring development, while the lower part of Zoo is a hard and painful climb past a zoo and through a delightful forest that reminds me of the Mt. Constitution climb on Orcas island. And the cut through is easier to ride than it was previously.

So… we’ll be doing ZooMonZoo instead of Montreux-Zooma.

This is the hardest section so far, and it’s easy to miss turns, so pay attention…

The entrance is easy to find; there is a “Zoo” sign on the right.

IMG_6905

and another zoo sign on the left:
IMG_6906

We turn left and immediately hit a steep pitch. After a bit of back and forth and steeper and less steep sections, we near the hairpin. If you look closely, you will see that the sign says it is a 15 MPH turn, which is pretty tight.  And you can see why I call the climb “delightful”.

IMG_6907

We continue on a bit, and the 15 MPH turn morphs into a 10 MPH turn.


IMG_6909

It doesn’t show in the picture, but the inside of the hairpin is really, really steep. Like 20%+ steep. It is also a bit torn up from car traffic. You will be much happier if you stay out near the center line, where the gradient is less and the pavement is a bit better.

Soon after the hairpin, the gradient eases, the lower part of the Zoo ends, and we turn right onto the middle section. We ride straight for 0.5 miles, and just when we can glimpse the steep rollers that finish the middle section, we see our turn-off on the right. Don’t worry, we have something more fun than the steep rollers in store.

IMG_6910

The cut-through is in pretty good shape; it’s easy to ride in the first section but the gravel gets a little bit deeper near the other side; I didn’t have any trouble on my 25mm tires but I suggest paying attention. We take the first left, and that will take us down to Village Park Drive – the top of the Montreux climb.

We turn left, and start to descend. After half a mile, we will be turning left in “Findley Court”. The entrance looks like this, and there is a “please drive safely” sign on right side at the turn, though it may be hidden in the trees.

IMG_6876IMG_6877

The road starts steep and then just gets steeper. After it flattens out and we turn left on 169th:

IMG_6879

 

and the road will kick up again. After a short section, we take the second left:

IMG_6880

to a small driveway/pathway which will kick us out onto SE 60th. We turn left, and then take the first right:

IMG_6881

to continue the climb to the summit. When this road flattens out and starts to descend, keep going and take the first driveway to the right:

IMG_6882

This will take you all the way up to water towers at the top of the hill:

IMG_6883

Turn around, and it looks like this. You can just barely make out Mt. Baker on the horizon.

IMG_6884

Descend back down to the main road, turn left, and start the descent. After a short straight section, the road turns right, and we continue straight (ie turn left) into Pinacles:

IMG_6885

Unfortunately you can’t see the sign when descending. This takes us up a steep climb that flattens. Turn left into the cul-de-sac to get the last little bit of elevation. On the way down, stop to take in the best view of the day:

IMG_6887_stitch

On the left, Newcastle Golf Course with Lake Washington beyond, to the right is “Summit” with Seattle peaking in the distance.

Once we hit the main road again, we turn left and again start looking for a left turn, this time on 166th Way.

IMG_6889

This will go straight for a while, then we will turn left to climb up through Belvedere:

This is the last climb of the complex. This takes us to pretty much the same height as Pinacles, just a bit to the south.

IMG_6891_stitch

To the left there’s a pocket view of Lake Washington with Newport Golf Course in the middle and the lake beyond, and then Seattle in the distance on the right. Plus, some hay bales and a very pretty truck.

Finally, we descend down, once again turn left, and descend until we hit Lakemont. Turn right and a short climb brings us to Lewis Creek Park, which has water and bathrooms.

That section was 10.4 miles and a healthy 2030’ of elevation gain.

image

 

Montreux-Zooma

image

Pinnacles

image

Belvedere

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #3–Talus

(2) Squak     <=  (3) Talus    => (4) Montreux Zooma

Talus is a development on the east side of Cougar mountain, named after a bone in the ankle. Or maybe a rock deposit on the hill. At least it’s not “Summer Bluff”, or “Raccoon Forest” (thanks to the excellent Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator for those), or my development’s name, “Malibu Vista”.

Anyway, Talus is a climb that I’d never done until recently, because it was a one-road “up and back down” sort of climb. At least, that’s what I thought, but a bit more research and a test ride showed that I was mistaken, and there’s a nice hidden climb there.

After leaving the starting point, we turn left onto Renton-Issaquah road, and then turn right onto James Bush Rd. The sign says, “no Talus access”, but that’s just for cars, not for us. The road immediately kicks up, climbs a bit, and then kicks up some more as it narrows to a single lane climbing up through the trees. Make sure to start this climb slowly; if you hit it too hard it will be difficult to recover. Please pay attention so that you don’t slow down other cyclists on this section. After a bit, you’ll come to a cable gate that you will either need to ride around on a very thin path to the left or dismount and go over. If you dismount, clipping in will be interesting because of the thinness of the road, so be prepared.

Eventually, you’ll come to some posts, and the climb will spit you out into the development. Turn right and continue to climb, then bear right towards the park and take the 20% cut-through to keep climbing. This will spit you out again on the road, and you can continue to climb until you top out.

We then traverse to the south to grab a few more feet of climbing and make our way to the exit. The route that is shown is guaranteed; the city is doing some construction at the top right now, so the actual route may go a little farther up.The overall Talus total should be at least 550’.

The descent has a stoplight at the bottom, so watch your speed. We turn left and ride towards the park.

image

 

 

The gradients here feel pretty close to me.

image


Sufferin’ Summits Hill #2–Squak

(1) Grand Ridge <=      (2) Squak    => (3) Talus

This one will be of little surprise to anyone. The mountain known as “Squak” is an obvious choice, and since we are coming from the east, there isn’t even any suspense about which side we will climb. This is conveniently the harder way up.

I first climbed this back in 2006, as the last climb the Seattle Randonneur’s “Mountain Populaire”, a 100 kilometer ride that started on Zoo hill and finished on the first half of this climb up Squak. At the time, that was hardest ride that I had ever done. Little did I know that a few years later I would be putting together a ride that was worse.

After going through Issaquah on Sunset, we continue straight as the road turns into Mountain Park Blvd. The first section is a series of rollers, but not in the usual “up and down” sense of rollers; these are of the “up and upper” variety. Just as the road flattens out, we turn left on Mountainside Drive to continue the climb. Don’t worry if it looks flat; it will kick up steeply after a short bit.  After a bit, we leave the houses behind and hit the upper section, a switchbacky road of crappy pavement. Eventually, we hit a stop sign at the entrance to the Forest Rim Development. Turn right or left, and you will top out a full 1000’ from the start.

It is your choice. Just as doing this stupid ride was your choice.

The descent of the top section is the same way we came up. But the crappy pavement and tight turns that were merely annoying on the way up are a bit treacherous on the way down, so it’s essential to control your speed well. When we reach the intersection, we turn left, descend 0.7 miles, and turn left again where the arterial turns on Mt. Olympus Drive. This is a fun curvy section that will take us down to the bottom, but note that there is a really steep section with a stoplight at the bottom, so, once again, watch your speed.

This takes us all the way down to the base, where we come out right next to our starting point. At the light, we turn left. Bathrooms and water are available at the starting point, and I recommend filling up; there are two hills before the next opportunity.

Here’s the map. Click to view online.

image

And here’s the color-coded map for the climb. Gradients are estimated; your gradient experience will vary. See a doctor for climbs lasting longer than 4 hours.

Click to go to the BicycleClimbs.com source page.

image


Pages:1234