1000km Randonnée: South Okanagan/North Cascades
I elected for a 3:00am start time, 3 hours ahead of the majority of participants in the South Okanagan/North Cascades Randonnée who were starting at 6:00am on Saturday. My strategy for starting at this time was to maintain a steady, not-too-fast pace for the first day and eventually have someone from the later start catch up to me (possibly on Sunday) and continue with them for the remainder of the event. It didn’t quite work out that way.
Barb and the kids drove me to the start location at Lougheed and Boundary on Saturday morning – ok, I really drove myself with Barb and the kids sleeping in the van. I later learned that because Barb was still feeling quite drowsy, she and the kids slept in the van for a few hours before heading home. When the 6:00am group was leaving, they were all still in the parked van sleeping.
The ride out of the city was relatively uneventful. The route followed Hastings street through Burnaby, the Barnet Highway and St. Johns Street through Port Moody, and then Lougheed Highway heading east. I did get some light rain when riding through Burnaby and Port Moody.
I arrived at the first control location, the Deroche General Store, just after 6:30am for an average pace so far of around 23km/h – so I was sticking to my strategy of starting out at an easy pace. Unfortunately the store was closed so I took a photo and continued on towards Hope.
I was in Hope shortly before 9:00am where I refilled my water bottles and ate a sandwich. My average pace was starting to pick up a little bit and I was feeling strong. I left Hope on Kawkawa Lake Road/Othello Road and then began climbing the Coquihalla Highway. I could tell my fitness level was good as the climb felt easier than the last time I climbed the Coquihalla in this direction (during “Toil to the Toll” 400km Brevet in 2007).
I knew that I would probably see the Ride2Survive participants somewhere along the route as they were riding from Kelowna to Surrey on Saturday. I saw them across the Highway as I was descending Larson Hill so I took the time to stop and snap a few photos. By the way, you can still make a donation through the Ride2Survive web site to support the Canadian Cancer Society.
The control location in Merrit (the 7-11) was 1 km further than indicated on our route sheet, but I had been there before so knew where it was and found it without difficulty. I stopped for a little bit for something to eat and drink before heading out on the climb towards Princeton. While I was there, a lady – who I learned was a nurse – stopped to talk to me and ask a few questions about what I was doing. She left me with the advice to make sure I regularly took a multi-vitamin if I was participating in endurance activities.
I saw a deer beside the road on a couple different occasions while riding towards Princeton. I didn’t take a photo of the second one as it was in the shade (and I already had a couple pictures of the previous deer).
The control location in Princeton was at Bob and Patti’s house. I showed up there just before 7:00pm. I refilled my water bottles and had a few pieces of fruit for a snack. I wasn’t ready to stop for a meal, yet, as I wanted to take advantage of the tailwind to make good time to Osoyoos where I had a hotel room reserved for my first sleep stop. I did sit and visit for a little while, though, before starting out on Highway 3 towards Osoyoos. While we were talking, we discussed the others who were doing the ride. I commented that I figured that Tracy and Barry would probably catch up to me at some point – maybe sometime Sunday morning?
I had a strong tailwind on Highway 3 and made excellent time. I encountered a few light showers, but nothing heavy enough to justify stopping to put on my rain jacket. As I made the turn by Keremeos towards Richter Pass it was starting to get dark.
Climbing a hill like this in the dark can be quite enjoyable. The only light is from my bike lights, reflecting off the plants at the side of the road and the only sound is my tires on the road and my breathing. The sky was cloudy so there was no visible light from the moon or stars. During the climb in the dark I was startled by a loud noise immediately to my right. Without taking any time to comprehend what might be making the noise I moved to my left and sprinted for a few seconds. After my brain had a few seconds to think about the sound I realized that it was probably a rattlesnake, startled by my bike lights and presence.
The descent into Osoyoos was pleasant. There wasn’t much traffic: I was able to take the lane most of the way down the hill so I was a lot less concerned about road debris and could maintain a higher speed. The Osoyoos control was at the Husky Station at the corner of Highways 3 and 97. I picked up enough food for dinner and breakfast before riding the two blocks over to the Super 8 motel.
As I walked in the front door of the motel, the receptionist at the desk said “You must be Mr. Pope” (When Barb made the reservation for me, she had let them know I would be showing up on my bike in the middle of the night). I had a hot shower, some quick dinner, and got a good, five-hour, sleep.
I crossed the border to the United States the next morning. There was no traffic in sight and I was directed to use the automobile crossing which saved me a few minutes.
During my ride south on highway 97, I saw this interesting grouping of large satellite dishes to my right (across the river from the highway). I haven’t yet found any information on the Internet about what this facility might be – if you know, send me an e-mail and fill me in. If I am able to find out, I will post an update here.
I stopped at the McDonald’s in Omak and had an Egg McMuffin for a second breakfast. While I was there, a gentleman asked me where I was headed. When I told him, he let me know that he used to live in Winthrop and remembers when Highway 20 over Washington Pass was first opened.
I had more uneventful riding down to Pateros, then back up Route 153 towards Highway 20 and Winthrop.
During the ride along Route 153, I shifted from my large chainring to my small chainring and had the chain skip and I could feel it jam. I stopped to take a look to see what the problem was. It turns out that the screw holding the lower jockey wheel on my rear derailleur was loose and the chain had been able to slip outside the cage when it skipped. I had to spend some time on this problem as it appears that the spacers that were installed on the lower jockey wheel where too big and the screw could barely reach to hold the wheel in place. I was able to resolve the problem by swapping one of the spacers with the narrower spacers that were on the upper jockey wheel – this allowed the screw to hold properly.
In Winthrop, I sat down for a sandwich and a drink, and contacted Barb to see if she could make some phone calls on my behalf to locate a hotel to sleep at for Sunday night – possibly in Newhalem which was the next control. I estimated I could reach Newhalem by midnight or Marblemount before 1:00am. After the delay with the mechanical problem and having had a fairly long sleep stop in Osoyoos, I was thinking that it was likely that I might see Tracy and Barry catching up to me fairly soon. Before I left Winthrop, I talked to Barb again. She hadn’t found a place to sleep in Newhalem but thought she might be able to find something in Marblemount for me.
I headed out from Winthrop and started the climbing towards Washington Pass. When I passed the sign that warned to “Turn off your Air Conditioning to avoid engine overheating”, I knew that I was in for a long steep climb. When I started seeing snow at the side of the road I was hoping that I was close to the summit, but I still had some climbing before I reached the top. I got to the sign that showed the Washington Pass Elevation (5477 feet) just as the sun was setting – and just as the rain was starting. I stopped to put on my rain jacket and long-fingered gloves to keep myself warm on the descent.
Like the last descent in the dark, there wasn’t much traffic so I was able to take the lane most of the time. I did, however, have to limit my speed to around 40km/h so I didn’t get too cold from the windchill. It was a long ride in the dark and the rain down from Washington Pass and into Newhalem.
When I arrived in Newhalem (just prior to midnight), I wasn’t able to find anything open. I tried phoning Barb but it appears that there is no cellular service in Newhalem. I was feeling a little chilled at this point so I knew I had to get moving again so as not to get cold. Barb had indicated she would probably be able to find something in Marblemount so I continued in that direction.
When I stopped in Marblemount, I tried phoning Barb again and was able to get a hold of her this time. She let me know that she had found a place for me to stay in Rockport at Clark’s Cabins. Her instructions were to turn right at Clark’s Cabin Road and go a quarter mile. Barb pre-paid the cabin using a credit card and the key would be waiting for me on the door to the reception area.
As I got closer to Rockport, I slowed down for every side street to check the signs. I continued through Rockport without having found the cabins. When I saw the “Welcome to Concrete” sign, I knew for sure that I had missed the cabins.
It was still chilly and I needed to keep moving to stay warm. I didn’t want to take time backtracking so I just continued on the route. When I checked the map after I got home, I found that the directions should have been “turn left at Clark’s Cabin Road just after Marblemount”, so even if I had backtracked a bit I probably wouldn’t have found it.
Part way between Concrete and Sedro-Woolley, I hit some sort of debris in the road and ended up with a flat rear tire. Luckily, I was in one of the few places along this road that actually had a street light – in fact, I was right in front of the local fire hall. I was able to change the tire quite quickly, considering how cold my hands felt. The thought crossed my mind to knock on the door of the fire hall to be able to go inside and warm up but I was just “uncomfortable-cold” and not “in-need-of-attention-cold” so I didn’t really want to wake anyone up in the wee hours of the morning.
I arrived at the AM/PM in Sedro-Woolley just as the sun was starting to come up. This was the first place I had been able to stop for food and water since Winthrop. It was definitely a welcome stop. I had a bite to eat and drink while I warmed up inside the store and then headed out to refill my water bottles. As I was refilling my water bottles, a lady walking out of the store paused for a moment and said to me “You have great legs”. I was a little surprised but said “Thank you” and she headed off back to her car. I don’t normally have people comment on my legs like that (except for Barb).
Refuelled, and starting to warm up, I started riding towards the Chukanut. Now that daylight had arrived, the roads were starting to get busy again and I saw a few other cyclists out riding the Chukanut as well. When I arrived in Bellingham, I found a small donut shop where I stopped for a Soy Latte and a couple donuts. They had Cruellers (one of my favorites) like Tim Horton’s but they had a topping of icing as well: I selected two of these with Maple icing. When I was washing up in the washroom, I saw that my eyes looked a little red – probably a combination of needing some sleep, and riding in the rain with no glasses on.
I phoned Barb to let her know that I was getting close to the finish and that I should be arriving at the Knight and Day shortly after noon. I suggested that the kids should just take the day off from school as I knew they would enjoy joining me for pancakes at the restaurant. Barb agreed that was a good idea and let me know she would see me there – with the kids.
As I was approaching the Canada/US border crossing, it was starting to rain. I glanced back and saw two cyclists catching up with me. My first thought was that maybe Tracy and Barry were finally catching up with me. As they got closer, though, I realized that I didn’t recognize them. They caught up with me and we chatted for a few minutes. They had just been out for a morning ride.
When I was coming back across the border, I seemed to get asked more than the usual number of questions by the border guard (where do I work, etc). I suspect this might have had something to do with having slightly red eyes.
I arrived at the Knight and Day at 12:25. Barb and the kids were sitting by the window and, as I was putting my bike on the bike rack on the van, spotted me and were jumping and waving.
This was my first successful Ultra (at my fourth attempt), and in a surprisingly quick time of 57:25.
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