Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ride Report-Tumwater to Mount St. Helens

A Momentary Appearance Through the Rain Clouds by Mount St. HelensMount St. Helens Makes a Breif Appearance Through the Rain Clouds

On Saturday August 9th, the SIR cycling club sponsored a 300k ride from Tumwater Washington near Olympia to Johnson Ridge Observatory on the west side of Mount St. Helens. This route started at the Motel 6 on Lee Avenue in Tumwater. The route is an out and back to the Johnson Ridge Observatory with verification control stops in the cities of Centralia and Toledo, a check point at the turn around at Johnson Ridge and a support control at Coldwater Lake.

Susan at the Coldwater Lake ControlThe controls were very well spaced along the route. James handled the ride registration alone and did a very good job of getting a large number of unregistered riders signed in and the registered riders ready to go. James also established a secret control on the hill climb leading to the Elk Rock View Point where riders were able to fill water bottles and access soda and snacks. Jennifer staffed the control at the beautiful Coldwater Lake picnic area. The Coldwater Lake Picnic Area, located 6 miles past the turn around at Johnson Ridge, was a great place for a quick rest and lite lunch.

The Long and Winding Climb to Johnson Ridge ObservatoryThe Long and Winding Climb to Johnson Ridge Observatory

This route is an great training ride for both hill climbing and flat land speed. The route breaks down into three basic stages either hill climbing or flat land. The stage between Tumwater and the turn from SR-505 and SR-504 is just under 100 kilometers in length and is flat with occasional small hills usually having less that 100ft of climbing. This part of the route is the first and last stage and provides about 200k of easy riding.

Visitors Entering Johnson Ridge ObservatoryThe flat lands include some urban riding through Centralia and only a small amount of urban riding departing and returning to Tumwater. The flat land is separated into approximate thirds by the controls at Toledo and Centralia. The control locations are great on the last stage and allow riders to fuel for maximum energy production and drill fast control touch and go.

The Halfway Turn Around at the Walking Trail Leading to Johnson Ridge ObservatoryThe Halfway Turn Around at the Walking Trail Leading to Johnson Ridge Observatory

The second stage, the hill climbing stage, is also about 100 kilometers and it follows SR-504, Spirit Lake Memorial Highway to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. The Observatory is a volcano observatory looking directly into the crater of Mount St. Helens. The Forest Service operates a real time web cam looking into the volcano. You can visit the Mount St. Helens Volcano cam here.

James at the Secret ControlThe climb to Johnson Ridge starts out very gradually. The lower road is easy and the road surface and shoulder are good but they soon improve to nearly maximum quality for cycling. The road is almost oddly industrial. It does not appear the road has been repaved since it was constructed over 20 years ago. The road provides excellent extended hill climbs with gentle to moderate grades.

Del Starting His Descent from Johnson Ridge ObservatoryDel Starting The Descent from Johnson Ridge Observatory

We started at 05:00 Saturday morning and it was surprising to find the morning completely dark and wet, drenched with a light rain that had been falling for hours. The rain persisted for the first hour or two. By the time we got to Centralia, the rain was stopped and we could see clear sky moving in from the West. The roads remained wet and we first noticed dry pavement showing up in spots as we approached the final climb to Elk Rock. Del and I rode together for about 225 kilometers.

Del is a much stronger hill climber and out distanced me on the moderate grades near the top of Elk Rock and the five mile climb to the observatory. We intersected again about eleven miles south of Toledo, about one mile into the final 100k stage. We encountered a series of rain showers or cloud bursts that drenched us completely. Fortunately there were sun breaks between the showers and we were able to dry out before the next drenching.

Our rate of progress in the final 100k was much better between Toledo and Centralia and we took turns setting the pace. We made a short stop at the Chevron station on the right just past the I-5 Chevron in Centralia and got our cards signed. I noticed the clerk sign my card with 16:45 and the time was probably 16:50 by the time we got out the door and back into the bike lane heading for Centralia.

We started pounding the pedals a bit more aggressively and I noticed Del looking at his watch more frequently. We had about 23 miles remaining to the finish and the more Del looked at his watch, the faster we went. By the time we got to the outskirts of Tumwater there were four hard driving pistons in the engine pounding the pedals like an runaway freight train.

Hammerhead AleWe started to worry that the control would be in an obscure location and we might have to roam around the property to find the control thereby losing valuable time. The more we worried, the faster we went. We were lucky that Josh put the control sign near the road and I hit the driveway into Motel 6 at full speed. I was pleased to find my bike spring over the driveway lip and into the parking lot. Whoa! We made the contol with just two minutes to spare. We were happy to finish the ride and especially happy to finish in the 12 hour time group just two minutes less than 13 hours.

Brevet Ride Results Here
Ride Description Here
Route Sheet Here
Elevation Profile
Elevation Profile for Tumwater-Johnson Ridge
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