Biking my age in miles: 73 - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 17, 2020

Biking my age in miles: 73

I don’t start out today with this in mind.  We’re just trying to get the best ride in that we can in what looks like a fairly small dry window before thunderstorms rumble in later in the day.  We wait until nearly eleven, waiting out the last of the morning showers, and then head out on the CDA trail again, east toward Medimont or Rose Lake.  We aren’t sure how far we’ll get though.  We’re time boxing the ride, turning back so we’ll make it home before 4, the earliest hour the thunderstorms are due to set in.

After a brief false start, Rachael sprints out ahead of us.  I keep my own good pace too though, stopping only for essential reasons.  I’ve seen this road before, and I want to get all the way to Rose Lake if I can, to fill in the gap that I missed between the two previous rides.

The path is still damp but drying out as I bike.  There are small puddles on each of the tiers on the stair-stepped ramp up Chatcolet Bridge.  On the far side, there’s a modest headwind as I head north up the east side of the lake, with Rachael still visible in the distance.  And there’s something new today: bugs!  As I bike through a small cloud of them, I clamp my mouth shut and turn my face down.  The sound of tiny flies striking my helmet sounds like rain falling on the roof.

Starting out from the cabin. We’re unloading the bikes from Old Paint because we’ve been storing them there rather than lugging them up the steps to the cabin each night.
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Rachael is off like a shot, as always. For a change though I get to lead for awhile, because she’s shooting off in the wrong direction.
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There, that’s better.
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There’s a bit of chop on the lake this morning.
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If you can get close enough for a good look, spotted sandpipers are easy to identify in breeding season. The spots on their breasts clear up in the winter though.
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Tree swallow, with tree. The tree isn’t the best identification tip though. Better to rely on its distinct color pattern.
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Five miles up-lake, looking back at the bridge. The weather is really clearing up fast. Weather can change so quickly, I’ll remind myself before day is done.
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Part one of a wildlife mini drama. I was surprised to see this osprey balance on such a tiny perch here. Usually you see them well off the ground.
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Part two. A minute later, this cormorant splashed into the lake not far off, and began swimming to his perch. When he got close, the osprey flew off and the cormorant hopped on.
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Rounding the bend at Harrison, the skies start breaking open and conditions improve considerably.  A thought gradually settles in to my feeble brain - I could bike my age in miles today!  I’ve been waiting for a good day for this, since I’ve chosen not to take on this annual challenge around my birthday in December when it’s cold and wet and days are short.  I’d been thinking I’d do it in June when we’re back in the valley.  Why not today though, when I’m on a beautiful, empty, almost completely level bike path?  Easiest BMAIM ride ever, thinks me in my cleverness.

Well, those thunderstorms might be one reason to not do this today.   ‘Isolated thunderstorms’ are due at 4, amplifying to ‘scattered thunderstorms’ at 5, and then simply ‘thunderstorms’ at 6.  I’m tired of being cowed by the weather though.  Forecasts are often wrong, and what do terms like isolated and scattered mean anyway?  If I keep disciplined and don’t stop too often, I should make it back by about 5.  I suppress the memory of that terrifying thunderstorm that blasted through John Day a few weeks ago, and envision myself threading the needle between isolated thunderstorms on my way home.  It’s a beautiful day, and I feel lucky.

A few miles later, biking east at a steady 16 mph clip, I catch up with Rachael on her way back.  We almost miss each other.  She stopped in at one of the trail side loos, not thinking to leave her bike prominently placed because she didn’t expect me to be so close behind, and hollers at me as I bike past.  I tell her my plan, she looks at me strangely and wishes me luck, and continues biking home.

The Chain Lakes are such a beautiful area. Great to bike through here again. This is Anderson Lake, I think.
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Five painted turtles! Or ten, if you count the reflections.
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They’re still a bit far off, but at least closer than the last time we came through.
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Swan Lake! But where are the swans?
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Here’s one, he trumpeted with excitement.
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One big happy family.
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Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyNo, you silly goose. Geese. The Palouse starts about 30 miles west of here.
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyWell .. I bet these geese are jealoess of their rich-soiled friends to the west.
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2 months ago
Cute couple.
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Cave Lake, approaching Medimont. I think this must be about the prettiest spot on the trail.
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Ahead, a pair of huge birds swooped low across Cave Lake. They both perched on mounds in the middle of the lake, just long enough for me to take a shot of an immature bald eagle.
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I do well, keeping to discipline, keeping up a steady pace, ignoring all but the essential stops.  It takes me a while, but I finally give up on stopping for colorful cinnamon teals, only to have them fly off just as I wheel to a stop.  My stealth technique is improving though, so I’m getting closer.  First, I train myself to slow down to a coast that I can stop from with only my right brake, because the left one squeals.  Then, I figure out that I should unclip my pedals before stopping so that there’s no sound when I put my feet to the ground.  I’m thinking too that I could do better by getting out and firing up the camera while I’m still biking, to save time after I stop.  Not today though.  I’m on a mission.

I reach 37 miles right at 2:30, which was what I’ve been targeting.  Good so far.  Now, if I can just make it the 37 miles back in two and a half hours, and if the weather is a bit slow coming in, I have a fair chance of getting in dry.

I need to stop along the way for a few quick snack breaks - first for some mixed nuts, bolting down a few mouthfuls and then slipping some into my pocket to munch as I ride; and then, with still 25 miles to go, I rush through half of the delicious turkey, cheese and Dijon mustard sandwich Rachael packed away for me.

On the way back I look up at the sky and start wondering how much time I’ve got left. Weather can change so quickly, I recall from this morning.
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About twenty miles from home still, I stop for a quick bite and wait for those geese to get out of my way. The sky ahead is definitely looking ominous.
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After that stop though, it’s clear that I really need to make tracks.  The sky ahead is darkening fast.  The lakes, as I bike past them, are getting that beautiful steel gray cast that I like so much.  I’m not stopping though.  I’m in a race, and I’m not stopping for anything.

Well, almost anything.  Sometimes, you just have to stop.

Back by Anderson Lake again, and I start to feel doomed. I vow to just put down the hammer and not stop for anything. Well, maybe if I see a moose. I’d have to stop for that, I suppose.
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Well, and this. The white pelicans have all congregated at the west end of the lake. This is about a third of them. As I’m taking their photo, I hear the faint rumble of thunder in the distance. Uh, oh.
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Still twelve miles from home, my luck runs out.  I hate it when the forecast is right!  For a few miles it’s just sprinkling, but with gradually louder thunder a constant background noise I’m fearing the worst.  One of my goals has to make it to Harrison before the first rains arrive, because by then there are regularly spaced outhouses along the way.  If it gets too bad, I can dash in one and wait it out.

By the time I reach them though, the sky is uniformly dark.  It doesn’t look like there’d be any point in seeking shelter.  I could be waiting a long time.  I do stop in one long enough to jam the camera down into my pannier for protection, but that’s it.  I’m not stopping again before reaching home.

The last ten miles are moderately grim.  It rains steadily as I head south along the lake, but I’ve got a bit of a tailwind which helps with my speed and lessens the impact of the rain.  Mostly I’m worried about the thunder.  It’s definitely getting louder and nearer, and I’m starting to feel exposed.  It would be just too stupid to avoid the plague but get felled by a lightning bolt.

I’m mostly concerned about the bridge, and the half mile ride across open water in an electrical storm.  About that bridge though - I’m only two miles away, but I still can’t see it because the sky is so dark.  I’d like to stop and take a photo of it, but of course that would be madness so I just keep biking.

Not long afterwards, conditions ease up and the thunder recedes.  It looks like this first intermittent storm is just passing.  Biking across the bridge is fine and the rain has nearly stopped when I arrive at the cabin at 5:02, right on schedule.   When I arrive, Rachael greets me with relief and warm blankets.  She’s been anxious, watching the rain pour down and seeing flashes of lightning out the window for most of the last hour.

A half hour later, the next wave comes in with a vengeance.  It’s a wonderful feeling to sit on the couch next to the space heater, sip a beer, watch the rain stream down the window, and listen to another old favorite Bill Evans tune Frank sent my way.

Done for another year!  The pressure is off.

Evidence of my temporary insanity. 73, and one to grow on.
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Ride stats today: Scott: 74 miles, 300’; Rachael: 48 miles, 200’

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Comment on this entry Comment 13
Susan CarpenterTruly a memorable BMAIM ride - and a moose no loess! Well done!
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2 months ago
frank jellisonCongratulations. Very impressive. It sounds like the perfect place to do this outside of weather.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo frank jellisonThank you! It was perfect. If we’re backup here again next year,I’d do it again.

Hey! I forgot your song!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Susan CarpenterThanks, Susan. It’s one to remember alright. I couldn’t believe my luck when I looked up and saw it splashing past. Well worth getting a little wet.

I forgot the music trailer! It’s one I’m sure you’ll recognize.
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2 months ago
Patrick O'HaraCongrats, Scott! Just amazing! A long day in the saddle, even for a young guy like yourself!
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2 months ago
Kathleen ClassenI couldn’t help noticing you accomplished it on Day 73 of the journal. It was meant to be! Congratulations.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen ClassenThat’s so great! I hadn’t noticed that. A pure accident. Thanks for pointing it out.
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyA milestone haiku:

Seventy-three miles
Add sightings of birds and moose
... zero lightning strikes!

A fine way to commemorate each year with a memorable ride!
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2 months ago
Suzanne GibsonA suspenseful ride! Actually, the weather was in your favor. If you didn't have the storm to race, it probably would have been boring and tedious getting enough miles.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThat’s really right. It was hardly boring, even seeing it a second time in the space of a few days. It did help me keep focused though.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYou’re such a multi-threat talent, Jen. Limericks, and then this!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraThanks, Patrick. It really didn’t feel hard at all, other than the weather. I’ll have to come out here some year in the future for a repeat.
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2 months ago
Ron SuchanekNot only did you ride 74 miles, you did it spontaneously! Excellent!
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2 months ago