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Quick update - Fall 2015

Wow, so much has happened in 2 years. 

  1. I had 2 summer-ending injuries 2 summers in a row (2013 and 2014)
  2. My son picked up mountain bike racing and has grown about a foot. Seriously.
  3. My bike has evolved a bit as I killed 3 rear-hubs and a set of cranks
  4. We explored many different trails around the state
  5. A couple of elected officials failed to give away the eastern portion of the JWPT
  6. I found the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association on FB.

Last weekend I almost took a group of Boy Scouts on a ride from Hyak to Rattlesnake Lake but not 1, not 2, but 3 among the adult leaders (myself included) vehicle malfunctions prevented us from riding. To make up for it we took the boys to Duthie Hill Park in Issaquah and showed them the amazing trails and jumps.

There seems to be a renewed public interest in the trail and making this ride happen. So be it. Now I just need to convince my boys to come with me. That may be a problem. }B^)

Upcoming/Future posts-

  1. Bizz Johnson Trail ride report - a quick report about an afternoon ride with my Dad from 2014
  2. Ride report from 2014 where I took my younger sons on short rides in Cle Elum and Hyak
  3. Route updates and ride estimates along with a tentative date for 2016 (?!?!)
  4. The newest improvements on the eastern Palouse section

Rubber-side down, folks!

}B^)

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Bike Update + Ride Report

I bought my Specialized TriCross in 2012 hoping it would work well as an “Adventure Bike”. When I say "Adventure Bike" I mean bike camping, distance riding on rail-trails and fire roads, and maybe even a bit of single-track touring thrown in for good measure. I had great expectations. It does great on well-maintained surfaces (the “improved” section of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail) but not so well on soft surfaces (even the tiniest bit of mud or lose gravel) or rough trails (even if they are flat and dry). As a commuter it is TOP NOTCH and I absolutely love it.

After going bike camping a while back it became obvious that I put a little too much load on the bike with several days’ worth of camping equipment on the rear rack. 

Specialized TriCross loaded down for a bike camping trip on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, August 2011.

Specialized TriCross loaded down for a bike camping trip on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, August 2011.

Here are my thoughts on an “Adventure Bike”-

Must haves (required)-

  • Load rated to carry rider and camping gear (275 + 40 pounds)
  • Accommodate tire widths greater than 1.75”, possibly up to 3”
  • Wheel width of 29”/700c
  • Rear-rack mounts
  • Hard tail (no rear suspension)

Nice-to-haves (optional, still considering moving some to required)-

  • Front-mounts on the fork
  • Front suspension with lockout 

Bikes on the short list…

I looked high and low for a used model of one of the above. I even found a Salsa El Mariachi that came close to fitting the bill. In the end all but the Cannondale and Specialized were off the list due to price alone ($1200-1500 vs. $700-900). 

One day I took my TriCross in for service to my local bike shop's new location (across the street from the old location, but new nonetheless). It even had that new-shop-smell. As I waited for a front-derailleur cable replacement I looked around at the bikes in the shop.

Note to self: ALWAYS put cable caps on after they fall off or it will cost you a new cable and a lot of frustration.

As I waited I found a RockHopper 29 in my size. I quickly took a picture of it and texted it to my wife. (Any bike must pass the WAF, or Wife Acceptance Factor) They even had a Cannondale Trail right next to it for comparison. 

Specialized RockHopper 29 at Pacific Bike and Ski in Sammamish.

Specialized RockHopper 29 at Pacific Bike and Ski in Sammamish.

All bikes and bike merchandise were marked down 25%, their grand-opening/moving sale. Oh yeah, this was a good find. After some cajoling and convincing that, yes, I really did need a new bike (that makes 3 bikes for me) I plunked down the plastic and took it home. That night I went for a quick ride with the kids and, wow, was it fun. 

 

After just 2 days I took it on my first real ride on some single-track at Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, WA, not far from my house. My son joined with me in our attempt to get in an early-morning ride on Veterans Day before I had to go to work. The weather was nice and cool (i.e. not cold) and it hadn't rained in several days so the trial surface was firm with a nice covering of fall leaves.

Patrick at Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, WA

Patrick at Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, WA

The bike was AMAZING, although the engine was a little slow (i.e. me). I had no problem keeping up with Patrick, who was in 7th heaven: he rode hard and kept up a good pace and attitude the entire time.

Pros:

  • Great stopping power on the hydraulic brakes. I've never used these before and was astounded that I could do one-finger braking (typically my middle finger).
  • Rarely lost traction: the 29x2.1" tires were AMAZING.
  • The flat-bar handlebar was wider than I'm used to but it made riding easier. 
  • Gear ratios were perfect for the trails we were on.
  • Lockout on the front fork (yet another new thing for me) worked well on the flat pipeline-trail back to the car.

Meh:

  • Handling in the turns was "OK", not fabulous, by any means, but pretty good given my skill level.
  • Saddle was just a tad too narrow but riding for short distances. I'll need a wider saddle for longer rides.

Cons:

  • Top bar is a bit too high for single-track work. No incidents this time but at this rate it is only a matter of time.

Some other notes-

  • Don't wear boots with wide heels, they hit the chain stays.
  • I haven't decided if I want to put on a set of SPD pedals yet (like these) so I left the stock pedals on for this ride (the cheap plastic ones every LBS puts on their bikes for test rides).
  • I added a mud flap for the back wheel (SKS X3 X-Tra-Dry), which helped a little bit. Once the trails get sloppy it will be of more use.
  • I have a spare rear-rack from my old commuter bike that died a couple years ago but I have yet to try it out to see if it fits the rear wheel (disc-brake might be too wide).

Some words about Soaring Eagle Park:

WOW. This little gem is only 3 miles from my house and will be getting a LOT more use in the coming months/years.

Link to GPS track.

Pros:

  • Lots of parking with several different access points
  • Fabulous map and navigation system posted at every trail intersection. Each intersection is numbered on the post and on the map. Each post has arrows showing which points are in which trail direction. It made riding a new trail a real treat. I was afraid I would have to use my GPS to get us back to the car but that was totally unnecessary.
  • Trails were VERY well maintained with no impassable obstacles. Some obstacles and drops were more technical than others (i..e the northeast section) but very rid-able.
  • Inter-woven trails give you lots of route options.

Cons:

  • Fall leaves covered the small rocks and roots but this was no more than an annoyance. If they had been wet it would have been so much worse.
  • No difficulty ratings on the trails, like they have at Duthie Hill Park (our next riding destination).

Conclusion: I made a great purchase and found some great trails! This bike should serve me well in many trail and camping trips to come.

2014 Specialized RockHopper 29, my newest ride.

2014 Specialized RockHopper 29, my newest ride.

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Gear and Date Ruminations

A friend asked me the other day, "So the planning has begun in earnest?"  

"Why do you say that?"  

"Are you neglecting your Triathlon training so you can plan this big ride?" 

Um... Maybe?  It's hard to tell right now with so much stuff going on in the summer. 

The Gear

 

So I started bike shopping. The last time I did a bike camping trip with my son my Specialized TriCross was a big "wobbly." What does that mean? It means that the aluminum frame was not meant to carry that much weight: the frame shuddered and flexed quite a bit when I stood up or simply stopped/started. And that was only for an overnight trip. If I am going to get serious about a long-term camping adventure I will need a bike built for this. The new category name being thrown around is "Adventure Bike", something between a Cyclocross and a hard-tail mountain bike. I think I am still leaning toward a standard hard-tail MTN bike, since they are significantly cheaper than these other purpose-built camping bikes. More requirements and thoughts are over in the new "The Gear" section.  

I've also started looking for rack options as well as some way to mount my camera for easy access. Front-suspension racks are somewhat hard to come by, although there appear to be a few options.

The Dates

 

I have been in contact with several people that have ridden the eastern section of the JWPT and it seems my distance estimates may be a bit aggressive. 60 miles/day may be easy on the improved, western section but the eastern section is a bit more wild than I am used to. Maybe I'll need to do a trip out there to scout it out with my son? 

At any rate I may be looking at a 12-day trip as opposed to a 9 day trip. What makes it difficult is the whole "Sunday Issue". We have decided to avoid riding/touring/exercising on Sundays due to religious reasons.  There are several options for attending church on Sunday but we would have to take a rest day in Ritzville, Warden, or Othello. My wife would probably have to meet us with church-appropriate clothes and keep us company. Yeah, that should be interesting... }B^)

 

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Dates!

After some serious considerations, and a look at the school calendar for next year, we think we have our first tentative date range for the ride. And they are.... drum roll please... 

June 22 - July 2

Here is how the schedule shakes out: 

  • Sunday evening, June 22: Drive out to Spokane
  • Day 1, Monday (6/23): Drive out to Idaho border near Tekoa, WA. Ride to Ewan (60 miles)
  • Day 2, Tuesday (6/24) - Ewan to Lind: 62 miles
  • Day 3, Wednesday (6/25) - Lind to Warden: 24 miles
  • Day 4, Thursday (6/26) -  Warden to Wanapum State Park Campground (cross the Columbia River) : 61 miles
  • Day 5, Friday (6/27) - Wanapum State Park to Lake Easton: 70 miles (toughest day)
  • Day 6, Saturday (6/28) - Lake Easton to Duvall: 67 miles
  • Day 7, Sunday (6/29) - REST DAY!!! (Yes, We are taking a rest day at home to go to church and relax) 
  • Day 8, Monday (6/30) - Duvall to Sequim (includes a ferry ride): 69 miles
  • Day 9, Tuesday (7/1) - Sequim to Lake Crescent (Fairholme): 56 miles
  • Day 10, Wednesday (7/2) - Lake Crescent to La Push: 44 miles
  • Day 11, Thursday (7/3) - Beach day! Or maybe Hot Springs Day

So far we have quite a few people showing interest in the ride. We'll see how things shake out in the coming months.

Route improvements: Tunnel 46-50 on the JWPT are now open. 6 more miles of the ODT are now paved. After several hundred miles of gravel and ballast it will feel weird to ride on so much pavement. The ODT folks have done a great job improving the trail and maintaining it.

Wow, typing that out makes you wonder if we are crazy or just a gluten for punishment. Probably both. }B^)

Next up: bike shopping?!?!

 

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JWPT Tunnels Opening soon?

I was recently reading a ride report from someone who recently traversed the west section of the Iron Horse State Park (John Wayne Pioneer Trail) from Rattlesnake Lake to just east of Hyak for a biking and fly-fishing trip. It's not every day that people write up detailed reports about the trail. Russ and Laura did a great job documenting their trip. I hope someday I can meet "Steve," who they mention has researched and written quite a bit about the JWPT. 

Bikefishing on the Iron Horse Trail with Russ and Laura - pathlesstraveled.com

Bikefishing on the Iron Horse Trail with Russ and Laura - pathlesstraveled.com

This write-up led me to bikingbis.com which talks about tunnel repairs being done in Iron Horse State Park by WA State Parks...

Contractors are working to repair two tunnels on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail that have been closed since 2009 when inspectors found falling debris hazards inside of them. The two former railroad tunnels — Numbers 48 and 49 on the old Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad, commonly known as the Milwaukee Road — are located east of Snoqualmie Pass between Hyak and Easton.
— http://www.bikingbis.com/2013/06/13/state-repairing-2-more-tunnels-on-john-wayne-pioneer-rail-trail-2-others-still-closed/

Tunnels 48 and 49 will reopen soon (July 2013?) while tunnels 46 and 47 and not being repaired. A quick visit to the State Park Website explains that, what the tunnels are still closed, riders can pass through them if they sign a waiver. 

 

Public safety notifications for Tunnels 46 and 47 (near Thorp) if you enter these tunnels you do so at your own risk. Prior to entering the tunnels visitors are required to fill out a waiver form and place it in the drop box located at the entrance of each tunnel.
— http://parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Iron Horse&subject=all

Without the waiver it is a 15-mile detour around the tunnels using local roads, which would mean you skip the Yakima river canyon between Thorpe and Cle Elum. I think I know the option we will be using. }B^) 

UPDATE (12 July 2012): Tunnels 48/49 are OPEN! Also, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy did a great piece on the tunnel repairs last December, which I evidently missed. 

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More Route Reseach...

A friend of mine recently pointed me to a book:

Mountain Bike America: Washington by Amy Poffenbarger

The book is a fabulous, detailing over 60 rides across the states. One of them is the John Wayne Pioneer Trail! (Pages 298-327)

Amy separated the ride into 7 days riding from North Bend to the Idaho border (west to east) covering 312 miles.

Here are some important items I gleaned from the reading-

  • Riding from North Bend to the Columbia River (in Central WA) is part of Iron Horse State Park and pretty well maintained.
  • No real places to stay east of Lind. Need to contact DNR about possible camping sites
  • You must register for a free permit as you enter the US Army Yakima Training Center .
  • Riding from the Columbia River to Idaho on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail requires a permit obtained through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, which takes several weeks and must be done ahead of time.
  • Some sections of the trail are not passable either due to tunnel closures (not mentioned in the book), private land access issues (Smyrna to Warden), or damaged/derelict bridges (Just before Lind and Marengo to Ralston).
  • Day 5 of our trip will be the toughest as we climb up 2000' from the Columbia River to skirt the Boylston Mountains. 

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Ruminations on the Eastern Section

This weekend I visited with family in Eastern Washington. During this trip I came to the following conclusions-

  1. The route should be East to West, starting at the Idaho border and ending at the Washington Coast. 
  2. Finding and carrying water is going to be a problem as we attempt to stay hydrated in the more arid parts of the state.
  3. The timeframe for the full ride will probably need to be late Spring or early Fall. Summer can be oppressively hot in Eastern WA.
  4. My Cyclocross tires (700x32) may not be wide enough for the terrain. Will need to do some test rides in the Eastern section to verify. 

During the return trip to the Seattle area we drove up near where the John Wayne Pioneer Trail crosses the Columbia River. I found the railroad trestle but didn't realize that the trestle was actually the trail until we were well past it. We will have to do this route again next month and look at the trail crossing.

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Initial Route Maps Are Up!

I spent some time on Mapmyride.com and created some initial routes following the Olympic Discovery Trail, some city streets in Seattle/Kenmore, the Burke-Gillman/Sammamish River Trail, the Tolt Pipline Trail, the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, and the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.

The route so far seems very doable, with the vast majority of it following rails-to-trails projects.

Some current challenges:

  1. Should the route go east-to-west or west-to-east?
  2. How do I ride from the Edmunds Ferry Terminal to the Burke Gilman Trail in Kenmore?
  3. Can we do somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 miles in 10 consecutive days (or less)?

This does indeed seem to be possible but there will be a lot of road riding on the Olympic Peninsula. My kids are starting to get excited!

}B^)

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Genesis

In the summer of 2011 I went bike camping with my son (9 years old at the time). We talked about the history and route of the old Milwaukee Road railway that went from Seattle to Chicago. Much of the rail lines east of Montana are still in use but the lines in Washington, Idaho, and Montana were abandoned. In Washington state the line was acquired by the state with more than one-third of the line becoming Iron Horse State Park.

My son asked if it was possible to ride across the entire state of Washington from the coast to the Idaho border. After some research we found that the line does in fact go all the way to the Idaho border but not contiguously and not all of it is improved (i.e. flat and graded). Then he clarified his statement, asking if there was a way to ride across the Olympic Peninsula as well, not just from the Puget Sound? Initially I said no but then one day I found a link to the Olympic Discovery Trail, an old rail line that went from La Push, WA (right on the WA coast) all the way across the north side of the Olympics to Port Townsend.

That's when the pieces started falling into place: it now seemed like a ride across Washington, primarily on old rail-trails, was actually possible!

That was the genesis of this project to Ride Across Washington. It may take several years of planning but in the end we plan to organize a ride across the entire state. This website will be used to track our progress and disseminate information.

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