John Fuoco’s 2010 Cascade 1240: Riding on Bikes with Girls

John Fuoco makes it a habit to ride with brothers Art and/or Dan on 1200K randonnees, where they also make it look easy. He and Art put in another successful ride at the Cascade 1240K last month. Thanks to John for another great story and congratulations on his latest 1200K completion.

Day 4: John and Art at the top of Washington Pass (courtesy John Fuoco)

Cascade 1240: Riding on Bikes with Girls
By John Fuoco
July 11, 2010

Day 1: Monroe-Naches 224 miles

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well it was, and it wasn’t. On a cloudy gray 60 degree morning about 100 randonneurs set out from the Guesthouse Inn in Monroe Washington heading due south toward the first control in Cumberland. The entire group stayed together for many opening miles. The pace was comfortable and I availed myself of the chance to chat with several other riders, some of whom I would not see again in the coming days.

Perched on my ten year old steel Derosa with Carradice bag on the back and hub generator light on the front I felt well equipped for what may lie ahead. In Cumberland, 54 miles, I refilled my water bottles at a state park and somehow got separated from my brother Art. I am fortunate to have two brothers who randonneur and have never started a 1200 without one.

By Eatonville, 97 miles, the sun had come out and it was time to hit a Truly Scrumptious Bakery for sandwiches and Danish, while removing warmers and applying sunscreen. Riders piled into the tiny patisserie and filed out to be treated to a view of the majestic snow capped Mt Ranier looming to the west. This monster dominated the landscape in and indescribable fashion.

In the early afternoon hours Art and I hooked up with his Florida buddies, John Preston and Henrik Schroeder, and would remain in their company the rest of the day. Shortly after Eatonville I was visited by my all too reliable 100-120 mile bonk and fell off the back. I needed a refresher in the form of a Subway cheese and veggie sub to pick me up in the town of Morton where we turned east to head through the Cascade Mountains.

Leaving the Packwood control at 159 miles I was determined to climb White Pass at my own pace. On the early slopes I rode with Irene Takahashi, a very determined randonneuse from Colorado. She would finish this 1200 successfully but have a much more eventful story to tell. White Pass lasts 20 miles, climbing 2500 feet to a summit of 4500 feet. Mt Ranier continued to dominate the scenery. I waited at the summit for the group to come back together. Art had bonked near the top and was seen stopped eating carrot cake near the peak!

A fun descent ended with a right hand turn onto Tieton Road, a quiet forest road encircling the beautiful Clear Lake. We stopped that evening at a refreshing SIR manned control for soup, sandwiches, and friendly chatter. All of the SIR manned controls on this ride were staffed by friendly, knowledgeable and fast working volunteers. Shortly after our arrival the Texas Brigade rolled in. It consisted of Val and Robin Phelps and Brenda Barnell. Their chatter was loud and jovial and not inhibited by any need for reverence. My first impression was “this is a fun group.”

Art, John, Henrik, and I rolled out with full stomachs after a satisfying rest. After a few more idyllic miles around the lake we were back on Rt 12 and enjoying a raging tailwind and a brilliant full moon all the way to our overnight stop at the Naches Middle School. Arriving at about 10PM we were treated to cold showers, cafeteria food, and a nights rest on rather firm wrestling mats. But you know, it was all ok.

Day 2: Naches-Quincy 206 miles

Up at four and on the road by 5, the four of us rolled out onto Rt 410 and up the Chinook Pass. The road was flanked by gorgeous greenery and the rushing Naches and American rivers. We caught some riders and coalesced with others until about 30 of us were spinning up the pass at a brisk pace. I can’t tell you how exhilarating it felt to ride with my brother and that large group of riders in that early morning hour amidst all that verdant beauty. We turned around at an SIR manned control part way up the pass. John and Henrik got ahead of us. I remarked to Art how baffling it was not to see kayakers on the American River. We stopped at Cliffdell to remove some clothing, rejoining John and Henrik again.

We then took back roads, mainly Old Naches Road, through ever more arid terrain dotted with cherry tree orchards toward our next control at a Starbucks, mile 324. By then it was hot. I got a big iced coffee and a sandwich wrap. We then obtained ice and water from a grocery store and filled our camelbacks. Day 2 was the only day I used my camelback, a choice I do not regret. I needed it that day and did not need it the other three.

We then proceeded east on a long stretch of SR-24 through barren desert. It was hot and the going was hard when Art flatted at a seemingly inopportune time and place: in the wide open scorching sun. As we were getting ready to go again the Texas Brigade rolled by. We joined up with Val, Robin, and Brenda. With them were Chester Fleck from Alberta, and Christophe Denetre a young Frenchman. The seven of us would ride together to the finish.

Sitting in their paceline I noticed the guy on the front was not switching off. He pulled in fact for miles! Finally I said to Brenda, “Is he alright up there? Doesn’t he need any help?” “Oh that’s Pierre. He doesn’t speak any English. I named him Pierre”. “Pierre”, later we learned “Christophe”, did not in fact need any help. He preferred to sit on the front and set a steady pace. The rest of us would sometimes spell him briefly, mainly just to satisfy our own urges.

After over 40 miles on SR-24 we swung north toward the next control at Mattawa, mile 390. SIR treated us to fruit, sandwiches, and cold drinks. The control tent was small so when the next group appeared on the horizon we were encouraged to leave. Good thing too: it was mighty comfortable sitting in the shade.

From there it was 41 miles to our overnight control at Quincy. All I remember is hills and crosswind, hills and headwind. Chester suffered especially on this stretch, for which I am grateful. It distracted me from my own misery. We stopped 11 miles out to put our night gear on, rolling into the control well after 9PM. This time we were treated to warm showers (soooo nice), cafeteria food, and hard wrestling mats to sleep on. Once more it was all good.

Day 3: Quincy-Mazama 180 miles

After breakfasting on eggs and cereal our gang of 7 rolled north from Quincy into comfortably cool air just after 5AM. Some hilly desert terrain preceded a long climb up to a visitor’s station on SR-17 at Dry Falls. SIR had a well stocked control there that was comfortably shaded. I sipped coke and chewed a pbj while enjoying a vista of desert canyons, more properly coulees I suppose, that reminded me of southern Utah. John and Henrik were there. John by then was nursing a sore knee that would plague him until the finish.

Leaving there and proceeding onto yet more desert hills I rode for a time with Tim Sullivan and Kerin Huber of California. I was amazed at the strength of the women riders on this 1200. In fact the whole group was strong. By Farmer, 499 miles, we needed another break. It was sandwiches and fruit and a failed attempt at catching a few Zs on a wooden bench. I was sleepy, but once back on the road the miles passed pleasantly. A tailwind helped. Val told jokes and generally harassed Brenda while everyone swapped stories. Val thanked us for staying with them contending that Brenda had scared off all but the non-English speaking riders (Christophe) and the feeble minded (us, I guess). Brenda, kind, sweet, and totally undeserving of this incessant ribbing, took it all with aplomb. A long fast descent brought us to a hot convenience store at Bridgeport where we enjoyed slurpies.

Yet more desert riding awaited us on the way to the SIR manned control at Malott, mile 558. My legs ached and longed for a real break but all the chairs were taken. So I stood chewing my cheese sandwich and a few grapes, washing them down with coke and a frappucino.

The mainstay of my energy consumption was sustained energy when it was cool, accelerade when it was hot, and hammergel. I also brought a few bars. The food options for me, a vegetarian, were somewhat limited at the SIR controls and even the stores we stopped at along the way. This surprised me in the state of Washington with its outdoorsy, organic leanings.

Minimally energized but moderately determined I headed for day threes major obstacle: Loup Loup Pass. On the lower slopes I startled and was startled by a rattlesnake on the road that I almost ran over. It was hissing and rattling and moving fast. This sight squandered some adrenalin I would sorely need on the pass ahead. Turning onto SR-20 we began to climb in earnest. Robin and Val quickly disappeared up the road. Robin is a tenacious climber, a trait she no doubt polished in order to drop her berating husband. I poked along at my own pace and met them at the summit after the 13 mile climb.

There we regrouped, all having made it up within a few minutes of each other. I remember my mouth being parched but all I had were warm fluids to nurse as we descended to the quaint town of Winthrop for a refill and a brief break.

From there we turned west into a full headwind for the final 14 miles to our overnight stop at Mazama, mile 610. There our SIR hosts outdid themselves by providing actual rooms with beds and showers in an actual lodge. Such luxury seemed out of place but certainly welcome as we were all by then quite weary and most appreciative of some comfort. We feasted on chili and rice (homemade vegetarian chili for me!), in the evening, and a full breakfast in the morning sandwiched around 6 hours of sleep.

Day 4 Mazama-Monroe 162 miles

Our luxurious overnight repast put us is a fine frame of mind for day 4’s biggest obstacle, Washington Pass. It greeted us right away, ascending to the greatest elevation of the ride, 5477 feet over 18 miles. Having to divert to a campground bathroom early on, I got a late start and climbed alone for the most part. The views on the pass were the most stunning of the ride with towering forests, rushing waterfalls, and snow boulders. For the last several miles I had no other riders in sight, either in front or behind. But my group waited for me at the summit where we shared cheers and photos and joviality that had my sides aching with laughter.

Donning a bit more clothing we did a brief descent to the foot of Rainy Pass and climbed it back up to 4855 feet. There I saw rather tame mule deer who watched patiently as Chester and I slowly ascended, spooking only when we were very close.

We waited at the summit to regroup once more, putting on yet more clothing for the long, long drop off of Rainy. The temp at the summit of Washington Pass was 46, the coolest of the four day ride. As depleted of energy as we were, and not able to work to generate heat on the descent, it was easy to get too cold and too sleepy. I was actually quite happy when the descent ended.

Our next break was at a general store in Newhalem, mile 671 where we ate and restocked for a difficult headwind dominated 14 miles to the next control in Marblemount. From there we turned south on SR-530. The road was flat, even losing a bit of elevation. We rode at a fast pace for the 27 miles on that road with Christophe doing most of the pulling. It felt good to go fast on the flats and to know that this pace would help us finish before dark. Brenda who is used to the flats around Dallas felt particularly at home and took some hefty pulls.

After a refill stop in Darrington, mile 712, we continued for another 27 miles on SR 530 but it became very trafficky. We were glad to turn off it toward the last control at Granite Falls, mile 751. With just 21 miles to go the aches and strains took a backseat to the drive to end this ride. My hands were numb; my quads sore even to the touch, and my bottom had been ready to be off the saddle for hundreds of miles. But still I found some jump left in my legs, even attacking a few of the many steep little hills in the final 20 miles.

Although I have started all of my 1200s with a brother, this was the first one in which we would finish side by side. I felt a special bond with my new friends from Texas, Canada, and France. We even were teased in the final mile with a light rain shower just so we couldn’t say we didn’t get a drop of rain on the whole ride.
1200’s are hard. This one, because of the good weather and planned overnight stops, was the easiest so far. Still, it was hard.

Afterthoughts

I got about 30, 000 feet of elevation gain on my little altimeter. 9k on day one, 5 on day two, 9 on day three, and 7 on the last day. That was a few k more than PBP and a few k less than Endless Mountains on the same altimeter.

I recovered nicely in about a week. It usually takes longer than that, but I attribute the rapid recovery to the planned overnight rests which we actually got to enjoy on this ride.

Finally, I neglected to mention that Val claimed to have beaten Robin to the top of White Pass on day one. This marked the first time he’d ever bested his wife on a long climb. Of course there were no witnesses but we have his word on it.

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Kelly Smith’s 2010 Cascade 1240K: The Tour of the Nasty Cat

Kelly Smith completed his second 1200K last week and he chose a good one: the incredible Cascade 1240K in Washington state. He completed the ride in an admirable 88:05 time.

Kelly making his way through the Cascades (courtesy Kelly Smith)

Kelly has written a great story about the highs, the lows, and the higher highs that we all experience on these very long randonnees. Also, check out his photos at Kelly’s Photobucket page.

Was that a Nasty Cat, or what am I doing on the Cascades 1240 with this crowd?

I saw the description of this randonee in 2006 when I began to ride brevets, but was not confident enough to enter before riding an SR series. In 2008 I planned to ride the local Shenandoah 1200 and had no thought of a second grand randonee in the same month (tip of the hat to Bill Olson here). When I saw that SIR was running this again for 2010 I decided to go for it.

This season’s fleche and brevets all seemed tough and there were some challenges such as wind and heat. But, it also seemed I was not hitting nearly as good fitness as in the last few years. As the date approached I grew more and more concerned as I skipped big training rides to recover from previous ones. My weeknight non-rando training rides were equally mediocre leaving me concerned about finishing the days in time to get any sleep.

On the Shenandoah I’d gotten in at midnight for two nights which left me pretty sleep deprived by the end. That is one of my weaknesses as a rando rider – poor coping with lack of sleep. On the plus side I was able to sleep surprisingly well the week before, which had been a problem on the S1200 when I started already well in the hole on sleep.

After much agonizing I’d decided to fly out Wednesday morning before the event and spend a day sightseeing in Seattle. This was a good call as the day was beautiful and I really enjoyed the Pikes Place Market/Pioneer Square/waterfront walk that Tom Lawrence of SIR suggested. He was giving me a lift to the start town of Monroe. While Seattle has an excellent transit system it is very difficult and slow to get to the surrounding towns without a car, so SIR volunteers provided rides. I managed to stay on East Coast time so I was in bed by 8:30 p.m. and slept till 7:30 a.m., banking sleep like a champ!

I got there mid morning and built up the bike, which had survived another flight without damage (it’s always tense when I open the bag). Tom had provided cues for a 25-mile loop which started on the 1240 route, then climbed a small ridge and returned through Snohomish. Unfortunately I flatted during the ride, which was worrisome. I’d gotten some Vittorio Open Corsa tires, which are famous for a great ride, but also for being somewhat fragile. I’d already flatted at home but could find no sign of damage or objects when I examined the tire. After the flat I discovered a cool farmers market and had a couple apricots, local ice cream, and coffee (of course). Back at the hotel my roommate Larry Brenize had arrived and we hiked to a local Italian place for dinner.

Friday the crowd was arriving and bikes were decorating the lobby. Larry and I joined Irene from Colorado and Wolfgang from Germany on a checkout ride of the last leg from Granite Falls. I had intended to write a reverse cue of this but hadn’t and we managed to get lost immediately out of the access road, then again halfway out. Eventually we got back on route and made it to within 5 miles or so of the control. That was enough for the day and we headed back with 30 miles done. Funny, while I remembered a lot of the turns on the fourth day of the ride, the hills seemed much tougher!

Back at the hotel Larry and I had lunch with Art and John Fuoco, packing in the pizza and beer – carbs! Now the crowd was big and intimidating. As I chatted with people I met more and more who had ridden RAAM, Furnace Creek 508 (including current champ and 24-hour record holder), and other ultra riders. I spoke to a woman from Texas who had just finished RAAM on a 4-tandem team in 6+ days – they did 30-or 45-minute pulls the whole way! I spoke to Yataki Moriwaki from Japan who had just ridden two 1000ks in Vancouver!

What was I doing in this crowd!? I had my bike inspected then headed to the room to pack and freak out, both successfully.

Day One

Surprisingly I was still able to sleep and got about 6-7 hours that night. The morning was very cloudy and though no rain was forecast I loaded all my wet/cold gear in the bag. The start was low key, like ours, and we rolled out in a group. The group seemed to stay together tightly for the first 10-15 miles then I noticed a few people moving up on the left. Soon I saw a gap had developed with maybe 30 bikes off the front but the group I was in was plenty fast so I resisted the urge to chase. I began to wonder if I should keep up this pace but it was too much fun to pass up.

Bummer – I got another flat at 22 miles. This really worried me. I had tubes and patches but how many flats would I get before the finish? Again I couldn’t find anything wrong with the tire and just a tiny hole in the tube. This took a while and I was now pretty sure I was lanterne rouge. I was impressed that I overtook almost no one as I rode along; I only saw 2-3 bikes before the first control at Cumberland at mile 53. Jan Heine was signing cards there so riders could roll quickly through, but I decided to get a sandwich and top up my Gatorade so I spent about 20 min there, putting me about at the back again.

This part of the route had been suburban, becoming what we Easterners would call rural farmland (hah! We would soon see rural!) and rollers familiar to mid-Atlantic riders. I was hop-scotching with a local rider and as I was approaching him again he stopped and pulled out a camera, I turned my head and WOW – Mt Rainier burst out of the trees in the now clear blue sky. I’m not in Virginia any more!

I continued to ride alone, more and more impressed with the pace of this group, until the Eatonville control at mile 95 where I had a delicious lunch at the Truly Scrumptious Bakery. At last I overlapped a group of riders here and no longer felt like The Last Randonneur. I spoke to George Moore and another Dahon Allegro rider named John/Paul (some running joke I never understood). We chatted and I moved along alone again till I met a group of locals. This seemed like a group I would have enjoyed riding with, until another FLAT! At last I discovered the cause, the rim strip shifted when mounting the new tires. What a relief. It wasn’t the new tire and was easily fixed. As it turned out I had no punctures the entire ride, most of which was on rough chip seal or shoulders with the usual litter.

So I rode on alone again through increasingly beautiful country until about mile 150 where I met two locals in the classic blue SIR jerseys. They told me about the dramatic geology along the route before the Packwood control at mile 158. This was now pine forest and mountain views in the Mt Rainier Park, next stop White Pass. The chatter about this was pretty intimidating but I found it was a nice climb, fairly steady with no really steep pitches. I was thrilled to be able to descend in daylight and reached the penultimate control for the day at Clear Lake (mile 188) just before 9 p.m. This was very nice; temperatures were falling so the volunteer’s hot coffee and soup hit the spot. I ate a bunch of apples too, then rolled out with Don Jameson, his wife, and another local plus Vickie Tyler of Texas. This was a good group that took advantage of the downgrades and tailwind to fly through the night.

I got to use my new Ixon IQ headlight for the first time too, and it was awesome! Even I could ride fast at night with this. Still, we didn’t get to Naches (mile 223) until 11:20 p.m. SIR had tasty lasagna, cold showers, and a mechanic who looked at my rim tape and computer problems. All this meant it was 1 a.m. when I hit the mats.

Day Two

The second day was both a lot of fun and fairly miserable at times. Blueberry pancakes were served and I rolled out at about 5 a.m. with Vickie Tyler. The first miles were uphill and upwind so we were moving pretty slow when a group steamed by that we could just jump on. We swept up more small groups and were overtaken by faster groups till we had maybe two dozen riders hammering up the canyon. As the grade and pace gradually increased the process reversed and the group began to resemble a meteor, streaming riders like sparks till I think three reached the control together. Along the way I connected with local rider Steve Frey and another with compatible paces, allowing me to keep a decent speed up the climb. Steve and I would ride the remainder of the event together.

The control was at a campground at mile 269 with a pleasant fire, hot coffee and muffins. Steve and I rolled out with another local and a fellow from Denmark for a fast, fun ride down back to Naches. This was a ton of fun, but probably not the smartest move. The Dane sat out the rotation so we three were pushing pretty hard. We finished that section of almost 90 miles mighty quick, but would pay for it later.

Here Steve and I entered a region of agriculture on a grand scale. Everything was heavily irrigated with water diverted from the Columbia and other rivers, canals flowed alongside the road and branched out into fields of corn, onions, hay, potatoes, hops, orchards and vineyards. These were huge fields, with the enormous rotating sprinkler arms that make circles you see from airliners. Any non-irrigated area was gravel and sagebrush, but such places were few. Sadly my camera battery died so I got no photos of this day. When I wasn’t raving about the scenery Steve was cracking me up with hilarious stories, many of the SIR brevets – all apparently ridden at furious pace in cold rain with no stops. Folks, if you think you are tough randonnuers come do Seattle’s spring series!

Nearing Yakima we connected with Kerin Huber and a few other strong riders and left Fruitvale, mile 326, together. This stage left the fields heading into the dramatic high desert of the Rattlesnake Hills. It also was mostly uphill and upwind, and I began to suffer. I took a pull and when I pulled off the pace went up 2 m.p.h! I sat in the back dreading having to ride this stretch alone, imagining coasting to a halt and collapsing to expire in the sun. Then a member of the group sat up and dropped off, next Steve did the same, and I thought – what a good idea! Steve and I joined up forming a two-man laughing group. Amazing how much more fun it is to ride 1 m.p.h. slower!

Here we encountered several big descents into the ‘hairdryer’ heat Ed and Mary described, and I wondered how they were able to finish when it was 15 degrees hotter! We only saw mid-90’s and it was plenty tough. We recharged at the Vernita rest area, where we found the only trees in 30 miles and pushed on to “yes up that hill”. One of the few ‘eastern’ climbs, it hit near 10% but felt much tougher at mile 380 in the totally exposed heat.

The volunteer-manned Mattawa control at mile 391 was a godsend, and also the way they booted us out when the next group arrived. In my book the next 40 miles were the toughest of the ride. We left on a busy road and I thought we would have to cross a bridge on this road, which I was dreading. When Steve pointed out the turn onto a quiet road I was thrilled, but then we faced miles and miles of dead straight climbs, stair-stepping through more fields and orchards. The air was so clear and the horizon so bare you could see for miles. Riders who passed us were visible ahead for hours. This was demoralizing to me. The final traffic light was in view for perhaps four miles, and since we averaged about 12 m.p.h. into a headwind, that was a long time. It seemed longer as well as noisy, fast traffic roared by – though we were safe on a wide shoulder.

Steve had taken the words from my mouth when he said that if we got in early enough he was up for getting a beer. Imagine our thrill when the volunteer at the Quincy overnight control at mile 432 pointed us to a cooler of Washington’s finest ales! Never has beer tasted better! This was a feature of the next overnight, as well as the finish and I can’t thank them enough!

We arrived a few minutes before 9 p.m. and Steve dawdled a bit before getting signed in so he could exactly match his first night’s 21:00 arrival time. Quincy also featured monster high jump mats and I grabbed one to sleep, it was as comfy as the best bed!

Day Three

We rolled out a few minutes after 5 a.m. past the Quincy Seed Co.’s small fields of seed crops. Leaving Ephrata we entered a dramatic coulee cut, perhaps 400’ into layers of basalt from lava flows that covered the region many thousands of years ago. This stretch had been a worry because it was chip sealed during the pre-ride. Amazingly to me, the work was finished in the last few days and all loose gravel was gone. WDOT must sweep after chip seal, unlike here where we would have been riding in deep gravel along the lanes edge. On the climb to Dry Falls, mile 474, we were passed by a local rider on a gorgeous Davidson, I was stunned to look down and see it was a single speed! At the control I shook his hand, another super rider doing the unbelievable. Unfortunately he broke an axle on the next leg and had to abandon but he was showing no sign of struggling until then.

From here we climbed out of the coulee and I was stunned to find myself in endless wheat fields! If you know the default Microsoft green field screensaver – we were there! These fields were stunning to an easterner. They went on for close to 50 miles and stretched as far as the eye could see. Scattered here and there were building sized boulders of basalt, apparently glacial erratics left by the melting ice cap. All was contrasts: deep blue skies, bright green wheat, tan plowed fields, deep red brown boulders. I raved to Steve for two days about the amazing landscapes.

In the middle of this was the Farmer control in a Grange hall, mile 501. Farmer must have been a town in the days when farms were smaller, but now there was nothing but a silo and graveyard nearby. The hall was clearly still used but now to fill it must require the population in a 10-mile radius at least. The next stretch was a lot of fun, a tailwind pushing us along bike friendly rollers. A screaming descent took us into Bridgeport where we tanked up and met a long distance bike tourist. He was clearly starved for company and collared each of us until we forcibly broke away. Steve recounted a hilarious story the fellow told of downing a beer every 15 minutes on a long hot climb. Hopefully he camped at the top!

We re-entered irrigated orchard country leading up to the oh-so-welcome Malott control at mile 560. I drained my entire Camelbak in this 40-mile stretch, a first for me. Cold drinks were seldom more welcome. Volunteers provided delicious sandwiches and fruit here, but discussion of upcoming Loup Loup Pass was intimidating. The tales were not far off. The climb began straight from the control and continued with some breaks for 17 miles. We spotted a rider ahead who kept me working honestly, and we joined forces from Winthrop for the final stretch.

In Winthrop we stopped at a grocery and I watched the bikes while Steve shopped. Looking at our bikes I noticed my saddle was tilted way too far forward – this after riding almost 600 miles!!! Grumbling loudly, I sorted it out and my saddle problems, which had been getting bad, went away immediately. How clueless can I get!?

From here we began a half serious “time trial” to the overnight control, trying to make 21:00 again. Noel, the rider I had been chasing, took a monster pull, then bailed to ride in solo. We also had to give it up soon after. I was thrilled with our time of 21:05 anyway, and immediately headed to the cooler! This control is famously luxurious, in a very nice mountain lodge, and offers solo showers and beds with sheets. You also shared the bed with another rider but in my state that was no problem – I would not have noticed Scarlett Johansson next to me!

Day Four

We didn’t roll out till after 6 a.m., but that was just as well as the canyon was still quite cold. The final big climb began from the driveway and went up Washington Pass. This was another intimidating sounding one, and lived up to it with 18 miles of unbroken climbing topping out at 5477 ft. Nearing the top the pass is all rock and ice, with a hairpin showing the final stretch traversing your view at what looks like 15%! I first tried to tell myself this was not the road (like there are a lot of side roads up there) then decided that if it was that bad I’d have heard. It was an illusion, the grade remained no more that 8 percent, and the relief provided a boost that allowed me to reach the summit with a smile. I stopped here to layer up and met Joe Platzner, a friend of Steve’s who was fantastic riding company. The descent was very cold and we stopped several times to warm up. On one of these descending runs a large animal scurried across the road, what the hell what that? Not marked like a badger, wait — it was a nasty cat – a.k.a wolverine! Much cooler sighting than a ho hum bear or even a cougar (well maybe not, but less scary). And no, it didn’t have 6” long steel claws, or sideburns!

Eventually the cold began to relent, as did the grade, but for the rest of the descent through the canyon to Marblemount we struggled against howling headwinds. I spied a charming sign stating, “Caution Severe Cross Winds Next 27 Miles.” At least they weren’t really crosswinds that day. Rather, on-the-nose, requiring pedaling most of the downhills. We regrouped at Newhalem. Joe had gotten very cold and I fell way behind Steve on the ‘real’ descents. I had the tastiest convenience store hot dog ever! We rode together to Marblemount, mile 686, where we took another leisurely break for espresso drinks. In fact this whole day was filled with long stops and a general touring feel.

From here we began to realize Steve’s 21:00 finish was unlikely, but we did make an effort for 10 miles or so. After a potty break in Darrington we raised the white flag, and went back to conversation and laughs. The only rain of the ride caught us as we headed into Granite Falls, mile 753, where Steve broke a vow of many years and ate a McDonald’s burger. Desperate times! The rain ended by the time we left and we happy three rode the shockingly steep rollers as night fell, arriving back at Monroe at 22:05.

Epilogue

What a ride! Everyone talks about the volunteers – and it is no exaggeration! They were all smiles and ready with anything you could need. I partied with incoming riders for a couple hours, then crashed. There was a celebratory breakfast at 10 a.m. so I got up early to pack and check out. Breakfast was a blast, hearing stories and telling tales. I heard of some truly epic rando toughness.

Yataki Moriwaki missed a turn on the descent of White Pass the first day, only realizing it when he reached Naches. To continue he climbed 40 MILES back to the turn and resumed the route, adding 80 MILES for the day. Irene Takahashi hit a wall of bonking, heat, and dehydration after Matawa on “yes up that hill” and had to lay down, unable to move. Volunteers brought her to the control where she rested for five hours until she was finally able to eat and drink. She then resumed riding from where she had stopped and reached Quincy as we were leaving in the morning – yet she finished. As Kerin said, in this sport those who suffer the most and persevere are respected more than those who ride the fastest. Hard to top those tales.

Don Jameson gave Kerin, two other riders and me a ride to Seattle, wrapping up a fantastic trip. We were so lucky with the weather. Steve said it was his first ride of the year that wasn’t in cold rain, and we avoided the killer heat too. I can’t recommend this event enough, especially for an easterner like me, it is breathtaking!

P.S.: I got home Thursday morning to find my amazing wife Josie had baked a blueberry pie with 1200K pierced in the crust!! It can’t get any better than that!

Winter Solstice Ride

Yesterday marked one of the most important cycling days of the year: the Winter Solstice. In spite of the many cold days ahead before Spring arrives on Mar. 20, we’ll have a little more daylight every day. I celebrate the solstice as the unofficial start of the randonneuring season, sort of like the opening of training camp.

The Winter Randonneur’s Best FriendToe Warmers: The Winter Randonneur’s Best Friend

Yesterday we took the tandem and rode under damp, gray skies from Mercersburg, Pa., putting in 65 miles on a shortened Crista Borras ride that covered three granny-gear climbs on the Kittatinny and Blue Mountains. Fearing the Dark Monster, we deleted the fourth and fifth climbs and rode back to the start through the much flatter Path Valley on PA75.

MG on the Way to Upper StrasburgMG on the Way to Upper Strasburg

More photos of our ride Here.

With the local Shenandoah 1200 coming in early June, our D.C. Randonneurs brevets are earlier than usual this year. It’s now just 14 weeks until our first ACP 200K and only six months until MG and I ride, hopefully, our second Cascade 1200. In a PBP year, it’s already late February. Yikes!

Cascade 1200 — My Sexy Randonneur Lifestyle

Here’s Mary Gersema’s account of her and TDR co-founder Ed Felker’s tandem ride at the Seattle International Randonneurs’ Cascade 1200 from June 24-27, 2006. It was also posted at the Cascade 1200 site.

July 2nd, 2006

Sometime last fall I was sitting in my office when my phone rang. It was Ed Felker, boyfriend and tandem partner. “Mary, I have a great idea! Let’s sign up for the Cascade 1200! Let’s do it on the tandem” Ed, not a great idea. I did not feel like taking on quite so ambitious a project. In 2004, I had just completed my first century ride, and in 2005 I completed the DC Randonneurs brevet series, and the idea of going on to tackle a 1200 the very next year seemed like too much to me. I did not want my legs or spirit to break from too much riding! “OK, then,” was Ed’s response. “I will sign up and do it solo.” Well, I don’t think so. If you are doing it, you are not leaving me behind! And that is how I became a registered rider for the Cascade 1200K Randonnee.

Ed and I worked through the winter and spring to maintain our cycling legs and be ready for the great event. We set out fairly regularly to join Crista Borras and Chuck Wood on their weekend rides. We spent a few weekends out in the Shendendoah Valley in DC Randonneur World Headquarters with Matt Settle and Liz Crotty, riding the hills of the Blue Ridge. We diligently worked together through the Washington, DC brevet series, and I completed my flat fleche ride—ha ha, not so flat!– with the Gray Ghosts.

In order to help me prepare for what the Cascade 1200 might bring, I read a few ride reports, paying special attention to the ride report from Davy Haynes, captain of last year’s Alabama tandem team, and fully investigated the Cascade 1200 website.

After the brevets, I talked with Chuck and Crista about how nervous I was about completing the Cascade 1200. “Oh, you are going to do it, Mary,” they said to me. I told Matt Settle, who had completed the Cascade last year about my apprehensions. “Oh, you’ll do it, Mary. It will not be easy, but you’ll do it.” Paul Donaldson, World’s Greatest Randonneur, sent me a note wishing me luck on the upcoming event. And best bud Andrea Matney drove Ed and me to the airport, saying she was so happy to support us and share in our grand undertaking.

We arrived to Monroe, Washington, on Wednesday evening, assembled the bicycle on Thursday, and spent the day being nervous on Friday and watching the randonneurs arrive. We searched the scene for the other randonneusses. Only four total women in the 1200K, and one participating on the 1000K. Ed and I kept scanning the crowd for another tandem, but it was just us! Wow, we thought, only one tandem. Now we are representing the tandem community everywhere, as well as our home club of the DC Randonneurs. SO MUCH RESPONSIBILITY!!! COULD WE HANDLE IT?!

Throughout the preparation leading up to the brevet, people approached us and made a variety of comments about riding the course on a tandem. “You are riding this on a tandem?!” “Wow, tandem. This is a difficult course on a tandem.” La la la la la la la! I tried to block the comments from my mind. We are doing this ride, and we are finishing, even if my legs fall off from pedaling!

I told Ed about my nerves, and he said it was normal. Whenever I throw myself into pre-ride panic, Ed’s response is to say, “No need to be nervous. We’ll be fine… that’s why we brung all these gears.” I told Ed, “Well, I brung all these nerves, I’m going to use all of them and be nervous!”

Day 1 – Monroe to Cowiche

FINALLY, the moment to begin the great adventure arrived. Jennifer Wise, the organizer for BMB led us all in a pre-ride pledge. “I pledge allegiance to the ride of the Seattle International Randonneurs and to Randonneurs USA, of which it’s part, one pedal stroke, after another, unrelenting with exhaustion and achievement for all.” And then we were off.

The group rolled along together, people saying hello to each other, inspecting each other’s bicycles, and talking about past rides. One rider on a blue Davidson passed by and told us how much his son had been impressed by the Squidward doll (from the children’s show SpongeBob SquarePants) we had attached to our Carradice trunk bag. All those bicycles, and Squidward left the biggest mark on him. We rode along for the first 30 or so miles with the Atlanta riders, including Jeff Bauer and Bill Glass, but then pulled off to de-layer and have espresso. We rode on alone on the gently rolling terrain, and eventually arrived to the first control. We ran into a little store and ate the BEST turkey sandwiches ever– who knew I would ever be eating turkey again. Two of the SIR volunteers, Chantel and someone else, complimented Ed and I on our Ibex jerseys. We loved that! We are all about high randonneur fashion! The SIR volunteers refilled our Camelbaks with water, told us the terrain would not be too tough for a tandem, and with that renewed confidence we took off again.

The day started to heat up and Ed and I kept moving to the next control. It was hotter than either Ed or I had expected. We had filled a small pannier with rain and cold weather gear, but by the second day of the ride it was quite apparent that we would not need it. As we rolled along we discussed our “Strategies for Success.” I had seen sports commentators employ this technique in pre-game commentary so was looking forward to trying it with us. We decided the following tactics would help ensure our successful completion of the brevet: 1. No whining (This was something I had struggled with on past rides!); 2. Be nice to each other. (Not that we are not nice to each other in our everyday lives, but we thought it was something of which we should be particularly cognizant on this long journey); 3. Keep pedaling; 4. Keep eating and stay hydrated; and 5. Ride our own ride. That settled, we continued on.

We stopped at the Truly Scrumptious Bakery, grabbed more turkey sandwiches (surprising, isn’t it?), and then had our brevet cards signed at the grocery store up the street at mile 93.8 before moving further on into the hot day. As we proceeded, we ran into a parade! This was becoming more and more common for Ed and me! We must be parade magnets. We navigated around the parade, and then caught up to some SIR riders, including Mark Thomas and his riding buddy, and rode with them for a little bit. It was fun to be riding with some new faces. We love our DC Randonneurs, but it was great for me to be meeting the larger community of randonneurs for the first time, too. Ed is a well-seasoned randonneur with four 1200’s under his belt (not including Cascade), but this was new territory for me, and I found it exciting!

The heat continued and not one cloud was to be found in the sky. We began mentally preparing for White Pass. We asked a Seattle Randonneur what it would be like, and he assured us it would be hilly, ha ha! He also said it would mellow out for a while, so not to panic when we first began our climbing. And suddenly, there it was. Ed and I began our slow-going ascent in the granny gear. The climb was HOT!!! And as we worked, it just kept getting hotter. We climbed for a few miles and then ahead we saw a couple of riders taking a little break. A break? That was a great idea! We stopped for a little photo opportunity, a few moments to cool our bodies down, and then we moved along, taking a couple more breaks as needed. Ed and I were not accustomed to this type of climbing. We were accustomed to climbs, but not climbs where you literally climbed for hours at five or six miles per hour. The climbs on the Cascade 1200 taught me it was not possible to measure progress in miles per hour, especially on climbs like White Pass that are at least 14 miles. It was like my friends Andrea and Bones said, you just get on down in the granny and settle your brain into the idea that you will be climbing like a turtle for several hours… just embrace that, and you will be ok.

In Randle, mile 140, we met a couple that was very interested in our bike ride. They wanted to know where we were riding and how far. They were quite impressed with our cycling craziness! We ran into them just before the summit of White Pass where they stopped to ask us how many riders were embarking on this adventure and where we would be stopping for the night. When we told them our overnight stop was Cowiche, the gentleman said, “Oh you will have a climb to get there. “ Oh yeah, how long of a climb? “Oh not bad, just a couple of miles.” Oh, good because we would not want this ride to be too flat.

Our work to ascend White Pass was rewarded by the SIR White Pass Oasis at mile 176. There we were treated to fresh strawberries, soup, sandwiches, and pop. We chatted for a while with the volunteers, regrouped, and readied ourselves for the night ride into Cowiche, and got on our way.

The descent down White Pass was incredible. The tandem felt like a rocket, and we had a great descent down by the Tieton and Naches rivers. We stopped to de-layer from the initial descent and Joe Llona rode up behind us. He sat down, said he was feeling tired, but he knew he needed to keep moving to make the next control. I did not tell him he had until 5:30a.m. to make these last 20 miles because I was worried he would not get up. I said, “Yup, Joe, you better keep moving.” So up Joe got and kept on moving.

We turned to go up to our overnight stop, Cowiche. The gentleman was right– we did have a climb. But he had underestimated the mileage! The climb seemed to be more like four miles. The tandem slogged its way up the hill and we arrived to our stop, mile 220, at midnight. The SIR volunteers got us fed, settled in, and directed us to the showers.

Day 2 – Cowiche to Quincy

We got down for a four hour nap and then Peter Beeson woke us up at 5:30a.m. ARGH! We pulled ourselves up, and spent a little too much time piddling around the control. Ed was feeling pretty tired (and grumpy, I would add!), and not very excited about riding. One of the volunteers reminded us that we needed to get on the road to make the next control, and that got us moving!

The departure from Cowiche was nice and rolling, almost tandem-friendly, I would say. We rolled through some orchards and on into the heat of the day. I decided that heat was the third person on this ride. It was Ed, me, and our buddy, Mr. Heat. It was making our progress much more measured, as going at harder efforts would simply overheat us and force us to take a break. We stopped at a gas station in Selah, where the women there informed us that the road through Yakima Canyon would have only one climb and a lot of downhill. Well, I have also decided that I am never listening to locals when they tell me what the terrain is going to be like. One hill? What? The ride was a lot of up and down pretty much the entire way through the canyon and, since we had the pleasure of experiencing the canyon in both directions, I would say the ride back had more downhill than the ride out. Oh well, at least their lies kept me optimistic.

We ran into Bob Brudvik midway to Ellensburg, and we talked about mutual friends. He told us to tell Chuck and Crista hello, and to remind them about the outstanding wheel sucking ability he exhibited on Paris Brest Paris.

We stopped to eat at the control in Ellensburg at mile 269. Manfred, from British Columbia, encouraged us to eat there, saying that we would need that food to get us through the day. We stopped and sat down at a table next to two sweet older ladies. Ed started telling them about our ride, and how we were doing the route on a tandem. We had a yummy breakfast topped with an ice cream sandwich, and when we asked for our check we were informed that someone had already picked up our bill. The server said that one of the women w/ whom we had been talking had paid it. WOW! “That’s great! How nice of them!” Ed and I thought. Ed said all we have to do to get free breakfast is ride 760 miles on a tandem, and that we should do this more often.

We remounted the bike, and roasted our way back through Yakima canyon to the next control in Selah, mile 299. There was absolutely no shade and not one cloud to be found. I had never climbed in such barren terrain. It may have been a dry heat, but it was toasty all the same. When we arrived in Selah, we found Bill and Mark Olsen, Joe Llona, Manfred, Alard, and Chester Fleck. They, too were looking mighty hot. Ed and I bought ice for our Camelbaks and we all refueled with more water. I kept eating and riding, worried that if I stopped fueling up, I would bonk and die in the desert.

We rode the bike trail out of town, and made our way through some more orchards and stopped at an SIR stop where we first donned the miracle socks of ice. A volunteer filled these tube socks with ice and then we put them around our neck… heaven! Thank God for these socks, I said to myself. They were not helping me to make a fashion statement, but even better, they were helping me to stay alive in the day’s heat!

Even so, the miracle socks could not prevent me from wanting to snag a mini-break under some shade. We passed through a stretch that had several trees and inviting patches of grass. I told Ed, “Ed, I want to stop under some shade.” “OK,” Ed said, and pulled into a parking lot and the shade of a building. Well, that was not what I had in mind, nor was it acceptable break territory. “Umm. Ed, I was thinking under a tree in some grass.” “Grass?” Ed said. “Tree? Where?” “ANYWHERE, Ed!!!” I said desperately. “There are only about 100 trees on both sides of us so just find one and stop!!!!” This was a little lapse in rule #2. Be nice to each other, but Ed did get the point and pull over into a sweet little shaded spot w/ some lovely wildflowers. Good job, Ed!

After our mini-break we started passing through some mint and hop fields. That was so cool, and the air smelled delicious. This must be the aromatherapy part of the ride, I thought. We arrived at the Sunnyside control at mile 345, where Manfred informed us that he was feeling like a sweaty pig, and a group of us paused to catch our breaths and fuel up before embarking on the Rattlesnake Hills.

Thanks to Davy Haynes’s ride report, we knew we would be doing some shallow grade extended climbing in the Rattlesnake Hills. We began our ascent and I was feeling a little blue. I kept in mind how Davy Haynes’s report had added that a person would pass through difficult moments and then a few minutes later would be feeling great so that also propelled me on. After a few miles, I asked Ed to pull over for a brief moment so I could regroup, and I promptly sat down on top of an anthill. “Mary, what are you doing?” Ed asked me. Oops! Just trying to add a little more excitement to the ride, Ed. After we remounted and had pedaled on a little bit, the heat appeared to be subsiding somewhat. I asked Ed how he was feeling, and he said, “Powerful. I feel great.” That was good news for me! Does that mean I can stop pedaling, Ed? Just kidding! Actually, Ed’s high moment combined with the cooling temperatures were an inspiration for me to climb with more effort, too. We enjoyed the rest of the lengthy ascent, and then reveled in the dynamite downhill to the SIR Rattlesnake Hill Oasis.

When we arrived, Donald Boothby said, “Mary, I found the perfect thing for you so you don’t overheat. A little fan!” And he gave me this little toy fan that also had a little lollipop on the other end! Oh yes, that little guy was sure to do the job of keeping me cool. With this fan and the miracle sock, I just knew I would be ok! After this segment, Ed and I donned our evening riding wear, and went on to the “yes, up THAT hill” segment. We were proud to report that we did not walk that little steepy, and, in fact, it brought to mind many of the Northeast roads that we ride throughout the year. The evening was extremely pleasant and the road to the Mattawa control at mile 392 was quiet and mellow. After stopping and eating a delicious turkey sandwich, Ed and I prepared to go. Ed asked me, “Mary, do you have your gloves?” “Yes, Ed,” I said. “I have my gloves. Do you know how I can tell? Because I can smell them, Ed.” With that, we hopped on the bicycle, and I told the SIR volunteers that we must be leaving so that I could get back to my sexy randonneur lifestyle. For some reason, the volunteers thought this was a pretty funny comment. What? Isn’t our lifestyle of smelly gloves, saddle sores, and overall feelings of being covered in road grit sexy?

Before leaving town, we asked the SIR volunteers about the upcoming terrain. “You just have one climb between here and the overnight,” someone informed us. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Sure we did. It was one climb that lasted the next 30 miles. They did not tell us that part! It seemed we experienced a lengthy stair-step climb. Along the way we ran into Dave Brudvik, the guy who had been riding w/ Mark Thomas earlier in the day, and a couple of other riders. Bob had just taken a caffeine pill or something so he was full of energy. The riding was quiet (except for Bob, ha ha!), the stars were out, and the air was pleasant. We watched Bob move on ahead on his Bianchi San Jose single speed and I was enthralled watching his red taillight serpentine smoothly up the hills. It looked so beautiful and serene.

After our “just one climb” we enjoyed another mighty descent into a little town and then began the last ten miles to Quincy. We caught the Olsen brothers at that point, and began pulling the group along. We saw police lights up ahead, and as we approached we saw there was a rider down. It was shocking for all of us. Bob found out that Seattle randonneur Patrick Gray had been hit by a driver, and at that point all conversation among riders ceased. Ed and I put our heads down, and rode the quiet group into the overnight control at mile 432 in Quincy.

Day 3 – Quincy to Mazama

Organizers Peter Beeson and David Huelsbeck were always so encouraging of our efforts whenever we arrived at a control. “Good job. Congratulations!” And then they would lead us to our stuff, showers, and sleeping and eating areas. After three hours of sleep, we hauled ourselves out of slumber, ate a bit of food and prepared for the journey to Farmer. We ascended a climb and then rode through the Moses Coulee. The Moses Coulee had its beauty in that there were some segments where we were flanked by barren territory and then I would see a lush green farmstead off to the side of the road. This was also where I experienced cattle guards for the first time. We would stop before the guards, dismount, and Ed would walk the bike over. The first cattle guard gave me a panic attack, however. I tried to get my foot to begin crossing, and I just could not do it. “Ed, I need help! I don’t think I can cross over!” “Are you serious Mary?” Ed asked. “Yes, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t want to DNF b/c I can’t cross a cattle guard. Help!” Ed came back and helped me across. After crossing the first cattle guard my panic diminished a little bit, and I managed to get across the next few guards without too much drama. We ascended our way in the day’s heat up to Farmer. Along the way, the SIR van stopped and volunteers refilled our Camelbaks and our miracle socks. Thank you, Seattle Randonneurs. We love you!

As we continued our ascent to Farmer, I wondered who ever had reason to drive or ride their way to this part of the state. If a car went by, I occupied my mind wondering where it had come from, where it was going, and why. I was beginning to feel like we were in the middle of nowhere. And the Farmer stop at mile 481 did not quite cause that feeling to abate, as it was one little building in the middle of what seemed a lot of desert. There we ran into David Rowe and Nate Armbrust from Portland. Nate was having a bit of a low moment, and when we left he was still napping on the Farmer floor. As I said, we do have such sexy lifestyles! Ed and I took mini naps for a few minutes, ate and drank up, and made our way out the door to keep on climbing our brains out!

During this stretch we kept running into Seattle rider Thai Nguyen who was riding well and seemed completely in his zone. His legs were like metronomes, pedaling him steadily along the route. Ed and I admired his effort. This stretch was particularly challenging because there was absolutely no shade and it seemed like we were climbing right into the sun. I wanted to take a break, but knew that we just needed to keep moving through this section. We finally peaked our climb, and then prepared for our descent. Thanks again to Davy Haynes’s writeup we knew this was a very switchbacked downhill with rough pavement, and we found ourselves stopping a few times on the descent to cool the brakes and regroup. Even scarier than the descent however, was the sweltering heat that was billowing out of the canyon. I had thought we would be descending to cooler territory, but instead we were swirling into a desert inferno.

After we reached the bottom of the descent we immediately sought shelter in Beebe Park. There we found the Atlanta riders, including Jeff Bauer and Bill Glass, and were soon joined by David Rowe, Kitty Goursolle, and a couple more people. Jeff said they were going to nap there, wait out the heat, and take off again around five. Ed and I immediately agreed with that plan. Count us in! We cooled off and drowsed a bit on the picnic tables. It was at this point that I realized we were indeed embarking on an epic adventure. Soon after we stopped one of the riders who had DNF’d previously showed up with Subway sandwiches. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! And then, to make the stop even better, the sock ladies, Susan France and Peg Winczewski, showed up with ice. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Thanks to all the help we received at Beebe Park, we were able to make the most of this unplanned stop and resume riding refueled and somewhat cooled.

We rode along a nasty little stretch along US-97, where it was hot and busy with car traffic. This is where we ran into Chester Fleck a couple of times. He was looking like I felt… hot and bothered! Fortunately, the sock ladies rescued him by providing him an ice-filled sock at our next gas station stop. They were so great about looking out for riders and giving us what we needed to keep going.

After this segment, we turned off of US-97 and rode through some pleasant terrain on into Mallott at mile 547. We noticed our rear wheel had detensioned and the Subway sandwiches man/DNF rider/volunteer helped us get our spokes tightened and ready to roll again. I took a mini nap and prepared for the ascent up Loup Loup Pass.

Chester came by and expressed concern about not having appropriate clothing for the Loup Loup descent, and Bill Glass and I suggested he grab a garbage bag as a windbreaker for the way down. Bill carefully explained to Chester that he would need to cut a hole in the top of the bag for his head and not to forget to do that. Ed helpfully added that he normally didn’t do that on descents and preferred to cut two holes in the top of the garbage bag for eyeholes and descend that way. Chester appeared to be ignoring our helpful comments, but ah, the randonneur adventure was getting crazy now!

Ascending Loup Loup in the dark was the most difficult part of my ride. Even though other riders were around us, I felt isolated and having to climb and descend the pass in the dark sort of bummed me out. Also, this climb tested me mentally because this 17-mile climb endured for more than three hours. I stopped and wept for a little bit. Boo hoo! “Ed, I just wish I had more to give on this climb.” I said. Ed said, “Your legs feel fine. Just keep pedaling! We’ll get there!” I was looking at the stars and going into my head to remind myself of all the positive aspects of this ride, and just then I saw the biggest shooting star I had ever seen. Ed saw it too, and that inspired us both to keep us moving. I reminded myself again that I could not measure my progress in miles per hour, I just needed to keep my legs moving, working my way with Ed toward the top of the climb, and eventually we would get there. After the ascent we donned jackets, and other gear for the descent, and started on our way. We could never let the tandem go since it was too dark to see that far ahead on the descent. Also, Ed had to pull over a couple of times because, even though he had a jacket on, he was chilled.

We finally turned away from Loup Loup and began easily pedaling the last 25 miles or so to Mazama. It felt so late! Jeff Bauer, Ed and I talked about riding tandem, different rides we had done, and other topics that come up when people are hanging out on their bicycles at 1:30a.m. As we rode we caught a couple of other riders, including Jack from Oakland on his Calfee. I was shocked to see him, as I assumed he was already in bed for the evening. “Jack?” I said incredulously. “Yes,” he responded. “What are you doing here?” I asked him. “Well, I was riding with a buddy of mine who wasn’t feeling well, but he dropped me so I guess he must be feeling better.” Jack, Jeff, Ed, and I rode together. Jack said he couldn’t wait to tell his wife he had ridden with the tandem. I was so happy we could make Jack’s dream come true at 2a.m. on the third night of the Cascade. What a lucky guy! We caught up to Kitty and a couple of the Florida riders. Kitty asked Jack where he had come from. “Outer space,” Jack answered. Two miles outside of town Ed noticed our front tire had gone soft, and Jeff and Jack stopped with us. Jeff offered one of his CO2 cartridges and we gratefully accepted. We finally arrived to the Mazama control at mile 600 at 3:30a.m. I remembered how the SIR volunteers told us this would be the easiest day of the ride, and thinking that I was going to have to respectfully disagree with that assessment. Day three was definitely the most challenging 160 miles I had ever attempted in my short brevet career!

After we arrived, the SIR volunteers seemed thrilled to see us. I said, “We are not meeting my expectations on this ride,” and had a little down moment. Peter told us happily, “Well, you are exceeding ours!” This made me confused. I think that was a compliment, but it sure sounded strange. Peter continued, “When we heard there was a group of you stopped at Beebe Park, we were worried!” Donald came up to me and said, “You are doing great. Keep on doing what you’re doing. You’re doing beautifully.” These words restored confidence in me, and made me feel less disheartened about our late arrival.

Day 4 – Mazama to Monroe

Ed and I dragged ourselves off to bed. We had a lot to do the next morning… change the front tire, change out the rear wheel that had detensioned, and climb our brains out some more! I said to Ed, “Ed, I will not DNF because we did not get up in time so we better get up and going after our 90 minutes of sleep.” Ed said, “I will do my best, but be nice to me, ok, because I have a lot to do in the morning.” “OK,” I said. “I will be nice!”

90 minutes passed quickly and the red Mercian Seattle rider presented himself in our doorway to wake us up and get going. He said, “Good morning. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.” I remember not understanding anything he said to us because I felt so disoriented. “What time is it?” 5:45a.m. We dragged ourselves out of bed wordlessly. I made my way to the bike, and saw Donald. He had already put the tandem up on his workstand. Wow! Thanks Donald. “Did you both want espresso?” he asked us. “Yes yes yes yes!!!” Thanks Donald! I went and grabbed breakfast for Ed and me. After I came back to the bike, Jeff Bauer came over and asked if he could change our front tire for us. Wow! You bet! Thanks, Jeff!!! Everyone worked triage on our bike! Ralph Nussbaum put the rear wheel in and Ed said he did not even have to adjust the rear disk brake—a high compliment from Ed Felker! All this assistance and support buoyed our spirits and got us rolling down the road with renewed vigor. We were going to make it!!!

As we left town we saw Lisa Butkus from Florida sleeping in a ditch. We had heard that some of the Florida riders had missed a cue and ended up doing around 30 bonus miles and just barely made the Mazama control. No wonder she was needing a little nap!

The ascents up Washington and Rainy Pass were incredibly picturesque, and it was nice to be tackling them early in the day. A couple SIR volunteers passed by to shout encouragement and moved up the course. We stopped a few times and took a couple of photos of the epic ride. As we ascended Washington Pass, we saw volunteer Lisa and she offered us water. Thank you, Lisa! We ascended Washington Pass with Dan Wallace from Florida, who I thought for sure was Don Wallace, and so for the last 160 miles of the ride Dan became Don to us. We summitted both Washington and Rainy Pass in high spirits and descended to a little roadside SIR stop. We ate more and drank more, and chatted with the volunteers. Ted loaned me his green bandanna for the rest of the ride so that the back of my neck would not cook too badly. The descent off of Rainy Pass was the longest I had ever experienced… miles and miles of descent! There were some crazy crosswinds that made our downhill a little more than we bargained for, but it was a majestic part of the ride, descending to the lakes and valleys below and then into Newhalem. We grabbed more water there, and some passersby caught me in the act of putting bag balm down my shorts. Oops! “Sorry about that,” I said to him. “It’s desperate times! Desperate times!”

The day’s ride was pretty tandem friendly, full of stretches of shaded road, and Ed and I were loving the ride now! We felt like we could sustain momentum and really move up the course. The day was not as hot as what we had experienced over the past two days so we could work a little harder, too. We stopped in Marblemount and Jack saved my butt (literally) by giving me a Lantiseptic packet. “You ride a tandem. You need this stuff,” he said to me. Yes, I kept getting sexier and sexier as the ride went on! The Clif Bar fairy also stopped by our tandem and left both Ed and me a Clif Bar. I never did find out who did that kind deed, but my thanks to them!

Ed and I pedaled the next 35 miles to Darrington, and there we bonked a little bit and explored the town café, and town grocery store before backtracking to the Darrington gas station and consuming more calories. The Atlanta group rolled up, along with Susan and Peg, and someone asked Jeff when he was leaving. He looked at us and said, “Whenever they are.” Jeff, Ed, and me took off ten minutes later. I loved riding with Jeff. He was such a strong rider, always seems to be in control of his ride, and was a great group rider. We really enjoyed getting to know him better, especially since he has captained tandem with a friend of ours, and we envisioned ourselves riding more together in the future! Jeff remarked that he was seeing something very unfamiliar to this ride— clouds! A few miles outside of Granite Falls we caught up to Dan/Don and this formed our little Cascade 1200 finishing group. We took a few more tandem friendly roads and then climbed our way to the Granite Falls control at mile 741.

We hurriedly ate something, put on our night riding gear and settled in for the final 21 miles. We rode out into the last of the day, tasting the finish. I imagined myself finishing the ride and how happy I was going to be! Unfortunately, this stretch was winding, included some slow climbs, and the toll of the ride on our bodies was becoming apparent. It took us two hours to ride through the last 21 miles. Ed had been leading our little group, but we asked Jeff to come up and get us all to the finish. He looked just as fresh as he had at mile 50 of the ride, and happily obliged, his GPS leading the way. Finally, we spied the Monroe Holiday Inn. We were going to make it!! It had taken us 89 hours, but we were finally there!

We rode triumphantly into the finish and the volunteers and other riders came out to applaud our arrival. I was so proud of us. Ed and I had kept it together and had a transcendent ride experience together. We had successfully tackled the Cascade 1200, and we were the first mixed tandem to successfully complete the ride! It was not in the way I had exactly planned, i.e., the heat, and extended Beebe Park stop, but I decided the randonnee was all about just rolling with what the ride gave us. I thought again about all the help and support we had received along the way, from our DC Randonneurs, SIR Randonneurs and volunteers, as well as other riders. So many people had encouraged us along the way, believed in our tandem team, and in our abilities to complete the ride. And I had proven to myself that Ed and I had the strength to do it. I was also thrilled that Ed and I had stuck with our strategies for success. We did not whine, had no “tandem team meetings,” kept pedaling, eating and drinking, and we had stayed within ourselves throughout the entire brevet. Jack told us we should get ourselves a custom Co-Motion tandem to celebrate, since it was obvious we had more brevets in our future! I was so happy I had not let Ed run off by himself to do the Cascade 1200K. I see a bright future full of 1200K’s for both of us!