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!