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RAPSody 2006 trip report

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Claire Petersky

Aug 28, 2006, 9:09:46 PM8/28/06


Left August 26, 2006 7:30 AM, Tacoma Community College, Tacoma WA
Arrived August 26 5:20 PM, Shelton High School, Shelton WA
Mileage: 87

Left August 27, 7:00 AM, Shelton High School, Shelton WA
Arrived August 28, 3:00 PM, Tacoma Community College, Tacoma WA
Mileage: 75

On-bike average speed of 13.7 mph

Elevation gain: ~9000 ft

Weather: Both days, temps from low 60s to mid 80s, clear and sunny.

Ride website:

This ride was to settle the question: have I just been slacking this year,
stoking the tandem, relying on my husband's short-twitch muscles to make it
up every slope? Would I survive, or would I have my ass handed to me on a
plate? To find out the answer, read on.or skip to the last paragraph.


I woke up the morning of the ride with a start - although I had set the
alarm for a suitably early hour the night before, I had failed to turn it
on. It was already 5:43, oh no!

I popped out of bed, got dressed, and griddled myself up some eggs and some
oat bran and whole wheat pancakes (batter made the night before). Everything
was all packed up, so I jumped into the car and drove off. Despite my
morning efficiency, I still got to the start line far too late to be able to
catch the 7:35 Point Defiance Ferry that held the majority of the ride's
participants. So, I hung out for about 45 minutes, while about a dozen or so
riders accumulated at the terminal.

Vashon Island, on the other side, was the only familiar territory of the
ride for me. As I reached the north end of the Island, I checked my watch,
and figured if I pushed it, I might be able to catch the ferry. I hit the
accelerator, and could feel the muscles in my thighs straining a bit. I
started seeing cars coming the other way, a sign that the boat had unloaded.
Finally, I made it to the top of the final hill, and started the screaming
descent to the terminal..only to see the boat pulling away from the dock
when I reached the bottom.

So, I sat around for another 45 minutes or so, eating trail mix and chatting
with the other cyclists. I felt really stupid for having put so much energy
so early into the ride, trying to catch the ferry, knowing how hilly the
ride was reputed to be.

Finally, the ferry arrived, we made the crossing, and we were on the Kitsap
Peninsula. A few miles down the road and I was at the first rest stop in
Manchester. I had some food, but after so much resting and so few miles, it
didn't quite seem worth it. I rode out of the rest stop for a bit, and
realized that after being on the road for 4.5 hours, I'd only gone 30
miles - I didn't even have a third of the ride under my tires.

The ride from Manchester to Port Orchard was really quite beautiful - you
could see Bremerton across the strait, and the Olympic mountains. While
approaching Port Orchard, I had my only unpleasant interaction with a
motorist on the ride - somebody yelled some obscene words at me from a black
pick-up truck. Taking my own advice (see: I smiled and waved in response.
As it turned out, the traffic was quite congested on the way to town, and I
got the opportunity to pass him on the shoulder, at which point I smiled and
waved again. He gunned the engine in response to pass me. I got a good look
at him - overweight, bad complexion, stone face. The poor schmuck. I caught
up and passed him yet again a minute or two later, and this time my grin was
even wider. His expression was even stonier. That was it, I didn't see him

Port Orchard would have been a fine place for lunch, and it was definitely
lunch time, but I felt I had no time for dawdling, and I was just at the
food stop in Manchester. So I pushed on. A bit out of Port Orchard there was
the worst hill on this ride, a relatively long thing that just got steeper
and steeper towards the end. Increasing the pressure was the fact that
rumbling down the road was a wide load trailer carrying a bulldozer, so I
was locked on the shoulder. About 10 feet from the summit, the heavy
equipment was right next to me, the hill was as steep as I could stand it -
I was going anaerobic -- and the shoulder turned to gravel. That was it. I
dismounted and walked the bike the final few feet to the stop sign at the

The route was then a series of rollers. Up and down, up and down, without
any respite. I'd just make it to the top of a hill, but there was no
slacking, because I'd have to crank the pedals full-blast on the downhill so
I wouldn't die coming up the next one.

Finally it leveled out a bit, as we came down to North Bay. I had a banana
en velo, knowing that the next rest stop was coming up soon, and wanting to
make it before it officially closed at 1:30. I made it with 15 minutes to
spare. They had hot calzones. OMG. I downed one without hesitation, then I
got up and ate another. After that, and some watermelon, and some Clif
Blocks, I began to feel a bit human again. The map indicated few services on
the road ahead, so I replenished my water and sports drink bottles.

We were soon back to more rollers. The day was heating up, and I was
thankful for each section of shade. At the top of one of the hills, there
was a right turn indicated at a corner, at a volunteer fire station at about
mile 70. I decided to cut through the lot and maybe take a break at the
station, when a rider there yelled, "do you need some water?" I had been
conserving on my water, concerned that I would run out in the middle of
nowhere, so I was grateful for the running hose. I drank quite a bit, then
ran the hose over my head for a long time. Then I dumped the remainder of
the water in my bottle down my bodice, and refilled the bottle again. This
really lowered my core temperature and I felt refreshed.

After this little break, it was off to Mason Lake and more rollers. Base on, for the next 7 miles, the road climbed to that height
and descended 100 feet six times. Two of those short hills in this section
of the ride were incredibly steep. I was lucky that the car traffic was so
light, and I could zig-zag my way up to the tops.

For this whole section, from the fire station to Shelton, I saw hardly
anyone. A car would go by every so once in while. I saw two people on foot
near the lake. I saw no other riders. After coming around Mason Lake, I took
a drink in the openness of Johns Prairie Road. I dropped the bottle trying
to get it back into the cage. So I stopped the bike to pick it up, and
figured I'd just stand there for a bit and drink more. It was utterly
desolate. Just me, the clear-cut, and the road.

And, then, all of a sudden, I was at the High School. I was totally
unprepared for it, as my bike computer was off, and I thought I'd have a few
more miles to go.

Then it was getting luggage, putting up the tent, and taking a shower (Hot!
Yay!). I blew off the food at the school and walked to a diner a half a mile
away. After dinner, I passed by an ice cream shop. I got what was supposedly
a scoop of vanilla and one of chocolate, but it turned out to be the hugest
scoops I had ever seen. I probably ate a pint of ice cream, right there.
That filled in any remaining holes in my stomach, and I toddled back to the
school grounds. Some live music was playing for entertainment for the
cyclists on the ride, but I was too pooped for that. I brushed my teeth, and
by 8:30, feel asleep.

It was a fitful night's sleep on my thin foam pad. Eventually I could hear
voices outside the tent, and checked the watch: 5:45, and time to get up.
After packing it up, an all-you-can-eat breakfast at the school and some
conversation, it was back on the bike at 7:00 AM.

For this stretch of the morning, after leaving Shelton, we were on and off
of the 101. It wasn't as bad as I had feared. I expected lots of debris and
broken glass. Instead, the wide shoulder was relatively clean. I missed one
Dan Henry on the 101, and almost went speeding off the wrong way, but was
able to take the next exit and rejoin the route.

The route took us past a roadhouse diner, and I toyed with having a second
breakfast there, but our morning rest stop was coming up, and I decided to
keep on pedaling. It was up yet another hill and then we were at Yauger
Park. I had three hard boiled eggs and two cups of yogurt with blueberries,
and felt satisfied.

It was a beautiful little run around Capitol Lake in Olympia, but once we
got to downtown Olympia I kept on being afraid that I had lost the route.
One cyclist told me I was going the right way, until we chatted long enough
to figure out he was on a different ride! It didn't matter, I found a Dan
Henry again, and it was OK. Then I missed another Dan Henry. This one was
painted for a right hand turn in the right-est hand lane at an intersection
where there were five lanes. I was two lanes over in the go-straight lane,
and couldn't see the mark. Further, the street to turn right on wasn't on
the cue sheet. Dang! I only found the turn by retracing my steps and then
following some other cyclists who had done the ride before.

The rollers were not as relentless as they were the day before. Yes, there'd
be hills, but it wasn't like they were without a break. I chatted a bit with
Leo Stone, who I know from the local bike boards, on a section of
rail-trail. I passed him earlier when he had a flat; he passed me with a
hello when I had a roadside break of water and Clif blocks; I had passed him
when apparently he took advantage of a road-side Honey Bucket; and now we
had the chance to share a few miles and smart remarks. When we turned off
the trail, he took off. By the time I reached the final rest stop of the
ride, I caught up with him again.

At this point, there wasn't much left to the ride, really. I had two spicy
chickpea wraps, some fruit, chocolate, and topped up the bottles. I said
hello to a couple of other folks I know from the bike boards.

Then it was back on the bike. I knew that eventually we'd have to climb out
of the Nisqually Valley. I was working it up a big hill, when I realized
that the pretty river I crossed previously must have been the Nisqually. And
then the route took us on I-5. I've been on I-90 before, but never on an
urban freeway. Wow, four lanes of heavy traffic on the left! I realized that
I was causing a traffic jam, as people slowed to gawk at me. Then it was off
the freeway, around a big cloverleaf, and into Dupont. There was a Starbucks
on the other side of the road; I pulled a U turn at the light, and parked
the bike. I sat in the air-conditioned splendor, sipping an iced latte and
read a few sections of a discarded Sunday New York Times.

Then the route was alongside more of Ft. Lewis. It seemed like we had ridden
through or around Ft. Lewis since leaving Olympia. I did not have a proper
appreciation before of just how much land the military has consumed in that
area. While some of the Ft. Lewis sections were through beautiful, empty
forested land, this little section was asphalt, pre-fab buildings, gravel
shoulders, dead plants, and chip-seal. We climbed up to the top of a hill,
and then it was down, down, down into Stellacoom. It was really pretty along
the waterfront in Stellacoom, but I knew that all that elevation lost would
have to be regained.

And it was. We crossed Chambers Creek, and then it was a 250 shady climb
from sea level up to the top of the plateau at University Place. We then
zipped along the cliff's edge in University Place, then through a bit of
urban streets (and more uphill) until we were finally back where we started.

As soon as I made it in, I called Dan Crawford. We had previously arranged
that I'd give him a ride home. I was a little nervous about where he might
be, as when I left Shelton High School in the morning, his tent was still
up, and I didn't see him at breakfast. He said he was still coming up from
the Nisqually Valley, and I knew he had a long ways to go still. He then
released me from the obligation of having to wait. I hope he found some way
back! At that point then, I got my finish-line popsicle and my bags, loaded
up the car, and drove home.

So, did I survive, or did I have my ass handed to me on a plate? Well,
clearly I survived. But it was also the hardest ride I did this year. I
could feel it coming down the stairs, the first time that's happened in a
long time. A good hard ride like this always makes me feel stronger. Too bad
it happened at the end of my event season, and all I'm going to do is turn
to winter fat.

Warm Regards,

Claire Petersky
See the books I've set free at:

R Brickston

Aug 28, 2006, 9:43:27 PM8/28/06

Great writing and great report. Are you allowed to take a GPS on these


Aug 29, 2006, 12:59:47 AM8/29/06

Claire Petersky wrote:
> Summary:

<snipped nice ride report>

A good hard ride like this always makes me feel stronger. Too bad
> it happened at the end of my event season, and all I'm going to do is turn
> to winter fat.

Claire, don't give up on winter. Take up skiing.


Claire Petersky

Aug 29, 2006, 9:46:58 AM8/29/06

"Janet" <ja...@nospam.nojunk> wrote in message


I ride all year 'round -- I'm just not doing big rides when we get into the
Rainy Season. But yeah, if we get some snow, I'll be doing x-c skiing. Last
winter I did snowshoeing for the first time, and that was fun too.

Claire Petersky

Aug 29, 2006, 9:47:00 AM8/29/06

"Janet" <ja...@nospam.nojunk> wrote in message


I ride all year 'round -- I'm just not doing big rides when we get into the
Rainy Season. But yeah, if we get some snow, I'll be doing x-c skiing. Last
winter I did snowshoeing for the first time, and that was fun too.



Aug 29, 2006, 4:56:18 PM8/29/06

R Brickston wrote:

> Great writing and great report.

Thank you.

> Are you allowed to take a GPS on these
> things?

I can't see why not. I've never heard of a ride limiting people taking

(Also, sorry for yesterday's double post. I'm not sure why that

Thomas Wentworth

Aug 29, 2006, 8:32:03 PM8/29/06
Claire,, I thought you lived up near Seattle, WA..

Isn't is cold and snowy near there in the winter? I live in New England and
many skiers around here head to Whisler for vacation. Spelling?

Can you ride all year in your area? Does it get cold in the winter? I have
done the Seattle to San Francisco ride twice. But, it was a few years ago.

The coast of Washington and Oregon is beautiful. Another ride I did out
there was Portland, OR to Denver. That was tough.


"Claire Petersky" <> wrote in message

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