Saturday, May 25, 2013

Preventative Maintenance

My poor old Serota has taken quite a beating lately. Amber and I rode over 1000 miles in the past 4 weeks and about 100 miles of that was off-road, on 25mm tires. I have a Ti frame which will probably outlast the Apocalypse, but my carbon forks are about 15 years old. I don't want them to fail on me while I'm descending a rough road at 40mph so I decided to replace them before they fail.

I took the bike into Don's Bike Store in Redlands and Mike, their head mechanic, looked at it shaking his head. My bike is very old school with a threaded steerer tube and all the old-school hardware that goes with that. "I can get you a threaded steel fork for $60", he said. Nope, said I, it must be carbon.

So Mike ordered an unthreaded carbon fork for $300 and replaced the stem and other assorted bits of hardware. To make his life more difficult I have an ancient set of aerobars with stripped allen bolts that cannot be removed from the handlebars so he had to cut the old stem off. This turned into quiet a project for him.

In the end I now have new forks and a new stem that actually look like they come from this century. I can also turn the handlebars far enough to get my bike into one of those accursed Amtrak bike boxes - not that I ever intend to again.

Total cost was $434. Very reasonable when I consider how much hardware and time was required to do the job.

While I was there I noticed Don's sells a Giant foldable bike for about $600. I plan on giving it a test ride when I get a chance. I've been thinking about a folding bike for touring for a while. I wonder if I can get longer crank arms on it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Eugene, OR

Friday 17th May 2013

This was one of the highlight days of the vacation. We started in Eugene and headed south into farm country with rolling hills. We got a late start because we didn't get to the motel until 10pm and still had to shower, do laundry, and eat. The route was a loop with an out and back at the south end. We shortened the out and back to ensure we got back to the station in time to get the bikes into those damnable boxes.

Possibly the most pleasant road of the entire vacation was Edenvale. Look at this video.

We ate at a Subway and then headed back towards Eugene along even more quiet roads and then into the system of parks that border the Willamette River. These parks are filled with bike paths that stretch the entire length of the river as it passes through Eugene. We had some spare time so we rode the entire length of the east side of the river, crossed over to the west side and rode back to the Amtrak station. Fantastic.

Park in Eugene OR.
Total distance ridden was 64 miles.

Kelso to Eugene

Thursday 16th May 2013

After the fiasco on Conyer Creek Road we decided to take the train to Eugene because we had lost a full day of cycling. While we waited for the Cascades trail to leave at 4pm we decided to try our luck heading from Kelso to Kalama along the old Pacific Highway and back. This turned out to be a good call as most traffic in that direction flows along I5.

View of Columbia River from Old Pacific Hwy south of Kelso
It started to rain as we approached Kalama so we dropped in for coffee and to wait the rain out. It cleared in 40 minutes or so and we continued south until the road ended and we turned around. On the way back north through Kalama we ate at the restaurant next to the coffee house. How convenient.

Jumped on the train to Eugene and rode another 5 miles to the Super 8.

Rode 40 miles today - very pleasant, not too much rain.

Kelso to Kelso

Wednesday 15th May 2013

We did not plan on riding back to Kelso today but thanks to Google we ended up on Conyer Creek Road which isn't a road at all. It starts paved, then becomes unpaved, then becomes grass covered single track and then, after four miles, is just disappears. We had to turn around and go back to Clatskane where we stopped for coffee and food.

Conyers Creek 'Road' is a haven for ticks.

Amber checked herself for ticks and found one embedded in her stomach. We were 20 miles from the nearest emergency room. Thank God for Jai, who drove us back to Kelso so we could get it taken care of. A total stranger - what a nice guy. It took several hours to get the tick removed so we got a hotel room near the hospital and decided to catch the train to Eugene the next day instead of riding there.

Rode about 35 miles, one tick.

South Bend to Kelso

Tuesday 14th May 2013

The reason I wanted to stay in South Bend was to take the Willipa trail which stretches from South Bend to Chehalis. The trail starts off very promising but quickly degrades into an unpaved and unridable (on road bikes) surface. Perhaps the first and last six miles are paved - the other 40+ miles are not.

Fortunately the trail follows highway 6 which is very ridable. There are also several side roads that parallel highway 6 which are very pleasant such as LeBam road below.

Lebam road - quiet and scenic
We did have a couple of issues though. First we took a side road that, after some miles and a lot of climbing, suddenly became unpaved. It would have been nice if they had told us this before we had committed so much effort. I would have stayed on highway 6 if I had known.

Once we navigated this treacherous stretch of 'road' I got back on the Willipa trail for a couple of miles only to reach a partially demolished trestle bridge and a trail closed sign. Again, putting the sign earlier when we still had an option to avoid the closed area would have been much more intelligent but apparantly that's too much to ask.

I decided to walk over the trestle bridge despite it being closed. I had no problem with it but Amber was unhappy. We got to the other side without falling through and suddenly the trail was paved again. We were not impressed with the Willipa trail which is a shame because it was supposed to be one of the highlights of the vacation.

Kelso is a sucky city to ride in with almost no allowances for bicycles.

Rode 101 miles.

Grayland to South Bend

Monday 13th May 2013

We left Grayland with wet roads and the constant threat of more rain. On the way out of the Walsh Motel we came across A six inch long banana slug. The coin next to it is a penny. Gross.

Graylands's most famous resident.
The plan was to ride to South Bend and stay at the Russell House but apparently the house was now privately owned so we took another gamble and reserved a room at the Seacrest Motel in South Bend. The ride was only 30 miles but we had the option of continuing south past South Bend as far as we wanted and then doubling back. Unfortunately the skies opened when we were still five miles from South Bend so we opted to keep the ride as short as possible.

The Seacrest Motel is as different from the Walsh Motel as you can imagine (except they were the same price). The owner is a retired commercial construction worker who rebuilt the rooms one at a time. The craftsmanship and care he took is obvious. This motel is a winner. They don't have laundry facilities for the guests but we were allowed to use their commercial washer and driers. They even gave me laundry detergent for free.

After a few hours the rain died down and we were able to take a stroll along the ocean front and grab some coffee.

There are many interesting things to look at in South Bend
We rode 35 miles today and got rained on but it was a good day none the less.

Shelton to Grayland

Sunday May 12th 2013

From Shelton to Grayland we started on the 101 again but turned off onto some quieter roads to head towards Aberdeen. Unlike last time I made a concerted effort not to pass through Aberdeen which is very bike unfriendly.

These back roads were even more scenic than the 101 with some truely amazing views.

Somewhere east of Aberdeen WA
The weather turned bad in Cosmopolis and we had light to moderate rain for the last 20 miles of the trip so we were both soaked when we got to Grayland. Although I like this area of WA there are no motel chains here so it's always a gamble when you book a motel room.

We stayed at the Walsh Motel in Grayland. Big mistake for several reasons. First, this is a grotty motel. There are rooms near the road and more rooms a quarter mile down a driveway. Our room was down the driveway. The rooms are poorly constructed with amateurish workmanship. The only redeeming feature of the room was a fireplace with a bundle of firewood.

There was a washing machine - heavily corroded - but the dryer was broken. I had to ride back up to the main office in heavy rain to get laundry detergent and quarters for the washer. While I was there I rode next door to a poorly stocked and expensive grocery store to get some food for the night.

We showered and changed into dry clothes then dumped all our wet gear into the washing machine. While it was running we cooked up the groceries (bacon and eggs, they were out of bread!). Then we set up chairs in front of the heater vents and draped our laundry in front of them. We put our soaked shoes inside the fireplace and lit a fire. If that hadn't worked I would have microwaved them.

Drying shoes inside the fireplace
By careful monitoring we managed to get everything dried by the morning.

Sequim to Shelton

Saturday May 11th 2013

Rode from Sequim to Shelton WA. Generally quiet roads with lots of scenery. The climb out of Sequim was pretty brutal as was the climb out of Quilcene. Stopped for coffee in Quilcene which has deteriorated even further from when I was last there. The Quilcene Inn is out of business.

Riding along the 101 South of Quilcene.
The scenery along this stretch is pretty impressive and the 101 is still a nice road to cycle along. Logging trucks were noticably absent for some reason.

Rode 84 miles with some pretty big hills. Stayed at the Super8 here in Shelton.

Dungeness Point

Friday May 10th 2013

Today we rode from Sequim to Dungeness Point, hiked along the point, and back to Sequim.

Google cycling layer tried to take us through private property. I was able to use my Garmin to find the correct route to the spit.

Since we were last there the WA parks have built a nice little trail head staffed by volunteers. It now costs a few dollars to use the park but it was worth it to me to have somewhere to lock the bikes up where someone would be keeping an eye on them.

The weather was overcast and cold but still dry.

Eating lunch on Dungeness Spit

We carried a water bottle and some lunch, walked out in our cycling shoes for two hours and ate. The spit is 11 miles out and back and we walked 6.7 miles in total. We stayed at the same Econolodge in Sequim.

Total riding and walking was about 30 miles.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Victoria to Sequim

Thursday 9th May 2013

We rode the Galloping Goose trail from Victoria to Sooke and back.It's mainly hard packed dirt with some lightly gravelled sections. Lots of road crossings some of which are quiet dangerous. I remembered from last time that the trail ends at a campsite with no water and we came close to running out. This time I planned on shopping at a store but when we got there it had gone and had to backtracked to a Shell station to get food and water. They had a picnic table outside we could eat at. They had real English smarties which were a real treat for me.

On the way out we ran into some workers doing preventative maintenance on the trail. One of them offered us donuts. I was starving and snagged one. It was delicious. That was pretty cool.

Bridge over the Galloping Goose trail on Vancouver Island

We got to the ferry two hours early so we locked our bikes up outside (in case of bombs) and went into Victoria to buy some gelato and socks.

We got to Port Angeles around 5:30 and then through immigration. There is a bike path from Port Angeles to Sequim that is awesome although there are some very steep hills on it that are particularly tough with baggage on the bike. Most of it is flat, well paved, and has a tailwind. All of it has spectacular views of either the ocean or the mountains.

Bike path from Port Angeles to Sequim

Arrived in Sequim (pronounced SQUIM) around 7pm at Econolodge, did laundry, showered, and ordered Domino's.

Rode 74 miles, another border crossing, another ferry ride.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bellingham to Victoria

Wednesday 8th May 2013

Rode from Bellingham to Victoria today. Birch Bay was as lovely as usual. We snagged some coffee at one of the many coffee huts dotted around WA and OR.

Drinking coffee at the small coffee huts was always fun.

We ate pizza in Birch Bay and then went over the border at the Peace Arch. Weather was cool but dry.

Mud Bay and Boundary Bay bike paths are pretty but quite gravelly for narrow tires.

We didn't have time for gelato at the Twassen ferry terminal because it took 10 minutes to pay for the tickets :-( Several other cyclists were on the ferry too including a self-supporting, ragged teenager who kept joking he was going to steal our stuff. Kept a close eye on him.

Rode to Victoria on the Lochside trail. It's mainly paved with some easy unpaved sections. It's hard to follow though - each intersecton we had to stop and locate the next section of the trail.

Amber on the Lochside trail

Nice Super8 motel. This was originally a fairly high-end hotel that ended up as part of the Super8 chain. It's close to the bike path so there's only about a mile of downtown riding required to get there.

Rode about 88 miles today. One border crossing, one ferry ride.

cycling in Portland

Monday 6th May 2013

I still don't know if Portland is bicycle friendly or not. Some streets have nice bike lanes while others have killer tram tracks just where the cyclists need to ride. Then there's the crazy one way system that my Garmin has no clue about. The number of times I could see where I wanted to go but couldn't find a street to take me there.

For a city with so much heavy industry, Portland is quite bike friendly. But I think its claim to be Bike City USA is lame. Eugene, just a few miles to the south is much more bike friendly.

Ate at same Subway we did two years ago.

Forest park is really cool. It's about 15 miles end to end and generally very rideable even on skinny tires. Rode about 30 miles out and back.

Forest Park, Portland, OR

Took the train up to Bellingham. Racks in the baggage car are so much more civilized than those damnable boxes. Got to Bellingham about 9pm and rode a few miles to the Motel6 on Byron.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cycling vacation

Sunday May 5th 2013

I started my cycling vacation by catching the Amtrak Coast Starlight from Oxnard CA to Portland OR. I don't know why Amtrak insists on forcing us to use those detestable bike boxes on this train. Just install some bike racks in the baggage car like the Cascades route has. The bike boxes are wasteful and bloody annoying. I found my pedals don't use the pedal wrench I brought but take an 8mm hex key instead. Had to run over to an autoshop and bribe someone to take my pedals off for me. I swear I will never take Amtrak again if I have to use those damn boxes.

Picture from the train up to Portland. A premonition of weather to come.

Arrived in Portland on Monday. Had to find a bike shop to sell me an 8mm hex key so I could tighten my pedals. My Garmin map does not realize that Portland has a one way system. It also doesn't realize that some roads have tram tracks exactly where cyclists need to ride. It seemed to delight in sending us the wrong way along roads. Found a bike store. Ate a great meal at an Italian restaurent. Found out I had only packed one pair of cycling shorts. Went back to the bike store.

Slept at a really crappy Econolodge. They put us in a room next to the soda machine that was continuously beeping, perhaps to tell someone it was empty. Had to demand a different room. When we got up in the morning the machine was unplugged. I guess enough guests complainted.