Today was gonna be a long one – I planned to ride up Mount Shasta (#60 in the US, ~4000 ascent) early, and then motorcycle the 300+ miles home in one shot. “Dangerous heat” advisory starting Monday, and the idea of slogging down California during the week day commute period made doing a double seem more appealing.
Rolled out at first light and headed up, got a mile out and realized I forgot my cell phone – oops. Coasted back to the hotel and started again.
The climb up Mount Shasta was very pleasant and relaxing – no traffic, a pretty consistent 5 to 6% grade. The lower half doesn’t have much scenery, just trees and quiet.
3/4 up things open up a bit and you can see a bit more, and the final 3 miles are entirely closed to traffic (I don’t know if I count as traffic, I didn’t ask) – at the top, the landscape is scoured pretty clean from heavy avalanche/snow I assume.
The closed section was a bit dirty and bumpy, but nothing too bad, and after that the descent is pretty much no brakes to get back to the valley floor.
This was a great final climb for my trip, peaceful and nothing too extreme. Plus it put me in a good frame of mind to tackle 300 miles of mind numbing interstate, which I did in a one stopper because it was already 97 degrees at 10 AM in Redding. So that’s all I’ll say about that part of the trip.
I’ll put together a trip summary post in a day or two, but I’d say it was successful! Epic and awesome and great bicycling!
Some days ya eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.
Plan was to motorcycle 400 miles to the foot of Mount Hood, bicycle up, then motorcycle 30 minutes to a cheap(er) motel than those in the area.
First 2 hours were not bad, boring but no traffic and making good time.. until you turn west to head toward Portland.
Relentless, awful wind.. 100s.. if not 1000s of wind mills, so apparently it is awful all the time. My left arm went numb from counter steering to the left for 1.5 hours of this, and then you drop down into the Columbia river gorge.. and this is even worse, by a lot.
Relentless, random buffeting, and heavy tractor trailer traffic. Exhausting and awful – I would never do this route again on a motorcycle.
Thankfully after another hour of this abuse, the Garmin beeped and said hang a left! yay!
Except it took me down some no where backroad.. and then told me to turn into a NF-xxx road. NF means “National Forest” which means.. no pavement.
Optimistically I went for it.. and it was okay for a couple miles.. then it hooked a sharp left straight up the mountain, up STEEP loose switchbacks. Running near slicks, I was roosting up dirt just to get up and around the turns.. I really wanted to turn around after 2 or 3 of them.. but it was so steep and loose I had to keep going for another half a mile before I could turn around. Going down as about as much fun, although at least I remembered to turn off my ABS before I hit the dirt at the start.
So after arguing with Garmin (GRAGE!) I got back on track, for another hour of the horrible gorge, which, if anything, got even worse while I was lost in the hills.
Finally, I was back on the correct road and another hour took me to the start of the climb.
The climb basically goes up a highway, an EXTREMELY busy highway, with tons of tractor trailer and logging trucks. As far as I can tell, Oregon does not believe in a 3 foot rule.. I am pretty sure they think it is 3 inches.
And the wind was here too, relentless buffeting – a few times I thought I had a flat tire. Going up was bad, going down was really awful.
Luckily it was “only” a 2 hour climb and I was happy to get it done. I’d say this was the least fun climb (even ignoring the 450 miles of motorcycle tri
bulations) of the trip. Combined together, I am beat!
Tomorrow off to Mount Shasta, the final climb of my trip!
Running out of mountains to climb! Today I headed up Mt Spokane, which is probably just out of the top 100, but still pretty notable for the area, with a 4000+ foot ascent. [Strava activity here]
Since I knew this was pretty easy, I decided to just ride to the 15 miles to the start of the climb instead of starting at the base. Especially with all the delicious oxygen at 2000 feet above sea level.
The first 15 miles were through the rolling hills off Spokane wheat country, one thing that I found interesting is there are housing developments scattered within the fields – either these are the richest farmers I’ve ever seen, or these are separate houses that just happen to be within the fields – interesting locale to live in.
Once the sun came up, I turned onto the highway that leads into Mt Spokane park, and eventually the climb starts. I say “eventually” because it is pretty gradual for the first 10 miles or so.. and back in the tree tunnels.
When you turn off into the actual park, the grade kicks up to a more reasonable 6 to 8% and it feels like a real climb. Unfortunately the last few miles turn into mega-huge switchbacks and it eases off again, which is the reverse of most climbs – usually they’re steeper at the end.
You really only get vistas starting in the last 2 miles, and unfortunately things were pretty hazy – either due to the fires or just high clouds.
Due to the gradual grades, the descent was pretty non-technical and I just cruised back down for some pancakes!
2 more climbs to go – tomorrow I’m going to do the motorcycle-bicycle double on Mt. Hood, since it is also a gradual climb.
Late posting today due to aforementioned motorcycle excitement.
But to start with the bicycling – Big Cottonwood is another one of the top 50 climbs in the US, combined with Guardsman from Park City, it’s a pretty stiff climb – I had dreams of adding Little Cottonwood, but after the descent took what felt like forever, and pretty gusty tail (ie, headwind the way up) – I declined.
Once more up Guardsman, combining parts of 2 of the climbs I did last time, and then the long descent down the canyon.. it goes on and on!
Finally, after reaching the bottom, the long drag back up – this is a pretty heavily trafficed route, and seems very popular with cyclists too.
So after roughly 4+ hours, I returned back to the hotel and got breakfast. On my way back, I decided to check on the motorcycle annnnd… flat rear tire. Totally flat.
Now normally that’s just annoying. Given I was in a nice, flat, cool enclosed garage.. spending 2 hours to change a tube is not a huge deal.
But in this case, I couldn’t find what made it flat! If there was a nail or screw or something, fine. But.. no.. nothing. I even doused the whole thing with soapy water, and the only bubbles were coming up around the valve stem.
I don’t like mysterious mechanical things several thousand miles from home, so I phoned around and found a shop about 30 minutes away (on a Monday no less, which is a miracle in itself since most motorcycle shops are closed Mondays.)
So, I pumped the tire back up and determined it was losing about 3 PSI per 30 minutes, enough time to get over there.
They took it apart and….. they were stumped too!
Nothing in the tire, the puncture is on the tread side (not the rim strip.) and nothing.
The only odd thing is the tube does feel a bit squishy where the puncture was. Maybe manufacturing defect? Or something speared the tire and then left without leaving a trace?
Oh well. They put in my spare tube, put it back together, and I headed back.
Guardsman Pass from Midway is in the top 20, and Empire is in the top 50 or so, but I’ve a hard time taking any climb seriously after doing Pike’s Peak! Combined it was around 6000 feet of ascent. [Strava activity here]
Both of these have sustained sections of 10% or greater – the granny gear finally got serious usage (excepting that top part of Pike’s, which was more oxygen related than grade related.) The lower part of Guardsman is relentless 10-15% for the first several miles, I saw 22% on one switchback. The average grade was deceptive as there were a few VERY short downhill sections.
I didn’t take many photographs, the mosquitos were out again and I have barely recovered from the last round of Colorado mosquitos – at least Colorado mosquitos didn’t seem to have whatever flesh eating bacteria lives in Wyoming mosquitos, they were more normal level of annoying instead of terrifying red welts the size of quarters.
I’ll be doing parts of this route again on Monday – Empire and the top 2 miles of Guardsman, before descending Big Cottonwood and then climbing back up.
The question is if I will also attempt Little Cottonwood – this is another 4K in-n-out climb at the bottom of Big Cottonwood. That’ll make for a 10.5K day – I’ve purposefully been keeping the bike legs relatively short to ensure enough recovery time between bicycling & motorcycling – but I have no climb (or even destination yet) planned after Monday, so I might just go empty the tank if I’m feeling good.
Tomorrow is a maintenance day (bike, moto, laundry, etc) so I’ll have time to figure out what I’m doing next!
This wasn’t on the big climb list, but on the “scenic optional route” list I had put together if the timing/weather/geography worked out.
It was definitely worth it – really epic scenery and a great route that winds up and over the terrain.
This time the sun was finally in my favor instead of riding directly into the sunrise.
The ride itself was very enjoyable, and I saw more cyclists than cars (at least early morning on a week day.)
After the quasi-summit, the descent is fast and technical – I did not take photos since I felt myself spending too much time staring at the scenery and not paying attention to the switchbacks, so I settled on safely getting back to the valley.
Tomorrow is a long motorcycle day to Park City, UT. Starting in Park City means I’ll be doing some double climbs (front and backsides) but I decided I’d rather be cooler in Park City than roasting in the valleys.
Grand Mesa takes you up to one of the largest mesa’s in the US, to nearly 11,000 feet of elevation. [Strava Activity Here]
I wanted to make sure I got back before check-out so I could shower before heading to Grand Junction, so I left before dawn and rolled 2 miles down hill to the official start of the climb.
After the two 14ers (Pike’s & Evans) I was happy that I could just ride my own pace and not worry about going easy for the first half.
The climb is pretty consistent – never too steep and not too boring, and the scenery changes from desert, to alpine, to tundra meadows pretty quickly. The early lighting didn’t lend itself to great pictures, but the views with the desert plateaus and mountains were pretty cool.
The worst part was the continued road construction – miles and miles of fresh chip seal turned this into a gravel ride. Luckily the descent is not particularly technical, so I didn’t worry much about it.
3/4 down I got caught up in one way traffic control again, waiting for an escort vehicle. When they finally arrived, they asked if I’d like my bike carried down instead of riding and I was totally fine with that – not due to the risk, but due to all the dirt I’d have to eat following a bunch of cars on gravel!
Made it back to the hotel with plenty of time to shower and pack up, and headed to Grand Junction.. and promptly got stuck in another one-way traffic control.. for 30+ minutes, in 95 degree heat. This was not pleasant, I felt like my motorcycle gear was filling up with sweat from the bottom up.
Once finally released, I made my way to Grand Junction and stopped at a cafe for a gallon of iced coffee to recover from that huge, 1 hour motorcycle ride!
Tomorrow is a non-climbing day, I’ll be getting up early again to do the Colorado National Monument loop (44 miles, 3400 ascent.)
Wow, this was hard.. really really hard, steep and relentless, possibly the most difficult (subjectively) climb I’ve ever done. [Strava Activity Here]
I got out early and headed up the highway, and it pretty much goes straight to 6-8% grade right after leaving town. Zero shoulder and cars blowing by at freeway speeds, not fun.
After a bit of this you make a left and head up on the Pike’s peak road, and things get even more serious with 10% grade that just goes straight up. Just getting to the top of this section took about an hour.
I had left early figuring to beat the tourist traffic.. except in typical “zero research fashion” it turns out the road is only open at 7:30.. and they are quite serious about it, it’s a whole production: van loads of rangers and volunteers blanketing the mountain, 2 mobile EMT trucks(!), massive gates and toll structure.
So I had to sit around for an hour until the road opened, it was not particularly cold or windy, so it was ok.
From about 8K to about 10K, things were ok, the typical alpine tree tunnels.. at 10K I started feeling not so great, which is odd since for both Trail Ridge and Mt Evans I didn’t really feel poorly until 12K.
I can only assume the combination of the much steeper grades and it being significantly warmer (and no wind) were making things more difficult.
From 13K on up.. it was a death march.. just put it in the granny gear (helllo!) and tried to keep the pedals turning. The quantity of pictures declined significantly from here on out.
After what felt like forever, I made it to the summit and received many high-fives and fist bumps!
Whew, well, after Pike’s, nothing is quite as difficult on the list (I hope!)
My current plan was to head to Ouray, CO and ride Red Mountain Pass, but it looks like they are gonna be blasted out by thunderstorms over the next few days.
I had thought some of the valley rides I had on the list were not going to happen due to heat, but maybe they’re back on if the mountains are too washed out!
We’ll see what tomorrow brings – either way, it is time to start heading west, so probably a 400+ mile motorcycle day.
After working my way up in altitude (10K a couple times, 12K on Trail Ridge Rd) – time for one of the 14ers, Mt Evans, the highest paved road in the US at around 14,200 feet.
This is also a pretty tough climb, even without the altitude – it is long (27 miles) and a solid 6700 feet of ascent, at my “easy” pace of roughly 2000 feet per hour, that’s 3.5 hours of continuous climbing. Definitely the most difficult climb of this trip.
The weather report the night before was a bit dodgy – calling for 40% chance of rain and up to a quarter inch of precipitation. I had already decided I was going for it and if it got ugly, turn around. Mountain weather is very unpredictable.
I “slept in” until 5, checked the forecast, and things had improved – now calling for mostly clear conditions until the afternoon. The downside of the clearing conditions was the summit was forecast to be 35 degrees.
Headed out – the first half of the climb is on a highway, big shoulders and sweeping turns (and more “MOTORCYLCES USE EXTREME CAUTION” signs.. since I wasn’t on my motorcycle, I guess I didn’t need to use caution.)
After turning right at Echo Lake, you take a much narrower and bumpier road for another 14 miles that gets narrower and bumpier as you go along – there tend to be large expansion cracks every 30 or 40 feet.. ker-thunk ker-thunk ker-thunk the whole way up. I saw a single lone deer along this stretch, and lots of the arctic tundra marmots, that sort of look like fat prairie dogs with bushy tails.
Around 13K, the weather started getting a bit more ominous, but never actually rained.. but those wet clouds are colllllld.
The last 1000 feet of ascent was.. pretty rough. Having roughly 40% less oxygen is definitely something you notice, but luckily I didn’t seem to have any other altitude sickness issues, not even the vague nausea I had felt a few times before. But you definitely feel.. odd. Even just grabbing a water bottle would leave me breathing extra hard.
Last set of stacked switchbacks that take you to the summit
By now the wind and clouds had picked up, so I knew the descent was going to be chilly. I didn’t bring any legitimate winter thermal clothes – just some toe covers, wind jacket and my buff (neck/face gaitor) to keep my face from getting frozen.
I settled for riding until I couldn’t feel my fingers, then I would stop for a bit and let them thaw out. That was okay since the expansion gaps were even more punishing on the way down – KERTHUNK KERTHUNK KERTHUNK!
The wind had also picked up a bit, and I sure wasn’t going to ride right on the edge of the road. Once down to the highway, things were easier, it’s just a long long way down!
This was the first climb on this trip I’d say was challenging for climb difficulty reasons vs. cows or wind or whatever. The cold also seemed to really suck the life outta me.
Pike’s Peak is even more difficult – it is another 1300 feet of ascent, and 4 miles shorter (so steeper average grade.) That’s definitely the “queen stage” of this trip, so I’m going to take the weekend off and plan to ride it on Monday.