2017 – Summary

Obviously severe blog burn-out after my summer trip, but I figured I’d roll up 2017 into one post.

Top 3 Rides of 2017

  1. Wild Rose Canyon, Death Valley
  2. Pike’s Peak, Colorado
  3. Mauna Loa, Hawaii (no blog post on this one but it was ridiculous due to the rain and wind!)

Summer Motorcycle-Bicycle Trip

Spring Death Valley Try-Out Trip

Day 29: Mount Shasta & Home!

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!

 

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Heading up
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Valley side was hazy, so no great views

 

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Family of rocks crossing the road
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Opening up about 3/4 to the top
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Nice!

 

 

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Shadow selfie, there was nobody around
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Was tempted to ride up the trail a bit, but time was pressing

 

Day 26: Mount Spokane, WA

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.

Going up there some where, I assume
Trees
Trees
Pop tart break, turn off to the final couple of miles
At the top!
Nobody at the top.. so shadow selfie
Lookin’ down
At the very very top is a stone building that looks very solid!
View from Vista House – name checks out!
Another shot from Vista House
I am pretty sure I have seen more ski lifts this trip than my entire life combined
Heading down, view from one of the switchbacks
Coming back through the valley with the sun up, wheat forever

Day 23: Big Cottonwood Canyon & Motorcycle Excitement

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.

Resting at one of the many switchbacks up Guardsman
Rocketing down the canyon, lots of exciting cliff formations
Getting closer to the bottom
On the way up, the very gradual climb up the canyone
Scenic valley views
The turn off to the OTHER side of Guardsman.. where there’s another 3 miles of 10-15%
View halfway up the other side of Guardsman

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.

Hopefully it will stay inflated over night.

Day 21: Guardsman Pass & Empire Pass, Park City CO

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.

Top of Empire before descending into Midway – all new pavement!
Scenery was a nice change of pace from the desert
Top of Guardsman pass

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!

Day 19: Colorado National Monument

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.)

Sun rising
Gettin’ closer
Turn off to the Monument loop
One of the dozen switchbacks that levers you up the mountain
Finally, good lighting!
Along the top, you roll around the edge of the plateau before descending again
Where there’s a sign, there’s a photo

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.

Day 16: Pike’s Peak, CO

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.

I’m dumb

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.

Looking out from the toll booth

I can only assume the combination of the much steeper grades and it being significantly warmer (and no wind) were making things more difficult.

I saw no big foot or critters, I think they all know 7:30 means “RUN”
About mid-way is a lake and the grades ease up a bit.. before the final brutal ascent
Switchback down
Switchback up
After the “plateau” area.. it’s just relentless 10-15% grades

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.

Pop tart break
10% forever
Another view from 13K+

After what felt like forever, I made it to the summit and received many high-fives and fist bumps!

The cog rail is probably easier than bicycling
Another view peeking over the top
Nerd

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.