Headed down to Highway 20 yesterday to ride a bit of the more-than-stunning North Cascades Highway as research (and a helluva lot of fun) for my upcoming Classic Road Rides book. Super duper incredible is all I can say. I rode from Newhalem to Mazama--60 miles with 6,319 feet of elevation gain and a profile that looks like this:
Basically, one long steady hill from mile 18 to mile 42. Not ultra steep or anything, just fairly relentless with two steep sections--the one leading to Rainy Pass at mile 38 and the one right after which climbs back up to Washington Pass four miles later. From there, it's a crazy fun descent for 18 miles into Mazama.
Truthfully, I'd always been afeared of that descent because it looked daunting. Like no matter what you did--even if you dragged both feet, threw out an anchor, had two flat tires, etc.--you wouldn't be able to keep from going 65 mph. Given my still-healing collarbone I liked not the prospects of that. But I can honestly say it wasn't bad at all--no worse than the Mount Baker Highway down from Artist Point or the road down from Sunrise. My top speed was only 37 mph, fairly pedestrian, but quite comfortable for me right now. (It may have helped that I had a slight headwind on the way down; this likely helped keep down my speed.)
Incredible ride and my oh my, but I do love the Methow Valley. I, and my Specialized Tarmac Pro, shall be back.
A shouts-outs to my sister Kath (and trusty dog Roy), who drove the Team Unattacked team car offering support, sunscreen, sandwiches and the like. (Kath drove, not the dog.)