Thursday, June 30, 2011


Hey y'all, please check out my story about the amazing Stevens Pass Scenic Byway in today's Seattle Times.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Hey, check out David Longdon's terrific Chelan Century Challenge post on Velocity, his Seattle Area Cycling Blog on the Seattle P-I website. Great job. Nice detail and pics.

Speaking of Seattle media, I'll have an outdoor-travelish story in Thursday's Seattle Times. It's about the Stevens Pass Highway from Monroe to Leavenworth. Check it out!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


That's David Longdon, who does the cool Seattle-area cycling blog for the Seattle P-I, nearing the top of McNeil Canyon, the featured spot of bother on the spectacular Chelan Century Challenge ride. He's a little less than a mile from the top, a stretch that's consistently 11-percent with a bit of 14-percent thrown in for fun. He, like many riders I saw yesterday, was rocking a SRAM Apex cassette and taking full advantage of its pie-plate sized 32-tooth gear. But of course, there's more to the Chelan Century Challenge than McNeil Canyon so enough about that for now.

The ride's slightly more than 100 miles are split up into three loops--a Manson loop on the north side of Lake Chelan, a McNeil Canyon loop that makes its way down to the Columbia River and then heads up toward the Waterville Plateau and finally, a Navarre Coulee loop which does an up-down to the Columbia, then an up-down which spits you out on the south shore of Lake Chelan about 10 miles west of town.

Longdon dancing on the pedals up McNeil Canyon.

With two epic bodies of water--Lake Chelan and the mighty-as-hell Columbia--as well as those wonderful Eastern Washington dry-side pine forests and craggy canyons, the route can't help but be incredibly scenic. Loop 1 was perhaps my favorite, yanking you up, up, and up on the north side of Lake Chelan before delivering you lakeside via a series of winding, no-traffic roads through orchards and vineyards. These were some fun descents. (I'd never been to this Manson side of the lake before and was just wowed by it; one suggestion though for the town fathers: change the town's name. And don't change it to something like 'Bundy' either.)   

After 30 miles and about 2,400 feet of ups, we headed for McNeil and loop 2, which was 40-miles long. I'd ridden most of the loop 1 on my own and figured I'd hook up with a group for the 20-mile jaunt to the base of the canyon. Sit in the back, get a free ride as it were, save my energy for the big beastie. Which pretty much didn't happen. For whatever reason, except for about 5 miles just before the McNeil climb when I hooked up with Longdon and three (or four?) members of Seattle's High Performance Cycling club, I rode the entire route by myself. Kinda surprised me. Wonder if it's because I have that disease that makes me leave as early as I can on rides like this. Most people probably prefer a later start but I want to get at it, and get 'er done, as it were. (And stop as little as possible along the way; thus my lack of photos on Loop 1 and 3.)  
Your Titanium Cowboy at mile 6 of the 7-mile McNeil Canyon climb. Photo: David Longdon.
At McNeil, we all went our separate paces and headed for the top. Mile markers have it at a 7-mile climb but it's really the last 5 miles that make one question one's sanity. Though to be honest, I love to climb so I dig this hill. There's something about finding that deliberate, methodical rhythm within me that I find ... I don't know what the word is, maybe it's what other people get from meditation or yoga or prayer or whatever, all I know is that it's a head/mind/soul (?) space that I love.

Weather-wise we were blessed--sunny, not too warm, and though sweat was dripping in my eyes while I climbed and I could feel my arms getting sunburned, because we've had such a dreary wet spring in Bellingham, it felt glorious. Aid stations and volunteers were great throughout the day too, and located in key spots--at top, bottom and middle of McNeil Canyon, for instance.  

I'd had much agita about the descent but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd remembered it from my previous ride. Then, I was by myself, just three months after collarbone surgery and the landscape, while beautiful seemed a tad tumbleweed 'n' rattlesnake scary. Today though (yesterday), I was one of hundreds and felt more comfortable letting the Tarmac Pro hit speeds of 40-plus mph. (Saw Steve Noble heading up while I was heading down; only time I saw him all day.)

Upon returning to Chelan we embarked on Loop 3, up Highway 97 Alt., then after blazing through a tunnel, find ourselves once again beside the Columbia River. Upon which, we immediately headed back up toward (or through?) Navarre Coulee. This was a gradual hill, which sorta climbed, sorta didn't, and with sorta a headwind and sorta not, I found myself at about the 81-mile mark wondering if I was going to bonk. But eventually, after some salty potatoes, a turkey-ham wrap thang from the aid station (as well as Gatorade fortified with Enduralyes Fizz--I kinda like 'em), I made it up the last hill and after another fast descent found myself on the shores of Lake Chelan with about 10 miles left.
Chelan Century Challenge elevation profile.
Found myself aided by a generous tailwind too, which, after some quick calculations in my head, made me realize if I brought it home in strong fashion I could average 15 mph for this thang. Not that that's particularly fast but given the hills (it'd end up gaining 7,800 feet), given that I rode just about all of it by myself (and thus had no draft to benefit from), given that I'm not a time-trial guy, given that I don't have a big endurance engine like a lot of the people I ride with, given that I'm on the cusp of 50, given that I'm from N.J., given that I can't hit lefties very well, given that ... I was psyched. So I hammered, as it were, my Garmin GPS reading 22-, 24-, 21-miles per hour and I brought her home in 6:38 (ride time) for 101 miles. (15.2 mph.)   

Here's a caveat (think that's the word I want): the course calls for a ridiculously steep 1.5-mile hill that climbs 600 feet at about the 98-mile mark, but I skipped it. It just seemed dumb and too painful and unnecessary at that point. My sense is that a lot of people skipped it. (Or perhaps I'm rationalizing it to myself.)

Anyway, an amazing event. I highly recommend it. As I was riding the first loop, I was thinking that the Chelan area might just be the most beautiful place to ride in the state. And that the Chelan Century Challenge might just be my favorite organized ride. This or RAMROD. Close call.  

Friday, June 24, 2011


All spur-of-the-moment like, the McQuaide family decided to hightail it out of B'ham and head over to Chelan for tomorrow's crazy-tuff Chelan Century Challenge: 103 miles with 8,600 feet of elevation gain including dread McNeil Canyon.

As I wrote about last year (go here), this beast climbs 2,200 feet in 5 miles, but it's probably the descent that gives me more spots of bother than the ascent. I've a bit of anxiety when my Tarmac insists on going 40-plus m.p.h. whether I want it to or not.
Obviously, with 8,600 feet of climbing, McNeil Canyon isn't the only hill. Looks like the Manson loop on the north side of Lake Chelan has some upward tilters, as does the final loop toward Navarre Coulee. Check out the course here.

Spur-of-the-moment means dealing with the challenge of all rooms in Chelan, Wenatchee and Leavenworth being sold out. But there's always Pateros. So instead of Highway 2 and over, we're approaching from the north--Highway 20 through Winthrop and Twisp,  and then 153 along the Methow River to our room at the Pateros Motor Lodge. Or something like that. Hope it's safe. (Actually, it's only 20 miles from Chelan; lots closer than L'worth or W'chee.)
Lookin' forward to it; I'm the only Titanium Cowboy heading over but several other B'ham folks will be there as well as a bunch of High Performance Cycling folks. I'll let you know how it goes! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Titanium Cowboy steeds atop Lookout Mountain overlooking Galby and Bellingham Bay.
Ran into Val Thompson at Haggens the other day and we got to talking about Lookout Mountain. Which got me a-thinkin' how I've not been there in years. So the following day, which be yesterday, the Titanium Cowboys and I loaded up the steeds and headed for the top of the 2,600-foot bump that from Bellingham looks like Galby's big brother.
Below are some pics and directions for how we got there. First, we headed up Galbraith from the Birch St. side (click here for info on the latest Galbraith Rd. access closure), and made our way via Cedar Dust, the Wall, etc. to the Tower Rd. We turned left, headed up and then left onto Rd. 4000 (the one that passes the Mullet) which we'd eventually follow all the way down to Lake Louise Rd. and Sudden Valley. Along the way we passed the Naughty Nelly-Keystone intersection; just keep following signs for Rd. 4000. See pics below.
Rd. 4000 by intersection of Naughty Nelly and Keystone. The small bump in the upper left is the top of Lookout Mtn, which is about 800 feet higher than Galbraith Mtn.
On the way down to Sudden Valley, we came across a porcupine (really, that's a porcupine running like heck for that black drainage pipe ), ...
... I got a flat tire, and after fixing that, we found ourselves at Lake Louise Rd. where we turned right. A half-mile farther ahead on the right, we found the gated access road ("Lookout Mountain Preserve" was painted on it) and we headed up. It's a pretty epic climb--2,100 feet in 5.3 miles--and given that there are several flat and even downhill stretches along the way, it boasts some crazy-steep pitches. For whatever reason I wasn't quite able to access my big boy climbing legs (perhaps I was still feeling the effects of the City Steeps ride just three days earlier), so it seemed harder than I remembered. The other cowboys climbed like angels though, dancing on the pedals the whole way.
Even though it wasn't a super clear day, at the summit we were treated to terrific island-, lake- and city views.
View from Lookout Mountain: that's Lake Samish in the foreground with Blanchard Mountain just beyond.

Beyond Titanium Cancellara is Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands, Lake Padden and a little bit of the Whoopsie Woodle side of Galbraith Mtn.
Heading back down requires 5 or 10 minutes of bushwacking. Just make for the stand of trees in the pic below, trending toward the left side. There're remnants of a trail (ish) so keep your eyes open.  

Eventually you reach a logging road. Go right and almost immediatlely, left (not straight). From here, there're myriad logging road intersections, but just stay on the main road that keeps descending; it's fairly obvious. After a 6-mile descent, you'll reach the rifle range (no doubt hearing it long before you see it), where you squeeze around a gate and follow the paved road down to Samish Way. You come out near the I-5 exit 246.
Turning right we headed up to Lake Padden and rode through the horse trails-slash-Indie Series expert loop (or whatever they call it) with an eye toward's next month's Padden Mountain Pedal. Click here for info on that race.)
Another great ride!

Thursday, June 09, 2011


... climbing on a road bike. And so does the fancy of older, more mature dudes like the Titanium Cowboys. Wednesday evening Titanium Cancellara and I linked together a simply nasty series of climbs which I've deemed the City Steeps Sufferfest.
In this photo included for aesthetic purposes only, Titanium Cancellara (Scott Young) huffs it up a climb not on our route. This one's on Camano Island.
In 41.6 miles, we climbed 4,760 feet and here's the kicker: we were never more than six miles (as the raven flies) from my house in the Columbia neighborhood. Here was our route: to Fairhaven where we headed east on Old Fairhaven Parkway to Steep 1, Col d' Steps-40th St.-Samish Crest. Already written about in the below post, this beastie climbs 600 feet in 1.5 miles.
Steep 2 was nearby Governor Street (climbs 200 feet in 0.4 miles) which sorta led to sorta steep Yew Street Rd. which sorta got us over to the Lake Whatcom side of the world. Steep 3, L'Alpe d'Academy Road was the first real spot-of-bother maker, rising relentlessly straight up from the shores of Lake Whatcom. It climbs 550 feet in 1.3 miles and my Garmin GPS doohickey was pinned on 14-percent for the longest while.  
The author, himself on a climb not included on the City Steeps Sufferfest. This one is Hurricane Ridge.
Academy Road is on the southern flank of Squalicum Mountain; the next two are in the middle and north side of the hill. Steep 4, Toad Lake-Squalicum Mountain Roads, was the longest and most like the Powerhouse Hill on Ride 542, the Mount Baker Hill Climb. In all, it climbs 885 feet in 2.8 miles with the toughest part (and where I sometimes do hill repeats) being the last 1.5 miles; it gains 580 feet with extended stretches at 10 to 12 percent.
Speaking of Ride 542, Steep 5 passed by RD Charlie Heggem's house on its way to climbing 650 feet in 1.1 miles. It's an obscene bugger, that's for sure, and with stretches of 18- to 20-percent, is by far the steepest of the route.
Except that it's not. For we headed just around the corner (sorta) to Steep 6, King Mountain, at the north end of James Street Rd. Pretty darn short, the 0.3-mile hill climbs about 250 feet with a sustained stretch at 24-percent. Crazy! Not only did I have trouble standing and turning the cranks on my 34-27, but it was all I could do to keep from yanking my front wheel up off the road.
Another non-included climb. This one is Lion Rock near Ellensburg.
That was supposed to be the last one, but then I unwittingly suggested Sehome Arboretum--another great spot for hill repeats--and of course T.C., who was just getting warmed up, was all over it. So that became Steep 7; it climbs 380 feet in 0.9 miles.

Looking at a map, the only steep that's sorta on the route and that we didn't include was Alabama Hill. At one point T.C. did suggest it, but I pretended not to hear him.

Killer ride!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


June 1 was my book deadline for "75 Classic Rides: Washington" and I'm happy to say that this morning, I hit 'Enter' and sent 63,500 words to Mountaineers Books. (Yesterday, I'd Fedexed them 75 maps with elevation profiles and 185 photos.) With luck, those words will be in book stores early next year. Thanks a heck of a lot to the countless bike clubs, bike shops, bike folks, family, friends, as well as John Clark, who helped me out. Whew! The last six weeks have been a push, that's for sure.

For a while now, it's kind felt like the above photo, the last turn before Artist Point during the Mt. Baker Hill Climb when you're so close, but so knackered it's all you can do to just turn the pedals over, and no matter what you do, you can't get to that great big parking lot in the sky fast enough. Mentally, I've kind of felt the below, whatever that look is. (Sideways, too, if you can believe it.)
Celebrated said accomplishment (that I seem unable to shut up about) by riding my bike of course. The Samish Lake loop, hammering the hills and tossing in 15 seconds of standing sprints every two minutes. Hit that residential section above Lake Padden too--Samish Crest--where it's all Tony Soprano mansions on smooth, wide streets that tilt upward at 14-, 15-, even 17-percent. Also linked together a killer 1.5-mile hill that climbs 600 feet--the first part is what B'hammers know as the Steps, then it crosses Samish Way and heads up 40th St. and Samish Crest Way to the end. It's quite rude, and I love it!

Speaking of rude hills, last Sunday, whilst all of Northwest Washington was getting their Ski to Sea on, Titanium Cancellara and I headed down to Skagitland on a 60-miler during which we climbed that bump just off the freeway near Burlington. Hillcrest Drive to Tina's Coma Drive (what kind of name is Tina's Coma?) went seemingly straight up--17-percent--for about a mile. Kwazy!

Ah, feels good to be able to breath again.