Saturday, July 28, 2012


John Clark and host of others exit Fairhaven at the start of the Tour de Whatcom.
I had a book signing scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Village Green and with the Tour de Whatcom's 105-miler starting at 7:30 I knew there'd be little to no chance of me getting back in time. I admit that I'm pretty whimpy when it comes to putting pressure on myself, to pounding out the miles, gettin' 'er done, as it were, in order to be back by a certain time. So I figured I'd just cut my TdW short, maybe turn left on Enterprise Road between Lynden and Blaine and head back to Fairhaven that way. I'd make it to my book signing with time to spare!
Sean Fields, Scott Alexander, Ryan (?) and Dennis Weeks somewhere in the southern portion of TdW.
But ... heading out Old Samish in the early miles, the lead group--Rusty Dodge, Scott Alexander, Logan Wetzel, Dennis Weeks, etc.--were right there, I mean right there, seemingly reach-out-and-touch close. So after some backing and forthing, should I or shouldn't I-ing, I figured what the heck. Since I'm not riding the full century I might as well hook up with them. A goodly sprint or two later and there I was, lanterne rouge on the Great Tour de Whatcom Express Train. I hung on for dear life as later, the diesel engines up front pulled us along at 26-, 28-, even 30-miles an hour. I was dangling off the back like a tin can tied to a newlywed's car. 

Riders approach the Chuckanut Drive bump just south of Fairhaven.
We'd blown by the first aid station at mile 20 and the only reason I was able to hang on was because I was planning on getting off the Express (probably 20 to 24 riders) at the Nugent's Corner aid station at mile 40. I'd figured some other folks would stop too and that I could hook with a smaller, slightly less rapid group. But the Express Train slowed not at all for aid station 2 either.

Unfortunately, I'd assumed we'd be stopping so I put on the brakes, started to pull in to the parking lot and then realized I was the only one. For a few moments I watched as the Whatcom Express began to disappear down the road. After about a second or two's consideration, I stood and sprinted as hard as I could to catch back up with them, not exactly easy when they're motoring along at 25 miles per hour. But I caught back on, tried to ignore the 180 registering on my heart monitor, took my seat in the caboose and figured I'd try to hang on 'til the Lynden stop at mile 55.
Tête de la course.
This was the seventh annual TdW and I've ridden probably five of them. I rode the first one in 2006, which seemed to be made of up myself, John Clark, Stacy Moon and maybe 3 other riders. I'm exaggerating, I know, but it's been pretty cool to see this ride grow and become such a destination event for folks in NW Washington and Lower BC. Good on ya', Todd Williams!

That's a long way to get to my next point which is, since I've done this ride so many times I know the course pretty well. (It's the first route in my book!) So, when the Express Train reached Nooksack, took a right and began heading north on Highway 9, I knew immediately that we were off course. But I'm not going to raise a fuss with folks pulling me along at 25 miles an hour so I just smiled, nodded my head and assumed they'd figure out a way to get us heading west again toward Lynden. Which they did.

The Great Tour de Whatcom Express Train.
Thankfully, at Lynden everybody stopped; here's where I was getting off the Express. I'd made great time 'til this point (my Garmin 500 told me that we'd averaged 23 mph to this point--smokin' fast for me; we'd done 55 miles in two hours 26 minutes)--so with my amended shortening of the TdW route, I knew that with ease I should be back in time for my book signing. 

Between bites and munches of various sweet and salty aid station offerings, Richard Kiene asked if I wanted to ride the next section with he and Sean Fields in a smaller group at a slightly slower pace. Sounded great to me. Just then though, Richard eyed the head engines of the Express Train getting back on the road so he sprinted to his bike to get back on and I pretty much did the same.  

After riding the 50-miler to Birch Bay and back, tutu-wearing Mary from Everson peruses my book on the Village Green.
But this lasted for only five miles or so. Rusty, Scott, Logan, et al., were just too strong and fast and at mile 60, there was a definite split. I gave one or two chases to get back on, but there was no way. But I had what I'd wanted along: a small, still fast but slightly slower group--Richard, Sean and Ryan (?) from Australia--and we got busy, continuing west toward Blaine. Approaching Enterprise Road, my intended turn-off, I did some quick calculations. I was so far ahead of schedule--so far ahead of where I couldn't even imagine I'd ever be--that I had no reason to cut it short. And truthfully, at 50 (I'll be 51 in less than a month), how many more chances will I get to finish a century in--if things continued to go well--close to four-and-a-half hours? I was all in, and the four of us worked well together. We clicked off some crazy-fast (for me) splits: 60 miles in 2:39, 80 miles in 3:38, etc.

Speed-wise, the four of us maintained a more humane 20-, 21-mph pace and wind-wise, she seemed pretty accomodating. Maybe a slight tailwind from east to west. However, we knew the real Wind would be from Birch Bay back to B'ham. Every time I've done this ride, that homestretch wind at the end of a long day in the saddle feels like a baseball bat whack to the face. But I almost didn't get there.
Highway 9.
Riding so hard for so long isn't easy. And even though I'd spent much of the day hanging on for dear life at the back it's extremely strenuous sprinting like hell everytime there's an acceleration after a turn or a set of railroad tracks. The accordian effect can be a beeatch. So I wasn't super surprised when at mile 77, shortly before the Birch Bay aid stop, my left leg seized up mid-pedal in one giant mega-cramp. I pulled off and sort of fell over onto the grass at the side of the road. Luckily, I'd just finished a pull and was slightly off the back so I didn't take anyone down with me.

Usually, I can stretch these things out and make the excruciating pain disappear but it wasn't happening. The downside of being at the back was the others had no idea anything had happened and as I limped and hobbled around attempting to get the pain to stop, I watched as Richard, Sean and Ryan rode on, turning left on Harborview toward Birch Bay.
At the Village Green Tour de Whatcom riders get ready.
Eventually the pain disappeared, I got back on my bike and began pedaling gingerly hoping that at the Birch Bay aid station, maybe I could hook up with some other riders for the epic Wind Battle back to Bellingham. But lo and behold, I'd not pedaled 50 yards when I saw Richard, Sean and Ryan riding back toward me and wondering what had happened. I was stunned! Grateful as hell too. I didn't really know these guys per se, had ridden with Richard once or twice, maybe Sean once (?) and none of us had ever met Ryan before. (I'm still not sure if that's even his name.)

That's one of my favorite things about these rides: you always meet new people and you end up working together to help each other have the best ride possible, and to have the most fun. Even if you ride with your regular mates, you usually end up adding one or two (or five, whatever) new folks to your list of friends. Love it!
Chuckanut Drive.
Thankfully, the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. They had Cokes at the fun, well-stocked Birch Bay aid station and to stave off further craps I ate a banana and gobbled down every salty thing I could find including a couple Slim Jim-type items. Sean had given me one of his Enduralytes as well. (Thanks, dude!) We were seranaded by a high school marching band playing, among other songs, "Poker Face" by Lady Ga Ga.

Perhaps making the return ride most uneventful was the fact that apparently the epic Wind Battle had been cancelled. It wasn't bad at all. Last year, I remember taking pulls at the front of my group and being embarrassed as hell that I couldn't pedal faster than 12 mph. This year, it was fine and we cruised it on in able to maintain our 20 to 22 mph. And guess what--I made it back for my book signing with 15 minutes to spare! We got back to the Village Green so early that the finish line cheerleaders hadn't even arrived yet. (Only bummer of the whole day.)

Mucho thanks for an amazing ride to the Great Tour de Whatcom Express Train as well as to Richard, Sean and Ryan (?)!

Here're some geekmeister facts'n' figures: Total ride distance/time: 105.7 mi./4:56. With stops, 5:16.
Our 100-mile ride time was 4:33; with stops, 4:53. Crikey! I've never ridden 100 nearly that fast before.

After the ride, I spent a couple hours selling copies of "75 Classic Rides: Washington" out on the Village Green with Christina from always-supportive Village Books. Thanks VB! And everyone who stopped by! 

As for most of these photos, I tried something new by mounting my Go Pro Hero on the seat mount. Kinda cool. Sorry most of the pics are dark; it was cloudy much of the ride.
Rolling through Fairhaven at the start.

The great John Clark gets ready to rock.

The Mount Baker Bike Club won the Tour de Whatcom trophy.
Country roads down in the Skagit County stretch.
Me. Stuffing my face at the Lynden aid station.
Sun is out for a little bit on Highway 9.
Just south of Blaine, Ryan heads toward Birch Bay.
Me 'n' my books.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Earlier this week, the road to Artist Point re-opened for the first time since 2010, and it goes without saying that I couldn't wait to get back up there. (Then why did I say it?) David Longdon and I were planning to ride up but after he cancelled, I only had about an hour to sulk before Pat Skaggs e-mailed and invited me to join he and Steve George, a sorta Bellingham legend in the multi-sport, jack-of-all-endurance-trades world. I'd never met Steve before, though had seen him a few years ago when I did the Bellingham Traverse relay race and our team members kept almost catching Steve--who was soloing the event, by the way--only to have him pull away maddeningly and repeatedly. As I found out today, he's a super nice guy. (In the above pic, that's he on the far right, Pat in the middle, me in the French champion's jersey on the left.)
These two pics are what the Artist Point parking lot looks like today.

Below is what it looked like just two weeks ago when Titanium Cancellara and I rode to the top. (Here's that post.)
Looks like the D.O.T. guys got busy over the past fortnight. Here's one of them talking to Steve while taking a break from clearing the mountain of snow atop the privies. (Which aren't open yet. However, the restrooms are open at the Heather Meadows Visitor Center, a couple miles below Artist Point.)  
I'll ride this road again and again, any time of the day or night, I love it so much! (Hyperbole, I know, but my brain is still in the throes of that hypoxic Cascade Mountain high.) Always stupendous scenery, always really really challenging--especially the last couple miles when it seems the altitude starts to kick in--always my favorite road on which to spend three or four hours. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Had a fun time this morning riding with four guys from the Chain Gang, an Atlanta-based group of riders who were finishing up an 800-mile, multi-day bike trip. The four riders, all between 60- and 73-years-old, started about 10 days ago by riding STP (Seattle to Portland), then headed east along the Gorge before turning north through Goldendale, Yakima, Ellensburg, Leavenworth, Chelan, Winthrop, Washington Pass, Marblemount and up our way. Today they were finishing up by riding from Bellingham to Lynden. Incroyable and inspirational as heck because these boys be strong! (Unfortunately, I only got one gentleman's name: Vern Zander.)
I was able to direct them around some of the B'ham construction on the north side of town as well as turn them on to wonderful Aldrich Road just north of Bakerview. They loved it and it felt great to showcase some of the terrific road riding we have out here!

Great job, Chain Gang!

Upcoming: Tour de Whatcom on Saturday and just a reminder that I'll be signing books right after in the Village Green. Come by and say "Hi!"

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I've got this Winthrop-Conconully ride on the brain--a 70-miler that includes significant climbing and descending chunks on gravel road--and I'm trying to decide what kind of bike to ride: 29r MTB or a 'cross bike. So Titanium Cancellara (Scott Young) and I headed up (and down) Lookout Mountain, Galby's big brother, to see how enjoyable (or not) it is on my Giant TCX 1. 
Scott's expression pretty much says it all--Lookout is tough, hard, difficult and a pain-in-the-glutes/quads/calves/hammies. Only 5.2 miles long, it climbs 2,032 feet for an average grade of 7.4 percent but that's deceptive for way more than a mile of it is flat or downhill. All I know is that w/ my 38-26 (as opposed to my Tarmac's helpful 34-27), I suffered mightily. 
Usually, Lookout rewards w/ a stunning vista south toward the Chuckanuts, Bellingham Bay and San Juan Islands (see this post from last year), but today she was pretty socked in.

The descent requires a short bushwack and we wondered if we'd have trouble following the trail, but it was no problem.

Titanium Cancellara fends off a gigantic foxglove!

On the way back to town, we stopped by Lake Padden where Charlie Heggem, RD for the Mount Baker Hill Climb, was helping out with the Padden Duathlon. Which reminds me, the road to Artist Point opens next Tuesday--woo-hoo!  

Kinda funny, Tyler Mitchell, who rode with the Ti Cowboys during last year's Tour de Whatcom (this year's TdW is next Saturday!) was out shooting phots for the duathlon and snapped the below shot of me. (I look in a spot of bother; I think Scott just passed me for the town sign sprint.)

Friday, July 20, 2012


Just throwin' this out there to anyone who might be interested ...

... I'm planning on getting in some big rides the week of July 30—Mount Rainier, Orcas Island, possibly Hurricane Ridge, not sure where else. Details to follow. Gonna watch the weather, see where I'm inclined to go. "Big" is subjective; I'm more interested in climbing (for the views and photo opps) than I am distance.

It'd be fun to hook up with other riders so e-mail me if you're interested in joining me. 

Tentative plans are sorta(ish): Sunrise-Chinook (Ride 25 from my book), Paradise from Stevens Canyon (Ride 26) and I want to climb Mount Constitution on Orcas Island (Ride 7 or sim.) Other possibles include Mount St. Helens, Hurricane Ridge or any cool ideas someone else might have. (I really, really want to do the Winthrop-Conconully ride but my mountain bike is in a state of disrepair right now.) 

Thursday, July 19, 2012


We at Mike McQuaide (in other words, me) want to wish good luck to fellow Bellinghamster (and fellow Columbia Neighborhoodster) Brian Ecker, who'll be grinding it out in this weekend's Race Across Oregon. I'll let Brian describe it:

"Starts at 5am in Hood River. 520+ mi, 46,000+ ft of climbing. Small but VERY talented field this year. It should make things interesting. I am hoping the ton of miles/climbing in June and the 11lb weight loss since April will bring me some favors!"

Follow his progress here, starting at about 5 a.m. Saturday.

BTW, Brian is also a noted coach and, something that I quite enjoy, a really good writer whose race reports are super informative and entertaining. Here's his website; I just now enjoyed his report on the Tour of the Unknown Coast (Brian won) which includes a race video shot by remote-control helicopter. Cool or what?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Super cool, super fun, super early MTB ride up on Galby this a.m. w/ Glenn G., Bryan S. and Asa K. (the Logos Crew). Glenn's partaking in some Strava contest and wants to climb a bizillion feet this week so we essentially climbed the Tower Road to the top of Unemployment Line, rode down it, then climbed the Tower Road back up again. Four times, I think. Finished off with some Mullet, Cheech 'n' Chong, Not Shawn's action. And then I dropped down and did the Padden upper loop. So much darn crazy-arsed fun it's almost not to be believed! (Bryan above, Glenn below.)

Glenn and I (me rocking a pair of ill-fitting and not-too-comfortable Lowe's safety glasses) on the Tower Road climb.

In other news, the book ("75 Classic Rides: Washington") has been getting some cool press this week. Yesterday, the Seattle Times ran a Q & A interview that I did with the very nice Mary Ann Gwinn. (Who, btw, is a past Pulitzer Prize winner!) And Biking Bis wrote a review of both my Classic Rides Washington book and Jim Moore's "75 Classic Rides: Oregon". Thanks a lot Mary Ann and Biking Bis! Much appreciated.

Oh, and here's our route:

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Our hero, Glenn Gervais, suggested we do Ride 6 from my "75 Classic Rides" book.
Sounds great, said I. Which one's that?
Page 42, Fidalgo Island--Mount Erie Leg Shredder, said he.
Ah yes, I remember that one well. Lots of fun, up and down island-esque rollers, spectacular water and island views, not to mention the route's centerpiece, Mount Erie: 878 feet of pointy-stick-in-the-eye climbing in just 1.5 miles. Youch! 
Thus, joined by Pat Skaggs, we found ourselves early Sunday a.m. at March Point Park'n'Ride ready to rock, as it were. We began by crossing the Tommy Thompson Trestle Trail (above), headed into Anacortes and then out toward the ferry and Washington Park. From there we rolled south and thusly began the rollers. Eventually, we pedaled inland (see my book for the exact route) and made our way south where Mount Erie awaited.

Here's Glenn, nearing the top of Mount Erie, climbing so fast up its 18- and 20-percent evilness that he's little more than a blurry smudge.

Here's what he usually looks like.

Here's the three of us, happy as heck that we've made it to the top of Mount Erie. As you can see, weather-wise we seemed to be stuck in a giant damp cloud. Never actually rained but somehow we got sorta wet and it never really brightened enough that I could safely wear my glasses without riding somewhat blind.

Re: Mount Erie, it's just killer steep. Even though I ride it probably once every two or three years and I know what I'm in for, I'm still stunned and surprised when I round a bend and see the road slanting seemingly straight up in front of me. Strava says it's average grade is 10.8 percent but given that there're a couple flat stretches, it's much harder than that. But we came, we saw, we kicked its ...  

(Above is a photo from about four years ago of Titanium Cancellara and I after a Mount Erie ascent. Here's a post on that ride.)

Here, Glenn fixes a flat while I watch.

The route ends with a fun, flat waterside 6-mile loop around March Point.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Headed up to Artist Point from Glacier yesterday with Titanium Cancellara, the man in pink. (It's Ride 35 from my "75 Classic Rides" book.) Actually the goal was to ride as far as the Mount Baker Highway has been plowed clear of snow; we figured maybe a mile past the upper ski lodge. We were very pleasantly surprised when, after passing beyond the gate keeping cars away (see below), we were able to keep going and going and going ...

... all the way to Artist Point. Though, to be honest ...

... the last 300 meters or so was a shallow, slushy mess which had us backing and forthing between pedaling and walking. 

We started from the parking lot behind Graham's Store in Glacier. (Which, btw, never ceases to amaze me with their hmm ... let's say, lack of customer service skills and leave it at that.) That's Church Mountain's steeple beyond the Ti C.)

Heading up the Mountain Baker Highway, just past the Powerhouse Hill (which Strava rates a Cat. 3) but before the Cat 1 climb to the upper ski lodge.

For right now, cars can go no farther than this gate just beyond the upper lodge, but we saw many day hikers making their way up the road.

Heading for the killer hairpin turn where, during the Mount Baker Hill Climb race, things become one giant spot of bother. 

The original Ti Cowboy taking his bike for a walk near the top.

Still lots of snow ...

... at Artist Point.

Cleats clogged with snow made getting pedaling a little difficult. As did the heat: a surprisingly hot day, that despite our 4,100-foot elevation gain, never cooled off.

As always though, an amazing ride!