Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I Love Big Five

Ah, April. When a young man's thoughts turn to love, and an old man's thoughts turn to "I've got to get in another populaire for my P-12."

The forecast for Monday was perfect, so I knocked off a little early and started the Club Car 100K (RUSA route 1801) at noon. Since it was another of those routes that starts up by the University, I had to deal with the usual parking issues, but this time I did my research and found a lot just down from the starting control, grabbing a spot near The BackDoor -- a very interesting-looking speakeasy that I will have to revisit some other time for a less athletic adventure.

Of course, it was a paid lot and I didn't have a $10 bill, so I went down to the control -- Caffe Ladro -- and got a quick bite. With change in jersey pocket and five minutes to go before my scheduled noon starting time, I then jumped on my bike to go put money in the machine ... and found that my rear tire was flat.

No problem, I thought. My car is here. I've got a floor pump in the back, and should have spare tubes.

And, of course, the pump was there, but there were no fresh tubes.

No problem, I thought. This is why I carry two spare tubes.

And the universe chuckled.

It took a little longer to change the tire than usual, since the rims currently on the bike I was using are ... how should I put this nicely ... recalcitrant. Of course, that wasn't the word I used in the parking lot as I wrestled the tire back on, but this is a family blog. Thus, back at Caffe Ladro at 12:10, I got my card signed and was finally able to head out.

The route (of course) immediately got on the Burke-Gilman Trail, passing through the University of Washington campus before crossing the Montlake Bridge to go to the Lake Washington loop. I missed one turn on the Loop and got a bonus half-mile climbing a nasty hill, but the GPS quickly set me right and soon I was rolling by marinas full of nice yachts across from stately homes.

Getting on the I-90 Trail, I felt good and began thinking how I might finish this ride early enough to need to worry about traffic on the drive home. Then I felt a familiar flacidity from the back of the bike, and heard the universe guffaw as my tire went flat almost exactly in the middle of the bridge.

OK, I thought (since "No problem" was off the table). I've got a patch kit. Let's just make sure that this time we figure out what the issue is before we put the tube in.

So, off goes the wheel and out comes the tube. It's another puncture, and it seems to be in the same place as the last one. But search as I may, I cannot find what's causing it. There is nothing in the tire, so all I can think is that the rim tape on the wheel has shifted and one of the spoke ends is getting through. So I carefully align the rim tape and put on my last fresh tube ... and then wrestle for the next 15 minutes trying to get the $%&-ing tire back on the god-$^*@ wheel.

At one point, I tried resorting to levering it back on with my tire lever ... which promptly snapped. Then I had to take what little of the tire that I had on the wheel back off so that I could retrieve the tip.

On the plus side, a lot of cyclists stopped -- or at least slowed -- and offered assistance. I asked one group of supportive cyclists if there was a bike shop on Mercer Island, just in case I needed to buy another tube. They said no, but that there were some in Bellevue. So, when I finally got the $%&-ing tire back on the god-$^*@ wheel, I pulled out my phone and Googled it. Tracing the upcoming route using my GPS and the cue sheet, there appeared to be a mall with a sporting goods store less than a mile off of the route.

Gingerly, I crossed the bridge and Mercer Island, trying to float over every pothole, seam, and the ubiquitous pavement-heaving-ripples-from-tree-roots on the trail. Turning south on Factoria Boulevard brought me to the mall, where I began looking for a Sports Authority or Dick's Sporting Goods. Instead, I found this.

I parked out front and ran in, asking a sales associate if they had bicycle inner tubes. She wasn't sure, but led me over to their very thin stock of cycling supplies. I had all but given up hope when she found a display with just the right inner tubes.

As I paid for two tubes, I promised myself that I would name this blog post "I Love Big Five," because they saved me. I also was happy that this store wasn't a Dick's, because then the title might attract the wrong kind of reader.

From Factoria, the route climbs a road paralleling the interstate before cutting over to another road that followed the interstate. The second road had a bike lane and the longest, most gradual descent I've seen in years.

Soon, I was in Issaquah, where I managed to miss the information control thanks to the bonus miles and my minimal math capacity. Fortunately, I was worried enough that I stopped and pulled out the cue sheet to discover my error, and it was easy to retrace my route (bonus mile) back to take this picture and write down the answer to the question on the card. Then it was another bonus mile back.

It was now after 3 pm, and the early rush hour traffic on Issaquah-Hobart Road made for a fun few miles. After a steady stream of cars and trucks heading for Mirrormont, I was glad to turn off on Cedar Grove Road.

I've always loved how some towns manage to hold on to a bit of farmland surrounded by suburbia, and the road towards Cedar Grove had plenty of that -- and a good shoulder, too. I was still worried about the tire, even though it seemed to be holding up just fine, and grimaced when I saw the "Rough Pavement" sign as I turned on to S. Lake Francis Road. But the route almost immediately turned off onto another quiet farm road.

At the Maple Valley control, I grabbed a couple of candy bars, got my card signed, and then headed out for the Cedar River Trail.

Although I was heading downstream with the river, a wind had come up out of the north. It was hard work, but I kept my speed above the 15 mph limit, since I was still way behind on my pace thanks to the earlier tire mishaps.

Soon, I was passing through the suburbs south of Renton and watching the rush hour traffic creep by. Although there were a few commuters on the trail heading the other way, I couldn't help but think that more of those people in those cars would've been having a lot more fun if they had ridden theirs bikes to work that morning.

As I got closer to Renton, I saw lots of folks out enjoying the trail on a lovely day. A cyclists passed me, saying something about the headwind, and I considered sitting on his wheel for a bit. But I knew that we were almost in town, and he was probably just doing a short training ride.

When I finally got to Renton, I was tired. I paused to eat the other candy bar, and to take a picture of this bar. Had I walked in -- sweaty and spandexed as I was -- would everybody really know my name?

On the north side of Renton, the route takes a perimeter road around the airport.

It was pretty cool biking along and watching small planes take off. They've also got a lot of big jets there, which apparently they fix. There's a sign warning of noise from testing the engines.

The route took Rainier Avenue out of town, cruising along the edge of the bottom of Lake Washington. This road has a pretty good protected bike lane, so the rush hour traffic zipping alongside me was never an issue. I saw lots of commuters going the other way, so there's obviously a lot of folks that live in Renton and ride their bikes to work in Seattle.

Eventually, I turned off of Rainier Avenue onto a surface road that didn't have a bike lane. Even worse, it had a tough little climb. Cars behaved fairly well, including one Mercedes Benz with the top down, driven by an elderly gentleman smoking a cigar and talking loudly on his cell phone. Stereotype in Sensurround.

The climb paid off with a nice descent down to Seward Park, where I got back on the Lake Washington Loop. The wind was still on my nose, but the views were great.

As always happens in Seattle, eventually you leave the water and need to climb. But I was nearing the end now, passing through nice neighborhoods on the edge of the University district.

I knew I was almost done when I went through the Arboretum. Again, lots of folks were out enjoying the day, taking pictures of the blooming flowers and enjoying the incredible array of trees that they have.

Just past this I got back on my outbound route at the bridge, cruising down the Burke-Gilman Trail again through the University. I was back at my car before 6 pm, with my two spare Big Five inner tubes still in my bag, unused. That's probably just as well, since if I'd had to change another tire I would've gone postal on those freaking rims and been forced to walk the rest of the route.

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