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One More "Sr" - The Last!

Harold Bridge


Today, Monday August 26 at about 10:30 I was taking my bike out of the truck having just got home from my Daughter's place where I spent the night close to the finish of the 600. A delivery van turned up and I burst out laughing, I knew what he was delivering -tyres for the 600!

I have been riding 25 mm Continental GP 3000s. But for events I replace them with tyres that I feel are more reliable, 23 mm Michelin Axial Pros. I like the slightly bigger tyre but was told locally that Michelin don't make 25 mm APs. So I tried Nashbar and their estimate was "Thursday or Friday next week". Good, I thought, just in time for the 600. But the roads on that route are not too bad and 23 mm would see me through.

Age doesn't come alone; it brings with it a few other things, arthritis and diminishing eye quality being the ones that affect this Rando part of life. For the benefit of newer folk, and at the risk of boring the others, let me explain.

In 1994, on the weekend of my 67th birthday, I completed a 600 that brought me my 12th consecutive "Super Randonneur" medal from Audax Club Parisien. Then toward the end of 1994 I started to creak with arthritis. 1995-January I quit cycling altogether when I had to lay the bike down to get on and off. A very good rheumatologist spent about 18 months working me through this period. In June 1996 I found I could ride quite comfortably and entered the Heart and Lung Trek, 200 km two day pledge ride in September. That set me to thinking that if I could manage 200 km in two days perhaps the following weekend I could manage the Flatlander 200 in one day. I did, albeit with a time of about 12 hours. But, I was back!

Since 1997 I have been trying to obtain one more "SR" series just as a way of saying "Screw You Arthritis!" Various things have gone wrong and the "Been There, Done That" syndrome had an effect too. Of course, last year when I used my body and bicycle to vandalise a car to the tune of $ 4,000 on Easter Monday that put me out of contention. It nullified my entry in London-Edinburgh-London as well. But still I managed to get inside 10 hours for the new option to the Flatlander, the Highlander, in September.

This year I felt would be my last chance at the Rocky Mountain 1200. But, I needed a 600 to qualify. That came to naught when I couldn't face up to going out to Hope again and felt that quitting at Abbotsford made more sense that at Hope. There was one more chance to wrap up this 13th SR quest this year, Ted Milner's 600.

Ten riders gathered at Lougheed Mall for the 06:00 start. An eleventh, Darrin, started late. I had company until the first hill, Maryhill ByPass, 7 km. From then on it was a solo ride. Anxiety about having company can destroy a ride if the intended company is going too fast. While I am capable of sprinting up a short steep rise such effort takes a lot out of me and I don't do it too often. I accept that I climb hills slowly these days and that means, very often, riding alone.

I always try to ride non-stop between controls, avoid "Phaffing". Each stop wastes time and it is much more economical to do all the various things that have to be done at compulsory stops. Apart from anointing a couple of bushes, I managed to get to Mission Control, 48 km, without any serious stops. It was time to remove the polypropylene undershirt, the day was warming up, even at 8:06, the time on my card.

The route through Abbotsford that Dan McGuire originated a couple of years ago is an improvement, I think, over the trafficky morass on Sumas Way and I think we should use it as standard when possible. I dutifully entered the US Customs office to display my ID and was told to go without a chance to show the beautiful picture.

A blustery wind was an improvement on the constant dead ahead blast I have suffered on the long flat stretch of Hwy 9 between Van Zandt and Acme. Just as my computer acknowledged 100 km Craig Premack, tucked down on his aero bars, blasted past. Obviously he had 6-hour 200 time intent going by the fact the time was 10:40 and he was at about 132 km in 4 hours 40 minutes! A little way down the road Acme Café was calling and 40 minutes went by while I had second breakfast. It was a long time between seeing Craig and second rider on the road, Bob Marsh. And sometime after Bob an unidentified female went north.

Just before Sedro Woolley late 600 starter Darrin introduced himself as he glided up alongside and then he was a speck in the distance. At the intersection a large bunch of "200" riders looked as if they were about to get going north while Stephen Hinde helped Don Munroe with a flat tyre. I saw Darrin disappear into the Diary Queen as I went across to the store by the Esso station for my card to be signed.

The 50 km of tedium along Hwy 20 to Rockport were brightened to a certain extent by warm greetings from the 300 riders, lead by Real Prefontaine. In that heat I was struggling to keep going. I kept on saying to myself; "Get this 600 done and your don't ever have to do it again!" My plan to ride non-stop came to naught at Rockport when I had to stop and have a "coke" and spray my painful feet with a Body Shop product my Daughter had given me.

The ride to Darrington was, as usual, a pleasure. Lots of tree cover, no great hills and with sunlight filtering through the foliage. That was accomplished non-stop to the Backwoods Café, on the west end of town, where I had a big, delicious bowl of Navy Bean soup. I left at 17:00 after about 40 minutes and patiently peddled modest gears into the headwind to Arlington. Without stopping, I found my way down Burn Road (I drove the route two days before) and onto Granite Falls. I went into the café across from the Tom Thumb Store control and asked what soup they had, "Navy Bean!" Great, I thought. What I got was a pathetic looking group of beans drowning in a tea like liquid. But it tasted all right and I set out to get to Carnation non-stop. I put all my lights on, slung my reflective Sam Browne belt over my shoulder and set off into the night.

I have tried to make do with ordinary little commercial lamps. But the aging of the optics demands something more. I had re-installed my 2 - 6 volt systems, this time with 3-watt halogen bulbs in the 10 cm diameter Union headlamps. I needed them. Between Granite Falls and Monroe the hilly, winding, tree enshrouded route needs automotive levels of illumination and I felt fairly secure in letting the bike have its way down and round those bends. I was also using my Cateye LED light with new batteries and at slow speeds on a flat road it is good enough. Up hill I would disengage the generator and, where possible, conserve the 4 D-cells in the tube under the bike frame by switching off the battery system. Unfortunately I only had the Cateye switched on when I met Eric, Michel and Ken along this stretch. They could have given me the sort of blast usually reserved for drivers who don't "dip"!

This route of Ted's is good. If there is a problem with it, it is a psychological one. At 309 km the route arrives in Monroe, the "sleep" control town. However, before we get to the sleep control we have to ride south another 32 km and retrace. By adding a detour further north, say along Hwy 20 to Newhalem, (in what is known as the American Alps) we could ride to Monroe knowing that is the southern terminus. Also the route between Monroe and Carnation is devious and a good deal longer than straight down Hwy 203. I admit that when Ted first ran his Fort Langley - Enumclaw and return 600 I didn't bother to read the route instruction between Monroe and Fall City because I knew Hwy 203. Luckily I had to quit that 600 in the early 1990s, OOPs!

I went through Monroe at 23:00, so I knew it was going to be at least 02:00 before I got to bed. A few kilometers out of town I met Manfred who had his usual cheery greeting. About 9 km before the Carnation Control I met the Hinde bunch. Let me see, er, Hinde and Hinde, Munroe, Jones, Lewis and possibly Darrin.

I arrived at the "QFC", allegedly a 24-hour store at 00:25. They had closed at 23:00! A group of youths that tipped out of a car might have signed after they had finished banging on the store doors, but I didn't fancy turning the card over to them. Anyway I had to get there to find out it was closed, so I signed my own card. I dug into my energy bar reserve and pressed on. I gave Ted my card at about 02:45 whereupon he asked, "Have you seen Manfred?" (Manfred says he will write about his Treemendous experience). He never turned up? When I got to Monroe my average was down to 18.7 kph. I had kept it above 20 for most of the first 300, 9:48 at the 200 mark and about 16:00 at 300.

By the time I had had 2 hours sleep, got dressed and gone to Denny's for breaky the average was down to 15.3 kph and the others were long gone. It was time to press on. It is a 100 km from Monroe to the next control at Sedro Woolley and I was doubtful about doing that non-stop.

Apparently the sight of "Old Arold" ploughing through Granite Falls past McDonald's was enough to spur the bunch into action, tipping tables over and spilling coffee over the other patrons in their rush to get to their bikes and put me where I'm supposed to be - out the back . But Phil Jones got there first and we had a couple of kilometers of conversation. Then they were gone.

I didn't make it to Sedro Woolley non-stop. The day was warming up, my feet were getting painful and at Big Lake I spotted a comfy looking piece of grass. Ten minutes nap, removal of undershirt and cooling spray ont' feet made me feel better and that was re-inforced by a coffee at Big Rock Store, 11.9 km from the SW control. I was beginning to feel I had it in the bag. But that is dangerous and I kept in the back of my mind the wind direction would make the ride from Mission to the finish slow, miserably slow.

If there's anything wrong with my Mariposa it is the triple chainring. But I think the after market 26 inner ring may be the problem and it suggests the reason that Campagnolo only provide a 30 as smallest. I had a 28 hanging ont' hook and I thought I would try it. I haven't unshipped the chain with the 28. But my bottom gear is a 28" instead of a 26". But that's good enough on this route with minimal luggage.

Now I had a problem. I was down to $4.00US and Acme Café doesn't take credit cards. But we worked out a deal with Canadian currency that cost me a bundle. But I couldn't have stayed long enough to eat all the monster omelette and big pile of hash browns. Pity! Even at this approximately 500 km point I wasn't able to make it to the border non-stop.

Just by the rail crossing that creates a big curve at the foot of a hill Larry Voth and Wayne Harrington stopped for a chat enroute home from a Seattle 300. Then, on Hwy 9 just north of Nugent's Corner there was a big tree throwing shade across the mowed grass of the church. Another 10 minutes snooze got me to the border at just on 17:00, 5 hours left for 63 kms. I assumed an hour for the ride to Mission. But I revised that when I went sailing north with a tailwind. But it worked out right in the end, I was very slow crossing the Bridge on the side walk, I was too tottery to tackle the traffic.

I was signed in at, I think 5.55 pm. The short west facing bits I had done were into a stiff wind and suggested I would be struggling to beat the 22:00 deadline at Denny's . But I got out onto Hwy 7 to find the wind had shifted to the southeast! Someone was being very kind to me. Thank you Ted for your influence in high places!

I dragged myself up that slope into Silverdale to find a secret control awaiting me. Keith Fletcher, currently "batching it", was free to drive his new S10 over the Albion Ferry and come looking for me. I asked him to phone Vanessa and give her some idea when I would be finished.

It had to happen eventually. As I crossed the Ruskin bridge I hit a rock with the back wheel. I cursed and waited but I seemed to have got away with it. The brutal little lump west of Ruskin had me out of the saddle and when I sat down at the top I realised the back tyre was flat. But 10 minutes and 80 strokes of the Zefal pump had me on the way again.

I had to stop a couple of times to eat more energy bars. I was wondering about the left turn off Pitt River Bridge onto Maryhill By Pass but I got there at the right time and had a gap in the traffic. I could see no purpose in struggling on the slopes, I went as low as I needed. But with a suitable run at a hill I could get a fair way up in top gear provided I got out the saddle and kept the bike rolling. The miserable hill across Brunette and Blue Mountain called for 28" as did the climb up North Road to Denny's. I was finished, in more ways than one!

The time was 20:30 on my watch which means, I think that would be 20:28 on Ted's watch but 38:30 is good enough! A fairly accurate assesment of "Off Bike" time suggests my riding time was about 29:00. Despite 2 computers, one giving event time and one giving riding time, I don't have an accurate figure. The auto computer re-set itself during the ride.

It just remained to struggle up onto the top of Coquitlam to my Daughter's place where my truck was parked. A glass of Jameson's, a shower and a bed awaited me. These were provided as an alternative to driving my truck home; "In that state".

Thanks are due to Keith Fletcher and Ian Stephen for taking over the "Make-Up" rides starting in Haney and leaving me free to start the 600 from Lougheed Mall. As usual my neighbours, Glen and Julie helped out by feeding OOP, the cat. He and I are both grateful.

PS. It doesn't bear thinking about; but if I hadn't have finished this I would have to do it all again next year. In itself not bad, but it would leave me open to entering PBP and I'm stupid enough to do that!