Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Five Miles to Twinkie-Land

This past Sunday four of us rode the 2008 May Day Metric, sponsored by Phil's South Side Cyclery. The ride was well organized, the food stops were well stocked, the route clearly marked, and the Twinkies were fresh. More on the Twinkies in a moment.

Registration began at 6:00am, and the course opened at 6:30am. Knowing our usual riding pace falls somewhere between "geologic" and "sedated banana slug", we decided to hit the trail as early as possible. Hmm... to start riding at 6:30am, we must register at 6:00am, which means we must leave the house at 5:00am, which means we must wake up at 3:30am. Ugh -- I hate waking up while it's still dark outside.

Why I hate the rear wheel latching gizmo on my Thule bike rack.

The official gathering point for the ride was Phil's South Side Cyclery, but registration and post-ride pie was in Johnny's Famous Grill & Bar next to the shop.

You gotta love a bike ride that starts and finishes in a bar.

Kasia, Emily, Mike and I have ridden together many times, but this ride held a number of notable "firsts":
  • Emily's first metric century (I think).
  • Mike's first metric century (definitely).
  • Emily's & Mike's first organized rides.
  • Emily's & Mike's longest single-day rides ever.
  • Kasia's longest single-day ride this season.
  • Mike's first big ride on his new bike.
The last point is especially impressive. Mike has been riding an old loaner bike that was much too small for him (54cm). This past Friday he bought a new Specialized Allez in a more appropriate size -- 60cm. Jumping into a relatively long-distance ride on a brand new bike may not be the best route, but when given the choice between "brand new but correctly sized bike" and "old bike you know is 3 sizes too small", I think he chose wisely. Note that "skip this ride" was not an option.

Mike and his new wheels.

The ride started at Phil's in Federal Way, traversed a few surface streets, then quickly left the city (it's not like Federal Way is a big place). The long series of downhills was rather worrying -- while enjoying the effortless coast down, I knew we would pay for this later. "Later" came rather "sooner" as we hit a couple of attention-getting hills. Nothing terribly nasty, mind you, but enough to get your heart pumping (especially on still-cold legs).

We eventually reached the lovely town of Orting. Kasia & I love Orting, we really do. We could live there -- I would even endure the occasional 90-minute commute from Orting to my office. It's in a beautiful valley between the Carbon and Puyallup rivers, near the mountains, surrounded by forests.

The only negative to this idyllic location is the threat of sudden and horrific death by lahar from nearby Mount Rainier (the second-most active volcano in the Cascades). Think of the Carbon/Puyallup valley as a flame thrower, with Orting at the receiving end.

Mount Rainier may erupt next year, or 50 years from now, or 500 years from now, but it will almost certainly erupt some day. The residents of Orting will have a front-row seat to their own local apocalypse.

Where you gonna go when da volcano blow?

We may still move there some day. It's that cool.

Each stop on the May Day Metric has its own associated junk food item. The Orting stop was designated "Ding Dong Station". In addition to the usual bike food -- bananas, oranges, bagels with PB&J, etc -- they served the little foil-covered chocolate and cream hockey pucks straight out of the box.

The Orting Ding Dong Station.

Representative Ding Dongs -- the fourth Ding Dong was behind the camera.

Orting was the turn-around point for those riding the 50 mile route. We chose to continue and attempt the 70+ mile route. After another 13 miles of rolling hills and a few easy climbs, we reached Wilkeson, a.k.a. "Twinkie-Land".

About 5 miles from Twinkie-Land, I had my first ever flat on road tires. I was slowly climbing a hill when I hit a patch of broken glass I failed to notice. Bam! Hisss!! It wasn't a big deal -- we always carry spare tubes, a patch kits, tire levers, etc -- but rather surprising. In the 3000-or-so miles I've logged in the past 2 years, this is my first flat. Oh well, I guess it's always good to practice one's flat-fixing skills.

Kasia nearing Twinkie-Land.

Wilkeson is another cute town hiding in the forest. Another stop, more bike food, and the ultimate junk food -- Twinkies, a little piece of processed joy in a cellophane wrapper.

Kasia had never tried a Ding Dong before, but in Orting I foolishly failed to capture her first taste on camera. I vowed to not make that mistake in Twinkie-Land, so I recorded her deflowering for posterity:

Kasia loses virginity, has first Twinkie.

Queued for the one-and-only restroom, we saw a house cat. By "house cat", I mean "as-big-as-a-house cat":

Somebody has been eating too many Twinkies.

Wilkeson was the turn-around point for those of us riding the 70+ mile route. We chose to turn around here, although the siren call of "Ho Ho-Ville" was almost irresistible.

The ride back was almost completely uneventful. Almost. We mostly coasted downhill back to Orting, stocked-up on Ding Dongs and other essentials, then continued home.

About 9 miles from the finish (with about 67 miles showing on the odometer) we encountered "Phil Hill". Here's the description from the May Day Metric website:
Ahh yes; a May Day Classic & a “Character Builder” all in one! Phil Hill is a lovely little {yet feels big} secret one way road with super sweet new pavement{58th Pl S.} that comes UP from the Algona Pacific area to the heights of Military Road and 5 Mile Lake {approx elev at the top a whopping 465 ft}. It is a .7 mile climb with a vertical gain of 385 feet and an average grade of 7.7 degrees. Some people also call it “Little Italy” because the narrow winding road may remind one of the Pyrenees and its spectacular scenery. The reason this little hill gets your attention is you have been pedaling the flats of the valley for the past 20 miles and you are only 9 miles from the end; then you round the corner and Uppy Uppy…Go! Go! Go! All routes go this way, enjoy your stay.
Road on left -- flat. Road ahead -- not flat.

Phil Hill was not so bad, and was actually kinda fun in a perverse way. We were all so happy to make it to the top.

The ride from Phil Hill back to the bike shop was relatively flat and uneventful.

Happy to be finished.

We all had a great time, and I certainly want to do it again next year. Thank you Phil, wherever you are...

1 comment:

cliftongk1 said...

The look of surprise/fear in the Twinkie picture is fantastic. This is the only appropriate reaction to consumption of Twinkie snack cakes.