In the past week, I’ve been obsessed with looking at Rapha. A manufacturer of very expensive bike clothes, they’ve spent a good deal of time and money on promoting a form of audacious riding I admire, with a crack copywriting and photography team and plenty of good-looking guys.
“It was harder back then, too. Not more difficult, just harder. So much of cycling these days, and certainly contemporary racing, lacks the variables essential to a real experience: hunger, terrain, broken equipment, flat tires, shot wheels, waning sanity, fading daylight, weather, locals, unmarked and/or unimproved roads and whatever else that makes a ride, a real ride. Those variables and challenges cause suffering. And suffering is the whole point. It’s what transforms and commutes and delivers the goods. Glory requires the complete dirty, visceral and real experience.”
Two years ago I started a 300k ride that the Seattle International Randonneurs hosts around the Hood Canal but did not finish. While I was reminded that my 82-mile day of eating oysters and sipping beer could hardly count as a failure, the Hood Canal has since been a sore point for me. Now that I’m back into some semblance of riding form and in the hunt for glory, I thought I’d give it another go.
Stripped of everything unnecessary (like the Tayahu Hills, those nutty Randos!), I dropped the distance to a-still-tough-for-me 200k, or 122 miles. Waking at 4:30 am to catch the first ferry, I started my day with a cup of coffee and bran muffin in Bainbridge. I kept to the obvious roads except for the very pleasant Big Valley Road near Poulsbo that make a nice short cut to the much-improved Hood Canal floating bridge.
From there, it’s a wide highway to the turn off to Quilicene and the South 101. It’s generally a big secret on how ugly much of the Olympic Peninsula is. Cut over and broiling while going through miles of clear-cuts, it’s worse on a bike as the logging trucks blow by.
Past Quilicene, there’s a pass to climb at Mount Walker, though it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be while looking at the mountains during my second breakfast. It’s a quick drop to Brinnon, where this ride changed from a pleasant day out to a life-risking adventure decidedly not worth the scenery.
The winding thirty miles between Brinnon and Skokomish have very narrow shoulders and lots of fast truck traffic which ruined this ride. In a word: terrifying. At the Skokomish Reservation, most of the traffic continues on to Shelton, while I turned left on to the slow, windy 106 toward Belfair.
Belfair is possibly the ugliest town I have been to yet in Washington. Uglier than Bonney Lake! Uglier than Spanaway!
While I had a bag full of clothes anticipating a wide change in weather and an oyster knife with me, one thing I forgot to do was check the the ferry schedule for Bremerton. I arrived to find an empty terminal and a two hour wait for the last ferry of the evening. Luckily the staff at Anthony’s took pity on me and let me sit there and nurse Manhattans.
I fell fast asleep on the ferry and never heard the landing call. They had to come wake me up to clear the vessel. Back on the road at 1 AM for the cold climb up Jackson through the International District, some skinny hipsters rode passed me on one-speeds, but not before giving me the once over that felt distinctly disdainful as I stood there with my dorky reflective vest and multi-flashers wrapped in reflective tape (oh Rando!).
Here’s what those kid’s don’t know: I break city-biking hipsters in half with my audacity! What a great day to be out on the bike!
View Hood Canal Circuit in a larger map