The Joe Summer Extended Century Classic

We’re full on in the middle of summer biking season. With Seattle To Portland (STP) a week away, on Saturday we had our last big training ride of the season before the 204 mile adventure. We’ve had a few long rides under our belts, including the Flying Wheels and the Seattle Livestrong Century, but we wanted a final long ride to ensure the legs were ready for the endurance test. It turned out to be an epic one.

Planning

A lot of our rides had been along the southeast corridor of the city, including Lake Washington and Tiger Mountain road. Wanting to explore some of the eastern country roads, my original suggestion was based on a 65-mile Snohomish/Monroe/Duvall ride that we did last year. The first surprise of the trip was when Ming of all people insisted on both an increase in distance as well as an earlier start time (“to beat the heat”).

No problem. The Flying Wheels ride also had some scenic, untraveled roads and included or was adjacent to the original loop, so the night before, I played around with bikely.com and sketched out a nice 100 mile ride and wrote up a rough cue sheet. The “Joe Summer Century” had been planned!

The Start

Matt, Ming, Pete, Rob, and I convened at 8am at the University Zoka on the Burke-Gilman trail. Nothing really notable, except that Pete, shockingly enough, was late. Amusingly, he got his coffee to go and pedaled the first few miles with a latte. After seeing my cue sheet, Ming was a little disappointed that I didn’t drive out and paint John Henry turn markers on the road.

The Burke-Gilman

The ride started North along the Burke-Gilman trail. We were expecting to see some trail police enforcing the ludicrously low 15 mph speed limit based on some news reports, but due to our early start, we didn’t see any. Most of us were bummed since we were secretly hoping to get a bicycling speeding ticket that we could frame on the wall.

McGarty Goes Camping

We continued along the Sammamish River trail, into Woodinville, and then through some nice winding country roads towards Duvall. We finished that section with a sweet, long descent down Woodinville-Duvall road to Snoqualmie Valley Road.

Thirty-two miles in, we stopped for a quick energy bar and water stop. Rob, responsible father that he is, had to turn back for a nice father-son camping trip that evening, so the four of us ventured on. It was, however, only the first of three visits to this intersection on the trip.

Passing on the Left!

At this point, we picked up part of the Flying Wheels loop, heading south along some scenic farm roads towards Carnation. There was very little traffic, which made for a pleasant riding for most but apparently not all bikers. After riding past Carnation, we caught up with another biker. As we were passing him, he said something to us but we didn’t really hear him. Pete asked him to repeat, and he gruffly responded, “Next time say that you’re passing on the left.”

Wow! I’m all for proper trail etiquette and giving advance notice if passing someone might come as a bit of a surprise. But the road was empty, we passed with plenty of space, and he had a damn helmet mirror so there’s no chance he didn’t see us coming. I loved Pete’s retort. “No. You’re on the open road. There’s plenty of space. Deal with it.” We moved on.

Where’s Stillwater?

At mile 44, we took our first extended stop at the Stillwater Cafe. We grabbed a bunch of Gatorade, snagged a spot in the shade, did the obligatory Foursquare checkins, and munched on more energy bars. We had a laugh when a guy in a truck pulled up, rolled down the window, and yelled something to the effect of “There’s no time for stopping…get back on the bikes!” Nice one. Shortly thereafter, we did get back on the bikes and muscled up the short but steep Stillwater Hill Road.

Resting at Stillwater Cafe

Communication Breakdown

We completed the Carnation Loop and returned to Duvall at the intersection of Woodinville-Duvall and Snoqualmie Valley Roads, also known as McGarty Corner. We then headed north towards Monroe.

We eventually got to Monroe, but not quite when we originally planned. I mentioned that the route included some of the Flying Wheels ride but didn’t make it clear that we’d be doing some of those parts in the opposite direction. That detail proved important, since we blew past the turnoff to Monroe (Crescent Lake Road) and continued on towards Snohomish. I didn’t quite realize that we missed the turnoff until I started recognizing roads that I wasn’t expecting to see until later in the afternoon.

Arnold Palmers in Snohomish

Oh well. We were feeling pretty good and figured the ten or so extra miles that this variant would add wouldn’t kill us and would prep us even more for STP.

We arrived in Snohomish a bit before 1 pm, 71 miles in. We grabbed lunch at the Snohomish Bakery, and the half turkey sandwich plus two homemade Arnold Palmers absolutely hit the spot. We wisely saved the leftover ice for the water bottles.

We relaxed for a bit and debated a bit about whether to head straight back to Seattle or continue the loop to Monroe. We decided to venture on to Monroe.

The Shortcut

But, to save a few miles, I spotted what I thought would be a good short cut: Tester Road. It was, I thought, a shortcut that would put us back in Woodinville and on the route home a little quicker. It would have, however, what appeared on the iPhone to be the intersection of Tester Road and Route 522 turned out to be Tester Road coming to a dead end underneath a bridge on Route 522. D’oh!

Dead End on Tester Road

I believe I promised the crew a round of beers for this one. It was only a five mile round trip detour but at this point, every mile was starting to count.

Flats at Dr Max

We retreated back to Monroe, returning to Old Snohomish-Monroe road and started pedaling into the town of Monroe. Right before we got to the town center, Pete pointed out an obstacle, but I managed to run right into it. I have no idea what I hit, probably a big rock, but whatever it was, my front wheel hit went down pretty hard, and I could immediately hear air escaping rapidly. First mechanical of the day.

Flat at Dr Max

So, we pulled over at Dr Max Orthodontics, and I swapped tubes. Classic snake bite puncture on mine. Ming also had a leak, so we had a double tire change. This was getting a little comical. 84 miles into the ride, hottest part of the day, and not all that close to home yet.

The Final Push

Fortunately, the rest of the ride went pretty smoothly, if a bit slowly due to fatigue and the heat.. We finished the Monroe loop, returned to McGarty corner for the third and final time, and began the long ascent up Woodinville-Duvall Road. The fast downhill ride earlier in the day seemed a distant memory as we trudged up the never-ending hill.

We made it closer to Woodinville Center, stopped off at a convenience store for another round of energy drinks. Ming had the brilliant idea to buy a bag of ice, which we used to cool off our drinks, among other things.

Cold Comfort

Refueled, we pedaled into Woodinville and rejoined the Sammamish River Trail and connected with the Burke-Gilman for the final push into Seattle. We were admonished one more time by a group of riders on the Burke for not properly warning them of our pass. Go figure. Once we made it to the UW, we split up and headed home.

The Garmin clocked the ride at 123.8 miles. I was pretty stoked. I was and am still worried about surviving the 204 mile ride to Portland, but I felt that I still had energy in the tank at the end of the ride. So I am hoping with these miles under my belt, plus a much flatter ride on the STP, that I’ll be in reasonably good shape this Saturday to make it to Portland in one day, and in one piece.

What started as the “Joe Summer Century” became, over the course of the day, “The Joe Summer Extended Century Classic”. An annual tradition? Probably not, but despite the long and hot hours riding in the saddle, not a bad day riding with friends.

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