Solo Mt. St. Helens Biking Adventure

Yesterday I got to have a microscopic vacation, 12 hours completely by myself. Wow! What did I do to earn this wonderful reward? Nothing; Ian made it possible out of the goodness of his heart.

Also, he understands how much training for this upcoming Gran Fondo means to me, and he’s being extremely accommodating.

Double also, the Washington Department of Ecology once again rated air around here “Unhealthy,” thanks to the wildfires that have filled our air with toxins and haze for the last three weeks. My solo adventure stemmed from a desire to find somewhere else with better air to train.

Now, one challenge this week is that all my usual suspects for riding with had other plans. Dad jetted off to the East Coast, presumably to bike the Cape in air where you can see more than a mile away; my other buddy had plans; and that’s it. I’m low on training buddies right now. (Note to self: Gotta make some new friends, or refresh old relationships. Biking alone isn’t the most fun.) 

After much debate and route consideration, I opted to ride to the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Johnston Ridge Observatory. Say that six times fast. I did this for two reasons: 1. As mentioned in the first challenge, I’d be riding alone, and I knew the route (there are literally no turns), which also met my training requirements to ride long, steady climbs; and 2. The air quality in southwestern Washington looked quite a bit better than the Seattle area.

Challenge number two: We own one car. This becomes a problem only on extremely rare occasions, such as yesterday, when we have to go opposite directions. We solved this challenge easily by borrowing a car from my parents. But also incidentally, the one car we own is all-electric. Again, has never yet proven problematic. We rarely want to do drives that exceed the 250-ish miles we can go on one charge.

Well, except yesterday. Mt. St. Helens is about 120 to 150 miles from our house, depending on where you stop. I opted to stop at the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center, 47 miles from Johnston Ridge and about 125 miles from our house. (Fun fact: The visitor center is run by Washington State Parks, so you can park there for water and bathrooms; use your Discover Pass to park all day. Handy!) I knew, from mapping the route ahead of time, that I could get to the visitor center well within range for our Bolt. However, it wasn’t well within the range roundtrip.

Like Scarlett O’Hara, I decided to think about that “tomorrow.” And by “tomorrow,” I actually meant after I finished my ride.

Solo Mt. St. Helens Ride: Start

Suffice it to say that I arrived at the visitor center after about a two-hour drive. Then I rode my bike a long way, up a lot of hills. I felt good–it was actually nice to ride alone, keeping my own pace, not having to wait or try to catch up. My left leg, which I’ve struggled with, never experienced the crippling pain it gets every ride; but I also saw only 30% to 40% power from that leg. More on that in another post.

Here’s where I went. Very exciting route. (Note: It looks like the WordPress update has broken the iframe from Ride With GPS. Click View Full Version to see the actual route.)

At the halfway point I stopped at Johnston Ridge Observatory, paid $8, and enjoyed their nice clean restrooms.

Solo Mt. St. Helens Ride: Johnston Ridge Observatory

I also looked out, but overall the view wasn’t what it has been in the past. I’d ridden through a layer of clouds at around 3,000 feet (and wished I’d brought more than just a vest and light arm warmers), which looked like riding through a white nothing, and smoke did haze the view. It was better than at home, but not as good as in past years.

Solo Mt. St. Helens Ride: Pretty Smoky

After a quick snack, I started back down… although it’s not exactly all downhill from there. There’s one significant climb on the way back, and honestly even the small little dips and rises feel plenty hard by the time you get there. Also, a west wind develops in the afternoon, and of course I spent the entire time riding west. This improved air quality, but made my ride quite a bit harder. Riding up little bumps with a wind felt like sheer torture.

Honestly, one of the happiest moments of my ride was when I thought I had a mile to go, and I saw a sign for the visitor center 1/4 of a mile away. Hallelujah!

The car was still there (I did worry a bit), and as I pulled up and started to discombobulate my gear, I felt a raindrop. Then another. Then several more. I hastened my putting-away procedure and as I got into the car the rain started in earnest.

Not that earnest, though, because only a couple miles away it stopped and I never saw another drop.

Now we get to the third challenge: Range. When I got started driving again, the car estimated I had 119 miles of range. But I’d driven 125 miles to get there. After consulting with Ian, who’s really the expert on the car since he drives it every day, I decided to stop at the fast charger at the LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma. I’d been to the museum before, and it’s right off the freeway. But I’ve never tried fast charging the car; we have a level 2 charger in our garage, which is ample for charging overnight, but too slow for a trip like this.

By the time I got there, I had an estimated 40 miles of range left, but 45 miles to get home — and 40 miles is just an estimate. Freeway driving tends to drag down the range substantially. So I stopped and found the charger. After a little finagling (the credit card reader on one charger didn’t work, but it worked fine on the other charger. Thank goodness there were two!), I got charging started.

Solo Mt. St. Helens Ride: Fast Charging the Bolt 1 Solo Mt. St. Helens Ride: Fast Charging the Bolt 2

The speed of charging astonished me. I could’ve left after 15 minutes, but Ian wanted me to stay for 30 minutes to see if it really added 90 miles as advertised. It did. That’s impressive. I blithely drove the rest of the way home without worrying about my charge level. With that I dealt with challenge number three.

I got home just over 12 hours after leaving, just in time to read Benji a bedtime story and say goodnight. Then I ate more food and went to bed. Despite the smoke, it was a good day.

Labor Day, School, and So Much More

The New Car

Yesterday marked the one monthiversary of buying our Bolt.

New Bolt!

Since we bought it, we’ve figured out that:

  • My bike fits in the back, but only with the seats all the way down and the passenger seat squeezed all the way forward–leaving room for only the driver. Clearly before we replace the Prius, I need to get a hitch-mounted rack for the Bolt.
  • The car has at least 300 miles per charge. Ian drove it for two straight weeks, just about 300 miles, without a charge.
  • The radio turns on every time we turn the car on, and so far we haven’t found a way to turn it off.
  • It feels like riding a bike: You’re very aware of ups and downs, since you’re paying close attention to energy usage; and it has a hand brake paddle on the steering wheel that lets you slow down or even come to a full stop without ever touching the foot brake.

Ian and Benji use the car the lion’s share of the time, since during the week I exclusively travel by bus or bike. It’s the first time I’ve actually wanted to drive the car… but not into downtown Seattle. I can’t believe how many people are actually willing to sit through the misery we call a commute in their single-passenger vehicles.

It’s been quite the month.

Labor Day Weekend

Benji, Dad, and I had a very fun Labor Day weekend, hitting Alki Beach and Twin Falls on back-to-back days.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls 2017 - 1

Twin Falls 2017 2

Twin Falls 3 - Benji on a Rock

Twin Falls 4

Benji at Twin Falls 2017

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River 2

Alki Beach

Alki Beach 1

Alki Beach 2017 - 2

Alki Beach Labor Day Weekend 2017

Alki Beach 2017 - 3

Alki Beach 2017 - Tidepools

School

Benji’s half-day kindergarten at ORCS started on September 11.
First Day of ORCS Kindergarten
I think it’s going well, although to be honest, I hear very little of how the day actually went. All I can really say is that Benji goes, and then I see him in the evening and he probably has a craft and is tired-hyper. But anything in between — going to school, having lunch, doing the afternoon with someone — I just trust is happening.

But overall, from the little snippets I do hear, Benji is liking half-day kindergarten. We’ve started keeping track of our reading hours, and so far it’s about an hour a day. He also said he likes having his best friend Will in class with him, and his two favorite parts of the school day are free choice and recess. Just about right. I tried to ask about academics, but aside from being really excited about doing colors this week, I haven’t heard much.

So far, Benji’s remained astonishingly healthy, but he’s been sniffling and sneezing lately, so I expect that’s about to change.

At Benji’s 5-year doctor visit we determined he’s totally normal in terms of physical growth and such. The doctor did refer us to Children’s for an assessment of large and fine motor skills as well as speech. That’s still pending.

Meanwhile, we’ve had two weeks of school and no pattern set yet. Next week will be another week with no pattern, but starting in October things will hopefully settle down.

Work

My work has gotten increasingly busy. I like it, and I haven’t dropped any balls yet, but I’m starting to get close to full capacity. I have a secondary project that I’m really excited about, but it’s taking a long time because release notes and release-related content updates always take top priority. This release cycle, which finishes on release night on October 19, has a number of big stories that require quite a bit of time to document.

I’ve been bringing my work laptop home on the weekends in the hopes of getting some work done, but somehow I hardly ever do. It’s work I love, but weekends are so full, especially with wanting to spend time with Benji and Ian since I don’t see them as much during the week; biking; and (importantly) catching up on sleep (hopefully).

What a Week!

Read whatever intonation you want into that title, I’d say it’s accurate.

Sunday

Benji listless and droopy. Took his temp: 102F. Administered Tylenol and videos. Ian left to drive to totality zone. Benji slept and drooped and I gave him more Tylenol. Had 100% exposure to his virus in the first 15 seconds of his feeling really bad.

Monday

Had the day off, which was good, because it was busy and Ian wasn’t around! Benji was feeling better, but his throat was really sore.

But Uncle Gerard was here for a visit, so Benji glommed onto him and I didn’t have to do much.

Hopelink donation and food bank tour. Benji still a little sick after 102-degree fever on Sunday (and maybe Saturday.)
Hopelink Food Bank Tour

Eclipse.
Eclipse 1

Eclipse 2

Eclipse 3

Eclipse Tree Pinholes

Play with Gruncle Gerard.
Benji and Gruncle Gerard

Tuesday

Ian test-drove a Bolt and loved it. We decided to buy one. Started the process of buying one and getting all the details sorted for that. With a regular car you don’t have to worry about installing a fueling station at your house, but with an electric car, you do! Sadly, PSE ended their charging station rebate program last year, so no free charging station for us.

We plan to go on Friday after work to do all the car-buying paperwork.

Wednesday

I start feeling under the weather. Take a bus home and by 9:00 pm have 102-degree fever and vomited once (dehydration and hunger, I suspect; careful consumption of liquids and calories resulted in no further such episodes. Still… ugh). Clearly not going to work Thursday.

Thursday

Sick all day in bed. Fever remains through afternoon, though feeling a little better by evening. Fever goes away by evening and doesn’t come back, but tonsil area of throat getting extremely sore. Can’t swallow much. Benji complained on Monday of it hurting to eat, and he was RIGHT! Oww! Blaze through our strategic apple sauce supplies in no time flat.

Still not going to work, but a very kind coworker dropped off my laptop so I could do work on Friday.

Friday

Home Sick
Feeling much better although still can’t swallow at all. Subsisting on sherbet, smoothies, and apple sauce.

New Bolt!
Good thing about being home was I could meet at 1:00 pm to do car paperwork! This was extra-good because it took like two hours with everything, so I was glad we didn’t start at 4:00 pm. Pretty darn excited.

Struggled to swallow enough pasta to prepare for a bike ride of some sort the following day. Only a few weeks out from P2P, this was to be a major peak week of riding. Determined not to let stupid sickness stop me.

Saturday

Decided to join Dad for his super-hilly ride and just see how long I can hang on. What I didn’t realize until 45 minutes before the ride started was that the ride began not in Woodinville (a 5-minute ride away) but in South Kirkland (a 25- to 30-minute ride away). Needless to say I rushed off in quite a panic and fortunately remembered everything, but arrived at the start a little less fresh than I might’ve hoped.

I liberally dosed myself with Advil during the day and that helped keep the sore throat tolerable. Swallowing Clif bars was not exactly a joy, but I didn’t cry in pain, either. I saved that for the hills, which started and pretty much never stopped.

It was as good an approximation of P2P as I’ve done this season, although previous years we did more. It’s not been my best year, and I expect to be even slower on P2P than previous years… but with all the illnesses, especially the summer ones, and my job and our family dynamic evolving, I’ll just consider finishing a success this year.

In any case, on Saturday I just felt grateful to have enough energy to keep riding and not get dropped, and finish the ride (as much as anyone finished). In fact, overall, I felt decent — not super fast or strong, but certainly able to keep going. Now I just have to manage not to get sick between today and September 9…

Also, Benji and I got CSA veggies and found rainbow glass chips in the parking lot.
CSA Rainbow

Then, after I put Benji down for bed, Dad and I took the Bolt out for a spin. The dashboard lights up at night.
Bolt Night Lighting

Sunday

Church at Newport High School with a zillion other people. Hot. Benji ran around while we quasi-listened/quasi-made sure he didn’t vanish. Astroturf bits got all over our shoes, pants, and blankets. Tried really hard not to get them all over the inside of our car.
Church in the "Park"

Got home and collapsed for a while.

…Need I say explicitly that our family of routine-lovers is looking forward to a nice, normal week this week?