Friday, November 7, 2008

Plains-Whitefish Permanent

After riding a brevet in Idaho, and my three permanents I was only 60 kilometers short of 1000km worth of RUSA sanctioned rides. RUSA offers distance awards starting with a 1000km medal. So despite the fact that it's November, and this is Montana, I was determined to get over the 1000km hump. However, the rules state that I can only count a given route once per year toward any RUSA distance award-so I could not simply ride one of my own routes a second time to get the necessary kilometers logged.

Susan France-Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) for the Oregon Randonneurs had established a 157 km (98 miles) permanent going from Plains to Whitefish. The route is the last leg of the larger Glacier 1000Km brevet that the Oregon Randonneurs put on in 2007 and fortunately, Susan maintains the route on the RUSA website as a permanent.

Logistically, this route has some advantages because my wife Brenda's sister Dori and family live by Kalispell, so I have a place to stay after I'm done. So with one eye on the weather channel-I signed up to do the ride on November 8, 2008.

Relatively mild, but rainy weather has gripped the state for the last few days-so on our way to Plains we made a stop at REI in Missoula to pickup a better rain jacket and some quick release SKS Race Blades fenders (all my internet research indicated that Race Blades were the way to go for some fender coverage in the rain, but that are easy to detach for dry weather). Brenda, son Jackson, dog Ernie, and I stayed at the quaint Dew Duck Inn in Plains on Friday night. It was raining but temperatures were staying in the mid-40's.

When I rolled out of Plains at 8 a.m. it was still about 40 degrees. It wasn't raining at the time, however everything was wet and the fog was pretty thick. At least I wouldn't be dealing with frozen water bottles like on my Martinsdale ride two weeks ago.

The first five miles out of Plains are a steady climb to some forest and high plains. The terrain rolls considerabley to the town of Hot Springs. Things flatten out for a little while after Hot Springs, but there's more climbing a few miles before dropping down to the small town of Elmo next to Flathead Lake (the largest natural fresh water lake in the United States west of the Mississippi). By now it was raining lightly, and the surrounding mountains were completely obscured by clouds. Because of the clouds, the opposite shore could not be seen in many places-making the lake seem even more immense than it already is.

Highway 93 from Elmo to Somers is busy with high speed traffic and trucks. There is a wide-rideable shoulder, but also a lot of tire eating debris. I wasn't surprised when I heard the tell-tale hiss coming from my front tire. A piece of glass caused a puncture. Even though it was raining, and I didn't really feel like stopping, the change of tubes went smoothly and I was underway again in short order.

After an extended break in Lakeside to eat a corn dog and have some coffee-I was back at it as the light drizzle continued. The rain didn't bother me too much, the fenders were working perfectly, and I had just the right amount of layers on with temps staying in the low 40's.

At the small town of Somers I got some relief from the traffic thanks to a wonderful bike path that parallels Highway 93 on an old railroad grade. I my felt blood pressure subside immediately as I didn't have to worry about what was coming in my review mirror.

After a pleasant cruise through Kalispell on quiet residential streets, I tackled the last leg of the trip to Whitefish on Whitefish Stage Road. This road can be busy at times and it's very narrow so you have to take the lane-however on this Saturday afternoon traffic was very light.

I finished the ride at the Dairy Queen in Whitefish a little after 4 p.m. where Brenda and Jackson were waiting for me. I was a lot slower than expected, but well within the randonneuring time limit. This route was very hilly-which made it quite a challenge. The rain was also a nuisance, but nothing I couldn't handle. On my 200K brevet in Idaho in late May it was also wet, but on that ride I didn't have any fenders and ended a muddy mess. Today was even wetter, but thanks to the race blade fenders I stayed relatively clean. I was glad I picked them up.

So with that-pending RUSA verification, I now have over 1000km's worth of randonneuring events in 2008 and I will qualify for a RUSA 1000K medal. Not bad considering I didn't think my schedule this summer would allow for much more than the 200K brevet in May. I think I'll just go ahead and pat myself on the onto a full brevet series in 2009!

Special thanks go out to my wife Brenda and son Jackson for hauling my butt up to Plains, and picking me up in Whitefish. I also owe a special debt of gratitude to my in-laws Dan and Dori who once again graciously put us up in their home on Saturday night after the ride (and fed me magnificantly!). Finally, thanks to Susan France from the Oregon Randonneurs for establishing and maintaining the route.

I also mapped this route for Bicycling Magazine's Rides Website. The map, ride info, and more photos can be seen at the link below:

Plains-Whitefish Permanent