Friday, March 15, 2013

the Ephrata Big Ride

wikipedia tells me Gran Fondo doesn't actually translate into "Big Ride".  It's close enough. Gran Fondo Ephrata just sounds a little too fancy for a ride out through the steppes and coulees and dryland and irrigated farming areas of Central Washington.

Anyways, I finished the ride last Sunday and am happy to report I did it ahead of the two unicyclists. After 5 hours of riding I was at mile 66 of the 79 mile ride, and I thought hey, I might finish under 6 hours.  But we ran into a headwind on the rollers of Road 23 NW and I slowed to a crawl.  The group ahead of me disappeared. The 4 miles on that road felt like 20.  But Road 23 turned into Sheep Canyon Rd, a fun all downhill fast ride towards the finish.  Not fast enough to get me in under 6 hours, but a great reward for all the hard work.  I think I placed well in the Masters 50+ Bike Commuter/Weekend Rambler category.

I stayed over Saturday night at my parents home at the south end of town, the house I grew up in.  Sunday morning I left a little after 8am, and rode the 2 miles to the other end of town at the High School starting point.  Temps were in the mid-30's, a little chilly and I was wearing 2 t-shirts, a long sleeve, and 3/4 gloves, but I was expecting it to warm up.  I was wrong about that.  The only time I felt very warm on the ride was when climbing the 3 Devils segment.

Once at the school I checked out the other bikes, of course.  There were a lot of road and cyclocross bikes, a couple mountain bikes and urban style bikes.  Riders had a variety of ways to carry gear for the 4-7+ hour ride - a couple backpacks, hydro-packs, back-of-the-jersey pockets, seat post mounted racks and saddlebags.  I had my new Revelate frame bag.  These type of rides are always a good excuse to buy new gear.

I went inside to register and get my bib number and t-shirt and promptly annoyed the register lady by asking if I could have #8 before realizing the numbers were already assigned alphabetically.  I was stuck with #2.

pic taken by sis Shelley

Here's Jake of Vicious Cycles at the start giving the traditional pre-race ride combination pep/safety/going-into-battle talk.  He's a tall guy.

Part of the assembled riders listening to the talk. I took off my long sleeve shirt before the start.  Thought I would end up taking off a t-shirt somewhere as a high of 50 was forecast. But it was a little chilly ride up the hill out of town.  We climbed from the starting elevation of 1250 ft to around 2700 feet (according to the garmin, at least) at the highest point in the brush steppes land of the Sagebrush Flats area.

The next shot is I think near the 17 mile mark on Baird Springs Rd, about 2600-2700 ft high.  I finally stopped to let myself take a picture, and a young guy I rode with earlier in the ride took this one.  This section of Baird Springs was smooth and nicely graveled.  It got a bit rougher closer to Hwy 28.  It also is a nice downhill section riding to Hwy 28, but all along you know it's going to be a long ride back up the 2nd half of the course.

An accidental shot of the road and the tip of new 5 Ten shoes:

Stuhlmiller Rd, looking back at the Columbia.

There's not much left of Stuhlmiller Rd in spots.  There was sand and even rocky single track.  I half expected a cyclocross style run-up.

On the Palisades Road, through Moses Coulee.  I didn't want to stop and take a picture as I was worried how late I would finish, but Moses Coulee is pretty impressive on the Coulee Scale of Awesomeness.  If I do this ride again, I'll let myself relax more.

Looking back at Moses Coulee.  Just after I put the camera away, a horde of  cyclists appeared, looking like the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse, except there were 8-10 of them.  They passed me by quickly.

At around the 60 mile mark, the paved Palisades Rd ends near the Billingsley Ranch and it's onto the dirt climb up the 3 Devils.  The first climb is steep but short; the next climb is longer and the two riders ahead of me got off their bikes; I managed to keep pedaling.  The atlas says the road is now called Road 24 NW; it's about 12 miles of gradual up and down climbing from here to Sheep Canyon Rd.

Before the start of the race I thought I might want to do the Leavenworth Gran Fondo on June 23.  At the end, I thought I didn't need to. Maybe it was the cold, but my legs ached the whole way. Today I'm thinking well maybe...


  1. Great job, Scott! No small task. Your pics of the road surfaces paint quite the picture.

    And the red helmet works, by the way.

  2. thanks, Pat S. The red helmet - wasn't the preferred choice of headwear by the riders out there, but it was easy for my fans (mom, dad, sis) to find me near the finish.

  3. excellent! that is a great ride. great pics.