Forgive the lack of photos in this post; it was all I could do to stay attached.
On the penultimate day of February my partners in gravel crime – Mike R, Ryan H and Mykenna I – joined up with Seattle strongwoman and 2020 CX National Champ Julie Robertson Zivin for a second helping of gravel riding/racing west of Bremerton, WA. Thomas Sumter, the event organizer, proposed a challenging day: 78 miles, 7000 ft climbing, majority gravel (some of which can be considered “extreme” gravel).
We met at the Seattle Ferry Dock and boarded the 10:00 AM sailing to Bremerton. As we rolled off the ferry at sometime around 11:00 I immediately questioned my decision to abandon my thermal vest in Ryan’s car. The air was cooler than expected and my mantra is “better too hot than too cold.” I did have a thin windbreaker as an emergency precaution. As it turned out I didn’t have to worry as keeping up with this crew had me putting out the BTU’s.
We rolled up familiar roads into Green Mountain State Forest where we overshot our first critical turn. After getting back on route we rolled over a series of challenging ditches culminating with a go fast to keep yer feet dry stream crossing. A fast roll down to Wildcat Lake followed by a steady climb up Holly Road put us at the eighteen-mile gas station (the sole refuel stop).
From the gas station we had miles of good steady gravel all the way to a major paved descent down to sea level at the base of Hood Canal. Now came the climb that appeared as a wall on the route profile. Up the hill and over some single-track rollers put me on the pavement of Hurd Road. I had fallen off the back on the hill and as I hit the pavement I asked a dog walker if she’d seen my teammates (all of us, save Julie, were in matching team kit). She said that yes they had passed and added “that girl sure is fast.” Well that made sense, so I put the hammer down to minimize their wait time.
At the first turn – nobody, at the second turn – nobody. “Man this is weird” I thought, for sure they would have waited at the turns. My phone rang; it was Mykenna. They had stopped at a lake that I had completely missed and were behind me. Now this took a moment to digest as I was stone cold sure that they were in front of me. Thank goodness for cell phones.
We regrouped at the next gravel sector and were now well on our way back to Bremerton. We turned into Tahuya State Forest at Goat Ranch Road where it appeared that most of the moto folks were packing gear and popping beers. Our late morning start was feeling like a really good idea. After a short climb we turned onto some motocross single-track. The trail looked like fantastic fun for the motorized crowd, but the baseball-sized rocks and wading pool puddles made it tough work on a gravel bike. I enjoyed this section quite a bit, especially the high burmed turns, but it was strenuous, and I was happy to get back on the road and put down some miles.
One final big gravel climb put us on the Old Belfair Highway and a five mile slightly downhill run all the way into Bremerton. Now the race for the 5:30 ferry was on, and we attacked the final lumpy hills with purpose. We rolled through the ferry toll booth at 5:29, cut between the cars and, thanks to a kind ferry worker, rolled straight onto the boat deck. Ten seconds later and it would have been no dice.
Ferry rides across Puget Sound are one of the many benefits of living here in the Pacific Northwest, and an evening sailing after a long day in the saddle makes them even better. At the Seattle dock we all said our goodbyes and each headed home to warm showers and a hot dinner.
A big thanks to Tom for all of his hard work putting this event together.