07 September 2008

New bike coming up...

Paid the money for a Redline 925  a week or so ago but don't have it in my hands yet as the shop and manufacturer were out of 2008 models so I'll get a 2009 model in the next 1-2 weeks. Anyway, this is what the 2008 looks like and the 2009 will be the same, but green (according to the store).  Can't wait to get on this thing for my commute!

My life with the web so far

I just realised that for me, the networked life actually didn't start until I was 20 years old:

September 1991: I started at university, and had my first experience with networked printers...
May 1994: I heard about email for the first time.
January 1995: I sent my first email. I had received several before that but had no idea that our computer account names and passwords at uni were also our email usernames which we could use to access Pegasus Mail. My first email went to a high-school buddy who was in New Zealand for a year.
November/December 1995: I surfed the web for the first time.
Summer/early fall 1996: Was on a bulletin board for the first time. Tried chatting for the first time. Didn't like it (still don't).
June 1998: Purchased the first computer that I could use for accessing the net (a Toshiba laptop). Accessed the net for the first time using a mobile phone.  Got dial-up at home.
Fall 1998: Got 'PC Bank' - a banking tool from my bank that could log on to my bank and download my bank accounts onto a program on my PC.
New Year 2000/2001: Internet banked for the first time.
Fall 2002: The Toshiba died; got an eMac and my first broadband connection at home.
January 2007: Uploaded first YouTube video. 
February 2007: Started this blog.

Shameless self-promotion (and a bit of science)!

This is a brief article that I wrote together with our VP and which is to appear in International Cement Review - an industry concerned with all things cement-y. It hasn't much to do with oceanography, but it has everything to do with particles!


The particle size distribution (PSD) of a cement powder is important for its complete characterization. From the PSD it is possible to compute the surface area of the cement powder, which has a close correlation to the rate of cement hydration. However, no international standard for measuring the PSD of cement powder has been agreed upon, and consequently a range of techniques are being used, with laser diffraction being the most common. A major inter-comparison study was completed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2004 .

Broadly speaking, laser diffraction takes advantage of the fact that forward scattering of light is principally due to diffraction, or in an intuitive way, light that went ’around the particle’. This diffracted light is not affected by the composition of the particles, only its size and shape. A small part of the light is additionally transmitted through the particle and shows up at angles beyond the first two principal diffraction peaks. This ‘transmitted’ fraction of light is affected by composition. Thus the choice of a refractive index affects the ‘large’ angle scattering, whereas the size alone affects the ‘small’ angles region of the scattered light field.

For spherical particles, each particle has its own characteristic scattering pattern, which can be computed using the so-called Mie theory. This is a completely general solution to the scattering problem for spheres, requiring only two inputs: particle diameter and the complex refractive index. Using Mie theory it is possible to compute the scattering pattern for an arbitrary size range of spherical particles.

In a suspension of particles of many sizes, the total scattering pattern is the sum of the scattering patterns that arise from each of the individual particles in the suspension. Mathematically, this can be described as:

E = K * C

Where E is a vector containing the intensity of the diffracted light in a set of solid angle ranges, K is the so-called kernel matrix and C is the volume concentration of the particles creating the diffraction pattern, i.e. the PSD. K contains information on scattering by particles of various sizes into different angles, e.g. from Mie theory. If E is measured and K is known, then C can be obtained via matrix inversion:

C = K-1 * E

A typical laser diffraction instrument consists of a laser beam that illuminates particles, and receive optics that place scattered light on a set of concentric ring detectors. Each ring detector measures scattering into a particular, small angle range. Together, the ring detectors cover a large dynamic range of angles over which the scattered light is sensed; this angle range establishes the range of size of particles that can be analyzed. There are a large number of instruments now on the market. A new version of these is made by the authors’ company, and remains the first and only truly portable laser diffraction particle analyzer (Figure 1). It incorporates 32 detector rings, covering a 200:1 angle range. The size range covered by this device spans 1.25-250 or 2.5-500 microns.

Figure 1: LISST-Portable instrument for laser diffraction of particles in liquid suspension.

The LISST-Portable instrument is provided with the option to invert angular scattering data into equivalent sphere size distribution, or into a ‘random shape’ particle size distribution. How and why this was done is explained below.

The scattering kernel, K , can only be computed if it is assumed that the particles are spherical, although lately progress has been made that enables the computation of matrices for non-spherical but regular geometrical shapes, and even irregular shapes but with limitations from computational complexity. Very few particles resulting from natural or industrial process are spheres or regular. Grinding and milling typically produces particles of a general random shape, with numerous pits and edges on their surfaces. Consequently the diffraction pattern arising from these natural, random-shaped particles can be expected to be different from spheres. Since it is not theoretically possible today to properly model the scattering from random-shaped particles we have taken an empirical approach and determined the corresponding kernel matrix, K . We have used this empirical matrix to study how the retrieval of the PSD of random shaped natural sediment particles is affected by the implicit assumption that the scattering particles are spherical, which is the current industry standard.

To construct our empirical kernel matrix K , we used our LISST (Laser In Situ Scattering and Transmissometry) laser technology to measure the scattering pattern from a range of random-shaped particles, pre-sorted into sieve size bins that were equivalent to the 32 size bins covered by the LISST–Portable instrument (2.5-500 µm for the instrument used here). We then compared these scattering patterns to those from spherical particles with the same sieve size. Sieving is only possible for particles larger than approximately 16 µm, so in order to separate smaller particles into size bins all the way down to 2.5 µm we used a density stratified settling column of known viscosity. Stratification kills all turbulence in the column and ensures that the particles settle without being affected by convection currents in the column. Thus, combining sieving and settling techniques, an empirical kernel matrix K was constructed that when used to invert observed scattering, yields size distribution of random shaped particles.

To illustrate the differences between scattering by spheres and random shaped particles, Figure 2 shows comparisons of scattering patterns from spherical and random shaped particles in two narrow size ranges: 25-32 µm and 75-90 µm. It can be seen that the peak of the scattering intensity of the random-shaped particles is displaced one to two detector bins to the left, relative to the spherical particles. Because shifting of diffraction pattern to the left implies larger size, this means that the random shaped particles, with a sieve size equal to that of spherical particles appear as if they are one size bin (18%) coarser than they actually are.

Figure 2. Measured scattering from spheres and random shaped particles, both with a sieve size of 25-32 µm (left) or 75-90 µm (right).

The implications for this are that when a laser diffraction measurement is processed, and it is assumed during processing that the particles are spherical, the resulting size distribution becomes too coarse, by approximately one or two size bin, which is 18-36% for the LISST instruments. In other words, shape effect alone implies that non-spherical particles, such as cement powders are actually 18-36% finer than reported using a Mie theory based standard laser diffraction system .

The second effect to note is that of refractive index. Cements have been analyzed with assumptions of absurdly high imaginary parts of the index, ranging from 0.1 to 1. High imaginary index implies blackness. Carbon black has an imaginary index near 0.1 so this is clearly not an appropriate value for cements. High imaginary index kills the part of light transmitted through the particle. In effect, it forces Mie theory to pure diffraction. In reality, the light that is transmitted through particles and is then actually measured, is thus interpreted to originate due to fine particles that did not exist in the suspension; in other words, assumption of high imaginary index invents fine particles.

In figure 3, we have analyzed Portland cement powder standard 114q obtained from NIST on our LISST instruments using both a spherical and a random shape particle matrix. Table 1 summarizes the D10, D50 and D90 for the two size distributions. Our spheres model employs Mie theory with assumed real index of 1.5 and 0 for the imaginary part.

Figure 3: A comparison of the size distribution obtained with an inversion with kernel matrix for spheres and for random shaped particles.

From Figure 3 and Table 1, it is clear that using a kernel matrix for random shape particles for the cement powder causes the size distribution to narrow slightly and move to the left, i.e. most of the size distribution becomes finer. We have noted that our research has shown that in general D50 (the median particle size) becomes finer by approximately 25%, which corresponds to one to two size classes for the LISST instruments. This is demonstrated here. Sequoia is the first and only company in the world to have established a laser diffraction processing protocol based on the scattering pattern of naturally random-shaped particles.

D (µm )Spherical matrixRandom shape matrix

Table 1. Comparison of the 10, 50 and 90 percentiles for Portland cement using the two different matrices for inversion.

To conclude, we have revisited the NIST standard 114q with an instrument that uses two advancements: an inversion for random shaped particles, and an implicit refractive index that is not as extreme as past industry practice. The new results suggest, first, that the median sizes of cements are actually a little finer than the equivalent spheres result reported in the past. And, second, that the fines reported in the past may be exaggerated by effects of both, particle shape and refractive index. Further details of this work will shortly be published elsewhere.

SSN problems

One of the very first things I took care of when I arrived here in the US of A in November 2007 was to go to the nearest Social Security Office and apply for a Social Security Number. That was hassle-free, a week later I had the number and two weeks later my SSN card arrived in the mail. I immediately gave my employer my SSN number for use on the pay roll records and I then used it immediately to open a bank account. I then used it twice in April for filing my taxes and to apply for an REI Visa card and again in August to get a Firestone card. There was a hiccup there when I gave them my SSN at Firestone and my application was initially declined. I then wondered if I had transposed the number - I was certain of the last 6 numbers and of the first 3 as well, but unsure if I had transposed the second and third number. Consequently I then gave them the first 3 numbers again, but with the second and third number transposed. Bingo! It went through and all was joy. I got my 10% discount on my car service and Firestone got me in their web.

Then I went home and checked my SSN card and discovered that the number that had worked at Firestone was, in fact, the wrong one... I had been correct inititally, but the correct number had caused my application to be declined, whereas the wrong number caused my application to go through. I thought this was weird, as I know that the IRS caught me in using a wrong SSN when I filed my taxes in April - I got a letter from them saying the the supplied SSN didn't match with the one on record with Social Security for my name.

Anyway, I didn't think much about it until I tried to purchase an iPhone and problems started. I'm not up for standing in a queue, so I decided to wait until the first excitement had died down. Consequently I walked into an Apple store a couple of weeks ago, armed with SSN, credit card, ID and everything else required to get an iPhone.

Everything went slick until they ran a credit check on me and the little handheld terminal the Apple employees use started to flash bright red. The Apple guy excused himself and said he had to make a call to AT&T credit or something like that. It then turned out that the the SSN I had used in the Apple Store didn't match the one on file with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (the 3 large credit monitors in the US) - the first 3 numbers were apparently transposed (although it was very difficult to get exact information out of the person on the other end of the line). I was told I had to go home and call Equifax and have them update my file with the correct SSN.

The next day I called Equifax and after spending 10 minutes on the phone asking loads of security questions, half of which I couldn't remember the answer to, it turned out that, indeed, they had on record a SSN where numbers 2 and 3 were transposed compared to the numbers on my card. I was then told to mail in copies of my driver license, utility bills, SSN, and other stuff, and they would fix it in 30-45 working days! I objected vigorously to the processing time, arguing that I couldn't sign up for *anything* when my SSN was wrong, but the lady on the other end of the line was unwaivering. I then asked if I could fax my info to them and reluctantly I got a fax number from her. The same day I then faxed and mailed all the info to Equifax and about a week later I received a letter from them that they had now corrected my file. Hoorah!

Off to the Apple Store I went again, but alas, the same thing happened, and I was now told that there was a mismatch between the 3 credit bureaus - they now had different SSN's on file for me! I had to personally get in touch with TransUnion and Experian and have them update my records too (why don't these dinosaurs talk to each other and update their records accordingly?)

The next day I was on the phone with TransUnion who were relatively fast to comprehend what was going on. And since I already knew from my chat to Equifax exactly what SSN they had on file I told them that, together with my current and previous address and then they updated my SSN right there on the phone; no need to fax or mail anything! Then I only had to try to get a hold of Experian, but it was impossible to get anything else than the answer machine menu, with no options for disputing errors in my file. I could dispute a credit report, but since I do not have a report, there was nothing to dispute. Consequently I then mailed the same stuff to Experian that I mailed to Equifax. It has been about a week now so I hope that they'll get back to me soon with a standard form letter that they have corrected my file.

The question is, where did the wrong SSN come from initially? I know that I used the wrong one at Firestone, but only because the correct one didn't go through in the first place. So the wrong number was already on file with the credit bureaus by then. My employer had the correct SSN from the start, as my SSN card arrived at my work so they took it directly from the card. The IRS initially got the wrong number from me, but they sent me a letter asking for clarification when they discovered that the SSN I had given them didn't match with my full name on record with Social Security. So if the credit bureaus got the wrong number from the IRS then why didn't they get the correct one when I gave it to the IRS? Perhaps I gave the wrong number to U.S. Bank when I applied for the REI VISA card. But why on earth don't they check that against the number on file with Social Security and my name? Are they not allowed to access Social Security's files? I essentially had 2 social security numbers on file in my name; one (the correct one) with government related businesses and another (with 2 numbers transposed) with private businesses. What a ridiculous system.

17 August 2008

International Super Randonneur!

Woohoo!  Yesterday I received my International Super Randonneur (ISR) badge as proof that I have completed a 200, 300, 400, and a 600 km brevet in 4 different countries, as follows:
200 k: 24 march 2007 in the UK.
300 k: 6 september 2004 in Canada.
400 k: 9 may 2007 in Spain.
600 k: 7 june 2008 in USA.

-I also received a copy of the ISR roll of honour. I'm the latest addition and #54. An exclusive club!

My ISR brevet card, front and back:

SIR Brevet Card - front & back.jpg

My ISR brevet card, inside showing the 4  brevets:

SIR brevet card - brevets.jpg

My ISR badge:
SIR badge.jpg

07 July 2008

iPhone 3G chaos looming...?

So I plan to buy an iPhone on Friday 11 July.  Maybe one or two other people have the same idea.  I looked up AT&T's iPhone page on their website and it says they'll have to perform a credit check on you before they'll hand over the phone.  It also says you can go to your local AT&T store at anytime before the 11th and get pre-approved so you don't have to wait on the 11th.

'Great', I thought, 'sounds like a brilliant idea'. A few minutes later I was in my local store and asked if they could help me getting pre-approved for iPhone purchase. Sure, no problem. I gave them my driver license and SSN and the friendly guy behind the counter tapped it all into the computer.  Then he had to make a call to the AT&T 'customer care' line after they had reviewed the information he had typed in.  After being on hold for more than 6 minutes he hung up and tried again - 'maybe the application didn't go through with them yet' he said.  After re-dialling he got a tired look on his face - 'They say there's currently a 10-minute wait. Would you like to wait?'

I told him I had a couple of errands to run and then I'd come back in 10 minutes, if possible. No problem. 10 minutes later as I walked back in to the store he had just picked up the phone and was talking to somebody presumably human on the other end.  The minutes ticked by while he (an AT&T sales rep, mind you) was trying to explan to 'customer care' what he was trying to do.  In the other end they asked for the last four digits of my SSN, a few minutes later they asked for the entire SSN. After 12 minutes (i.e. 22 minutes after calling for the 2nd time) he said 'allright then', and hung up with a sad face.  

I looked at him and didn't expect great news - it certainly didn't seem to me as if my application was on track.  He then told me that I should probably try to call 'customer care' myself, as the person in the other end he had been talking to didn't seem very knowledgeable about the entire pre-approval concept and in the end had given up on helping him (an AT&T colleague!) out...

That doesn't really bode very well for what might happen on Friday when more than one person at the time will try to buy an iPhone and get their credit check through!  AT&T - I predict that you'll have some explaining to do on Saturday morning.

ETA July 9: I just visited the Apple store in the same mall as the above AT&T store and they had never heard anything about anybody being able to have their credit pre-approved prior to purchase...

05 July 2008

Cascade 1200k brevet ride report

It’s a sunny day and it’s hot - more than 100F.  A man sits in a deck chair, an umbrella shades him from the sun.  He has a big cooler filled with ice and beverages by his side.  He is reading a book.  It is a pleasant scene.  He looks up from his book and sees a tiny spot in the distance.  The spot slowly grows bigger and turns out to be a cyclist, working his way up a long and seemingly endless hill in Eastern Washington.  As the cyclist slowly approaches, the man gets out of his chair, reaches into the cooler and produces an ice-cold bottle of spring water.  He walks to the side of the road, greets the surprised cyclist approaching him and hands over the water bottle to him.  The cyclist empties the bottle in seconds, then thanks the man and carries on.  I am the cyclist and I am well into day 3 of the Cascade 1200km Grand Randonnee, produced and organized by Seattle International Randonneurs.

Day 1: Monroe-Naches via Eatonville, Packwood and White Pass; 361km
‘OK, it’s 6 am, have a good ride’ was ride director Mark Roehrig’s words some 48 hours earlier as a group of ~65 randonneuses and randonneurs left the Holiday Inn parking lot in Monroe, WA and began the 1240km Grand Randonnee on Saturday morning.  The first day were to take us from Monroe north of Seattle down south around Mt. Rainier and then east over White Pass before descending into Naches for the night.  Two minutes after the start the ride had its first interruption as we all were stopped at a railroad crossing by a  passing freight train.  A couple of people got off their bikes and started fiddling around somewhere near the crank of one of the bikes - a bit early for that in my opinion.  On the other hand, during PBP 2007 I saw somebody standing with a crank puller and a bike on the side of the road in the pouring rain less than 5 k after the start.

2 mins into the ride...

Anyway, the train soon passed and we were all on our way again, rolling through the early morning mist in the farmlands south of Monroe.  Soon I found myself riding with only a couple of riders in view, but I didn’t care.  The solitude on the road can be very refreshing if you can let your mind wander.  I had just cleaned up the drivetrain, put a new chain on the bike and installed new brakepads.  I was thrilled to feel that everything clicked into place by the slightest touch on the shift levers.  The only sound to be heard was the tires singing on the road and the smooth clicking of the chain moving up and down the cassette when shifting gear.  Shifting gear felt like a soft kiss.  Great, I was ready and settled into the saddle, contemplating the task ahead of me.  But not for long - a 1200 km is just too much to think about in the early parts of the ride, so instead I thought about the first stretch to Cumberland and the first control, 87 km down the road.  Soon I got company by Jennifer Chang, also from SIR, and John from Iowa.  We had a pleasant ride down the rolling hills towards Cumberland, slowly feeling the day beginning and getting warmer - a hint of what was ahead for the rest of the ride! 

The Cumberland control was reached without any mishaps and after a short stop for the signature, 2 chocolate cookies and getting rid of some of the layers of clothing we were off again.  Our little group got split up in the street festival in Buckley and I found myself alone on the road upon navigating through the floats and tents of the festival.  The next control was in Eatonville and a few miles before reaching it I spotted a rider in the distance.  I caught up to him in a few minutes; it was Larry from Florida who had never before climbed anything taller than a speedbump.  He would get some experience on this later on!  A few minutes later I rolled in to Eatonville Plaza Market where a large group of randonneurs were chilling out in the shadow having lunch.  The thermometer on the plaza read 82F but the day was still young.  I sat down for lunch and spent about 45 minutes eating, drinking and chatting.  John and Jennifer was there as well; John had had a flat a mile before the control and was busy changing tubes.

Upon rolling out from Eatonville I could definitely feel the heat.  Due to my Danish heritage I burn easily so I have learned to use factor 50 for weather like this - in 2007 I did the Mallorca Brevet Camp in similar weather, so I was not particularly worried about the heat itself; only the posibility of severe sunburns.  Riding the bike creates your own breeze and I enjoyed the feeling of the wind on my legs and arms, cooling me off ever so slightly.  I took in the full view of Mt. Rainier, which was now quite close and definitely ‘out’ as Seattleites say on a clear day when the entire moutain is in full view.  It was a majestic sight.  

And the mountain was out all day

I was now approaching Morton and although there was no scheduled control there I had to stop at the IGA in order to cool down with a couple of drinks - it was getting hot!  A bunch of Canadians had had the same idea and a few minutes later we all left together for the next strectch of road to Packwood, 38 km down the road.

Chillin' in Monroe

As we were approaching Randle a “SIR CONTROL” sign suddenly showed up on the side of the road - the first secret control of the ride! There, we were greeted by Joe and his son Jesse who handed out tube socks filled with ice - the greatest invention since sliced bread!  Hanging the ice-filled sock around your neck cools you down substantially and makes the heat much more bearable.  As the ice melts it drips down the front of your jersey, cooling it down in the wind. It was great to get back on the road, feeling the coolness from the sock on my body!

Ice, ice, baby!

Packwood was reached in a little more than an hour or so, and as I was approaching the control I met Jennifer and John riding the other way! They just had time to yell ‘We missed it’ and then they sped off.  I asked at the control what had happened and was told that they had been following the GPS route instead of the printed route sheet - apparently the GPS route had missed the stretch of road in Randle leading up to the secret control!  So much for modern technology - they were now looking at a roundtrip worth 56 bonus k’s...  A couple of exhausted riders came in 10-20 minutes after me and didn’t look too good - a bad sign that early in the ride.  After a big bag of chips and lots of water I decided to get back on the bike - it was now around 6.30pm, there was still 105 km to Naches and I wanted to get to the top of White Pass before dark so that I could get at least some of the descent over before darkness fell.  

The climb up White Pass was rather uneventful, the heat had subsided a bit and occasionally there would be shadow from the trees.  The pre-ride had noted that the steepest bit was the first 1/3 of the climb; after that it would flatten out somewhat, and they were right.  As an added bonus, a few miles before the top Don Boothby had set up a water stop, in order to get the bottles filled before the last bit of climbing and the descent into Naches.  He also had numerous slices of watermelon, of which I had plenty - much better than the Gatorade/water mix in my bottles!!  

I soon moved on and as I approached the top the view got better. I could see across to other mountain ridges, turned pink in the setting sun. It was a gorgeous sight! 

View from White Pass

A mile from the top I had to stop and put on my ‘night gown’, as a chilly head wind was coming down from the top of the pass.  A few minutes later I crested the pass, at around 9.15pm and started the descent, which turned out to be a lot warmer than the climb up - never tried that before!  It was actually sweltering hot descending down the mountains, as the naked rockside and the pavement was radiating heat intensely. I was sweating in my arm and knee warmers despite doing no pedalling.  16 k’s later the route took a right turn, in order to go around Clear Lake and a few km’s further on was the penultimate control of the day at the shores of Clear Lake.

Clear Lake was a feast!  Just like the 600km brevet in early June, SIR’s last control before the overnight stop would wait for us with everything the heart could desire food-wise. Five people were manning it, ready to take my orders for sandwiches, soup, coffee, tea, and whatever kind of drinks I’d like.  Awesome!  I had two bowls of soup and a couple of cokes while I sat in a comfortable camp chair listening to the music the ‘controllers’ had put on.  

Then I was away again, on a great homestretch consisting of 48 km of downhill followed by 7 km of flat road in a roaring tailwind and at 5 minutes past midnight I pulled in to Naches Middle School together with Kitty Goursolle whom I caught up to during the descent.  As we walked the last 20 meters through the entrance she asked me where I was from and was delighted when I told her that I was Danish, as she was 1/4 Danish!  Inside Bob Brudvik (50/50 Swede/Norwegian), together with a handful of other volunteers, was waiting to feed and sleep the riders as they trickled in.  I first sat down for an excellent lasagna and had a chat with Mark Roberts who was on kitchen duty.  Then I had a great shower and finally it was time for bed.  I got my sleeping pad and sleeping bag out from my drop bag, asked to be woken up at 4.30 am, was given a piece of paper with my name and wake-up time on it and was shown to my spot in the school’s gym.  I rolled out my bag, plugged in the ear plugs and fell asleep in milliseconds.

Day 2: Naches-Quincy via Lodgepole Campground (Chinook Pass) and Rattlesnake Hills; 331km
At 4.30 am sharp a kind volunteer gently wiggled my toes and I woke up, ready for day 2.  I put on a jersey and had a quick breakfast, put my drop bag in the truck and I was out the door at 5.17 am.  In the door I met Jennifer Chang who was just pulling in, she was still in good spirits, despite her roundtrip to the secret control in Randle earlier on.

The first part of the day would be a 140 km roundtrip to Lodgepole campground, halfway up Chinook Pass.  Essentially it would mean 70 km of gentle climbing followed by 70 km of downhill back to Naches and then further on.  There was a wicked headwind initially which subsided somewhat as it was gradually getting warmer - unfortunately I had learned about valley winds in first year in college and vaguely remembered that as the valley sides warmed up, the wind direction in the valley would reverse and thus I could expect a headwind going back down again. Oh well, not much you can do about nature and general laws of physics! 

After only 5 k or so I met Val and Robin Phelps; Val had suffered a crash and was sitting on the road bleeding from several cuts and bruises on his hand and his face. It didn’t look too good but after having checked if I had any first-aid gear on me (nope!) they assured me that they would be OK and I carried on.  A few minutes later they passed me, and I met them again halfway to the Lodgepole campground when I pulled in at a gas station to get a cup of coffee and they were shopping for band-aids...

The last half of the trip up to Lodgepole was rather delightful with a gentle climb all the way, which promised for a nice descend later on.  I checked in at Lodgepole, which turned out to be a secret control and not just a support stop shortly after 9.30 am together with a couple of Canadians.  Josh Morse (another SIR) and Larry from Florida pulled in another few minutes later.  I treated myself to a muffin and a cup of coffee and a quick visit to the campground loo; then it was off again.  

I had been right about the wind reversal in the valley and I was now facing a slight headwind as I was going downhill towards Naches.  I enjoyed letting the bike roll along, with just the occasional pedalling to keep the speed around 25-30 k/hr.  Great views of the river shifted with the occasional shade from the trees and soon I was back in Naches where the route took us up on the old Naches highway, thereby avoiding going through the city itself.  The control at Fruitvale was now only 16 km away, but a slight detour 2 km up a very steep hill together with Tracy Barill from BC made it slightly longer than necessary.  However, at 1.25 pm we pulled in at the Fruitvale control where we were greeted by Mark Thomas outside the Starbucks.  A shopping trip in the Fred Meyer’s Deli followed, where I stocked up on Gatorade, coke, chocolate milk, chicken salad and fruit for lunch.  I filled my water bottles and then sat down in the shadow for a slow lunch - I have discovered that I can’t eat at my normal speed when it’s hot, but if I slow down to 30-50% of my normal ‘eating speed’, everything goes down very well.  An hour later I felt ready for departure, and the temperature was approaching 105F anyways, so it was time to get moving.

The first stretch took me through the Yakima green trail, a bike trail around the city whereby you avoid Yakima itself, and then on to SR-24 for 66km in the sun, with no shade whatsoever anywhere along the road. I got my tube sock filled with ice just before exiting the trail onto SR-24 and it kept me cool for the first 15 km or so, then it had all melted in the heat.  However, I was making really good progress despite the 100+F temperatures. 

Rattlesnake Hills

The first hour I was going 24-27km/hr, but then the road started to tilt slightly in the wrong direction and my speed dropped to 16-19 km/hr for the next hour - there was also a slight headwind to make it a bot more challenging (good job, SIR!).  Mark Thomas had told that there would be a water stop about 40 km down the road so I had been drinking out of my bottles accordingly - a slurp for every mile and a bigger slurp every 5 miles.  As hot as it was I still felt relatively fine on the bike and the fact that I was making good progress kept my morale up.  I even had energy to take pictures and worry about rattlesnakes, as I had seen numerous roadkilled snakes on the road and was constantly wondering if it was really something a cyclist should worry about.  So I spent most of my time looking out for live ones on the road but never saw any.  Suddenly I saw a white canopy in the distance and the SIR water stop materialized in front of me, manned by Bob Brudvik and Erik Anderson.  I sat down for 2 cokes and was off again in 10 minutes, having been told that I made good time on a larger group ahead of me, which had left Fruitvale when I pulled in.  That was good news and told me that I was doing better than most people in the heat.


After another hour or so, the Vernita rest area on the banks of the Columbia River showed up on the horizon.  Kitty was there, having some stomach problems. I filled my bottles and sat down for a few minutes and a visit to the loo.  Upon exiting the rest area, the road climbs out of the Columbia River Valley via a short but steep piece of road, about 10% or so over half a mile.  The route sheet said ‘Yes, up that hill!’, but I actually didn’t find it that hard - compared to working your way up a mountain pass for 2+ hours as I had done a few weeks earlier on the 600k it was really just a bump in the road and I climbed slowly out of the valley in my lowest gear.  Kitty had left 5-10 minutes before me and I caught up to her a couple of miles down the road where she was riding slowly through an irrigation spinkler to cool down - a neat trick!  


We were now in farm land; fields of crops were all around us, together with loads of empty beer bottles lining the ditches on the sides of the road.  I’m not sure this is a place I’d like to ride through on a Friday or Saturday night as it seems as if the predominant hobby is drinking and driving.  A smashed up car was parked in a field next to the road, a bunch of locals checking it out, apparently. The road took a turn to the left and it was now only 12 km to the control in Mattawa - last stop before the overnight in Quincy.  This meant soup and sandwich time!  Before I knew it I was in Mattawa, gave my order to the controllers and sat down for a delicious soup and sandwich.  I had 2 helpings, and then I was ready to get on my way again.  


The overnight stop was 65 km from Mattawa and a thunderstorm was brewing on the horizon.  As I rode out of Mattawat I had to pedal in my lowest  gear to work my way down the hill towards the right turn onto SR-243. Fortunately I then had kind of a tailwind, but I kept looking over my shoulder to figure out if a thunderstorm was coming or not. The sky was pitchblack and the gusts were unbelievable.  In the end nothing came of it, but the prospect of riding around in a thunderstorm in the open scared me so much that I started sprinting whenever I could - I just wanted to get to Quincy as soon as I possibly could! Fotunately the wind was in my back most of the way to Quincy and it helped my morale a lot that I caught up to a group with Audrey Adler and a couple of others after 15-20 km or so (it was dark so I couldn’t see who).  I had just ridden through an irrigation sprinkler before catching up to them and as I rode up on the side of Audrey and said hi she said ‘It’s raining’.  I said ‘no, it’s just me’ and she responded ‘no, it’s raining’. I then explained that I had just ridden through a sprinkler and the side wind was blowing water off me and onto her.  On a long, steep downhill I left them behind and rode through the night towards Quincy on my own.  I really enjoyed the last 25 km or so, it was two long stretches of flat road with  a stron tailwind that kept me at 25-28 km/hr constantly and I pulled in at Quincy high school at 23.19.  

Quincy overnight control

After a generously sized portion of chili and rice, served up by Ralph and Carol Nussbaum, and 8-10 cups of water, juice and chocolate milk I went for the shower and then the bed.  I asked for a 5:00 wake-up call and I was in bed at 00:15, giving me almost 5 hours of sleep - great! I was out in seconds and slept like a log.

Day 3: Quincy-Mazama via Dry Falls and Loup Loup Pass; 290 km.
After a relaxed breakfast I was out the door shortly after 6:00 and heading in a generally northerly direction towards Mazama.  The morning was cool-ish (at least not too hot yet!) and I made good progress on the roads winding through the farm areas of Eastern Washington.  I soon found myself outside Ephrata where the route turned left towards the Dry Falls, a most spectacular geological feature from the last ice age created by catastrophic failure of an ice-dammed lake covering most of Western Montana.  Eventually the ice-dam gave away and the water was relased in a gigantic flash-flood, covering Eastern Washington in hundreds of feet of water and carving out the Dry Falls.  This flooding re-occurred several times as the lake covering Western Montana re-filled and re-emptied.  It is a spectacular sight to see and cycle through it!


At the Dry Falls visitor center a secret control appeared.  Mark Thomas and co. were busy signing brevet cards and serving excellent potato salad and cold drinks.  I chilled out in the shadow for half an hour or so before I left again for the first ‘non-secret’ control of the day, at Farmer.  

Dry Falls secret control

After Dry Falls the road took a left turn to climb up on the top of the plateau that the Dry Falls are carved in to.  It turned out to be a mile-long, slow-going climb before I found myself on the top of the plateau, which is not flat but has some rather long rollers.  In between the rollers is a screaming descent followed by a long, long climb back up to the plateau, which is where I was greeted by the in-promptu water stop manned by Albert under the umbrella.   My bike speed was good despite the increasing heat and I arrived at the control in Farmer at around 12:01, just in time for lunch!

Towards Farmer

The Farmer control was in the old Farmer Community Hall, located absolutely in the middle of nowhere.  Audrey, Michelle and Kitty were relaxing in the shade inside when I  arrived.  5-6 volunteers were busy attendig the needs of the riders.  I got my card signed and then had a great tuna sandwich with everything on it.  After that a generous serving of grapes and chips - once again I was amazed about the incredible and overwhelming control support on this ride!


After Farmer there was 95 km to the Malott control before the Loup Loup Pass climb. Getting back out in the sun was quite brutal, in particular as I had forgotten my tube sock in my drop bag in the morning. So I was riding with no other cooling than the breeze created by my own speed.  It was like riding around in a hair-dryer running at full speed.  The rollers around Farmer continued for miles and miles.  It was quite a sight coming up on top of one and see the landscape and all the fields with crops unfold in front of you.  Another white canopy appeared in the distance - yet another SIR water stop in the middle of nowhere.  I pulled in and met Audrey, Michelle and Kitty who was a couple of minutes ahead of me.  After a couple of Cokes and a banana, and a refill of my water bottles I left again; there was still some 60km to the Malott control and after that was the Loup Loup Pass which I didn’t want to descend in the dark.

Support stop

Soon another screaming, 8-mile long descent into the Columbia River valley and Bridgeport followed.  Here I stopped for a rest in a gas station to get out of the heat for a bit, and to fill up on everything before the last stretch to Malott.  After Bridgeport the landscape changed as I was now approaching the foothills of the Cascade mountains.  I was quite pleased to see the mountains in the horizon, as I was beginning to have had enough of the impressive, but monotonous landscape of Eastern Washington.  The last stretch to Malott was through a lovely rolling farmland with ranches and lush, green fields with all sorts of crops and grazing horses. 

At Malott the usual soup-and-sandwich extravaganza awaited as I pulled in at 17:31 and it felt great to sit down for 45 minutes or so and pull myself together in preparation for the last stretch to Mazama.  I later learned that the temperature at the Mazama control had topped out at 105F and that the temperature at the Farmer control was 111F when I was there! No wonder it felt quite warm on the road...  

After leaving Malott the climb up Loup Loup Pass began after only 6 km. I got a genuine shock when I saw a “wall” instead of a road ahead of me and I started climbing up in my lowest gear with the greatest difficulty.  I was wondering if this was going to go on all the way to the top, 22 km ‘down’ the road.  Fortunately it turned out that the inital steep - very steep - climb was only a couple of km or so; after that it flattened out subtantially and got quite a bit easier.  At Malott I had been told that there would be a water stop 8 km from the top of the pass and after a rather disappointing descent halfway to the top I reached the water stop and filled up.  Then it was onwards to the top at 4020 ft which I reached around 20:40. 

Just as the night before, a thunderstorm was brewing behind me and I still had some ways to go to the Mazama control.  I stopped at the top to quickly put on arm and knee warmers and reflective gear and then began the descent.  3 km down I felt a few very big drops falling on me and I started pedalling to get down even faster - I really didn’t fancy being caught in a thunderstorm descending at 65 km/hr!  I reached the bottom after 16 km, made a right turn and was then on a sligthly rolling road towards Twisp and Winthrop; intermediate towns before the Mazama overnight stop.  To my right I could see flashes of lightning in the mountains and I wasn’t sure if it was going in my direction or not.  Soon I reached Twisp, where I felt some drops of rain starting to fall harder and harder.  I sped through the town and pulled in to a campground at the outskirts of Twisp just as the wind started to pick up and the rain began to fall.  I sat down on the front porch for half an hour or so while I was trying to figure out what the weather was doing.  It rained heavily for 10 minutes and the wind was viciously coming from allmost all directions at once.  From counting the seconds between flashes and the thunder it seemed that the thunder was moving away from me.  After about half an hour or so I was back on the road, riding as fast as possible towards Winthrop as I could.  It turned out that I was on the tailend of the storm and apparently gaining on it a bit as it started to drizzle harder and harder as I approached Winthrop.  In Winthrop I then waited another 5-10 minutes before setting out for the last 21 km to Mazama, which were completely dry.  I arrived at Mazama around 23:30 completely dry and without having been severely hit by any rain to speak of.

Dinner was another round of Chili and I then asked to be woken up at 4:30.  I was shown the way to the sleeping facilities, which turned out to be luxurious resort hotel rooms with private bathrooms and big, soft beds It was great to have a long shower and then tuck myself down in a huge queen size bed!

Day 4: Mazama-Monroe via Washington Pass and Rainy Pass; 261 km
I was woken up by 4:30, got ready and then left for the breakfast table which had loads of sausages, eggs, potatoes, fruit, oatmeal, juices and coffee.  After having eaten breakfast for half an hour or so I decided it was time to get on with the day and I rolled out of Mazama around 5:45.

It immediately started to go up towards Washington Pass, not much, but still.  Washington Pass is almost at 5500 ft so there was a substantial amount of climbing ahead.  However, I enjoyed the spectacular scenerey as I made my way up the pass, although I had a hard time sitting down.  I think I underestimated the amount of chamois-butter I needed to use on day 1 and 2 and I was now paying the price. Re-applying a couple of times didn’t do much to mitigate the pain.  My left achilles was also starting to bother me, so I couldn’t stand up and pedal properly. In the end (!) I just had to sit down and try not to think too hard about the pain in my derriere.  

Up Washington Pass

Halfway to the top I stopped for a couple of pictures of the mountains around me, and I noticed a big wobble in rear wheel.  Great, just what I needed on the last day!  On the top of the pass I stopped for a few minutes trying to get the wheel trued back.  Ksyrium’s are not supposed to do that!  I managed to get most of the wobble straigthened out and I could then carry on with the screaming descent from Washington Pass and over the little ‘speedbump’ of Rainy Pass.  From Rainy pass it was a downhill more or less all the way to Newhalem, 60 km down the road. There were a few rollers inbetween but it was definitely one of the longest generally downhill stretches I’ve encountered - great for the last day!

On top of the world - downhill from here!

From Newhalem there was 22 km to the first control of the day in Marblemount and I pulled in around lunch time.  For the first time in a long time there were no SIR volunteers working the control so we had to get the cards signed inside the gas station.  I got a bag of chips and some gatorade, sat down for a few minutes in the shadow on a milk crate and wished it all was finished now...

But there was still 140 km to go to the finish in Monroe.  However, the climbing was over for now and the next 120 km to the last control in Granite Falls turned out to be through forests and lush farmland on generally flat roads.  The only excitement being caused by the occasional logging truck passing a bit too close for comfort.  I stopped halfway to re-apply some chamois-butter and eat a powerbar, then I pushed on for Granite Falls which I reached 17:38.  The control was just outside a MacDonald’s and a Quarter Pounder has never tasted so good - I had ridden 227 km on my breakfast, a bag of chips and a powerbar and I really felt like I needed some proper food before the last 34 km to Monroe.  

Shortly after 18:00 I was on my way again, just wishing to be through with it and sit down with a nice, cold beer.  There was a lot of small, twisting hills on the last stretch and I hate riding on that kind of roads when I’m tired.  I like to know what’s ahead and these small hills made me quite irritated towards the end. But at least I was riding them in the daylight and soon I was on the top of Chain Lake Road leading down (yes, down!) to Monroe. The last 3 km to the hotel was a gentle downhill and I rolled at 19:40 and handed over my card to Amy Pieper and Mark Thomas manning the finish line. I had completed my 2nd 1200k!

At the finish line!

This was a great ride, with lots of very varied scenery and amazing landscapes.  What was even more amazing was all the outstanding support the riders got from the SIR volunteers. I have mentioned some of them by name here, but only because I don’t know all of them yet. Everybody did an outstanding job in making us riders succeed in our efforts to complete and I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their incredible work. Thanks a lot!

Ole Mikkelsen, RUSA 4754.

19 June 2008


Wordle is a website for generating 'clouds' of words from a text you provide.  Words that feature more prominently in your text will be larger (via Sandwalk).  It's a massive waste of time, but very entertaining.  here's what my 600km brevet looks like:

-notice that the word 'miles' feature prominently!

Here's what the War and soil piece looks like:

Highly amusing!

16 June 2008

War and soil!

There was an unusual little paper in Geoderma’s last issue (Hupy & Schaetzl, 2008: Soil development on the WWI battlefield of Verdun, France. Geoderma 145: 37-49. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2008.01.024). While soil science is pretty far from what I do on a daily basis now, I had great interest in the subject when I was an undergrad and still finds it fascinating. Furthermore, I visited Verdun in 1994 and saw the remains of the battlefield and was amazed how little it had recovered - craters were absolutely everywhere and vast areas were cordoned off with warnings about un-exploded ammunition.  A study combining the two topics would be just up my alley!

Anyway, H&S studied soil development in and adjacent to artillery craters at three sites, corresponding to the three major soil types in the battlefield.  These in turn are related to the underlying geology and geomorphology of the area.  The area is structurally defined by a series of NE-SW running cuestas creating a sets of valleys and ridges.  In the valleys low-lying poorly drained areas have soils suffering from waterlogging (Pseudogleys), while the ridges have soils influenced by the shallow limestone bedrock (Brunified Rendzina and Calcareous Brown).  

The data were collected from the disturbed soil profiles (in the craters) compared to the ‘undisturbed’ profiles (adjacent to the craters). In 3 study sites, one for each major soil type  in the area, 3 soil profiles were dug in each of 3 craters for a total of 27 soil profiles.

At the end of the battle, no soil horizons were likely to exist in the area due to the intensive ‘bomturbation’ of the area. H&S found that a measurable amount of soil development have occurred since the disturbance in 1916: The crater bottoms have accumulated a thick layer of organic matter, the freshly exposed (in 1916) limestone bedrock have been weathered and its byproducts leached down-profile.  Weathering at the crater bottoms have occurred at a faster rate than elsewhere, most likely due to run-off accumulating in the crater bottoms.  Also earthworm activity was found to have moved humus-rich material into cracks and fractures in the limestone, thereby increasing the area exposed to leaching by humic acids.  

This means that soil formation has now been enhanced in crater bottoms located at the ridge crests due to 1) water being focused in the craters and 2) organic matter being collected at the crater bottoms.  In the valleys between the cuesta ridges soil formation has slowed as the crater bottoms are more or less permanently below the water table.  Soil formation has also increased on the slopes of the ridges, as the craters delay the run-off and increase the infiltration of surface water into the soils, thereby enhancing soil formation.

The vegetation in the area has generally not been restored to its pre-war state of beech, hornbeam and oak, due to the scale of the devastation.  Pine has been planted in heavily visited areas due to the soft lighting created by pine trees.  H&S try to make the claim that the soil development in the 88 years since the battle can be used as indicators of landscape recovery/resilience, in the absence of re-colonizing vegetation.  

However, it’s not clear to me exactly how.  Their data seems to show to me that while the same soil-forming processes are acting now as before the battle, the location of the resulting soils are different, for example as evidenced by the  development of soils in the crater bottoms on ridge crests.  Consequently reovery hasn’t been particularly successful (as I see it), but this is never really spelled out by H&S.  However, I still like the paper simply for being curious about soil development in a heavily bombarded area!

14 June 2008

SIR 600km 4 passes brevet - map

So this is the route we took on the SIR 600km 4 passes brevet 7-8 June - challenging:

Well, that was a short one!

I was supposed to go on a 140 mi permanent today together with a handful of other people from SIR, riding around Mt. Rainier.  The start was at 6.30 am in Enumclaw and upon arrival I realised, as I opened the trunk in the parking lot, that I had forgotten my bike helmet! 

%$#&%^@$!!  and $@$#$@#@&&*^!!

So while I loaded my bike back up on my rack and headed back towards Beacon Hill, the others took off on what I'm sure will be a gorgeous day riding over a couple of exciting mountain passes while having Mt. Rainier in view almost all the time... Oh well, lesson learned!

Happy Cubic Day!

Today is a very special day - it's a cubic day! (Link in Danish only, sorry.) 14 June 2008 (140608, as it would be written outside the US) is 52^3, and therefore holds very special significance as all sorts of trickery, disasters, destruction and magic can happen today. Maybe even the end of the world before the day is over!

Well, no.  But that's only because the superstitious in the US only recognizes the US date format so that todays date is 61408 or even 80614, both of which are obviously a lot less exciting. For one, there's fewer numbers in them than 140608 and their cubic roots are no magic integer numbers like 52.  Also note that 52 is the number of weeks in a year, so it's obvious that 140608 is an *incredibly* special day - watch out!

The next cubic day, if we survive this one, will be 9 November 2025 (91125 = 45^3) and the last one was 11 May 1995 (110595 = 48^3).

09 June 2008

SIR 600km 4 passes brevet

The Seattle International Randonneurs 600 km ACP brevet was held this weekend.  With a route going over 4 passes each higher than 4000 feet and a total of 20000+ feet of climbing this was not going to be a tea party.  Having ridden only 10 brevets in my Randonneur career so far I am not the most experiened randonneur around and I had been looking forward to this ride with a feeling of anticipation and anxiety.  I only had one 600 km to my belt and that was done on Mallorca in May 2007 - a place with a considerably more pleasant climate than Issaquah on an early Saturday morning in June 2008...  I cycled over to the start from my home in Seattle and was comfortably warm when I arrived at the start 10 minutes before the gun.*  Signing in took 30 seconds but by that time I was already cooled down.

Anyway, off we went, all 54 of us at 5 am, heading out into the early morning light, which soon gave way to - not the sun, but to a slight drizzle, which within a couple of hours had turned into a more steady rain.  Anyway, the wind wasn’t too strong and after the initial climb up to the plateau the course was gently rolling along.  As a new transplant to the Northwest I recognized with joy some of the locations we sped through from my 2 200 km permanents in April and May.

After 30 miles or so I felt my bike pulling to the right, and I had a hard time keeping it straight.  For a few seconds I though that I was loosing my sense of balance - I tried to ride without my hands on the handlebars and it would pull sharply to the right. I tried to lean to the left and it would still pull to the right.  Then it dawned upon me:  I had a flat, caused by having ridden over some torny branches on the road.  As I stood there by the wayside fixing it I was once again pleasantly surprised by all the passing riders asking if I had everything I needed - randonneurs are a friendly bunch! I was less pleased with the fancy tire levers from REI, one of which promptly broke when I tried to get the tire off. MEC’s are better!

Got the wheel back on the bike just in time to hook up with Jeff Loomis and a couple of others whom I’d met on the 300 km brevet in April.  We rode more or less together up to the first control at Skykomish (106km/66mi), where the chili at the Sky Deli felt really good!

Back on the bike and up towards Steven’s Pass.  After 6 or 7 miles I suddenly heard a pfft pfft pfft from my rear tire. C***! Another flat, the second in less than 75 miles - this could be a looooong brevet if it continued like that.  As I was replacing the tube several randonneurs rode by, expressing their joy upon recognizing me: ‘You again?’, ‘Another one?’, ‘The second flat already?’ and similar uplifting remarks.  I had a closer look at the tire and discovered that it was almost completely cut up in an area, where a pebble (presumably) had made a star-shaped incision all the way through to the outside of the thread.  I didn’t have a boot handy so I put a dollar bill in the tire instead, thereby dramatically increasing the resale value of it.  A few minutes later I was on my way again.

The climb up Steven’s was not too bad, actually.  Raining, yes, but I was still fresh and I could see 2-3 randonneurs a few hundred metres ahead of me.  A few thousand vertical feet later I found myself at the top of the pass with one down and three to go.  At the top I was greeted by some friendly randonneurs who were impressed with my stylish outfit (my reflective vest from MEC; my wet weather gear from RainLegs and my seat bag from Carradice with quick release). Style is everything when you’re on the top and in lack of any serious talent. It is also cold on the top, as they say, but it’s actually a lot colder going down from the top, at least if Steven’s Pass is any indication. The decent was about 17 miles and ended, conveniently, at a rest area just as the sun decided to peek out from behind the clouds.  I pulled over and spent a few minutes getting rid of some clothes and soaking up a bit of sun.

After heating up a bit it was on towards Leavenworth and its alpine grandeur.  The route took us through a gorgeous valley with rapids in the river and generally a delightful tailwind (I think) - the push to Leavenworth didn’t seem that long or hard.  Upon arrival at the Subway control (188km/117mi) I had one of their sandwiches and it felt really good - like music in my mouth. Or was it the habaneros?

5 minutes after pulling out from the Subway I realized that I had forgotten to fill my water bottles.  Fortunately I had read Mark’s pre-ride report which clearly said that Ingall’s Creek Store would be about halfway up Blewett Pass.  After what seemed like a quick ride I arrived there, filled up my bottles in preparation for the last half of the climb in the heat (the sun was now out in full strength) and took off for the top at around 16:11.  90 minutes later I was still climbing and cursing loose statements about being halfway at the store.  I hate Blewett Pass! The road up there just keeps going on and on and on and on and on and on forever and ever.  The grade does change a bit here and there so there is some variation in the climb, but overall it was just an awful long climb.  At the top I stopped for a drink, a Snickers and a few pictures and then took of for the descent, only to be interrupted 100m later by a SIR non-control with plenty of food and drinks. Nice - thanks to the organizers for that!

The descent was fast and not too chilly, although the sun was slowly setting in the West. After a few miles the road turned uphill and into a wicked sidewind with violent gusts that almost could move you sideways.  I was riding with Clyde Butt at this point and we had to be careful not to be tossed into each other by the wind. Fortunately the road turned south after a few miles and with the wind coming from WNW we were now in a tailwind with gusts up to 65mph all the way to Ellensburg (282km/175mi).  Those miles went by frighteningly fast, but were as fun as anything I’ve ever tried on a bicycle!  Woohoo, more of that, please!!  Upon arrival at Ellensburg we got our brevet card stamped and then proceeded to a launderette, because Clyde had the bright idea that we should dry our clothes that were still wet after the morning rain.  Better to ride into the night with dry clothes...  We ate a couple of sandwiches while we chilled out inside the launderette and waited for the clothes to dry up. 

Shortly before 21:00 we left Ellensburg and rode through Yakima Canyon, a roughly 30-mile stretch winding through the canyon.  The road was twisting and turning - horizontally and vertically, so sometimes we had a nice tailwind, sometimes a disgusting headwind.  Soon we arrived in Selah, where we were to turn out onto highway #12 which was ALL headwind.  Right in the nose for 10 miles; and in pitch black darkness.  It was now approaching midnight and we still had 35-40 miles to the overnight stop at Rimrock Lake so the headwind was not appreciated at all.  But what can you do, other than get a grip on the bottom of the handlebars and pedal through.  Fortunately I was still feeling quite well, although I think Clyde was getting a bit tired.  However, after an hour and a bit we finally turned off the #12 highway onto - the #12 highway and were greeted by the blinking lights indicating a friendly SIR control at night.  

The lights indicated Mark Thomas’ secret control and soup kitchen, where 4 volunteers were busy making sandwiches, coffee, hot chocolate and soup for the randonneurs and randonneuses straying by in the night.  Clyde was concerned about his rear light having enough juice in it, but his fingers were too cold to change the batteries, so he asked Mark Thomas if he would do it for him.  Mark agreed and promptly changed the batteries on somebody elses rear light as Clyde apparently hadn’t been too specific about which bike needed the attention...  Such is randonneuring after 20 hours on the bike.  As it turned out, Clyde had enough battery life for the rest of the night anyways.  We enquired about the remaining part of the route up to the overnight stop at Rimrock lake (400km/250mi) and were told that it was 40km/25 miles - uphill - so probably about 3 hours @ 8 miles per hour - a rather depressing message to get at 1 am in the morning when all you want to do is to hit the sack for a couple of hours in la-la land.

It turned out that it wasn’t quite so bad; it probably only took about 2 hours and 50 minutes to get to the overnight stop.  On the way up it happened a couple of times that I was nodding off and almost fell asleep on my bike, while pedalling uphill.  During Paris-Brest-Paris in 2007 I did fall asleep once, but that was on a downhill where there was no pedalling.  The body feels weird when you’re so sleepy.  And strangely enough I still felt strong, hadn’t bonked or had any crises at all during the day; I was just sleepy.

At Rimrock Lake there were 3 motels, spread 1-2 miles apart.  Our motel was obviously the very last one, so for half an hour or so we were eagerly scouting for the blinking SIR lights on the roadside every time we approached a motel.  Finally we arrived and were greeted by a huge breakfast table with sausages, pancakes, yogurt, juice, coffee, etc., etc., etc.  The first question I was asked was what I would like “You can have anything you like, we can make everythingl” Wow! Outstanding service, and for a registration fee of only $40!  I had my card signed and then eagerly sat down for a nice breakfast of pancakes, sausages, yogurt and some other hot goodies + some orange juice and milk before the shower before the bed.  Normally things are the other way round (bed, shower, breakfast) but randonneurs are different.  Then off to find my shower, and then my bed where I managed to get 90 minutes of amazing high-quality sleep. When my alarm went off 6.45 am I was out the door in 15 minutes and on the way up to the top of pass #3; White Pass. Fortunately Rimrock Lake was more than halfway up the pass so it only took an hour to get to the top, where there was still lots of snow from the winter.

Then followed the coldest 20-25 minutes in my life as I plunged 3000 feet in 13 miles down to yet another SIR control manned with hot chocolate and muffins (434km/269mi).  Yummy, just what I needed after that descent.  It was also somewhat positive to hear that there was only 16 miles to the top of the last pass of the trip, Cayuse Pass, at 4700 feet the highest pass on the ride.  After that it would be generally downhill for the last 90 miles or so, with the occasional roller here and there...

I set off for the top of Cayuse Pass, more or less at the same time as 3 others who had huddled around the Hot Chocolate at the control but now also wanted to get the last pass over and done with.  The road up the pass was a bit rough here and there, but there was not much traffic.  I found myself passing a mile post every 6 minute, which made for a decent climbing speed of 10mph - at least for the first 9 miles.  Then the real climbing started and my speed slowed to 6 mph for the last 7 miles.  Signs of the snowy winter was everwhere; especially from mile 10, where the snow banks on the side of the road were still standing 2-3 meters tall.  It was very quiet going up (apart from my breathing), not a wind was moving, and occasionally you would hear a crack or a chirp from somewhere in the woods. Some kind of animal? A bear? A squirrel?  At one point I was sure a bear was standing on the road in front of me, and my heart almost stopped. Then I realised that it was a tree that had fallen over with some soil still clumped to it’s roots, which from the side made it look like a bear standing on the trunk, overlooking the road...   A couple of minutes later I thought a cougar was standing at the roadside, but again it was just a tree that had fallen over.  At the end I arrived at the top of the pass after 2:20 hours of nonstop climbing without any wildlife encounters.  There was loads of snow on the top, and people stopped to dress up for the descent after the experience from White Pass.

Then it was downhill towards the Greenwater control at 497km/309mi where a Coke, a Mocha and a couple of Snickers made me feel really good about the rest of the ride.  I also caught up to Jeff Loomis here, whom I hadn’t seen since my second flat the day before.  Josh Morse arrived soon after me.  Half an hour was spent sitting in the sunshine, feeling that the end was getting close, chatting a bit.  But there was still some work to do.

Back on the bike and towards the control in Redmond. The first 28km/18mi were downhill in a tailwind and I felt really good so I just hammered away in the pedals. Then came the turn at Ravensdale where a short, steep hill reminded me that I had cycled about 530km/329mi in 30-some hours and I should probably be less cocky about the uphills from now on.  It was a bit of a drag on the rollers for the next 40km/25mi until I got to Issaquah and the stretch up along Lake Sammamish which went well.  Suddenly I was at the Redmond Shell control, and only 12km/8mi from the finish! I had my card stamped and bought and ice-cream and a cup of coffee to celebrate before the final stretch. Josh rolled in 3 minutes after me and we rode the final stretch to Brad Tilden’s house in Issaquah together, arriving 37:35 hours after our departure.  

At the finish the organizers (Tilden family + posse) were ready, computer in lap, to process our brevet cards and the finish times were up on the net the following morning - very impressive!  Also impressive was the pizza and Coke at the finish, which was just what I needed before cycling home along the I-90 bike trail to Seattle after a great weekend on 2 wheels.  I can’t say enough about the amazing support on this brevet.  The food and drink was outstading at all the manned controls and there was plenty to go around. Everything seemed to run like a clockwork.  What a great club!

*Just kidding - we were starting in a residential neighborhood and it’s against their bylaws to discharge firearms on Saturday mornings in order to start bicycle rides.  However, this being the US they’ll still let you discharge a firearm 24/7 for all other reasons.