Tour de Blast 2004

Taken at point #5 on the map

Last year’s Tour de Blast was rainy and miserable. However, as time and endorphins worked their magic, I forgot about all that. When registration was available in July, I eagerly signed up, hoping to score a low registration number.

I got up at 3:30 a.m., ate breakfast, checked the weather, dressed, and
packed the water bladder full of watered down Gatorade-equivalent. I don’t
remember much of the trip itself, except
I kept awake by opening and closing the windows, listening to
Chuck
Palahniuk’s Choke
, and singing.
Hotels can only be booked nine months in advance. When September rolled around, I had forgotten. I finally remembered in April,
when everything nearby was sold out. I should have booked something at least
as far as Olympia. This is too far of a drive on event day. Furthermore,
I need more than four hours of sleep.

I arrived at 6:15 and parked in the first overflow lot. Registration
already had 100 people queued up in neat, alphabetical
buckets. It took 25 minutes to reach the front of the line to find out I
wasn’t on the official rider list. The bad news: the ride was sold out.
The good news: this happened to several people who had used
active.com
to register. There was a “lost in registration” line.
I explained my situation, showed her my printed receipt from active,
and was finally (re)registered.

At 7:00 a.m., I was ready to ride. The temperature was already 63°F,
supporting the weather forecast’s “warm, sunny day.”
My full phalanx of
electronic gadgets were all working:

  • GPS — After the problems on the 7 hills of Kirkland, I wedged small strips of aluminum foil behind the terminals to hold the batteries in. This worked pretty well.
  • Wireless cyclecomputer — During last week’s ride, I realized the GPS was interfering with the cyclecomputer’s signal. All I needed to do was push the GPS forward 2″.
  • Polar 710 HRM — I fixed the cadence unit damaged last year, but haven’t bothered to put it on the new bike.

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1. Starting point at Toutle Lake High School. From Castle Rock and Interstate 5, the school is 10 miles up SR 504, otherwise known as Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. Parking will be available. Registration and T-shirt pick up begin 6:30 a.m. on ride day, June 21. The starting line is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. The high school also is the finish point. Showers will be available at the end of the ride but bring your own towel. The school will also be the site of a post-ride pasta feed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Leaving the school, the ride route is generally flat for the first 10 miles.

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else document.site.description.value = “1. Starting point and finishing point is Toutle Lake High School — 10 miles up SR 504 from Castle Rock and Interstate 5. Starting line is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Post-ride pasta feed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “;

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2. Just east of Toutle you’ll cross the Coal Bank Bridge over the Toutle River. Mud flows from the volcano destroyed another bridge at this location on May 18, 1980. The dense alder trees growing along the river naturally seeded in mud deposits. Contrary to popular belief, volcanic ash and debris is not fertile. Alder grows in it because it draws nitrogen —  a critical plant nutrient — from the air instead of the soil. From here, the route will never stray far from the Toutle’s north fork, where the volcano’s most fearsome mud flows roared.

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else document.site.description.value = “2. Just east of Toutle you will cross the Coal Bank Bridge over the Toutle River. Mud flows from the volcano destroyed another bridge at this location on May 18, 1980. The dense alder trees growing along the river naturally seeded in mud deposits. Contrary to popular belief, volcanic ash and debris is not fertile. Alder grows in it because it draws nitrogen — a critical plant nutrient — from the air instead of the soil. From here, the route will never stray far from the Toutle’s north fork, where the volcano’s most fearsome mud flows roared. “;

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3. Five miles into the ride you’ll arrive at the junction of SR 505 with Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. Continue straight ahead on SR 504.

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4. For a two-mile stretch of highway through what is known as Kid Valley, the road narrows and winds into some blind curves. Riders are required to proceed single file through this section, which will be marked and patrolled. The Kid Valley Bridge, built on an incline leading up a slight hill, is the only bridge on the north fork of the Toutle River to have survived the wrath of Mount St. Helens. The Kid Valley Store is located in this section, offering food, gifts and the last gas pump on the highway. A public phone is located here.

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else document.site.description.value = “4. For a two-mile stretch of highway through Kid Valley, the road narrows and winds into some blind curves. Riders are required to proceed single file through this section, which will be marked and patrolled. The Kid Valley Bridge, built on an incline leading up a slight hill, is the only bridge on the north fork of the Toutle River to have survived the wrath of Mount St. Helens. The Kid Valley Store is located in this section, offering food, gifts and the last gas pump on the highway. A public phone is located here. “;

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5. About 10 miles into the ride, the road again flattens out and dips down to the river. This area is called Maple Flat and is the site of the buried A-frame house, which was completed just before the volcano erupted. The owners dug it out and made it into a tourist attraction. It has a snack bar. From here the road and the river each make a big bend and start up the first climb of any consequence.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “5. About 10 miles into the ride, the road again flattens out and dips down to the river. This area is called Maple Flat and is the site of the buried A-frame house, which was completed just before the volcano erupted. The owners dug it out and made it into a tourist attraction. It has a snack bar. From here the road and the river each make a big bend and start up the first climb of any consequence.”;

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6. While you’re still chugging up that hill, you’ll pass the Toutle River fish trap. The Army Corps of Engineers built the trap to capture upriver -bound salmon and steelhead. The fish then are trucked to spawning areas above a 125-foot-high silt retaining dam the corps built slightly further upstream. The dam, only partially visible from the highway, prevents tons of volcanic silt from washing downstream into the lower Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers. If unchecked, the silt would clog the rivers and cause them to flood during winter storms. Salmon and steelhead runs have been rebounding from the eruption faster than biologists first thought. Keep pedaling. The road is about to flatten out.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “6. While you are still chugging up that hill, you will pass the Toutle River fish trap. The Army Corps of Engineers built the trap to capture upriver -bound salmon and steelhead. The fish then are trucked to spawning areas above a 125-foot-high silt retaining dam the corps built slightly further upstream. The dam, only partially visible from the highway, prevents tons of volcanic silt from washing downstream into the lower Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers. If unchecked, the silt would clog the rivers and cause them to flood during winter storms. Salmon and steelhead runs have been rebounding from the eruption faster than biologists first thought. Keep pedaling. The road is about to flatten out. “;

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7. To this point, the ride has been on the portion of highway that the volcano spared. Now, 12 miles into the ride, you’ll be on newly constructed roadway that replaces the portion of Spirit Lake Highway that the volcano buried under tons of soil, ash and boulders. The old highway wormed its way up the Toutle Valley floor right up to timberline on the volcano. In contrast, the new road is cut into the valley ridges. You’ll know you’ve reached the new section when you reach the bridge that crosses the Toutle just pass the fish trap. Crossing the bridge, you’re slightly under 1,000 feet elevation, and a climb begins.

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else document.site.description.value = “7. To this point, the ride has been on the portion of highway that the volcano spared. Now, 12 miles into the ride, you will be on newly constructed roadway that replaces the portion of Spirit Lake Highway that the volcano buried under tons of soil, ash and boulders. The old highway wormed its way up the Toutle Valley floor right up to timberline on the volcano. In contrast, the new road is cut into the valley ridges. You will know you have reached the new section when you reach the bridge that crosses the Toutle just pass the fish trap. Crossing the bridge, you are slightly under 1,000 feet elevation, and a climb begins.”;

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8. The road flattens out and 17 miles into the ride you arrive at the first official Tour de Blast pit stop at Hoffstadt Bluffs. Food and bathrooms will be available here. You’ve climbed about 500 feet The site is 1,400 feet above sea level, and you’ve climbed about 500 feet in 5 miles. But the real arduous climb is yet to come.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “8. The road flattens out and 17 miles into the ride you arrive at the first official Tour de Blast pit stop at Hoffstadt Bluffs. Food and bathrooms will be available here. You have climbed about 500 feet The site is 1,400 feet above sea level, and you have climbed about 500 feet in 5 miles. But the real arduous climb is yet to come.”;

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9. Twenty miles into the ride, you cross the steel arch Hoffstadt Canyon Bridge. It soars 400 feet above the creek below. At this point, you enter the volcano’s blast zone, a zone where the volcano flattened 230 square miles of forest and enough timber to build more than a half million homes. You wouldn’t know it by the view here. Most of the surrounding lands are owned by Weyerhaeuser Co., which salvaged millions of blown-down trees and reforested much of its devastated land by planting 17 million seedlings. Now it’s time to steel yourself for the eight-mile climb up Elk Rock, where the road reaches its peak elevation of 3,800 feet.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “9. Twenty miles into the ride, you cross the steel arch Hoffstadt Canyon Bridge. It soars 400 feet above the creek below. At this point, you enter the volcano’s blast zone, a zone where the volcano flattened 230 square miles of forest and enough timber to build more than a half million homes. You wouldn’t know it by the view here. Most of the surrounding lands are owned by Weyerhaeuser Co., which salvaged millions of blown-down trees and reforested much of its devastated land by planting 17 million seedlings. Now it’s time to steel yourself for the eight-mile climb up Elk Rock, where the road reaches its peak elevation of 3,800 feet.”;

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10.From a viewpoint near the road’s crest at Elk Rock, look down into the valley. The big gray deposit on the valley floor is what used to be the volcano’s summit. When it collapsed , it filled the valley floor up to depths that would bury the Space Needle in Seattle. Bring your binoculars and scan the valley floor for one of the state’s largest elk herds, which lives on grasses seeded in the avalanche deposit. The area below is a special elk preserve established by Weyerhaeuser, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the State of Washington. On the climb up Elk Rock you’ll note that the tree type changes from Douglas fir to the darker and stiffer noble fir, which grows better at elevations above 3,000 feet.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “10. From a viewpoint near the crest at Elk Rock, look down into the valley. The big gray deposit on the valley floor is what used to be the volcano’s summit. When it collapsed, it filled the valley floor up to depths that would bury the Space Needle in Seattle. Bring your binoculars and scan the valley floor for one of the state’s largest elk herds, which lives on grasses seeded in the avalanche deposit. The area below is a special elk preserve established by Weyerhaeuser, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the State of Washington. On the climb up Elk Rock you’ll note that the tree type changes from Douglas fir to the darker and stiffer noble fir, which grows better at elevations above 3,000 feet.”;

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11. From the highway’s crest at Elk Rock, you can glide the rest of the way to the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center. The second Tour de Blast pit stop will be located here. Food will be available. Bathrooms are located in the visitor center. Just opened three years ago, the center uses computerized exhibits to help visitors understand how nature is healing the volcanic damage. The center has a restaurant and gift shop. It overlooks 800-acre Coldwater Lake, one of two new lakes the volcano created when its debris dammed Toutle River tributary creeks. The visitor center is only eight miles from the volcano, which is visible from the observation deck or any of the three glass pavilions. The volcano last erupted in 1986.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “11. From the highway’s crest at Elk Rock, you can glide the rest of the way to the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center. The second Tour de Blast pit stop will be located here. Food will be available. Bathrooms are located in the visitor center. Just opened three years ago, the center uses computerized exhibits to help visitors understand how nature is healing the volcanic damage. The center has a restaurant and gift shop. It overlooks 800-acre Coldwater Lake, one of two new lakes the volcano created when its debris dammed Toutle River tributary creeks. The visitor center is only eight miles from the volcano, which is visible from the observation deck or any of the three glass pavilions. The volcano last erupted in 1986.”;

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12. From the Coldwater pit stop, you head down again, past Coldwater Lake. The view up the lake, formed by the 1980 eruption, is reminiscent of a fjord.Cross the bridge over Coldwater Creek. On the right are parking lots for the Hummocks Trail and the Boundary Trail, which will eventually hook up with the road farther up. Or park in the South Coldwater Trail parking lot. The hiking route will lead to high views. The road passes through a marshy area along South Coldwater Creek. The terrain above becomes harsher, with few trees taking hold since the eruption. But elk are numerous.You’ll see the 1.6 mile-long tunnel that drains Spirit Lake. This, among other things, saved Castle Rock, Longview and Kelso from flooding by lowering the level of the lake 15 feet so it wouldn’t burst. The outflow through the 11-foot-wide tunnel, completed in 1985 at a cost of $13.5 million, makes up a major portion of South Coldwater Creek. The road crosses the outlet, makes a big switchback and climbs up the back side of Johnston Ridge.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “12. From the Coldwater pit stop, you head down again, past Coldwater Lake. The view up the lake, formed by the 1980 eruption, is reminiscent of a fjord.Cross the bridge over Coldwater Creek. On the right are parking lots for the Hummocks Trail and the Boundary Trail, which will eventually hook up with the road farther up. Or park in the South Coldwater Trail parking lot. The hiking route will lead to high views. The road passes through a marshy area along South Coldwater Creek. The terrain above becomes harsher, with few trees taking hold since the eruption. But elk are numerous.You will see the 1.6 mile-long tunnel that drains Spirit Lake. This, among other things, saved Castle Rock, Longview and Kelso from flooding by lowering the level of the lake 15 feet so it would not burst. The outflow through the 11-foot-wide tunnel, completed in 1985 at a cost of $13.5 million, makes up a major portion of South Coldwater Creek. The road crosses the outlet, makes a big switchback and climbs up the back side of Johnston Ridge.”;

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13. The Loowit turnaround features an awe-inspiring view of Mount St. Helens’ crater and lava dome, only five miles away. According to a Klickitat Indian legend, Loowit was an old woman who was keeper of the sacred fire. After many years of loyal service, the Great Spirit rewarded her with one wish. She asked to be eternally young and beautiful and was transformed into a lovely, white-clad maiden — Mount St. Helens. The Johnston Ridge Observatory is the turnaround. It was completed in 1997, along with the final stretch of new highway from Coldwater Lake. Now it’s time to retrace your tire tracks back to Toutle High School. The ride back will be much quicker, although you still have to climb back up Elk Rock. Please obey the speed limit on your way back down from Johnston Ridge and Elk Rock.

‘)

else document.site.description.value = “13. The Loowit turnaround features an awe-inspiring view of the Mount St. Helens crater and lava dome, only five miles away. According to a Klickitat Indian legend, Loowit was an old woman who was keeper of the sacred fire. After many years of loyal service, the Great Spirit rewarded her with one wish. She asked to be eternally young and beautiful and was transformed into a lovely, white-clad maiden Mount St. Helens. The Johnston Ridge Observatory is the turnaround. It was completed in 1997, along with the final stretch of new highway from Coldwater Lake. Now it is time to retrace your tire tracks back to Toutle High School. The ride back will be much quicker, although you still have to climb back up Elk Rock. Please obey the speed limit on your way back down from Johnston Ridge and Elk Rock.”;

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//–>

Interactive

Viewpoints Map

For a description of each viewpoint, click on the purple dots and scroll down to read

information.


The experience was not that different from last year’s, sans the rain. I felt pretty good through
Hofstadt Bluffs, the first pit stop (#8 on the map above). Although it’s mile
17, the route is relatively flat through this point. As the ascent started,
I was feeling the ill effects of minimal sleep. I was dragging pretty hard, and
my uneven pedal stroke generated a lot of bouncey-bounce.

Tim Fellows passed me near the Forest Learning Center (#9 on the map). I had to duck into the potty hut to take an
extended potty break
. The portable potties are mini saunas in
sunny weather. I measured the temperature at 93°F before I was finished
my business.

Since I’m well past the point of Too Much Information, I’ll add this for
posterity: bib shorts are great until you need to take an extended
potty break. I had to take off my helmet, backpack, gloves,
elbow brace,
and jersey. Lessons: 1) don’t eat my
flax-enhanced
banana bread
before the ride; 2)
when you ignore 1), don’t wear bib shorts.

At the Elk Rock rest stop, there were only two porta potties. Two.
I grabbed a handful of food before I got in line, but it still took 20 minutes
to work through. I continued downhill to the
Coldwater Creek stop,
#12 on the map. I was pretty tired, and bagged any attempt to continue
to Johnson Ridge.

The final numbers: 67 miles, 4,470′ elevation gain, average speed 11.8 mph,
top speed 41.6 mph, maximum temperature 93°F on the non-windy part
of the hills, 2 gallons of fluid. My elbow is a little sore, but not as bad as I was expecting. Keeping my left hand off the curvy part of the handlebar helped.

12 thoughts on “Tour de Blast 2004”

  1. I use a Garmin eTrex Vista. Even with the RAM mount, I still had problems with power cycling off when the roads get bumpy.

    I haven’t explored an external power supply as an option, though the connector on the back of the Garmin is a bit loose.

    Here are some pictures of the cheapie aluminum foil trick: here and here

    For these, I just made a small rectangle and tucked it in the space between the underneath of the contact and the case. I think Garmin could have avoided this if they had installed a second spring for the “-” terminal of the batteries.

    (p.s. thanks for catching the typo.)

  2. So that’s why I couldn’t find you at Elk Rock!

    Sorry you didn’t make it all the way to Johnston Ridge. Being my first time on this ride, I was concerned whether I was biting off more-than-I-could-chew as I started up the Johnston Ridge climb (12) but I didn’t really have any problems (other than 5 miles of 6% grade and the 80+ degree heat :-).

    Our bib number was a ticket to the visitor’s center, but I didn’t like the look of the thunder clouds building to the NE and didn’t stay longer than to eat, snap a few pix, fillup the camelback and pee. Max speed of 43mph down to Coldwater Lake followed by the climb back to Elk Rock then screaming downhill again. Didn’t stop until Hofstadt Bluffs (8) trying to beat the rain, but got caught by some showers there anyway so stopped and got some food. Ugly clouds and Lightning as I left the pasta feed. Glad I wasn’t up there after 4pm!!

    My Totals:
    85.9 miles total
    6:33 (3:59 up/2:34 down) Riding / 7:40 Total
    13.1 average
    ~220 oz H20 + 36 oz of Sport Drink (and I was still dehydrated)

  3. Bib shorts! Yes, nothing like being trapped in a pair when you’re in a hurry!

    Good job on the ride.

    Btw – I wonder how much EMF you broadcast with all those gadgets.

  4. > Good job on the ride

    Why thank you!

    > EMF you broadcast with all those gadgets

    I wondered about that too. I know the HRM and wireless cycle computer are in the IR band (and non-ionizing — very important). The GPS doesn’t transmit, though it clearly radiates some disruption over short distances (about 1″). The cell phone is the big questionmark, though it’s separated by the water bladder on my back.

  5. Good Report. I have done this ride seven time, usually takes around 5.5 hours total time and a sprint to the observatory. I’ll look for you in 2005.

    Best Regards

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