Third section

Sea to Sound 2019 – Day Three

Port Townsend here we come!

We woke up to beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures for our final day of the ride. We were getting a slightly later start, 11 AM, since it would be a fairly short day. We just had to ride the 8 miles between Diamond Point Road and Discovery Bay, then get shuttled over to the four corners area where we could finish today on the Larry Scott Trail, a lovely section of the ODT. Everyone was in good spirits as we loaded up the vehicles to head out to the trailhead. Jimmy was ready to continue running, and Josh Sutcliffe decided to join him for the first 8 miles.

Getting outside and doing life

We arrived at the day's starting point where Shannon, Kenny, and Marsha had their power wheelchairs charged and were ready to ride the 15 miles into Port Townsend. Our good friend Raquel joined us again on her bike and brought her pet bearded dragon. With the cage mounted to the back of her bike, and a few other cyclists, we were looking like quite the motley crew.

Chuck and Lori

The ride from Diamond Point Road to Discovery Bay is not technically on the trail. It cuts between little segments of Highway 101 and a nice quiet street called Old Gardiner Road. This road was very pleasant for us to roll on. It was wide enough where we could roll next to each other and chat. There were lots of views of the Puget Sound and the warm day had us all smiling. I'd like to comment about two people who had been with us for the entire length of our ride, Lori Schneider, and Chuck Leber. These two are close friends of mine. Lori is the main reason I currently have over 1000 consecutive days of rides. Her current streak dwarfs my measly 1000 days. She and Chuck have been great competition on many fronts, be it trivia, number of beers rated in a year, or miles on the trail. I always get a smile when I see either of them, and I was honored to have them ride with us for the entirety of the weekend.

Sketchy

We continued along Old Gardiner Road until we hit a point, which I knew was coming, where we would have to get on the shoulder of Highway 101 for about a mile and a half. Now I am comfortable with riding on highways. I'm always doing it on my long rides and I have complete faith in my team in maintaining visibility and keeping me informed with what's behind me. It turns out that comfort level drops significantly when I know there are three other power wheelchairs riding along in tow. I love all three of those chair users and I certainly didn't want anything to happen to them. We slowed it down a bit, got in a big single file line, gritted our teeth, and charged forward. It all went fine, we made the mile and a half without a hitch, however we all expressed our dislike of that 1.5 mile section and were happy to get back on the quiet road. One big danger of riding your chair on the shoulder of highways is the rumble strip. If our tires hit this strip, it immediately slows that side of the chair down and forces you into traffic. We all avoided that rumble strip like the plague.

Quick snack before shuttle to final section

For the final half a mile before our first stop we were on a recently completed section of the ODT with beautiful views of Discovery Bay. We rolled up to that first aid station of the day to lots of smiles and cheers. We all ate more than we needed, our good friend Buddy brought much appreciated honey sticks, and we chit chatted with some folks who had showed up to cheer us on.

Hottie!

Everyone was then loaded into a shuttle and driven the 8 miles of sketchy road that is Highway 20 to the Milo Curry Trailhead. A couple people met us there to do the final leg with us. The final 8 mile section of the ODT, called the Larry Scott Trail, is just stunning. It is not paved, but the surface is very smooth and you go between dense forests, open meadows, to finally finishing with your last mile right on the shore of the Puget Sound. We all headed off from the trailhead, I took up the rear with my delightful girlfriend Celina. We'd been so busy chatting with everyone all weekend we hadn't had any time to ride together. We embraced the opportunity, reflected over the past couple days, and soaked up the beauty around us.

Rolling Thunder!!!

When we arrived at the final aid station of Sea to Sound 2019 we found our good friends from The New Moon Craft Tavern. We all started to snack and tell our tales of the day to the volunteers when Rick, the owner of The Moon, came over and surprised the heck out of me with a beer he brewed to honor my accomplishment. It had a fancy label with my face all over it. I was grinning from ear to ear. It was the most thoughtful gesture and it reminded me how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life. Let's just say we "admired" the beer and hung out at this final aid station a little longer than the rest before heading off to the finish line.

Big thanks to Rick and The Moon!

The last 3 or 4 miles were a breeze. We did have to tolerate the smell of the paper mill for the first couple miles of this final section, but our excitement made us not notice it so much. When we finally made it to the last half a mile we had stunning, clear views across the Puget Sound and a perfect view of Port Townsend. Marsha was the first chair to cross the finish line, followed closely behind by the rest of us. Jimmy, of course, ran the entire distance. Over 75 miles for the three days. The ladies decided that after watching his glistening muscles over the past 50 miles, they deserved a picture with him. Jimmy obliged.

Settle down ladies

We celebrated briefly before we rolled off to the watering hole for the evening, The Pourhouse. It was the perfect weather for outdoor seating, and The Pourhouse has one of the best views around. Lots of people showed up to congratulate us and hear the stories we had to share from the previous couple days. Three people in wheelchairs, who I had never met, joined us and we made some great connections. The Sea to Sound Session IPA was on tap, cornhole was played, and the soft, melodic sounds of a flugelhorn were being played by a talented musician. We couldn't have asked for more. We were surrounded by friends, had spent three glorious days outside, and got to finish each day with a tasty beverage. We all agreed that Sea to Sound 2019 was a huge success and expressed excitement about S2S 2020.

We did it!

All in all, we had over 20 wheelchairs participate in at least some part of the ride. Two stand up scooters, a couple of ebikes, one (sometimes two, thanks Josh S) runner(s), and somewhere around 50 cyclists had all been involved. Dozens of volunteers insured everything ran smoothly in the background. Then there was my amazing family. Between my mom coordinating everything, my grandmother raising money, my dad and stepdad shuttling people around, and my grandfather always being there for encouragement, I realized, once again, just how lucky I am.

Check back in the next few days for my take on the accessibility of the ODT. Overall, it was outstanding, but there's always room for improvement.

Sea to Sound 2019 – Day Two

Ready for some miles

Bagels!

We knew that day two would be challenging since it was nearly a 40 mile trek and we had eight aid stations to get set up, taken down, supplied, and ran by volunteers. There was a lot of stuff going on in the background with people driving tables, canopies, food, swag, and water to different locations and then another group coming from behind loading everything up later in the day. We also had vans at the ready to rescue wheelchairs that might get stranded. All the volunteers that took on this monumental task were amazing, and even though there were so many moving parts, everything ran like clockwork.

About to hit the waterfront with some good numbers

Josh and Jimmy lending a helping hand

We started the day at 9 AM at the Elwha bridge where the cyclists completed the previous day. We were greeted by our volunteers and Keith from the Peninsula Daily News. After a quick interview we all gathered up and myself, five cyclists, and one running Jimmy began the long day. The first aid station was only 5 miles or so from the start and we quickly traveled that distance to some much-needed bagels and water to keep us fueled for the many miles ahead. A few other cyclists joined and we headed towards the Port Angeles waterfront.

Snacks with Stew at the third aid station

We arrived to a bunch of people who were ready to be part of the group ride. There were eight other wheelchairs and dozens of able-bodied folk who were either wishing us well or joining us to ride. Our energy was high and we were about to ride one of the more beautiful sections with the Strait of Juan de Fuca on our left and lots of good friends around us. I slowed down to under 5 mph to allow the slower power wheelchairs and manual chairs to keep up. Josh Sutcliffe ran this section to help with pushing any chairs if needed. He ended up being a big help to our friend Sandra Boggs and pushed her the majority of the 5 miles. He was awesome and she was appreciative.

Demonstrating the dedication of the crew

At this point our group size had more than tripled and we had a great variety of transport modes. Manual chairs, power wheelchairs, scooters, bikes, and runners were all out with us for that 5 miles, and we were feeling pretty good as we rolled into the third aid station. We enjoyed our snack and shared our appreciation for the great scenery we'd just rolled through. After that, many of the power wheelchairs went to go charge so they could continue on more throughout the day.

Giving some love to our good friends at C4

I discouraged wheelchairs from joining us on the next five or six miles just because it was hilly and would really wipe out some batteries. Kenny really wanted to push the limits of his wheelchair, so he motored along with us. All was going great for the first few miles, lots of great discussions among different sets of people riding side-by-side, a nice isolated trail, and then I had to go and ruin it by crashing into a ditch. You'd think after the thousands of miles I put on my chair, and the hundreds of consecutive days riding, I could keep on the pavement, unfortunately I got complacent. I was just riding along chatting with my buddy Dave Toman when my chair started drifting to the right. Instead of stopping or swerving left like I should have, I tried to slow the chair down and slowly drift back to the left. Instead I ended up in a ditch and needed all the people with us to help pull me out. I was fine, with nothing hurt but my ego. Thanks to everyone that yanked me out!

Some youngsters and some oldsters

After the unnecessary excitement I provided the group, we powered on to our fourth aid station where everyone that was hungry got sandwiches or any other snack they preferred. There were lots of jokes made about me keeping the greasy side down, I chuckled along with them as we got back on the trail and continued east. A few miles later we hit Robin Hill Park where a special surprise was waiting. A local nonprofit, called The Sequim Wheelers, have wonderful bikes called Duets that allows a rider to sit up front in a chair while the driver pedals the bike. Two Duets were there, and my grandfather was sitting in one of them. I couldn't have been happier to have him be part of our ride. Seeing his face gave me all the energy I needed to finish up the day. As we powered along, we passed the Sequim airport where we were treated to the sights of a local festival called the Air Affaire. We got to see people wing walking, hot-air balloons, and huge remote-control planes that were doing all sorts of wild stunts. Shortly after, we made it to our fifth aid station and our group was getting pretty big. We had four young kids cycling along and my good friend Bonnie met us there in her hand cycle.

Thanks Sequim Wheelers!

After the next 5 miles, we got to our sixth aid station at Carrie Blake Park and our group started to thin out a bit. Many chairs were out of batteries, some went off to charge more, and a few brave souls, Kenny, Marsha, and Shannon, all powered their chairs on with me. There were 10 more miles until the finish line, and they really wanted to see how far their chairs would go. Kenny and Marsha made it to the final aid station, although Kenny was pushed the last 100 yards. Shannon ran out of batteries and got a pickup. All three of them rode the furthest distance they had ever traveled in their wheelchairs.

Our first handcycle! Thanks Bonnie!

At this point, running Jimmy was on his 35th mile and charging way ahead of the pack. He was in the zone and we knew better than to interrupt him. However, the guy just doesn't know when to stop. Fortunately, my mom was driving to the finish line and saw Jimmy way down the highway and went and turned him around to get back to the finish line. Thank goodness! Pretty sure he would've been in Tacoma had we not stopped him. He ran 40 miles. It was the longest run of Jimmy's life.

Some tired batteries, on to the final stretch

Todd tried to do the final leg with me, he used his van to charge his chair but ended up running out of juice a couple miles short. His lovely wife Karen continued along with us on her scooter. When we finally made it to the finish line at Diamond Point Road, all the wheelchair users were there to congratulate us, get a picture, and then head to the Peninsula Taproom for food and beverages. They had the Sea to Sound Session IPA on tap and we got to talk with a lot of people who had heard of our ride and wanted to know more details. It was a great time and a lot of fun was had. We then shuttled everyone who needed a ride to their desired location and went home to get some rest before the start of the third and final day.

Lots of happy faces at the finish line for day two

Check back real soon to see how the final day went!

Sea to Sound 2019 – Day One

Kicking off S2S 2019!

The band was back together again! Jimmy and Dr. B flew up from California. My dad flew up as well. We had three big vehicles raring to go at 8:30 AM (that's really early for me!). As we headed out to the Camp Creek trailhead from Port Angeles, we experienced a light drizzle and got a bit concerned of what the day had in store for us. Once we got out there, we could really care less. The beauty was breathtaking. We were surrounded by huge trees, ferns, moss galore, and that beautiful reddish-brown color of the leaf litter scattered throughout the forest floor. To top it off, there was the smoothest trail one could imagine going on for 15+ miles through this beautiful isolated area.

Couldn’t ask for much better scenery

When we arrived, we were greeted by numerous volunteers ready to rock. My awesome grandmother was in charge of the registration table. Other participants slowly started trickling in. We didn't expect a lot of folks, because we were out in the middle of nowhere, but we had two other wheelchairs, my crew, and a number of other cyclists. One of the biggest challenges for the day was the lack of cell service. We had anticipated this in our scouting and had radios at every aid station so we could provide support if anyone needed it. The biggest highlight of those first 5 miles came from a young woman named Makyla who rode her wheelchair past the first aid station with an enormous smile on her face. Her happiness was contagious to us all and we had a wonderful time underneath the huge trees chitchatting and taking in the beauty that was all around us.

Perfect fit!

We crossed the Sol Duc River and could hear the current flowing by through much of the first 5 miles. We saw Garter snakes, kingfishers, a bald eagle, a baby mouse, and the famous running Jimmy powering along in his sneakers. Another wheelchair joined us at the first aid station. We all snacked, filled up our water bottles, and chatted some more before heading off to aid station number two (AS2). It was smooth sailing through this section, we crossed the 101, had a few elevation changes, and came down some switchbacks. We arrived at AS2 to lots of chalk encouragement on the pavement and a wonderful family running the station. We had more snacks, lively conversation and headed on to that day's finish line. Here I would like to mention another special guest appearance of the day. Jeff Bohman. Jeff is the president of the beneficiary of this ride, the Peninsula Trails Coalition. His support, optimism, and presence was much appreciated by all of the riders. Big thanks to him for joining us.

Snacks and topping off our water bottles!

Through the last segment, we continued on the silky-smooth trail where we would get beautiful glimpses of the stunning Lake Crescent through the scattered trunks of enormous trees. We were continually uplifted by the sounds of birds and smell of forest around us. The final stop was just about 15 miles from where we started and we arrived to cheers and sandwiches after the day's ride. Running Jimmy jumped in the lake, our good friend Denise was there to greet us, and we enjoyed a well-earned lunch. We shuttled a number of people back to the starting point, some riders continued the entire distance to the Elwha bridge (Dr. B jumped in the lake at Devils punch bowl), and a few of us chair users decided to finish the last mile or so of pavement before getting a lift to the Elwha bridge.

Some great people happy to be outside

When we arrived at the Elwha bridge we were greeted by a few great friends, Sandra Boggs, and Todd & Karen Stabelfeldt. Kenny Salvini and Marsha Cutting also joined after riding their chairs all day with us. We explored the area, discussed the day's events, and waited for our three cyclists who were riding the final 25 miles of single track and highway that were not wheelchair friendly. We greeted them with shouts and cheers before all heading off to celebrate the day at Barhop Brewing.

Marsha Cutting admiring Lake Crescent

A couple things I have to mention about the after party… Barhop was kind enough to brew a beer special for our ride and even named it the Sea to Sound Session IPA. We were all thirsty and thoroughly enjoyed this beer. Big thanks to everyone at Barhop and Josh Blue for brewing this tasty beverage. The other big highlight was that Barhop was putting on a fundraiser while we were there for a woman who recently became paralyzed. Her name is Sara Hanson, better known as Chew, and she just got out of rehab earlier that week. The courage to come out in the public so recently after that kind of trauma is truly inspiring to me. The fundraiser seemed like a huge success and it was an honor to get to meet Chew in person. I'm really looking forward to spending more time with her once she's settled.

Altogether, we saw over seven wheelchairs throughout our day. We had 20+ cyclists and probably a total of 40+ people in our group.

Check in tomorrow to see how the second day of Sea to Sound 2019 went. It was a doozy!

Day one finish line for wheelchairs. Next year we should be able to make it all the way around Lake Crescent!

Sea to Sound 2019 – The Inaugural Ride

Big trees, ferns, and a smooth surface!

When planning my ride for 2019, we wanted to do something closer to home and find a way to give back to the community that has been so supportive. We decided to focus on getting people out on the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT). It's my home trail. So our goal was to show people the beauty of the North Olympic Peninsula, get them outside, examine the accessibility of the whole trail, and raise some money for the Peninsula Trails Coalition which benefits the ODT. It seemed like easy planning. We didn't have to drive across the state, figure out lodging for 10+ nights, or deal with all the logistical challenges that a cross state ride brings. As it turned out, planning the S2S was more challenging than any of my previous rides.

Supermom: Teena Woodward

How could you not?

This was our first time planning a lengthy, multi-day group ride. We wanted to provide aid stations at regular intervals, have swag related to the ride, get sponsors, and provide shuttling for anyone, anywhere, anytime if they needed it. We know our area is remote and logistics can be difficult, so we wanted everyone to know that we would take care of them and get them where they needed to be. This required finding lots of volunteers and organizing everything down to a T so everyone could be on the same page. It was mindbending. Fortunately, with the help of some amazing people, we were able to wrap our head around what needed to be done and turned this whole idea into a reality. Really big thanks to my amazing grandma, Beverly Dawson, Gary Weber, Lorrie Mittman, Josh Sutcliffe, Terry Gallagher, Buddy Depew, and of course my beautiful girlfriend, Celina Smith. Then there is one person who deserves a blog post entirely dedicated to her because of the amazing time and energy she put into this. I'm speaking of my mom, Teena Woodward. This whole thing would've never got off the ground without her. Thanks Mom!

The route we planned was the entirety of the completed sections of the ODT. It's currently over 70 miles and we wanted to encourage cyclists and non-wheelchair users to do parts that weren't so accessible. The ride began Friday, August 23, about 10 miles West of Lake Crescent just off Highway 101, at a trailhead called Camp Creek. It would finish a couple days later on Sunday, August 25 in Port Townsend.

Swag bags!

It was an exciting three days. If you want to read the whole story, stay tuned! I'll be posting all about day one's adventures tomorrow.

Ride the Willapa

A month or two back, my mom approached me with an event, in June, she had read about that she said was right up my alley. Although my June was swamped, I was intrigued and started looking into it. She was not wrong. The event is called Ride the Willapa and it kicks off in Chehalis, WA, which is about 30 miles south of Olympia. This was the fourth annual ride for this event. It is 31 miles from one end to the other, and I knew I had to be part of it. It's advertised as "an all-ages and all-levels leisurely-paced bike ride on the Willapa Hills Trail", which is Washington state's newest rails to trails project. I quickly cleared my calendar for June 22 and 23rd.

My biggest concern for this ride involved the surface. There are wonderful pictures on the website, http://ridethewillapa.com/, but many of them showed a dirt or gravel surface. I was willing to ride on some unpaved surfaces, but I needed more information. I reached out to Chris Brewer, the ride coordinator for this event and asked him to give me a rundown on the trail surface. He responded quickly and thoroughly letting me know that the first five and a half miles were paved, but after that it was going to be an off-road experience. He explained that after the paved section, I would encounter 7 1/2 miles of really nice compact gravel, followed by 5 miles of slightly more loose gravel. That would take me to mile 18. Miles 18 – 22 would be deeper gravel, but hopefully the many riders in front of me would pack it down. The 9 miles past that are used by equestrians and he could not confirm that they would be doable by me. After going over all the information that Chris Brewer provided, I decided I had to give it a try and go the furthest distance I'd ever traveled on a non-paved surface.

Ready to ride!

I knew my mom was on board, but I needed at least one more person for support on this undertaking. My delightful girlfriend Celina was my first choice, she was quick to agree. We rented a hotel the night before, charged the batteries, and prepared ourselves for what was bound to be a beautiful ride.

Finding friends from the start

We managed to get a few winks before heading off to the trailhead around 9 AM on Saturday morning. We were thrilled to see people of all ages heading off on the trail as we pulled up. Lots of children on bikes, parents pulling trailers with young tykes in them, and some older folks who were ready to put some serious miles on their bikes. I was the only wheelchair. We quickly unloaded and prepared ourselves for the day to come. While doing this, we were approached by a couple who follow my story and got a lot of encouragement which only motivated us more to undergo this challenge. After registering, we got our helmet numbers, used the facilities, and steeled our resolve for the day ahead.

Bridges, transitions, and plenty of riders

As Chris promised, the first 5 miles were smooth and spectacular. We traversed farmland, seeing lots of cattle, old barns, and beautiful bridges. Some of the transitions from the pavement to the bridges were a little jolting, but totally doable. We crossed beautiful rivers, heard eagles overhead, and saw verdant understory beneath towering maples. The last 100 yards of this first section ended up being the most difficult, some thick gravel with a very uneven surface. We then crossed the highway, did a brief stop at the first aid station, and spent the rest of the day on dirt or gravel.

Having a blast!

I was a bit nervous on what the bumps would do to my chair and body, my worries were eased after traveling a quarter mile on this new surface. It was very hard packed with a bit of leaf litter that further softened the ride. We crossed a few more rivers and soon came into a marshier biome. Scrub Jays flitted across the path, red-winged blackbirds and white crowned sparrows were heard all around us, and a headwind started to pick up. We enjoyed the exceptional scenery and conversed with other riders as they passed. We were charmed by the kiddos riding by us using good trail etiquette and announcing their presence, "on the left".

On to the dirt

The terrain changed again, and we found ourselves in more of an oak woodland with the occasional wildflowers and woodpeckers drumming away. We were now traveling along a river on our left and the sounds of moving water added more charm to the ride. However, the wind was still at our face, and I was starting to feel a bit cold. We pulled off, took my temperature and realized I was down to 94.5°. Living in the Pacific Northwest and loving the outdoors as much as I do, my temperature drops somewhat frequently, but this was lower than I prefer. We looked at the map and realized we had a couple miles until the next aid station where there was access to a road. We put the hammer down and continued to our next stop where I could send my mom for the van so I could sit inside with the heater to get my core temperature up. Celina and I amused ourselves watching the various people out enjoying the ride, and being outdoors. It took about an hour and a half to get me close to 97°, but the weather had warmed, and the wind had died down. We decided to push on.

Enjoying the trail with this beauty

Since we had the van, we decided my mom would drive 5 miles up to the next aid station and then start riding back towards us so she could experience more of the trail. Celina and I powered on by ourselves, enjoying the now quieter, less trafficked trail since we were at the back of the pack. My temperature and spirits were higher, the trail was still smooth, and we got to ride side-by-side enjoying the day. After a couple miles of this, the trail left the river and got into a more prairie like setting. More barns in the distance, meadowlarks singing their song, and unfortunately, deeper gravel. I kept it at full speed to ensure I wouldn't get stuck, but it had gotten bumpy and noisy from my tires rolling through this deep stuff. We finally made it to the third aid station, mile 15, met up with my mom and discussed what to do from there. We could get in the van, call it a day, or we could try to keep pushing through this deeper gravel. We spoke with the people at the aid station and they told us about a bluegrass band and a beer garden about 5 miles up and we knew we had to make it at least that far. Celina was game, my mom drove off in the van to the next spot, and our adventure continued.

Getting rougher

Those last 5 miles had a myriad of terrain and even more deep gravel. It was taking a toll on my battery, so we switched to the backup and I did my best to keep the chair on the trail. I was fishtailing all over at this point, and I will admit that I spun out a couple times. However, with bluegrass and cold beer in our future, we were well motivated. We came across some minor elevation change that brought us to a nice overlook of the river, the brambles and shrubs made a tunnel out of the trail. The surface had become more weedy and was becoming less developed with every mile. My shoulders were aching from the bumps, the chair was rattling more than usual, my concern was growing, and I was getting thirsty for a beer. Then we finally came to a lovely creamery, which had booths, lots of campers, a bluegrass band, and the beer we had ridden so far to enjoy. We had come 20 miles and decided to call it a day.

Triumphant!

There were 11 more miles that we could've explored, however, being heavily used by equestrians, having lots more gravel, and increased elevation change, my body nor my chair were ready for that. So instead, we sat around a table enjoying the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. We had seen some beautiful sites, been charmed by the variety of ages using the trail and shown that a power wheelchair could traverse the majority of this event. We were all delighted by the day and got a lot of praise from other riders and event volunteers. We had shown that this event was not just for all ages, but also for a variety of abilities. It was a ride to remember and I plan to be there again next year, hopefully I have demonstrated that chairs can enjoy this event and in 2020 I won't be the only wheelchair user Riding the Willapa.