Name The New Ride

Help me name the new ride

That’s right, above is the new 700 x 47 CC Surly Long Haul Trucker (in Blacktacular) I recently purchased for some long-range, self-supported action I have planned. As is the custom in my house I need to name this ride. The bike it replaces is an elderly gelding that has been rolling for almost as long as me. It was named Scout after Tonto’s horse.

I’ve since stopped naming bikes after famous horse (although Mr. Ed has occurred to me). Its companion, a plus-sized version is my 2011 Surly Necro Pug, is named Rosie from Farley Mowat‘s 1963 autobiography Never Cry Wolf.

“Bored to death!”

Beverly Crossing

Beverly Bridge

“The trestle across the Columbia River connecting the western and eastern trail sections at Beverly is currently CLOSED, gated, and unsafe to cross.Trail supporters hope for renovation of this trestle in the future. The nearest bridge across the Columbia River, the I-90 bridge at Vantage, does not provide for pedestrian or nonmotorized traffic. There is no shoulder nor sidewalk, and the crossing often involves heavy traffic and high winds.
“Please contact your legislature and the State Parks Department to encourage them to fund upgrades and improvements to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail”.

The Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail posted this recently and of the bridges and trestles that need attention along this excellent multimodal route, this is chief among them. Of the many people I’ve talked to this bridge represents the most significant obstacle for completing the whole state crossing. The alternate Vantage crossing (via Interstate-90), the current way to cross the river, is dangerous if you’re in a car, and feels much like playing Russian roulette with a semi-automatic pistol while riding up the grade toward the eastern shore. A sketchy proposition; we shouldn’t be asking if an “accident” will happen, only when.

From the East Side of the Columbia

The Elephant

This spring a number of public meetings have been held regarding the fate of the eastern portion of the JWPT, specifically, the 130+ mile stretch known as the Milwaukee Road. Two key issues have been distilled from the pot of problems adjacent landowners have raised and neither of these concerns directly addresses this critical problem with the trail. The Beverly Bridge and its alternate crossing are apparently an afterthought given the recent State Congressional attempt to give away a significant portion of this public resource.

Trespass

First, trespassing; supposedly users of the JWPT are violating property rights along this corridor.  I will say that I find this claim somewhat specious, actual trail users are often attempting to move through the corridor and tend to be conscious of the narrow boundaries that define the trail. But it is worthy to note that access issues, such as the one presented by the Beverly Bridge, could be pushing users onto private property in order to bridge places along the trail that have been neglected beyond safe use.

If the Washington State Parks department can get off their hands and address basic trail maintenance issues (with the help of the State Congress) then I think it’s safe to say that trespass will magically disappear.

Weeds

Second, the issue of noxious weed control keeps coming up. Folks, Washington State, has one of the most progressive invasive species programs in the country if not the world. Just like its Parks Department, however, it is understaffed and underfunded. Here again, the narrowly averted cure to this problem, proposed last year, is worse than the disease.  If the sole source of weeds is the JWPT than reporting them to the correct authority is a far more workable option. My experience suggests that areas were noxious or invasives are common we’ll find that the trail is merely supporting populations at densities similar to adjacent private lands.

I’m encouraging trail users to record the geolocations of noxious weeds, with a picture if possible, and report them to the appropriate County Weed Control Board.

No one likes to get flat tires, and no one likes the potential problems an ingested noxious weed might present for a horse or livestock along the JWPT. The workable solution to this problem is control, and that means that both trail users and landowners need to make regular use of the reporting and control boards for each county while demanding accountability at the state level.

Deny Value

Each community along the JWPT stands to lose much should this human powered thoroughfare ever be gifted into the hands of private ownership. The route ultimately stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Chicago, with branch lines spanning many northern states. And just within Washington State, it represents a nearly-finished bicycle autobahn.

European countries have long recognized the importance of these networks. They represent potential for increased tourism, low-cost mobility, cultural conservation, and place of community pride-in-place. The potential economic impacts are more than enough to justify this fight; by “fight” I mean the sustained conservation and recreational development effort that is needed to reopen the Beverly Bridge.

The point of this all being that a loss or even interruption in the JWPT represents a diminishment in the value of the public resource to the communities which still exist along the corridor. Both of the issues I’ve mentioned above, which have become the core focus of public hearings, are an attempt to appease a tiny handful of private landowners along the route. And, I would argue, distractions which threaten to delay or derail the kind of development that the trail needs to become an internationally recognized recreation corridor.

An Open Letter to Key Washington State Legislators

I wrote this letter to key State representation because the current permitting process a) does nothing improve or promote public safety and b) represents an unnecessary hurdle to accessing public lands. Many tiny communities along this amazing expanse of trail are currently hurting. They are dying under many pressures, but most suffer because there simply aren’t long-term job prospects for the people who live there. They need ways to attract people to these places and all 253 miles of the John Wayne Trail are just the sort of thing to make that, at least in part, happen.


TO:

I urge you to reconsider RCW 79.73.020 and repeal permitting requirement for this section of this Rails to Trails national treasure. While the adoption of a fee and permitting system could prove helpful to the state to raise revenues necessary to better support and maintain this section of trail, the requirement appears to be in place to do no more than limit or discourage public access to public lands.

The public’s safety is not improved through the permitting process. No additional requirements or rules are passed on to the public who use this section of trail as those prohibitions called out in the WAC are prohibited broadly under current state law. Consequently, the public is required by law to enter into an archaic, bureaucratic agreement with a rural State agency unprepared to manage the system. The State gains nothing and the public, at best, must wait to be provided access.

If the State is interested in obtaining trail usage information along the Milwaukee Road Corridor it would be much better served if it installed trailhead sign-in ledgers at key locations. This would provide the state valuable usage information which could be used to better justify and potentially promote the trail as a recreation resource to the citizens of the State of Washington and the Nation at large.

If the State is interested in promoting public safety along the corridor improved signage and designated facilities at these key locations would meet that need.

Bike tourism broadly and bike packing more specifically are already very popular endeavors within the State. Anything the State of Washington can do to improve people’s access to the resources we already have should be encouraged. Both RCW 79.73.020 and DNR adopted WAC 332-52-500 do little as policy measures to this end.

Sincerely,

Matthew Alan Thyer

Vashon, WA

Updates of a Bicycle Nature

Rainy Day Ride

Rainy Day Ride

Word counts are suffering. The family just survived another freak viral infection, and I apparently was most vulnerable. Colds suck!

But that’s mostly behind us now and while it’s still months in the future my Colorado Trail trip is starting to loom large in my imagination. The idea of riding over my home state on a fat-bike laden like a rented mule, given my current state of physical fitness, seems a near impossibility at this point. Consequently, I’ve been making time every morning for a run or a ride.

This morning was no exception. I dropped the boy off at school and hit the beach with my trusty dog and loyal ride plus base load. Yeah, it’s heavy but that’s a good place to start.

Cycle Update

Yeah, today I spent a chunk of time working on Rosie. She is now clean. I added a new chain, degreased and ready for lube. And I returned the rear rack to the bike.

The bike is still on the stand as I’m waiting for a new set of inner tubes to show up. I own two wheel sets and of those four wheels, I have two flats that need to be replaced.

Next up, complete cleaning and lubing. Return bags to bike. Break out overnight kit and sort through gear, repair and replace as necessary. I should be done sooner than later and this is good news because I really could use a microAdventure.

There’s Even a Race for That

Yesterday I posted briefly about getting things done for next summer’s big bike tour of the Colorado Trail. The reaction I got wasn’t the one that was expected. “You can bike that?” didn’t come close to what was anticipated. As a consequence of that, I’m guessing that I should explain.

The Colorado Trail is bikeable, save for four detours around Wilderness areas. The detours are mapped  and even put riders in range of resupply spots along the route. The official maps, guidebooks and data books provided for your money are indeed focused on hikers, but directions for the bike route are provided.

Right now I’m trying to create a trip-queue flip book for the route so that I can estimate where we’ll be camping along the way. The idea being that the Grand Parents might meet up with us from time to time.

Justin just received his new fat-bike, a Surly Wednesday, which he’ll be assembling and pimping for the ride. We’ll both be riding a wide, hard tailed footprint. Rosie is about to undergo some much-needed maintenance and tweaking too.

Justin's new ride, currently unnamed

Justin’s new ride, currently unnamed

Side projects I’m considering:

  • MYOG Bikepacking bag set-up for myself. It’s been a very long time since I sat down with my sewing machine, but this idea is growing on me. When I look at the bike-packing setups out there I’m coming away underwhelmed. They’re expensive, they would tend to require me to reinvent my touring kit, and many of them aren’t very weight conscious.I believe I might be able to do a better job, customizing panniers to fit my needs exactly instead of adapting someone else’s perfect setup to approximate my requirements. Cardboard cut-outs are on the way.If, you’re going to ride without resupply, most of the commercial kits out there require that you ride with a backpack. I dislike this very much, so I will attempt to off-load that gear to the frame and hope for a better outcome.
  • TripQ Flip Book. Because we’re not racing, this trip will be more about exploration. Justin has already signaled his desire to climb a couple more 14-ers and consequently we’ll be breaking from the path to climb. I know some stretches of the CT intimately, having participated in their construction back int he 80’s, but for those areas I know less well I want to have a good idea when and where breaking from the trail will yield excellent results.This is why I’m going to play amateur cartographer and develop a detailed ACA-style queue book for the CT. I think I may publish the results here when I’m done so stay tuned if you’re interested.
  • Revitalize my backcountry meal-making skillz, yo. Some time ago, I ate well on less than a handful of dollars a week. When I worked as a backcountry wilderness guard on the White River I fished and gathered for a pretty significant portion of my usual caloric intake. It was a much healthier way to live too.I’ve been wanting to do a lot more scratch cooking and this is a perfect way to make that happen. Sooner than later I’m going to start building dried meal packets again and work on knocking the rust off my food making repertoire.
  • Bike overnights. Finally, I am spending regular time on my stationary bike. As I start to feel better (damn this cold) I plan on getting out for some short tours in the area. This will help motivate me, get me into better condition, and assist with working out all the kinks I know I’m going to encounter.

Now, I’m going to attempt to head the next set of questions off at the pass. “Why are we riding fat?” Because it’s so much fun. Well, that’s one answer. Another is that significant portions of the CT are renowned as rock gardens. Big piles of scree that require riders and walkers alike to slow down, and pick their path through the mess. I know that we’ll likely walk some of these, but my experience is that big, low-pressure tires have an advantage in these areas. With higher TPI tires you’re often able to crawl over the rocks and the pneumatic suspension effect saves wear and tear on the body. Ultimately, this will be a bit of a test of that hypothesis, but I suspect we’ll confirm the idea.

Washington State Flavored Derp

Two state House Republicans, Joe Schmick (9th district) and Mary Dye (also 9th district), have proposed scrapping a significant chunk of the Iron Horse State Park Trail. In the plan, the 2015-17 capital budget called for the state to transfer ownership of part of the trail to adjacent landowners “to improve noxious weed control and achieve improved land stewardship and wild fire response.”

I’ve run, and ridden parts of this section of the John Wayne trail and I can confirm that it is not well used, however, deciding to scrap this piece of historic Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad seems about as effective as giving Wilderness to mining companies. Yes, we know that it’s not well used. That’s never been the point.

Both members point to the “cost” of trail maintenance while never actually acknowledging what maintenance on this disused segment might run the State. Ted Blaszak, a councilman and president of the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association, is quoted in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, saying it’s “a blatant land grab … nothing less than public thievery.”

And while I cannot comment on the veracity of this claim it the land transfer, what amounts to little more than a gift of public land to private owners, seems suspicious.

Given the potential earning power of this trail, this appears to be another fine example of Republican budgetary myopia. The economic impact of the tourism this trail, especially in its entirety, might have far outweighs the maintenance costs the State has, up to this point, completely ignored.

Ask yourself, “where are all those piles of tumbleweed coming from?” The railroad grade certainly isn’t growing them, and nothing is stopping the same adjacent landowners from being good stewards of this public land as-is. Or “why have the tressels along this route fallen into decay?” You’d think that if the capital budget had contained even a little money for maintenance this might not be the case. At 253 miles, it’s the nation’s longest rail-trail conservancy easement and if that weren’t enough every segment along its length is rich with tourist attracting history.

The fact that Schmick and Dye have completely missed this obvious opportunity is telling. Why is Eastern Washington such an economic wasteland?” Ladies and gentlemen, you have your answer.