I rode a hot 65 miles Saturday on Gary's "first annual" ride to Barlow Pass. Here's the pictures. I'm here and here and here. I was wearing my Vietnam bike tour jersey. I didn't know cyan was my color.
It was hot but a couple of streams of water brought cold air down from the mountains. Plenty of views of Big Four along the way, lots of streams and scenery and I'm planning on returning. (I would probably start in the National Forest area next time, as there's not much to see until that point. But if I happen to bring my single-speed with fat tires, I'd go ahead and try for the actual Mountain Highway loop.)
I was a bit tired but worse than the climb (about 2000' feet) was the heat. Plus was a lack of water along the ride and back at the start. And I was hot my car, which has broken air conditioning and (again) worse is the amazing amount of solar gain is has.
Hitomi didn't go, though next time she must… We were riding the "Tour de Pierce" instead, which turned out to be equally as hot but more miserable due to a lack of shade and a surprising lack of facilities, such as "water stops" except at one station 17 miles from the start. You can see pictures from Hitomi's blog; pictures she uploaded in realtime using her cellphone features.
Hint: If you haven't bought local strawberries yet, and you're in Washington, they're ripe and ready to be incorporated into dessert. Or eaten fresh. After six months of crappy Californian imported strawberries (pulpy unripened flavourless overgrown fruit) we now have our local crop to enjoy.
From a route standpoint, one of the enigmatic parts of "Tour de Pierce" was although we got tantilizingly close to downtown Tacoma, which despite its reputation is actually kind of interesting, the route ended up going north ajacent to Port of Tacoma. It'd be like having a King County tour that only went through parts of the Duwamish area or Interlaken rather than got you to bike through the Seattle Waterfront.
And actually, a lot of the 50-mile route seemed to be selected specifically for collecting miliage, rather than any particular scenic value. Whatever scenery there was might have happened by accident. Maybe it was the heat making me cranky?
I'm not a route expert but this is what I would have done. Map the nicest areas to ride in the vincity, the ones with the most scenery or vegitation or whatever. Pick among the roads that connect those areas. Calculate milage for various routes. Chose a variety of distances for these routes. Anyway, it doesn't seem hard to me. As it turns out, it was put on by the government who I guess don't have many cyclists employed.