Looks like a fine day for a ride.
Work schedules necessitated Evo, Big John and Muddy Steve catching the late train (The war wagon) to the team’s annual Cyclocross camp in Mazama. Since joining the team I have missed more than I have made and this was my second time around. The camp had tremendous benefits for my racing in 2011 and I had high hopes for a similar outcome this time.
I dashed home from work and loaded my bike on the top of the wagon, tossed in my duffle bag and sleeping bag and shortly thereafter arrived at the park and ride where I spotted a notably handsome full-sized man seated like a kid waiting to go to summer camp. Big John had taken the bus to the park and ride and after some roof rack recalibration he and I were loading up Muddy Steve and his bike and we were finally on our way.
By the way, big John is one stylin' mofo.
An advance party of our more “carefree” brethren had arrived hours ago and had finished a ride and swim well before we even made it to the freeway. Thick, slow moving traffic made us envious of the early departure of our teammates. Nonetheless we soldiered on and soon we had stopped for burritos and gas (just to be clear we made two separate stops).
As we drove on the light began to wane earlier than it did a week ago. Although the shorter days signal the coming of Cyclocross, we find ourselves saying farewell to a summer that has been warm and dry. We arrived in the darkness to the greetings of our fellow Cyclocross devotees. We were packed light and in five minutes we were unloaded and standing outside looking at the stars with a cold beverage in hand.
To the west there were flashes of light as the rumored thunderstorms materialized. They were too far off to be heard, but the flashes of light were so frequent it looked like a war zone being bombed. We watched for a few minutes until the weight of our eyelids drove us inside and into bed.
During the night the thunderstorm made its way overhead and the thunder literally shook the cabin. As big heavy drops of rain started to fall Brad and I dashed outside and put the bikes under cover. Rain and wind pounded the roof and walls. I dared not look at my watch and I fell back asleep quickly.
I awoke a little before seven and it was still raining lightly. I found out we had been outside around four o’clock. After some breakfast and coffee the rain let up and we put on our costumes.
Although we like to say that we "respect tradition," the reality is cyclists are just plain superstitious. Two words that are not to be spoken out loud on a ride are, “flat” and “rain.” Because the advance party had experienced four “___ tires” on their ride the day before, we vowed not to say either word. Instead we used the word “blank.” We were hoping to keep the “blank” tires to a minimum today.
After some moderately complicated logistics we followed KB along the single track. The speed was friendly which was welcome as we had guessed we had about sixty miles of trail to cover today. A half hour down the trail we met up with HLAK who had awaken at five AM and driven over to meet us at this spot. Soon Brad arrived after some vehicle shuttling and we were rolling in full force.
I was riding a new to me aluminum frame and my chain keeper didn’t fit on the fatter seat tube. I dropped my chain on some bumpy baby heads and quickly put it back on. This event would be repeated about a dozen times over the course of the day. I had no idea my chain keeper worked so hard.
Big John confirmed first hand there were no gopher holes at the trail junction.
Following a promise of secrecy, Brad took us on a new “locals only” trail that was an absolute hoot. We joined back onto the Methow trail and Brad offered up one of those, “if you are interested in climbing THAT” options. Like lemmings we lined up and soon were spreading out as the road was steep and long.
As the rest of the group arrived a truck bounced up and inside was the legendary bike builder Doug Curtiss of Curtlo bikes. Doug built a Cyclocross bike for me a few years back and it was resting back home as I didn’t want to change out the carbon wheels and carbon specific brake pads. I asked him to introduce himself. He recognized me and said, “I built his bike,” it was an awkward moment as I wasn’t astride the Curtlo. My friends laughed all day as they reminded me of my nearly evangelical praise for Doug’s work. Then the one time we all collide (my friends and Doug) I wasn’t on the Curtlo bike.
Doug in his workshop a couple years back.
We enjoyed a fast descent into Winthrop where soon we were eating sandwiches and refilling bottles.
Just an odd moment whilst eating sandwiches. The bag had no magical powers..
With cold water in our bottles we made our way up to Patterson Lake. The climb isn’t huge, but the midday heat provided additional motivation for anyone who wasn’t sure if they wanted to swim in the lake. This is where the previously mentioned car shuttling paid off as our pickup truck was waiting with water and our swimsuits and towels.
With only a hint of discretion we peeled out of our cycling costumes and stepped into our swimsuits. Soon we were flailing in the cool water and smiling like we had crashed the party. We speculated on how a graph would look that showed distance on the x-axis and on the y-axis was plotted, elevation, heart rate, temperature and motivation. There was a lot of introspection as we tried to convince ourselves to put our cycling clothes back on and ride.
The breeze dried our clothes and carried off any unfavorable odors.
Note the range of motivation levels
Despite the temptation of calling it a day, we only lost one man at this juncture and the survivors continued onward. We circumnavigated Patterson Lake on a trail which at times is perched precariously over the water offering anyone who misses the turn a tumble followed by a swim. We climbed through Pine Forest passing the Evorosa (think wordplay on "Ponderosa"). The shade made the stupidly steep climb tolerable and before long we were on Meadowlark on the Sun Mountain trail system. Those of us who had spent time riding in this area knew the climbing for the day was pretty much done. Knowing this we attacked on some of the short, punchy climbs that remained.
Sun Mountain Trails whoo hoo !!
We zipped down the swoopy, loopy, zoopy, foopy trails and nearly everyone was grinning as the trails provided a Disneyland-like experience. Despite my chain continuing to wander like a misguided puppy, I was having fun.
The day was hot and as much fun as we were having we knew that the difference between this being a fun hard ride and a death march would depend on how long before we could get water. We struck a gold mine and I won’t tell you where it is because we may need it again someday.
We paused and stacked bikes while we....
Filled our bottles with ice...
The day was so epic, it had to be captured in black and white
Brad was feeling so Rapha, he and his surroundings actually turned black and white..
With our bottles topped off with ice cold water we gradually we made it back to the valley floor and soon we were at our first rendezvous spot where El Jefe was planning to pick up one of the shuttled cars and drive back to the cabin. After a five minute re-group we were about to roll and I noticed my front tire was almost completely “blank.” El Jefe offered me his front wheel and in no time (faster than at Cyclocross Nationals in Bend back in 2009 BTW) the wheel was changed and we were headed back. About a mile from the cabin we paused to cool off and bobbing for rocks.
I'll confess; that is Evo bobbing for river rocks as HLAK looks on in amazement.
KB was taken aback at finding his fellow cyclists buck naked swimming in the river.
KB was relieved to find his teammates were actually partially clothed.
Being the joker I am, I asked if his iPhone was waterproof. It was on dry land.
We had over sixty miles and well over four thousand feet of climbing on all kinds of surfaces. NOt quite six hours of saddle time. We covered trails on the valley floor, climbed to the top of the riding trails and everything in between. We pretty much did it all.
It wasn’t until we were back at the cabin and I was out of the shower that I felt tired. It was as if someone had put some Kryptonite in my pocket. I started moving slower and slower.
KB’s sweet wife and daughters had spent their afternoon preparing food of exceptional quality and in unreasonably large(but needed) quantities. With the subtlety of plundering pirates we descended on Casa del Besh and piled up plate after plate of delightful food. The weather was perfect and I didn’t put on anything with long sleeves all weekend. We sat outside and ate as the light faded into darkness.
KB’s wife commented that we were al l moving in slow motion as the days ride had taken its toll.
In a reprise of the night before the western skies were filled with silent lightning. As a point of trivia in John Denver’s song, “Rocky Mountain High’ there is a line that goes, “I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.” He said that line was referring to a lightning storm that I can only guess was similar to what we experienced on this trip. Likewise Hottie tells me about seeing lightning filling the horizon while in Africa, but hearing no thunder because the distance was so great.
When the food was gone and exhaustion slurred our speech, we headed back and fell into bed.
I awoke wondering if the rain had made it to us. I looked outside and the ground was wet. I guessed it had rained.
That is HLAK on the porch.
“Was that lightning amazing or what?” and enthusiastic Dave E. asked me. “Was there lightning here?” I asked. I had slept through the storm. I received a text from Hottie that the pass was closed due to a mudslide. That meant an even earlier departe. We took a short and uneventful spin to get the lactic acid out of our legs. We packed quickly and took the long way home and while the drive was long, it was good to get home.
I did forget my swimsuit. I'm sure it will turn up somewhere..
I did forget my swimsuit. I'm sure it will turn up somewhere..