Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oregon Dunes: Recon

We knew going into this deal that we were taking a huge gamble, weather-wise.  We'd been hawking all the weather sites for days, including the National Weather Service, Accuweather,, Weather Underground, etc, as we built our composite consumer prediction.  When you get really into the comparison of weather sites, it's clear that the NWS is by far, the most pessimistic.  They sure as hell don't want to over-promise, on the taxpayer's dollar, apparently.

Below is a snap of the site's report on the day before we were supposed to leave.  Hundreds of miles and hundreds of dollars were at stake.  Inches of rain and double digit winds were in the forecast throughout the duration of our stay.  Naturally, we decided to go for it.

By Friday morning, we sure as hell were wishing we had listened to the National Weather Service.  It had rained overnight and into the morning and we were already cold and wet, and it looked like we were in for a whole 'nother day of this shit.  To combat the depression, Ward f'ing KILLED b'fast.

The smell of procrastination hung in the air around camp all morning, but by mid-day we'd finally donned our plastic rain shells that would serve only to make us wet from the inside instead of the outside, and headed out in search of the dunes.  Oh, and I forgot my plastic pants.  So the bottom part of me would be getting wet from the outside while the top half was getting wet from the inside.  Smooth move, Ex-lax.

From Winchester Bay,  you have to ride on the road out of town for a while and then you have to hit the beach for an even longer while.  All-told, you have to ride 5 or 6 miles in the rain and wind, on a fatbike, on a soft surface, just to get to the starting gate.

About as artsy as a kelp ball gets, I would propose.

And the beach is separated from the dunes by a wide stripe of thick, rain-foresty growth that you will not get through unless there's a trail that's been hacked and maintained, generally.  One exception to this is at the parking lot to the motorized section of the dunes, which drops down and almost kisses the beach and allows easy access across the rainforest.  I finally got my first glimpse of the dunes and although this pic doesn't do it any real justice, it's grandeur exceeded my wildest expectations.

Everything was sopping wet, as you can see in the foreground of the previous pic.  It was too wet to get our cameras out and so I don't have much in the way of ride photos, but we did get out and play in the motorized area.  It was my first exposure to big, legitimate dunes, and it was fun, in a kinda/sorta way.  There were some totally sucky parts and some pretty fun parts and then just a shit-ton of hard work in between.  All of it was hard work, actually.

But we were slowly working our way towards the boundary of the motorized section, across which lies the . . . wait for it . . . NON-motorized section.  The minute we crossed that boundary, the quality of the sand was just night and freaking day.  The thing is, the motorized sand gets churned by huge, high horsepower tires 12 months a year and it is just whipped cream.  The non-moto stuff, by contrast, is firm and so, so RAD.  We were having a damn blast, even in the shit rain.  As a result, we stayed too long and burnt our energy candles a little too hard, because we still had a long ride back on the beach.  By the time we got back to camp, we were fried eggs.

What we had done though, would turn out to be extremely important in terms of what would occur the following day:  We had figured out that the place we needed to save all our "gas" for was the non-moto dunes, and that we wanted to burn as little as possible getting there.  We'd also played with tire pressures and figured out a bunch of other shit.  For example, I'd gone out with clipless pedals, which turned out to be the most giant PITA in the sand.  My stupidity is incredible, at times.  First thing I did when we got back to camp was to yard those out for the flats I'd *wisely* brought along.  I am so damn smart, that sometimes I amaze even myself, but I digress.

Camp was wet and dreary and to add to the gloom, our riding clothes were now soaking wet, with no way to dry them.  As was everything else.  If I hadn't have brought my easy-up, I think we might have bailed at this point and found a cheap motel to overnight at and then bee-lined home at dawn.

Damn good thing I brought my easy-up, then.

I thought my tent was roomy, but Ward's Big Agnes was the Taj Mahal.

Complete with a massive vestibule for doling out serious bike affection.

The inside.  Are you even kidding me.  Holy living hell.

Every time you move someplace new, there seems to be an extrovert neighbor that's maybe just a little bit over the top.  Ours was Jonathan Livingston, so named because he breaks all the seagull rules.  There were no other seagulls around in camp.  As in none.  There were seagulls all the hell over every other square inch of Winchester Bay, but only Jonathan in the several acres we were camped in.  When does this even happen?

We sort of starting feeling sorry for him, like maybe he's some sort of outcast, but still, we didn't dare feed him.  'Cause conventional wisdom told us that would just bring the flock in, right?  And who wants that?

But by this time, he'd been hanging around for almost 24 hours and he was just so diligent, and so I broke down and tore off a piece of pita bread and threw him some scraps.  Still no other gulls.  Amazing.

Finally, after a few minutes, another gull dropped in.  Jonathan eyed him, puffed himself all up and started trotting toward the intruder.  Wisely the stranger retreated to the sky.  Moments later, a second intruder touched down.  Again, Jonathan puffed all up and first trotted, then full-on galloped, straight towards the trespasser, eyes all intent and burning.  This time, the intruder was a brave fool, and stood his ground.  Beaks jack-hammered at hummingbird frequencies, and feathers flew, and soon the stranger was departing, as quickly as he'd arrived.  Just another routine encounter for Jonathan, apparently

Ward and I just marveled.  Jonathan was clearly badass, and nothing but.  He'd figured out a gig that suits him and carved out his territory and he didn't need nobody or nothing else from any other damn birds.  Word, Jon, you earned our respect.

And maybe our fear.  Later in our stay, I tossed Jonathan a piece of frosting that fell off of a breakfast pastry I was eating.  He picked it up and spit it out and puffed all up and glared straight at me.  "Sorry!  Geez, bro, mellow the hell out."  I quickly went and got some pita bread and tossed some scraps his way.  I didn't have the courage to make direct eye contact with him for the rest of our stay.

The one luxury amidst our otherwise harsh, manly set of circumstances was that there were showers onsite, complete with seriously hot water. Dumbass that I am, I neglected to bring a towel.  But at this point, a hot shower was not going to not happen.  Finding a bath towel for sale in Winchester Bay, then, is no small task.  But I unleashed my tourist charm on the locals for some advice and was soon hound-dogging a trail to the awesome second-hand/discount/thrift store at the very end of a rural strip mall in Reedsport, some three miles down the road.  I chose not to think about where it had been, or whether it had been washed, but to instead focus on the $2.99 price tag and my incredible resourcefulness.  Sometimes I am so smart that I blow my own mind, but I digress.

The one other luxury amidst our otherwise harsh, manly set of circumstances was a floating seafood restaurant within easy walking distance from our campground.  As things had gotten overly harsh, we felt it was time to utilize this resource.

And so we did.  Trust me, though, when I tell you it was brutal out there.

Back at camp, the bastard rain just kept coming . . .

The day's ride had my metabolism all jacked up, which ran the fish, shrimp and chips straight through me during our fireside chat that evening.  I night-capped with a genuine grilled cheese sandwich.

Meahwhile, all the primal activity in the forest behind us continued, as was evidenced by the sporadic, unearthly noises that continued to emerge.  Luckily, my tent is constructed of high-strength, consumer-grade nylon.  I happily retreated to its superior protection.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Oregon Dunes: Getting There

1,162 miles, getting there and back, minimum, according to mapquest.  (We did more, I can assure you.)

The over-buying of food.

The over-packing/hauling of "essentials".

A once-in-a-lifetime riding experience.


For everything else, there's VISA.  (If you can find your wallet, that is.)


There must be methodologies for telling stories of this epic nature on a limited time budget, but I do not know what they are, and I have been wracking my brain about how to organize and present the too many pictures I took with the too full head I have regarding what this epic thing was about, in any kind of coherent fashion.  And I am coming up empty.

So I am just going to start.  Hoping that I can present it in chunks or bits that will somehow all come together in the end and make sense to you, gentle reader.

So here goes . . .


The drive down from Spokane to the Oregon Dunes is not for pussies.  It's a big, manly deal, bro.

I left my house at 6:30. AM. Word.

I got to Ward's house in Yakima/Selah sometime later that same morning.

We proceeded to load our minimalistic collection of gear into my rig.

Ten thousand hundred miles did we drive, that day, including this bitch of a stretch through the greater Portland freeway system clusterfu**.  205 seems a lot like 405, to me.

We finally arrived at Winchester Bay, Or, our destination, at around 6.  Approximatley 1/2 an hour short of nightfall.  There was much un-photo-documented decision-making frenzy, including a delightful encounter with a delightful camp host with a slow-booting reservation computer.  In the end, we secured one of the last remaining spots.

With a bonus dreary view of a rain-cloud-encased marina.

 Directly behind our encampment, was a steep-ass wall of heavy-ass forest.  More to come, on that.

 We knew the rain was coming and that we were stoic, manly men against this challenge, but an EZ-up never hurt anyone, was our logic.  Or a camp kitchen.

Ward had correctly predicted that we'd be in the mood for comfort food at this juncture, and I had suggested campfire gyros, based on my near-sexual attraction to the pita bread that Costco now offers.  It is insane, if you haven't tried it.

Full bellies and beers in hand made everything seem better than it was, for a while.  There's a bit of too-good-to-be-true internet fakiness in those smiles, if you look closely.  Somewhere, deep in the recesses of our subconsciousness, we had to have known it.

It would get even more falsely awesome when Ward suggested that we punch in "Bossonova" on the Pandora machine that was housed on the iphone machine that was driving the bluetooth-driven speaker machine that was giving us such melodic pleasure.

Holy living hell, were we serenaded into a place of such euphoric complacency, amidst the dire life and death shit that was about to go down on the hillside just behind us.

It was super awesome though, for the coupla hours that it lasted.  And maybe that's all we can hope for, really, as humans.  But this is not a philosophy blog, so draw your own conclusions.

Ward is the man, and this pic proves it:

Rain had begun to fall and at this point and we were fully engrossed in REALLY kidding ourselves about how awesome this whole deal was.  At about this same time, a shit-crazy ruckus emerged from the hillside behind us.  It was a life and death struggle between animals of some sort, and we guessed it was raccoons.  Super baddass ones.  I directed my headlamp into the forest and there were reflective eyeballs all the hell everywhere.  It was chaos and there were bodies dropping out of trees and everything else and it was serious shit.  And the noises were insane.

The thing is, as soon as we'd arrived, there was this feral cat that was, like really aggressive and pretty much up our butts, but at the same time kinda cute, so also kinda endearing.  Apparently, I must have designated myself its protector, and darkness and alcohol may or may not have been a contributing factor, but I envisioned that the raccoons were shredding the poor feral kitten to bits and I headed towards the woods with my cape flowing behind me, double-A battery headlamp lighting my path.  Ward wisely stopped me dead in my tracks with the hella shout, "Don't do it!!"  He rightly got my attention.

We thereupon re-focused on our own situation:  Eff the cat; let's protect ourselves.  A vial of liquid courage and a couple of hand-held weapons should do the trick, then.

We both sorta hoped we would live through the night, but at the same time we were totally gassed from the trip and somewhat buzzed and were at the point where it didn't really matter.  Crazy, primal shit certainly ensued on that wild hillside while we slept.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oregon Dunes: Intro

The October BikeEVENTure was a trip down to the Oregon Dunes to ride BIG sand on fatbikes.  It happened over these last four days and it turned out to be a larger-than-life whirlwind adventure.  My mind is trying wildly to process everything I saw and did, and to reconcile the considerable pain with the short-lived, yet intense pleasure.  At this five minutes, in my current totally gassed state, I have no idea how to tell the story in a way that will do it even a little justice, nor do I know how in hell's name I will ever cull the right photos from the boatload I took.  Something will come together though, somehow.  This cannot go undocumented.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

After All The Dust Settles

On potentially rad bike trips that involve a ton of planning and commitment, where different people are in, and then out, and then the weather looks like shit, and so there's a buncha debate about whether they (we) should or shouldn't throw down, and then other random factors wander into and out of play, there comes a decision point, eventually, that doesn't follow any particular model and that I don't think anyone can effectively predict, but that once arrived at, generates radio silence.

Because at that point, everyone still involved knows for sure that it's going down, and pretty much how, and sets themselves deliberately upon the task at hand.  No more talking is necessary.  I love this part.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bucket Down

A good bucket died today.

For no other reason than my vanity.  (Sure, there's some functionality involved, but did it really have to be blue?)

Look, I think bike aesthetics are somewhat important.  I'm just not sure where the act of murdering an inanimate object (that also looks quite nice) in order to provide a small incremental addition to your (subjective) bike bling scheme lands you, karmically.  I suppose that I will find out, and probably not so gently.

In other news, the new tires seem fine.  I couldn't begin to tell you if they are awesome or not, but I am fairly confident that they don't suck.  There's a good amount of comfort, just in this.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Baby Gots New Shoes

Those of you who know me kind of get that I have thrown down on the corporate lifestyle.  There was a time not that long ago when it would have made me puke, but it has apparently  grown on me, and I have come to really dig the challenge and competition of the playground skirmishes in this sandlot.  The most intoxicating part of my current role is potentially having the opportunity to create a better work life for the mechanical engineers and designers that I manage, and I guess in short, that's what drives me.

So with that said, one of the advantages of selling your soul to the devil is that you have a certain amount of fatbike-tire-disposable income.

A corrupted fool and his money are soon parted, then.

The thing is, fatbike tire options are just EXPLODING.  There are those options that are available, and those that are in the cue, and those that are a twinkle in daddy's eye.  It is an amazing time in the development of fatbike tire options and I am glad that I have a coupla (few hundred) bucks to throw at this crazy developmental dartboard and just try some of this crazy shit out, to bring this post full circle.  Since the average price of ONE tire is somewhere between $110 and $130.

Some of the crazy tread designs make really good sense in my mind and others don't, but may, over time, who knows.  It's the wild west.

One or more packages have hit my front porch over the last few days and I think it is probably time to just shut up and ride.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Awesome Sky Tonight

My lame photographic skills can't begin to do it justice, but it was serious.

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