Sunday, April 19, 2015

Patty And I

My totally arrogant vision of what my wife needs, bike-wise, to be bike-happy, is intersecting in a pretty major way with her totally reasonable vision of what we need in order to be marriage-happy.

It's a crazy deal, but we're all over it, b/c we both think it could be good, and maybe really good.  Patience with each other is the cornerstone, the foundation.  We're coming up on our 23rd anniversary, so even tho it seems at times like we don't get each other at all, I think we kinda get each other pretty well.  Or at least we're working pretty hard at it.

One point of our "agreement" on this whole deal involves me not stupidly posting pics of her on this here blog.  Which I so totally get and agree to.

But the moments are happening, and it wouldn't be exactly right to internet-ingore 'em, just sayin'.  I think she and I have a bit of common understanding on this point, and so I offer you the following:

This is a deal whereby I have come up with a way to quick-release clamp the front end of either of my fatbikes to
the bed of my truck.  It works out well, actually, and so I am compelled to blog/blab about it.

There was at least one failed iphone fotographic moment.

Lovely bikes, lounging in the exactly one piece of lovely shade we encountered.

That/s a snake, center right.  That looks like a stick.  I had him dead to rights in my iphone, for the most fabulous, hall 'o fame photo in the history of the i-net.  Until he freaked on me and booked.  Damn hard getting a good photo of a moving snake, says I.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How To Say This . . .

I wanna tell you something, but I don't know how, exactly.  The information is marital-related, and as such, my blabbing about it on the interwebs is inherently perilous.  Mightily so, as a matter of fact.

If I was smart, I would gorilla-tape my pie hole shut until the urge passes.  Unfortunately, I have never let 'smart' be my guiding principle.

So here it is:  Patty has gotten kinda fa . . .

Oh holy hell, I can't believe I almost said that!

What I meant to say is this:  Her new bike makes her butt look kinda skinn . . .

O. M. G.  I am 5-3/4 of the way into my 6 foot grave!

What I really meant to say is that her BMI has recently gone above average.  And by BMI I'm talking about "bike mass index".  (Seriously, who doesn't know this?!?)

Shit, I'm toast.  It's been nice knowing you.


Since there's a tiny window of time between now and when I will actually be smitten, please allow me to post up a pic of Patty's new fatbike:

When you buy a bike at the Bike Swap, the first place you get to ride it is in the massive parking lot at the fairgounds.  Word.

She does seem not exactly unhappy, in this moment.  Which I will gladly take, at this moment.

One of the great perks of being a bike nerd is knowing, and I mean mofu KNOWING, that you know exactly what new bike your spouse needs, to make his or her life complete, bike-wise.  If you know what I mean.  It usually always works out, but in this case I have extra high hopes.


In other timely, imperative news, my flirtation with becoming a hobby home-machinist finally and mercifully ended this weekend.  After a couple-or-three years of being invested in a multi-hundred-pound piece of equipment and the deliberations of where to put it and how to move it and how to use it and and how to generally deal with and repair it, I'm glad to be non-deliberating.  The lathe has a righteous new owner/home, and I can't remember feeling so satisfied and unburdened.

To be clear, it would be super awesome to have the capability to go out to my shop and turn down some small bits for whatever, but I botched the execution of placing the right piece of equipment in my shop and learning how to use it at the right time, and that ship has pretty much sailed, for the time being.  I have a ton of fish to fry and that's not one of them at this point.  Godspeed, little lathe.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


I'm having a hard time disengaging myself from the Quilomene.   Climbing out a coupla weeks ago amidst the adverse conditions turned out to be a pretty big, impactful deal for me.  Obviously.

A group of rad, capable friends/acquaintances is out there right now, three days into a four-dayer, as I type.   They are for sure having some type of a significant adventure, because there is no way you can go into that area and experience anything even close to mild.  Aside from maybe a windy night last night, the weather appears to have favored their trip and I suspect they are doing quite well.  I think they number five, and if that is the case, they could be having quite a party in Whisky Dick Bay at this hour, if they found and have decided to consume all the beer we stashed, which would result in a fairly impressive alcohol-to-rider ratio.  Giddy-up, Quilomene cowboys & cowgirls!

I'm experiencing a bit of regret that I'm not out there with them, but you need to be in the right frame of mind and have your batteries pretty fully charged before you head out there, and I had neither of these things going on.  So I'm good.  I hope they're having a blast.

Chances are very slim that I will get out there again this year.  At the rate our Spring weather is progressing, the rattlesnakes and big heat and lack of water will be upon the area in a matter of a coupla weeks, and I'm really not at all interested in battling any of these elements.   But I've been out out there twice already, which is pretty damned satisfying.  The place is so amazing.

In closing, I'm linking to Scott's blog posts from our trip two weeks ago.  In following his blog over the past 2 or 3 years, I have come to really dig his perspective and style.  His writing is raw and supremely honest, but in a very subdued and laid back manner, that is laced with his awesome dry humor.

Scott's Day One Accounting

Scott's Day Two Accounting

As you may well ascertain, there's a certain bond that developed over the course of an eventful weekend between a couple of dudes from Eastern Washington that happened to go for a ride together.

I'm gonna try to let go of the whole deal about my latest experience in the Q now, but man, I don't think I can ever let it completely go.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Orcas-1 happened around this same time last year.  Which was really Orcas-2.  Since the real Orcas-1 happened about a year earlier.  Which really makes this Orcas-3.  I think.

The other thing you need to come to grips with is over-hyphenation.  Because you are about to deal with it.  Why?  I-do-not-know.  Some things just-are.

We left Spo on Thursday last at what must have felt like noon to Mr. Speare, and what certainly felt like the butt-crack-of-dawn to me.  Odd couple that we are.

We arrived in Seattle somewhere around an-hour-and-a-half early, because he never likes to arrive anywhere on time.  Which left me with the opportunity to ring-up my daughter Jacque, and see if she could meet us for coffee in the big city.  She could and did.  Damnit, she kills me - she is so radiant and lovely - she totally amped up my soul for the whole next four days, with just this short visit.  That's the power she holds over me.

No, I am not stoned in this self-taken (not selfie) pic, just super proud, happy and satisfied.  Thrivin' on my Jacque fix.

After a literal subsequent lifetime's worth of driving, we finally arrived at the fabled Rosario Resort.  Ever since last year, we'd been salivating over the prospect of returning to their oh-so-generous happy-hour.  But alas, happy-hour had been abolished.  Not-only-that, but we had been abolished to the outskirts of the kingdom, scurvy lot were we.  We vowed to avenge our loss, somehow.

At about an hour into our ride the next morning, spite could have mattered less.  We were gasping for O2 like fish out of water on the 2000' climb up Mount Constitution.  Yes, I am bringing up the rear.  Thanks for pointing that out, you bastard.

I love taking pictures and sometimes people encourage my behavior and sometimes they tell me to go to hell and sometimes they are somewhat neutral.

Ungulation was all the hell over everywhere, all damn weekend long.  I studied a group of four from my "balcony" for quite-some-time and actually watched them both shit-and-piss, which sounds gross, but which was actually somewhat fascinating.

Eventually we arrived at the summit of Mt Constitution, because Alex made us do it.  Food sure tastes good up there.  Bets is trying to tell us something; not-sure-what.

Why we go when we do.

Alex.  The man.  The legend.

Bets. Having zero fun.

Lee.  The one and only.

Larry, in Larry-intense-mode.


John, who can scare up a flat pretty much anywhere.

Gratuitous Bucksaw Porn-Shot-1.



No great bike adventure would really be complete without the shot of everyone-sitting-around-watching-one-guy-deal-with-a-mechanical.

Gratuitous Bucksaw Porn-Shot-2.

Gratuitous Bucksaw Porn-Shot-3.

Gratuitous Bucksaw Porn-Shot-4.

Gratuitous Bucksaw Porn-Shot-5.

Okay, feel free to stab me in the retina with a fork.  I know I deserve it.  But damn, I had so much fun on this bike, on these trails.

Freaking glory.  Hero-man-John chilling with hero-shuttle-capitan-Bets and new-bro-friend-Ben, who's waiting for lost-friends.   Hero-man-Pat-S manning the shutter.  After our 2nd or 3rd or 7th hero-run down the hill.  Who's counting.  Hells yeah.  Shuttling is the absolute bomb.

Black-n-white-sad-to-be-leaving bikes.

View from the bloodshot-eyes of black-n-white-sad-to-be-leaving humans, packing bikes-on-cars, non-eagerly awaiting the packing of bikes-on-cars-on-boats.

Look, in-all-seriousness:  It was such a privilege to hang out with a bunch of insanely-smart, seriously-witty, spleen-busting-funny dudes and chick, and also ride some of the best shit ever.  What a freaking great weekend.  I am such a lucky bastard.

Oh, and we avenged our happy-hour-loss by spending all our drinking and food money in town.  Just sayin', Rosario.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quilomene Agony

[So just a note starting out here . . . whereas I took well over 100 photos on Day 1, I took a mere 8 on Day 2.  And those 8 were a serious chore, given what was going on.  And those 8 were all taken with my iPhone.  Sadly for you, this post will be less about looking, and more about listening.  To me talk.  My condolences, then.]

I woke up at around 2:00 am on Sunday morning due to the imperative to, umm, whiz.  As I was coming back towards that tent, I thought I felt a couple of small raindrops, but that would have been impossible - there was no rain in the forecast for Sunday.

I woke back up at around 3:00 am, due to the sound of raindrops hitting my tent.  Okay then, hard to deny it was raining.  Must be due to some weird, angry cloud rolling through.  No way this could last, given the forecast.

Four hours of fitful sleep later, it was still raining, and in fact the intensity had picked up.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Breakfast, if you could even call it that, was a highly abbreviated affair.  Over the next two hours, we'd be filtering water, attending to the long list of camp breakdown details, and packing our increasingly waterlogged gear onto our bikes, while wearing our increasingly waterlogged clothes.  In these types of conditions, and with pretty much no opportunity for shelter from the rain in our natural surroundings, we were just going to keep getting wetter and wetter.

But time duly spent, at least I was starting to get fairly packed.  The yellow bit is the raincover that came with my camera bag.  Little did I know, it's not waterproof.  It's just nylon, with no coating.  Holy hell.  I was able to keep the cameras alive, but they did get pretty damp.

Finally, at around 9:00, were were ready to roll out.  If you are doing the math at home, it had been raining for 6 hours by this time.

The climb out gains 3000 feet of elevation in 11 miles.  It's a royal bitch on a good day, and this was not a good day.

It got dramatically worse, less than 2 miles into the climb:  I looked up ahead, and Ward and Randy were off their bikes, pushing.  I was like, "what the hell?"

It would only take me a minute or two to figure out what was up.

We'd arrived upon a muddy freaking mess.  It was sticky, gooey, clingy shit, and in the pic below, my drivetrain had become completely clogged, to the point where I could not pedal the bike forward.  Period.  The only lame prescription was to stop and grab a rock off of the trail and use it as a tool to try and scrape the mud off our tires and dig out the mud from our der's with out cold fingers, and somehow keep pushing on.

I don't have any pics between this early slap in the face and the approach to the summit.  It was incredibly ugly and it was all we could do to just get through.  I don't want to be overly dramatic, but it was super soul-searching, dig-deep territory.

Staying out of the energy-sucking and unrideable mud was our major objective, and we figured out pretty quickly that the the rocks, rough as they were, were our friends.  In fact, the flow of rainwater, the stream, that was flowing down the doubletrack road we were riding was our ticket out, because it not only exposed the rocks, but helped wash the mud off of our tires and provided a constant cleansing splash onto our drivetrains.  That said, it was still anything but easy.  Many times we had to abandon the road completely because it was flat out impassable, and make our way through the adjacent scrubland.

Our group of four fragmented pretty badly and Ward and Randy were ahead, with me sort of in the middle, and Scott trailing a bit.  We were not within sight of each other, and there was no way to communicate with each other, or the outside world.  As we rose in elevation, it was getting colder and colder, and we were getting more and more gassed.  Every inch of progress was supremely strenuous. I made the decision to drop back and buddy up with Scott.  Ward and Randy were buddying up ahead.

I won't speak for anyone else, but I was so wet and so cold, that I couldn't stay warm unless I was moving and generating heat. A two or three minute stop was all I could take.  I was shaking from the chill and exertion, and it was impossible to replenish the moisture I was expelling, try as I might.  I also could not eat well, as I was not hungry and had to force food into my system.  I was also out of any kind of food that was anything but garbage.  My bad for not bringing a greater supply of edible, sustaining stuff.  My bad for not respecting the Q like I should have.

It was half push and half ride and none of it was energetic.  It was all about moving forward at whatever pace.  Just keep moving forward, though.

I really can't remember the last time I've felt this vulnerable and truly scared.  There was absolutely no place or way to bail; it pretty much came down to the decision to somehow keep moving forward or figure out a way to pitch tent or emergency bivvy and hunker down and somehow manage a way to stay warm amidst a plethora of already-soaked-and-getting-wetter-gear.  There was also an option of stashing our bikes and walking out.  We chose to keep moving forward.

A couple of thoughts that really piled onto my sense of fear and gravity of the situation were 1) what if the wind was blowing even reasonably, which is the norm for this area (and the reason they put up wind turbines here), and 2) what if we'd had a mechanical, even something as relatively simple as a flat.  I don't even want to think about either of these scenarios, even now.

6-1/2 hours, 11 miles, and 3000 vertical feet after we had started, we finally emerged from that effing hole in the earth.  It was the first time I even gave on shit about taking a pic.

There was still a hundred or two feet of climbing to be done, but we knew at this point that we were gonna make it.

A pretty damned good photo of Scott, near the top, having endured one mother of an experience . . .

Randy and Ward were waiting for us at the true summit, and had laid out some food, which we tore into.  There was cell service up here, and Ward first called his wife, and then our friends Steve and Meg in Ellensburg.  The message was that if they don't hear from us in 3-4 hours, they need to start heading our way.  Reason being, we were not "out of the woods" yet.

Remember the Day 1 pic of the road in that I told you to hold in your thoughts?  Well, it had started raining at 3am and hadn't tapered off until around 2pm, so 11 hours of pretty steady rain.  We were justifiably (as it turns out) worried about whether we would be able to drive out, even if we did make it back to our trucks.

In the end it all worked out, after due drama.  The road was a ribbon of mud and it was a white-knuckle ride all the way, with some sections where all you could do was jack the gas pedal and hope you made it through, which is why I don't have any pics, normal camera whore that I am.


Once again, I don't want to be a drama queen here, but the experience was really dramatic and I will certainly be judged as a big baby, but I can live with that.

It took me a few days to even get halfway "right", both physically and mentally.

Us guys that were out there haven't had a chance to sit down over a beer and honestly talk about what this was, and probably never will, which is sad.  That would be a cool hang.

What has come out is a few, sparse comments, that have served to shape my view of each guys' experience:

For Randy, it was a cool experience that was well within his boundaries of back-country fun.  The discomfort, for him, appears to have enhanced the experience.

For Ward, it was pretty uncomfortable.  He has a solid family structure and thoroughly enjoys his kids and grandkids and this should have been fun, not a life and death experience that potentially threatened what's important to him.

For Scott, I don't even know, because even though we rode all the way home together he is really quiet and reserved, but it had to have sucked.  His first experience in the Q, and it was a pretty big disaster.  Even though I've tried to interject the appropriate disclaimers, I can't help but feel a little responsibility for inadvertently glamorizing the place to the point where he was attracted to throwing down.  Sorry, Scott, if I gave you a bum steer.


As for me, it was a huge deal.  I have no desire to go back to that hell-hole anytime in the near future.  At this moment, I love the place, and I hate the place.  I like to think that I want to go back at some point, maybe.  But I have backed my ass way out of the 4-day trip that was in the works for a few weeks from now.  That is not happening.  I need to process all of this and do some way better planning, before I go back in.  Maybe next year.

In closing, there is this one thing about this whole experience that has emerged for me as what's most important, and that one thing is this one decision point that occurred during what was arguably the darkest moment of the whole ordeal:  In the face of some pretty dire circumstances, I had the choice of making a decision that exposed my good character or bad.  At that instance, it's not deliberate - it's who you are.

And as messed up as this whole weekend got, I am at total peace in terms of what the experience revealed to me about my character.

With all that has transpired, I feel really good in my skin, and that's a good place to be.

Yep, this is still a bike blog.  More than ever.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Quilomene Ecstasy

We'd had such a wonderful recon/beer drop day ride just two weeks ago (as in, are you kidding me . . . February?!?), and this Spring is so mild and awesome, that we decided to bump it up a notch, and do an overnighter in the Q on this fine past weekend. Yeah, it's March and all, but it's been so mellow of a Winter/Spring.  We'd been watching the weather forecast all week via multiple online channels and it was total thumbs up, across the board.  What could possibly go wrong, then.

The ridge on the western side of the Columbia River Gorge is roughly 3000 ft above the river.  In all my (limited) previous experience riding in this area, I'd never really come close to ascending to the actually ridge line.  I'd pretty much lived on the eastern flanks, and maybe climbed 2000 ft above river level, if even that.

The plan for this trip was actually to drive up the old Vantage Highway, and tuck in behind the ridge, and climb 1200 ft up to the top, and then drop 3000 ft down to the river.  What could possibly go wrong, then.

In order to execute the master plan, we'd have to drive a few miles in on Parke Creek Rd.  A road in name only.  (Hold this thought.)

We found our launch pad and set about putting our rigs together . . .

Ward's seasoned, fabled Fatback.  And notice the righteous trash bag pannier liners (hold that thought) . . .

Randy was supposed to have his new Ventana El Gordo fatbike under butt by this time, but the snafu gods were fickle and cranky in the week leading up to the trip, and so he would be making the trip on his trusty, proven, slightly skinnier steed, instead . . .

Scott was rocking his Necromancer Pugs . . .

I'd be shaking down my new Blackborow, with lots of attached gear, to kinda/sorta simulate what I thought might be my setup on the upcoming 4-day trip we were planning for the Q in early April . . .

This is the new cockpit, with ready access to the photo bag up top, and the Revelate Gas Tank bag down bottom, which holds all manner of snacks and frequently-used devices of whatever kind.  Off to the right is a Bedrock bag that I really like that is fairly water resistant and which I used to pack a zoom lense and a pair of reading glasses, which sadly, I cannot get along without, these days.  Left of stem is a Garmin Oregon GPS, with a mundane wireless bike computer mounted directly atop the stem.  The crazy looking thing just to the right of the GPS is a Joby camera tripod, for timer shots, which was used exactly once, but for a very important shot.

After hitting the road and climbing and climbing, we were ready to climb some more.  There were three route options, and all of them had pain written all over them . . .

We eventually cleaned the 1200 ft climb and rolled over the top . . .

The first part of the ascent is kind of this gradual, rolling meander along the top of the ridge.  Scenic as hell, with the wind turbines in the background, might I add.  The noise they make in communion is really mysterious and intriguing, and something I've not quite figured out yet.  All the noises in the Q are interesting, actually.

We'd soon run across a herd of elk.  Like, pretty much right in front of us.  Close enough that we split the herd up.  Off to the left and out of sight was a cautious sub-group that didn't want anything to do with getting near enough to us freaks to cross the road . . .

While were were still high up on the ridge, it just flat out made sense to stop and have a beer, and toast our bad selves for throwing down, as far as cobbling our shit together and making the time and energy commitment to drive out here into damn nowhere and ride our bikes into this lovely, God-forsaken country, and prepare to descend into the bowels of the earth, from which there was no way out but to climb back up.  In  the middle of March.  So a toast to insanity, then.  What could possibly go wrong, then.

From here, the descent began, in earnest . . .

Scott, "roughing" it . . .

While it was mostly downhill, there was a bit of uphill mixed in, for good measure . . .

What kind of self-respecting bike blogger would neglect to include a glam shot?  Not this kind, for sure . . .

Contemplation, Scott style . . .

Down we went.  (While it was supremely pleasant descending for miles, it was not lost on me that we would eventually have to scratch and claw our way back out.)

There was so much to look at on the way down . . .

Early Spring in the Q . . .

Randy flat hates it out here, but he hides his emotions well . . .

We detoured off the main (Army) road, and headed down a less traveled path deep into the Quilomene Canyon, with the intention of following the Q creek down to the Q bay . . .

Indeed, we arrived at the bottom . . .

And crossed the creek a few times . . .

Going downhill had never been so much work.  And while we weren't exactly beat to hell, we'd put in a fair bit of labor.  We were finally there, and it felt good to kick back for a minute.

We set up camp in the same old homestead orchard that we'd camped in two years ago, just before the big fire.  Ward, Randy, and others were out here last year, but this was my first time back.  Holy hell.

Here's a shot I took of the same orchard in 2013.  What a different place . . .

Despite all the black death surrounding us, there were two hearty trees down there that somehow survived the inferno and are blossoming this Spring.  A testament to the will of living things to continue to live.  Here's a pic of one.  WORD, brother tree!

Quilomene Bay is home to . . . and I shit you not . . . a SAND DUNE.  The one and only other time I was down here I was on the verge of heat stroke and couldn't eat and was just trying to hang on and had no desire whatsoever to meander down from our campsite and check out the dune.  So I didn't, and have regretted the missed opportunity ever since.

So I was not about to pass it up this time . . .

The crazy deal is, there's this rad freaking seriously legitimate sand dune at the bottom of the Q.  Holy living hell.

We climbed up it and sat down at the highest point and drank a coupla beers that we'd brought with us and high-fived ourselves again for being so awesome.  Who can get too much of that?

While we were there,  the sun was going down and it was hazy overcast and the light was getting all kinds of awesome, and so we all took some pics . . .

We were sitting directly across from the Gorge Amphiteater, on yes, THAT infamous sand bar that is legendary for the massive congregation of boats and the associated partying and drunkeness and debauchery and nakedness and all forms of wildness that may or may not exist here on concert night.  When the other fellas weren't looking, I snuck a quick kiss of the ground.

Due to the drawdown of this reservoir as the result of the repairs they are doing at Wanapum Dam, there are shoreline restrictions that we, umm, may have, uhhh, possibly, slightly violated on our way out to the dune.  I can't be sure.

But anyhoo, while we are sitting there, atop the dune, mildy partying, in plain sight, a Sheriff's boat approaches (no other watercraft is allowed on the reservoir right now, so we're pretty sure it's the Sheriff).

We were fairly sure we were in for a scolding.

He motored past us and into the bay, where we had stashed our bikes behind the dune, to hide them from the view of such authorities.  And where they were now in his plain sight.

Now we were positive we were in for a scolding.

But to our surprise, he motored back out into the reservoir, and headed upstream.

We will never really know why we weren't hassled, but our suspicion is that we appeared to be pretty harmless and weren't worth messing with.  Maybe the fact that we are kinda old works in our favor in terms of him wanting to avoid an age discrimination lawsuit.  Who really knows.

It had been a glorious day, packed with the type of magicality that fills your soul in a way that is hard to describe.  Tomorrow would maybe be a bit harder, physically, but generally more of the same.

What could possibly go wrong, then?

As we retreated to our tents to retire for the night, supremely content, little did we know that in about 6 hours, we would begin to find out.