This year's version had a way different flavor and is already just as memorable. I got up at 5:00 am and looked at the thermometer, which said 2 degrees F. By 10:00 am it had soared to 7. By ride time at noon, I'm guessing it was in the 10-15 range.
8 brave bastards on fat tires and 3 brave bastards on skinnies showed up and threw down.
There was no snow, just bitchin' cold air. And low-angle sunshine. And an ungulate sighting, of course.
We rode for somewhere between 1 and 9 hours, as legend will heretofore have it, after which we retired to one or more establishments to replenish our deficient malt levels (Dan's characterization, not mine.)
Anyway, I really dig hanging out with fatbikers - they seem to be a fine bunch. And the ride today was flat out killer. You never know what you are going to get this time of year, but this one just came together and rocked it. Thanks to everyone who came out. Can't wait for next year's edition, already.
I'm asleep, not dead. And when a really good bike story comes my way, I have a bike blogger obligation to wake the hell up and tell it. The rules are the rules.
Read on then, patient and gentle blog follower . . .
'Twas 3 weeks 'fore Christmas
And all through-out Spo
There were rumblings of fat
While anticipat'n snow
When across my dumb phone
There arose such a clatter
I was driving while spying
To see what's the matter
The moon on the breast
Of the new fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day
To objects below
[Okay. This stanza doesn't really belong, I admit. But when you have even the remotest chance to use the words 'breast' and 'lustre' in the same paragraph within your bike blog, you just do it. As if you owned Nike. The rules are the rules.]
Glen hatched an idea
That was rooted in quirk
He spoke not a word
And went straight to his work
With keyboarding fingers
So lively and quick
He ordered the hardware
That would do the trick
He was dressed all in fur
From his head to his foot
And his clothes were all tarnished
With ashes and soot
[Okay. I've embellished again. Bad me. But just imagine Glen in this light and then tell me I'm wrong for introducing the image. I'm trying to weave a story here, give me a break.]
Now Pugsley! Now Pug-Ops!
Get out of your crates
You've found your new homes
And it's gonna be great!
With deception abundant
He summoned poor John
Who had no idea
What was going on
The surprise on John's face
When handed his steed
Was the stuff that this season
Is built on, indeed.
So in only slightly more coherent fashion, here's the deal . . .
Glen owns and runs Elephant. John helps him, in his "spare" time. These two guys are both really, REALLY passionate about bikes. I don't pretend to know anything about the business or the details of how they interact, but it's pretty clear that they really appreciate each other and that each others' decades of two-wheeled fixation and accumulated knowledge and experience have come together to evolve the Elephant effort into something amazing. It's a huge privilege to hang out in the shop and listen to them talk about what they are doing and what they see as the future of what's cool and right in the world of bikes.
So this past weekend, as I understand it, Glen and his wife Krista are out and about . . . and happen to run across a bunch of fatbikes in a shop . . . and happen to get some wild idea . . . and before you know it . . . two new fatbikes are in the mail. One for Glen, one for John. Which is so damned smart . . . fatbikes are still niche enough that's it's three times as much fun riding your fatbike with another fatbiker as it is riding your fatbike alone. (Although riding alone is still pretty much a bushel of fun, let's be real.)
So Glen went through a few scenarios about how to surprise his buddy, and in the end it was a small hang at Elephant headquarters tonight. The execution was superb, which resulted in a stymied and tongue-tied Mr. Speare, which is a rare feat. Even if for just the few seconds it lasted.
And of course I'm very excited that a couple of guys I really dig have joined the fat fold. I think they're/we're in for a lot of fun.
My extended absence, and then this bizarre re-entry into the now-dinosauric bike blog venue, does not in any way diminish by faith in blogging. Or more specifically, in bike-blogging. I just needed to start with that. I think we are all rad, right to our graves.
And with that, I present you with the following non-bike content . . .
But more on topic to the title then, my friend-at-work Mark closed down his pepper garden last night, and since I had previously made it known to him that I enjoy suffering, he brought me a "baggie" today. The delivery of the Sears catalog doll page on Christmas at the Walton household could not have generated more surprise and excitement. (Go ahead, google it.)
So anyways, he drops it off in the morning and it's all sealed up and I'm kind of watching it all day and it's starting to sweat, inside, and the baggie is getting all foggy, so naturally, when I get home, I want to let it breath. Which I do, right next to my 'puter, while I am busy extending my workday into the evening.
Pretty damned soon though, my skin is burning and my eyes are watering and I'm POWERING through what I need to get done. So I can get it done, and run. Away. Anywhere. And then come back, to the bug zapper that will surely smite me. And I am happy, so happy. Thank you, Mark, for the peppers and for the paper that introduces me to the bizarre psychopathic concept of a dude who is totally focused on how to survive the winter without being able to walk out to his chili garden in the morning and snap off a pepper.
As long as we've known each other, I'd have expected you to give me an ounce of credit.
But then it's you we're talking about, so how surprised am I, really?
What's actually happening in this photo is that Patty and I recently scored a used tent trailer, and we finally got a chance to give it a proper shakedown in the driveway tonight.
Ever since I accepted my new "career challenge", the demands on my time are insane, and we've been trying to figure out ways to deal with that. One thing that's clear is that we need to figure out a way to unplug. Another is that spontaneous anything is hard to come by and we have to plan our getaways, or they won't happen. Time will tell if the TT is part of the solution, or just wishful thinking. You have to try something though.
And yes, it has a receiver in back that you can mount a bike rack to. Hello.
I was just gonna chill, and not drag out the damned camera. Apparently then, I just couldn't help myself. Speaking of help(ings), Travis was back for seconds. Even though he clearly hates it. How can one not appreciate his sense of duty.
Jeff, who works with Travis, was a newcomer. It took exactly one half of a lap before he was just railing it, and riding the track faster than I ever have or ever will.
If you happen to be looking for the definition of concentration, check out his eyes . . .
Air was clearly begotten . . .
And then we had dinner. After which, the fatbike came out to play and more air was subsequently begotten.
After which, it was somehow subsequently determined that bigger air needed to be begotten, and so an effort in support of this initiative was diligently undertaken.
Rest assured that attention to the appropriate supervisory and quality control resource structure was not overlooked. In general, I pride myself on running a professional operation out of my back yard, and it goes without saying that if you want professional results, you cannot ignore the details.
This professional aproach ultimately paid huge dividends, as the next series of photos demonstrates. Clearly.
I even got into the big air action myself.
"WTF???", I can hear you saying. I know! Me too!!
Pictures don't lie, though, just ask anyone. And I would just like to say that even though it maybe doesn't look all that stellar in comparison to the stuff that Travis was doing, it was HUGE. Pictures sometimes lie.
Unfortunately, things didn't end all that well. I'm a super big fan of crash pics, since they are impossible to plan for and therefore quite the treat if you happen to capture such gymnastics. Kudos to Mr. Speare for doing just that.
It may not be readily apparent to the untrained eye, but I employed the technique of dissipating my kinetic energy by "rolling". It may not be certainly wasn't pretty, but I am here to tell you that it's effective, since I now have bruises over just 35% of my body, as opposed the the 85% that I would have experienced had I gone with the old method of pile-driving myself straight into the ground.
Look. There were many great acts of heroism tonight, and I'm not trying to make this about me. But in the same breath, I need to tell you that it was quite the nifty move.
From there it got all super-stellar anti-gravity mystical and everything, as you can clearly see. You'd have had to be there to believe it, so I won't even try to attempt an explanation.
Let's just say that tonight's sesh was a swell way to wind down the work week, and leave it at that.
Hank, who does such incredible work over at Shallow Cogitations, stopped by last night to partake in the seshtivities. It was his first time riding a pump track and apparently he was not content with merely totally rocking that challenge, because he also took a ton of footage in support of his latest interest - videography - and subsequently put together this rad piece . . .
I don't know what else to say. I'm 51 years old and over the past few days and weeks, I've BURIED myself into this pump track remodel. To the point that Patty is serioulsy uncomfortable. I have promised her that this "phase" is almost over. I don't know what else to say.
And as fate would have it, John's friend Jonathan has been posting up these links to this thing called "Tour de Pump", which is [most obviously, once you watch an episode] Euro-centric and is so, so rad.
From our comfortable and superior perch atop the world, windy as it was, we would once again be heading into the bowels of another canyon. Nothing good lasts forever.
That descent was a rough and rocky one, which kept my hands on the bars and off the camera. It was a brake-lever-cramped-hands-pick-your-way-down affair, as opposed to the swoopy-flowing-smooth-as-silk-nirvana-esque drop that we all deserved after that nasty bitch of a climb. Earth Mother had picked our pockets, again.
We did finally end our free-fall in this sweet meadow at the bottom of the canyon. I would commit my first bike-blogger-on-tour crime of the day by not taking a decent picture of it. But trust me when I tell you that it was super sweet and that it seriously conjured conjecture about its potential as a base camp site for some future adventure in the C/Q. Hmmmm.
Tempering the infatuation, however, was this stark realization that another, more powerful kind of bike, had died here. And that we might perish as well, lest we keep moving.
Excuse me, but is this what I signed up for??? Shite. The second big climb of the day, and steep as hell. No one was riding up this krap. I contemplated confronting Ward and demanding a refund for this all-expenses-paid tour, but even amidst the harshness of the midday sun and my resultant bone-dry-body and withering will, I was still barely sharp enough to realize that even if I was majorly persuasive, I would be entitled to the exact amount of my entry fee. Which was exactly nothing.
We arrived atop the world again shortly thereafter (if you call another hour of climbing "shortly"). We'd been battling, in additon to the climbing, a headwind all day. We'd known the wind was coming, on or about this day, based on weather reports before we'd left. And so we were kind of apprehensive, and for good reason: it was starting to get real.
Still pics don't show wind, but trust me when I tell you it was a windy mother up top. It's part of the deal, and the reason why they spend millions of dollars building wind farms up here. But still.
And then it freaking happened: We zigged, in accordance with the planned route, and the wind was at our backs! Holy living hell. When you stop pedalling and subsequently accelerate, you finally understand why you were born to ride a bike. It's how it should be, all the time, and how I imagine it will be in heaven, assuming I get there, somehow. Which is a stretch, I admit.
But the deal was, we were about to basically ride a ridge from where we were at, down a long and gradual descent, on some relatively damn fine roads, with a massive tailwind at our backs, until we reached our destination at Whiskey Dick bay. So heaven on earth, pretty much.
There was plenty in the way of detail . . .
. . . and plenty in the way of big picture . . .
Little . . .
Big . . .
Little . . .
We finally got to the end of the ridge and the point where we would be dropping off the edge and descending down to the bay. There was this one small detail concerning whether we were on the right road and whether we might possibly be dropping down into some dead end that we might have to climb back out of, if we were wrong. Based on the energy we'd already expended and what was left in in the tank at this point, this would not have been a good thing. At all. So we chose not to think about it. When all else fails, one must proceed with confidence. Here I am, getting ready to get on down with my bad self . . .
During said descent, I would commit my second bike-blogger-on-tour crime of the day by not taking a picture of Steve and Megan (a.k.a. the "Beer Fairies"), when we met them on the trail.
It was a big deal and here's why: We had seen exactly one person during our entire tour, and that guy didn't count, since he had been in a truck, 4-wheeling down to Brushy Creek. And then it happened: We ran head on into Steve and Megan, who had ridden reverse-course from Vantage with among other things, a soft-side cooler filled with beer on ice, and had scoped out and then secured a badass campsite, and then ridden up the road to meet us.
So the beer and the campsite were huge. But what was even huger, if that is indeed a word, was the realization that we were gonna live through this thing . . . Steve and Meg were our tickets out!
The drop down to the bay was about as wonderful as things can get, on a bike.
Even the creek crossings were a joy, for we knew that we were gonna make it.
Steve and Megan. And now you know why we call them the beer fairies . . .
They brought the good stuff, too . . .
The campsite was an amazing place, right on the river, and unlike the previous two nights, the mood was damned festive. The sun was out, and although there would be some work left to do on day four, we could smell victory. It was great getting to know Steve and Meg and revel in the power of our pack that was now eight strong.
There was the small matter of the impending weather change, but we were, honestly, too jubilant to feel threatened, so we just enjoyed the theatrics . . .
I moved out of tent city and into the burbs. It's kind of how I roll. I had every intention of sleeping like an angelic baby all throughout the long night, due to the lapping of the waves upon the shore just feet from where my head laid on my rad inflatable pillow. Earth Mother would have other plans, though.
The filter would do it's last hard work of the trip, and do it righteously, as always. We swilled on water from the mighty Columbia.
Megan chilled and absorbed some rays . . .
While her badass bike did the same . . .
Ward's portable sound system provided us with his fabulous musical selections, as it had on the two previous nights. There are ultralight bikepackers, and then there are us. It's fine for the ultralight guys to do what they want, but the little things like this make all the difference in terms of the experience and what you remember. This same system serenaded us through that frightful night at rattlesnake bay and I am so grateful to Ward for packing the extra weight up and down all those hills . . .
We were all feeling pretty relaxed and so what better time for a camping gear nerd-fest, over Steve's new stove . . .
Joe had carefully considered his trip essentials, and one unlikely thing that made the cut was a mobile blood transfusion kit.
The vampires among us came crawling right out of the woodwork . . .
The wind and the skies were getting more and more pissed. Everyone took a little extra care about how they staked down their tents, but I still don't think anyone had any idea of what was coming our way that night . . .
Time that night was hard to gauge, but I don't think I slept more than 20 minutes at a stretch during the entire night. The wind would come at us in these ferocious gusts. After a time, the pattern began to emerge . . . you would hear the wind roaring through the trees in the canyon above, and then you could pretty much count . . . one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, and then . . . BAM! It would hit your tent and just rock it, and you would just lie there and hope that your little nylon pod held it all together for you. I got up once to pee, and the major challenge in the middle of the night, aside from not being blown over, was not peeing into it. I'm happy to report that I somehow got it right and delighted in seeing my whiz fly, fly away.
So there wasn't this definite end to day three and this definitive beginning to day four. It was this wild transition. And as I look back, it was just another awesome piece of the wonderous puzzle that was this trip.