Monday, April 29, 2013

Colockum Quilomene Traverse - Introduction

On the morning of Thursday, April 25, 2013, I joined up with a group of five bike-obsessed nutjobs, two of whom I'd never even met.  The common purpose that brought the six of us together was a bikepacking traverse through the Colockum and Quilomene wildlife areas over the next four days.  In more familiar terms, this would be a north-to-south tour along the western bank of the Columbia River Gorge, from just south of Wenatchee down to Vantage.  Here's a Google Earth image of the route . . .

And here's the elevation profile . . .

Holy hell.

You may have noticed that the total distance we would be covering is just over 50 miles.  In four days.  Elevation profile notwithstanding, I couldn't imagine, at the outset, how a trip that averaged just 12-13 miles a day could be even moderately challenging.  But I was intrigued by the scenery and the chance to get out and bikepack in some remote areas.  I packed a book, so I would have something to do during all the downtime.  Heh, heh, in 20/20 hindsight, what a fool I feel like, as I type the previous sentence.

The genesis of the trip was some casual conversation with my just-acquainted fellow fatbiker Ward, at the 2nd Annual Northwest Fatbike Meet last October.  At the time, it was just some dreamy brainstormy chat about possible ride/adventure/get-together ideas, as groups of bike freaks are wont to chat about.  Over the winter, Ward began planning in earnest, and by February, he'd sent out an email invite to a short list of folks.  I wasn't yet gonzo bonkers in love with my at-the-time vision of this trip, but interested enough that I committed.  Over the next few weeks, we set the date.

In the meantime, Ward sent out a link to a video he made from footage he shot during a trip covering a part of the route last year.

The effect of the video on me was profound; I went from lukewarm to full-tilt all-in on this trip.

Ward and I had some discussion about managing the size of the group that might be interested in coming along; the trip was not going to be conducive to a large group, but at the same time he wanted people that were really interested to have the opportunity.  The other aspect that had to be somewhat managed was the level of bikepacking and/or wilderness experience in general that people had.  This would not be the proper trip for getting your bikepacking feet wet.

This was Ward's trip, and in light of the considerations above, I had no business "recruiting".  However, I wanted to leak a bit of news, in case there were people in my circles that needed to go.  So I posted Ward's video to my blog and made a coupla other references to the upcoming trip.  A co-worker, Joe, bit.  Hard.  He committed strong and never wavered.  It was good to have someone local to be going with and even better that we worked together; sharing plans and details in the weeks leading up to the trip fueled the anticipation.

The balance of the group that threw down on this adventure was an amazing collection of folks.  Let me do some introducing of the All-Washington All-Star team:

Ward, from the Yakima area, is the mastermind behind this excursion.  Without his planning, it would not been possible, as it involved a knowledge of the area that has been accumulated over years.  In addition to his planning skills, he's an all-around great guy; his enthusiasm is infectious and his generosity is out of this world . . .

Yep, that's a badass Salsa cap, from before Salsa was cool.  Ward's not letting it go quietly.  Obviously.

Randy, from Stanwood, north of Seattle, is a long-time friend of Ward's, and the two have shared many an outdoor adventure.  Randy is a master shuttle commander (explanation to follow) as well as a trail cuisine magician (trust me when I tell you there was a fair amount of envy at meal time).  It was a pleasure hanging out with this super dude on this trip . . .

Spokane Joe and I have known each other for a few years and we're well aware of each others' bike passions.  Despite that, this would be the first time that we had ever ridden together.  Reason being, we're in different leagues, meaning, I can't keep up with him.  But this winter, he had a bad skiing accident and tore up a bunch of ligaments in his knee, which drastically changed his plans and outlook for the coming year.  While waiting for surgery (scheduled for next week), he was able to work his knee back into riding shape, and this trip became a worthwhile goal and an outlet for re-focusing his athletic and bike nerd passions, I think.  It was great to hang out with him and finally get that ride in together . . .

Stu is from the Tri-Cities area and knows Ward because they both hang out at the White Pass area in the winter.  Stu is a ski patroller up there and it was a comfort to have his outdoor emergency medical skills along for the ride.  Stu is your total can-do guy and his expertise in packing a lightweight gear setup had me consumed with jealousy on many a climb.  It was great fun getting to know Stu and hanging out with him on this journey . . .

Chris is from Wenatchee, and a friend of Randy's.  He's a long time mountain biker and has done stints in bike shops.  He's also quite involved with the Central Washington chapter of the Evergreen Bicycle Alliance. His greatest assets though, may be his "just in time" philosophy regarding bike maintenance and his totally laid back attitude and not only willingness, but enjoyment, of rolling with the punches.  It was a pleasure sharing this adventure with him . . .

Megan and Steve, a.k.a. the "Beer Fairies", are from the Ellensburg area and although they weren't able to make the whole trip, they joined up with us on the trail, camped with us the last night, and we all rode out to Vantage together.  They have a great knowledge of the area, and they're shuttle commanders, to boot.  They're friends of Ward, and now friends of ours, as well.  Flat out fantastic people . . .

So with that, I conclude my introduction.  On to the telling of the actual story, then, which will be done over the course of four posts, each covering one day of the trip.  In the meantime, here are some preview pics:

Day One . . .

Randy (L), Ward (R)

Day Two . . .

Stu (L), Chris (R).  Randy, Ward and Joe heading down into the Brushy Creek Canyon

Day Three . . .

Stu and Chris, taking a breather

Day Four . . .

Ward, cleaning a steep rise

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Q

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Hardest Item To Leave Behind

I just have this gut instinct that this trip, in particular, could well use this lense.

But it's chunky and somewhat heavy, and try as I might, I just can't figure out a good place to carry it.  Part of the carrying criteria is 'reasonable access'.  I could probably cram it into a pannier, but by the time I got it out and buckled into the camera, the photo op would be long gone, as I picture it (pun intended). Having it and not being able to use it would be worse than not having it, I have decided. So it is staying behind.

At the moment, this is the worst of my problems. Or in other words, the trip is shaping up nicely.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Food Sort

Game on.  The krappy cell phone pic is courtesy of the reflective bits on the the ortliebs upon which this load will be imposed.  Textbook acting out.  But hard to deny them the right to be a little cranky at this point, I suppose, considering what lies ahead.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


When you're planning a trip into no-man's land, it's important to have backup systems in place. Let me just make that statement, and let you just hold that thought for a minute.

So okay. Since last September, I've lost about 30 lbs, not to be confused with LBS (that would be crazy talk, I don't even know what that sentence would mean . . . we don't have 30 LBS in this town, so how could I lose them all, and then some?? Beats me!).

Anyway, I wanted to lose 50, but those last 20 right above the upper end of the stupid-ass BMI are just mothers, so I doubt they will ever happen.  But 30 is good, and genuinely lets me go up hills way more faster, which I seriously dig, and therefore my main objective in life, weight-management-wise, is to not give a single one of the 30 back.

This next part is gonna sound stupid, but bear with me: A super-important element of my take-it-off-keep-it-off program has been the judicious application of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, or what is known around our house as just plain Rooster Sauce, to a large percentage of what I eat. The thing is, low-cal food can be kinda bland. And I like to live a little, and Rooster Sauce make that possible. It's that simple.

There is a whole 'nother element of Rooster Sauce weight management strategy that is generally only whispered about in hushed tones and that involves liberal application of said sauce on those occasions where the "train has gone off the tracks", and it is necessary to "flush the system". This would be outside the scope of our current conversation, to be clear.

So, armed with this vital information, as you now are, I suspect you can see how important it is for me to "pack heat" on my upcoming trip. It's not that I will need to be spicing up a low-cal diet, it's more that Rooster Sauce is now a way of life for me and I'm in fear of a future without it. I'm not especially proud of this statement, but honesty is the cornerstone of 26InchSlicks, as you well know.

Yes, you have to scuff up the plastic with sandpaper if you want your sharpie text to "stick".
A lesson from the school of hard knocks.

If you've done a trip like this, you know it's all about the balance of what you can afford to take and what you can afford to leave behind. If you haven't, well, trust me. 'Nuff said, then.

Nerdish Alert

. . . about this post. There, you've been warned.  If you're into nerdish though, this post is kinda good.

The plan for this weekend was to find some nooks and crannies in my schedule to shake down and test out some of the gear details at Antoine, which I see as a fine proving ground for the Quilomene trip.  And also, to acquire a bit of fitness, of which I acknowledge I am seriously lacking.

I did manage to get the ass-end gear strategy implemented, at least for this trip.

Tent on top, sleeping bag underneath.  Both in super lightweight dry bags.  Hell ya.

Sleeping pad on the left, funky lightweight camp chair on the right.   Hell ya.

But as I was climbing, climbing, climbing Antoine, as one is wont to do, the shit kind of hit the fan:  I was on this steeper-than-average incline and so I was standing.  And then the pedals stopped turning.  Like, as in, some sort of serious chain suck type of event.  Except that it wasn't. It was similar, but it was a small chainring buckling type of event, as I have now begun to refer to it.

This picture's not the best, I know.  But I think you can at least ascertain that something's not exactly right.

There was no more pedalling that was going to be happening on this ride, with this bike, on this day.  Fortunately, karmically, I had been pedalling uphill, and all I had to do was generally coast downhill, back to the parking lot and truck.  Where I piled my quite messed up steed into the cargo hold.

Back home, I pulled the crank arm and got a glimpse of how bad things really were.  Let me say it for you:  "Holy living hell."

I would like to tell you that it was the massive power in my legs that destoyed this chanring and that I wouldn't wish the curse of massive leg power on you, let alone my worst enemy, but in good conscience I cannot. Because the picture does not lie.  Here's the deal, nerds:  The 3:00 bolt was "snug". The 6:00 bolt was visibly loose and backed off.  The 9:00 bolt was gone.  So there was very little resistance to the massive force generated by my legs (sorry, I cannot lie), and as a result, the system failed.  The 12:00 bolt, which I suspect was already loose, got pulled sideways out of the crank arm and left this aftermath . . .

So in conclusion, the little chainring and the crank arm are toast. I also need four of those funky machine screw dealies, because one is lost and one I don't feel good about and the other two I just want to replace, on principle.  I got everything pulled apart at about 6:30 and there's exactly one bike shop in town that I know of that is open at that time on Saturday and that is REI and so I bee-lined down there, hoping against hope. Which one should not do.  Because they didn't have what I needed.  Nothing against them.

Here's where the story gets kind of interesting, though . . .

Knowing that I would not have the time to go through my bike, mechanically, in preparation for this trip, I dropped it off at my LBS and told them what I knew was wrong with it and asked them to look it over from top to bottom and get it ship shape.  One of the things they found was that the large chainring had a chipped tooth, and I asked them to replace it.  Which they did.  In the course of which, they would have pulled the crank arm and possibly noticed anything weird about how the small chainring was fastened.  I guess I would have expected them to.  They would not have technically had to pull the small chainring off or have otherwise messed with it to replace the big chainring, to be clear.

BUT.  I rode this bike across the state and for hundreds of other miles and there were no chainring problems.  And then I take it in.  And when I get it back, within just a few short rides, I have this crazy failure.

I get that I'm responsible for my bike.  I guess.  On the other hand, if I trust a shop that assures me that they are qualified to look over my bike and charge me a considerable amount of money to do so, then I expect them to find and fix problems.  The whole thing just smells kinda funny to me, but I'll let you be the judge of whether I'm out of line here.

In other business, then.

I've always thought the idea of protecing your stay with an inner tube is quite rad, aesthtically, if not functionally and frugalitically (if that is actually a word).  All things in due time, of course, and as I was envying [Quilomene partner] Joe's same-style stay protector this week, I decided it was due time.

I'm pretty sure relatively certain that after last year's flatstravaganza, I will be carrying two spare tubes.

I've unabashedly stolen this concept of securing my dual $25 superflash tail lights against the bounciness of the trail from Mr. Speare.  One zip tie is all it takes.  Pow.  Thank you, Mr. Speare.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gettin' Busier

I wish I could tell you that I am full on busy as far preparations for my trip are concerned. 'Busier' it is, sadly.  I honestly have no idea how I am possibly gonna be ready and at the same time, I know I'm gonna be.  Bike-karma-magicality-wise.

The first and so far only sole-purpose lasher rack that I know of  is owned by John and of course we're all waiting for him to step up and finally put it to work, but in the meantime I have this hybrid lasher that I took across the state last year and that worked out fabulously, if that is actually a word.

So I'm taking things to the next level, lasher-wise.  The master plan was to head out to the shop tonight and dry-run-lash all these elements to it:

Unfortunately, I didn't/don't have the quite-right straps in house. Strappage is huge, let me tell  you.  So there will be another hardware run tomorrow. What a surprise.

On a tangential subject:

The boots.  They barely got broken in on the cross state tour and they have been dabbling in horse-poop-mud on Antoine, but they are SO ready to throw down at Quilomene.  Mess is what they live for, so that's at least one detail I don't have to sweat.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The LuminAID

The play on words is multi-dimensional and pretty damned clever, if you ask me.  What it IS, may be even more clever, though.

I spend hardly any time on the interwebs these days, which are probably filled with gossip and reviews about this product, but I actually ran across it in [gasp!] the newspaper, under the outdoors section.  I'm glad to not know what I don't know about it, because I just think it's cool and have great hope that it's a great product.  I seriously want it to be, given the mission of the company that produces and sells it.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Please, read on.

What it is then, is this packaged bundled plasticy thing with a big window for catching rays and a plastic snap and an on/off switch. In technical terms.

Once you unsnap the snap, it unfolds into a larger plasticy, nonsensical bag-thing.  That has now become much bigger than a phone.

Leveraging 1960's air mattress know-how against modern day solar electricity generation, electrical energy storage and LED lighting technology is how this company apparently rolls.

Once "blown up", it becomes [much] bigger, as well as substantially thicker, than a phone.  (The master of the obvious is in the room.  Please give him some space.)

From there, the hard work is done and the only thing left to do is turn off all the lights in your house and turn your new LuminAID on.

Brandy is somewhat, but not *that* impressed.

I'm all in, though.  I'm excited about the bike camping potential of the product, of course.  But what make it so easy to throw dollars their way is that they really seem to have have a much higher calling than pleasing some douche in Spokane who nerds out on anything remotely bike and/or bike-camping related.  From their website:

The LuminAID solar light was designed to fulfill the basic need for light in post-natural disaster situations shortly after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  When thinking about what we could design to make a difference, we decided to focus on affordable, renewable light because it had the potential to greatly improve the comfort, safety, and survival of disaster victims.
While on a school trip to Japan, we unexpectedly found ourselves in the middle of the earthquake in March 2011. Having experienced first-hand how a disaster can negatively impact the lives of millions, we are motivated to make the LuminAID light a reality for those affected by disasters, crises, and conflict.
About the Founders: Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta met while studying architecture and design in graduate school. They shared an interest in solar lighting technology and a common belief that design and design thinking can be used to solve problems at a global scale, including improving access to basic resources such as lighting and power.

The purchase program involves an option to buy 2, of which you get one, and the other gets donated to women around the world in distress/disaster situations that need light.  For thirty freaking bucks!  And they handle it all.  Holy krap, even if they're something other than what they represent themselves to be (which I don't think is the case), how can you not just take a chance on "getting a light and giving a light"?

I just choose to think, until proven otherwise, that this whole enterprise is supremely rad.  The concept of siphoning my bike-douche-dollars as a means of doing something genuinely worthwhile is something I'm not letting go of without a fight.

I'll let you know how this product works, bike-camping-wise.  But that's really beside the point.  The way bigger and way better told story is here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Announcing My Presence

"BRAH, I'M ROLLING THROUGH YOUR HOOD!  LET'S GIVE EACH OTHER SOME SPACE!", is basically what I'm trying to communicate to the wild things on the hillsides of Antoine with this new hardware installation, which was inspired by a suggestion from Andy in Denver.  But there's no actual yelling involved.  The sound is soothing, actually.  And neither self nor beast need suffer my torturous singing any longer. Which is huge in itself.

There's one on the right shifter, and one on the left.  Because redundancy is a good thing when it comes to systems that can flat out save you from having your head flat out stomped in by an ungulate.

They flat out work, too.

"Wha dat thound?!?"

Deer don't talk much, so it's hard for them. Obviously.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Magical Moment

I took exactly four iPhone pics on this morning's ride.  The first three were rather routine ride shots.  The fourth was to have been another rather routine ride shot until Bill threw a superhuman feat into the mix at precisely the right moment.

Proving once again, that when it comes to cell phone photography, as well as a multitude of other endeavors in life:
a.)  Timing is everything
b.)  It's better to be lucky than good
c.)  All of the above

I won't go into what this event proves from a cycling perspective, or try to debunk any misinterpretation on your part about what actually just happened.  Nor will I try to explain what we were all doing on this trail in the middle of a road ride, on road bikes.  I think it's better if you just use your imagination.  It's important to let you know that Bill and bike are fine, and I will leave it at that.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pat's Hats

Last year, Pat bonded with a hat. Like, seriously bonded. With a hat.

He would just like to say it before you do: "Holy hell."

But in his defense, it was a GREAT hat. Maybe it still is.  He thinks not, but he isn't entirely sure.  Most of it's value now has to do with it's emotional connection to the John Wayne trip, he thinks. A relic, and a fabulous one at that.  But with expired functional value.  He thinks.  Mainly because it went through a stint in hell which inflicted much torture upon it and which culminated in a certain episode involving the fending off of bees, which rendered it, umm, . . . kind of, uhh . . . limp.  (It's hard to tell from the  photo, but trust him.)

It was this brand, which he didn't know anything about, but came to trust, due to the protection and comfort it gradually manifested.

New, stiffer, hats have recently caught Pat's eye.  A fool and his money are eventually parted and as of tonight then, a second hat is on the rack.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss . . .

It's hard (pun unintended) to tell if Pat is somehow compensating for personal deficiencies.  Or maybe the new hat is an emotional security blanket - some kind of perceived insurance that the upcoming trip will be as good as the last.  Or maybe, just maybe, his judgement is intact and it's truly necessary that he equip himself with a hat that is 100% functional.  And quite stiff.  Only time will tell.