Friday, May 31, 2013

There's Video!

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 . . .

Pump Track Session from hank greer on Vimeo.

Hank:  It was really great to see you and Steph.  Thanks for making the time.  And the killer vid.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stupidly, Wildly, Immature

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.

The Zurich stop is all the bling . . .
Tour de Pump in Zürich, Switzerland on Pinkbike
. . . but what has all my attention is the stop in Chur . . .
Tour de Pump in Chur, Switzerland on Pinkbike
Holy living hell, what those dudes are doing on bikes. If I could even just get up on one wheel for a tenth of a second and somehow feel like I was in "control" . . .

I'm a mess.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Colockum Quilomene Traverse - Day Three, Part Two

Ahh.  The balance of Day Three then, at long last.

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.

Onward, then.

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.

Onward,  then.

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.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

So Proud Of Myself

That I haven't yet succumbed to buying something at REI that I don't need, just because it is on sale. And seriously on sale, which just ratchets up the pressure.

I did drive there one day, early on, but it was so congested that I couldn't find a parking place and just kept going. Word. There are two days left, and I think I am strong enough. Whew.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On The Topic Of Care And Feeding

Back in the day, before PETA ruled the world, you used to "own" your pet.  Now, they are adopted, I guess, or some even more enlightened concept that I haven't kept up with and am therefore not in tune with.  But despite PETA, anyone who is normal and even moderately compassionate towards animals, which I like to think is the majority of us, sort of understands that they kind of own you more than you own them.  They have needs and you're basically the mommy or the daddy, and it's up to you to do the right thing, and you acknowledge and accept the responsibility.

Two springs ago, I thought I could "own" a pump track.  Easy peasy, right?.  Come to find out, "adopting" one is quite akin to pet ownership.  They don't exactly take care of themselves.  They have needs.  They have to be taken care of, or they become a pain in the ass, by letting you know that they are being ignored.  In no uncertain terms.

Getting out from under the responsibility that you have accepted is easier with a pump track than it is with a pet, but only slightly.  I'm apparently not ready, as I have once again thrown myself fully into the care and feeding of my pump track over the last several days, sinking valuable hours that can never be recovered into the painful activities of moving dirt and yes, tamping. Oy.

The new and improved track became rideable tonight for the first time and although it needs to be fine-tuned, it's pretty rad.  I don't understand, at all, why I have not yet decided to return it to the humane society and move on with my life, post pump track style.  I guess it's just a deep-seeded need to nurture this beast that I have created.  I think this process is in its twilight.  But I have thought that before.  Who really knows?  Not me, that is for sure.

It looks sort of like a war zone, I know. I could have gotten the big ladder out for these pics, which would have provided a much better overview of what it now is, but I got the small ladder out instead. Which I think, means that I have established boundaries on yours and mine blog love. I do love you, but there are limits, in simple speak. All this aside, and point being, the track is now actually a perimeter loop, along with a pretty badass figure eight in the middle, with lots of new bumps.  It flows pretty well, preliminarily. It will get way better as it gets dialed in.

I'm A-OK with being owned by it, for the time being. Apparently.

Monday, May 20, 2013

In The Meantime . . .

While you're patiently waiting for my sad, lame recountance of Day Three, Part Two, please enjoy this truly wonderful and amazing video that Ward put together and that crushes anything I could possibly say. Holy living hell.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Colockum Quilomene Traverse - Day Three, Part One

The planned route for Day Three would take us from Brushy Creek to Whiskey Dick Bay.  (I'll give you juveniles a couple of seconds to crack yourselves up.  I'm right there with you, of course.)

Here's the aerial of where we'd eventually be parking our tired, jubilant asses at day's end.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  There would be a lot of work to put in before we could rest.

Spikey, spikey, up, down, orange and purple, like the color of my puke, 23.7% upslope, 27.2% downslope, 13.7 total miles, 5-1/2 hours, 2.5 avg mph, drowning in my own blood, sweat and tears.  Blah, blah, blah.  Exact same shit, different day, then.

Before we get on with the ride details, though, I'd like to talk a bit about some ancillary, gear-type, slightly nerdy stuff.  Gear is a major part of what your day is about, actually, when you're out on the C/Q.  Or any bikepacking trip, for that matter.

If you're into Shackleton-type stuff, or that infamous plane crash in the Andes, or even The Shining, for that matter, you're acutely aware of how harsh environments and situations can bring out the worst in people.  I'm not proud of what I'm about to tell you, but in my dehydrated, delusional state of mind, I had begun contemplating a scheme by where I would murder Joe in the middle of the night so that I could inherit these goofy/rad backcountry slippers he had brought along.  I never got around to even considering if we had the same sized feet, that's how insane and desperate my state of mind was.  Holy living hell, if I could slip my dogs into those mothers for just even a second, though . . .    I'm thinking heaven on earth!

Tempering my slipper-lust, however, was the realization that if I capped Joe, I would have to either: a) do without an item that Joe had been packing and that I, along with everyone else, I think, had come to regard as an essential item on the trip, come those morning urges, or b) pack it myself.  Neither option seemed all that appealing or even remotely worth the effort and possible consequences of a wilderness homicide, after further consideration.  Joe's a smart dude, I have figured out.  I think he was way ahead of me here, and I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that he didn't lose one minute of sleep over the course of the entire trip worrying over his personal safety or the security of those slippers.

It took a LOT of water to get through this trip.  Between what we needed just as raw drinking water, and what we needed for cooking and other stuff, it added up to gallons.  This was our Brushy Creek watering hole. The water looks pretty clear in the pic, but it was actually pretty murky, due to the fact that we were in the midst of early season runoff.

The primary benefit of all this water of allowing us to merely survive was closely rivalled  by its secondary function: The supply was as equally ample at all three campsites and the luxury that this allowed, in combination with the warm weather, was a sponge bath, of sorts, at the end of every day.  No, I did not pack a sponge.  But a bandana was a worthy substitute and it was warm enough that I could wade into the water at the end of the day in nothing but shorts and knock down the stiff-as-starch salt and road dust that had accumulated on my skin and in my hair, and sleep that much better at night.  Yes, the water was colder than balls, and yes, the discomfort was well worth it.

No one besides me had experienced the joy of a gravity filter prior to this trip.  I let everyone know beforehand that I was bringing mine and that they therefore didn't need to worry about bringing any tablets or other filters or anything - that I had them covered.  "Fine, whatever", I'm sure they said, just like I did before I saw one in action.  There were a couple of time when Ward got his pump filter out to supplement because maybe we had not quite planned our filtering to coincide with our breaking camp and heading out on the trail, but for the most part, this filter supplied all six of us with water during a pretty damned hot and demanding trip.  It's such a rad filter, to the point that is sells itself, and from the comments I heard, I'd bet pretty good money that everyone on this trip will figure out a way to add one of these to their gear caches within the next coupla years.  Joe is proving here, once again, that a watched filter filters faster.  This is not something they tell in the instruction manual, it is just something that is inherently understood by humans.

Okay.  So it's time to talk about the wonder that is Chris' trailer.  And the wonder that is Chris.

He was a last-minute entry in this suffer-fest sweepstakes.  Which meant that except for Randy, we knew almost nothing about him.  There had been nothing in the way of email exchange, and the only real thing we knew about him was that he was a friend of Randy's and that like Joe, he would be pulling a BOB trailer.

Our first actual encounter with Chris, then, was at the start of the ride, in the Dept of Fish and Wildlife parking lot.  He was the last to arrive.  The rest of us were already in the mode of not-acting-like-we-cared-about-each-others'-gear-but-secretly-totally-checking-out-each-others'-setups. Without letting on.

So somewhere during the course of pulling his gear out of the back of his Subaru hatchback, Chris mentioned that his bike might be missing some spokes.  Ha, right.  Joe was the first to actually check, though, and yep, spokes were actually missing.  Holy living hell.

Chris also mentioned that his BOB trailer didn't fit his [spoke-challenged] bike and that as a result, he had ordered a $100 Chinese knockoff of a Burley trailer, into which he could load his massive BOB duffel.  He hadn't had a chance to actually try it out yet, since it had just arrived the day before and he had been up until 2 am putting it together and working out the last of his other gear details.  Holy-holy living-living hell-hell.  At that exact point in time I would have been willing to bet you, and would have thrown tremendous odds your way, that Chris would have been forced to turn around within that first day, and head back home with his broken bike and his broken trailer, in the back of his Subaru, while we all continuned on.

I'm glad we didn't make that bet, because you would have cleaned me out.

The thing is, we just didn't know Chris yet.  We had first-impression summed him up as this crazy dude who had no idea what he was doing and in fact he turned out to be this crazy dude who knew exactly what he was doing.  Or didn't, and didn't care, because this trip wasn't that overwhelming to him in the big picture, and he had the confidence in his judgement and his abilities to know that he would get through it.

Flash forward three days and it was clear that Chris totally defied our first impressions and that he was in fact a very experienced and capable rider and mechanic, and that he simply chose not to burden himself with the same kind of over-the-top fretting and worry and downright obsession that the rest of us had adopted in order to ease our insecurities.  We all came to really dig this rad dude.

All that said, I'm not sure he would choose to pull a two-wheeled trailer over this route again, given what he knows now.  He had rolled it a number of times (somewhere between 10 and 20), due to fact that it was bouncing all the hell over the place, in situations where there was enough speed involved to make it bounce all the hell over the place, due to the fact that we were bombing some steep, rocky descent, due to the fact that gravity exists and cannot be denied.  And when the trailer rolled, it could snag a rock and bring the entire bike-trailer-train to an instantaneous stop, while Chris continued his forward motion over the bars and into the brush and rocks.  Which happened a number of times (somewhere between 3 and 6).

So Chris and his trailer had both taken quite a beating, but I think that as bad as Chris's was, the trailer's was far worse.  The whole piece of fabric on the bottom was starting to rip out at the seams and by the time we hit the road on day four, it was so far gone that he had to break up some sticks to bridge across the frame to support his cargo bag.  The whole trailer was so beat to hell and battle scarred that it looked like it had been in industrial service every day for the last 20 years and the running joke was about how Chris oughta send it back on a warranty claim when he got home and tell whoever he bought it from that he had only used it four times, and that it was totally coming apart, and that they should replace it.

And finally, although it's not exactly gear related, the story cannot be properly told without at least a bit of recountance about the insane amount of ungulate waste that littered every inch of both campsites those first two nights.  City boy that I am, I would try to avoid parking my tent in it, or cooking in it or sitting in it, but this was hopeless, because it was everywhere.  And so in the end, I became one with the dung.

Enough with the attendent details, then.  We had finally broken down our fine tent city and once again stuffed it all into/onto-bikes-and-bags-and-bags-on-bikes and we were ready to roll.  I laugh every time I look at this photo because I look like such a rag doll (far left) and I'm pretty sure that my posture exactly captures my mood at that exact moment, as I mentally prepare to endure what will surely be another climb from hell.  Chris, meanwhile (second from right), seems unphased.

It began inoccently enough, as they all do, out in the C/Q . . .

Amidst the brutality of the climb, there were more stunning rock formations, as there always are out in the C/Q . . .

Here's Ward, powering through a section of brush and grass that's fed by a spring (you can see some water in the pothole in the left track), that had all grown tall enough to provide just a bit of shade.  We stopped to take a breather and get just a little relief from the sun while there was an opportunity.

From that point on, there would be no more shade of any kind . . .

It's at moments like this that a man questions what is important to him in life, and whether he really likes bikes or really hates them, and who besides himself he might be able to blame for his poor decisions.  And what his loved ones will write in his obituary about how he died, or whether they will even mention that part of it.  There's a lot of time to think, when you're travelling at 1-1/2 mph.

It had been another murderous morning, but after another 4-ish miles in 2-ish hours, we were finally approaching the top.

This woulnd't be our last big climb of the day, but it was good to be at the top of something, if even for a short time.

The view from the top is sweet out on the C/Q.

But the day was far from over.