Saturday, February 28, 2015

Quilomene Recon Ride

It all started with a text message on a dark and stormy night, exactly one week ago.  (Okay, the dark and stormy part is an embellishment, but do you want me to tell a story, or deliver the stock market report??  Okay, that's what I thought, then.  So shut your pie hole.)

So on this dark and stormy night, the text message read exactly as follows.  And I quote.  Verbatim.  Reproduced here just as written.

"Steve and I riding Vantage sunday. Prob ride to whisky dick bay.  Anyone welcome. No time set yet."

Holy, Living, Hell.  Talk about your heart pounding immediately out of your chest.

I'd already sort of committed to a ride with Chip on Saturday, and I couldn't afford the time to ride on both days, so I had to be kind of a heel and back out of the Sat ride, but in my defense, once the Q is in your blood, you are kind of helpless to its allure.  And the fact that there was this grand opportunity to ride it in February (are you freaking kidding me???), well, you just don't say no.  Sorry for being such a heel, Chip.

The message came from Ward, my Yakima-area buddy who has the connector tendencies and charisma to pull people together to do rad riding shit.  The message didn't go out to just me, and a flurry ensued, and five dudes ultimately scrambled to put all their other life shit aside and rally down to humble Vantage, Washington, on the morning of Sunday, Feb 22, '15.  At around 10.

Shawn, of NW fatbike fame on FB, had been out to the Q before, and so had I, but never at the same time.  Once you've been in the Q with a dude, you have a bond.  It sounds corny, but it is just flat out true.  It was cool that we were going to have this chance to suffer together.

In true Q fashion, the climb started innocently enough . . .

Mother sucker . . .

Uncle . . .

Too little oxygen, too many layers . . .

The wind never, and I mean never, does not blow in the Q.  It's why they build wind farms there.  But the wind was not blowing.  And the sun was shining.  On Feb 22.  In the Q.  Are you shitting me.

This is how it looks at the top of the world . . .

Soon thereafter, the well-earned descent began, and we could once again assume our roles as men, instead of weeping, climbing, ladies.

Steve here, killing it . . .

Randy, miserable and killing it . . .

Shawn, seriously killing it . . .

Steve, Randy and Shawn, simultaneously killing it . . .

Meanwhile, Ward was killing his brakes.  As bigga place as the Q is, he filled it with the acrid smell of burning brake pads.  If you can believe that.

But while you're sympathizing with his plight, might I temper your sense of sympathy with the knowledge that he was beating the rest of us into submission on every climb, due to his insane level of early season fitness.  Skinny bastard.  Damn mountain goat.  Or in other words, don't feel TOO sorry for him.

The other thing of note, is that he recently drilled out his 100mm rims.  Dang!  That's a thing of beauty.  These are the fatback hundies before anyone even knew what hundies were.  And now they are something incredibly unique.  I think he said it took him something like a week and a half of nights after work to do the drilling and de-burring . . .

There is no way any amount of photography can come anywhere close to capturing what I love about the Q, but if I had to choose one pic from the day to try and do that, this might be it . . .

We were co-existing with this outfit for a while, but one whif of Ward's scorched pads and they were "OUTTA HERE", like, ummm, "what's that smell, man??: . . .

Luckily, on this day when none of us were in any kind of riding shape, we were able to preserve our scarce energy reserves by sticking to the beaten path . . .

For just one moment, or maybe three, I considered lying down on this luxurious elk-created mattress and going to sleep and quietly dying . . .

The rad crew.  And let me just pause here for a minute to observe something.  The Q is not for everyone.  Probably there are quite a few people who would try it once and not go back.  And then there are those few who would.  The crazies.  Who would just cancel everything and throw down on short notice because of the promise of a grand adventure that can be packed into one amazing day.  I feel so incredibly privileged to have somehow gotten hooked up with these dudes and landed in the same circle of passion and appreciation for this area . . .

Ward.  The man.  The legend . . .

So.  Ummm.

There was a, uhh, slight ulterior motive for this outing.  That being the placing of a beer stash for a possible upcoming overnighter.  Anything worth doing, is worth doing right, of course.

Not all beers were meant to be stashed, though. But I'm sure I don't need to tell you that . . .

Whiskey Dick Bay.  Yep, the same place where I almost lost my life in a windstorm in '13.  It's too painful to talk about, but a true story, trust me . . .

So these next two pics are just about what it feels like at the end a badass day, when you've totally worked your ass off to the point where you don't know if you have anything left in the tank and then you finally get to the point where you know it's all downhill to your truck and you've made it!

There's been a lot of map activity this winter/spring, whereby Ward got a hold of the Green Trails map folks about a map of this area that used to exist but now didn't, and then they found some old stock in their basement, or something, and Ward snagged a few of them and sent them to a few of his lucky friends, me being one, and then I accidentally scanned one a blew it up on a large scale plotter at work and sent him a few hard copies, and then he took one of those and made it into a canvas print which he gifted me with.  So cool.

And that's Meg on the left, which is Steve's better half, or vice versa, I am not sure.  They are both so cool.

My work week pretty much sucks the life out of me these days and I'm not exactly sure where I summoned the energy to throw down and spend a long, taxing Sunday on this Q adventure, only to show up as a rag doll at work on Monday morning, but wherever it came from, I am so grateful that I was there, in the Q.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quilomene Tickler

A major one-day bike adventure happened today.  I left my house at 7a and arrived back at 7p.  There were about 5 hours of driving involved, and the rest was riding related.  In the Q.

I will put up a proper post at some point.  In the meantime, I want to thank Ward, Steve, Randy and Shawn for throwing down.  And Steve and Ward especially for their knowledge of this incredible area and sharing it with me/us.  I feel like such a lucky bastard every time I have the privilege of setting foot into the place, because it is so wild and so humbling, and every encounter is just a damn rich experience.

In the meantime, I am gassed to hell and running on serious fumes, but I did feel some responsibility to post up at least one pic that sort of captures the flavor of the day.  Conscientious bike blogger that I am.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The dude never ceases to amaze.  That fence gig towards the end is just throw-up sick.  Thanks to my neighbor Dick for forwarding me the link.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fatbiking Porcupine Bay

A really rad adventure went down today, that I didn't really even see coming. It's big enough that I'm naming it the February BikeEVENTure.  What makes it even more amazing is that I didn't have to do one bit of planning or scheming . . . all I had to do was commit to throwing down.

It all started with an email from my friend Chip, earlier this week.  There was this google earth snip attached of the Spokane River, where it joins up with the Columbia River/Lake Roosevelt.  In gambling context, this is where the Two Rivers Casino lives.

He asked me if I knew anything about the riding along the banks of the Spokane River in this area.

Uhhhh, ????????

He might as well have been asking me what I knew about the riding conditions on the moon.  I don't know about pregnant pauses in email exchanges, but after a lengthy delay spent figuring out what to type, I basically responded as honestly as I could by saying that I had no freaking clue and had never even begun to consider this as a riding opportunity.

In closing, I added that I was intrigued.

He responded by wondering if I would be interested in helping him check it out on this fine Sunday.

Hells yeah, said I.


We launched our ride at the same place that the fisherpeople launch their crafts.

Photo: Chip.

The first thing I'm sure you're wondering is how my fancy new camera bag performed.  Thanks for asking.  It did just fine.  It's a little bulkier than I would like and I'll be in search of a betterer solution, but this one will get me started in fine fashion.

So what's the riding like along the banks of the Spokane River near the convergence with Lake Roosevelt, you ask?  Thanks for asking.  In a word, adventurous.  Chip and I both dig new adventures on bike and today we were gifted with one.  I'm getting to be a fairly old man and this was something totally new to me.

Photo: Chip.

The camber on the way out meant that the right half of the tire didn't get much work.  That would change.

Beach find #1 was this cool bone.  If I had little kids at home, I would have snagged it for the perfect paddle that it is.

Hey.  HEY!!  Calm your ass down!  One innocent reference to corporal punishment and you guys come all unglued!  Fine, whatever.  I did not touch the paddle and it's laying exactly where I saw it, FWIW.  Geez, people.

In case it looks like it was all rainbows and unicorns out there, it wasn't.  There was sand, yes, but there was also nasty, slippery mud just below the surface, in varying degrees.  There was no indication of where it was or wasn't present.  My super knobby, grippy Lou on the rear?  This is the mark it leaves when it slides out.

There were a coupla pretty filthy inlet crossings, and this was one of them.  Slime at the bottom and slime on the climb out.

Our lovely, rideable beach abruptly ended about a mile-and-a-half downstream of the boat launch.  We did some exploring by foot to see whether there was any possibility of a continuous route, but pretty much came up empty.

Photo: Chip.  I love this pic.

The fog was starting to lift on the way back.  Things were looking up.  In addition, we were both starting to gain some experience and confidence in our bikes' ability to excel on these surfaces.

There are a lot of places where it's fun to ride a fatbike, but where a fat tire is not essential.  This is one of those places where I would say that a fat tire is essential.  I think you would be flat-ass dead in the water (pardon the gruesome pun) on the ride we did today with a normal mountain bike.

Photo: Chip.

At the same time as we were arriving back at the launch, the fog was lifting and the sun was burning through.  We took the opportunity to kick back on the rocks and have a bite to eat and shoot some bike porn.

Photo: Chip.


We then set out in the upstream direction of the launch.

Just to not paint too rosy of a picture of the day, this ride involved a shit-ton of hike-a-biking.  For reference, we were out almost four hours, and covered a distance of about 10 miles.  I can't even be confident of that distance, because for a lot of the time, we were going too slow for my computer to register.  Trees falling off the bank and toward the river are everywhere, and we climbed over a buttload of 'em.

Every once in a while, though, you'd hit a sweet spot that would make the whole thing worthwhile.

Photo: Chip.

I feel like I learned a lot about high volume, high flotation tires/rims on this trip.  Or have just started to.  I intentionally began the ride with my tires in the 8-9 psi range and incrementally aired down throughout the ride.  I ended up at 5/4 psi front/rear.  And I'm pretty sure I didn't get low enough.

What I can tell you is that a the start of the ride I was relatively tentative about my grip and ability to roll over fields of river rocks like these, and by the end, I was confident in attacking them.  Not that there's not a limit, of course, but I came away quite surprised at the boundaries of that limit.

Speaking of limits, did I mention the hike-a-bike component?

But when the riding was good, it was really good.

Beach find #2 was a genuine Frisbee brand frisbee. Unfortunately, banging it against a fallen tree to clear the mud that had accumulated in the concavity broke it in half, rendering it beach trash.  At this point I was compelled to carry it back, so as not to be a beach litterbug.  Damnit.

So in conclusion, a coupla primary takeaways:

First, the Blackborow is rad.  I am super spoiled and privileged to own both a Bucksaw and a Blackborow, and the Bucksaw is way sexier, for sure.  But if I had to choose between the two, at this 5 minutes, I wouldn't even need time to think about it - it'd be the Blackborow.  "For anywhere a regular bike can go, there's regular bikes.  For everywhere else, there's the Blackborow."

Second, and most potentially impactful to you, gentle reader, is the fact that the exploration of this area is far from complete . . .

The car ride back was about feverishly processing what we had just experienced and there was this mellow buzz about the parts we hadn't got to, and then when I checked my email tonight, Chip had already developed the Phase 2 plan.  And it sounds rad.

The return to the scene will probably happen sometime next month, if this weather pattern holds.  We both felt that some drying out of the substrate would be a good thing, rideability-wise.

We also both feel like this is too bigga thing to keep to ourselves, so if you own/ride a fatbike and are interested in the Phase 2 opportunity, hit me up at pat[dot]sprute[at]gmail[dot]com and  I'll keep you in the loop on Chip's Phase 2 agenda.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Super, and I mean SUPER, Camera Nerdiness

I've been a little wrecked, on the obsession front, with the task of reducing the weight of my bikepacking camera gear, while at the same time maintaining my ability to take quality photos.  All of this is based on the premise that I actually have the skillset to take a quality photo with any gear, which is ludicrous.  So a bit of humor there.

But when you are in that space where your day job pretty much consumes your life, and a shit-ton of something within you is dying to transcend the shackles, maybe that's where some good stuff comes from, idea-wise.

Like, if you have all the time in the world, what's gonna motivate you to think up something rad?  You may sorta want to think up something rad, but you can always put it off until tomorrow.  Because you can.  But if you really want to think up something rad and you don't have enough time to do it, well, when you do have a little time, you're gonna make hay.   If this makes sense.  Or not.

Pressure.  This is what I think about all the time right now.  It's what motivates us to do what other people want us to do, and how we get other people to do what we want them to do, and what determines what life ultimately extracts from each of us.  Pressure can be brutal and cruel in the extreme case, and it can be royally productive in the proper doses, but in the scenario that we all seem to crave where there is none, it's a stupid human condition.  Nothing good can come from zero pressure, so please don't grant me that.

But I seriously digress.  This is about nothing more than a silly camera bag.  Which is not even close to rad.  Maybe just mildly interesting, at best.