Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Can Something So Hard Be So Much Fun?

...Or, "Stella's Hike-a-Bike Adventure"

Today was the epic Minot Dirt Ride. The whole ride was far more epic than I was ready for. Fortunately, Brian also did not want to do the whole distance (not because he wasn't capable, but because his training plan did not call for a 6+ hour ride, but more like a 2 1/2 to 3 hour ride in Zone 2/3). He told me that I could do the shorter distance with him (although, his Zone 2/3 is more like my Zone...geez, I don't even know...27???). I did get new tires (Kenda Happy Medium), and I was excited to try them out, so I agreed. I also found out Michelle was coming too. Yay!

Brian picked Stella and I up close to 8:00. This ride was starting in the tiny little burg of Porter (it used to have a grocery store, but now it appears to have only a tavern). Porter is on US 12 between Oakville and Malone, along the Chehalis River. It was probably an old logging town back in the days of such places, as it sits, sort of, between Capitol Forest and Chehalis Forest. Today's ride would take place in Chehalis Forest.

As we were getting ready, more and more people showed up. Once everyone was set (about 20 of us), DJ, the one who had mapped the route, gathered everyone for a pre-ride meeting. We determined who was doing what route, the long or the short. Most would be doing the long route, but about 5 or 6 of us would do the short route. Once again, we were on all kinds of bikes. Today we really covered the spectrum of bikes as we had one gal on a fat bike (meaning it has really fat tires--like 4"), and two on skinny tire road bikes. I envied the fat bike because I thought that would be fun. I did not envy those on the road bikes!

We headed off south out of Porter. We were on the road for the first few miles--South Bank Rd to Sund Rd, then to Raspberry Rd. From there, it was onto the dirt. We went around a gate, then headed into the forest. I was going along pretty good. There was a slight downhill, and then we began the first climb. It was pretty long. At one point, DJ passed me and said there was still quite a bit of climbing to go, so now would be a good time to shed a layer. I was warm, but not boiling hot, so I just unzipped my jacket some. It was slow going in super granny gear, but I managed to make it to the top without getting off to walk.

At the top, all of us short-route people (and a few of the long-route people) regrouped. Once everyone was sufficiently rested, we continued. Not far up the road we began the hike-a-bike section. I think it's a good thing I didn't know about this before the ride. I may have had second thoughts. It started out with these little gullies. At the first one, Trisha had just passed me. She got off her bike and pushed it through. I was glad to see her do that (she was on a mountain bike), because I didn't think I could ride it. I remounted Stella only to go a short way before having to dismount again for another barrier. I got back on and rode another short distance, and came upon...well...a very deep gully! I thought to myself, "Holy crap! How am I going to get to the other side of this?" Very carefully!!! I kept one hand on Stella's front brake to keep her from taking off like a runaway train, and slowly picked my way down the muddy, grassy bank. At the bottom was a small creek. I really did not want to get my feet wet! I pushed Stella through the water, and took a giant step over. Then, I had to heave-ho Stella up the other side--no easy feat!

We did some more of the gullies, then came to another of the deep gullies. I made it down and up, but there was a pile of debris that we still had to go around. Brian came back, after getting his bike through, and carried the front of Stella while I carried the back. On we went.

The next big gully was really the Granddaddy! As I came to the top, and was trying to figure out how I was going to negotiate this one, Brian came back and just picked up Stella himself and carried her through the whole thing! What a guy! I had enough trouble just walking myself through! I don't know how he did it, but I was very very greatful! Here is a link to a video. It begins as I'm just coming out of the second deep gully and goes through the last big one.

Not long after that last gully, DJ came back to tell us there would be no more hike-a-bike sections. Whew, that was good news! 

The next section was a fun downhill to another gate (unfortunately, I don't have anymore video as the first hour or so had filled up the SD card). We regrouped again after the gate. Of course the road continued up, but at least it was actually a dirt road! We came down again, but not a lot. I was really getting more confident with the new tires, and going much faster than last week. This was fun!

We came to a 4-way intersection. About the time we arrived there, Derik and Chip came flying down the hill in front of us. We had a brief discussion about which way we would go after climbing up to Minot Peak (what Derik and Chip had just come down). At this point, the remaining long-route people (DJ, Trisha, and Chris, as well as Derik and Chip) turned, and the 5 remaining short-route group continued up to the peak. 

I was going fine for awhile, but then the road became very steep. I finally had to get off and walk because my rear tire was starting to spin in the loose gravel. One would think it would be easier to walk. Not really. 

The fog was very thick near the top. As I got to where the radio/cell towers were, I couldn't see Michelle or Brian. I was beginning to doubt if I was in the right place, but then I heard Michelle's voice. And, just after that, I popped out into the sunshine! Apparently, the fog had just burned off. Brian said when he got to the top it was still foggy. It was beautiful being above the fog at the top! We could just see Mt. Rainier through the trees, and the Cascades off in the distance. Here's a photo of our group (and Stella) at the top.
That's Andrea, Jason, Michelle, and Brian

And, here's a selfie of me!

So, that steep uphill I had walked up, I now had to ride down. I was pulling on the brakes, down in the drops. I was going faster than last week, but it was still a little scary. After that steep part, the return back to where we were turning to go out to the paved road was a blast. I was going really fast (for me).  The tires were hugging the dirt perfectly. It was awesome!

The last section before the pavement was really bumpy. Front suspension would have been a plus. It felt like my brain was bouncing around in my head! It was a little crazy, but we all made it. I was amazed at Andrea as she went flying past me on this bumpy section. I don't know if she was trying to brake (but her hands were frozen), or if she meant to go that fast, but she didn't crash, so...amazing!

The rest of the way back was on pavement. Although we had only covered 24.8 miles, Strava says we climbed 2,947ft., and spent 3 hours and 5 minutes moving (about 4 hours total). It was really hard, but I loved it, and it was a great adventure! I can't wait until the next one!

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