Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The ill fated Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Ride, final wrap-up

Click here for day 1

In this post I will be talking about my gear, our trip planning, what worked, and what didn't.

The bike:
I rode a size small Surly Pugsley that I built up from a bare frame set. It was mostly 9 speed Shimano SLX, with Avid BB7 brakes, and Jones H-Bars. The drive train performed flawlessly, but then again it had better because I am a professional bike mechanic! Like many riders doing long distance dirt touring, I LOVE the Jones bars for both their comfort on the bike, and for the options they provide for mounting points and hand positions. I used Ergon GP-1 grips, super comfortable and great at relieving hot spots and hand pressure.  My saddle is a Brooks Flyer, really heavy, but the most comfortable saddle I have ever owned, and well worth the extra weight. I used Welgo MG1 cage pedals. The wheels were hand built using Surly Holy Rolling Daryl rims laced to a Hope Fatsno front hub and a SRAM X-7 rear hub. They are still as perfectly true as the day I built them. I rode regular Surly Endomorph tires and had no flats, although I had put Stan's in the tubes. I ran the tires between 16 and 20 PSI, which is much higher than you would run them for sand or snow, but perfect for the conditions we were riding while carrying a full load. I had two Salsa anything cages, one on each fork leg. Unloaded, the bike weighs about 35lbs, which seems heavy, but it rides really nice. I really think a fat bike is the perfect bike for this kind of touring.

Bikepacking bags:
I used a full set of Revelate Designs bike bags, including the Pugsley frame bag, Viscacha seat bag, Gas Tank,  Jerry Can, 2 Mountain Feed Bags, Harness, and the Large Front Pocket. Eric makes a fantastic line of bags! My only criticism is the zipper on the frame bag, which was super difficult to open and close when the bag was full. I used several Sea to Summit products, including their Big River,  eVent and Ultra-Sil compression dry sacks, and a Reactor Thermolite Liner for inside my sleeping bag. I was really happy with all of these products and have no criticisms whatsoever, they worked awesome.

I carried a selection of tools and spare parts in the small compartment of the frame bag, none of which I really needed, but all of which I was very happy to have along. I had a cheap multi-tool, a leatherman, chain tool and spare chain links, low pressure tire gauge, CO2 canisters and inflator, spoke wrench, tire lever, patch kit, needle and thread for repairing sidewall cuts, a spare tube in the Jerry Can with a bottle of chain lube, a spare shift and brake cable, spare brake pads, zip ties, and misc 5mm and 6mm bolts and nylock nuts and washers. I carried a Lezyne Low Volume hand pump in the frame bag's main compartment. This is a fantastic pump, I have been super happy with it. I am sure there are other things in there that I am forgetting!

For cooking I carried a simple Jetboil stove on the fork, which I cannot recommend highly enough! For a backup, and just for fun, in the main frame bag compartment I also carried an Emberlit Ti wood stove, which works awesome. Also in the frame bag I carried a Snowpeak Multi Compact Ti cook kit for eating out of, and a Ti Spork. For washing up I carried an MSR Alpine Dish Brush/Scraper which is small, light weight, and works perfectly. I carried a spare canister of fuel in the cook kit, with the scraper and a bic lighter. For water in camp, I filled an MSR Dromedary bag which I carried in the front pocket with my MSR Miniworks water filter. On the opposite fork leg from the stove, I carried a Nalgene 1 litre bottle filled with water, and wrapped on the outside with a few yards of Gorilla Tape. And lastly, in the frame bag I carried my beloved insulated mug!

My sleeping bag was the much maligned Mountain Hardwear Ultra Lamina 32, carried in a dry bag inside the front harness. I can't really blame the bag since I was unknowingly sleeping well outside of its recommended comfort range. The bag is super light weight, compresses down smaller than any bag I have seen, and works perfectly for a summer bag down to about 40 degrees. I need to find a cold weather bag though if I plan on doing anything like this in the future. My pillow is a simple rubber inflatable thing that I have been dragging around for about 25 years, it still works perfectly. I also used the earlier mentioned Reactor Thermolite Liner inside my sleeping bag, both for extra warmth and to keep the bag clean. My sleeping pad was the diminutive Cascade Designs NeoAir Xlite. So incredibly tiny and light, but very comfortable, and seems to be durable as well. Very noisy though. Some people say it sounds like you are sleeping on a potato chip bag. I never found it to be that bad, but it may annoy your neighbors if they are sleeping too close!

My tent, also carried in a dry bag in the front harness was the wonderful MSR Hubba. I just LOVE this tent! It also packs down incredibly small, is very lightweight, sets up super easily with one pole (which I carried in the frame bag main compartment,) and can be used in 3 different configurations. This is the best tent I have ever used.

Worn while riding- My beloved Tilley T3 hat with a bandana draped under to cover my neck, clear lens riding glasses, a simple synthetic t-shirt, Pearl Izumi short finger gloves,  Fox Sergeant shorts with liner, synthetic bike socks, and simple Shimano bike shoes.
In addition, in my seat bag I carried a pair of regular underwear, a pair of swim trunks, an extra t-shirt, extra pair of riding socks, extra liner, mid weight long sleeve synthetic shirt, wool buff, wool watchman's cap, fleece gloves, wool socks, puffy jacket with hood, and windproof winter riding pants.
I also carried a full set of rain gear in a stuff sack strapped to the top of the seat bag, but thankfully never needed to use it!
One of my favorite pieces of gear were my Crocs. I had a major bias against these, but after reading about everyone carrying them for bike packing, I decided to give them a try. They are super light weight, super comfortable, great for wearing in water, dry instantly, and will be the first thing I reach for when packing for any trip in the future. They are a must have!
I also carried a helmet strapped onto the seat bag which I wore for the downhills.

I wore a backpack, partially for the extra capacity, but also to carry a 3 litre water bladder to drink from while riding. The pack was an Arcteryx Chilcotin 20 which I found to be surprisingly comfortable, considering how much weight I was carrying in it.

 I carried all my food in the backpack. We had planned on seven days unsupported for the first leg, and since I am vegetarian and knew it would be hard to find things I could eat in small towns I had a full weeks worth of food in my pack. Each meal was individually packed in a ziploc bag. I repacked the freeze-dried dinners in smaller ziploc bags as well.
My daily meal plan was as follows:
Breakfast every morning was 1 cup of granola premixed with powdered soy milk that I just needed to add water to, and either hot chocolate or hot tea. I was really surprised how good the powdered soy milk actually was, it was delicious!
Snacks for morning and afternoon were Peanut Butter Clif Bars. I never get tired of these things! Sometimes I would carry some trail mix as well.
Lunch was 1/2 cup of TVP premixed with spices and rehydrated in 1/2 cup boiling water. TVP has zero fat, is high in iron and protein, and is really filling. I would wrap it in a tortilla shell with some cheddar cheese, and have a delicious and power packed lunch in under ten minutes.
Dinner was almost always Backpackers Pantry Freeze Dried Lasagna, followed by hot chocolate.


On the side of the front pouch I carried a small monocular for bird watching. In the pouch I also carried a line for hanging food at night, an extra bic lighter, and the map I so seldom referred to, as well as my water filtering equipment.

In the feed bags I carried my electronics on one side, and snacks for the day on the other.

Toiletries and medical kit were carried in the outer pocket of the backpack for easy access.

My electronics were really simple, my iPhone synched to a Delorme Inreach, my Kindle Paperwhite (carried in the back pack,) and a Mophie Powerstation Pro for battery backup and charging. Although the Delorme is a pain in the ass to use on its own, when linked to the iPhone it works well, and was a lifesaver when we were out of cell range and I wanted to stay in touch with my wife, or when I had cancelled the ride and I needed to get Lee to come pick us up.

The map:
 This is a tough one. I know that there is a ton of work that goes into the creation of a route like this, and that things change so quickly that you have to be really flexible and able to adapt to the changes as they come. That being said, I feel like the map, and the descriptions of the route, don't even come close to describing how incredibly difficult this ride actually is. The level of fitness required is way, way above what you would normally expect for a traditional bike tour, even an off pavement tour for mountain bikes. I know incredibly strong, younger, experienced riders who have had to bail on this ride because it was much harder than they expected. It was disappointing to not have accurate mileages listed for the climbs so you could get a better sense of how steep they really are. The elevation profile is just not a reasonable way to accurately represent the steepness of those climbs, they are brutal!

 I really overestimated my fitness and preparedness for this ride. I ride my bike to work everyday, year round, and I thought that would make me stronger and more prepared for this ride than it did. I needed to do a lot more long distance riding, and a ton more training climbing hills. I can easily do a ride over Snoqualmie Pass and gain almost 3000' of elevation, but that is over 25 miles, not 8. It's a huge difference, and I just was not prepared for it.

I will continue to add to this list as I remember all the things I have forgotten!

Click here to go to day 1

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The ill fated Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Ride...Day 4

Click here for day 1

It was about 4am, and once again, I awoke absolutely freezing. There was nothing for it, so I just tried to go back to sleep, knowing it was going to be my last night sleeping cold. As soon as I saw the sun rise I immediately put my shoes on, and walked out to the road where the sun was already shining. I just stood there in the road, trying to warm my shivering body. After about half an hour, I was warm enough to head back to the campsite and make some hot chocolate and hot granola, which helped some. It did seem like I was getting colder, and staying colder, for longer each morning. 

The sun shining on Boo's tent was enough to finally roust him out of bed, and he dragged himself into the light of day. Just as he was thinking about what to eat, the ATV riders in the camp next to ours invited us over to join them for breakfast, and with a big fire burning in their fire pit, we gladly accepted and hurried over! Boo enjoyed the breakfast burritos they offered him, and I had room for a muffin, and we all just chatted by the fire for a while. They were really nice folks, and we really appreciated their generosity, and their fire!

We slowly packed up camp, knowing we were in no hurry today, and still feeling the effects of yesterday's ordeal. It was nearly lunch time before we finally got on the road, and had made our way back into the town of Featherville.

The town of Featherville

Once we arrived in town we were met by the owner of Cindie's Featherville Cafe, and he proceeded to tell us all about the town, the route we were on, the other riders who had passed through town, the roads in the surrounding areas, the weather, etc. He was really nice, and super helpful, and I highly recommend stopping by if you are ever in Featherville. He found out for us that the local motel was all booked up for the night (wtf?) and helped us call the motel in Pine so I could book us a room there for later tonight.

We were starving again by now, so we went inside to check out the menu. I couldn't believe it...a veggie burger! Boo ordered the special, I had the veggie burger, and they were both delicious. There was cell reception in town, and free wi-fi in the cafe, so we were able to catch up with email and call our loved ones to let them know about the change in plans. 

Once we were fed and hydrated, we got back on the road heading to Pine. We had heard mileage ranging from 7 to 18 miles, but since it was all on pavement and mostly downhill we weren't too worried. Boo was feeling pretty empty from yesterday, and had to take a break about halfway, but I was feeling surprisingly OK, although I am sure I couldn't have climbed anything at all if we had had any elevation gain to speak of.

13 miles later we arrived in the town of Pine, and immediately made our way to Nester's Pine Motel. I was shocked at the cost, $80 a night, but I would have payed ten times that much to sleep in a warm bed and have a hot shower. The room was actually really nice and clean, and we were so psyched to see that the motel had a hot tub! We were going to get one more "hot spring" before the ride was over! 

After taking awesome and much needed showers, and relaxing in the room for a while, we took a walk around town, which took about ten minutes, and then headed down to the river to see if we could see some birds. I once again soaked my feet in the nice cool water, and we saw some beautiful raptors soaring overhead, and then it was back to the room for a nap before dinner. 

There aren't a lot of options for dinner in Pine, so we went to the Pine Resort Cafe which was attached to the Pine Resort Saloon and separated by...yep, double swinging saloon doors. I had heard there was pizza at the cafe, but when the menu came out, there was no pizza on it. The server said "You have to order pizza in the saloon." So, we headed though the swinging doors into the smoky, noisy, smelly saloon and grabbed a table with the biggest ashtray on it I had ever seen. There was only the bartender serving, and it took her a while to get to us, and when she did...she brought us the exact same menus! I said "I wanted to order pizza but I don't see it on the menu." She said "We got frozen pizza for ten bucks, or pizza from Featherville for twenty five bucks." I said "Well, what kind do you have?" And she said "We got frozen pepperoni, frozen sausage, or frozen supreme with pepperoni and sausage. Or we got pizza from Featherville that's pepperoni, sausage, or supreme with pepperoni and sausage." And then she walked away. I looked at Boo and said "Fuck this, let's go back to the cafe!" So off we went back through the swinging doors, to the cafe and the strange look from the server as she brings us back the same menus. I looked the menu up and down, and couldn't find a single thing vegetarian except for the toasted cheese sandwich. Oh, boy. I asked her if she could sauté up some veggies to throw in it and she said "Sure." Boo decided it was safest to have a burger, and my sandwich arrived in all it's glory...toasted Wonder bread with Velveeta and sautéed frozen veggies inside, and tater tots on the side. I cracked up laughing, and dug into my dinner, thoroughly enjoying my return to civilization.

Click here for my gear list, and the wrap-up of what worked, and what didn't. 

The ill fated Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Ride...Day 3

Click here for day 1

It was still dark, and I couldn't believe how cold I was. I was starting to get scared, thinking I might have to buy a new bag once we reached Ketchum, if I didn't freeze to death before we got there. 

"Dammit! When is the sun going to come up?!" We were down in a valley again, and the sun didn't actually shine down there until late in the morning, so I put my shoes on and headed down to the hot spring to at least warm my feet on the rocks. It wasn't long before Boo dragged himself out of his tent and joined me, having endured another cold night, but at least avoiding getting wet from sweat by using his bag as a quilt rather than a bag. What a pathetic pair we were! It was after heading back to the campsite for breakfast that I noticed ice on my bike. It had dropped below freezing overnight! In a bag with a 40 degree comfort rating I was going to have to do something drastic to be able to sleep safely and comfortably, I just didn't know what it was going to be.

The amazing view from camp in the morning

I still felt awful, and was getting worried I had picked up some bug. Regardless, I managed to force down some hot granola and tea, and got myself packed up and ready to ride. We only had about three miles to go to reach the base of our next significant challenge, and the one I was most worried about...the Unnamed Summit, a 3000+ foot gain in elevation over less than 8 miles. I thought it was going to be super hard, it turns out I had no idea what I was in for. 

We started riding and it was turning out to be another gorgeous day. Although it had been bitterly cold at night, the weather had been perfect during the last couple of days. And today we were passing by some of the prettiest scenery yet.


We were both out of water, so three miles later when we came to the bridge that marked the beginning of our climb, we were only too happy to pull over and take some time to filter some water. I was feeling a bit better by this time so I ate a Clif bar in the hopes I could keep my energy up. Now, with a full supply of water, we crossed the bridge and began what would be physically the hardest day of my life. 

Now, it always takes me a while to get warmed up, but once I do I am fine. And we were both thinking that the climb would be a gradual, but progressively steeper grade. Nope. We hit the wall, immediately dropped to our lowest gears, and began grinding away. We would ride for a while, our lungs would burn, and we would stop and try to catch our breath. Ride, stop, breathe, repeat. 

After what seemed like a really long time, but was only 1.2 miles in, it got so steep I had to start pushing the bike. This was not too much of a problem, because in Boo's lowest gear he was riding at the same speed I was walking! I would ride a bit, then stop, then walk a bit, then stop. Repeat until you can't believe you aren't at the top yet. Finally, thinking we had to be pretty close, I asked Boo (who had the cyclometer) "How far have we climbed so far?" He said "Two miles." Two miles?! Are you kidding me?! We aren't even half way? We are barely a quarter of the way? I was totally crestfallen because I was getting really tired at this point, or at least I thought I was tired. In actuality the climb, and the suffering, had barely begun.

Of course, this gives no idea of how steep it was

This was me, for about 6 hours

There was no choice but to keep going, keep pushing, keep moving. I no longer had the legs to ride, it was too steep and I was not in good enough shape to push through it. I just had to put my head down, and put one foot after the other, and keep pushing from one shady spot to the next. That became my only source of motivation, "Just get to that next shady spot so you can rest a minute. OK, start pushing, the next shady spot is just up there a bit. Keep going." And this went on for literally hours, and hours, until I became this bike pushing, suffering thing. I dug deeper than I ever thought I could to keep going, to keep pushing that stupid bike up that stupid mountain. 

It was about 5 hours in when a Sheriff drove up, going up the pass. If there had been any space in his rig, I would have begged him on hands and knees for a ride, but it was not to be. Instead, he asked "How ya doin?" And I said "Not great. How much farther to the summit?" He replied "Well, to be honest, it's a looong way. Have you got food, and water?" In a totally broken spirit, I said "Yeah." And he wished me good luck, and drove away. I made my way up to Boo, and he asked me what the Sheriff said, and I told him, and we just shook our heads and kept going. At this point I had no choice. I couldn't go back because we would have had to go back through the washout again, I couldn't stay there on the mountain because I would seriously have frozen overnight, I just had to go forward.

About 15 minutes later, we saw a pickup truck coming down the pass, and he stopped when he pulled up next to us. He leaned out the window and said "The Sheriff wanted me to tell you boys he was mistaken about the distance to the summit. It's only about two tenths of a mile from here, you are almost there." We thanked the guy profusely, and somehow got a small burst of energy to push us to the top. Once there, we collapsed in a heap under the shade of a huge tree that people had been using for a toilet, and tried to eat some food. Boo got me to take a "jumping for joy" pic of him, although I didn't have any joy to share. 

Boo, jumping for joy at the "summit"

Painful as it was, we still had a lot of miles to put in today, with another small summit right before the town of Featherville, so we threw on some warm clothes and got back on the bikes with the knowledge that "it's all down hill until then." And then again, maybe we should have been paying closer attention to the map. We started down the hill, happily coasting along...until the road flattened out...and then began to climb again, and get steeper and steeper, until I was back off the bike, pushing and cursing when I realized that we had been on a FALSE SUMMIT!!! We had another two miles to go, all of it up. I could have cried right there if it had done any good, but I was too broken to do even that. 

The road begins to climb again, after the false summit

The summit, once we finally reached it, was utterly anticlimactic and we rolled over it without even realizing we had finally summited. The road just got gradually easier, until we were riding, and then coasting downhill once again. We had a brief moment of panic when we came to a fork in the road and a broken sign with the directions we needed lying in the bushes. One fork went down, the other began a steep climb, and I thought "If our route takes us up that steep hill, I am going to kill myself right here and now." Fortunately, a truck full of loggers rolled up and told us our way was down, meaning I would live to see another day. There isn't a lot more to tell about the downhill to Rocky Bar. We enjoyed the well earned free ride, although it was pretty cold and we had to stop and add layers to keep warm and block the wind. 

Rocky Bar was really kind of creepy. Just a couple of old buildings, and what looked to be a couple of occupied houses with windows boarded up, but no sign of people anywhere. It was the kind of place they make scary movies about, and I was happy to move on as soon as possible.

Old and new in Rocky Bar

We raised the population from 4 to 6 while we were there

 A creepy, old, abandoned house

Once we passed through Rocky Bar we new that the next climb was not far off. I desperately hoped it would be a shallower grade so I could ride it, otherwise we wouldn't make it to our campsite until after dark! As it turned out, most of it was rideable, although my legs were so exhausted by this time that I still had to walk almost half of it. Undeterred, once we had finished the last downhill of the day we finally rode into Featherville, and after a quick pass through the town to have a look around, we headed for our campsite for the night, and 28 miles for the day later we arrived at Abbott Campground. 

I was happy to realize that I had my appetite back, and once we had camp set up I quickly made up a healthy dose of veggie lasagna. It was while sitting down to dinner that I had to break the news to Boo...I was done with the trip, I couldn't go on. We had another pass to climb the next day, which was 4000+ feet of elevation gain over about the same mileage as today, and I couldn't do it. And even if I could, I didn't want to spend another 8 hours pushing my bike up a mountain. I had had a lot of time to think while climbing that pass, and I had to admit that the ride was out of my league. I had been looking for a fun challenge, and this was not it. Freezing every night, and suffering every day? That's not my idea of a vacation! I was so sorry for Boo, but I think he was as wiped out as I was, and I knew he would be OK with my decision, once he got over his disappointment. 

So, it was decided that we would camp tonight, and head back into Featherville tomorrow to see about getting a motel, or head down to the town of Pine about 12 miles away and get a motel there. Our rescue driver Lee would come out to pick our sorry asses up, and take us back to Boise for some well deserved R and R. With a sense of relief, and disappointment, I headed off to the tent, and the hopes that it might be a warmer night.

Click here for day 4 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The ill-fated Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Ride...Day 2

Click here for day 1

I awoke sometime in the night, shivering with cold. It was still dark out, so I knew I was in for a freezing couple of hours until the sun came up and I could thaw out. I'm not entirely sure how long I lay there, dozing in and out, but every time I woke up I was a little colder.

Dawn came just in time,  and as soon as I saw the sun come over the ridge I crawled out of my bag and tried to warm up. As Boo dragged himself out of his tent, he looked at me and said, "You are actually shivering!" Unfortunately, he had had a similar experience with an untested 20 degree REI sleeping bag that did not breathe at all, causing him to sweat, and then get cold from being wet in his bag overnight. We were really worried that if it got any colder as we continued the ride, we were in trouble.

As a result of the chill, breakfast went from cold granola to hot granola, which was surprisingly good. Hot tea helped drive off the shivers, and the night was quickly forgotten in the excitement and anxiety of what we had to face today. We slowly packed our gear, and got a very late start to the day.

Our first major challenge was that the main route ahead of us at Neinmeyer Recreation Site had suffered a huge washout from torrential rains, and we were relying on anecdotal information from riders who had posted things on the forums such as, "I crossed a couple of days after the big slide on 268 and it was easily passable." and, "Somebody had already started a trail above the washed out road, which by now is probably rideable (more single track!)"  and, "I definitely wouldn't detour off the route because the road closed signs may still be up, it sounds like some people are detouring around the slide on 268 when it is nothing more than a 100 yard, 10 minute hike-a-bike." I want you to remember these quotes as the story unfolds...

We had a nice morning ride, bumping along the washboard, and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. We were really looking forward to visiting Loftus Hotspring with the intention of soaking off the remainder of last night's chill, but the riding was so nice, with a light tailwind and perfect temperatures, that we were well past it before we realized it. Bummed, and refusing to backtrack, we searched for alternatives, but the other springs we were coming up on were all on the other side of the river, and the water was a bit too high for safe crossing. We forged ahead, disappointed, and nervous about the impending bypass to the washout. As it got close to lunch time, we came across the first warning:

"Eh, how bad can it be?"

The river looked beautiful, the day was gorgeous, and our optimism, based on the expert advice of the forum writers, gave us the confidence to continue on. A few miles later, right at Neinmeyer we found our second warning:

This was where we saw the actual washout for the first time

At this point, seeing how the road was recently graded, but deeply rutted soft sand, I decided to ride ahead  on the Pugsley and see how it looked, and report back to Boo. I looked up from where the washout finally stopped me, and my heart just sank.

Riding back with the bad news

The road was totally gone, but we were expecting that. What we weren't expecting was the steepness of the bypass over the washout. Clearly, it was a trail made for forest service personnel, or firefighters, but not for bikes. The ascent was practically vertical, with steps cut into the soft, sandy soil, rising about a hundred feet above where we stood, to a narrow traverse that climbed across a scary steep, off-camber slope at least a hundred yards above the river. I had no idea how we were going to get two fully loaded bikes up that pitch, or across the narrow traverse to whatever was beyond the curve that blocked our view ahead.

We decided to walk it first, and see how viable it was. Slipping and sliding, we made our way up to the traverse and walked about 300 yards of it. We still couldn't see the end, but we could see the washout continue at least a half mile from where we stood. 

Boo was convinced that if we unloaded the bikes and teamed up, we could get them up there. So first, he grabbed his bag to pull it out of his trailer, and the handle/strap broke! "Not good," was Boo's unflappable response. Of course, he knew that this meant he was going to have to bear-hug the bag the entire way, all 50lbs of it. He unhooked his trailer, and we began pushing and pulling his bike up the ascent, a few feet at a time. About fifteen minutes later, we had his bike on the traverse, and went back for his trailer and bag. Huffing and puffing, we got his gear on top, and then looked at The Beast as the next challenge. 

With all the bikepacking gear strapped onto my bike, it looked like it might just be easier to haul the whole thing up in one trip. So, Boo would push and I would roll the bike about a foot and grab the brakes, then take one step, roll the bike another foot and grab the brakes, take a step...and about thirty minutes later we somehow had my bike on the traverse. It was so sketchy, words can't describe it. I was constantly in fear the bike was going to break loose and come crashing back down on top of us.

Now that we were up there, there was really no turning back, as I don't think we could have safely gotten the bikes back down that pitch. As I looked down the ridiculously steep slope to the river far below us, and at the footpath too narrow for both my feet and my bike, I honestly got really freaked out. I am not at all afraid of heights, but the idea of losing control of my fully loaded bike, and watching it crash into the river, or even worse, to have the loose, sandy soil give way and think what would happen to me as I slid down that hill...I was really scared. 

The view down to the river

Another view down

Boo hitched his trailer to his bike without the bag and, giving me significant encouragement, led the way. I slowly followed him, never taking my eyes off his rear wheel, and definitely never looking down. In spots, I had to put one foot on the trail and the other knee upslope and scoot along, because there was not enough room for both feet and the bike to walk the trail. We would travel a hundred yards or so, and then stop so Boo could go back and get his bag, and I would lean against the upslope, hoping that it would all be over soon.

Poor Boo, dragging his bag one slow foot at a time

Eventually, the slope became a little more gradual, and although I still wasn't comfortable, I had room to push the bike without fear of sliding down the hill into the river.

The slope is finally opening up

I will always look back at this day as one in which I overcame my fear, and pushed ahead when I wanted to quit more than anything

It was at this point that we could finally see the road emerge from the water, and disappear around a bend. We couldn't yet tell if the washout continued again after the bend, or if we were nearly done. The trail appeared to go dramatically upslope though, and when I saw that I was ready to give up and just throw the bike off the hill. Suddenly, about a hundred yards in front of us, we could see a guy in bike gear coming our way, carrying a B.O.B. trailer with the bag strapped to his back! I shouted "I don't fucking believe it!" at which point he shouted back "Another couple of idiots!" and we all started laughing. He and his friend who was following were coming back after crossing the river to avoid the washout, and they said we were almost done, except the last bit was "Really steep and sketchy, be careful!" We chatted for a bit and they headed off, after our warning that getting down the other direction was going to be beyond sketchy. I hope they made it ok.

Nearly done...

We finally made it to the descent they had warned us about, and they were right, it was steep as hell. Once again, steps cut into the hillside, soft, sandy soil that breaks away as you step on it, and no other option. At first, I was thinking we were going to have to rope the bikes down, but Boo thought that it might be easier to unload them and carry them on our shoulders, and that's what we ended up doing. I pulled my seat post, harness, and frame bag, and shouldered the bike, then slowly, step by treacherous step, made my way down to the road. A couple of trips back and forth for my gear, and for Boo and all his gear, and we were through the bypass. Well over a mile traveled, and a couple of hours elapsed, on a dangerous and incredibly difficult bypass that I would not recommend to anyone, written up as a "hundred yard, ten minute hike-a-bike"?! Are you fucking kidding me?! 

OK, I had to get that off my chest.

We were now finally standing on the road again, and starving since lunch was supposed to be about two hours ago. There was no shade, and no convenient place to eat, and we were full of adrenaline, so we rode on for a bit to find a decent lunch spot, which turned out to be a nice, unimproved campground right on the river. I whipped up some TVP on a tortilla with cheese, ate a hearty lunch, and decided to soak my feet in the river. We came all this way for hot springs, and I couldn't wait to get my feet into that nice, cool water! Boo joined in, and it felt awesome, and really revitalized us. Feeling fed, and refreshed, we hopped back on the bikes (always a struggle after lunch) and rolled down the road, hoping to find a nice hot spring to camp at. 

A couple of hours, and 18 total riding miles later, after worrying that we were not going to find any place decent to camp, we came upon Granite Creek Hot Spring, and although the campsite across the road from the spring was just a pull-out with a fire pit, we were going no farther today. We basically threw the bikes down, stripped naked, and...that's when the ATV's started rolling by! We cracked up over the fact that we had seen virtually no one all day, and as soon as our asses are hanging out, the four wheelers show up! Well, we didn't care, and the water was just incredible. It felt so good to sit there and soak away the stress of the day, and try not to think about tomorrow's major challenge.

Granite Creek Hot Spring

We spent about half an hour soaking, but the sun was going down and it was time to set up camp and make dinner. As we were setting up camp, I started to feel really awful. Kind of weak, and woozy, and just generally bad. I got my tent set up, and my gear put away, but had absolutely no appetite. This was bad because we had over 3000 feet of climbing to do tomorrow, and I needed my strength if I had any hope of doing it. Boo made some of my favorite veggie lasagna, and he could only finish about half of it, so I forced the other half down, although every bite was a struggle. I followed it up with some hot chocolate, and decided to call it a night and crawled into my sleeping bag. Of course, by then it was getting even colder than last night, and I started wondering if I was going to freeze to death overnight or not.

Click here for day three to see if I survived...

The ill fated Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Ride...Day 1

It had been a couple of months in the planning stage, and the time was finally here. Today was the day we were to head off for 3 weeks of mountain bike touring on the Adventure Cycling Association's newest ride, the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route! My co-worker of almost 20 years and touring partner, Boo, was riding his older Specialized FSR mountain bike and pulling an overloaded B.O.B. trailer, a combination we immediately nicknamed Old Yeller. I was riding my Surly Pugsley, well known as The Beast, in bikepacking mode. To say I was anxious would be a huge understatement. We were old, undertrained, and overoptimistic, a combination that would lead to a significant alteration to our route, as you will soon see...

Two old fools on bikes

My dear friend Lee has a house in Boise, and we were fortunate enough to have access to it for our staging point. Lee was kind enough to offer to drop us off anywhere along the route we wanted, which was fantastic, and would help to shave off some of the unfavorable part of the route known as the Boise Spur, a miserable section of terrible washboard after the long, boring road climb out of Boise, and over Lucky Peak. After the ten hour drive from Seattle to Boise the previous day, the shortcut was a welcome way to "get on with it!"

Lee dropped us off on Arrowrock Reservoir, and after much fuss and muss with getting our gear organized, we were finally on our way!

How the hell do I get all this crap on my bike?

And here we go! Nice finger, Lee.

Almost immediately we were hit with not only oppressive heat, but the most spectacular scenery. The reservoir is just amazing, with lush greenery on either side of the beautiful water, and amazing rock formations all around us. It was very hot, and the washboard really sucked, but nothing was going to stop us from enjoying ourselves...the first day.

Five miles in, of course I am smiling!

What a view

Are you still with me, Boo?

The "Boise River delta"

A couple of hours in we arrived at Twin Springs Resort. To call it a "resort" is stretching things a bit, but I admire them for aiming high. For whatever reason, we didn't end up going inside to check out the wares, and decided to push on.

We doubled the population as we rode through

The scenery just got more and more spectacular the farther along we rode, but the washboard was really frustrating. I was very glad to have my fat bike tires, and Boo was comfy on his full suspension bike, but it was exhausting to ride such a rough surface.

The view from our lunch spot

Mind-blowing needle-sharp rock formations

It was so hot that soaking my hat in an ice-cold stream provided much-needed relief

We finally discovered our first hot spring, Sheep Creek Bridge Hotspring, after passing over an unmarked bridge (I am assuming it was Sheep Creek Bridge). Unfortunately, the spring was filled with the nastiest looking algae, and since it was almost 90 degrees outside, we decided to pass.

We missed about five springs before this one. Maybe we should have payed more attention to the map. Not the last time I would say that!  :-/

By this time we were pretty tired, it being our first day, so we started looking for a place to camp. We had been passing nice, undeveloped campsites all day, but of course when we finally wanted to find one to stay at, it took a couple of tries before we found the one we liked. After riding 24 miles on the first day, Troutdale campsite would be our home for the evening, and we were very ready to call it a day!

Arrived at camp and a quick update for the first day

We quickly set up our tents, and I went down to the river to filter some water for the evening. Once I got to the river, the cutest little bat I have ever seen was flitting around, right at eye level! I love bats, so I considered it a good omen. Turns out it wasn't...stupid little bat.  :-(

After about a half hour of pumping my MSR water filter it was back to the campsite with a full load of water, and finally...dinnertime! Boo dug into his seven year old freeze dried food and I had my favorite veggie lasagna. Boo's dinner was met with disdain, but mine was delicious, as always! 
By this time the sun was down, and I said, "Hey, Boo, do you notice? It's getting really f-ing cold!" We both started putting on layers, of which I had fewer than I would have liked, being limited by the capacity of my bikepacking gear. I also started looking skeptically at my ultralight 32 degree sleeping bag, wondering how the night was going to go. Too tired to even read, and with all my clothes on, I crawled into my bag and tried to get some sleep...

Click here for day two!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I had an amazing day on Greenlake yesterday. I decided that it was time to shake the dust off the Red Baron, so I rolled down to the lake to do a short loop. What was supposed to be a short loop turned into 4 loops for almost twelve miles of sun, incredible scenery, fun dog watching, and gorgeous cruising! Afterwards, Dina came home from work, hopped on her cruiser Daisy, and we rode up to Chutneys for some delicious Indian food outside on their patio. Afterwards, of course it was back down the hill for one more loop and a total of almost 18 miles on my Ellsworth Ride! Definitely a Greenlake kinda day, and exactly the reason I live here. It's gonna be an amazing summer! Snap from the ride below...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A February sail on "The Donkey" has been a while, hasn't it? We moved about a year ago and as a result, I have been pretty busy with house stuff, and setting up my new shop (YES!!!) so although I have been sailing, the Donkeyrider blog has been pretty stagnant. Actually, seeing as how the boat is essentially done, I won't have much reason to continue to update the D/R blog, other than for the continuing observations of learning how the Duckpunt sails, and making the resulting commentary as I see fit. 

So, I took "The Donkey" out on Friday for a sail on Greenlake, which since moving is only a block and a half from my house. This is so amazing because I can simply put the punt on a cart and roll it right down to the lake for a sail, and never have to deal with grunting the thing onto my car, and driving to a put-in. Greenlake is a beautiful little lake in Seattle, and is a charming sailing location. I feel so lucky to live here!

While thoroughly enjoying it, I am still struggling a bit with truly mastering the Duckpunt. Part of this stems from not sailing it often enough to really build a skill set. I also screw up something in the rigging nearly every time I take it out, which is embarrassing to admit since it is only an Opti rig, and does not get much simpler. Still, I manage to mis-rig something almost every outing! I also sail so conservative that I don't ever realize the hull shape's true potential. The punt must be sailed well heeled over to dig the chine in, and I am just not confident doing that when it is cold out, and I am terrified of the water. More practice is needed, although I am still having a blast, whether sailing the boat as good as I could be or not. It will be a long time indeed (if ever) until I am as good at sailing this boat as the Duckpunting chaps in Mersea. They are amazing!

I was able to film a bit on my outing, and I hope you enjoy watching the video. I hope to continue filming my punting trips, so hopefully there will be many more videos to come.

Click on the link below, sit back, relax, and enjoy!