SEA to PDX “Backdoor” Tour Diary – Day 4

We were just about halfway done with our tour and we already had one slightly amusing anecdote about how our group was described along with a less fortunate experience that almost marred our trip. Despite the highs and woes, the waters of Lake Takhlakh had purified and rejuvenated us, so we felt ready to complete the remainder of the tour.

We stopped by Takhlakh Lake one last time before departing and it was a pleasant start to the morning. We spent the early morning on FR-23, which was an amazing forest road where Brian had an educational moment amidst all the rad riding:

As we rode out of Lake Takhlakh, I was happy to get onto the ‘famous’ Baby Shoe pass, popularized by that one 650b tire. As my Grand Bois Hetres (Full Disclosure: Boyz on the Hoods does not receive any commission for shilling for companies) rumbled through the washboards, I looked around for a nearby person to complain to. Fortunately the wise Dave was nearby and I muttered “damn washboards, why do they even exist?”

Much to surprise, Dave new exactly why they exist and proceeded to educate me on the physics on how they are created. While the reason behind washboard creations isn’t particularly interesting, it did make me remember some things I enjoy about bike touring and long bike rides: riding in the middle of nowhere, hanging out with friends, and talking about nothing.

So the next time your boss walks behind you and spies you reading a Boyz on the Hoods ride report, you can talk about the educational merits of this blog and how it makes you a more complete and well-rounded employee!

After getting a full forearm workout from the washboardy roads, we were back on solid pavement and cruising along. The group stuck together (i.e. Topher decided to ride with us “slowpokes” because he was out of tubes) and we looked back to get one last gorgeous view of Mount Adams. The group had agreed that seeing Mount Rainier on our second day was impressive in its own right but it was the slightly smaller Mount Adams that seemed to make a more lasting impression. The remote roads and the unobstructed views of nature seemed to make this portion of the ride a much more enjoyable segment.

We stopped by a nice little cafe in Trout Lake, WA and it was a nice little oasis. The backyard of the cafe was spacious and had a tetherball court, a badminton net, some game boards and multiple patio chairs. The group spread out and basked in the sun before enjoying our meal.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful, and it wasn’t until we were nearing the Washington/Oregon border that things began to ramp up in excitement. I’ll let Nick take the role of storyteller for this next portion:

It all started with a small green “CARSON” town line sign in the distance. Downhill and into a strong headwind, the group pushed hard in a single-file formation similar to those fast lead-out trains seen at the end of a pro tour stage. Topher was on the front, just as in the several days prior, setting a rapid pace and gunning for another of his many “wins” for town/city/county line sprints.

“He’s been winning these all along…” I thought to myself while sitting fifth wheel “..and he’s not getting this one!”

So off I went, poked my nose into the wind and laid the hammer down, rocketing off the front and catching the peloton by surprise. Three hundred yards, two hundred yards, the pavement on Wind River Highway was moving rapidly under my tires, and I briefly peeked down to see 32.2mph on my Garmin. I realize my 70lb, fully-bagged, dirt tire touring bike just doesn’t move like a skinny tire bike does.

Soon the length of a football field is all that exists between me and success but Topher is gaining fast and Brian is joining in on the party as well. I give it one more big push, endure a little more pain, ignore the wind, then all of a sudden I hear a “zoooom” and the Topher-Train steams right on by me at full tilt. I sit up, conceding defeat, thinking about how much better an upcoming snack could have tasted with a win.

We regroup and pull into the Wind River Market across from a wood mill operation. The location is clean and well merchandised, with the girl behind the counter engaging many of us in conversation. As with other previous stops, nine guys with bikes and gear tend to consume the curbside, and we were on full display, some removing clothing that earned stern stares and comments from the locals. I’m not sure we all felt it at the time, but the vibe at the stop made us feel unwelcome.

Maybe it was the lack of blood from the sprint, or the headwind, or the toll of long days in the saddle. Maybe the glare from the gruff mill workers in the patchwork pickup truck or the group of young guys packed into the sedan. It wasn’t the warm welcome we were used to but it was a good preamble to the seven remaining miles that existed between Carson and our campsite.

After consuming various sugar-filled treats, we headed back out into the stiff headwind on the aptly named Wind River Highway en route to downtown Carson. The bad vibes continued as we soon encountered several motorists who yelled out their interpretation of our sexual orientation and several large trucks that squeezed us onto the curbs and into open parking spots through town. What happened to our open roads and kind greetings? We keep the pedals turning, single-file simply for our safety, and not nearly as playful as before. Soon we find ourselves spread out, riding in several small groups, and merging into the Lewis and Clark Highway. Motorists increase their speed, the shoulder gets narrower, and our anxiety increases which quickly snuffs out any conversation between us. We all sense the danger and work to get through it as quickly as possible.

Soon we drop into the Hood River area of the highway where we’re treated to beautiful mountains with water surrounding us on all sides. An old rusted train bridge sits in stark contrast to the green and blue, just as we bike in contrast to the two-lane highway. The imminent danger of speeding cars and trucks void any enjoyment and the headwinds start to hit gale force levels. Nathan, one of the most positive and genuinely unselfish people I’ve ever met, pops around our group and gets on the front. It’s obvious that his time in the Bay Area wind has paid off as he taps out a solid tempo. He rides with confidence and as if the wind is non-existent which brings a new calm to the group. The last few miles of highway go by quickly and we soon find ourselves regrouping at the entrance to the Bridge of the Gods. Only 1,854ft of steel truss cantilever bridge exist between our current location and the taste of beer on our lips.

The Bridge of the Gods connects Washington and Oregon and our trip across it reminded of the scene from Stand By Me. Sure there wasn’t a train or anything behind us but it was simply terrifying to look down while riding over the bridge and see the Columbia River peeking back at you. As I looked around at my peers nervously travering the bridge, I couldn’t help but notice Carlin had a big fat stupid grin on his face as he was waving his camera around to capture the photo above.

After crossing the bridge and only wetting ourselves a little bit in the process, we came to the toll booth on the other end and realized we owed a $0.50 toll fee per cyclist (or pedestrian). We begrudgingly paid and rode another half mile in Oregon before being immediately greeted by bike lanes welcoming us into the city and directing us to our location. It was a nice contrast from the stares and heckling we had just experienced on the Washington border by Carson.

After arriving in Cascade Locks, we quickly set up at a campground which only had slightly better ambiance than the RV park that we stayed at in Packwood. Why were we all stupidly excited to be in Cascade Locks? Well, months prior to my route planning, I had come across this video by The Path Less Pedaled:

The owners at Thunder Island Brewing greeted us as we rolled in and were really stoked for us to make the trip out to check them out. They had ample outdoor seating had a gorgeous view of the Columbia River and the Bridge of the Gods that we had just escaped. It was an amazing way to end the day and it’s an experience that I would highly recommend.

SEA to PDX “Backdoor” Tour Diary – Day 3

It was only the morning of the third day of the tour, yet we had found ourselves in a familiar setting of a non-descript breakfast diner. Breakfast consisted of eggs, meat, potatoes, toast and coffee and soon we were off again towards our next destination. Was the repetition of the touring lifestyle setting in, even only on day 3? In any case, the upcoming day was to feature a long climb through the mountains and on quiet forest roads. This would be a welcome change from the tourist destination we biked through yesterday.

The route also featured no services from miles 12 to about 55 and since the group was full of paranoid Californian’s affected by drought conditions, we inquired about water availability at the US Forest Service Ranger Station in the city of Randle. The ladies behind the counter mentioned that they had not heard about any water pumps being turned off, which sounded like a good enough answer to us at the time.

After departing from the ranger station, the road transformed from a main highway to some more local roads. While we had to consistently dodge cars and tourists throughout the previous day, we encountered far fewer vehicles and people in general along our route. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest was incredibly lush and the greenery was a stark contrast to the brown and yellow landscapes in a drought-ridden California. Despite all this beauty in the forest, we also witnessed giant logging trucks and machinery chopping down trees, presumably for that copy paper for your office printers.

The group, minus Topher, settled at a small campground for lunch. While we sat in the shade, we noticed there were signs plastered throughout the campground that mentioned the water spigots had been turned off and there was no running water. We were a little ticked off by the misinformation that had been fed to us at the ranger station but luckily Dave and Bill each had water pumps to help us filter the stream water.

Speaking of Topher, I had grown tired of his playful taunting from the previous day about how he had to wait for the rest of the group. So earlier in the day I gave him a route slip, the name of our final campground, and told him he could ride there and wait for us if he so pleased. Obviously, a route slip and directions are helpful, but a lot can go wrong in a remote area with no cell reception. It had been a few hours since I had seen Topher, so I could only imagine that he was sitting at the campground, eating peanut butter and chocolate.

As it turns out, that could not have been further from the truth. He explains:

On the 3rd day of our tour I set my sights on a solo breakaway mountain top finish, but alas it did not go as planned. I simply got lost.

My objective was to reach camp earlier than we had in the previous days. As soon as the first climb hit, a gap developed and once I had adequately stretched me legs (yawn) there were no other Boyz to be seen. Not one to be bothered by being alone in the woods, I grinded on and on and on. Following the route slip that was provided me, I found myself getting ever so closer to Lake Takhlakh. I followed the directions to a T up until the last turn that said “stay right onto 5601.”

I actually stopped at the fork where the road split but the sign for 5601 had been knocked down. In fact it was no longer a sign, merely a post lying in the brush. So I continued straight, confidently getting my gravel grinding on.

My confidence remained high on mile 1, mile 2, mile 3, mile 4, mile 5, mile 6, until it began to wane around mile 7. That’s when I began to see signs indicating how close I was getting to the cities of Randall and Packwood — cities that we had previously passed through at the beginning of the day. When I hit an unexpected descent, I knew I frakd up.

So I turned around, and threw caution to the wind, didn’t touch the brakes and pedaled down the gravel descent hoping to correct my blunder by catching up to the slowpokes in the back. Unfortunately, I hit a divot in front of me which caused both a rear and front blow out. Whoops. I had also exhausted my tubes and patches from the previous days on the tour. Double whoops.

Just as I pulled to the side of the gravel road to ponder my options, a lumber truck was heading up my way. I waved him down and he told me that there were some cyclists down the road. I asked him how far, and he replied a mile or 2. I hesitantly asked him if he could give me a ride, and he said, “If I can turn my truck around.” I thanked the lumberjack, and he was able to turn his rig around on the dirt road but we just had to figure out where to put my bike. So we tried to put it in between the 2 flat beds. While we were hoisting my fully loaded bike up, a family in their truck towing a horse trailer stopped by and asked what our dilemma was. They so kindly offered to give me a ride down the hill since they were already going that way. I kind of felt bad for making the lumberjack execute his turn but he seemed nice enough and not to be in any hurry, so I thanked him and we yanked my fully loaded bike off the flatbed and threw it into the horse trailer.

This lovely family from Tacoma drove me down to the base of the 56 where we hoped we would run into the rest of my group. Unfortunately, we did not come across them and at this point it worried me greatly. We stopped at Camp Adams which was basically at the intersection of the 56 and the 21. I was hoping the rest of the group might be there or that they had stopped earlier for water. I hopped out of the truck, walked over to the camp host named Harry. He greeted me kindly, and I asked him if he had seen a group of cyclists, to which he replied, “Why yes, I saw some Americans and some Chinamen” to which I replied “yup, that’s my group!”

Our group had also been fooled by the downed post at the 5601 fork that Topher had mentioned, so we had got lost for a couple of miles and had to backtrack. I know nogarminsnorules is the cool thing nowadays but Bill’s hiking Garmin saved our butts. When we reached Camp Adams, the campground host’s wife came out and informed us that a young gentleman had blown out both of his tires and her husband had given him a ride up to Lake Takhlakh.

While Topher got a cushy ride to the Lake Takhlakh campground, us “Americans and Chinamen” had to complete the day with a mixed terrain climb that was reminiscent of Old Rail Road grade near Mt. Tam in the Bay Area. Since Bill was riding his Alex Moulton with 17inch wheels, we all watched nervously as his rear derailleur hovered inches a way from rocks and other potentially hazardous rear derailleur destroying objects.

We eventually made it up to Lake Takhlakh and finally found Topher lounging in a chair by the lake. The view of Mount Adams over Lake Takhlakh was truly a sight to behold and a marvelous end to the day.

After the group had a quick dip in the lake and Carlin was done channeling his inner @hellhommus, we headed back to the campsite.

This was our first day where we had reached the campsite with enough time left in the day to relax and cook dinner (except for Topher who had to patch his remaining tubes). While the other nights we had been too frazzled and exhausted to enjoy cooking dinner, tonight’s meal was truly a cornucopia of food. After cooking up a hearty amount of mashed potatoes, beef stew, ramen, and other assorted items, we sat by the fire and exchanged stories from our everyday lives. The whiskey flasks were taken out and we looked up at the stars before retiring for the night.

Up next, the famed Babyshoe Pass and some amazing dirt roads that we had only heard about on the internets from some kooks.

SEA to PDX “Backdoor” Tour Diary – Day 2

It had been less than 24 hours since we had been heckled by some hooligans but it was time to quarantine the past and focus on the roads that lay ahead.

It was good that we adopted the “early to bed, early to shred” philosophy but that also meant we arrived for breakfast before our planned cafe stop had opened. One of the workers at the restaurant came up and chatted with us. He was amazed at the group numbers and told us he hadn’t been bicycle touring in 5 years and it was something he really missed and had a lot of fun doing. He directed us to another restaurant further along the road and we thanked him for the recommendation, but more importantly I hope he eventually gets out on a bike trip again.

After a slow breakfast (slow referring to the service), we made our way to the Mount Rainier National Park entrance. We encountered a long queue of motor vehicles waiting to enter the park. We were able to zoom to the front of the line and pay our fee but this encounter foreshadowed the next 20-25 miles. Surrounding us were beautiful roads and views of nature but there was the constant reminder that this park system was built and prioritized for automobile users. Car after car passed us, with some being more courteous than others. While we didn’t experience any additional harassment, it became tedious and was just another detraction from the wonderful sights.

Speaking of which, the road up Paradise to Mount Rainier was also one of the most difficult climbs I had ever experienced. About 3000 feet of elevation were crammed into a 20 mile segment and it was only compounded by the fact that we had our loaded gear. The group was noticeably spread out by the time we got to the Mount Rainier visitor’s center. It was the hottest point of the day and we were also at the peak of our elevation for the day. Topher had been up at the visitor’s center for awhile now and finished eating a cold can of Spaghetti-O’s before I could even drag my body to a comfortable chair. I immediately sought out a soft serve ice cream cone but it felt like it melted before it could even hit my tongue.

Everyone got to play tourist and pick up some souvenirs while we rested and enjoyed the sights and amenities. Just as we were ready to descend from Paradise Road into Stevens Canyon, a helicopter rescue crew had begun conducting a practice run in the area and the road was to be blocked off to motor vehicles for the next 15 minutes. I thought we would have to wait along with everyone else but one of the crew members waved us over and told us we could proceed if we exercised caution as we neared the helicopter landing pad. SCORE! Anyways the helicopter was already in the air by the time we reached the helipad, so we had an uninterrupted and automobile free descent for nearly 15 minutes. After a long day of being treated like a second class citizen on the road, we were finally rewarded with long stretches and expansive views of Paradise Valley.

We continued to stop off at scenic view points throughout the descent and it was a long way down the mountain. Here’s what Brian had to say about that:

The descent down Mt. Rainier was unreal. Everyone was ecstatic. Maybe it was because the 20 mile climb was over, maybe it was because we were no longer worried about running out of water, but it was probably because this was the best descent any of us have ever experienced. We first passed Reflection Lake, where we could see an inverted Mt. Rainier, and then after one hairpin of a turn we grinned with ecstasy. After turning the corner, we could see deep into the canyon where the road sprung in and out of every corner of the mountain, gently descending closer and closer to sea level. The roads were delicately carved out from the steep angle of the mountain, and we could see miles and miles ahead of us. It felt as if we were biking in and out of cycling magazines, or doing an amazing descent down the Pyrannes or the Swiss Alps. The group took turns taking video footage of the each other because memories weren’t permanent enough to capture the view. This moment of breeze, jaw-dropping views, and technical high-speed descents was too much for us to take in, and I cannot wait to relive the moments on video.

Eventually we found ourselves in Packwood, WA (home of the upcoming BQ “Un-Meeting”) and had dinner at a saloon with a giant banner that advertised all the microbrews on tap. Unfortunately, the first thing our waitress told us was that their taps were broken and all they had were domestic bottled beers. Despite the false advertising, I had two of the best testing banquet beers I’ve ever had in my life, while others opted to ride the silver bullet or opt for the high life. Eventually the waitress also gave us the Wi-Fi password, so we could all stop pretending we actually cared or valued about being disconnected from the world.

The views had been amazing but a long day of climbing had wiped us all out. On paper, the next day’s route could potentially be even harder than what we had just experienced. Even Bill, who had been instrumental in providing us with route knowledge thus far, had never ridden on the latter mixed terrain portion of the route. Still, the group was excited at the thought of mixed terrain roads after two days of fairly traditional road riding.

SEA to PDX “Backdoor” Tour Diary – Day 1

After an exciting day of exploring in Seattle, the group was ready to set off from the city. Bill arrived at our coordinated meeting spot and introduced himself to the gang. As a seasoned randonneur and longtime resident of Seattle, Bill was able to flawlessly navigate us through Seattle and even showed us a wonderful detour through the Washington Park Arboretum. We made our way to Lake Washington before meeting up with Martina and Jason from Swift Industries.

We were rolling pretty deep as we winded through the cities along the Interurban Trail. The trail offered us a traffic free experience as we left the more populous cities. It was very reminiscent of the Iron Horse Regional Trail around Walnut Creek in the Bay Area. We made a quick detour from the trail to pick up a replacement chain at REI for Dave who was running on a shortened chain after snapping it earlier in the day. Martina and Jason bid us adieu and safe travels and our group number remained at nine for the remainder of the trip.

After the Interurban Trail ended, we found ourselves in Sumner, Washington amidst a festival of sorts. We ended up walking our bikes through the 15th Annual Classy Chassis Car Show. Even with chromed and tricked out classic automobiles to the left and right of us, we seemed to be drawing the attention of spectators. It was the hottest point in the day and we had to make a quick stop for ice cream to cool down. We were making good time en route to our lunch stopover in the city of Orting.

Upon arrival at a little diner, we noticed the menu advertised something called a hobo hash. Brian who usually likes to evaluate food on a “calories per dollar” metric was flabergasted by the claims of 5lbs of cooked food for $12 dollars. After stuffing our faces (and beards) uncomfortably, we were feeling good and were on schedule to make it to our campground on time for night one. This is where things flew completely off the rails and rattled us for the rest of the day. Here is Topher’s eyewitness account of what happened:

Incident report: assault and battery
Victim: Boyzonthehoods
Perpetrator: A$$hole lickers
License plate #: [REDACTED]

We just had the misfortune of encountering a group of [expletive redacted] in the not so lovely town of Eatonville, Washington. After turning left onto Meridian, a main highway, it took us a couple of minutes to find an opening and a slight incline started to spread the group out. I ended up being ahead by a little bit when all of a sudden a car veered onto the shoulder (where I was riding) and hit me! It scared the pooh out of me initially. Their side mirror hit my elbow, but luckily I was able to recover.

After I had mentally registered what had happened, I started yelling profanities at them and wildly gesticulating at the car behind them to get the license plate number. Needless to say, neither of them stopped. At this point I was furious and foaming at the mouth and with my inner Hulk enraged, I made a mad but ultimately pointless dash towards them. Eventually I pulled off to the side of the road and called the POLICE COPS.

I thought I saw the assailant’s vehicle pull into a parking lot, as it was a dark colored automobile with a 6 digit license plate. Within a few minutes an officer arrived on scene. At this point I was separated by the group due to my frenzied but futile sprint. Finally, I got into contact with Irving and that’s when he informed me that the majority of the group had been heckled by same car. Everyone rolled to where I was and we were able to piece together a logical timeline and story for the cop to record.

We came to the conclusion that the car was a dark blue sport utility vehicle with four youths with a six-digit license plate. From the accounts provided, they first yelled at Bill, Irving and Brian. Going up further down the road, they attempted to smack Luke by leaning out of their car, but were not able to because they had to get around Carlin and so they settled on slapping Nathan’s rear. I’m not sure if they were trying to slap me too or if they had escalated and were actually trying to assault me with their vehicle. The officer took our report and said he’d “look around” and see if he could find anything that matched our description.

I hadn’t calmed down after being hit, I was getting angrier by the minute. I felt like it was setting a bad vibe for the rest of the tour. On our way to the Lake Alder Campground we were staying at for the night, we made a wrong turn and got lost. It was another headache, it dragged out the day, but fortunately the detour resulted in us arriving at the campsite at the same exact time that the Big-Time-D-bags from earlier were rolling out.

Carlin was the first from our group to recognize them but upon further recollection, he noticed they had recognized us first and pointed towards us before driving away. Irving, Nathan and Brian were stopped at the general store just outside the campground and the scum started yelling at them in typical car-talk as Brian was thinking “hey I think that’s the car.” Reliable guy Carlin got the first 3 digits of the license plate and when I went to the visitor’s kiosk at the entrance of the camp, I was delighted to find out that they take down the license plates of everyone who enters the campground. So finally I was able to pass along the information to the investigating officer. It turned my frown upside down and it gave us some momentary closure to the incident.

However as of today, I have not heard a response from local authorities.

- Topher

So there you have it. We all survived day one and made it to the campsite, but an 87-mile day capped off by harassment and assault by a bunch of savages and being frazzled with directions to the campground led to a somewhat somber mood for the rest of the evening. Even the lovely views of Lake Alder could not assuage our feelings of anxiety. In the end, I was glad that no one had been seriously hurt (Nathan said his butt cheek was a little sore and Topher iced his elbow) and it was a bummer of a way to start the tour. We fried up some deli counter sandwiches, made some instant ramen and re-heated some hobo hash before calling it quits for a night.

SEA to PDX “Backdoor” Tour Diary – The Beginnings

It had been about a year since the group embarked on an extended tour together when preliminary discussions about our 2014 tour options finally began. We directed our sights to the Pacific Northwest, mainly due to its proximity to the West Coast, but also because mutual friends and other bike-nerdy people were doing cool things out there. We compiled a list of shops, people, stores and other sights that we wanted to visit in Seattle and Portland and it just made sense to start and end our tour in those cities.

The next step was  to piece together a route between the two cities, and my research yielded mediocre opinions regarding the STP route or the coastal route. Luckily I was able to dig up Jan Heine’s “Through the Backdoor” route (don’t worry, the link is SFW) which describes some remote riding environments combined with these mixed terrain roads that everyone is talking about these days. Despite  Jan’s picturesque descriptions of the route, I had no intention of riding his route straight through like a grueling 400k.

Route

Instead, I looked into campsites and accommodations so we could break this route into a tour and have time to enjoy the sights and scenery. After doing some research, I emailed the Seattle International Randonneurs Google Group and received some extremely helpful feedback regarding road conditions from Bill Gobie and Fred Blasdel (this only further cements my belief that randonneurs are top-notch people except for this guy). I finally settled on a route that would result in a 5 day trip with some challenging days and an added detour through Mount Rainier National Park.

"

With the tour route and logistics complete, the 2014 tour roster invitations were sent out. Myself, Brian and Carlin formed the Bay Area contingent, with Nathan being an “at the buzzer” addition. Representing the LA crew were Topher, Luke and Dave. Nick was the sole East Coaster, reppin’ New Jersey.

Our entire group met up in Portland before taking the Amtrak Cascades line to downtown Seattle. Getting to our rental house from the downtown Seattle Amtrak Station was hairsplitting and by the time we arrived to our destination, everyone was pretty much zonked out from the multi-modal methods of transportation. Luckily I had scheduled a rest day in Seattle for our minds and travel-weary bodies to recuperate before setting off on our journey.

So what did we do on our off day in Seattle? We visited the Fremont Troll, moseyed around Gas Works Park, and explored the Ballard Locks. Our group also visited Free Range Cycles and saw that they had a few Rambler’s just hanging out in the store.

We had also realized how close we were to Swift Industries HQ, so we nervously inquired through the internets if they were open for visitors on a Saturday afternoon. Martina was nice enough to respond and explained that she had a deadline to finish some bags but could entertain us for an hour. We arrived like a bunch of kids in a toy store, and put our grimy hands on everything in the shop. She ended up giving us a tour of her work space and a sneak peak of some future shop plans. At the end of the tour, Martina was gracious enough to even accept our Stoken™!

1-IMG_0841

After our visit to Swift Industries, we spent the rest of the day picking up supplies around town and then headed back home to watch AWOL videos to psyche us up for the next few days. Later that evening Bill Gobie, who previously consulted with me on my route planning, notified me that he got his stuff together and would be able to join us for the tour. It’s always great when a local can act as tour guide and navigator, so we were glad to have Bill on board for the tour. Also perhaps because we were such charming young gentlemen, Martina and Jason from Swift agreed to join us on our ride out of Seattle (or maybe because we were such hooligans, they actually wanted to ride us out of town and make sure we didn’t come back).

It was only the night before our first actual day of riding but I was still in awe of how our large group had assembled and made it to the start point. What was particularly impressive to me was that no one was being paid to do this, there were no corporate sponsors (side note, Haribo, please sponsor us!) to offset monetary costs, or tour managers to help coordinate travel and logistics. Everyone that was in attendance had to make their own arrangements and sacrifices to become part of this trip and they were doing it of their volition.

An essential part of Boyz on the Hoods has always been to enjoy the rides we go on, however mundane or challenging, and not portray ourselves as something we aren’t. As I sat in the backyard with the group, eating pizza, drinking beers (both normal and root variety) and shootin’ the breeze, everyone expressed how appreciative they were to be a part of this trip. I was simply glad to have found a group of like-minded and sincere regular dudes to share the next few days with.

Join us back here next week for a full day by day recap of the tour and check us out on Instagram for some extra coverage!

Tandem Touring – Twice as Nice

old_haul_road2

Last weekend, I was able to fulfill one of my bike dreams of going on a tandem tour with my girlfriend. Emily, my stoker, has gone on tandem rides with me before, but nothing to this caliber of riding. The mini-tour I had planned would be for 2.5 days starting in Mountain View and finishing in San Francisco.

Day 1: The Mountain

Mountain View -> Portola Redwood State Park

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5071012

After a slow meandering through the Peninsula suburbs, we arrived at Roberts Market in Portola,CA. Roberts Market is always a good spot start or finish a ride as it has all the great fancy groceries that you would want before/after doing some serious bike riding. Here we had our 1st dinner: Pesto Chicken Sandwich with Brie.

tandem at roberts market

I’ve never done the climb up Alpine Rd., so I was very nervous about doing it fully loaded on the tandem. I could not have been more impressed and surprised. I would even say that Alpine Rd. is my favorite way to climb to Skyline Blvd from the east side!

2014-06-27 18.24.34

Quiet + Shady + Babbling brook + Reasonable Grade + Few Cars = Good climb.

Alpine Rd. starts with about 3.5 miles of gentle climbing on narrow pavement. The road meanders alongside a slow moving creek on your right so beautiful that a Lord of the Rings battle could break out at any moment. Because this road dead ends (for cars), only few cars passed us. This was helpful to us because we occasionally had to use the full width of the street to wiggle up steep sections.

2014-06-27 18.45.02

Peninsula climbs in order of my preference Alpine Rd. (east) > Kings Mountain Rd. > Old La Honda > Windy Hill Fire Road

the tandem by a long abandoned truck

Doesn’t look like this truck will be going anywhere soon

The weight of the tandem  really started to make itself known as we transitioned into the 2 miles of steeper dirt segment. I recently upgraded the tires to 38x700c Panaracer Pasela from a measly 23x700c Gatorskin, and as the long tandem frame flexed riding through the ruts of the fire road, I 100% knew that I made the right choice with tires on this bike. There was about 300 yards of pushing up the tandem up a steep single track due to a mudslide, but the rest of the 2 miles of the dirt Alpine Road was achievable for us in our granny gear.

the golden hills before our descent into Portola Redwoods State Park

the golden hills before our descent into Portola Redwoods State Park

Camping Portola Redwoods State Park

Portola Redwoods State Park has 5 hike/bike sites. We were the only ones.

 2nd dinner: Spicy Nong Shim Korean Ramen with Soft Tofu.

Day 2: Hidden Treasures

Portola Redwood State Park -> Half Moon Bay

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5079376

Breakfast was a block of day old croissant bread-pudding from La Boulange heated over a flame.

2014-06-28 08.38.13

Old Haul Road is my favorite fire road to take people to. It’s about 5 miles of relaxing fire road entrenched in the deep redwood forest. The extremely long wheelbase of the tandem felt comfortable and safe on the gentle downhill. My fat 38mm tires kept traction throughout the corners even at 15-20mph. It really felt like a long gentle roller coaster that winded through an enchanted forest.

2014-06-28 10.33.09

old_haul_road_panorama

Beautiful views

Due to space constraints of only having four panniers for the two of us, I didn’t have much room to bring my camp coffee making supplies. We spent the better half of the morning uncaffinated. Fortunately, we were able to stop at a coffee shop in Pescadero. Downtown Local is not only the hippest coffee shop/establishment in Pescadero, it is the hippest coffee shop I’ve EVER been to. After talking to the baristas, I learned that a San Francisco couple moved to Pescadero about a year ago and couldn’t find good coffee in the neighborhood so they opened their own Sightglass brewing/antique selling/succulent growing cafe in Pescadero.

2014-06-28 11.53.56-1

coffee_shop

Recipe for hipness: Mid century modern couch, tables that look like they’re made from pallets, edison bulbs, antiques, succulent table centerpiece & pour over Sightglass coffee

While Old Haul Road is my personal favorite, Emily’s favorite was Cowell Ranch Road. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to bring Emily to bike on Cowell Ranch Road ever since I was introduced to it by Ian about a year ago. However, it can be exceedingly strenuous to ride over the Pennisula hills or through Pacifica to get to Cowell Ranch Road. For those of you who haven’t experienced Cowell Ranch Road, it’s a 3 mile flat gravel trail that sandwiches you between large private farm and incredible vistas of the sea cliffs. The views here are equivalent to the sweeping landscapes of Big Sur. Emily went on to name this area Little Sur.

cowell_trail

Cowell Trail was more beautiful than ever.

Day 3: Mavericks to SF

Half Moon Bay -> San Francisco 

On Sunday we had a warm slow ride back into San Francisco. I had the opportunity to explore the bike paths closer to the beach instead of hammering on the main road  as I’ve normally done.

While resting in Pacifica, a man asked us about what route we took from Mountain View. Somehow, he immediately recognized that I was from Los Angeles. When I asked how he knew, he told me that I kept saying “PCH” (short for Pacific Coast Highway) as opposed to “Highway 1″, which is how bay area folks call it. I guess theres more to blending in with nor cal folks than saying “hella” occasionally.

2014-06-29 10.13.31

Behind the Ritz Carlton

Tandem name: Jean Claude Tandem

Jean Claude Tandem

Conclusion

All in all, we had an amazing trip with superb weather, delicious food, and breathtaking sites. I strongly believe that the experience we had this weekend, really flexes the strength of tandem riding. Riding together with Emily on the tandem, gave both of us the comfort and confidence that we would make it to our next destination, even with daunting 3,000 feet climbs and perilous descents. Without the concerns of physical ability, it allowed us to focus on the surroundings and really enjoy the ride.

 

#bdbsummercamp 2014

When I was a kid, my parents scoffed at the idea of paying money to send me somewhere to spend time outdoors. So I was basically deprived of the American tradition of summer camps. My childhood dreams remained unfulfilled until last year, when Box Dog Bikes started their initial #bdbsummercamp series! This year’s event proved to even be doper.

Eric, Geoff and Angus from Box Dog led a group of about 15 or so through a mixed terrain exploration of the East Bay hills. It was a great way to kick off the first official day of summer.

Bike nerd talk: This was my first camping trip with the Rawland Stag (which doesn’t have provisions for a rear rack or mid-fork braze ons), so I had to install a mid fork braze-on adapt-a-ma-jig from Tubus. I paired this with a borrowed Tubus front rack from Ian K.B. and the result was a stable handling front loaded touring machine (Jan was right). This was also my second attempt at bike camping with a hammock and this time I was able to set it up correctly, which proved for a pretty chill sleeping experience.

More people joined later in the afternoon at Lake Chabot Regional Park and it turned into the the largest bike camping gathering of bike nerds that I’ve ever been to. Seriously. Box Dog had a bunch of their bikes available at the camp site for demo and their sweet camping gear on display. Dinner was taken care of by Nick and Lindy from the Pedal Inn and they served an amazing camp meal of tofu spring rolls and pork banh mi’s.

In a day and age where it’s so easy to shop for things online at bottom barrel prices and then have drones deliver you things almost instantaneously (well not quite yet), it seems like a crazy and foolish thing to “support your local bike shop”. Also since everything is digitally consumed these days, it’s so easy for bike brands to just setup social media nonsense and gain adoring fans who live vicariously through the internet. However, I want to stress that real people and not robots (or unpaid interns) were the ones that made this camping trip possible:

1. Box Dog Bikes had a super obscure adapter piece (Tubus LM-1 mounting set) in stock in their store that I needed for the trip. Seriously, it would have taken a week for me to order that part from the internet.
2. They let me install said adapter at the shop, gave me a few pointers in the process and saved me a trip to the hardware store from buying like two bolts.
3. They organized and LED the route through some amazing mixed terrain territory. No one mentioned the words “gravel grinder”. They also led a more direct route for others who just wanted to take part in the bike camping. What a considerate group of folks!
4. Eric from Box Dog helped me setup my hammock correctly and even prevented me from throwing my straps into some poison oak. Thanks dude!
5. Lastly, the good folks Pedal Inn prepared and provided the group with real food that you could eat, you know with your mouth, rather than digital photos on Instagram that you would have to eat with your eyes.

Want more coverage? Check out the appropriately tagged numbersigns on Instagram, Manny’s flickr, or Platypus Jenny’s ride report.

Cogswell, That Ends Well

With the Sequoia finally built up to handle the rigors of mixed terrain routes, Topher and I decided to tackle his variation of the Fudmoot Flirty Fundo route.

We departed at 7am from Pasadena, in an attempt to beat the heat. Had I known the difficulties we would face later on in the day, I would have dragged my butt out of bed much earlier than the crack of dawn.

After heading up Encanto Parkway, I had to take out my sunglasses and I began to realize how “San Francisco summers” have made me intolerant of the excessive sunshine in Southern California. The short climb up to the Cogswell Dam gate entrance was worth it though because immediately afterwards, there is a paved road that is closed off to automobiles that runs along a creek.

When we reached the actual dam, it had been nearly 30 minutes since we had seen another individual and I couldn’t help recall memories of my youth and specifically the dam level in Goldeneye 007 on N-64… you know, minus the whole killing spies thing and all.

I’m not accustomed to mixed terrain riding in Southern California and big news, the weather and the terrain make things very different. Since it gets so blazing hot, the terrain is much drier and there is seemingly much deeper sand pockets everywhere.

It was about noon time when we reached the most exposed sections of our route. Topher commented that drinking from his water bottles did little to cool him down because the water had heated up significantly during the past hour. Luckily we found a small pond of water and that was refreshingly cool to the touch. Topher threw in his jersey and I followed suit, but as our jerseys slowly drifted away, I struggled to retrieve mine with a stick and almost fell into the water. Predictably, Topher was chuckling.

The next section of the route was a very well shaded but also featured a rocky descent. My tires seemed to slip around quite a bit and I may have been better served with a wider or knobbier tire, but then it wouldn’t be underbiking.

Shortly afterward, I began to regret the fact that I had only brought 3 water bottles and my water supply began to run low. Topher had put some distance on me but I figured he would turn around to check back up on me eventually. With the sun beating down on me, I decided to not risk dehydration by over-exerting myself during the climb and opted for a short nap in the shade.

Topher eventually checks back in with me and he has about a quarter of a water bottle left. Luckily for us, he is also a human cactus as well as a strong rider, so he is able to make it to Redbox (not the DVD rental vending machine) and fill up on water and bring it back to my carcass.

With the re-up on water and a long descent down the 2 freeway, we are able to make it back to civilization and cell phone signal range, where we discover numerous missed calls and voicemails from concerned friends.

The end of the route also meant obligatory face stuffing with some delicious mexican food. At the end of my meal, I sat at the outdoor table drinking a bunch of electrolytes and contemplating how the Sequoia fared on this trip. I’m not sure I’m qualified to call it the best production bicycle ever, but I think it really suits the type of riding I do quite well. Currently there aren’t many production or semi-production models that offer the package of goodies that this bike from 1983 provides, and in that sense, I am glad to have been able to rescue this bike from rotting away in some basement or garage, with it’s potential unrealized and wasted.

Moral of the story, ride bikes you like, ride with friends you trust, bring lots of water, and live to ride another day!