Super Soaker Weekend

There’s a long list of reasons to ignore or completely avoid the Super Bowl and 2016 marked the start of a possible Bay Area tradition for like-minded supporters of bikes, outdoors and the #s240 lifestyle. Given that so many sequels are better than the originals (Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 2 Fast 2 Furious, to name a few…), the stoke level was high for the 2017 version.

Yet there’s always a certain anxiety when it comes to planning a social gathering. Did I invite too many people? Did I forget some people? What if rival posse’s show up and people start beefin’? Will there be enough food? Probably (not). What about beer? Oh god, what about people who don’t drink beer?!?! To complicate matters was the rainy weather that had occurred for most of January and the meteorologists/shamans forecasting rain for the weekend of February 4th.

I had once told Manny, it doesn’t count as bailing on your own ride when no one shows up. And given the foreboding clouds on Saturday morning, I was honestly hoping that people would come to their senses and spend a nice weekend indoors. Yet as I waited at the meetup spot at the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion, my heart sank when I saw riders with nervous smiles roll in completely drenched from the morning showers.



Left with no choice but to actually proceed with the bike camping trip, I was convinced that the group would either: a) have a good time for the rest of the weekend or b) murder me Lord of the Flies style. The benefit of being soaked at the beginning of the ride was that it set relatively low expectations and that things could only go uphill from there, right?



Things did physically go uphill as we climbed up Camino Alto to Fairfax for a small lunch and grocery stop. No sooner had it stopped raining, than someone in the group would declare “looks like the weather will be good!” The typical response from the group was to stare daggers at the person who had jinxed it, as the rain would inevitably return. Being slightly cold and wet made climbing up the infamous White’s Hill slightly more bearable. A group of 20 or so wet humans and a pup made it to the campground without any major incidents. Upon reaching the campground there were many leisure activities to choose from: scouting for the best possible tent locations, chopping wood and starting fires, and enlisting in a contract of indentured servitude were all popular choices.


The great thing about the Madrone Group Site at Samuel P. Taylor is that there is a large amount of space for up to 50 (!!!) campers. Throughout the late afternoon, we had additional stragglers roll into the campground. Some groups had missed the rain showers while others encountered some fierce rains and winds. Each group of riders arrived to a chorus of cheers and invitations to join the campfire. It really surprised me the total amount of people that made the effort to join the campout despite the alternative of staying warm and toasty at home. For the rest of the evening, we oogled each other’s bikes and camping setups, attempted to expand the modular rain shelter with some tarp reinforcements, and finished the evening sharing drink and food.

Spirits were still high the next morning as mediocre espressos were served, tasty treats were made in a cast-iron wafflemaker, and tours of an impeccably decorated vanagon were given. I ended up drinking way too much #coffeeoutside amidst all the conversations and socializing. After more bike geekery and bike swapping, groups began to pack up and say their goodbyes before departing.

A few days before this camping trip, I attended an event where a performer addressed the audience at the end and stressed that “…in times like these, art is especially important.” This quote resonated with me in the days to follow, and this trip reiterated that spending time doing things you enjoy and seeing your friends is especially important in these times. Just some simple words and aspirations but something I continue to hope to do for the rest of 2017 and beyond.


The weeks leading up to the Super Bowl weekend were downright chaotic in the Bay Area and while there was some humor directed at the issues, there also was an uneasy feeling of corporate greediness, inequality and injustice and just bizarro choices in general that permeated daily life.

With all of that said, I’m glad I was able to coordinate with my friends in January and plan an escape from San Francisco for the Super Bowl weekend. Most people joined for a quick S240 to the Madrone Campground at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and a select few braved an extra night at the campground while fending off raccoons and ravens. There was even time for a quick jaunt to Point Reyes Station for some excellent pastries, a side trip to Black Mountain Cycles (where Jacquie Phelan and Charlie Cunningham were just chillin’ on the couch) and an afternoon hike to Mount Barnabe. All in all, a good weekend and hopefully just one of many camping trips planned for 2016.

Here’s a collection of some of the great moments as documented by the Instagrams and flickr’s of the internets (click the photos for the sources, I ain’t taking credit for your photo mastery!):

super bowl weekend bike camping 2016

Boyz on The Hoods #escapefromsportsball

Escape from Stuporbowl Camping trip to Samuel P Taylor

Summer Skool Sessions #2 – Peninsula MTBrevet Ride Report

With summer in full swing, it feels like “The Days Are Just Packed”. Trying to make the most of these long days, this past weekend’s Summer Skool Session #2 ride (a.k.a. MTBrevet) tried to emulate these feelings of carefree exploration and wonderment of the great outdoors.

It was great to see a grip load of people meet up for the ride at the 4th and King station at Caltrain in San Francisco, as we nearly took over the train car. It was even cooler to see a few more people hop on Caltrain along the way at different stations and another group meet us at the proper ride start in Mountain View. All in all, we had a head count of 24 during the ride. There was such a quirky mix of rando bikes, cross bikes, mountain bikes, and other bikes that defied conventional categorization. Surely with that many people and bikes, there would be some pressure for the route to be amazing, right?

Safe to say, after rounding each corner or climbing up the next set of hills, riders were greeted with scenery that seemed to transcend the views that they had just seen. About midway through the ride, there was a magical Hot Dog stand oasis that provided much needed sustenance and hydration for the group. Shortly after departing from this oasis, there was a stark change in the scenery on the route and it pushed us into full “mind blown” territory.

After forty some miles and somewhere between 5000-6000 ft of climbing, with nearly half of it on single track, the group stopped at the Alpine Inn for a few post ride burgers and brews. Here are some highlights from the ride:


(Source: Jake Mann)

A photo posted by Brian (@brianoei) on

A photo posted by Gabe (@olgrumpy) on

A video posted by Brian (@brianoei) on

You can check out Jenny Oh’s ride report and photos here, peep Manny’s photos here, and view some other photos from the ride here. Stay tuned for the details for the final Summer Skool Sessions ride of the year!

Summer Skool Sessions #1 – OG Fauxvet Route

So the Boyz have been getting a failing grade in the blogosphere this past calendar year, so we’ve been forced to enroll in Summer Skool Sessions.

This past Saturday was the first ride in our series, a tried and tested route through some beautiful coastal scenery and redwood forests. Here are some highlights from the grams of instant:

A video posted by Brian (@brianoei) on

A photo posted by Ian (@iankizublair) on

A photo posted by Brian (@brianoei) on

Stay tuned and keep your eyeholes open for more details about ride numero #2 and #3 of the series.

SEA to PDX “Backdoor” Tour Diary – Day 5

After a bit of preemptive celebratory evening at Thunder Island Brewery, we moseyed back to our campsite and retired to our encampment of tightly concentrated tents, or “tentrification” as I so proudly coined it. Unfortunately throughout the night, there was a seemingly endless amount of freight trains passing by along the Columbia River, blowing their horns to announce their presence.

Despite the groggy night’s rest, we awoke to a stunning view of the Columbia River and headed for the local diner, where we wolfed down some more traditional breakfast fare. As we were getting ready to leave the establishment, Brian was standing outside with his shirt off and was lathering on sunscreen while others of us were in various states of undress, and a customer walked out and gasped. I thought the sight of a group of such handsome and strong gentlemen startled him but in actuality he simply said to his family, “Look there’s a whole bunch of naked people out here!”

Leaving the city of Cascade Locks, we made it onto the Columbia River Gorge Bike Route, which was a pleasant bit of separated bikeway infrastructure. It was a nice feeling after previously being exposed to insults on the roadways near the Washington/Oregon border. This well maintained multi-use path that was gradual in grade and had plenty of foliage to provide us cover. There was one section that had to be traversed by a set of 50 or so steps of stairs and we struggled to lift our loaded bikes (maybe not as strong as I thought) onto the wheel tracks on the side of the stairs and push them up the obstacle.

Nathan had conversed with some locals at Thunder Road Brewing who had given us suggestions to make some detours to check out some waterfalls in the area. They had told us that Wahclella Falls was a nice short detour that wouldn’t set us off course for the rest of the day. We spent about an hour marveling at the falls, especially since the drought conditions have hit most of California really hard. It was nice visiting these specific falls because later down the road we saw various other waterfalls, or should I say parking lots full of people trying to go see waterfalls.

The last big climb of the day was up to Vista House, a weird looking observatory that looks out upon the Columbia River Valley. After we all had visited the small gift shop, I had noticed that the majority of the group had opted for an ice cream sandwich and a Coca Cola. As we sat in the shade and ate our nearly identical treats, I realized it had been a long 5 days on the road (7 counting the travel day) and it started to show, if not in our beards, then in our attitudes. Everyone was still jovial but it was as if most of the spectacular riding had been completed and we were just anticipating to get to our finish point. The last 20 miles or so were a complete blur. There were an endless number of suburban cities along the way to Portland and the scenery transitioned from suburban wasteland to slightly more interesting neighborhoods. Topher mentioned at a certain point he was really disoriented when he began to see sidewalks and traffic lights again.

By the time we reached our final destination in Portland, we were all completely zoned out. We snapped a picture at the awesome 8-bit mural outside Velo Cult and knocked back a few beers to return to normality. The mechanics in the shop gave us compliments about our bikes and snapped some photos of our ragtag group. Sky, the owner of Velo Cult, welcomed us into his establishment and gave us a tour of the spiffy surroundings and the downstairs areas.

The group said their final goodbyes to Bill, who had a train to catch back to Seattle, while the rest of us dispersed to visit our different groups of Portland friends. The next 3 days were spent gorging ourselves with food, visiting bikes shops and aimless wandering. We had made plans to meet up with Joshua Bryant and Russ and Laura from The Path Less Pedaled and we all had a great time exchanging our various touring and biking stories. Joshua was even nice enough to take us on a morning ramble up to Mt. Tabor the next morning before he had work!

It’s been nearly a month since we got back from the trip and I only have some rough conclusions about how I feel about the tour. Mainly it’s that we were inspired by a bunch of cool e-famous bike people who turned out to be *gasp* real nice in person as well. While we didn’t get to meet up with Mr. Heine, he served as the main catalyst for this trip, as it was after reading too many issues of Bicycle Quarterly, that members of our group were curious to see how the gravel and dirt roads of Washington compared with California’s offerings. In e-mail exchanges, Jan was very helpful by providing a GPS route that formed the basis of the trip. The Path Less Pedaled were instrumental in guiding many of our early interests in touring and providing us information and motivation to get out and explore the world by bike, and Russ and Laura were extremely down to earth and great people to be around. When talking with them in person, you see how much knowledge they have accumulated over the years and that they genuinely enjoy helping others get into bike touring. Likewise, Martina and Jason from Swift Industries and Joshua Bryant of Cycles J Bryant are also very rad peepz and when they aren’t making awesome products or going on cool rides like the Oregon Outback, they don’t find it beneath themselves to slum it and ride with Boyz on the Hoods.

Seriously, the main takeaway is that it was empowering to plan, embark and finish a tour of this nature. I feel like a dork for writing all these wordy ride reports but hey, if it gets someone stoked to go out on a bike ride, S240 or a cross continental tour, or whatever, then mission accomplished! Anyways I’ve written way too many words about this trip now and without any further delay, enjoy the world premiere of our super pro video edit from the tour:

#bdbsummercamp – Coyote Hills Regional Park

Summer is coming to a close but there was still time for a jaunt over to the Coyote Hills Regional Park for a quick overnight camping trip. I don’t explore the East Bay as much as I should so shout out (and thanks!) to Box Dog Bikes for organizin’ and coordinatin’ this trip! Check out more of the photos here, cuz you know pictures proved it happened.

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.