Sunday, August 31, 2014

Windy Ridge Ride Cancelled So We Did "The Climb"

Author:  Mike Hassur

Well, this was the weekend when we were supposed to be doing the Mt. St. Helens “Windy Ridge Ride” which is a favorite amongst our group (great scenery, comfortable length (~65 miles), plenty of climbing (~6500 feet), and a single lane road devoted mainly to us for a good part of the ride up).  Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate (rain), and we had to cancel the ride.

This short blog post is about our alternative ride on Saturday morning.  Leon, Les, and I decided to go to The Climb and just do some hill repeats there.  Our reasoning was as follows:
1.       It was close.
2.       We could drive our cars to the base of The Climb and devote whatever time we had there to climbing.
3.       If it started to rain, we were never very far from our cars.

I got there at 6:10 AM.  Leon’s car was already there, but Leon was nowhere in sight.  I got my bike out, mixed up some energy drink for my bottle, and headed up the road.  I hadn’t ridden very far before I met up with Leon who was heading down.  He had gone part of the way up and turned around figuring to meet me near the bottom.

We visited as we rode to the top together, and Leon mentioned that he had seen a couple of elk just a bit earlier.  The closer we got to the top, the more it misted/sprinkled; until, at the top, it was just raining on us.  We headed back down and were soon out of the rain.  Near the bottom, we saw Les coming up.  By this time, it was not raining at all, and the roads were dry; so we turned around and started back up together. 

Once again, as we approached the top, the rain increased.  We headed back down to the upper hairpin, turned around, and headed back up again.  This time at the top the rain was more pronounced.  I said that I would like to head back to the cars to change my wheels.  I had my light-weight racing wheels on the bike, and I was not confident how well they kept moisture out of the hubs when riding in wet conditions.  I had brought an extra set of wheels that were more impervious to moisture just in case.  Leon and Les said that they would head down with me.  On the way down, Les and I were talking with Leon riding about 50 yards ahead of us.  All of a sudden, Les said “look up ahead”!!  I looked up to see a herd of six large elk crossing the road just ahead of Leon.  They scattered and headed into the forest on both sides of the road, but not before we got a pretty good look at them – pretty amazing.  It was an awesome sight to see six of these large animals all at once.  

After seeing the elk, the intensity of the rain gradually increased; and, by the time we had reached the cars, it was raining hard.  I raised the back hatch of my van and used it as an umbrella while I changed my wheels.  Once the wheels were changed, the rain had let up some; and we decided to head back up again.  We had not gone far when the rain picked up again.  It was raining pretty hard; and, for some reason, I was struggling to keep up with Leon and Les – even though they didn’t seem to be working that hard.  The rain finally got to me, and I told the guys that I was heading back to the cars.  I turned around while Leon and Les headed on up to retrieve some water bottles that they had hidden by the upper hairpin turn on our previous trip up.

It wasn’t until I got back to my van that I noticed that my rear wheel would barely turn.  I had not tightened the rear skewer tight enough when I changed out the wheels, and the wheel was rubbing firmly against one of the brake pads – NO WONDER I WAS HAVING SO MUCH TROUBLE KEEPING UP WITH LEON AND LES EARLIER!!!

Les told me later that the rain let up almost as soon as I turned around and that they had a good ride together.    This just wasn't my day, but seeing those elk made it a pretty memorable experience.

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