Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Having a Blast on Mount St. Helen's

Saturday, June 21—Tour de Blast This was going to be a great weekend to ride... Eight of us gathered at Eastside Church to carpool down to Castle Rock, WA. We were headed for an 84 mile ride with 7500 ft. of climbing up Mount St. Helen's. As we gathered, a few of us realized that we've never seen some of the other riders in street clothes. Usually, these people are wearing bike gear, helmets, and sunglasses... With "regular clothes", make-up, and hair in place, a few are almost unrecognizeable! It reminds me of the Reunion Show on CBS' Survivor reality TV series. After weeks of seeing those competitors living on an island, you can barely recognize them when they appear clean and well-groomed. You get the point...

Our Friday evening ride was long and tedious for the guys who drove I-5. The "gals" (me and three women... just one of the girls, huh?), took I-167 and experienced smooth sailing. It was a precursor for Saturday's ride. The girls and myself would summit easily while only two of the four men would. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

A filling dinner of pizza or spaghetti at Dirty Dave's in Olympia gave us the fuel we needed for the ride ahead and then we finished the drive southward. Our night's accommodations in Castle Rock was the Mount St. Helen's Motel. Three double beds and plenty of floor space for the five guys. So after unpacking, readying our bikes for the day ahead, and laying out our gear, we hit the hay. Only Rick decided to stand guard into the wee hours of the morning since he couldn't get to sleep.

Breakfast at the restaurant next door was good, filling, and probably unhealthy, but plenty of calories to burn throughout the day. The weather was looking to be far better than what we anticipated. We had brought enough clothing for anything from 30 degrees to 80 degrees...torrential downpours, snow, or whatever else came our way. But temps hovered around 77F with an overcast sky. Perfect riding weather. We were blessed.

The first miles turned over quickly for me with good conversation, great scenery, and a decent rest stop around Mile 18. The next stage was about nine miles of gentle climbing up to Elk Rock at 3800 ft. for our second rest stop.
I felt great and kept chugging along. Rick and Mike were long gone as was Kristin. But Warren, Brenda, Jim, Chris and I arrived at Elk Rock fairly close together.

After a fairly good rest, food, and photos, we raced downward on the long descent to Clearwater Lake. But, what goes down, must go up... at least on this ride. We had another climb of six miles to Johnston Ridge Observatory, at 4800 ft. elevation. Warren was done at Elk Rock. Jim turned around shortly after Clearwater Lake, and it was just me and the three ladies making the climb up to Johnston Ridge. (Mike and Rick were so far ahead of us, we figured they were probably done by now!)

I was surprised to see snow on the climb. In past years, the snow level is far above our highest elevation. But with the late Spring (was there one?), the snow was still in place and nearly 12 feet deep along the side of the parking lot at Johnston Ridge.

Our return flight down from the summit back to Clearwater Lake was fast and furious. Soon, we were back to climbing on our return to Elk Rock. The day was getting late, but I was enjoying the ride, felt great, and going at my own pace. I reconnected at Elk Rock with Kristin and Jim, and soon Chris arrived. Chris waited for Brenda and the other three of us started the amazing nine mile descent from Elk Rock. But our ride was interrupted by a disturbing scene. Another rider had crashed about a half hour earlier. EMS was on the scene. We heard he was unconscious, obviously bleeding from the head, and had to be airlifted by helicopter to Portland. The next day we learned that he was going to be okay.

The scene on the side of the road reaffirmed that our avocation is not without risk. Whether descending Mount St. Helen's at 42 miles per hour or just crossing the street in my neighborhood, there's risk. Life is fleeting. And I realize this life is not my own. It belongs to the Lord. I'm thankful... so very thankful... for every day I am given... to live, to breathe, to grow... and, of course, to ride.


Matt said...

Congrats on a great ride!

Theodora said...

Good for people to know.