Sunday, May 27, 2012

Foolish Things

Smiles don't lie.  Halfway there and ready for more.  

Expedition Rules as according to my friend Alan:

1)  Come home alive.
2)  Come home friends.
3)  Come home with summits.

You will do foolish things, but do them with great enthusiasm.
-Sidonie Gabrielle Collete

I spun up the hill in my granny gear off the I-90 bridge on to Mercer Island and pulled over for a minute to wait for Jeff.  A couple riders on five-thousand dollar titanium bikes turned and looked at my shit show.

Looks like you need some more stuff to carry on your bike, can I give you some weight, one said with a bit of friendly sarcasm. 

Do you have to pay vehicle tax on that rig?, his buddy chimed in.

Not to be outwitted, I quickly retorted, Won’t take anything less than ten pounds fella’s;  The momentum just wouldn't be worth the inertia.    

They looked confused, laughed and one continued, Where are you going?

We're going climbin' out at Mount Si….If we get one pitch in today I'll be stoked,  I called out over my shoulder as Jeff caught up and we continued crawling up the hill. 

Little Si crags lie thirty-five miles east of Seattle, tucked in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains near the town of North Bend. Certainly not world class cragging by any stretch of the imagination, but by my shady research the nearest natural stone climbing to the city.  A 100 miles of riding and a few pitches of rock climbing seemed like a reasonable plan as I tipped back my forth and final beer on Friday night.  If I keep doing sober what I dream up drunk, I just might quit drinking.

I biked over to Jeff's place a little later than anticipated, but the skies were blue and spirits were high as we headed east over I-90 towards the Cascades on the Mountains to Sound Greenway. The morning unfolded into early afternoon as we climbed on dirt and gravel through the steeply timbered Issaquah-Preston trail away from the constant noise and heavy air of the City.   

My prospective shortcut between Preston and Snoqualmie didn’t quite work out like I planned, but  I learned a lot in the process and got to hike my bike through stinging nettles and the feces of native macrofauna.

When Jeff emailed from Palo Alta and said he wanted to shut off his personal homing device for the weekend and go on an adventure, I eagerly went to work planning something 'fun'.  Jeff is an interesting character and tougher than most folks I know.  He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, something  intelligent and honest usually comes out of his mouth.   As we emerged from our little misguided bikewack,  Jeff finally spoke.

I should have known better than to follow your crazy ass out here to drag my bike through the brush and take pictures of bear shit.

I agree,  you should have known better, I responded with a grin; guess it just goes to show that you’re not very smart.

We pulled out the map and had a look at the damage.   I was really quite amazed that it had taken this long for Jeff to question my suspect judgment, but in any case he piped up.

So with our little bear shit examination sidetrack, we’re basically going to ride a century today and do some rock climbing along the way, he calmly stated without a hint of resignation.

Yeah, more or less, I responded with an optimistic smile. 
Jeff let the whole thing soak in.  Twenty long seconds of silent appraisal and Jeff continued, 
You realize the most miles I have ever ridden in a day before was when you and I went out to bivy on Vashon Island for the night.  How far was that?   

I sensed that Jeff may be beginning to doubt the feasibility and supreme intelligence of my plan and I needed to act quickly.

Mmmm, maybe 35 miles out and 35 miles back the next day, I hesitated for affect;  but you have a really strong head Jeff, and you have done way harder things than this before, I reassured. 

Let me know if you want to go home, I threw in for good measure.  I knew if I put the white flag in Jeff's court we could likely ride to the Atlantic Ocean. 

I continued with honesty,
Jeff, if you stop having fun let me know and we turn around, I have already had a great time today and learned a lot of things I never knew.  We can go home and drink beer and I will be happy as a clam.

My words bounced off Jeff as he saddled his ride; 
I am not going home, but I might just sleep in a motel in North Bend, Jeff chuckled as we headed back in the direction we had come from an hour before.  Once a Marine, always a Marine.

We arrived at the Little Si Trailhead late in the late afternoon and quickly repacked climbing gear into backpacks, stashed the bikes and set-out.  Steadily we moved up the trail occasionally being passed by small children and  overweight mothers with strollers until voices calling from the cliffs above the trail let us know we had arrived at our destination.

Several years had passed since my last visit, but memories of a day spent clipping bolts with Gene came back to me as we scrambled the steep bouldered path to the base of an abrupt dark wall of stone. 

I counseled with the locals and consulted a guidebook to select the most appropriate climbing objective for the day.  One hundred miles is a long way for a pitch of climbing and you gotta make it count. However, my mediocre rock climbing skills and my desire not to fall on a buddy who hadn’t been climbing in ten years also weighed in heavily on my selection of  ‘Human Feet"; a juggy and well-protected 5.8 on Blackstone Wall.   

I led up steadily, albeit slowly as Jeff fed out rope smoothly like he had done it before;  my confidence in his ability to catch my fat ass should I fall grew exponentially as I gained ground.

A few hidden side pulls and a balancey high-step found me clipping the chains with a smile.  With the involved approach, this was most definitely the hardest 5.8 I have ever led.  It would be boastful to claim the first completely human powered accent, plus nobody would really care; but what the hell, I am going to do it anyhow.  

Jeff and I got our summit last weekend.  We went on an adventure with a sense of exploration and a willingness to be a little uncomfortable for a few hours.  Even if was only a pitch of bolted 5.8 in North Bend, we went on a creative and challenging expedition; I feel a lot better friends with Jeff for the process.  For that I am thankful.

In any case,  nobody died and Jeff got to sleep in his own bed.

That’s how I Roll,


I thank the engineers and city planners who put a bike path on I-90, it opens up non-motorizd transportation to the east side of Lake Washington and beyond.

Saturday fish'n' under the I-90.

The Mountains to Sound Greenway is the real deal.  Although I discovered a small gap in the network on this particular trip, it is the best game in town when it comes to getting me into the Cascade Mountains via  bike.

Jeff's new ride.  In my not so humble opinion, Salsa Bikes has got it figured out when it comes to delivering a rad adventure bike out of the box for a reasonable price.    


Lions and tigers and bears!  Oh my!

Bikewack, closely related to the bushwack.  It seems the term is previously unmentioned in the biking literature and thus I claim intellectual property.  BW1:  Rider can expect conditions non-condusive to efficient forward travel of the bicycle through pedaling.  Riders should expect significant undergrowth of road or path due to disuse or lack of maintenance for several years. Occasional lifting of bicycle over impediments of forward progress will be present. 

Dead end for all but the most brave of heart and small of brain.

I have never been lost, but I have definitely made decisions that have cost adventures a lot of time and effort.  

Rocket fuel.

Health food. The overall caloric load and distribution of macronutrients in this candy bar and most leading sports nutrition bars are nearly identical.  While I agree the that quality of ingredients and overall  nutritional value of the product is low, one must train the body to digest foreign and unnatural products if one ever dreams of completing the Tour Divide.  They are much cheaper as well.


High point for the day.  Human Foot, Blackstone Wall, Little Si Crags.

The latest in performance cycling footware.

21st Amendment's Brew Free or Die IPA is a fine recovery drink and a great beer.  I have a soft spot for beer in cans as well.  

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