Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gimme Shelton

After the Vantage ride a week or so ago, I had come to the conclusion that while I enjoy the challenges of enduro competition, I am much more suited to riding just for fun. Last Sunday, May 24th, I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a small group of riders for a "scouting ride" that started and ended near the Sanderson Airport in Shelton, WA.

There were 10 riders total and as I was getting my gear on, some introductions were made.

Here is the "cast of characters" as I saw it from my point of view:

Lan: Organizer and ride leader (very cool KTM LC4)
Sylvia: Lan's "better half" and co-leader (Yamaha XT 350, "old school" kick start version)
Bill: Veteran trail rider and one of the few people who actually knew where the hell we were (KLR 650 "couch")
Marty: The strong, silent type (DR 650 blue)
Cheryl: The fun one (DR 650 yeller)
Chuck: Possible undercover spy (DRZ 400... looked shiny and relatively new)
Jim: Chuck's brother and resident videographer (possibly a spy also... by association) (XT 250)
John: Possible MacGyver (DRZ400 with good-looking, homemade parts and a carb off of a Kawasaki)
Dan: aka: Dr Dan. The laid-back, just enjoyin' the scenery type. (DRZ 400 low-rider)
Me: The group newbie

Let me start off by saying that everyone who was there was, by far, the nicest people I'd met in a long time. It was a great group of folks who just wanted to have a good time. No egos, no BS, just a bunch of great people to be around

As we were getting ready, I started to sense that this wasn't going to be the kind of trail ride I thought it was going to be. For some reason, I thought we were going to be riding more single track and wooded trails, and consequently, didn't really prepare for riding on the street much (ie: no mirrors or warm clothing). I even heard someone mention the possibility of snow preventing us from making it over the hill. (snow!!! wtf??) I decided that I'd just have to tough it out and not be a weanie. I did bring a sweatshirt so I put it on underneath my jersey and hoped it'd be enough.

We headed out on hwy 101 and made a quick stop for fuel. Within' a few minutes we were on a gravel road and kicking up some dust. (Actually, LOTS of dust. In fact, that's what I had for lunch.) The pace was pleasant and we made a few stops on occasion to make sure everyone was keeping up.

After about 20 miles or so, we found ourselves on a high steel bridge. I'm just guessing but I'll bet it was 500-600 feet to the river below. We stopped and took a few pictures and just shot the breeze. The view was stunning.

The view from the bridge

We jumped back on the bikes and headed on down the road. There was a brief section of pavement and then we were headed up the hill on a gravel, Forest Service road. We took a break at around 2500' MSL (Mean Sea Level) and had another opportunity to take in the view. It was very relaxing to me to just stand on the edge of the road and look out over the valley below. The valley stretched out for miles.

Looking out over the valley

The plan was then to keep heading up the road and over the other side and make our way to Lake Wynoochee. As we climbed higher though, we started seeing patches of snow on the ground. I really didn't think much of it, I thought that it'd be unlikely that there would be enough snow to keep us from making it over. As is often the case, I was wrong. We rounded a corner and were faced with the entire road covered in snow that was roughly a foot deep. It wouldn't have been too bad had it not been for the fact that it was the consistency of a carnival snow cone. It felt like trying to ride through wet cement. Needless to say, we turned around and headed back down the hill. Lan knew of an alternate route that would take us along most of the planned course but allow us to bypass the snowy part.

The snow field

I apparently felt the need to go check it out. (Photo by Lan)

On the way back down the hill, I decided to shut the bike off and just coast down the hill. Sure, you lose the ability to use the engine compression to help slow you down, but it was so peaceful just to glide down the hill with no noise. During the descent, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something that made no sense to me. I stopped and turned around and, (after starting the bike up), headed back uphill to confirm what I saw. Sure enough, there were a pair of crutches lying on the side of the road. I can't think of any reason why they would be there. Maybe somebody was planning on one of us needing them? I don't know, but I thought it was strange.

I did not move the crutches, that's how I found them

Once we got on the alternate route, we were doing pretty well. There were a few small trees that had fallen across the road and we had to ride over them. I thought it was fun. Then we came upon a tree that couldn't be moved or ridden over. After looking at the situation for a minute or so, the only option was to head back down again and try another way.

The tree blockade

It was starting to get fairly late and we decided to not try to make it to Lake Wynoochee since it would just take too long at this point. Had we not had to back-track so much, it would've been fine. So we headed down the hill again and found our way out on to some pavement that would lead us to Matlock and ultimately back to Shelton. My fuel reserve light came on in Matlock so I decided to put the extra gallon I had with me in the tank. I could've made it the last 16 miles without it but I figured why not err on the side of caution.
We made it back to Shelton around 6:30. We all loaded up and after enjoying a few cold ones, we all headed home.
I enjoyed the 105 mile ride immensely. The people in the group made it fun. There was no sense of being hurried or having to prove anything to anyone. We all just rode and had fun. I'm hoping I get invited to the next ride.
One of the many rocky roads we traveled. (Photo by Lan)

One of our rest stops.

This is Marty and Chuck wrestling a tree. I think the tree won.

Dr. Dan and Bill... it appears they shopped at the same riding gear store.

"ok, so we're here... and we want to go here".

Toward the end of our day's journey. (Photo by Lan)

Our fearless leader, Lan

The group on the steel bridge

Some graffitti... damn griptwister punks :)

One of the challenges we had to face

Loaded up and re-hashing the ride. (Photo by Lan)

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