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Fall Photos, Ramblings

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This first set of photos is from a coast trip I took with some friends back in October. We took OR-6 out with a detour into the forest part way. This wound up being a great way to do it, although we did lose our way and had to hop back out to the highway somewhat prematurely. This day of riding was especially memorable due to extreme wind and rain. I was actually blown off my bike at the top of Cape Meares (which is still closed to cars and super nice to ride, by the way). Luckily it was pretty warm, and we had a dry cabin to stay at.

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Chris, Clayton, and Geoff prepared a wonderful feast for us, including vegan chili and tater tots. We listened to the MusicChoice Easy Listening station and played a round of Evolution before turning in for the night. We decided to get an early start around 10am...

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We took the Nestucca River route home, which was still closed to cars but passable on bike. This meant virtually zero traffic the whole way. We had on and off rain all day and occasional glimpses at a deep blue sky behind the great cotton ball clouds. It was a perfect fall overnighter.

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Above, Geoff tosses a pizza crust. You read right, he baked four pizzas while camping, including a gluten-free one just for me. What a guy!

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Above: that's Malcolm, he's a puppet and he's good at karaoke. I like to have him sing My Heart Will Go On. Below: the best part about camping is hanging out at the picnic table in the morning. It was another late start. We are a bunch of night owls.

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This last set of pictures is from a solo scouting ride I did. The general idea was to find some more fun ways of getting to the Cougar area. It was great, except that the stretch along the Kalama River wound up being on Weyerhauser land (I have since learned that they have a map of their holdings online). Above: the first part of the route uses a section of the Silver Star Prison Break route, which I would highly recommend.

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The Yale Bridge is my favorite bridge in the whole world. On my first organized brevet,  I remember bombing down to it in the aero tuck, trying to hang with Michael P. and Chris W. and being blown away by it. It just comes out of nowhere.

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From Cougar, I rode up to Merrill Lake, which looks like a great place to camp. It's out of the way, and not super popular. It was super windy when I rode through.

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The final stretch along the Kalama river was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, it's on Weyerhauser land and requries a $75 permit. It does make a much safer connection back to the Columbia than riding on highway 503. Next time, I might be tempted to head southeast, and return via the gorge (especially when the historic highway trail opens up again).

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Looking forward, the Evergreen Grinder is going to be tons of fun. At least three of us are planning on heading up, maybe more. I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends, and meeting some new ones.

Ride Report: Crater Lake 1000K

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This last weekend I rode SIR's (Seattle International Randonneurs) Crater Lake 1000k event, and it was a total party. Pictured above, the legendary Ian Hands: professional randonneur.

Here's the route.

In short, it's a 400k and then two 300ks, with over 10,000 feet of climbing every day, featuring some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire Northwest. It was a midnight start in Bremerton, which is a quick ferry ride from Seattle. Then there were two mid-ride overnights at hotels, one in Neskowin, and in Roseberg. I slept about two hours each night. This was truly one of the most fun bike rides I've ever done, and I'd really encourage people to check it out next time it comes around!

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Pictured above: my boys Chris and Sourav. We hammered through "the darkest hour" to breakfast in Raymond. I had a bit of cramping, but came through it all feeling pretty good. My secret weapons for night riding are well timed caffeine pills, and jamming to Levert. Stick with your buddies: "...there's no need to be proud, hey if something's hurtin' you, could be it hurts your brothers too."

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We had headwinds the whole time going down 101. What are you gonna do? Luckily there were a few fun detours inland providing a bit of a break from the gusts. In Cannon Beach we got juice at a little market that had a print of the poster for the film "Endless Summer" on the wall. It was seventy degrees and sunny for most of the day, and I felt that this was truly the ethos of that film, in a different place and time. Ian was on, I think, his third ride over 1000K for this summer. Randos may in fact be the beach bums of the road cycling set.

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Sourav "the Machine" Das and I took off around 3am. The night in Neskowin had been filled with odd dreams of something ambiguous named "the Promise". I suppose we found it, or at least part of it, in Depoe Bay. We also found a sorely needed bathroom.

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Day two was a long one. Around 3pm we realized that one of the control cut off times, still forty miles out, was creeping up on us. So we hammered down the coast at around 18mph for two hours, and down roller after roller, until we hit Reedsport: the end of the coastal section for this ride. Such hammering called for french fries. The central Oregon coast has such a unique feel. A coastal paradise similar to northern California, yet obscured by a veil of mist for most of the year. The candy and souvenir shops seem weary eyed, "oh traveler, you've come at last?" Like the city in the clouds that disappears when you think you've found it.

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Day two ended with a wonderful climb through the mountains to Roseberg. The "ghost of the Umpqua" surprised us at the top of the Camp Creek climb with sodas and chips. Having gotten a little bit ahead of my gang on the descent, I layed down to look at the stars on this crystal clear night: we were riding by moonlight and Edelux. This turned into a little nap that made all the difference.

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Around 3am we started the day right with hash browns and juice at Denny's. And thus began the 100 mile climb up to Crater Lake. Pictured above my day three crew, rando power siblings Misha and Luke.

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A few nights prior I had watched the western film Canyon Passage, filmed at Crater Lake, to get excited for this ride. There were numerous shots of a very pointy mountain, which I later discovered Mount Thielsen. Imagine my excitement when I turned around and saw it in real life. A little nap at Diamond Lake restored body and mind before the final bit up to Crater Lake.

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I didn't actually get any shots of the lake itself. It was so cold with all the wind that we just did one group shot with somebody else's camera. However I did get a few shots bombing down to the lodge. I put on all my clothes by the great fire. As it was for the travelers back in the Progressive era when this lodge was built, this was not simply a place to enjoy the finer things in life. We were on an epic adventure, and this stately lodge was our last bit of refuge from the tempest of wind and darkness about to engulf us. As you can see, we descended at sunset, which was truly a treat. A cold treat, like dippin' dots maybe.

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We hammered into the night, under a sky full of twinkling stars. We stopped at a post office to warm up and ate the last of the food. I like those ginger chewy candies. Our minds were mush, and we laughed like madmen stumbling out of the loony bin. When we finally arrived in Klamath Falls, Vinnie had gluten-free vegan pizza waiting for me and Misha (also a vegan). And I realized that these were the best people in the world: my friends.

Ride Report: Cougar Campout

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Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb: Sunshower

Our final group, after quite a few last minute bail outs, had four of us riding out and another three driving out due to schedule conflicts. It's really something special to have friends to ride bikes with, and I'm truly grateful to everybody who showed up for this. The format, I think, is something that I'll want to play with in future events, but it worked pretty well in the end.

The notion was to leave midday Friday, in case people couldn't get the whole day off, but could maybe knock off a few hours early. We would do a more spirited ride Saturday sans-bags, and then ride home on Sunday. This differs quite a bit from how I've seen others do similar events, and I think I like it better. For the Un-Meeting, they simply publish a location and let the riders sort all that out, and so the group is only really together on the middle day. On the other hand, it seems like most small groups and clubs that hosted a Swift Campout opted for a very short two day adventure. That maybe works a bit better in towns more nestled into the backcountry, but not so great in the Portland area with its sprawling suburban periphery.

Our route took us out through Battle Ground, to the small town of Yacolt, and then on to our camp 20 miles east of Cougar, WA. Eagle Cliff Camp itself was wonderful, and it was quite a surprise because details were very sparse on their website. In fact, they have a well stocked camp store (open Th-Su), a little pizza shack, showers, and the some of the biggest, nicest campsites I've yet encountered. We arrived pretty late, having left at 3pm and having ridden about 85 miles, but the drive-out crew had a fire roaring and cold refreshments waiting. We hit sunset just as the road opened up onto the expanse of Yale Lake. The wind picked up as we rode those final twenty miles, and the reservoir glimmered yellow in the light of the rising full moon. We stopped at a high perch for beer and snacks.

Day two had us climbing gravel roads toward the viewpoints on the eastern rim of the volcano. I didn't get many pictures, but to paraphrase my hero John Denver: some roads are diamonds. We didn't quite make it as far as I had planned due to a washed out road, but I definitely want to return to check it out again someday. If you want to explore yourself, the first stretch of 2560 is great, but it was washed out just after crossing the main paved road 25. It was probably hoppable, but who knows how bad it gets after that. On the other hand, the Forest Service map does list it as a improved gravel road, so maybe this was just a recent issue.

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The paved descent back down to camp on 25 is probably one of the most fun descents I know of. It's perfectly snaky, with great views, and very light traffic. Doing the gravel back down probably would have been fun too, but we were ready to be done for the day. We then got pizza (important) and watched the sunset down under the bridge at what we think was the actual Eagle Cliff. Here we discovered unnatural talents, and contemplated the function of the fish water slide. Specifically, rider Chris is extremely good at stacking rocks, and rider James is extremely good at rock bocce ball. I do not know how the fish water slide works.

On day three, we opted to return via the same route we took on day one due to high traffic and a strong headwind on highway 503. I actually didn't mind it because you get a very different view riding the opposite direction. And the weather was so lovely I think I would have enjoyed riding just about anywhere (with the obvious exception of North Valley Road in Washington County which I absolutely despise no what context). Riding in high spirits, and thoroughly warmed up by now, we made pretty good time, getting home by around dinner time.

And that was it for the Cougar Campout. I think I might plan a longer event in August, and try to get some regular after work rides going.

Thanks.

Ride Report: How long? How long have you been away?

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Tatsuro Yamashita - Rainy Walk

Yesterday we threw our first longer ride, and I'm pleased to say it was a lot of fun. With the exception of a few bailouts before we got out of town, our whole gang finished together. We had a great variety of bikes, from skinny tire road bikes to dropper post equipped bikepacking bike. There was also a great variety of riders. For some this was one of the hardest rides they had ever taken on, and for others this was training for upcoming tours. One rider was even gearing up for the Steens Mazama 1000.

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The day started off sunny, but as we rode east a great dark cloud hung over the horizon. This quickly gave way to pouring rain. Luckily it was fairly warm out. The rapid changes in weather made for some spectacular clouds and deep blue skies beyond them.

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So I had initially posted the wrong route file on my advertisements for this ride. I had claimed it was going to be 61 miles and 4000 feet, when in actuality it was 78 miles and 6000 feet. Oopsie. Lucky for me everybody was really nice about it and we got through it without issue. I find that the climbs are a good time to make new friends. You're all going slow enough that you can chat without having to yell, and the talking helps keep your mind off of the effort.

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As we descend into the furnace of summer, I will remember this final cool and cloudy day fondly.

Ride Report: Lolo Pass Adventure

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Martin Denny - The Enchanted Sea

We set out early Sunday morning, intending to ride my RAMHOD (Ride Around Mount Hood in One Day) route. The notion was to ride the two main Mount Hood passes in quick succession, making a loop starting at the end of the MAX line in Gresham. Lots of miles, lots of climbing, a bit of gravel.

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After an initial hitch of almost riding the Red Line all the way to the airport, things got off to a good start. The weather was excellent, and we had managed to get on the road reasonably early. I commented that I was most concerned about getting too cold, more so than about getting exhausted. Our route would have us descending from Government Camp around sunset, and I had DNF'ed a similar route a few years back because I got too cold on the way down. Luckily, it wasn't supposed to dip below 45 even at that elevation.

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Like half of these pictures came out all soft focus. Approaching the entrance to Sandy Ridge, we were passed by vehicle after vehicle loaded up with mountain bikes. I stewed a bit about the lack of a good shuttle system from Portland, but it was hard to stay angry with such wonderful scenery. We took a little detour hoping to find a friend of James who owns some property in the area. Unfortunately he wasn't home, but we did stop for a snack on his driveway. Finally, we reached the first climb of the day: Lolo Pass.

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After maybe a half hour of climbing in the trees, we reached the powerline-cut that forms the upper section of the pass. The clearing made for some great views.

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We had some power jams on the stereo.

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There was no summit sign, but somebody had sprayed this on the road. At the top it turns to gravel for a little bit. There were a couple wheel eating pot holes, but overall it was a really nice descent.

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Right after I took the above picture James pulled over because his wheel was feeling weird. It turned out that all his sealant had tried up. Luckily, he had l planned ahead and had a backup tube to throw in. Unfortunately, when he put the wheel back in, he noticed a click coming from somewhere on the bike. We spent quite a while trying to figure it out, but in the end decided it was a task better left for the work stand. Rather than risk descending from Hood on a bike with a mystery problem, we opted to head back via the Gorge. It would be almost the same distance, but with rollers instead of the single face melting bomb down from Government Camp.

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Only after reaching Hood River and stopping for snacks did I remember that much of the Gorge is currently really really hard to get through on bike. Oopsie. With the sun setting fast, and with no other good options, we decided to grit our teeth and power through to Cascade Locks on 84.  And as is so often the case with our rides, we took solace in the fact that, if we did not die, this would make for a good story. I rode for quite a while on the oncoming traffic side shoulder (too afraid to hop the median) scrunched between a rock wall and some traffic cones, with traffic flying by at 70mph. It was harrowing. We explored a few sections of the Historic Highway trail that are currently under construction, but there was nothing that really went anywhere in its current state.

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Somewhere in there we found a side road that lasted us a good 5 or so miles. That was nice.

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There was a magic pony. I put on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. I never get sick of that soundtrack. Takes you to a better world. The damage from last year's fires blends in nicely, and is not at all the gaping scar people seemed to imagine it would be.

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I love mountain silhouettes at night, especially the ones on the cover of Alexander O'Neal's 1985 classic self-titled album (featuring "If You Were Here Tonight". This scene at the Bridge of the Gods made me think of that. If you haven't ridden the Bridge of the Gods, the road surface is see-through grating. You really shouldn't look down, and you definitely shouldn't whip out your phone for a picture.

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After that it was too dark for pictures. Highway 14 in Washington is super sketchy around dinner time, but after 9pm it really is a delight. We took it pretty fast for the final forty miles, as the need for sleep became more of a thing. Though we didn't do the route as intended, it had been a really nice ride. Maybe I'll put together a group run of RAMHOD later in the season.

Ride Report: Fleche, Everybody Loves Raymond

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On Saturday and Sunday I rode Seattle Rando's 24 hour "Fleche Velocio" event. For this event, as a team, you have to ride for 24 hours and cover at least 360km. You're not allowed to take any breaks longer than two hours, and you have to ride at least 25km after hour 22. In short, you're basically supposed to ride the whole time.

Part of the reason I want to write about this event is that I want to elaborate on what I like and don't like about "Randonneuring". I love the spirit of pushing yourself to the limit, taking on challenges that you're not sure you can take. I also really love that you wind up getting yourself into kind of sketchy situations. The best brevets feel like true adventures (this one included). What I don't love is the ethos of individualism. At least at Oregon Randonneurs events, most people ride the event solo. They may stick with one person or another for fifteen minutes or so, but in general the attitude is that each person is on their own ride. Flat tire? Bye bye. Hit a section that doesn't play to your strengths and you get dropped.

And so I find that ORR events wind up really sucking if you haven't brought along somebody you know will stick with you. So this Fleche event appealed to me because it's specifically a team event. At least three riders have to finish in order for the team to get credit. Each team has to write their own route, design in checkpoints (usually a convenience store with a receipt acting as the control), and come up with a schedule they think they can handle.

Team Tasty Randos consisted of me and my buddies Chris, David, and Michael. My response to Chris after he agreed to do the event, "you will regret this."

Things started off well at 7am in Hillsboro. I wanted to start at 8am but the other guys insisted. Usually I hate the Banks-Vernonia trail - it's super flat, and boring, and crowded. But this early it was nice and empty, and lack of traffic meant it was a nice chance to chat and catch up.

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We got to our first control in Vernonia well ahead of schedule, which felt good. Michael, a very experienced randonneur, helped keep us from taking lengthy breaks. "You can eat and ride" he admonished, "c'mon, back on the bikes". It was only later in the ride that I came to truly appreciate the value of not stopping for too long...

I brought a bunch of rice balls, and a muffin to eat. The muffin was a bit tricky, but I managed to get it down on the way to Clatskanie. As we rolled through clear cuts on steep rollers, it dawned on me that our route mostly went through logging areas. There is something rough about a clear cut, very rough. On the other hand, I can't deny that freshly cut Douglas Fir smells amazing. It felt good to know that our impact on the natural world today would be fairly minimal.

Next came Longview, via the Lewis and Clark Bridge. If you look up that bridge on the interwebs, you will encounter ominous warnings, "ride at your own risk". I am here to say, no. It's fine. The Lewis and Clark Bridge is not sketchy. There's a wide shoulder, cars don't move that fast. It's just really high, and seems kind of rickety, and there's a lot of logging debris; but truly, it's nothing to be afraid of.

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Longview is weird. I dont' know how to explain in what way, but it's weird. Leaving Longview we hit a huge headwind. It was crushing. It took us over an hour to go ten miles. Chris got a flat on the way. Finally, we hit the turn that would take us to the gravel section. Now would be the fun part.

We turned straight into a 26.5% grade. We tried to pedal up it, but even with my triple chainring I couldn't stay upright. Luckily, the grade mellowed out after a bit, and we were able to ride again.

Michael was concerned that the gravel section might be too rough to traverse, so he flagged down a car to see if they could tell us. She seemed unsure exactly where we were going, but thought that it was paved all the way. That was a good sign. Though the gravel would be fun, pavement would be easier. On second thought though, she wasn't sure if the paved road led to Pe Ell (our next control) or not. There was one way to find out.

"No Trespassing" said the sign next to the gate, "Property of Sierra Pacific Logging Company". Now we were in trouble. On the one hand, it was Saturday and there probably wouldn't be any active logging going on. On the other hand, getting caught could mean a hefty fine. We debated a bit. I wanted to risk it, but David and Michael were concerned about getting caught. But passing on this section would mean a pretty sizeable detour. Instead of going through Pe Ell, we would have to ride along the Columbia River to the coast, and then going north to Raymond, the next control. And it would mean going back into that same terrible headwind we fought on the way from Longview.

We decided to take the detour. After about ten minutes fighting into the headwind, David decided he just wasn't having fun and turned around for Longview. On a ride like this it's really important to gauge how you're feeling before it's too late to turn back. David is also a very experienced randonneur (he completed Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015) so we trusted his judgement and didn't try to insist that he stick with us.

This section of the ride was truly a slog. Around 6:30 we passed a little restaurant, and Michael suggested we stop for a hot meal, a last meal before all the sit down establishments closed. After some well deserved fries, we hopped back on the bikes and rode into the sunset. Things were about to get much much darker.

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Now came the endless quest for the city of Raymond. Feeling the clock at our backs, we hadn't really stopped to figure out how far away it was. At this point, there were no other options. As darkness fell, we found ourselves stopping at half hour intervals to put layers back on, and things started to feel far less friendly. Near Naselle we got harassed by some guys in a truck. Should we stop for a coffee? "No, I insisted, lets keep riding. I don't want to lose my momentum."

Finally, we hit 101 and turned north, away from the headwind. The headwind was replaced by a climb. It was dark now, with almost no traffic. A sign said Raymond was 35 miles away. "Okay," I thought, "that's like three hours at 12mph." That was the longest three hours of the entire ride.

At this point, all my layers were on, and I still had to keep up the pace to avoid losing feeling in my hands. If I lost feeling in my hands I knew I'd be in trouble. Somewhere in there I caught a glimpse of silver light reflected on ocean waves. I heard a melancholy tune, and knew it was the Rando Moon. Then, Michael pulled up along side me and said he was in bad shape, falling asleep. He needed to nap badly. Raymond couldn't be much farther, could it?

An hour later, and we were all feeling pretty rough. Michael threw a hitching thumb up at any passing traffic, but nobody wanted to take a chance on us weirdos. Luckily, we knew there would a McDonalds in Raymond where we could probably nap. Michael was sure he had napped there on a 400k a while back. \

As we pulled into Raymond our hearts sank. The McDonalds was dark inside. A sign on a nearby buiding said 35 degrees. Things were looking bleak. We had space blankets, but even with them a nap outside woiuld be pretty difficult. The alternative was to keep riding despite the risk of dozing off and crashing into a ditch (or worse).

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Salvation came in the form of an all-night Chevron station. The attendant was the hero of this ride. He let us chill for over an hour. It was a weird hour. As we napped in front of the freezer boxes, I can only imagine what the passing drunk partiers, truck drivers, night shift workers, and weary travelers must have been thinking about us. At one point, I went out to the Port-A-Potty and some dude asked me "You gotta shit, buddy?" and then he kind of rubbed my tummy. It was *weird*. We drank coffee and ate cheap snacks. As we were leaving Michael got the idea to stuff space blankets into his pants for extra warmth. It was around 2am when we left Raymond.

We rode endless rollers for hours. My memory of this part grows fuzzy. I remember that I started taking the descents really fast, reasoning that I would try to get them over quickly, before sleep would have a chance to sneak up on me. We played games to stay awake: name all the states, name all the Canadian provinces, important historical dates. We tried to sing some songs. It was a battle.

After about three hours, we hit Montesano and turned back east. What luck, an espresso stand already open for the morning! She asked me how my "morning" was going. That was a relief, it was now "morning". I downed a double shot and a juice, and passed out for a few minutes. It was a sleepy fifteen minutes of riding until the caffeine kicked in. To my relief I noticed the horizon turning blue: it would be light out soon

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Around 5am I took a picture of this gas station as a replacement for our 22:00 hour control. It was doubtful that we'd make it to Olympia in time, but I thought it might be nice just in case.

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We didn't make it in time. At 7am we were still about 30 miles out. We knew we would not be getting "credit" for the ride, but we could still make it in time for brunch! You see, part of the event is a mandatory brunch get together. It had been a running joke along the ride that the whole point of the ride was to get brunch. This goal, now became a serious motivation. I mean, we had paid for that brunch, what a waste if we didn't make it in time!

Our pace quickened as we sensed that the end of the ride. Unfortunately there was a little bit more trouble to come. Just past McCleary on state road 8 Michael flagged us to pull over, he was going to be sick. What had poisoned him? It was the hot chocolate he suggested. Beware of gas station hot chocolate at 2am. Michael we be sick the rest of the day, and the next day.

As we pulled into Olympia, we found a few familiar faces milling around and made our way to the River's Edge country club. I don't think we quite looked like we belonged at a country club at that moment. Most of the other teams had done a night start 12 hours before we did, so they were all showered, rested and fresh. We resembled four day old pastries.

I sat down and had two full plates of potatoes. Somebody offered to bring me a coffee, what hospitality! As we sat down to look at our mileage, we realized that we actually had gone about 400k. For me, this was great consolation for the fact that we didn't get credit for the ride. It was the longest distance Chris or I had ever ridden! Twice what Chris had ever done before. And I was still feeling pretty damn good, all things considered.

The ride organizer, the illustrious Theo, then announced that we would all be standing up in front of the room and telling the story of our ride. Here's a fun idea: public speaking, after riding for 26 hours straight? For fuck's sake, these guys are crazy!

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