Got the word that these were on the way and thought it would be a nice upgrade to the low riders on the Surly. The addition of a platform up top for odd shaped loads and the ability to mount a light were big selling points. Plus, pizza.
The excellent parts department at 21st Ave bikes put my name on one and I picked it up and headed home to throw it on. That didn't exactly go to plan, and I quickly retreated back to the shop with offerings of pizza (duh) and beer for a little expert help.
I think these will eventually be hard to find, and last I heard there were a few left at the shop. So give 21st Ave Bikes a call and maybe they can put your name on one too.
Through a little bit of luck, and a little bit of good bike karma I happened across a Surly Pacer frame for a too good to pass up price a couple months ago. Previously I have had the experience of purchasing a frame set become an albatross with little expensive parts adding up and bigger even more expensive parts dooming the project. This time however, I knew that my parts bin hoarding was about to pay off. I had everything to put this bike together except the wheels and bars. Velo Orange Milan bars were cheap and fit the bill, and eventually a set of Tiagra hubs laced to Mavic 319 rims were built up by yours truly.
The result is a really classic looking 1x9 city bike that handles and rides like a dream. A special someone couldn't be happier about it turned out, and I couldn't be happier about how much she loves it.
As the three of us rallied at Howard's house on Sunday morning, I still didn't know where we would be riding. Something around Hood River or The Dalles had been thrown around, as had suggestions of the CZ Trail and some Coast Range riding. Mostly, everyone was expecting a vigorous but relatively tame 50-60 miles on gravel roads.
Soon after arriving at the rally point in SE, Nick suggested the Gifford Gravel 50. It fit our needs perfectly. Gravel, 50 miles, and had the added bonus of starting and ending in Yacolt, a part of SW Washington that I haven't explored much and was excited to see.
As we drove north, I downloaded the GPX to my phone, and cached as many 7.5' quadrangle tiles to Gaia GPS as I could with dwindling service. Arriving in Yacolt, parking was easy at the local market and the weather was chilly, but didn't look foreboding. We put the bikes together and started going up. It was paved. Then we hopped a closed logging road gate, and then up some more, now on gravel. In all we climbed for about 16 miles. Then, slightly down, then up for a couple miles. then down slightly then up more. It was beautiful, the roads were not really "gravel" like in the Willamette valley, but true Forest Service roads with rocks and holes and more rocks. The roads reminded me of the Gunsight Ridge Velodirt route. 29+ would not have been an inappropriate platform for most of the ride.
Wait...Where are we?
We actually started to descend. However, there was more snow than there had been earlier. Like a lot more. If someone hadn't driven the road before we got to this point we would have been fucked. At this point we were well aware that this route was more than 50 miles, and had way more climbing than the 6200' than we were expecting when we started. The thought crossed my mind that a space blanket, a first aid kit and some way to start a fire would have been prudent choices. We were 30 miles from anything, and if something went wrong, we were going to hang out for a while before somebody got back to help.
Snow big deal
At this point, things got rad. Like really fucking rad. The terrain opened up and it got seriously beautiful. And we started to go down. For miles. We descended two miles, then had another steepish climb. After that we had to be done climbing right? We were 1000' over the 6200' of climbing that we were expecting. But who the fuck cares? We got to the top of the climb and immediately started to rocket down a twisting, exposed, perfect forest road. The water bars were perfect berms to get a little rad while warping downhill. Nick's camera jumped out of his handlebar bag, but because we had just rolled back into the trees, the only soft duffy berm on the whole ride left it unscathed.
When the fun was over, surprise, there was another climb. It was steeper and longer than were expecting, and we had another 15 miles to get back to the car. A rolling 15 miles, with bonus rednecks and shitty paved shoulders. I was tired, my legs were empty, and all I could think about was the fried food roasting under the hot lamp in the Yacolt Trading Post. We rolled the last miles into town, and indulged fully in the corn dogs, chicken strips, and jojos. This ride is amazing, and kinda fucked in a good way. It's a lot of work and extremely committed. I should have been way more prepared and next time I will be.
I was prepared for this flat, but not much else.
Here's my real bitch with this ride. The name Gifford Gravel 50 doesn't even come close to describing how completely demoralizing and totally rad this thing is. Yes, it does travel through the National Forest that bears Gifford Pinchot's name. However, the geographic resources available to an individual naming this route are almost endless. You can see at least four prominent Cascade volcanoes at one point. There is an amazing, and prominent geological feature named Cougar Rock. The route travels through a significant portion of the 1902 Yacolt Burn and I think it circumnavigates the headwaters of the Lewis River.
On the ride home, and during the following day, the three of us who rode it decided that the name should be the Ice Cold Hot Case 8000. However, this is so self referential to our experience that I think it's alienating, and doesn't leave enough to the imagination. Once I got home and looked in detail at the USGS topo I found something. At just about the point this ride peaks, when the scenery is at its best and you are about to burn off most of the 8000' of climbing you will do all day in a glorious, ripping, smile so hard it hurts descent, there is Poison Gulch.
On a clear day the cue sheet says that from this point you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. That's the kind of route this is you can see four major Cascade volcanoes, while being in the shadow of another (Mt. St. Helens is literally a couple miles away.) It's amazing. Poison Gulch is the kind of colorful place name that adorns places all over the west, and it's too good not to use. For me, this ride is the Poison Gulch 60.
In anticipation of chum fry migration out to salt water in the Puget Sound this spring I spent some time at the tying bench. Some of the flies used some new tying techniques, some used new materials. I'm happy with how all of them came out. I'll test them out once I get the word from my super secret source that the fry are moving.
The flies are variations on the classic Chum Baby from Bob Triggs, a couple epoxy baitfish in natural and attractor colors, and an experimental pattern of my own with peacock herl over grizzly hackle and a tinsel body. All are tied on a size 6 straight eye bonefish hook.
Had a great time riding the "Perry Roubaix" this last Saturday with some folks from 21st Ave Bicycle and Swift Racing. Some chose to go very very fast. The fastest riders I know finished the 50 miles in 3 hours and were dropped by the leading group around mile 35. That's insane. I was really pleased to finish in just under 4 hours with help in cross and head winds from Carl and Nick who rode with me most of the way.
The weather was beautiful and the new bike build was perfect for the mix of large loose gravel, pavement, and hard packed dirt. I am quickly gaining ultimate confidence in the 40c WTB Nano.
Undoubtedly the best part was hanging out with some rad people and getting to see some country that I haven't seen. I'm really looking forward to the Dalles Mountain 60 next month. Check out the 21st Ave Bicycles blog for some more photos and another write up from Nick.
Great weather, great roads
Scenic as fuck
Day after recovery ride turned into a beer at Velo Cult
The Cross Check is finally back together and I took a quick 10mi shakedown cruise in Forest Park. It looks great and rides better. More to come on the whole process maybe, if I get around to it before I forget it all. Hopefully I get busy riding and don't get around to it.
We live in a small apartment, so work space is a valuable commodity. Using storage space for workspace has been really effective in making me more productive and organized.
The 3'x7' storage unit in the basement got a new workbench. I used 2x4 legs, 5/8" plywood on top and 3/8" particle board for the shelf. I screwed the bench into the studs, and shimmed the legs so the top is more or less level.
Pegboard mounted between the studs, and an inexpensive vice.
Another pegboard zip-tied on the inside of the chain link door for my bike tools. (I'm disassembling that wheel in the vice due to a cracked rim.) I also picked up a medium size shelf bracket for tire storage, which you can see on the right side of the space. Even with all of the gear on the shelving at the rear, there is enough room comfortably stand and work at the bench.
I also now have my fly tying desk set up in a walk in closet in the living room. This allows me to tie a few flies, then close the doors when I am done. The ability to keep everything out and ready makes it easier to sit down and whip out a couple flies at a time.
Not carrying around a ton of shit that we don't need has allowed me to use space that would otherwise just be full of boxes, or other storage.