2014 Cascade DS – Day 5

8/18 – Cougar Rock Route and Home

After the ride the day before I was a little nervous about Monday’s route. We were doing a shortened version of Mehren’s Cougar Rock route in order to give us time for the ride back home.

Part of it was a repeat of the Sunset Falls ride. I double checked to be sure we wouldn’t be hitting FS-4211 (Whoop d’doops) or FS-38 (Arlis in Wonderland/Rock Gardens). The Cougar Rock route turned out to be mostly fun, easy stuff and a good way to end the ride…safely. The route ended in Stabler where we aired up, said good-bye and went our separate ways.

Norm and I dropped down to US-14 to US-97 and home via Toppenish. Chuck took FS-25 and went by Mt. St. Helens getting some great photos of the area. Check out his Picasa Gallery.

Up “Shit Creek”

I texted the photo at right of my GS laying on its side in a rock garden (which looks like a dry creek bed) to a friend, Steve. In the text I asked, “Where are we?” This is a sort of game Norm started a few years back. Steve responded, “Up Shit Creek?”

A week or so later we met for breakfast. Steve presented the patch below to me.

Riding Skills

I’ve learned a lot on the last two DS rides (DS Sasquatch and Cascade DS).

1. I’m better at not looking down. I’ve improved on this but as soon as I hit something technical, the eyes tend to drop down to focus on the current problem which prevents me from preparing for the next problem and maintaining spatial orientation. Looking down is not cured so I still need to work on keeping my head up and looking through immediate technical stuff for problems ahead.

2. I also improved on maintaining wheel contact on steep inclines using the “grey area” of the clutch. Rather than maintaining momentum with speed, using the clutch allows me to go slow giving me time to adjust to the road surface in body position and path selection.

3. I also discovered I need to use the grey area to slow down and analyze what is ahead on flatter surfaces as well.

4. I’ve noticed over the last two rides that I suffer from a problem I’ve had all my life; poor eye sight due to being legally blind in one eye. This leaves me with poor depth perception due to having only two dimensional sight. I have not been recognizing hazards for what they are. I tend to be traveling too fast when approaching a problem because I don’t see it until I’m there; small rocks become bigger-loose rocks, pot holes appear out of no where, light gravel becomes deep gravel and so on. On the Cougar Rock route I practiced slowing down anytime I was at a corner, approaching any kind of possible difficulty.

In simpler terms the big take-away is to slow down, look through the problem, pick a path, and once the path is picked, look further ahead.

For a rider to do this the  brain needs to put the current selected path in memory then analyze the route further on. The conscious brain cannot do two things at once. We actually have to multitask by changing from one task to another: Current route in memory to analysis of the next section. I believe this is where muscle memory, skill, and confidence are most helpful. You have to have confidence that your skills and muscles will get you through the immediate path while the brain focuses on the next section.

Here are some clues for me that this is true. I’ve noticed that if I’m aware that I’m in sand, deep gravel, rocks, etc. I tend to look down, lose spatial orientation. My muscles also tightens up and I which prevents me from moving as I should. When I’m unaware of what I’m riding in, I tend to ride right through the stuff with little difficulty because I’m looking ahead, not down which helps with balance and control. I also noticed during the last two rides that my brain could actually keep the immediate path in memory while I looked ahead. When I did I could maneuver through the path I intended and look ahead.

Bottom line, I need to become a better rider 🙂

Cougar Rock

None of us saw Cougar Rock. We will have to go back.

The Sertao Starting Problem

After publishing the Day 4 post, Chuck emailed me a rebuttal regarding the starting issue with his Sertao. I did take some literary license in simplifying the story. We actually do not know that the bike’s starting issue was only due to it being in gear. He was having trouble getting the bike in gear even though it would indicate 1st gear so it could be an interlock problem. I’m hoping he takes it in to the shop soon to get their opinion.

2014 Cascade DS – Day 4 PM

8/17 – Sunset Falls PM: Arlis in Wonderland

After finishing the berms we rode another 4.5 miles on FS-53 and turned onto FS-38 which was an Alice in Wonderland experience. The road got narrower and more overgrown as we traveled. Soon it was completely overgrown where we had to stoop below limbs and branches as we rode, the middle of the two track was overgrown with branches, rocks, and, according to Norm, possibly dead bodies hidden in the center with more limbs and rocks in the tracks (when we could see them). At times the two track turned into no track. As Norm described it, “We would pull into a clearing, lose the track and figure that was the end, but then notice the guy in front was not present nor had he passed going the other way. After cruising an arc around the clearing, we would notice what looked like a large rabbit hole in the trees and continue the route in there.” Sometimes we didn’t see or hear each other for a mile or so. It was weird.

After about an hour of this we finally broke out into a clearing where a work camp of some sort was setup with a trailer. We then found the FS-37 intersection and took a break.

It was getting late in the afternoon and after FS-4211, I was tired and wanting off the hill. A self described “local wing-nut” rode up on his KLR and visited with us. He let us know we only had a short distance to Sunset Falls where we would pick up FS-54. It gave me hope, however there were problems ahead.

There were a few rock gardens on the last of FS-37. The last one got me. I didn’t immediately go down but after bouncing into deeper rocks I got the bike stopped with the front wheel halfway into the undergrowth. Norm was right behind me and ended up stuck but didn’t go down. I began trying to get my bike out. After backing over one large rock, the front wheel dropped down between two large rocks which caused the bike to flip on its side and, again, tossing me off. I landed on my feet (like a cat) with little injury. I picked my way through the rocks to Norm’s bike and cleared a couple rocks out of the way so he could get his kickstand down. He then helped me get my bike back up and clear a manageable path to back it out and forward onto an easier path out of the garden. We did the same for Norm’s.

Norm stood behind me and gave a push. The bike jumped out of the rocks and eventually back on the two track. I briefly considered giving it gas and continuing back to the campground, but, after further thought, decided that would not be what a good riding buddy would do. Norm was able to ride his bike out without any help and we were on our way again.

The bright point of this route was Sunset Falls. They are not especially beautiful nor big but there were a couple of young ladies climbing over the rocks and jumping off the falls.

At Sunset Falls we caught FS-54 which is gravel then asphalt as you approach Stabler.


2014 Cascade DS – Day 4 AM

8/17: Sunset Falls Route – Whoop d’doops

This adventure began in the morning at the Stabler gas station located a short ways from Carson where we had camped. Chuck’s bike wouldn’t start after filling up. Norm helped him push it from the pump to a parking space in front of the store and we began troubleshooting. The symptoms: it wouldn’t turn over but the battery was strong since lights were fine and the self test had no problem when the bike was turned on. With two Master’s degrees and one Doctorate we went right to work troubleshooting. We had panels pulled off, wiring pulled out, testing voltage along the way, and guessing our way to a solution. After an hour of this in the hot sun we discovered the bike was in gear…a harbinger of things to come as this would turn out to be the weirdest and most difficult ride of the trip.

As with previous routes, most of it was fairly easy, however FS-4211 was a steep climb with berms position every 20 yards or so across the dirt road. These are created for erosion control. What you see going up hill is a berm perpendicular to the road and varying in height from 6″ – 18″. On the other side, which you can’t see until you get to it, is a channel eaten away by run off and sometimes double the height of the downhill side. I found standing up the best way to approach these because I had better look at the other side of the berm, but this was physically demanding due to the death grip I had on the bike caused by slowing to see the opposite side but trying to maintain enough momentum to stay upright on the hill, then maneuvering it up and over the mound, yet slow enough to drop into the channel on the uphill side without pogo sticking back up, and then gassing it just enough to get out of the channel and up the hill to the next berm. Everything had to work right: slow down, guess the best path, go fast enough to get over, slow down enough at the top, and go fast enough at the bottom to continue. We began calling the berms whoop d’doos, like a carnival ride.

After a half mile of these I missed two of the steps on one of them; 1) finding the best path and 2) going slow enough over the top. As I crested the berm I realized the other side was a good 2 foot drop into the run off channel, but it was too late to change direction. As I hit the bottom the front shocks compressed enough that I high-centered on a rock which stopped forward motion but allowed an equal and opposite force to bounce the bike up in the air, tossing me to the side (where I fortunately landed on my hands and feet) while the bike rolled onto its side with tires spinning in the air.

Norm pulled up behind me and immediately jumped onto the rear tire as a monkey helping me lift the bike into a better position: rubber side down, rider side up.

From there I made it to the top where Chuck was stopped. After five minutes of waiting for Norm I began to worry and started walking back down the road, listening for his bike. After a 100 yards I finally heard it. Norm buzzed by me with a determined look on his face. Turns out he had hit a similar berm and gone down.

He was fine and after checking himself for injury, wondered over to the side of the road and lay down in the shade saying, “Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lay down,” while Chuck and I looked over the route.

Next: Arlis in Wonderland

2014 Cascade DS – Day 3

8/16: Cliffdell to Rimrock to Trout Lake to Carson

We followed Mehren’s route #21 from Cliffdell to Rimrock. It was an easy ride with great views at Cache Prairie, elevation 6175′. From there we dropped into Rimrock for gas and a break.

Next we followed US-12 to Randle then FS-23 to Trout Lake. FS-23 is largely asphalt, wide enough for a single car, twisty, and with trees growing over the roadway making it more of a tunnel. It was an enjoyable ride with a few sections of gravel.

We had lunch at The Station Café, as we did on the DS Sasquatch ride a couple of weeks earlier. The food is good and it’s usually busy with locals, tourists, and bikers all stopping in. There was some extra business that day as firefighters were sending in orders for dozens of burgers.

From Trout Lake we followed WA-141 south to US-14 and then US-14 west to Carson and the Timberlake Campground. We camped here the last two nights of the trip so we could leave most of our gear in camp.

2014 Cascade DS – Day 1 & 2

8/14-8/15 Home to Easton – Easton to Cliffdell

Norm and I have ridden with Chuck twice before on DS rides in the Gorge after I met him at the spring 2011 PSSOR Adventure Camp in Roy, WA.

It had been a couple of years since last riding with Chuck. He’s an excellent planner, develops the routes using Tom Mehren (Soundrider.com) books he has purchased. After the DS Sasquatch ride I was looking forward to testing my skills again, although Chuck had indicated the routes we would be traveling were all “easy”, according to Mehren.

We met in Roslyn at The Brick for dinner. From there we traveled up to Easton State Park where we spent the night.

Friday morning we rode across Pyramid Pass to Greenwater. It was cool and overcast to start and became foggy as we rose in elevation. Some of the pass was fairly steep but most of the ride was “easy with some challenge.

After lunch in Greenwater we crossed over Naches Pass to US-410 which we followed to Cliffdell. We ate dinner at Whistlin’ Jack Lodge and spent the night in Sawmill Flat Campground.

While in the campground, Norm pulled out his Z-Drag pulley system which he had made with rope, carabineers (acting as pulleys), and cord for the prusik knots. He whipped it together with ease although it’s fairly complex AND it worked.