Thursday, October 3, 2013

High Rock Lookout

Yesterday, I decided to merge my enthusiasm for riding with a bit of investigative journalism regarding the recent US Government shutdown.  I thought that perhaps if I went down to Mt Rainier National Park, I would have miles of beautiful, car free, mountain roads to enjoy in splendid solitude.  I parked a mile or so below the National Park gate and rode up to find a Ranger in the kiosk.  Thinking it wiser to stop and chat rather than just blowing through the gate, I asked her if I'd be allowed to ride in the Park.  She told me in the nicest possible way that the park was totally and completely closed to all visitors, that taxpayers couldn't even walk in (only she didn't use the word taxpayers).  Hopes of cycling nirvana temporarily crushed, I asked her if she could recommend any other roads in the area that were good for riding.

She said I could go back down the road a while, turn left, and I would get onto Skate Creek road, which wandered along a creek valley 22 miles down to the bustling metropolis of Packwood.  Although I had no intentions of riding that far, I decided that I could at least go some of the way, and headed back down toward my new goal.  I rode a while, and although cold and wet, the mild elevation gain offered some warmth to the body and legs.  When I got to a point that would indicate a total ride of about 15 miles, I duly turned around and began my way back down.

I then spied a sign that I somehow missed on the way up, for a road called High Rock Lookout.  Something in the name screamed elevation gain at me, and soon, I was on my way up an unpaved crushed dirt and gravel road.  It went right away over a quite dangerous bridge that had slippery lumber in two tracks for cars over sections of steel grating.  Once this was safely navigated, the rest of the road looked pretty much like this:

This was the point at which I turned around.

The potholed sections were at varying intervals, and there were also some washboarded out parts, but the road was in generally good enough condition to weave through and around them.  At one point, high up the road, a family in a van passed me on the way down, the driver looking at me totally incredulously, as if to say, "what the fuck are you doing all the way up here in such miserable conditions?"  

As every cyclist knows, the descent is always the coldest part of the ride, and the elevation gain, combined with thumbs that were starting to get really cold on the ascent, forced me to conclude that I should turn around just around that next bend, which was soon replaced by just over that next rise.  This went on for some time before I finally just decided that I needed to turn around and get back down.

I was very cold on the descent, especially my hands, to the point that I started thinking how nice it would be to piss on them to give them some warmth.  Continuing down, such thoughts disgusted me yet somehow became more frequent and persistent, and about halfway down, I stopped, took off my gloves, and started urinating over my hands.  It felt like the hottest shower, immediately soothing, but also too hot, and I was amazed that this heat was coming out of my own body.  It should be noted at this point that I also decided it would be also be prudent to drink some fluids, in case I should need to call on this method of hand warming again.  By the junction with the main road at the bottom, it was slightly warmer but I still reckoned on about 7 miles to the car.

By this time, the calculus of how gross was pissing on my hands was replaced by how cold would I be if I went harder, increasing both the windchill and my internal heat, vs backing off a little and reducing both.  It was clear to me that I wanted to be out of the weather sooner rather than later, and should just hammer the remaining miles to the warm car.

I learned some things on this ride.  Firstly, that I really need new gloves.  Also, that my Cervelo RS is a truly worthy Graveur, especially with the 25mm tyres mounted on it.  And lastly, that I will do whatever it takes to make it home to the warmth and love of my Velomihottie, who would be back in Seattle waiting for a call or text from me letting her know that I was all right.