There are just some days you want to ride. There are some routes you want to take. Generally, a soaking rain coming down when I wake up for a ride will send me back to bed, knowing I can always do it another day.
However, sometimes there is a ride that just has to be taken, and even though you know it will be cold and wet, you gortex up and make it happen. Today was that day.
Today was the McClinchy mile. 3 years ago I woke up to ride this ride, and saw snow coming down. You better believe I went back to bed. This year though, even though we were having our first steady rain in weeks (I just read a tweet saying it has been the rainiest March 15th ever and it is STILL coming down hard) this was a special ride.
Almost a year ago to today, a mile wide mudflow came down off a hill, across the Stillaguamish river, took out an entire neighborhood in Oso, and buried the houses, 43 people and SR 530 under dozens of feet of mud.
Here is a picture taken a few weeks ago from my buddy Stu on his Civil Air Patrol flight
For a better understanding of the loss, the rescue and the aftermath, here is a link to a Nova special on the Oso slide. Thank you Sarah for this, it made today’s ride even more meaningful. ( I am happy to report the rescuers did NOT give up until all of the victim’s bodies wee recovered. There is no one buried there)
Todays ride was fundraiser for the survivors who lost everything (Homeowners insurance does NOT cover mudslides) and a way for us cyclists to show our respects for those who lost their lives. I have no idea whether any of those who didn’t make were cyclists, but if so, I know they would have appreciated it!
So with all this, no way I was going to miss it. But I went loaded for bear. The rain had come down all night and even though the forecast called for it to stop during the day, I held no faith in it.
I had everything I own that repels water, from head to toe on. I also through in an extra layer (my orange hiking jacket) in the yellow bag. I just had a feeling that this would be a long cold wet ride and I wanted to be ready.
The ride left Arlington and headed for Darrington along Hwy 530. It was an easy route to follow as it only had one turn throughout. Out and back along the same highway. Darrington is higher in elevation than Arlington, which of course means you are gradually gaining elevation (fancy for going up hill) for most of the ride. Add to it there was a headwind and heavy rain, and you can imagine how much fun it was.
The first 17 miles was uneventful, but the anticipation of seeing the slide in person never wavered. Suddenly I rounded a corner and there it was.
Somewhere in that mess was an entire neighborhood. Now, just a pile of mud and debris. There was no noise, (which now that I think of it was strange as along the entire route were the loudest damn croaking frogs I have ever heard!) and I couldn’t even see the river the slide had covered. The devastation was total. And this was a year later after they had cleaned up enough to get the road open.
I stopped, raised my water bottle to the scene and just took it in for a bit. I felt a bit guilty in snapping the pictures. but I knew there was no way I could describe it. I would have probably stayed longer, but the rain was getting a bit cold. One thing did get my attention though, and I just couldn’t get a good pictured. Someone had planted a grove of bright yellow flowers. Life will come back to this area over time!
I continued along the road and had to make a decision. A mile past the slide was the first turn around spot, It would have been a 36 mile round trip. It just seemed wrong to short change the ride when I had planned to do the 60 miles. It would be as if me getting dry was more important that the reason for the ride. So on I went.
I was a bit concerned though, my left calf was giving me fits for about 10 miles. It’s never done that before, and every mile or so I had to stretch it on the pedal. Yes I know, a smart man woulda turned around… I kept going and eventually it went away.
At the turn around point, I was truly amazed by the lack of preparedness of my fellow riders. Granted this has been the year without a winter, but every rider in Washington knows what a day like this, in the foothills of the Cascades can be like.
There were people with just tyvek (paper thin) jacket from the STP, and no other rain gear. People with thin gloves that they were ringing gallons of water out of. Teeth chattering, shivering and general misery was the theme of the food stop. Many were considering calling for a pick up, and I heard one guy say “Well I told my buddies this ride would be epic…” (In his case I think epic meant hypothermia and poor judgement).
Remember the extra jacket I mentioned? I shucked the rain coat and put on a nice warm dry coat and ate cookies and PB&J bagels by the truck load (I was hungry!) Then, when it was time to go, I just put the rain coat on top of everything. Toasty warm I was! (The Mountain in Mountainstroh taught me long ago about layers.)
The ride back was fantastic! Losing altitude, so mostly down hill. a tailwind pushing me along and the rain,..came down harder! (OK it wasn’t perfect.) Where I was struggling to keep it at 13mph on the way out, I was hitting 20+ on the way back! One lady who passed me said she felt like she was flying!
I gave a nod to the slide as I passed, but did not stop, the turn out was mobbed, and I had had my alone time already. I also skipped the biscuits and gravy food stop 10 miles from the finish. It would’ve tasted good, but I was like a horse heading for the barn, I was NOT stopping!
I made it back and felt damn good about the ride. 58 miles though terrible conditions in 4.5 hours, and doing so for a good cause. I hear its supposed to stop raining tomorrow, but I will believe it when I see it.
For those of you in WA, I would recommend checking out the slide yourself. It is sad but awe-inspiring with the power of nature at the same time. I am damn glad I did it, and I want to go again in better weather!
Like the wind!