When I first started riding a bike, back in 2008, there was one guy (The husband of a friend of the ex-wife (Who still holds the prestige of being the only guy I truly disliked on first sight)) who would Lord over me “Well you aren’t a real Washington cyclist until you have ridden the RAMROD (Ride Around Mt Rainier in One Day)” He would then drone on talking about it. (by then I tuned him out)
He was the catalyst to start me on the quest to complete this ride. Yesterday was my chance to do so…
Anyone reading 20000 miles this year knows I’ve been training all year for this. 150 miles, in and around Mt Rainier, 10000 feet of elevation gained, mostly in 3 tough climbs. Somehow I figured it would be a ride to remember…
The ride almost did NOT happen though! (Mom you might wanna skip this part). After I parked the car, I rolling toward the starting line. This was about 430 AM, and still dark. I was looking around to figure out where the starting line was, and did not see the curb in front of me.
A cyclist biggest fear is going over the handle bars, and sure as hell for the first time ever, I did just that! Luckily: 1) it was in very slow motion, and 2) even now, I have great reflexes! Somehow, I unclipped from the pedals and landed without a scratch! Bike and I were fine! I will say I was wide awake after that!
(OK mom, you can read again now!)
The day was shaping up to be a hot one! 90+ degrees! Not the weather you want for a ride like this. Why? Because the toughest climb, 11 miles UP Cayuse pass, at the 100 mile point, has no shade… That part was gonna suck… But I am ahead of myself.
The ride started out almost chilly. I loved it. Plus, it is a great route. This is a 150 mile round trip course, through a park with some amazing scenery
And there is only ONE stop light the entire time! I wish all rides could say that.
The first 60 miles takes from the Start in Enumclaw, through Orting and Eatonville, on the way to the Nisqually entrance of Mt Rainier. This part, except for the last 10 miles, is relatively easy, and a good way to warm up the legs. The last 10 starts the climb to the Park, but even that wasn’t too bad.
About this time, my buddy John caught up to me, and said “Yep, I saw someone on a sturdy bike, and COUG jersey, HAD to be Tony!”
We chatted for a while and then he was off! (The man does multiple triathlons, Iron mans, and marathons a year, plus this and other rides. I could have tied a rope to his ass and he never woulda noticed me on the climbs as he pulled me up!)
I ran into his wife at the first food stop, she volunteers there every year. I got a big hug and she took the picture above. Not sure why I was making that face, but it was nice to see her again.
After this, we entered the park, and the first big climb starts. 15 miles (2800 ft elevation gain) from the entrance to Inspiration point (which is where I took the picture of the mountain above). The first 6 or 7 miles is pretty gradual, and very pretty! The trouble was, I again picked up a ‘buddy’ who wanted to chat.
Aussie Bob. He liked my bike, and then proceeded to talk non stop for the next 5 miles. I learned about his plan to start riding recombinant bikes cross-country, his kids, life in general, and this ride. I’d slow he slow. I couldn’t shake him. (How do I keep getting these guys when I am climbing!)
I did learn from him that the RAMROD numbering system is unique. Once the 800 riders are chosen, the oldest rider in the bunch gets number 1. Then the rest are assigned from oldest to youngest. #1 yesterday was 72. I then checked out the numbers of all of those who passed me seeing if they were younger or older! (Lots were older!)
I would still be stuck with him if’n it weren’t for the pack of pretty lady riders who caught us. He decided they were MUCH more fund to talk to!
The climb intensified at Longmire, and from there on it is a long slow pedal. Luckily it was still coolish, and there was shade. Even with this, I was drinking like a fish. I will tell you now, that the only reason I completed this ride was that I had the camelback. That extra quart of water on my back, in addition to the 2 waters bottles kept me going. I saw MANY people who were dry and struggling to make it to the water. NOT good planning.
From Inspiration point, one of the best parts of the ride occurred. And 8 mile downhill scream to the next food station! I had to hold the bike back NOT to go over 35mph as I didn’t want a ticket. It is amazing how refreshed one can feel after a ride like that!
Then climb #2 happened.
This was a ‘little’ climb only 3 miles and a couple hundred feet elevation. But still tough as it was heating up quickly I felt bad though. One group passed me and said “This is Cayuse right?” “Dude, not even close!” “Oh…” Gotta admit, it was a great view on top!
After another fun down hill, it was the mother bear. Cayuse pass 11 miles, elevation gain of 24oo feet, no shade and 90 degrees. OH and I was at mile 90. This was 2 hours of the hardest riding I have done since Crater lake. Once again the extra water kept me going. More than one rider was bonedry pulling into the water stop half way up. (One guy got ‘saved’ by a driver who pulled over and gave him some water from their cooler.)
There, I made the smartest decision of the ride. I had a ziplock baggie with me. They had extra ice! I took the baggie, filled it with ice, wrapped it in a bandana, and put it under my helmet! It worked surprisingly well! I rattled a bit, but otherwise felt great! It kept me much cooler.
I also made the executive decision that 5 minute breaks in small patches of shade was NOT a bad idea! The combination of the 2 got me to the top! I swear I heard angels sign and music playing as I hit Cayuse pass. And yes, there may have even been a tear of joy shed! What followed was the fastest descent of the day! 8 miles, straight down Hwy 410!! I turned the bike loose and never touched the brake! Hell, I mighta even belted out a song on the way down!
The last 40 miles was tough to the finish line was tough. I was tired, there was a headwind, and contrary to legend, it is NOT all downhill!! Plus, I damn near got taken out clean by a Harley rider. (we don’t need to go into those details!)
13 hours after I started, I pulled into the finish. Hot, tired, sore and one happy man!
It’s not every day you can scratch something off your bucket list! It was a ride to remember, with views that wouldn’t stop
I heard a ton of “GO COUGS!”, I did a ride that some only dream of, and I got 2 rewards at the end
I think this will be a one time deal though. I proved to my self and that arrogant bastard (hence the beer) from long ago that I am a northwest rider. I have completed THE hardest ride in Washington! There will be other rides at other times, but this one will be remembered for a long time!
Like the wind!