Monday, September 1, 2008

Maryhill Festival of Speed


It's 2008, the year of the ZooBomb invasion of the Maryhill Festival of Speed. It's a downhill race located on the Maryhill Loops Road near Goldendale, Washington. The race consists of longboarders, rollerbladers, street lugers, classic lugers, and my favorite: the Gravity Bikers. Many of my close personal friends are slated to race in this international competition. The basics? No drivetrain, heavy bikes, solid brakes (we hope) and a whole lot of speed. So what better thing to do than to strap my mini-bike (read: child's size bicycle) to the back of my KLR and head south to cheer them on.



I dropped south out of Seattle through Puyallup onto 161 South. It was a Friday after work and traffic suuuucked. I can't fathom commuting that on a regular basis. Luckily by the time I hit Eatonville the going got a lot faster and transitioning onto Highway 7 Southbound made the riding a whole lot more fun too. It's an awesome mix of alpine and deciduous forests all the way into Randle. It's pretty tame riding, but quite scenic. From Randle there are several ways to head south towards the Columbia River. It might have been the traffic from the start of the ride but I went for a more unknown route and took off along National Forest Road 23. It heads straight into the heart of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. "Gifford Pinchot" is actually french for Dualsport Heaven. Truth. Look it up. The following year some heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding wiped out long portions of the roads through this area. Some of them closed indefinitely. However I hit it just right. The first section is paved through some tight aspen groves and even tighter turns. If it weren't for a few harsh frost heaves hidden in the shadows this would be a street-biker's dream. I went a little airborne mid turn a few times, but without too much consequence. My overzealous riding was well accommodated by the KLR's suspension (thankfully). Before too long the road narrows and turns to dirt, and eventually becomes horribly marked. I eventually encountered a pretty severe wash-out. The 30' drop off was definitely un-passable, even on the KLR. A little back tracking, and re-routing led me to two more washed out sections of road. On the last one, just as I was about to try and find my way back up to Randle I happened to see some 4-wheeler tracks disappearing into the trees near the washout. The way they headed downhill towards the creek could only mean that they'd found a way across. And by "found" I mean they carved a hole in the trees until they got across. So I followed their path into the woods. The riding got a little technical headed up the opposite embankment but all went well even with the sound of the mini-bike wheel buzzing as it bounced off some pine trees on the way up.
In retrospect I probably would snag a much more detailed Forest Service map before really tackling this area. It wouldn't take too much riding before getting into trouble, and running out of gas. It's easy to get turned around in the GPNF. Not that one should ever be deterred from riding there. Ever.


This was my first attempt at "minimalist" dualsport riding. I was curious just how little I could get away with on this trip. So my inexperienced self decided that a rain poncho tied off to the handlebars and back-rack then staked to the ground would suffice as a tent. I was correct in some regards... Yes it was tent-like in that if covered most of me, and would've protected me from some rain, but falling asleep with my head under the engine block in a soft soil field and waking up with dew-coated feet left a few accoutrements to be desired. But in a pinch it's not a bad way to go. As long as you trust your kickstand...


... and yes, this was a conscious decision. I hate carrying a whole lot of crap with me on rides. It's one of the reasons I never do long-distance tours on bicycle. The thought of hefting all the necessities around does nothing for me. I'll let the motorcycle do the hard work in carrying my fat ass plus my gear but I never see any reason to overdo it. This particular trip may have followed viewing all the broken BMW frames in Long Way Round, but even if it didn't I still believe most riders should leave the gratuitous camera equipment and lawn chairs at home.

After meeting up with the Zoo-crew at the Maryhill Loops road I headed south to the Gorge where a full-size replica of Stone Henge has been erected. It serves as a war memorial, and obviously stands as the "new henge" rather than the "toppled slab henge" most of us know from Elementary School History Lessons. 


Further highlights of the weekend included much partying, scandalous finish lines, and two Zoobombers taking 2nd and 3rd place in the Gravity Bike class.


I opted to ride back north all the way to Highway 20 to cross back over the Cascades. Something about that view and those mountains makes it worth the detour out of the way.


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