Tour de Blast

Start/Finish: Couger, Wa

2001 = 84 miles

One of my short term goals for the year was to try some bike rides that I haven't done in the past. 
The Tour de Blast is one such ride.

Upon hearing that Mom and Dad were staying at richly adorned Super 8 motel in Kelso, just 20 miles from the start, it seemed like an opportunity that should be accepted. Thanks to their generosity, a room with two beds were reserved (so I didn't have to camp on the floor), precise directions to find the motel, and room, were passed on from Dad, to Tom to me, and so I set off on Friday night.

5:45 am came early the next day, yet mom and dad awoke graciously to see me off. And, with Dads positive report that the weather the previous day yielded a pretty blue sky, with only one cloud to mar the view, I was encouraged. Parked the car in the Toutle school ball field, its at 500 feet, sunny and it looks like a great day for a bike ride.

Encouraged, yet cautious enough to take enough protective gear to keep me warm on the high elevation descents, I begin the ride at a cautious pace.

Mile 16, first rest stop at the visitors center. Plenty of food provided, 3 choices of sandwiches, including vegetarian. Quick stop and off again. Mile 19, the climbing begins and the sunny weather of Toutle begins to give way to gray skies. Not a problem I say, its early, it will burn off. Now, at 3000 feet I wonder why is it that I can see my breath? The gray skies have turned to a dismal, misty fog. We are climbing and can see by the shoulders of the road that there is a valley down there, but have now clue what it looks like. I begin to tell myself that since I cannot see the road ahead I cannot be emotionally defeated by seeing the seemingly endless amount of climbing still to be done. I'm not convinced, but, it helps. I now realize that I cant see any bikes more than fifty feet in front of me, and wonder about the cars. I turn on my flashers. There are over 1,100 bikes out on the road today, so, me being out here shouldn't surprise any driver, yet, at the 30 mile point my inner self is saying, turn around, this is insane! At the rest stop, buoyed by the great food, and the chance to rest and stretch, I am allowed time to ponder my next move. Its only 12 more miles to the end of the road before turning back. There are some steep parts I know, but I'm sure I can do it. On the other hand, it really doesn't matter, I could turn around now, and still have ridden 60 miles. Oh, the shirt! They gave me a shirt as part of the registration fee. Granted they are an advertisement, but they are given and accepted under the guise of a commemoration for some great personal accomplishment. I have accepted the shirt, and I don't think I could wear it if I didn't do the whole thing. So the decision is made. No time to wander around at the visitors center, the entry fees of which were also covered by the ride registration fee. I have to get to the top. Seems this ride has very few flat spots. The road either goes up, or it goes down. The weather seemed to get hotter as we climbed, and colder as we dropped, or maybe its me, I'm not sure. Three miles from Johnston Ridge the weather seemed to clear enough for us to see to the other side of the canyon and gaze up to the road at top of the ridge. My, but that is a steep road up to the top, I am not going like this a bit. Yet its funny, once on top, I look down to from whence we came and say, my, that was a steep climb, I sure liked doing that.

Finally, at the Johnston Ridge view point. Five miles from the crater. This viewpoint and visitors center was named in honor of U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist David A. Johnston who was on duty at the USGS, Coldwater II observation post during the May 18, 1980, eruption. David Johnston was one of 57 people who lost their lives in the eruption.

But, there is no mountain visible out there! The fog remains so thick that only the valley floor below is visible. I have just spent 5 hours riding directly to Mt. St. Helens and NEVER actually saw the mountain. So, to verify it can be done, I visit the web cam at the observatory, and yes there is a really fine few from this spot. On the right day.

So, back we go, the same route back, only in reverse.  Im able to make better time in this direction, and arrive back in Toutle at 3:15. Eighty four miles, no flats, five changes of clothing. The registration also included an all you can eat spaghetti dinner, with ice cream.  Cold showers too, but remembering I have a room key for a hot shower 20 miles down the road I depart. Showered and rested I can now proudly and rightfully wear my commemorative advertisement for the rest of the day.

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