Friday, August 01, 2008


Team Unattacked attacked the big one, Mount Rainier, on Thursday as Johnny "America's Little Buttercup" Clark, Scott "Pink Boy" Young, and Mike "Cayuse Pass's Whipping Boy" McQuaide, took part in the 25th annual RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day).
At 151 miles with 9,750-feet of elevation gain, it was killer strenuous but truly spectacular. The best ride Scott and John had ever been on, they said. Above, we're about to start our journey at 5:15 a.m. under cover of semi-darkness. Below, check out the cool lenticular cloud hovering like a halo about the summit of 14,410-foot Mount Rainier. The thing grew and expanded throughout the day and at one point looked almost like the rings around Saturn.

Put on by the Redmond Cycling Club (, RAMROD is certainly one of the best events I've ever participated in. The food is good, the organization and volunteers are tops, and the course can't be beat. There're two big climbs--10 miles up to Inspiration Point and 11 miles to Cayuse Pass, both which top out at roughly 4,700 feet. In between, there's a smaller one to Backbone Ridge, which is fairly harmless.

Below, please note musicians who were up and playing for the pre-ride breakfast at 4:30 a.m. That's a tough gig. (I said to Scott, "Can you imagine having to play music at 4:30 in the morning?" To which some guy who overheard me, said: "Can you imagine having to listen to music at 4:30 in the morning?")

The first climb doesn't start 'til about 60 miles in so there's lots of time to eat, drink, try to warm up (it must've been in the high 40s at the start), as well as find lots of other wheels to tuck in behind. I did RAMROD four years ago and then we road all the way to Paradise, this time they had us top out Inspiration Point, about 600 feet lower. Which I was kind of glad about; for whatever reason, I wasn't feeling super stellar. (More on that in a moment.) The following descent was ridiculously fun, fast, and most important, felt relatively safe, wrote this author who's usually a pretty conservative (not politically, er anything) descender. Smooth roads, not a whole lot of turns, zero to very few cars, and long, long straightaways where you could see far ahead of you.

"There's no amusement park ride that's as fun as that," Scott said. (All the descents were like that in fact: screamin' meamie fun.)
After Backbone Ridge came the 11-mile, 2,500-foot climb to Cayuse Pass where I partook in an involuntary reenactment of Floyd Landis's famous crack on La Toussuire during Stage 16 of the 2006 Tour de France. (That's the one that spurred his epic beer-, testosterone-, whatever the hell else-fueled comeback the following day.) At the bottom of the hill, which starts at about mile 100, I didn't feel good. A mile into it, I felt less good and a mile later, blurted out an inadvertent "Oh fudge!" (or something that sounded like "Oh fudge!") and told the guys, Sorry, but I'm cooked, cracked, knackered, and no good to nobody nowhere. I was like a balloon with the air let out; I had no power at all.

John and Scott were great, super patient and just hung with me as we conquered the hill at a blistering 7 miles per hour! Oh well, as Tony Soprano would say, What'ya'gonna do? Below, see photo of a completely spent McQ after having finally made it to the top.

After the descent, we were treated to sandwiches of our choice and the best tasting icy cold can of Coke I've had in my entire life. From there, it was about 30 miles of downhill and flat during which the indefatigable John and Scott pulled about eight of us into the finish at Enumclaw. Below, that's us at the finish. Our stats: 151 miles with 9,750 feet elevation gain. Eight hours 57 minutes of riding time, about 10 hours and 15 minutes total time. (We finished at about 3:30 p.m.)
Coming up in the next few days: the harrowing story of lost motel reservations, our new digs next door to a casino and airport, and Mike wrestles with a roll-out bed. Here's a photo to whet your appetite:

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