RA6: The Best Cycling Day of Frank’s Life

Diablo WA to Winthrop WA

Note: Please be sure to check out the blogs of other riders on the team.  Think we have enough blogs?

Jack’s Blog

Jesse’s Blog

Frank’s Blog

This morning at Colonial Campgrounnd, Jesse sat at a table studying today’s ride plan.  He looked up and commented, “Well, on paper this ride looks impossible.”

All seven of us have been aiming for today’s ride for quite a while.  It will take us over two difficult passes of the Cascades.  Additionally, it will take us through the sections of the SR20 highway that were closed due to snow only a couple weeks ago.  Was the ride impossible?  No, but I’ll say it is impossible to adequately describe.

A brutal morning climb from the campground out of the Diablo Lake area.  9-10% grades with no warmup.

Cold Morning at Colonial Campground
Diablo Lake

Since yesterday, I’d been playing around with the camera trying to get the ever-popular flowing water shot, and early today I finally managed a decent one.

One of thousands of waterfalls

We climbed steadily for about 6 hours through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen.  Raging snowmelt waterfalls at every glance.  Spectacular snow covered mountains rising all about.     Head turning views everywhere.   The only downside was the constant pressure of climbing climbing climbing.  I even started inventing reasons to stop, like making a couple of snowmen and placing them in the bike lane for my RA teammates further down the mountain.

My J&P friends will note that Artie is riding shotgun
Two butterflies

Finally we entered snow region.  A little at first and then more and more.  After some 29 miles of straight climbing, we finally reached Rainy Pass (Gary, Roger and I arrived about the same time).

The beginning of snow
Getting deeper
Grandeur - Roger is a dot in the distance (beyond that motorcycle)
Gary, me, and Roger at Rainy Pass

From there, one blessed mile of downhill, and then 4 miles of the steepest climbing yet, a steady 9-10% grade.  This kind of grade is always tough, but with a 90 lb bike you’ve got a real chore on your hands.  It seemed weird to be wearing only bike shorts and jersey riding through the snow, but we were working that hard.

Reaching the second and final pass (Washington Pass) was a true relief.   We stopped to put on warmer gear because we knew a whopper of a decent awaited us.  And what a decent.  The scenery was even more magnificent but we had precious little time to see it because we were flying downhill.  I did manage to stop twice, even on the steepest sections.

Approaching Washington Pass
Bicycle cam
Gary almost to the last pass
Made it, after 6 hours of steady work
Wicked cool hairpin downhill
Snow blower recently used to clear the road
Spectacular views as we screamed downhill

The next 18 miles were one big long fabulous downhill, covered in about 40 minutes.  At the 53 mile mark we reached Mazama and stopped at a general store to regroup.  It seemed everyone was grinning.  Frank proclaimed it “the best cycling day of my life.”


Jack, Jesse, and I teamed up for the final 14 miles into Winthrop.  Jack and I had already decided to stay 2 nights there.  We will take a much-needed rest day at last.

Jack and Jesse riding to Winthrop

In Winthrop, the team met for a bite at the Riverside Inn, and celebrated today’s ride with a few beers.  Everyone felt some measure of accomplishment, because this might be the most difficult riding day we’ll face (on paper at least).   But mostly, we were simply in awe of the magnificence of the terrain around us.

Celebrating at the Riverside Inn in Winthrop

67 miles today, and the guys with the meters tell me we climbed 6100 feet.  Jack and I have ridden 6 days straight for 430 miles, including this whopper of a climb.  The rest day should do us both a lot of good – there are more mountain passes ahead.