As the river water soaks into my dirtbike boots and capillary actions itself all up into my wool socks, I feel the cold, familiar sting of The Wipeout. Unlike other rides, this is the first get off of the day so my hubris hasn’t been too marred in the wreck. Eli is waiting on the other side, and while trying to follow him across (well, into, upstream against the current, answer three riddles, fail, punch the troll, slight right up the steep loose bank of) the river, I slipped on a turkey-sized river rock. My bike looks pitiful lying in the water, and I’m embarrassed, so I quickly pick it up. Eli has rushed down and is helping me push the bike the rest of the way through the water. The bank encounter will be difficult, I realize, and shoo him away so I can just ride it out. A skeptical look is shot my way, I flop around on my bike looking like a rabid goblin, yank the throttle and make it out of the river alive. We are both impressed at this outcome.
One sunny afternoon, two days earlier, three goobs set out in search of the dirtiest, most inefficient way to get from Tumalo to Cultus Lake. On dirtbikes, of course! The GPS trail map we were using was a work of art, but the kind you would send home with a 2-year-old that he made for his mommy. This is usually how we ride, up a cool looking road or trail, find out it’s a dead end, turn around, find the next one. Which, if you think about it, and then think about yourself thinking about that, you will be bummed about how generic the metaphor is.
We rode our KLX250’s and Meg (closest goob to the camera) rode her Kawasaki Super Sherpa. I met Meg at the climbing gym this summer, and after I found out she had a dual-sport got very excited, tried very hard not to be weird at her, and we managed to become friends. Not only do we have an uncanny amount of things in common (climbing, glitter, irrational and debilitating fear of only one species of bug, etc.), but she is also funny, adventurous, and picks things up fast. All-around awesome. On her ride to our place, in fact, she pulled up and slapped some guy’s phone out of his hand after he almost caused an accident while talking on it. So Meg was full of adrenaline and ready to get going.
The first off-road section was through the recent Two Bulls burn area, and the dirt roads had turned into soupy dust rivers. Meg wasn’t feeling confident on her Sherpa, which is much more street-oriented than my KLX, so we traded bikes. I wanted her to have fun, and my bike is THE MOST FUN THING EVER, so it made sense. Something else I thought made sense due to my aforementioned hubris, was that I would somehow be able to ride the Sherpa through whatever we encountered. After trying to stop and change direction quickly in the sand, dropping my friend’s motorcycle, and hurting my back trying to pick it up, it became apparent that this was not entirely true. So, instead of taking the most inefficient route to Cultus, we took the second most inefficient route. A little later in the ride we found a road with two major water ruts running down it, and those are always a tough lesson in object fixation. The Sherpa slipped into one eventually and I clawed my way back out, but at this point my hubris was tired, and we found pavement again.
Once the campground was near, we traded bikes back and mine felt fast and light. As we arrived, some of our friends were by the road, and I did a spectacular wheelie for them, which nobody saw. Eli made a delicious steak salad for dinner, and we drank whiskey by the fire until the dank nug that had been our consciousness was cashed for the day. Meg had to head home the next day because she couldn’t find anyone to take care of the prehistoric megafauna that lives in her house, but Eli and I stayed one more night and left the next morning.
Since I had my trusty KLX back underneath me, this time we did take the most inefficient way home. The map literally had a spiral in it. We headed out on pavement, but quickly got off the highway and found a 4×4 road that would take us near the Mrazek mountain bike trail system, and to Three Creeks Lake. It was full of tight off-camber turns and high-speed dirt sections full of jumps. I managed to pull off the biggest jump I have ever done on this road (in 4th gear no less!), so I am a fan. The lake was beautiful and there was a whole reality show’s worth of drama happening between the ground squirrels and the trash, so we stopped to eat lunch.
Leaving the lake area, the ride took a serious turn towards the unpredictable. We found a forest service road that we could take, but that quickly turned into a dry riverbed full of giant, bare river rocks. Riding on the very edge of the half-pipe that this had become was the best line, but you had to bash through all the burned-down trees on the bank, and my bike came out of this looking kind of flame-broiled. This turned back into a road, and then back into a treacherous dry riverbed a number of times until we found some better trails. After zig-zagging around and the GPS finding us many dead ends and expired trails, we ended up crossing the river twice, which brings us back to where this story began, and almost to the end all at once.
“But Nacho Claws, what about the spiral?!”
Dear reader, that was insane. It was a very rocky hill climb that we both almost crashed on, and it led to the peak where the featured photo at the top of this post was taken. Obviously, it was beautiful at the top, and you could see the whole burn area, as well as 3 mountains, and a ton of wild forest, but what you can’t see is that it was essentially the middle of nowhere. 44.151598, -121.576675 are the coordinates if you want to look at the Google satellite image. Somehow there were still broken beer bottles all over it, so someone would have found us and gotten us drunk eventually. We rode back down the spiral and found a faint singletrack trail back through the Two Bulls burn. By this time we had been riding all kinds of weird terrain for 6 hours. My body was tired and being lazy about coordinating all of the muscles I was requesting. The tight sand turns were made even more difficult because of this, and I was relieved to find a sign to Tumalo Falls and return home on the last little bit of pavement. My bike ran out of gas at this point, and I had to hit reserve, which was very validating to my tired body. Stinky, helmet-haired, and exhausted, we drank a beer and I talked excitedly at Eli about everything that we had just done until we both passed out.