A Hail of a Good Time

The first trip – Wallowa Valley

You know you’re having a good time when a hailstorm doesn’t dampen your enthusiasm for the ride.

Our hardy group has just finished eating a mid-ride lunch huddled under the eaves of the Murderers Creek Work Station cabin, south of Mt. Vernon in Eastern Oregon, pinned down by a torrential downpour. But the rain stopped, so we rolled out. We’re starting up a steep two-mile grade when the ice pellets start dropping. I can hear them bouncing off my helmet, my bike frame and even a beer can in the ditch. When they hit the ground they ricochet in crazy directions, which is actually pretty interesting to watch as I try to ignore the strain of the ascent. Around me I hear ironic yells of “Whoo-hoo!” and “Hail, yes!”

What do we do about it? We ride, because that’s why we’re here. And in the end, this is another great story we’ll tell on future trips. “Remember that time when…?”

To me, the stories – and the people in them – are the best part of a cycling experience, whether it’s the Oregon Bicycle Ride or the small-group trips I organize for these friends every summer. Sharing everything that comes your way on one of these trips creates unique bonds.

Our group came together almost ten years ago. I found out a couple of my friends had never ridden in the Wallowas, so I suggested putting together a trip to show them Halfway, Joseph and Hells Canyon. I invited a few other friends, and we had a great time. It’s become an annual tradition, and our group has expanded a bit over time, to five couples.

It took a while, but…

Not everyone makes it every year, but there’s always a trip. In some combination of people, we’ve ridden the Wallowas, Ashland and the Rogue River, John Day, Crater Lake, The Methow Valley in Washington, the Yellowstone region… even the French Alps one memorable summer.

The group is eclectic. Steve weighs a buck-forty and climbs like a mountain goat. Diane always thinks she should be in better shape. Mike’s like a Tasmanian Devil – a walking id – yet cultured as well. Erica weighs nothing but is faster down the hills than much bigger people. Melissa just keeps coming, and is way tougher than she looks. Mark likes to swoop by people just when they least expect it. Daphne dislikes climbing but goes like a bullet train on flats. Roger used to race and still shaves his legs because it makes him feel responsible to train hard. I’m the guy who plans the trips but always misremembers the terrain. My awesome wife Pam drives the support vehicle and patiently listens to our stories from the road.

The rest of the year, we all socialize more with some than others, but when we can all get together and ride, it’s like family. I look back over our trips and can recall with sparkling clarity certain moments and places. How everyone had a great riding day on Beartooth Pass last summer. The time Steve and I rode the craziest road in Oregon, near Galice. Fourth of July in Halfway, like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Barbecuing at the schoolhouse B&B outside Prairie City. And, oh yeah, the hailstorm.

Col de Sarenne

I’ve shared some of the best moments of my life with these people.

You might have some friends like this. You might even have met them on a BRNW tour. And that’s one of the things I like most about working on bike tours: Touring fosters great moments – there’s something inherently pleasing about the daily rhythm of a challenging ride in a beautiful place, followed by time to reflect, share, brag and tell old stories while you eat a big, guilt-free meal and then hang out for the evening.

So appreciate those bike friends, and make sure you get out there and create some new stories this year.