13 August 2016

A Courage Classic Adventure Weekend

Photo by Monologue Photography

My oldest child Gwen (10) and I had an amazing overnight biking adventure over the Cascade mountains as part of the 25th annual Courage Classic bike ride. The ride is the primary source of funding for the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, WA, our hometown. The CAID center provides free services to children who may otherwise never seek help from all types of abuse. I've participated in this event more than a few times and Gwen was thrilled when the organizers created a one-day all-trail option of the ride in 2015, for beginners and families.

Last summer my then 9 yo daughter pushed herself to the limits by pedaling her folding bike 30 miles to the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. The ride was a struggle - the gravel trails and relentless uphill grade was an emotional and physical battle that she only just barely won. But as soon a we finished, she was talking about how she'd be back for more next year. The kid is a badass.

So for 2016, Gwen decided we should try and form a team to encourage other kids and parents to ride with us. Kids riding for kids! We only found two teammates, but you can read about their awesome adventure with a bicycle bungee here.

We then plotted our own two-day, partially self-supported ride up and over Snoqualmie Pass. Day 1 we would be Courage Classic Lite riders, letting volunteers from UPS carry our camping gear over the mountains as we joined the Fat Tire First Day riders on the gravel trails from North Bend to Cle Elum using a tandem we borrowed from Tom, a fellow Courage rider. Then on Day 2 we would pack all of our own gear back over the pass on the tandem self-supported. This ended up being a bumpy 136-mile overnight adventure that I hope we never forget.

If you haven't had a chance to donate, or need to make good on a pledge, you can still #StandWithCourage and contribute to Gwen's fundraising efforts until Sept 30, 2016 using this link:


She's trying to reach $1000 and is so close to meeting her goal. I had never done anything like this at her age and more than once shed a few proud parent tears on the trail. Here's a quick photo montage to show you the highs and lows of our journey.

Day 1: 67.4 mi, 2841 ft up, 1145 ft down
North Bend to Cle Elum

Starting on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail

Dance Break or Break Dance?

Made it to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. 10 miles in.

I caught her pulling a fast one but she was shocked when I told her this would be allowed. Periodically.

More stopping and stretching, because it's hard to get out of the saddle for a butt break on the tandem when the entire ride is uphill.

West entrance of the Snoqualmie Tunnel, 2.5 miles long. It's freakin' dark in there and she couldn't see anything because I was in the way the whole time. Try closing your eyes and pedaling for 15 minutes...

Summit lunch! We found volunteer Mark here shadowing the director. Last year he was the trail sweeper and zen master who helped get Gwen to the summit, so it was fitting that we got to see him here again. Riding high, making good time.

Keechelus Lake heading east. Downhill, but the gravel makes it feel flat.

Rails to Trails! This used to be the Milwaukee Line from Chicago. She still excited, right?

About 50 miles in and hitting the wall, we stopped to watch some trains. We really needed to find that afternoon rest stop.

OMG. We finally found the ice cream...an entire chest freezer full of it. Thanks Rotarians! Biggest save of the weekend.

Made it. Post-dinner smiles of exhaustion. Photo by Tom, who loaned us his tandem. We tent camped at Sundacia with the main pack of riders and had a cold night's sleep. I had underpacked knowing we'd pay for every extra pound of gear on Day 2.

Day 2: 68.9 mi, 1624 ft up, 3320 ft down
Cle Elum to North Bend

Rolling through Cle Elum on our way out of town. G wearing all of her layers. Photo by Monologue Photography.

Back on the John Wayne Trail. Own it, Kid. You are a badass. This is hard.

Gates to ride around at most road crossings. NBD.

Stopped at a stream to make good on a promise I hadn't been able to keep on Day 1. That water was coooold.

Looking west, near Easton Trailhead. Gwen had lost her gloves in here somewhere on Day 1, but I found them on Day 2: one was trailside and the other was 4 miles away at the trailhead!

Yo TWBC, I got your back.

Tunnel selfeez!!

Lake Easton. Ok, yeah, dads take selfies, too.

Getting tired again. These old rail mile markers show how far away you are from Chicago. We deduced that the Hyak Trailhead at the summit was around Mile 2115. Still 13 miles to go! This was about the point where we started binge eating Swedish Fish candies and making up songs. Delirium was setting in...

Our friend Gene was doing the same thing we were: riding back with his gear on Day 2. We told him to meet us at the summit for lunch, not realizing that the restaurant was about 500 vertical feet up from the Snoqualmie Tunnel trailhead. It was a brutal 2.5 mile climb on the tandem, but lunch at The Commonwealth Cafe was worth it. We also loaded up on treats and got ice cream at the gas station across the street. 

Snoqualmie Tunnel, east entrance.

View from one of many enormous trestle bridges.

Bombing down the western slope, we nearly didn't recognize our friend Madi as she was pedaling up the slope, heading out on a bike camping trip, too. We stopped to chat and she captured this photo at one of our emotional high points. Seeing friends on the trail was a huge spirit booster after a long weekend in the saddle.
Boom! Back in North Bend, still standing, still smiling, tired but stronger. So good.

Totals: 136.3 miles, 4465 feet up & down, 6 tunnels, 2 days, 1 dad, 1 daughter, 1 bike, and tons of Courage.