Monday, July 4, 2016

Adventure Cycling Along the Columbia Gorge - 2016

In mid-June, I staffed Adventure Cycling's Columbia River Gorge Tour. This eight-day, fully-supported bicycle ride covered more than 325 miles of spectacular scenery in both Washington and Oregon. There were twenty riders and five staff members.

"Wait a second, Sarah, haven't you already shared this post?," you ask.

You may be remembering the post I wrote last year, Adventure Cycling Along the Columbia Gorge. This is the second year I've staffed this event...but this is the first year I donned a climbing helmet with my new bestie.

Me and my new bestie.

While I expect you'll recognize the goofy face on the left (it's mine!), there's a chance you may also recognize the lovely face on the right. The face belongs to a woman named Elle Steele. More about her in a little bit.

Let's first meet the staff.

This year's event was orchestrated by "Director Sue." This was my first time working with Sue. She is super fun. She has an agreeable personality and a hands-off/everything-is-cool leadership style, which I very much appreciate. More importantly, she knows how to share a good laugh!

"Director Sue," our faithful leader.

As you may recall, I was "Rest Stop Sarah" on last year's Columbia River Gorge trip. I was in charge of the mid-ride rest stops. My personal touch was decorating my treat tables with flower bouquets and Rocks of Wisdom.

Me as "Rest Stop Sarah," from last year's trip.

For this year's trip, riders were treated to the wonderful rest stop hospitality of none other than Ms. Elle. She was affectionately known as "Snack Mama."

Elle (aka "Snack Mama").

Like me, Elle has a blog. In the world of bicycle blogs, Elle's blog, which is called Tiny Helmets Big Bikes, has a pretty big following. She writes about bicycling as the main form of transportation for herself and her two young boys.

Elle and her two boys. (Photo:

Before this trip, I had heard of Elle, and I was aware of her blog. How cool that I got to not only meet her in real life, but also work with her on a trip!

And then there was "Lunch Lady" Cindy, with her cute cowboy hat and her smiley stirring spoon. Cindy was in charge of ensuring that everyone replenished their calories and had happy tummies at lunch time.

Cindy (aka "Lunch Lady").

Chris, "The Mechanic," ensured that everyone's bike was in proper working order. I was "The Bag Lady," in charge of carefully schlepping everyone's bags and setting up camp every day.

Chris (aka "The Mechanic") and me (aka "The Bag Lady"). (Photo: Emily Helmes)

Once again, our caterers were Kathy and Jack, which, of course, meant a plethora of yummy food.

Pat, Kathy, Kathy (the caterer), Bob, and Mariette at the buffet table. (Photo: Cindy Alvarez)

It also meant the companionship of Kathy and Jack's adorable doggy, Pumpkin. Pumpkin, by the way, is now a certified "Service Dog." That's a big title to carry, but Pumpkin managed well, all wrapped up in her regal attire and sitting atop her regal thrown.

Pumpkin, the adorable Service Dog.

Here is the group in its entirety, riders and staff. What a good-looking group are we!

The Columbia River Gorge 2016 clan. Back row (l to r): Lucas, Cindy, Bryan, Robert, Chris, Mariette, Peter, Pat, Bob, Kathy A., Rick, Jean, Jerri, Emily, Arlene, Dennis, Elle; Front row (l to r): Joan, Sue, Norm, Anna, Kathy H, Aileen, Sarah (me), John (Photo: Mariette Cole)

As is always the case on these trips, it takes the participants a wee bit of time to warm up to one another. At the first night's camp, though folks sat around in a social circle, their heads were buried in either paper books or electronic books.

The riders on the first night, with their heads buried in their books and devices.

I, of course, was fine with a book-ish crowd. A few nights into the trip, one of the riders, Norm, led a book club. For those folks who were interested, we went around the circle (a few times, in fact) and shared our favorite books.

Given the plethora of e-books, and tablets, and smartphones, it should come as no surprise that our charging station, stocked full of power strips (though I refer to them as "power bars"), was a mess of tangled cords. The photo below is about as bare as the charging station ever was.

A rather tame and untangled moment at the power charging station.

After a little while, the electronic devices spent more time being plugged into the power bars as their owners spent more time interacting with one another. As it should be.

Though the trip participants took a day or so to unleash themselves from their books and to warm up to their fellow riders, the staff bonded quickly. Of course, it helped that the staff gathered the day before the trip started for some prep work and a tasty dinner at one of the well-known McMenamin restaurants.

Snack Mama Elle and Director Sue broke through their shyness shells to buzz around on the giant bee. (Photo: Cindy Alvarez)
Director Sue had no qualms showing off her monkey talents. (Photo: Cindy Alvarez)

One day's route gave folks the option for an extra climb up to the ski area at Mt Adams. Out of twenty riders, only three riders braved the cold and wet conditions to do the climb.

Dennis, Joan, and Emily were the only three riders who braved the rain and cold to do the extra climb. These folks are hardcore!

You should have seen these three when they returned back to camp later that afternoon. It was as if they had just summited a mystifying, yet-to-be-summited peak. There was a particular worshipping going on around Joan, who had a few folks down on their knees and waving their arms in praise. No doubt, the climb was a pretty impressive feat for the sporty 73-year-old!

Each evening we had a map meeting before dinner to discuss the next day's route. The map meetings looked like this:

A typical pre-dinner map meeting.

Though you can't see it well in the photo below, Director Sue's cue sheets were chock-full of helpful notes for the riders.

Sue shares her detailed notes with the riders.

We spent one night at Camp Jonah in Trout Lake, Washington. The owners of the Camp offered to give us zip-line rides. Eight of us jumped at the offer, anxiously putting on our safety helmets and harnesses!

At Camp Jonah we were offered free zip-line rides! Only part of the group was crazy enough to partake. (Photo: Cindy Alvarez)

I had never zip-lined before. When it was my turn, I climbed up to the platform in the tree, walked to the edge of the platform, turned with my back towards the open air and my heels hanging off the side, and then fell backwards. Wee, how fun to fly! And how fun to zip-line on a bike trip!

Me zip-lining. (Photo: Elle Steele)

I didn't have my bike with me on this trip. By the last evening, I was itching to ride. Director Sue was kind enough to let me borrow her bike. As the riders were crawling into their tents around 8pm for nighty-night time (this was a very early-to-bed, early-to-rise group), Snack Mama Elle and I took off for a ride.

We had a blast on our ride. We talked about boys, and giggled, and watched the pretty sunset colors paint Mt Adams. We also stopped to take a handful of silly photos, such as this one:

My first experience with a helmet mirror. (Photo: Elle Steele)

For more photos from our silly bike ride and the trip in general, visit Elle's blog post, Columbia River Gorge - Adventure Cycling Style.

With this trip, I have now staffed three fully-supported events with Adventure Cycling. Each has proven to be a truly fantastic experience. I can't wait til the next one. In August, I'll be staffing the Black Hills-South Dakota event!



  1. FUN!!! What are the chances of us BOTH posting about zip lining on the same day!! I love the name Snack Mama, and I will be checking her blog.

    Sarah, that group is very lucky to have you along!

    1. Ha, what a riot! Looks like y'all had great fun!

  2. Hi Sarah! I haven't checked in on your blog in awhile. Looks like you are haging a great summer!


I would love to hear your comments on this post!