Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Love Affair with cycling Stevens Pass

I admit to having very few true love affairs in life. Lavinia for sure is my greatest, and our son will be another. I find that I have had love affair with my home’s mighty mountain, Mt. Rainier all my life. She still inspires awe in me whenever she shows herself.


Another part of my home land that I truly love is Stevens Pass. Many things draw me to his part of Washington State. “Stevens Pass (elevation 4,056 ft (1,236 m)) is a mountain pass through the Cascade Mountains located at the border of King County and Chelan County in Washington, United States.( The climb through the pass is about 8 miles from the base and climbs up an average of 3.8% grade, maxing out at 10% at some points.


Stevens Pass Information


The pass is named after John F. Stevens. In the 1890’s he was an Engineer for the Great Northern Railway and built the railroad through what is now called Stevens Pass, which today Highway 2 follows over the Cascade Mountains just to the NE of Seattle.


John Stevens is credited as the first European American to discover the pass, but the Native Americans had discovered and used it long before that. He is also credited for the work he did in Panama to help build the Canal after the French left Panama. That weird connection to Panama has always struck me.


In 1990 I was introduced to Richard Mitchell who owns Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge is located just 1.5 miles from summit of Stevens Pass on the east side. My friend Don’s family had known and helped build Hope Lodge back in the early 70’s. The short story is that my friends and I came up in 1990 and started helping Mitch work on the Lodge during the summer. We’ve all enjoyed some magical moments up there since then. The Lodge has truly been a blessing for me in my life and I’m quite lucky to have enjoyed the community of Hope Lodge. Thus, my affair with Stevens Pass started.


In 1993 I rode my bike from Monroe to the top of the Pass and then to the Lodge. Lavinia was with me the entire way as she drove the support car. We have some funny pictures of me holding 3 flat tubes as I had many punctures along the way. She caught one of me at the very top with one hand on the handlebar and the other throwing a peace sign. I recall that moment well because I was not able to take both hands of the handlebars I was so tired. The ride that time was 56 miles total and it was the longest ride I had ever done.


Since then I’ve climbed that pass on my bike several times. It seems whenever I have a big cycling goal I use the Lodge and the Pass as a training center for a week. Often we’ve climbed up the old highway, which you can still access, and the scenery is spectacular. Whenever I tackle it on my bike I’m truly in awe of how professional (non-doped) bicycle racers can move so fast up a mountain. The Pass is a tame gradient compared to some of the European races you see. As I trudge my way up the pass, seeing deities in an asthma-induced hallucination fit at times, I am just left awe struck.


When you climb like that on a bike you turn yourself inside out, to borrow a phrase from Paul Schwerin. You just can’t fake it. You either have it or you don’t. Drafting helps very little. You use so much energy. It is really a true test for any cyclist, or for that matter masochist.


I’m asked often why I do it. I usually reply that I enjoy it which usually starts either a series of more questions on my sanity or jokes at my expense. I’m cool with either. To be honest it is a hard addiction to explain or get government support to combat in youth these days. I guess it is just best to quote Jason when he describes me; “Jeff, you have the body of a sprinter, the heart of a climber and the mind set of a Randonneur.”  


Tomorrow I’m going to ride my bike from Seattle to the Lodge. I’m estimating it will be about 100+ miles. Two good friends are riding with me. Neither has ridden that far before or done the Pass. It should be an exciting day for everyone.


I guess Stevens Pass has always provided me with fun times and challenges. Maybe like John Stevens I’m just drawn to this part of Washington State, and all things Panama. I think though it has been the community of the Lodge that is so magical and enabling of such wonderful times. The bicycle and the challenge of a good climb is definitely up there.


I look forward to visiting the Lodge like a little kid getting to see Santa Claus. I’ll be spending the weekend with Lavinia and good friends and getting a chance to ride my bike. Honestly, what more could this guy want.


On your left,


1 comment:

Joey JoJo said...

SOMEone needs to teach those penguins a lesson!!

Good riding Jeff. Be safe.