There was no reason to ride to the Johnston Ridge Observatory on the Tour de Blast in June 2021. The observatory, which sits five and a half miles from the crater on Washington’s Mount St. Helens, was closed because of the COVID pandemic. No movies of the 1980 eruption, no snack bar.
Plus, I had ridden my bike there before during the 2013 Tour de Blast, probably my best day on a bike. From the Toutle school at 495 feet elevation, you ride up, up, up to 3,714 feet elevation for lunch at the Elk Rock Viewpoint. Then down, down, down to about the Hummocks trailhead at 2,400 feet. From there, it is a thigh-burner to get up to 4,314 feet and the Johnston Ridge Observatory, named in honor of David Johnston, the U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist who died during the May 18, 1980 eruption, He was one of 57 people who lost their lives in the eruption. The return trip to Toutle is the reverse of that – down, up, and then down again.
In 2013, it took me a long time to conquer the three hill climbs (hills?). But on the last descent I was riding through rain when a sponsoring Rotarian passed me in a truck and yelled out wondering if I was OK. The endorphins had kicked in by then, and I shouted some giddy yelp through the raindrops, gave a thumbs up and pedaled on only to find that the finish sign had been taken down, the pasta feed was over and my truck was the last in the parking lot. Still, I made all 84 miles.
So, no reason to ride to the observatory except for some never-quit idiocy that lives somewhere in my brain. It helps to tame that fellow if someone else suggests that there is no reason to do something except for some misguided machismo. Jerry said that at the end of a previous STP and Beyond Ride after we had ridden 55 miles from Welches, OR, to Hood River, OR. Except for some macho reason, should we ride 22 more miles to Skamania Lodge or pile the bikes into the truck and drive there, Jerry asked. Bikes in the truck right now.
So who was standing next to me at the start of the 2021 Tour de Blast when I asked if we should ride to the observatory? Jerry looked askance as if there were only one reason, which he did not need to say, for even asking the question. No, Jerry said, he wanted to go camping later that day with his wife. It put my bad hombre into a brainwave hammock for a siesta.
The thing about Jerry is that he is a much stronger rider than I. He got to Elks Rock so long before I did that he could have eaten three lunches, ordered and hiked in from Portland. I ate mine, had a photo taken and turned around and sailed back down to Toutle for a 54-mile ride. Lots of time left for Jerry to spend with Wendy while I drove back to Seattle wrestling with some compete-with-yourself demon I’m still trying to exorcise.
Next up: The Montana Road Tour.