Ride day: 8 - DGB, Final day!

Big day today, but also the final day of the ride, so bittersweet.  The final route seems up in the air, so several alternatives are proposed; any way we go, we'll go through Mt. Rainier National Park. The question is, do we spend time in the park, or just motor through? And after that, do we go on to Mount St. Helens or take a leisurely back road drive into Seattle? Ultimately, we put the decision off and decided to see how the day progressed.

We rode out of the heat of Yakima and continued to wind through valleys formed by the pyroclastic flows of Mt. Rainier. Just out of Naches, we began to smell smoke. It was no coincidence that we passed a forest service helicopter spooling up in a field off the road. About a mile or so up the road the helicopter flew over us and descended with a canvas bucket into the Naches River to pick up water. A few miles further and we saw the forest fire burning just outside of a public campground. It looked as though the fire fighting had been going on for a while, and hopefully was getting things under control. 

Our first gas stop was at White Pass, and we layered up for the chill air. About a half mile further along was a scenic overlook of Rainier, and we stopped for a photo with the banner, and then our group made its first split. Eight bikes were to go on to Mount St. Helens, and the rest would take the scenic backroad into Seattle  I was with the group of eight bikes, and we proceeded on to our lunch stop. It was a small mountain diner, and the service was slow. A two hour lunch break put us seriously behind schedule. At our next gas stop, five bikes decided to head back to Seattle.  Three bikes and the chase pickup truck decided to continue on to Mount St. Helens, and again I was one of the three bikes to continue on. 

The last time I had been to Mount St. Helens was about fifteen years ago. I was surprised by how much the lava dome in the crater has grown in that time, and a glacier has even spawned inside the crater. Very cool, literally.

I broke away from the rest of the group on the way to the Johnston Visitor Center to take some photos at an overlook, and had a very cool kazoo moment. Chrome (Greg) came up with giving away LRLR kazoos which have our web address on them as a way to start a conversation about our charities, to leave a calling card of sorts, and to give LRLR a memorable identity, and the kazoos do all of that and more. My kazoo experience was a good example.

I pulled into the overlook and encountered a group of young Asians taking photos. I believe they were Japanese, and they were definitely college age. I asked if one of them would take my picture, and got several offers. They were all proud of their English, and were very hip and chatty. After the photo op, I gave each of them a kazoo, and they were in awe. I explained to them how they worked - "Use the big end. No, don't blow. Just say do-ta-do-ta-do." Boy howdy... I had quite a joyful choir on my hands, as they played everything from Twinkle Little Star to Lady Gaga. Great fun.

We explored the visitor Center and took photos with the banner, then headed back to Seattle. One of our chase drivers, Rebecca, has been taking turns riding on bikes that have open passenger seats, and I offered to give her a ride down from the mountain to our gas stop before getting on I-5. I think she enjoyed the twisties and the scenic views much more from this vantage point than from the truck cab. I was glad to share the ride with her. The grin said it all.

We got back to Seattle in time for a pizza dinner and our final debrief, as well as a great discussion of future rides. After that we began the process of getting bikes onto trailers. After this many days in the saddle, it seems so odd to be leaving my bike in someone else's care, even though I know that Patrick and Moe will take good care of it.

I'm going to miss all of this, but duty calls and I must catch a flight at 6AM. Thank you all so much for following this blog, and for supporting our charities.  See you next year!