The gravel is deep and loose in the corners and switchbacks. The dirt is firm between those sections, but littered with large half buried rocks. I had expected gravel, it was the reason I’d ridden out east, after a week at work spent memorizing the map. Maybe a month ago we had gone hiking up to Wallace Falls, and I’d had the idea of riding up the railroad grade, which I thought would take me to the lake farther up the trail, but when I looked at the map I found access to the lake through the town of Start Up, which meant less time on Highway 2.
I wasn’t ready for the gravel to be this deep or the road this rocky. I figured it would be the nice crunchy type that I found after I’d climbed over the two Forest Service gates it took to get here. That was after my day started with a flat, before I’d even left the house, and then another not far from work and still in town. I had to limp back to work with tire that wouldn’t seat to pick up some tubes and replace the slipped rim strip that was blocking the bead from getting hooked on the rim.
The ride out went easy after that and I’d found this unnamed road, only having to check my phone once or twice for directions. I didn’t have a computer or a watch and never really checked the clock on the screen of my phone, but I’d known that I had left a bit late for what I was doing, still convinced that I’d keep this ride under six hours.
At a bend in the Service Road I was given a clear shot of the valley below and how I’d climbed. I started to wonder the last time someone had driven up here. How long would it be before someone found me, or even got to me if I got hurt?
Two days before, an employee at one of our other stores died. Earlier today, as I replaced my rim strip the service manager declared that it was best to go out quick. And the day before I’d read a Salter short story, which featured a woman, in a similar situation to my outing, who fell of her horse and broke her back. The story described her life slipping just as two people found her laying there, her horse on the opposite side of the road. I don’t know why thoughts of death always come at the moments when I am most alive. It could have something to do with my personal psychology, but maybe its something universal.
There wasn’t a soul at the lake when I got there. The railroad grade didn’t climb from the parking lot to the lake. I eventually found it after descending through the thick gravel, and then some single track. I suffered another puncture on through the loose gravel, another slipped rim strip on the front wheel, but the pressure of the time on gravel popped it back into place, and then a fourth puncture once I was back on Highway 2. That left me out of tubes.
I crawled home along Highway 2, slow, busy and into a headwind. This ride was about leaving the city, finding something outside of the sanitized city riding I’d been doing all week, and a direction different than what I was finding on the Olympic Peninsula. Adventure in short.
Sometimes the cost of adventure is twenty-dollars in tubes and rolling home cracked and bonked ten hours after you left.