Mountain Flyer Content Trip- April 2012. Race Weekend Report: Port Angeles, WA.

In life, most often it’s not the result, but the process that defines us… moulding us into positive examples of humanity, driving us ever forward to explore, learn and grow as individuals functioning as a whole. Some would argue that an individual sport like mountain biking wouldn’t lend itself to team-building. I could beg to differ.

The road to Port Angeles has been an interesting one. The voyage we set upon a week ago was ostensibly to get us here for the Port Angeles gravity event. It’s probably the most-stacked pro-event of the season that’s a non-World Cup event on the calendar, in a location best-suited for flying into. We decided to drive, and to document the voyage cross-country with the Buells from Team Geronimo, Holly Turner, and John Hartman.

I’ve been on road trips with the Buells over the years to create content, but never in a group much larger than what we have with us this time, and previously only with content producers and athletes. John came to us as a volunteer professional bike-mechanic from Carbondale, and was along for the ride, and up for some exploration along with Holly. We’ve done several ‘content trips’ over the last several years, but never had the amount of time we’d been afforded this time to actually shoot what we wanted as we could, and weren’t pressed for time.

This time we had a target in the middle of a stretch of production. We had a week to arrive in Port Angeles for the event, and were charged with shooting ‘Ride Guides’ along the way to and from the event. The other component to what I do involves commercial photography for clients within the outdoor industry and off-road automotive industries. I find myself living and shooting in the middle of nowhere, based out of my Overland-equipped truck, sometimes for weeks at a time. Being on the road for production is sort of second nature, however we’ve never had an opportunity to create while not under some crazy self-imposed deadline, related to a mountain-bike destination trip that we could plan ourselves, and then explore while out. This was finally our opportunity!

The road out has been littered with quick-stops, ride-guides being shot and some blog-content being constructed based on our group-experience. Arriving in Port Angeles for the race brought the group together as an even tighter-knit unit, as the pressure to perform was an addition to the equation. John leapt into mechanic-mode and the guys arranged the pit-area to function as efficiently as possible for the race weekend. Bikes were worked-on and tuned to perfection. The racers mingled with other competitors, shared course-knowledge after inspection laps and practice times, and things were coming together quite nicely. A first practice day was broken up with some casual content shooting on-site on a trail that the Buells had been eyeing for the last several years, so we made some more personal work happen there with both photo and video.

Qually was the day following first practice, and the same organizational precision encompassed the schedule among the ranks, with John manning the wheel to ensure mechanical perfection. The weather maintained the low-slung cloud ceiling billowing off the Olympic Mountain range, being pushed by coastal winds and fueling temperatures that soared all the way up into the mid-50’s. The course was tacky and not retaining much water… moderately technical in places, and favouring smoothness and fluidity across the board. Not much line-choice and mostly devoid of anything gnarly and littered with rocks, the Buell’s both felt confident going into the event as the course was a challenge but not to the point of wildly gapping the field.

Michael Buell ‘enjoys the event as being ‘the largest stand-alone DH event on the circuit, drawing spectators and athletes alike, from all over the world, and also being probably one of the most stacked-fields at a non-World Cup event, with all the top DH athletes in the world showing up to partake’. ‘Lots of laps, quick turn around, and the enjoyment of local-trails makes the event highly memorable and a desirable one to attend for us year after year’. ‘Easily one of the best-organized events on the tour, and one we won’t ever want to miss’.

Brian Buell ‘loves the location where the event is situated, lending itself to access for the international field (canadians), which brings added depth to the lineup.’ ‘Knowing going in that he’s going to get muddy and get wet, yet has traction on-demand, helps to maintain confidence in the unique (to the PNW) conditions’. ‘Event organizers (rider promoted and organized) did an amazing job, the course was technical and fast, spectators were awesome with their enthusiasm and heckling, and although the end-result wasn’t what he wanted it to be, he still got in a ton of great riding, he got to support the Juniors on their team, and got to share an all-around fantastic experience’.

Results for Pro Men: 1: Steve Smith 2: Aaron Gwin 3: Mick Hannah

Results for Pro Women: 1: Jill Kintner 2: Miranda Miller 3: Holly Feniak

All in all, a super-fun weekend for Team Geronimo racing… a nice break from our ride-guide experience, and a great way to break up our trip with some racing excitement to add to the mix.

The close to the day saw a change in the weather, bringing the clouds that’d been kept by some mystical-forces at bay, down upon us, with a night littered with rain (torrential at times) to the roofs of our tents.

The morning saw a hasty-pack-up and we scattered. Brian and I to Seattle to fetch a work-vehicle from a client to return-home with, and Michael et.al in the race-rig to head south on the I-5, bypassing the ferry-loop into Seattle, and setting their course for Bend Oregon.

We’re to converge on a network of trails just outside Bend for another segment of the ride-guide, and we’ve got tomorrow designated as an all-day ride. No manic-driving. No late-night arrivals into an unknown location. Just riding, plain and simple. We’ve got the beta on the area now, and have our sights set on developing a more comprehensive ride-experience upon which to report. Now I just have to get MY truck back together here in the warehouse at ARB in Renton WA, and get back on the road. The only late-night pull-in will be done by yours-truly.

Elko Nevada… Stop 2. Mountain Flyer Content Trip- April 2012

This next segment was set up to be a ‘gimme’ and would be a bit of a stretch.  We’d departed Vernal Utah late due to a wiper-motor issue with Michael’s truck, and decided somehow that it was worth it to make the sprint across Utah and deep into Nevada to try to rid ourselves of one of the peskier-sections of tarmac that obstructed us from our crossover into the loamy-goodness of the Pacific NorthWest singletrack that awaited.  

The kindly Dodge folks installed the wiper-motor but were inexplicably lacking a plug/harness that was required to run power to the motor, yet they kindly made arrangements for us to retrieve said-part from another dealer in SLC (hidden in a garbage bag in the bushes for us, in front of the service dept of a dealership in Salt Lake). We departed Vernal and made the leap across the Wasatch on a gorgeous sun-drenched-afternoon/evening, steaming thru Heber City and Park City just as temps were cooling off and shadows were cast-long from behind the majestic snow-capped peaks and flung across the verdant green valleys below. Spring has indeed sprung.   We’d started to encounter a hint of traffic as we closed the gap on SLC, and tacked into the neighborhood of the dealership right around dinner-time with some daylight to spare. 

A thought towards my friends Stephan and Philip Drake from #DPS Skis had me firing off a text to Stephan; knowing he was back from AK, as it’d been several months since last we saw one another. A returned-text and and a quick exchange about some ethnic-food (aways either Thai or Indian) had us heading north towards town for a meet-up to savor some of the finer Thai food offerings in SLC, as well as an inaugural sipping of a Thai Iced Tea (my first). It was great to reconnect with Stephan and to hear about their dismal (but fun) last round in AK, as well as to see Philip, whom i haven’t seen in ages. 

We said our goodbyes as the sun chased the horizon and left us to the inky darkness of the desert, scattered with twinkling stars, and began our chore of making-work of the remainder of Utah and targeted the Nevada border. We drove in radio-silence to Wendover where a gas-stop and a quick group-meeting at midnight-ish determined that we’d push on to Elko where Brian had sourced a camping spot at the base of a ride he’d busied himself with investigating as he perched upon the navigators-seat in the tow-rig.  I steeled myself with gas-station coffee, a water-reload of the bottles and a commitment to sleep better than i had the previous night; having parked us far too close to 191 and all its noise.

We soldiered-on.  I cranked up the tunes and rolled-down the windows intermittently to keep my nerves on the boil and to stave-off the weariness that encroached. 

We rolled into Elko around 0200 or so, and promptly rallied up a dirt road into the middle of nowhere for several miles, ultimately headed up to SnowBowl Ski area (a lone double-chair graced the vast expanse of treeless grass-laden peaks).  The base area was devoid of any modern-structure, and was served by a single lift circa 1950 or so. Additional features dotting the parking-lot-scale consisted of a prefab-structure or two, and several other odds and ends, not particular to the location or necessarily any function that was readily discernable to us.   

No matter… we were there to shred, no?  We camped out in the parking-lot and upon awaking promptly set about surveying our surroundings in the morning. A few rideable-features were viewable from the base-area, with the most obvious being a large’ish teeter-totter and a drop that were easily seen from the parking area.  We set-about breakfast preparations and then packed-up camp, assembled photo gear in backpacks, and made our way up the closest road to the north of the area, proceeding to self-serve-indulge in some gravity craftsmanship, photo gear at the ready… 

The area is incredibly well-suited for some isolated self-serve gravity indulgence, with easy road-access and an intriguing network of scorching singletrack that spiderwebs in all directions from the central parking area.  Moderate to steep doubletrack uphills are comprised of service roads linking climbs to various descents criss-crossing the area. Descents range from standard alpine-style singletrack to bermed-out and moderately built-up free-ride’y terrain littered with the occasional huck/drop and/or flowy section. 

 A morning’s worth of hiking, riding, scouting and lighting revealed a gem in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada worthy of a visit should you be happening through the area. Combined with a few other hits in the vicinity, a loop could be constructed linking the trails in Winnemucca, Vernal and a few other choice areas to craft an ideal uncrowded riding-loop of epic-singletrack linked by dirt roads, iconic western-states scenery and burritos.  

What could be better?  Wait, don’t ask… we’re going to answer that for you… 

Next stop: Bend Oregon!  Stay tuned…