8 Ball In The Wind

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lightning In The Sky

Took a little ride with my brother Ed up to see some friends.  While we were sitting there visiting in the sunshine, we heard thunder begin rolling closer and closer.  By the time we headed out, the clouds were so black they were almost blue, and you could smell the ozone from the lightning.

We hit the highway and hit the wick.  Getting a good lead on the weather we left it behind us as we rolled back down the divide and into the mostly sunny skies around home.  Since I knew family was going to be camping down at the property on the river, we headed off that way and spent about 20-30 minutes visiting.  Suddenly the wind picked up, and the clouds darkened.  Rumbling could be heard, and then a bright flash shot across the sky.The weather was catching up with us.  So we jumped back onto the bikes and rode the last 5 minutes back to the house.  Right into the thunder shower.

The rain hit first.  Then it was the hail, as we rounded the corner and headed into town.  Then across the clouds above us, a bright finger of lightning flicked across the sky.  By the time we rolled into the garage, the fast moving storm had for the most part passed over, but the rain kept coming down.

After about 30 minutes, the sun was back out, and the skies were mostly blue.  It had been a nice ride through the Cascade foothills, and racing the spring thunderstorms is always a good way to blow the cobwebs out of your mind.  It's just hard to watch the road and lightning at the same time.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Wet Ride

The sun that had been out for over a week, left us and come Sunday morning we were facing low clouds and rain.  Still, we had about 40 bikes show up.  But some of the less hearty were already wet and cold, and werent looking forward to another couple of hours riding in the rain.  So about 20 of the bikes left, and headed back south towards Oregon.   The rest of us headed east up the highway and into more rain and clouds.

It wasnt to bad for the first 20 miles or so, just a light rain and the temps werent too bad.  But after that we began climbing up from about 200 feet in elevation to 3800 feet.  The temps were definitely dropping as the elevation climbed, and the clouds actually engulfed us a time or two.

At least there wasnt much snow on the ground at the summit of Johnston Ridge.  But there wasnt any view of Mt St Helens either, sad to say.  But as we headed back down, and made the 50 mile nonstop run back to Castle Rock, it was still a good ride.  Even with all the wet and clouds, it was better than sitting at home and vegging out in front of the boob tube.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Movin' On Up...

I got an email today from a reporter for the NW section of Thunderpress magazine.  She asked if she could join the Mt St Helens Memorial Ride and cover it for the magazine.  Now how fucking cool is that?  A run that I started 6 years ago with just me and a friend riding our bikes to the mountain to pay our respects, has turned into an annual deal, and a national magazine wants to cover it.  Far fucking out!!

I'm gonna have to make sure I get that issue when it comes out!!

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mt St Helens Run...I.M.O. The 57

Mt St Helens

With only a couple more days before heading out on the Mt St Helens Memorial Run, I am getting a bit antsy about the weather.  if it is good, and everyone who says they are going shows up there could be a couple hundred bikes riding up into the remote wilderness around the mountain with me.  If it looks nasty; or like it could rain, I am sure that number will drop dramatically.  Either way, I am going.  I have to go.  For a few reasons, and not just because I organized the ride.  But because it is how I pay my respects to what could have been, and to those that died.  Many who didnt even think they were in the danger zone.

The photo above was taken from Johnston Ridge.  Its where the young volcanologist David Johnston was killed just seconds after the eruption began 5 miles away.  The land on the valley floor used to be up on the mountain.  The old valley floor is about 250 feet or so below what you can see now.  Thats like putting a 25 story building up and down the valley and 5 miles across it.  The bluffs of the ridge had the soil scrape away by the initial landslide that set off the blast.  The blast itself knocked over and blew away trees that were upwards of 4 feet across.  For miles around the only trees growing now all took root years after the eruption.
Coldwater Ridge

The second photo is of Coldwater Ridge.  That is the ridge my Dad and I were suppose to be on.  But by chance it was Armed Forces Weekend, and my ship was "visit ship" in Seattle.  That meant I had to be aboard the ship, and couldnt take my Dad down like he had volunteered to do.  So he rescheduled to have me drive him down and spend a week with him on the ridge.  The guy he was suppose to relieve has never been found.  Neither has his RV.  That whole ridge was covered in a thick forest, and so was the ridge behind it.  That all changed on May 18, 1980.  Coldwater Ridge is 8 miles from the crater, and the ridge beyond is 10 miles away.  Yet the only trees left by the blast on that far ridge are a few dead snags on the very top of the ridge.  Like I said, that's 10 miles from the crater.  Can you imagine the power of those few hours of eruption. It blew trees down nearly 20 miles away like they were nothing.  The few that didnt get obliterated were baked dry by the heat of the blast.
57 people; men, women, AND CHILDREN were killed that morning by the mountain.  Most were outside the "Red Zone" where the danger was believed to be.  If it werent for a twist of fate that forced  me to reschedule bringing my Dad to Coldwater Ridge, that number would have been 59.  That is why I have to make this run, rain or shine.  It took me almost 25 years before I went back to the area around Coldwater Ridge, now I pay my respects every year.  While almost everyone else who rides up there with me every year spends their time gazing at Mt St Helens, I am always drawn to look back at Coldwater Ridge, where but for the Grace of God, my Dad and I would have died.  I have always hoped that my Dad's friend Gerry Martin didn't suffer when the blast and landslide took him out.  I pray that he passed quickly.

In Memory Of the 57...

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It's In The Blood

Dad in the late 30's on his 31 VL

Growing up, I knew that my dad and uncle used to ride back in Illinois.  Dad never talked too much about his adventures.  When he did tell me about riding back in the 1930’s and 40’s, it was in broad terms.  Things like riding from the south side of Chicago to Peoria for the races were considered a big deal.  That covering the 320 miles or so between them was a major undertaking considering the condition of some of the roads back then.  I just consider that a decent day ride now.

I always got the feeling that my dad wasn’t the adventurous one of the Lange brothers back then.  He rode his 31 VL, and loved it, but either he didn’t raise too much hell back then, or he just didn’t talk about it, I may never know.  Dad was like that, and didn’t really talk much about the things he had done in his life.  Only an occasional story here and there.  But always either a humorous one, or a very vague one when talking about a more darker memory.
Now my Uncle Marty on the other hand, I heard more than a few stories about.  He was a good man, but he definitely had a mischievous side to him.  I even have a photo of him and my dad as very young boys, taken in the mid 1920’s, and the look on Mart’s face is pure mischief.

One of the things I have learned about my uncle; he loved fast bikes.  I remember one story about him doing some ground level flying there on the streets of the ‘South Side’ only a couple blocks from home.  A cop car went by the other way and began to turn around to chase him.  Since he was so close to home Marty grabbed a fist full of throttle and took off.  He made a couple of tight 90 degree turns as he changed streets heading home.  Then another to ride through the gate, and another to roll under the porch where he finally came to a stop.  Just like in an old Keystone Cops movie, the cop car roared right passed the house and kept going.  He’d lost them in just a couple of quick blocks on his Henderson 4 cylinder.  Marty always told me that the Henderson had a needle, or a “Max Stick” on the speedo to show what the top speed had been.  When he looked down at it there in his safe haven under the porch, he was surprised to see it was above 90.  He had been doing around 50 when the cops first saw him, but the Henderson ran up to 90 in that short couple of blocks home.  That is including the four 90 degree turns he had to make on the way.
Uncle Marty on his 1st bike: a '27 Harley JD

Marty had several bikes over the years.  As my cousin Jo Anne told me recently, they didn’t even have a car until she was about nine or so.  If they all went somewhere, they all piled on a bike and rode.  With Aunt Kate on back, and Jo Anne on the gas tank, acting as Marty’s windshield and bug catcher all in one.

There is another story I often heard as a kid, but always doubted.  But both Marty, and my cousin Jo Anne swear there is a photo showing it happened in an album somewhere.  It seems that the roof of the local Catholic church sloped down low to the ground in a back corner.  Well, as I recall hearing the story, Uncle Marty was bet he couldn’t climb to the steeple up the roof.  He said not only could he do it, but he’d do it on his bike.  The bet was on. 
They rigged up some planks, and secured them to the roof about 4 feet off the ground.  Marty rode back the length of the parking lot and grabbed a handful of throttle.  He shot up the ramp, and fishtailed his way up along the roof finally coming to a stop at the peak, with his front tire against the side of the steeple.  He told me about it when I was about 14, and said going up wasn’t the scary part.  It was a whole different animal getting turned around on that roof and riding it back down.  He still didn’t know how he hadn’t dumped it coming back from the top of that roof.
Uncle Marty on one of his Harleys

I may not be quite as crazy as Uncle Mart, but I have always felt the need to ride for as long as I can remember.  It must be in the blood.  Both of my brothers have rode, and the oldest still does, and I am proud to say the next generation is carrying on the family tradition as well.  A couple years ago, I actually had the pleasure of riding alongside one of my nephews and his wife for a couple hundred miles.  Somehow, I think both Dad and Uncle Marty are looking down and smiling.

Catch ya on the road sometime…

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's Up To The Weather Now

All set for the Mt St Helens Run.  And from what I have been hearing, it looks to be a good turnout.  People coming from 2 states!!  That is IF the weather holds and it doesnt turn to shit.  We have sunny skies and low 80s this weekend, but it is suppose to cloud up by mid week...So keeping my fingers crossed.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tire Problem Fixed

OK, I repaired the problem with the valve stem, and now just need to get some miles on her before the 20th.  I would hate to get monkey butt on a run I'm supposed to be leading because I havent gotten any riding in to get my fat ass ready for a 200 mile day trip.

So you KNOW that I will be riding as much as I possibly can between now and then.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seasons 1st Camping Trip

Spent the weekend down at Penrose Pt state park.  We were going to ride down together on the bikes.  But a last minute problem with the bike threw that plan to hell, so we took the car.  Even with the rain it was still a good weekend overall.  And I had a lot of fun.  But it was nice to get back into my own warm bed after sleeping on the cold ground for two nights.
We even had a bald eagle fly in an perch on a tree limb about 40 feet above our campsite for a couple of hours.
I need to fix the valve stem in the rear tire of the bike so it will be ready to make the Mt St Helens Run in two weeks.  Otherwise I would have been on the bike, and the weekend would have been almost perfect.