Words and photo by Kona Ambassador Lita Monoghan.
I always look forward to my birthday, not because I love getting another year older, but because it means we’re finally approaching the longest days of the year here in the Pacific Northwest (and hopefully getting some warm Summer weather). How would I spend my birthday weekend this year with so many daylight hours? I spent a long day in the saddle, of course!
The Tour de Blast is an annual organized bike ride in Washington put on by Longview Rotary Club. The route winds along the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway into the Mount St. Helens blast zone with the final destination at the Johnston Ridge Viewpoint. Up and back, the ride is 82 miles with 8,800 feet of elevation gain. My friends somehow convinced me to do this ride again this year despite declarations that I’d never do it again after doing this ride a couple of years ago. Going into this year’s ride, however, I was resolved to just ride to the top and shuttle back to the start. That is still a healthy 41 miles and 5,500 feet of elevation gain!
The alarm clock buzzed far too early for a Saturday morning and I awoke to strange surroundings in one of the finest motels that Castle Rock, WA had to offer. I got dressed, ate a small breakfast, and generously applied chamois butter in anticipation of the long ride ahead.
Despite not being thrilled about the long route ahead, I was super excited to be riding my Kona Libre. This was my first group ride on the bike after spending the past couple months stripping the bike down to the frame and building it to my dream build specifications. I got so many compliments on the bike before the ride even started!
We rolled out of Toutle High School early in the morning to make our way to the top. The weather was cool and a little bit wet. The first 7 miles are a false flat and a good way to get the legs spinning to warm up before the real climbing begins. As the ride went on, and up, the weather got less and less wet, but still cloudy, obscuring views of Mt. Saint Helens. The day just felt like a lot of slogging myself up the hill to our viewpoint at Elk Rock.
As I left Elk Rock to descend nine miles, the clouds slowly started to burn off and the skies began to turn blue in patches. I stopped to shed some layers at the bottom of that long descent and sadly forgot to restart my onboard sport camera. Probably good to not subject you to my long and slow slog up the last six miles, but my beautiful purple Kona and I finally made it to the top to Johnston Ridge Viewpoint.
There was more than plenty of daylight left in the day to enjoy the views, which had cleared on cue as I arrived! It may have taken me all day to get there, but what an accomplishment and reward to see Mount St. Helens! It was worth the long day in the saddle, but please remind me to say no the next time someone asks me to do this ride with them!