Sometimes the ups and downs come from more than the terrain. On a day marred by tragedy (see note about Steve), we rode the Olympia 300km brevet. Brian List, Dave Read, and Peg Winczewski developed a nice route through the back roads of Thurston and Lewis Counties. More than 50 riders showed up - probably a record for one of our summer brevets. Gregg Bleakney came out to take photos, which can be seen here.
We started with a blistering pace out to the first control (less than 10 miles out). Corey Thompson, back from teaching in France, signed cards for the riders. We started to settle down after that - still making good time out to Steamboat Island. The 9 miles out to and 9 miles back from the turnaround at the end of Steamboat Island afforded a nice opportunity to see all the riders. The long gentle climb up SR-8 felt terrific. I saw Steve Hameister, who was having a terrific ride. After the control at Malone, the tougher hills started.
At the top of Gerrard Creek road, we encountered the usual Olympia brevet oasis - Peg and Brian with food, drink, and chairs. Brian noticed casing showing through Peter McKay's rear tire, so Bob Brudvik and I (right) took advantage of the repair time to relax. On the way down the hill, we encountered the PBP-bound tandem of Peter Beeson and Max Maxon coming back up. Some mechanical problems would take them out of the ride at this point; later in the afternoon they would get the bike fixed in Olympia and would be back for the 200km brevet on Sunday.
The climb up Curtis Hill is a tough one. Last summer, I had struggled up on my single speed. I was very happy to have a full complement of gears this time, especially as I watched Bob grinding up the hill on his single speed PBP steed. Bob was having an uncharacteristically tough day, and the steep hill was no help.
At the bottom of the hill we stopped at the Curtis Store for a break - ice cream, sandwiches, ice, and drinks. Here's where we first heard about Steve - a driver came by to let us know that there was a cyclist in the ditch on the other side of the hill. She was not from the area and a little vague on location. We hoped/assumed that riders behind would be able to help. As we were trying to figure out how to get help to the cyclist (no cellphone service there for at&t or T-mobile and virtually unusable service from Verizon). At that point, the driver of another car indicated that aid was on the scene. We were eventually able to contact Brian List and Peter Beeson, who let us know that aid was indeed at the scene, that the rider was Steve Hameister, that Steve’s wife had been contacted, and that Steve would get care at a hospital in Centralia. We were at the Curtis Store for quite a while and received reports that extensive CPR had been performed at the scene and that defibrillator was used to get a pulse. Frankly it didn’t sound too good to us, but with Steve in professional care, a somber group headed out.
I would finish (130km later) with the group that formed at the store - the Jameson tandem (Don & Elaine), the Jensen tandem (Jim & Ann), Bob Brudvik, Peter McKay, Bill Dussler, Rick Haight, and I. We're all headed to PBP and really enjoyed each other's company. The Vader store provided the next ice cream stop. After Winlock, we climbed a series of rollers to some high farmland. At one point, Bill and I passed two little girls by the side of the road with notebooks. It took a moment, but we realized they were looking for mememtos from the riders, so we turned back. The whole group signed and wrote notes in their books. That was a sweet and uplifting thing, but when I used my cameraphone to take a picture I noticed a voicemail from Peter Beeson. Frankly, I assumed that it was an update on Steve and that it wouldn’t be good news. Unfortunately, that was correct. For the next 10 miles or so, I rode like someone had punched me in the gut and let the air out of my tires. I tried comforting thoughts out on myself (like, “he was doing what he loved”), but it wasn’t helping much. Peter McKay did much to help me then – drawing in part on how he dealt with the loss of his brother in a jet ski accident. Good friends, good cycling, and the thought of the smiling little girls reminded me that life is good, even with all of its messiness, unevenness, and tragedy.