To be an epic road trip, the event must consist of approximately six hours of driving, preferably more (one way, of course). Bonus points are awarded for companions sharing the adventure, and triple bonus points if a rental vehicle is employed. Cha-ching! We have a winner.
The McCall Ski Town Bike Fest, official Idaho state championship for cross-country and downhill disciplines. A good six hours away by car. But wait, what's this in Dave's driveway? It's not a car. Can it be a Ram pickup? Dave must be loaded - he claims they gave him a good deal to get rid of it for the weekend. Quite the bargain, I must say. Well, it's easy to load gear. Just throw it in the back. Dual power outlets allow the portable CD player to come along for the ride, as well as a grocery store detector. The CD player is unanimously agreed to be a welcome addition, for this pickup has room in the doors for some beefy speakers. A little more bass than I'm used to, but I'll have to live with it. Definitely scores more stereo points than the Sable wagon.
Loaded down and truckin', we are off by about 2:30. Enduring the chip-seal process on all interstate highways once more, and not loving it. The Ram seems to be getting good mileage with its really tall overdrive (makes the cruise hunt on hills though) - or does it just have a really big tank? Well, it's a big tank, as we find out when we stop for gas and a snack just past Boise at the turnoff to head north for McCall. Which thanks to more construction and various slow recreational vehicles, takes another several hours.
But eventually we get to McCall. And keep right on going, because the race is at the Brundage Mountain ski area, another ten miles or so out of town. We park next to Troy's trailer (Troy is Ron's temporary assistant) and set up camp, mooching some snacks and heat from the fire. This is not the best place to camp, as Troy says he is going to bed but leaves his generator running - about ten feet from our tent - until midnight. Then I can get on with trying to sleep on a pad that's not quite as thick as it should be.
After several days morning arrives, announced by Troy stomping out and starting his generator again. The downhill is all day today, or at least the cross-country isn't until tomorrow. But the question on everyone's lips is, "where's Ronda?" Oversleeping back in McCall, as is discovered when search parties are sent out. There is a Brooke sighting. Rich shows up, with some story about his camp site is so far back that his phone didn't work and he left me a message with directions to get there. Uh-huh.
It's still cold outside, so we go stand in line inside to check in for the downhill. Kind of a spiral line thing going on inside there. Ronda says she loves the Excel spreadsheet I made up (for myself, to calculate series points since the official Wild Rockies web site was not coming through) and really wishes she had looked at her mail sooner. I am comped for life, too. But still standing in line for 30 minutes. Oh well.
For some reason it takes a while to assemble myself the rest of the way and head to the chairlift for the ride up to the downhill start. But it does happen. The first run goes okay. Starting with a really bumpy cat track/road section, the course has a few loose, rocky turns before entering a pseudo-singletrack part through some trees. Then, after it opening up some more, it dives into some tight trees for a couple trick turns before the finish straight. Kind of fun, so we head back to the lift for another. Plenty of time.
The plot thickens, as they say. As we are at the end of the line, some girl comes up behind us babbling about slowing down for turns. She has a brand new dual-suspension bike and a scraped knee. I offer my water bottle in a low-key way, then Dave chimes in with some ski patrol first aid tips. Well, turns out she's a medical student. And a talker. Quite the talker, is Erika. Dave starts schmoozing with her anyway. We work our way up to the front of the line, and a blue Ford van pulls up. Looks kind of like a van I saw two years ago at Emmett-Roubaix, when JR Simplot the spud man came by to check out the race. It is, it is JR. Turns out he owns half the resort, and he wants to ride up his chairlift. So he gets to cut in line, but Dave responds to a comment he makes on the way by and gets shown the business end of a mini micro-chip history-on-a-card (JR also owns a bit of Micron). Dave is just on a schmoozing roll today. He also gets to ride up with Erika, it turns out. Hmm.
I've got time for mone more run now, and so I go, pointing out JR to Ron at the start line as I go by. Maybe a little faster this time. Maybe. There was a mixup in the handing out of downhill numbers, so I still don't have my downhill number, and the finish line people are starting to get a little testy. Not much I can do about it, the numbers are all either up top or still on the wrong people's bikes headed up top. I might as well head up top too.
I get to sit and wait as usual, the burden of being in a beginner class. Rich appears and says he only got in one run before having to help a kid with a broken wrist, using his own ski patrol first aid skills. Ron has pointed out a new guy in the Clydesdale class, looks like a football player. He's big, but topheavy, no legs - I would clean his clock on a climb for sure. But since downhills are about no-fear, there's no telling what a football player can do.
Time to go. I'm off, and it really feels like I am working. I feel good about the run, and pass the 250-pound-first-time-downhiller-used-to-ride-motocross-but-still-smokes-a-pack-a-day Troy, who has dechained right before the finish after shifting poorly in the tricky tree section. Mr. Football Player comes in and flops down on the ground just over the finish line, gasping and panting. I hope he shows up tomorrow for the cross-country.
Not much to do then. I put away my bike, and go hang out with the event staff. I soon find myself reading off times to Ronda as she writes them down on the big results sheet. It's a good way to find out your time without getting yelled at for interrupting. Rich won by quite a bit in my class, then the next three were fairly close, and I was only a few seconds off them; but I only actually beat Troy. Ok, so Rich gets the cool state champion vest. Maybe I'll just get one tomorrow. Brooke has won the women's downhill, and Erika beat Pam (Rich's wife) in the beginner class.
Much hilarity ensues as Pam discovers Erika rides as a sport in cross-country and loudly utters (several times) the magic word "sandbagger" when Erika collects her vest. And other words, too. Even more amusing is that Dave is still schmoozing with Erika, so any number of snide comments are also directed his way. But eventually all the fun must come to an end, and we pack up the tent and follow Rich back up into the woods to his secret secluded campsite.
It's a good thing we brought a truck, too. The last mudhole would have swallowed either of our fun, fast little cars. But soon we discover the joy of no generator, a babbling brook, two very stupid dogs, and endless quantities of mosquitos. They seem to take a particular interest in me, despite copious amounts of bug spray (it does say "repellent", right?), suffocating campfire smoke, and even a supposed mosquito-proof candle on my chest. (see photo at http://www.srv.net/~hah/gallery/mccall97.jpg) Finally it got too cold for them, though, and then it was time to go to bed. About that time Dave got back from his group-dinner-and-a-bar-hangout with Erika and some guys from one of the Boise teams.
In the morning we packed up again, of course, and went back down to the lodge for the cross-country start. Some idling around, then just more waiting for other people to start ahead of us. I was somewhat dismayed to see Aaron, my nemesis at Baker, show up. I beat him at Idaho City after that, but he had a flat and said he was gaining on me at the finish.
So we start. I'm out front, not going really hard, it's kind of flat. Aaron pulls up alongside and starts drag-racing me. That could have been fun if I would not have gotten some mud in my eye from a little teeny puddle. Waah. I'm grimacing and blinking and trying to ride with one eye, and he is just gone. Bye bye. I'm now riding for second place, and the climbing hasn't even started yet. But then the climbing does start. We get to climb most of the same cat track the downhill descended yesterday. Whee in reverse, that would be eehw? I better hold on to second, right, so I grind up the climb, passing a few people. Finally at the top, and of course no sign of Aaron. The rest is naturally mostly downhill, at which he is almost as good as Rich. Or maybe even better, I don't think Aaron has done any of the downhills or otherwise gone up against Rich directly in a descent. Don't know, can't say. He's gone, gone, gone.
But I just cruise along, letting a few people past, hoping I put enough time on Rich during the climb that he won't come rolling by. There is a long sidehill singletrack, a ski trail of course, that looks like it might even be a little dicey on skis. Or maybe not. And some twisty parts through trees, then it pops out down a couple switchbacks into the parking lot and heads up one last itty bitty climb to the base of the lodge. Some guy sprints past me here. Not even in my class, I must have been holding him up. I finish and congratulate Aaron on kicking my ass. He must be training or something, unlike me.
Awards. Lots more vests handed out. Brooke wins the cross-country too and gets another one to add to her collection, along with a bottle of champagne. Aaron gets not only the medal (and a tire) but the state champion vest. Which he deserves, having won the duly appointed single championship event. I think I have a few more series points than he does, I console myself. I win, for second place, a chain - which might actually come in handy - along with some socks, again potentially useful, and a black VO2MAX t-shirt. Which is still in its bag over a month later. And the bars don't taste good either. Pthhtpt.
Just a bit more schmoozing from Dave and heckling from Pam, all directed at Erika, and all good things must come to an end. Most of our junk is already in the truck, conveniently enough, so we mosey on home. This time for variety we go through Arco instead of via the gravel-strewn interstates.