My brain is soupy mush. My left pinky and ring finger are numb. My taint is tainted. Throat swollen. Yet, a couple days after completing my ITT of the Stagecoach 400 route, I’m still stuck in la la land dreaming about the magical trip that was…. and looking forward to the next 🙂
Before embarking on this 400 mile, 32k climbing, self-supported bikepacking adventure – I did some research. Since I don’t intend to sit here and write about “my gear checklist” or “race logistics” – if you’re looking to do this event, want some recon and fun reading and lotsa photos of the route – check out the links I’ve got at the bottom. I didn’t take that many photos, and mostly what I’m ranting about right now is nothing objective about the route/race itself. As I eat a bunch of food and start to gain back the 5lbs I lost, I just feel like jotting down a couple personal, random memories and subjective thoughts about the journey and what goes through your mind as you’re on a wonderful carpet ride – with the hopes that these memories stay pungent and breed more adventures.
What I learned from the Stagecoach 400:
- Don’t leave your cuesheets at the crapper – I was reading over my cuesheets one last time as I handled pre-race business in the potty room. Somehow, said cuesheets never made their way back into my handlebar pocket before embarking. Oh well. Printed cues would’ve been nice. Luckily I took screenshots of each page on my phone that I could view in airplane mode.
- A loaded bike makes you feel like a clydesdale and descends like a rocket ship. Fresh brake pads, good call.
- After riding for hours on end and not seeing another soul, it’s kinda magical when someone rolls up on you and decides to climb out of Pamo Valley with you. Sam, you were a godsend – best of luck on the 27th – I’ll be cheering for you on my stagecouch – 50 hours or bust homie!!
- Chad, same to you. It was great meeting you and riding with you for a bit – sorry about the flat tire – glad it wasn’t me though!!
- A slurpee from 7-Eleven, half cherry/half coke brings me back to high school baseball practice. The perfect delight for worn soul.
- Make sure to attach your red blinky light well. Mine fell off on day 2, and I was nervous about night riding on pavement after that.
- While hike-a-biking – up the Jim Truck Trail into Idyllwild at the end, I was talking to the dirt and howling at the moon. The mantra “Jim Crow Truck, give daddy a big ole suck” got me through that climb. Mantras are good. Use them.
- That reminds me of music. I brought a little iPod shuffle to get me through tough times. Never used it. Tried it once, but realized the voices in my head were more entertaining. Think a lot. Embrace the voices and the random songs that start playing in your dome.
- Don’t try to camp in an RV Park. I thought it was cool. Just grabbed a spot after hours, and was ready to pay in the a.m. when a cane tapped my forehead. I saw a couple orthopedic shoes, and then a blurry voice told me this is an “RV resort” and “get outta here before I call the cops.” I explained my scenario, and pulled out loot… but the cane pointed the way out – so that was that.
- Smell stuff. Man, those oranges were so fragrant. They wrapped me up, and as much as I just wanted to grab one off the tree and succumb to the citrus, I just rode on, inhaling through the nose. Magic.
- Embrace the highs and the lows, there are many. Don’t get too fixated on either. Downplay the lows or they will eat your psyche from the inside out. Downplay the highs, so that they keep coming and aren’t expected, and when you do drop to a low, the dump doesn’t mentally crush you.
- If a car rolls up on you and offers a shot of whiskey, take it. Thank you, dear Trail Angel.
- The contrast between everything was so polar and so amazing. The broad reach of this route is unfathomable. Desert sand, lush grass, mountain air, ocean air, desolate stretches, urban jungles, over-populated super cities, coeds, golfers, roadies, freeways, singletrack, shanty towns, solace, waterfalls.
- Lady J – “Hoy, hoy”. I hope you weren’t intending to rob me. I gave you a half liter of water, and still got the vibe you were scoping out my gear and were intending to return while I was asleep to steal my stuff. Maybe I was just paranoid, but either way, it was time to go
- The ferry ride from Coronado to San Diego Bay was 15 minutes of pure bliss. Take off your shoes, elevate your legs, and enjoy it baby.
- Ditch those piece-o-shit 33oz. zefal water bottles. I’ve owned 3, and they all leak. Next time, I’m going with the big aquafina bottle in the topeak cage that Brendan showed me!
- The camaraderie is second to none. Like Navy Seals going through hell week – or the Tour Divide, or any other grueling accomplishment. That’s something that nobody else will really understand, unless they’ve lived it. If you’ve lived the Stagecoach 400 – everyone who’s done it – we’ve got a connection that you can’t sever, and a respect that can’t be broken.
- I’d never ridden a singletrack river before. Riding your bike on a slithering ribbon of water through some overgrown swampy land is a highlight for sure.
- Jump in the waterfall at Penasquitos. It feels like Lord of the Flies. The cold water cleanses your body and soul, and mother nature is definitely doing you a solid for showing her such respect by embracing this route.
- Another visceral memory is eating a cooking and watching the sunrise after summitting Oriflamme. When you make a long ascent through the night, with flashlight power – and then sit at the top to see the curtain slowly get pulled and reveal what you just conquered – it’s one of the best feelings in life. WOW.
- Same goes the other way. After climbing out of Fish Creek Wash and getting on the old Stage Route – it’s impossible not to think about the people who’ve traveled before you, watching the same mystical sunset as you make your way through landscapes that couldn’t be imagined any better.
- The two friends I met at Warner Springs, who cooked me a burger at the Community Center – what a special time. They cook food for hikers coming off the PCT and felt my “bikepacking” trip was worthy. After being in the saddle for 16 hours that day, that burger, and their company raised my spirits when I was drifting to the abyss. I believe her name was Clarissa… she said ” Where ya goin? Idyllwild. That’s pretty far for someone in your condition. We have two great big oak trees out back if you wanna camp under them.” Her gesture renewed my faith in humanity, and balanced the emotional state I was in at the time – enabling me to keep pushing up through Chihahua with a zest I didn’t anticipate. Thank you, Clarissa.
- I don’t care how many times you see the “same old stars” – I still marvel at them. Especially when it’s quiet, you’re in the middle of nowhere, and there’s a slight bit of wind in your ear.
- My Ghandi mantra crept in often as I rode. “Every night, I die. Every morning, I am reborn.” That got me through some tough climbs too.
- The lady at Veronica’s Kitchen (next to the Perkins Store in Descanso) must have refilled my coke 12 times. Every time with a smile. I ate a Dale Burrito – fish and bacon. That, my friend, is the bomb. The tv was playing a show called Teen Kids News, very entertaining and educational.
- Guejito Truck Trail. Wasn’t expecting that one. After climbing up that dangerous hwy 78 – you enter a secluded canyon with amazing views. For some reason, that spot sticks with me. F Yeah.
- The beer at the end of the road and the jerky. Thank you Brendan and Mary for making this route an accessible and tangible reality that people will be riding and cherishing for years to come – and that we’ll be able to hand down to our children. Be proud.
Like I said, this blog is more selfish… a quick journal of memories and reminders – than it is to give you a “ride report”. Get some.