With classic reggae spilling out of David’s newly-installed sound system, we drove past the packed parking lot of riders getting ready for the Silver Star Prison Break. We were running late and made it there 5 minutes before the start. Luckily, we pulled in right behind Sean (Corey) and Paul (Valentine), and we all quickly made plans to ride together. While we were still getting ready, the main group started riding and we were left playing catch-up/riding on our own terms. Lara and Marayah were also getting a late start and the six of us set off together. The roads were quiet and the air still had that familiar damp, morning chill which mixes perfectly with anticipation.
For those wondering what this ride was about, Brian Hart Jr (BHJ) had put the word out to the internet a couple months back about the Silver Star Prison Break, a new gravel ride he’d developed in Washington. Having driven around this area a few times, I had some serious doubts about whether a worthwhile loop could be made out of the rats nest of old logging roads. I had fresh legs though, and despite doubts about the route and my tires, at the last minute I bailed in with David to do the ride.
Back to the day, and by the time we hit the gravel at Skamania Mines road, we had unfortunately separated from Lara and Marayah. We chilled out a bit while we tackled the first big climb of the day. About half way up, right near the best viewpoints of Silver Star mountain, I flatted and took my sweet ass time getting the flat changed. It was clear a rock had just pinged the tube through the tire which made me even more nervous that the sheep-skin delicate Compass tires were not going to survive the day. I pumped them up to 70-80 psi and we got going again. I was a little disoriented and dropped my tire levers out the back of my saddlebag. When I looked up, my friends hadn’t noticed and kept riding and I did the rest of the climb myself, briefly saying hi to a woman wearing a Roscoe Bikes kit and getting passed right at the top by an absolutely blazing Brandon Meinke.
At the summit, I reunited with the dudes and the Hart family was there with delicious cookies and water. We were the first folks to meet up with them and I was convinced we were towards the back of the group, but they said we were in the middle. With my tire concern, I took the descent off the top very slow. It stunk to descend slowly; normally I like to think I’m a pretty reckless party descender, but I had no faith in my tires for the job. Paul, David and Sean all flew by and inevitably, half way down, Paul flatted his skinny-ass 28mm tire. While he changed the tire, I thought, “he’s gotta take it easier now”. Then, 10 minutes later, he flatted the same goddamn tire again. Sean Carline pulled up and we chatted for a minute and I gave him an Anyone Riding sticker. Eventually, we got going again, but I was feeling pretty bummed that in the last hour, 40 minutes had been devoted to flat changing.
We hit Dole Valley road, a familiar spot to me from driving to hikes at Silverstar. Relatively, there was lots of traffic, but it was fine. Past the prison, we climbed on tarmac, which felt great. The Livingston road descent was incredible, we were all tucking and flying, I’m pretty confident we were doing mid 50s at points. From there, we enjoyed a mellow ride over to the last big climb. Lessard Road was another beautiful, paved, descending curver. The sun was out, and we were all feeling pretty good for the big climb (except for Sean who had been dealing with having just a big 40t single ring up front). We took a nature break, ate some food, and started out again.
When we hit the gravel for the final time, it was clear this road was a slightly different animal. Initially, it felt more like a dirtbike or 4 wheeler road than a normal Forest service road. Big chunky gravel with very few clean lines to ride on. I babied my bike over the rocks and hoped my tires would take the punishment. I was still feeling good though, and at some early point I said fuck it to myself and decided to hammer the hill. I passed Marayah and Lara on the way up and said hey and passed a few other folks. I rode hard to the intersection and waited a couple minutes for everyone else to come up. Later, I made a strava segment for this climb and was psyched to get the KOM…. Until Brandon Meinke uploaded his file and destroyed my time by almost 3 minutes: totally savage.
We finished the climb and met up the Hart family again. Sean warned me the descent might be shit, so I got an early start and nursed myself down some more gnarly gravel. Things eventually mellowed, we saw a great view of Hood, and passed some friendly guys kitted out in full military fatigues and airsoft guns. David got a great gram of me riding by and smiling at them. We descended some more and eventually hit pavement for the final time. The sun started to disappear behind the clouds and we settled into get-it-done mode. The last mini climb up Canyon Creek road was rough, we were all feeling like garbage and were just grinding it. And then, all of a sudden it was over and we were descending back to the car. We packed up, found the nearest Burgerville in Google maps and drove off for celebratory, recovery burgers.
Before the ride, I was self-convinced that the riding out in this corner of the world would be miserable, but it was truly an awesome, beautiful day. In the end, we clocked about 6800’ in 52.5 miles of riding, so yeah, this ride is no joke. It was awesome to spend the day with my doggs having fun, talking shit, and taking photos. I’ve also got to shout out BHJ and his family again for putting together a killer route and offering such kind support. I hope this event continues in the future and that more people get to explore this rough, wild corner of the world just 45 minutes from Portland!