See how much desert is in the desert! – Chapter 1 of The Stagecoach-ish 400

Words by Rie Sawada, Photos by John Blackwell

All bags are already fully packed at the time of departure.

Hello! Good morning! Good evening! I’m Rie from SimWorks USA. How is everyone doing?

The rainy season in Portland lasts for half the year from around Halloween until May or June. I was tired of rainy, dark Portland where it just seems to rain 10 days straight everyday in mid-March. So to escape from the wet Portland, I hopped in the sweet SimWorks Astro van which is set up as the weekend #vanlife mobile, and drove around 2,000 km / 3,200 mi, camping and riding along the way, heading south along the west coast to San Diego- the southernmost point of coastal California.

It’s been a while since I visited San Diego. I used to live there for six years and I miss it’s mild year-round weather- which I need to feel it physically and mentally for my health once a while especially living in Northwest where it’s cooler and wet most of the winter.

In January this year, I reached out to our good SimWorks bud, Jason to let him know we were restocking our 26″ Super Yummy tires, that he had been patiently waiting for. His thanks included an invitation for his annual Stagecoach trip. “It’s March 19 this year. Wanna go…?”

Mmmm…. What’s Stagecoach?

I checked the route and texted Jason “400 miles (600 km) 5 days?” , to which Jason replied “7 days, March 19.”

Mmmm… it sounds hard but it’s so tempting..

Stagecoach400 is a bikepacking route. I wasn’t sure what the ride involved, but I decided to go because the riders who went there seemed to be having fun. All my friends were worried if I could finish on such a tough ride. Was I worried, too…?

1. If Jason invites me, that means I should be able to ride.
2. Anyway, I just want to get out of the dark Portland and soak up the glaring sun.
3. It’s definitely fun if Jason’s friends come all the way to take a vacation to ride.

Participation in Jason’s annual “Stagecoach-ish” ride is only by invitation. This is the 4th year. Friends who weren’t called this year and some Northern California framebuilders were envious of my invitation. Because of the rain in the winter in Portland, I only ride my MTB once or twice a month, and I don’t keep up with any physical training, so I’m worried if I can finish the ride, as I’m out of shape. My fitness will increase, but since I was invited, I have no choice but to go.

I put off committing to the trip for almost 2 months, but finally sent the text, “Jason, I want to go too!” One week before the trip. Jason said, “You are coming!? Gonna be pretty hard. Tons of bailout spots if it gets too hard. So stoked you are going. First girl ever.”


The members of the trip look like this ↓ (A commemorative photo taken with John’s film camera on the morning of the first day. Please look forward to similar portraits from the last day.)

Jason Silverek

Jason- our fearless leader, Man’s man. Captain of this trip. Born in Santa Rosa, Northern California. Ride Hard Party Harder. Was fascinated with and decided to stay in San Diego, on a return flight to Hawaii a few years ago, he moved there with his wife Cassandra. As a humble SimWorks ambassador, Jason wears Super Yummy 26″ to promote Big Tire life and Bikepacking Culture, which weren’t very popular in San Diego.

John Blackwell

One of the only members who has participated in Stagecoach-ish for 4 consecutive years. A photographer from Santa Rosa. John brought his favorite Nikon film camera and a used 100mm lens that he had just bought at a camera shop on his way to the airport in Santa Rosa the day before the trip. He brought 4 rolls of film. Cool guy.

Kyle OuterShell

Stagecoach-ish participant for the third time this year. Outer Shell Adventure Designer / Founder. The youngest and most intrepid boy of this council. His head is too smart and his jokes are sharp, and he is loved by everyone. Kyle is one of our toughest riders and one of my favorite friend to hangout and go adventure with.

Blake Robertson

Stagecoach-ish participant for the third time this year. In August 2019, we met at the SimWorks pop-up shop, ROVE, an outdoor select shop run owned by Blake. A thoughtful gentleman and stylish, Blake’s SimWorks setup is handsomely dressed. He recently became a father of two and his son Henry, 5, also made his bike-packing debut shortly after this trip.

Nick Brock

Participated for the first time this year. This was Nick’s bikepacking debut with his new bike (Jason’s influence?). Born and grew up in San Diego. He sent his Bus Life, not Van Life, on his school bus, which he built out himself, but since September last year he became independent with Jason and usually works as a mobile home or camp van custom. There is. So be sure to check out @recreationanddesign as well!

Jay de Long

Participated for the first time this year. Jay had been riding a bunch leading up to the trip, so he didn’t feel so overwhelmed with the long days. Originally from Santa Rosa, Jay is Jason’s childhood friend from way back, and the two grew up skateboarding together. Sweet guy. He loves surfing and I sometimes go surfing and MTB rides with him when I visit Santa Rosa.

Nate Garrett

Nate made his debut in bikepacking with his first participation this year. Originally from Santa Rosa, this was my first time meeting him. He seems to be known as a strong rider and riders of Santa Rosa all know him. (He was a really strong rider. TRUE.)

I’ll manage to run!

@stagecoach400 Is one of the hardest Bikepacking rides I’ve ever done. A harsh desert camp ride of about 600 km (400 miles). A race is held every April. After all was said, I think we took 7.5 days to finish the ride, but apparently fast riders said the route could be raced in about 50 hours.

I was still debating whether to go until a week before I said yes. I’ve been so busy lately that I couldn’t ride my bike at all, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with the California Strong Dudes. When someone would ask about going on this trip, “Are you excited?”, I usually say “I’m nervous. I don’t think I can catch up with these strong California dudes, but I want to finish the ride.” I’m getting ready to ride this whole route by myself. “, But I don’t always prepare or study until the last minute. (The same was usually true for studying for tests when I was a student)

I just did a quick glance over the route and reviews at a few days before the trip, which made me even more nervous about my lack of information.

My friend who bailed at the 2nd day texted me “We had to bail because of snow. The weather can be pretty unpredictable. Be prepared for long stretches of loose sand and strong winds. Good luck.” Their experience made me even more nervous.

I found and read article Stagepoach 420 on The Radavist posted by Kyle and John who did the same route at exactly the same time in 2018. What? Was it the same trip? Even though it’s a desert, it’s a snowy landscape? It looked like a tough ride for sure, haha.

Jason only gave me information about the daily camp spots and the route is counterclockwise, and didn’t give me any further details. Even though I still had to research and learn more about the route by myself, I ended up with not getting more. I was depending on Ride with GPS, and my Dynamo Hub to charge my cell phone. The only thing I prepared myself was that I was ready to ride solo all the time behind the crew. Just like be myself with no pressure when I cycled across Europe alone. Even if I ride slower than everyone else, I definitely want to finish the ride!

I was telling myself that if I can complete this route that is recognized as a super tough ride by so many people, I will definitely feel confident in myself after the ride.

I was super stoked to be able to go to places where are completely out of service. My Portland real life was that I’ve been dipped in the internet world all the time, I get too much information in my mind everyday. I was hoping this would be a good opportunity to ride my bicycle alone in the desert of nowhere without radio waves and think deeply about myself..

But this trip didn’t turn like I thought. The daily rides were too hard for me that I couldn’t manage myself to think deeply about myself. At that time, I had to think about everything lightly and simply especially when biking for hours on an insanely soft desert I honestly can’t think of anything. I just had to empty my mind.

Pre camp party all night before Day 1 start @recreationanddesign HQ

To be continued to Chapter 2…