Riding with Rie: Super Chill Bday Bikepacking Vol.1 ~Celebrating the 1st timers~

Words by Rie Sawada, Photos by Rie Sawada & NicholasMHA

Going to bikepacking with friends is the greatest way to celebrate a birthday, that’s also my desire/ wish.

This is the story of my birthday bikepacking in 2021. As I get older, time passes faster and faster, but I couldn’t help but share the story of this memorable first part of my birthday bikepacking in 2021.

Since this first event, the “Bikepacking Ride After the Bicycle Exhibition and Rie’s Birthday Ride” that I have planned has become an annual event at the request of the riders who participated in this first event. My birthday coincides with a bike industry trade show, and a lot of my frame builder friends and people in the bike industry are visiting Portland, so I thought it would be a good time to give them a taste of the Oregon wilderness with a bike ride and a camping trip.

Of course, everyone has a birthday every year, and I always didn’t know how I wish to celebrate. I had heard from a close friend, “I’ve never done bikepacking before, but I’d like to try it someday! But I don’t have a good reason to start!” So I decided to lead them on their memorable first bikepacking trip. I planned that day thinking that it would be a special and memorable day not only for my birthday but also for everyone who came along.

People who have never gone bikepacking tend to think that it is hard, but it doesn’t have to be and you can just enjoy it. I thought that if these newbies enjoyed bikepacking with me and ended up going again, that would be the best birthday present for me. So, with that said…

My birthday is around the end of October, and Oregon’s rainy season starts around that time, so it can be challenging to make plans for outdoor activities. The forecast was for rain in various parts of Oregon every day that week, and I was so nervous that I checked the weather forecast every hour for the 10 days leading up to my bikepacking trip. Planning a ride event can be pretty stressful.

It was difficult to communicate with 10 people who lived all over the west coast, so we started an email thread to share information about our route, what to bring, the weather forecast, etc., and to check on their preparations in the lead-up to the trip.

”Who wants to go bikepacking in the rain for their first time experience!?”

Scott from Santa Cruz Bicycles says, “It’s forecasted to be a ‘Parade of Storms’ which makes it more festive and exciting…. Right?!

I don’t want my friends to have a bad experience on some of their first bikepacking trip. I also had no choice but to keep our plan alive when I saw these grown men, beaming like young kids as they acquired new camping equipment and talked excitedly about the gear they had bought. Aaah, “Otento-sama (Sunny god)”, please give me the sun as my birthday present!

Oh my God! It was sunny that day! Actually, I’m mostly a sunny girl! Thank you! It’s a miracle!

This trip wasn’t just for bikepacking beginners.To witness this monumental day, our best friends, Retrotec Curtis and Nick, traveled all the way from California to Portland just for this joyous occasion of watching their friends camp under the stars with their bikes.

We met at Deschutes River State Park, an hour and a half drive east of Portland, packed up beer and wine in the parking lot, and before departing, we cheersed, “Happy birthday, Rie!” Day 1 got off to a super chill start, with us leaving later than planned- a little after 1pm.

The scenery is spectacular and the mood is at its peak as we ride while sharing jokes and singing songs.

This is also one of my favorite places- the route I usually take friends who are going bikepacking for the first time. But I also took my surfer girl friend who was experiencing bikepacking for the first time- or had never ridden a gravel road before- which became a story and was published in HiHeyHello Magazine 004

This place is magical.. You can look in every direction and see gorgeous and photogenic lanscapes… We even saw a couple of Big Horn Sheep.. Lots of miracle things were happening to our crew too..

Curtis brought a big bag of popcorn, and it made it all the way to our final camp spot without any holes or tearing the bag! Oscar was riding on the rocky gravel road faster than ever..

Nick rode the super sketchy scariest ridge section that everyone was feeling nervous watching him riding on that edge.. yikes.

We were not sure how long we wanted to ride on the DAY1 and kept going and going until we hit the Deschutes River Trail dead end. Turns out this super easy beginner route I made wasn’t enough for them. The sun was getting settled but we couldn’t pitch our tents on the side of super sketchy edge of the trail.

Ah oh, too late. Jay and Oscar wanted to extend their adventure and kept going.. and they were already pushing through the gnarly narrow rocky road.. Steven, Scott and I hung out and just watched them to see if there was a rideable trail on the other side of the rocky cliff.

It was getting dark, we didn’t find any rideable trail ahead, so we had to drag our fully loaded bikes down the steep rocky cliff, and my friends helped carrying my (heaviest) bike. Thank you friends!

We wound up setting up our camp at the base of the rocky cliff. There were so many large falling rocks around us but the thought of falling rocks would make me nervous and not have a good time, so I tried not to think about it. This is like not thinking about sharks when I surf in the ocean. Before sunset, everyone set up their tents with their helmets on. You never can be too safe….

Finally, let’s enjoy making a small campfire and camp food! That’s the most fun part of the camp, right? And, Curtis’ popcorn made it all the way!

Nick brought us tamales and we were able to heat them up in the fire, what an easy and outstanding idea as camp food!

Curtis and Nick brought a couple bottles of super special wine from their local Napa and Santa Rosa vineyards to share with everyone as a birthday treat. Those carefully packed bottles made safely, even riding on the gnarly rocky road. It tasted delicious and special with these friends in this special place after having some unexpected adventure times. I’m so grateful to have such fun friends who know how to have fun outside in the middle of nowhere.

So many big laughs and great times..

DAY2: We were blessed with good weather again in the morning. We started with an impressive breakfast spread complements of Jay that I was looking forward to the most. Those raw eggs made it all the way without breaking. Jay used a cast iron pan I brought along and made the perfect sunny side fried eggs for everyone with delicious beans. I cooked and shared some bacon, and felt happy that Iugged my heavy cast iron pan which was useful to make a delicious breakfast. Breakfast after all, is very important food to start out an active day.

After breakfast, we packed and prepared for departure. Voile straps are essential. Jay carries an axe.

Climbed up the cliff that I worked hard to come down yesterday..

Sunny and super chill ride along the river.. We all enjoy the beautiful scenery every moment while grazing on all our leftover beers and snacks we carried. I think the constant snacking is one of my favorite parts of bikepacking- especially with my friends and we all carry different delicious snacks.

Fun times pass way too fast.. I don’t want this to end….

And the last cheers ‘Kanpai’ again at the lunch spot in Hood River to celebrate our fun camping adventure. We looked back on our trip, saying:

“So, again next year…?”

To be continued.. on to Vol.2 !!