RAMROD Stories: Counting Bikes

The discovery of an old volunteer sheet leads to stories from the 2011 Deer Creek Water Stop



A few years ago, RAMROD’s Food Wrangler and long-time super-volunteer, Erika Lim, was cleaning out event storage crates during the off-season and noticed a volunteer sheet from the Deer Creek water stop from a previous year. On the back of the sheet was a hand-written tally of bike brands that had been captured during the 2011 day. Six years later, we were fortunate enough to locate and talk to the volunteer leader at Deer Creek, Darren Gray, to learn the story behind the tally. Darren was kind enough to share his experience and surprise us with a terrific story beyond the paper from that day.

Deer Creek is a small but critical water stop on RAMROD’s most difficult climb. Many riders will find themselves at their limit near Deer Creek and a chance to cool off and regroup can be key to completing the ride. In 2011, Darren Gray, Keith Meers, Mike Kunz and Raman Ravi were the four-person team at Deer Creek supporting cyclists.

RAMROD volunteer and veteran Darren Gray

Volunteering at RAMROD

RAMROD is a unique ride and I wanted an opportunity to do ride it but I wanted to guarantee my slot so I could plan my calendar.  So when an email came out to volunteer to guarantee a spot I signed up. I also thought it would be great to get a feel for the course and check it out the year before I would ride. I was lucky and fortunate to get Deer Creek because it's at the top of this very long climb near the end of the ride so I knew people would be needing some help both in terms of moral support and as well as refreshments.  The 2011 event day was an extremely warm day and we gave out a lot of water that day.

It was fun to have the autonomy to run that stop and we had a good team.  We knew were playing a significant role at a key stop on the course.

As the day began, I learned about the countdown of the numbers so that the riders with the lowest numbers were the oldest. So we made a special effort at our stop to find the low numbers, look out for them and acknowledge them for their accomplishment. Editor's note: to learn more about RAMROD's rider bib numbering system, check out our Rider 1 story.

We were also curious who was riding what kind of bike. We started seeing all these great bikes going by so we thought we'd take a survey of the bikes and what were people riding: what was popular and what was unique. We got the idea to count the bikes pretty early in the day because the fast riders were coming by on some pretty sweet bikes. So we started making a check list of every single brand of bike that went by and noted how many we saw.

The back side of the Deer Creek Volunteer Sheet. Click here to see a large view of the volunteer sheet

Some were very common like Trek and Specialized but then you start seeing bikes that I've never heard of before like Ceepo and Masi.  The range of bikes that were out there that day was just amazing. Taking care of the riders was our priority but we were on the climb at Cayuse and riders were exactly flying by so we had a fair amount of time to inventory bike brands. Everyone on the team was helping doing the bike inventory.  When riders stopped - which wasn’t for long - we had a chance to have quick conversations about bikes.

Details from the bike tally. Click here to see a large view of this photo

Looking Out for a Friend

One of the best stories from that day came at the very end of the day and our shift at Deer Creek. A good friend, Phil, had decided to ride RAMROD that year and I'm waiting all day for him to go by and we're getting to the end and he hasn't come by.  I thought maybe I missed him.

We start wrapping up and we're closing down Deer Creek at the cut-off time so I take the truck and I go back down the hill to pick up the signs for the stop and as I get there there's my friend and he's turning left to start his climb up Cayuse at 5:30 in the late afternoon!  There's no body left on the course and he's the last guy out there.  So I drive by my friend in this big truck with water and stuff left over from the Deer Creek stop.

I said “Phil how are you doing out here I think you're the last person” and he said “I'm doing ok, I'm making it, I've got my headlamp and I'm good to go.” I let him know that we've closed the stop miles ahead and I made sure to top off his water and give him plenty of energy bars. I told him I’ would be checking in with his wife to keep tabs on him. He wanted to keep on going and he finishes in the dark as the last rider. The next day when I talked to him, he said I can't tell you how important it was that you were there because I needed everything to make my goal and finish in under 24 hours.

Riding RAMROD in 2012

The next year I get the opportunity to ride and it was a beautiful, perfect day for riding.  We rode out of the fog in Buckley and the day started opening up and it was just magical.  The Cayuse climb was challenging and fairly warm but as I was going by Deer Creek I could recall the previous year and that was a lot of fun for me.  At the end, it was a great scene and I remember the ice cream!  My first RAMROD ride went well due in large part to volunteering the year beforek, scouting out the event and knowing what to expect

Mount Rainier during Darren's RAMROD 2012 ride

There's just something special about RAMROD.  The setup and the route is unique but the volunteers are die-hard cyclists who not only love riding but love to help support, love being there and they know what it's about.  That's what make it a really special ride.

Darren Gray

RAMROD 2011 Volunteer
RAMROD 2012 Finisher

Author's Note: We’d like to thank Darren for his contributions to RAMROD and for sharing his stories with us. It’s volunteers like Darren that power RAMROD and make it the premier cycling event in the Northwest for hundreds of cyclists every year.