On my way to the State of Washington, I stopped in Utah to pick up a father and son climbing team I met on the summit of Gannett in Wyoming. They said if I ever decided to do Rainier, to give them a call, and they’d help me get the summit.
Washington’s Mount Rainier (14,410) rose majestically above us as we entered the parking lot of the Paradise Ranger Station. The most beautiful high point I had seen thus far, we were greeted by a couple of government employees. One of them had a fax from Washington, DC stating that under no uncertain terms were they to allow me to take a bicycle to the top of any State high point in a Wilderness Area. Something about National Security. It seems the National Park boys in DC thought my American Summits Tour was a joke…until the press began to hit nationwide. Gone was the cavalier mood about doing what I wanted so long as I didn’t set my tires on the ground.
The rangers were holding their position. They had the official fax from DC. A fax that was sent to every park with a State high point in it around the country. Which meant I would have to be careful when I came to New York and Maine. I was ready to place a call to the press in Seattle. Phyllis, my Klein bike sponsor, who’s factory was in Washington State, was ready to hop on the media wagon with a story of this volatile nature. Oh? Did I forget to mention the father from Utah was a Civil Rights Attorney? Must have slipped my mind in all the excitement.
For the next three hours, we held open court in the parking lot at the base of Mount Rainier. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, my bike wasn’t a bike, but a frame and two wheels. True, agreed the rangers, but when I reached the summit the next day, I was going to put those wheels on that frame and turn it into a bike. Therefore, I would be arrested now for what I intended to do tomorrow.
Pandemonium broke loose. The Civil Rights Attorney was hopping mad. Something about the united States not being a Communist country, and how did the rangers know I would even make the summit at all. Let’s go call the press, I said. The rangers began to sweat.. There were many trips back and forth to the main office.
Finally, a decision was reached. I could take the frame if I left the wheels behind. Balls! Let me have one wheel. No, they said. Still a bicycle. Hey pal, where I come from, it’s considered a unicycle. The attorney opted for the deal. We were wasting daylight. I shook my head, agreed with Shakespeare that we should kill all the lawyers, and gave in.
We had two great days of climbing in perfect weather. On the way down, a group of us got caught in a crevasse field in the middle of a warm afternoon. At one point we had to jump a ten foot gap that showed a bottomless hole. With a bike on my back! The lawyer said he’d yank me across. I protested, and promised God, “Just get us out of here, and I’ll never do this again.” And all the time, He knew I was lying.