Craig Hill: How to make Jell-O legs in 40 miles or less

On a recent rainy Sunday in Tacoma, 68 bicyclists decided to try the new Destiny Dozen Hill Race. Only 37 riders were able to finish the 13-hill race.
On a recent rainy Sunday in Tacoma, 68 bicyclists decided to try the new Destiny Dozen Hill Race. Only 37 riders were able to finish the 13-hill race. Getty Images

Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet:

Q: How do you make Jell-O in 40 miles or less?

A: It’s a two-step process. One, grab your bike. Two, pedal around Tacoma in search of the steepest hills. Voila, one set of Jell-O legs.

This is precisely how a group of cyclists decided to welcome spring. Sixty-eight people registered for the free Destiny Dozen Hill Race on March 20. They casually rolled around town until reaching one of the city’s many steep hills. Then they raced to the top with the first three earning points. Those with the most points after all 13 hills earned a mountain of bragging rights. Thirty-seven riders finished.

Tacoma’s Jill Nintze hatched the idea for the event during a ride on Halloween. She’s from Pittsburgh, home of the famous Dirty Dozen ride that takes on 13 of the city’s steepest hills the day after Thanksgiving. That ride started in 1983, but Nintze said she never had the chance to participate.

She floated the idea for a Tacoma version and local cyclists ranging from commuters to racers expressed interest.

“It was a purely grassroots thing for the community,” Nintze said. “It was not super polished and it was never meant to be.”

While Pittsburgh’s ride is famous for including one of the steepest streets in the world (Canton Avenue), Tacoma’s had the heady challenge of falling at the beginning of the cycling season rather than the end.

“We were telling people it was a good baseline assessment,” Nintze said. She estimated the ride climbed almost 4,000 feet over 40 miles. The Destiny Dozen, which already has a catchy but unprintable nickname, started and finished at Wright Park and included climbs of 19th, 29th, 36th and Vassault streets and Owen Beach Road.

The Goldfish Tavern, closed since 2012, opened to provide a midride rest stop. During one long climb, a resident turned on his car’s blinkers and rode up the hill behind the group. “He said he was a cyclist,” Nintze said. It was a welcome tip of the cap to a group choosing to spend a Sunday afternoon suffering in the rain.

Two climbs toward the end proved to be particularly challenging. L and K streets via 29th Street had two false summits giving the impression the climb would never end.

Perhaps the toughest of them all, however, was Fairbanks Street from Portland Avenue to L Street. Legs were tired and the hill was so steep tires slipped in the wet conditions. “A lot of people couldn’t finish that one,” Nintze said.

Nintze hopes the ride was enjoyable for cyclists of all types. She hasn’t decided if she’ll hold the ride against next spring, saying only, “If the people want it.”

Q: I don’t have a horse or a swimming pool, how can I play polo?

A: Nintze was traveling the country as a bike polo player in 2011 when she visited Seattle for the world championships. “I fell in love with Washington,” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”

In 2013, Nintze moved from Pittsburgh to Tacoma. She’s a member of the Tacoma Bike Polo Club, a club, she describes as “fledgling.”

So, what is bike polo? Think of polo on bikes instead of horses.

A bike and a helmet is all you need to try the sport, Nintze said. If you notify the club in advance, they can supply a mallet and pointers for rookies. Sometimes they can even roundup a bike for first-timers, Nintze said. Nintze says bikes without drop handlebars are safer.

Nintze hopes to get the club together for more monthly matches at Tacoma’s Verlo Playfield. She also hopes the club can put on an exhibition in May, Bike Month.

For more information on the club, visit facebook.com/groups/TacomaBikePolo.

If your interests lean more toward traditional forms of polo, there are opportunities there too. The Tacoma Polo Club offers clinics for $100. Instructor Claudia Howell says all you need is jeans and sturdy shoes (no spurs). Horses, mallets and helmets are provided. Clinics are offered each month, but dates for April haven’t been announced. Reach the club via facebook.com/TacomaPoloClub and learn more about clinics at polo-zealot-school.com.

And if water polo is your thing, usawaterpolo.org offers a listing of South Sound clubs with programs for youth and adults.

Q: What’s the most adventurous way to tour Olympia this summer?

A: Registration opened recently for the Aug. 6 Capitol to Bay Relay adventure race. The 37-mile race starts at the Mima Falls trailhead in Capitol State Forest and finishes in downtown Olympia.

The five-leg race starts with a 7.4-mile mountain bike ride and is followed by 22 miles of road biking, a 3.5-mile paddle and then a 3.4-mile run. It concludes with a 0.5-mile urban trek to the finish line at Olympia Brew Fest in Port Plaza Park.

For information or to register, visit capitoltobayrelay.com.

Participants can compete solo or as a team. Proceeds from the race go to the Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Foundation of Thurston County. The organization focuses on preserving green spaces, supporting art projects and artists, helping provide recreation opportunities for children and promoting diversity.

The relay started in 2010 and was formerly known as the Olympia Traverse.


Results of the first Destiny Dozen bike ride on March 20. Participants scored points for being among the top three to reach the top of 13 hills on a 40-mile ride through Tacoma.





Brian Myers



Alex Walker



Matthias Bonjour







Nyki Delorme



Elizabeth Iaukea



Jill Nintze



CLYDESDALE (200 pounds or more)




Jeff Evans



Jesse Keating



David Carmichael



Source: Jill Nintze, ride organizer