Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 53: Two and a half passes to Burns

Day #53) August 4, 2011. Juntura, OR to Burns, OR: 59 miles in 5:29 hrs.

Man, I’ve been getting up pretty late these past mornings – today at about 5 am. No worries though as I knew that I’d pick up an hour by entering into the PST zone today. So shoving off at 6:30 am was ok. I had ordered a club sandwich with a macaroni salad last night at the café so I could put it in the frig and have it this morn for breakfast. So I got that down about 6 am and then was packed and on the road at exactly 6:30.

Was it ever cool this morning – about 49 degrees, so I had to put the long sleeved poly pro on and then the reflective vest. Twenty pedal strokes later I was out of Juntura! And it was the same as yesterday – a false flat climb up along the Malheur River right out of town. But it didn’t take long for the road to leave the Malheur River valley and begin to climb up gradually into the mts. And bingo-bango on to the first pass of the day – Drinkwater Pass, elevation 4212 feet. So as soon as I began to feel the effort I noted the time. Spent twenty min or so in the middle ring, and then when the pitch increased I hit the little ring from the remainder. And this pup just kept going and going. After about 45 min of climbing I thought I’d topped out, but it was just a long false summit that dipped down slightly and then arched up again for another 25 min to the real summit. Somewhere along that false summit was the Pacific Time Zone line, and I yelled out a Whoop as I went by that. Then the climb contined on. Yup, that was a climb all right, just about 1:10-1:15 hrs in length.

The descent was pretty dinky after all that climbing, and what with a second pass down the road I was totally good with that. No need to loose a ton of elevation only to reclimb it for a second time. So the descent went right back into another climb, not the second pass, but I’d call it “half a pass”. And this pup took a good 30 min to surmount. Now by this time I was making about 9 mph progress, and that equates to a solid 6-hour day if everything remained the same. I mean making forward progress was killer slow. On the plus side: just fabulous weather, great temps, and very interesting scenery. I had the day to ride just 58-60 miles, and I was NOT going to cook my legs what with a crazy long day on the docket for tomorrow. And what was pretty cool was the fact that I felt really good today on the climbs. The arse was not on fire and the legs were strong and fluid.

So I came up to the “half pass’s” summit and descended yet again. Then pedaled for a good several miles on a gradual up until I saw my second climb up to the next pass. And this thing was one of those “Penntucky” climbs: no switchbacks whatsoever, but rather just a road straight up the side of the mt, kind of contouring up as far as I could see. Now it wasn’t like this massive summit or crag, but rather a long ridge that separate basins. So again, I noted the time and began climbing, and it didn’t take long for me to shift into the little cookie and just enjoy another slow and ponderous noodle to the top. And this rampart was just a LONG son of a gun. I was in the saddle spinning for 10-15 min, then gear up to the middle ring and climb out of the saddle for 5 or so min. I did this on and off for a good 40 min, partially to give the arse a break, and partially to really rest the quad muscles. This is a great way to climb – for me anyway – and I just feels very refreshing at times to gear down and climb out of the saddle.

The funny thing about this climb, and it’s called Stinkingwater Pass at an elevation of 4848 feet, is that it just kept going and going and going. And I remembered that this is the pass the motorcycle folks were telling me about yesterday. The guy was saying it just went straight up the mt, and by God it does indeed do that. I must have come to 3 false summits, and then it just pitched up and continued to go on for another 10-15 min. I mean just when I thought I was at the top, the road dipped down and then went right back up again. The summit came well over an hour into the climb. The descent – a piddly 2 miles. But again, I’m rather keep the elevation than reclimb it over and over. At the bottom of this descent was a massive basin, Oregon’s Great Basin, and the hamlet of Buchanan. I stopped at this little gas station/store/Indian jewelry/antiques place. At that point I’d gone 36 miles in about 4 hrs. And that was just all climbing. The sign said that Burns was 23 miles to the west, and looking at the road ahead of me, it was as flat as a pool table and straight as an arrow. So I got one can of coke and continued on, hoping that my climbing was done and that I could really begin to make some time with a much faster speed.

Luckily the wind was every so slightly out of the south, and I was able to average a solid 14 mph with no headwind. This was just pure delight to crank down Rt 20 at such a lightspeed! Hell, I’d been noodling so long at 4-9 mph that 14 felt like I was on fire. And this was the case all the rest of the way to Burns. To the south were some light rain storms, but I was way ahead of them and had no worries that I’d bed pooped on at the last minute. Got into Burns and went straight to a Subway and got my latest favorite sub – the Seafood Sensation. And I got the 4 scoops by gosh! No nickel and diming me in that area here in Burns. Add to that 2 40/50 oz fountain cokes and I was good to go. Then dialed in a little efficiency motel and here I sit pecking at the computer keyboard as usual.

Ok, so tomorrow. I’ve seen signs that say that Bend, OR is anywhere from 120-140 miles from Burns. When I add up the mileage on the road map I get 120 miles. Now there are two passes, one at 4596 feet outside of Burns – I’m good to get one out of the way early – and the other at 4291 feet just east of Bend – that one could really hurt! With that said, I need: great day with low temps, no or low headwind, or better yet a tailwind, and super legs to make this happen. I have not done a ride with full gear that’s this long since Ryan and I did 152 miles in a day in Ontario, Canada. And that ride took me nearly 10 hrs – a stellar pace with fairly flat roads and a moderate tailwind. I’m not banking on a pace that fast tomorrow. So I can only do what I can do. I’ll take plenty of water and plenty of food. If I cannot maintain 12 mph, I think I will not be able to pull this off.

I’ve got some ideas and potential options, but really, there’s nothing between Burns and Bend but one little gas station in Brothers, OR. Now there are services in Riley, OR, but hell, it’s just a measly 26 miles west of Burns. After that it’s all nothingness. So if you don’t get a blog on Saturday morning, you’ll know I did not reach Bend on Friday. Then again if I do reach Bend late on Friday, you still may not get a blog on Saturday morning, cuz I’ll simply eat, shower and go to sleep.

So that’s the story. I hope to have a report to you tomorrow evening. All the best and wish me luck…….Pete

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