Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 58: The Grand Finale

Day #58) August 9, 2011. Eugene, OR to Florence, OR: 65 miles in 5:39 hrs.

Just didn’t have it in me to write a blog yesterday post-ride. So I’m down here in the lobby of the Comfort Inn right now pecking away to get this up this morning. Pete is back in the motel room sawing logs – this after we did the “beerathon” last night at the Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR.

Well yesterday was the day. It’s hard to explain the joy and at the same time the sadness of ending something like this. I mean after 57 days of a gypsy lifestyle it all came down to one last ride. I’d kind of been thinking about this day for the last couple of weeks. It wasn’t as if I was fried or burned out, I think it was more a matter of really looking forward to seeing my loved ones and friends again. It gets kind of lonely out there doing a solo with this day after day thing into a new place, new town, new state. You can talk on the phone, do skype, the whole nine yards, but after a while you just begin to crave the real deal, the flesh and blood. That’s me of course, and we’re all wired differently. But I think I’d have a hard time doing something like this that would put that facet of my life out of commission for many months or even years at a time.

So anyway Monday night I did that damned Chinese buffet for dinner, having already let the lunch buffet settle for about 6 hours. The buffet was like crack for me, I just couldn’t for the life of me resist the temptation to get my arse back in there and much and sushi and egg rolls again. I purposely waited until 6 pm for all the food from lunch to digest such that I could re-enter the “ring” with full force. And that I did, hitting the sushi table first for a full plate of rolls and a big dollop of wasabi. Then on to the appetizers with hot & sour soup, egg rolls, spring rolls, peanut chicken, fried rice and fried dumplings. And of course there were the entrees, which included beef & broccoli, garlic shrimp, chicken & cashews and on and on. I walked out of there 4 lbs heavier!

Had a quick Ninkasi Oatmeal stout and it was off to dreamland. Got up at my now standard 5 am and began to prep for an 8 am start. Did the complementary breakfast, packed, had way too much coffee and was just totally ready to roll at 7:30 am. Now I had called Pete at 7 am and told him that the weather looked good up in Eugene, with the heavy fog cover already breaking up and some spots of blue sky visible. He indicated that was the same case for weather down along the coast at Florence. He’d camped out at the OR Dunes which is just south of Florence. Looked like we were going to get a WAY better day yesterday than the non-descript day on Monday. Well, I was just so packed “n” ready that I decided to get a jump on the day and roll out at 7:30. And that was it.

Rolled down Rt 126 into downtown Eugene on what was turning into a really nice day – temps in the low 60’s and the sun beginning to pierce through the thick fogcover. Had to do a bunch of turning on Rt 126 as it jigged and jogged all around the city. Finally made it onto the west side of town and began the truck towards the coastal mts and the town of Veneta. Heck, I yanked my vest off as soon as I got out of town. Tuesday morning was a heck of a lot warmer than it had been on Monday, and what’s more the thick fog cover had really broken up in the first 45 min of cycling such that was graced with a really beautiful party sunny sky. Now I was hoping that I could get about 2:15 hrs of cycling in before I hooked up with Pete, this just to kind of push me a bit to get good mileage and average speed for the day.

About an hour outside of Eugene, at least on the bike anyway, I could see the coastal mt ranges in the foreground, just kind of getting bigger and bigger. Now to me, having rode across several pretty significant mt ranges, these coastal mts looked more like big tree-covered foothills. By the time I’d gotten to the town of Veneta the day had just become spectacular, with such wonderful temps to cycle in, a cool breeze blowing out of the northwest, and just picture-perfect sun and cloud combination. “Yup,” I’d said to myself, “this is going to be an amazing way to finish up a trip.” And the really cool thing, the thing that just had me jazzed to a pretty high level was the fact that I was going to meet up with a friend to finish the ride. It was a carbon copy of last year’s final ride, when Barney met up with me for the final ride to Everett, WA. You just don’t know how wonderful this feels to have someone take the time and effort to join you for the final ride of a long trip like this. It just heightens the whole experience exponentially. I really think it comes down to being able to share that experience. Solo traveling has it’s place in my life, and I really enjoy many facets of it, but the one downfall of doing a solo is that you just cannot share some of the special experiences. Today I could.

Got through Veneta feeling really, really good. I had the legs today, I had the weather, I would have a riding companion in a matter of an hour or so. The butt – well it was what it was – just in a constant state of sore, even with than new dbl shorts I’d been wearing since the Burns to Bend ride! Now the traffic had been pretty thick from Eugene to Veneta, but once past Veneta it totally thinned out. My berm was fantastic, being anywhere from 3 feet wide to 6 feet wide, and smooth and fast feeling. The only downer, and it really wasn’t that bad, was the occasional logging truck which would go by, sending out this light plume of sawdust and bark behind it as it zipped by me. I’d just turn my head down, chin against breastbone, such that the dust wouldn’t get in my eyes.

By this time the road was starting to do this false flat climbing along the Long Tom River and a rail line leading me up into the coastal mts. Within 20 min I was on my way to the first of two kind of passes for the day. The first, at an elevation of 767 feet, well it went by like a second hand ticking, I mean it was over and done with in a matter of minutes. Compared to what I’d been climbing for the past 2 months, this was really so short and mellow that I was kind of dumbfounded. I was able to go middle ring the whole way up, and then just took this wonderful flier on the way down, where again, the western side of the climb was much steeper and longer than the eastern side. Around me was what appeared to be like a “rain forest” with these massive pine, or hemlock trees covered with long drapes of moss and fuzz. The mt air seemed so “earthy” smelling and pungent what with such vegetation.

So by that time I’d been riding about 2:15 hrs and at the very bottom of that descent I saw a rider coming at me – a rider on a mt bike with a red kit on… Pete Baughman. Man that felt good to see the dude. He did a U-turn, pulled up to me and we bumped fists. Turns out the guy was just riding like a madman to try to get 30 miles in before we met. He said he knew that I’d take off early to try to the “the jump” on him. It’s amazing, in that we’re all so damned competitive in every facet of our lives. I mean even when we were planning on meeting, the both of us wanted to try to get as far as we could before the other guy appeared. He definitely got the better of me yesterday, covering that ground from the ocean and into the coastal mts at like 17-18 mph on a bloody mt bike!

So I said to him, “ok get ready to go REAL slow.” And he was totally ok with that. He described the remainder of the ride as being pretty fast, with a long stretch up along a river and then just one small pass of about 500 feet in elevation (he has a Gamin 705 which does elevation) and then a flat and fast finish to the coast. So we rode for about a half hour together and then stopped at this little “last chance” kind of grocery store in the small hamlet of Walton up in the coastals. Got a some soft drinks and a bag of Pepperidge Farms chocolate chip cookies and sat down in the warm sun on a picnic table to much and get caught up on each other’s lives. Now Pete and Jane had just moved from Kent, OH to Washington state, so everything has been going at 100 mph as of late for them. They’re still settling into a whole new lifestyle and place, but I could tell from the way Pete was describing their new life that it was exciting and wonderful.

The stop was a quickie and we were back on the bikes, with Pete pulling me as if it were a 30-mile leadout! I mean we were just flying along the RR tracks and through the mts. There were times when we were motoring along at over 20 mph. And then came the second pass, and as Pete had said, it was an approach of about 2-3 miles and then just a small pitch up to the top. Managed to stay on his wheel all the way up the approach in the big ring. And I have to say that I was surprising myself at how good I was feeling going up that long false flat approach. Then when it pitched up I had to hit the middle ring, but again, as was the case with the first pass, this thing was over in a matter of minutes. Then I was home-free with nothing more than a descent and a long run along the Siuslaw River to the Pacific Ocean.

Now we did have to go through this 500 foot long tunnel at the start of the descent, which was pretty cool because is was sloping down mt. Then the descent, not too switchbacky, and pretty fast for about 3 miles, where I just let the yak do the work of pushing me down mt. Pete, well he was back flat, chin down to the gooseneck just flying down the mt. From then onward, along the Siuslaw River and the RR tracks, Pete just got in front and did this monster pull into what was becoming a pretty significant headwind out of the northwest. As each mile ticked off and we got closer and closer to the ocean the wind just intensified that much more. Now I swear that there were times when I was tucked in his draft, with my front wheel of a fully loaded rig just 6 inches off of his rear wheel. I mean the dude was approaching like 21-22 mph at times into that wind, and if I left that wonderful draft I’d have gotten spit out of there like a freaking tornado!

God the miles were flying by. By the time we hit 10 miles to Florence we were varying between 16 mph into a super gusting headwind or like 21-22 mph when the wind wasn’t gusting. And by that point I was counting them down, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, and on down until the magic 1-mile marker. Once freaking mile to go and the trip would be completed! And then bang, we were in Florence. Now the good news was that we’d made it in an amazing 4:15 hrs, and well, not really the bad news, but the other news was that we still needed to ride further to have access to the Pacific Ocean. You see Florence is not situated right smack dab on the ocean. So we crossed over the very famous Highway 101, and continued west on a county road, then took a right on another county road that ran parallel to the ocean. Problem was that there were nothing but these exclusive “gated” communities all along our left sides with zero access to the ocean. So we just continued north along this county road hoping to come across beach access in the not too distant.

That finally came about 3 miles up the road, where we turned in and descended this steep little asphalt road, and then turned left onto a gravel road and into a parking area. And there it was – the Pacific Ocean at low tide. Pete checked out the access to the water, cajoling me to walk the whole rig down to the water and dipping the front wheel into the Pacific. But it was a chore, with me having to push the bike through deep, loose beach sand, down a little hill and onto the beach. Then I had to push the rig through a kind of quicksand down to the water. So there I stood, with the water lapping lightly at my front wheel while Pete took several pictures. With the mission accomplished he came down and it took the both of us to push the rig around in the wet sand, and then up and over that sandy hill and back onto the gravel parking lot. DONE! At this point we traded bikes and both got treated to a whole different riding position. Pete looked as if he were riding a tricycle what with my seat so much lower than his, and I looked like I was standing because his seat was so bloody high. I mean I was getting a prostate-ectomy on that high seat. Pete on the other hand was nearly hitting his jaw with his knees due the seat being so low. It was pretty funny and a very cool way to end the trip.

We traded back the bikes after a few miles back up the road. Back in Florence my rig was broken down and stowed in his car and on the bike rack, and he pulled out a Black Butte Porter for me as a congratulatory gesture. I phoned Judy to let her know that the mission was accomplished and off we went, up Highway 101 to Newport where we had a room reserved for us at the Comfort Inn. The scenery along the way was just something that you have to experience – absolutely stellar! Now I do have to say that there is a TON of traffic on the 101, so it’s not like you’re just cruising down this nice little ocean-view road. This pup is heavily trafficked, and despite the many cyclists we saw riding this thing with full pack, I really don’t know if I’d enjoy doing that for 1200 miles of heavy traffic. Pete and I both talked about that, and how difficult it would be to deal with that kind of traffic for 1200 solid miles. What’s more the wind off of the ocean, God it was like gale force winds at times. And really, judging by the bend in all the ocean-facing trees, you’d have to do this thing north to south or else you’d be fighting a headwind the entire way.

Nope I was VERY happy to be in a car…and be DONE. Had to go about 50 miles north on the 101 up to Newport. And as I said the sights were just picture book around each and every turn. Maginficent! Newport is really a pretty big place compared to Florence and all the little towns we’d passed, and the great part of the whole thing was that there was the Rogue Brewery in Newport. THAT was our diner destination. Got to the hotel where Pete was finally able to crack a few beers, and where I was well on my way to getting toasted on Black Butte Porters, because by then I’d had three on the drive to Newport and two more in the hotel room B.S’ing with Pete.

Finally quite jawing and got showered and changed to go to the brewery, which was right down on this awesome little waterfront district. Great vibe to the place. The Brewery restaurant was as I expected, just totally point on with great food and stunning microbrews. We did some homemade bread with mozzarella and then some fried calamari, this amidst some great beer. I did some porter and chocolate stouts, while Pete did the IPA’s. After a super diner I cohersed him into searching out some fresh seafood, where we ended up on this pier at a restaurant that made what the sign said was some “great clam chowder.” Got to bowls to go and ate the soup on the pier in the twilight. Soup was wonderful. And there on the wooden pier, after sharing many a fine brew with a good friend, listening to the gulls and the waves, and smelling the amazing smell of the sea and fish, I felt as if that day was right up there with my day in the CO mts with Brad, and my day doing McKenzie pass with Rob and Rema. Yup, three really amazing days with four really amazing people – those are the most memorable days of the trip for me, the days where I’ll remember the feel, the sights, the smells and the sounds and the friends. Those will be the days that are burned into my mind like no others. Thanks to all of you who made those days so special!

That was it. Now I’ll do one more blog as a kind of postscript to the trip, a blog that I just don’t know where the hell I’ll go with, but one I think needs to be written nonetheless just to give a sense of finality to the whole adventure this summer. So I’ll have that last blog up in a day or two. Right now I need a little time to reflect on the past two months.

From the beautiful, sunny west coast of Oregon, all the best to everyone…….Pete

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 57: Day in fog/belly on fire

Day #57) August 8, 2011. McKenzie Bridge, OR to Eugene, OR: 49 miles in 3:29 hrs.

Wow, what an anticlimactic day compared to yesterday. Just not a lot to say. But I’ll give it a shot just for entertainment value!

Got a large pizza last night from the café across the street – the Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon, pineapples and onions. It was great. Trouble was that my eyes were bigger than my stomach – as usual – and having deliberated on getting the 12-inch medium, and then at the last minute switching to the large 16-inch instead, well, it was just a beast of a pizza. I was a stuffed pig half way through. Top that off with a big 24 oz bottle of that Ninkasi Oatmeal Stout and I was looking like a human piñata. I did manage to eat a bit more of the za a couple hrs later, but I still have like 4 slices left. That I figured I’d put in the micro fridg and same for breakfast.

Got up at 5 am, and didn’t plan on leaving until at least 8 am, what with Eugene being under 50 miles away, and the temp being about 45 degrees this morning. Wish I could have slept longer but having been getting up between 3 and 4 am for so long, my internal clock is just set right now. No need to hurry out, though, so I just worked a bit on the computer and waited for the little grocery to open so I could buy a cup of coffee. No complimentary coffee in this motel room. Eventually, against better judgment (remember the last time I had pizza for breakfast? Acid reflux ball of fire in my gut for 2 hours of cycling!) I ate those 4 slices. Now I’m no Eisenstein by any means, but you’d think I learned my lesson on that ride from Walden to Steamboat Springs. NOPE! No, I kind of justified that the Walden “pizza for breakfast” debacle was with a barbecued chicken pizza. “This is a Hawaiian pizza,” I reasoned, “and I shouldn’t have an issue with this kind.” Yea right, it’s the red sauce stupid! It’s the red sauce!!!!!

Once that store opened and I got some coffee down in the gut to mix with that cold pizza, I could just feel the fireworks beginning. So I got 2 danishes to throw down there to help neutralize the acid buildup. Right then and there I knew I’d done it again, and if my leg could kick backwards hard and high enough I’d of kicked myself in the arse several times for doing that stupid stunt for the second time. Pardon me, but what a dipshit I can be!!

So I just kind of waited for the sun to come up a bit more for warmth, and then got on the road at right around 8 am sharp. Still pretty chilly out though, as I was still at about 2000 feet in elevation in the Cascades. The forecast was calling for clear blue, sunny skies for the day – except for the fact that a sea fog normally rolls in and up to the Cascades each morning, and then burns off in the afternoon. And once I got rolling I could see the fog bank down the road. Only took like 30 min of riding and I was right inside of it. Now right from the start I was burping up that freaking pizza-coffee mix, and it was just pure misery. Felt as though I was trying to eviscerate my innards about every 10 min.

Rt 126 from McKenzie Bridge to Eugene is right along the McKenzie River, so that was nice as something scenic. But by and large what with the fog bank overhead, I just couldn’t see the mts. Now the road started out with a fairly nice berm, but eventually it just dwindled down to this 2-3 foot strip, or nothing at all. And the traffic on 126 was moving! Add some logging trucks to the mix and it was a bit dicey at times. And this was the first time in the trip where I really had any trouble with cars honking. I mean the one time I had to cross over this stream that feeds into the McKenzie, so there was no berm on the bridge section, and I’m over as far as I can go and this arsewipe starts honking at me from about 500 meters back on the road. Like where the hell am I supposed to go? Ditch the bike and jump into the stream? So as he went by I gave him the one-fingered salute, motioning my hand up and down in the air. And this happened a second time when I was doing this little roller climb where there was zero berm. Dude starts honking at me like I have to move, and once again I gave a nice up and down salute!

I mean I do my very best to NOT be out in the middle of the road, and oftentimes I’m just inches from the gravel on the side of the road, literally riding this razor thin line of asphalt berm. So it’s not as if I’m not paying attention here. I’m totally dialed into keeping it safe – on both the left and right sides of me. Now had I been in the boonies somewhere with a thousand miles to go, I’d have probably just not done anything. But at this point, with this much mileage under my belt and with the end in sight – I’m just not in the mood to take any *^&%^#@.

Back to the acid reflux, which was just making me completely miserable. I could just feel the small explosions in the stomach, which would then vent upwards into my esophagus like lava coming up through a lava tube. Couple of times I was within an inch away from stopping at a mini market to buy some Tums. But I continued on Tum-less.

So as I said, with that fog bank overhead, it was just like riding on a crappy, cloudy day. There were even points where I was getting spritzed on by the fog, and the temp stayed super cool, to the point to where I removed only my vest today, but kept the polypro on for the entire ride. Generally this was a net descent ride, what with Eugene situated at just 431 feet in elevation, but there were a few rollers here and there. But I never shifted out of the big ring for anything. My biggest issue today was just the damned busy traffic on Rt 126 and the lack of, or meager berm to ride on. And funny thing was that I was playing hop-scotch with the ACA (Adventure Cycling Ass.) van and riders. So the ACA had it’s riders doing the same busy stretch. No other way really.

Only one of their riders past me, so I kind of felt pretty good about that seeing that they are riding totally supported and have no gear on their bikes other than maybe a handlebar bag. As I got closer to Eugene the fog got thicker, colder, and there was more drizzle going on. Matter of fact it’s now 4:15 pm out as I’m writing here and the fog is still completely covering the area. No burning off going on at this point! By the time I got to Springfield I got a very nice, wide berm and rode it all the way into Eugene, another 4-5 miles down the road. Got a place here on the east side of the city – near two Chinese restaurants, a Subway, a gourmet grocery store, and my life is complete. I quickly showered and then made it to the chinese buffet for a 4-plater lunch! Went to the gourmet grocery after than and got another bottle of the masterful Ninkasi Oatmeal Stout for later this eve.

Oh yea, the acid reflux went away in about two hrs. So this was a pretty nondescript kind of day – short ride, not too much in the way of stellar scenery, and my gut was on fire for 2/3 of the ride. Hell, my kit didn’t even pick up one drop of sweat. I mean it was just a quickie ride and it was over. Didn’t even really stop to take but a few pictures due to the heavy fog and dreary scenery.

So tomorrow my friend Pete (Pete and his wife Jane just moved to the Seattle area) is going to park down in Florence, OR and ride his mt bike up into the coastal mts to meet up with me. Then we’ll ride back to the west to the Pacific Ocean where I’ll finish. Right now as I’m writing Pete is driving from Seattle to Florence, where he’ll camp tonight. I think after tomorrow’s ride we’ll camp or motel it on the coast and then drive up the Oregon coast on highway 101 and check out the sights. Then I’ll hang in Seattle for several days and then fly and train it on back to Ohio.

So that’s about it for today. Sorry it wasn’t a “barn burner” of a day. I am hoping though that tomorrow’s ride through the coaster mts will be a really scenic ride. I’d hate to have the fog bank again just blotting out the mts and sky. So I’ll leave no earlier than 8 am and see how the weather looks. I’d told Pete that I’m phone him if it’s really socked in up here tomorrow morning, and then we could plan accordingly.

Talk to you tomorrow – I think. If we camp I may not be able to put anything up on the net. So if you get no new blog on Wed, you’ll know that we camped and I had no internet service. All the best……pete

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 56: Loving the Cascades

Day #56) August 7, 2011. Bend, OR to McKenzie Bridge, OR: 66 miles in 5:08 hrs.

This had to be the MOST wonderful, enjoyable, scenic ride of the trip. I’d gladly climb a pass each and every day if I could experience what I experienced today!

Ok, I got up at a very nice 5 am so I could be on the road at 7am. No more of this riding in the dark, headlamp, vest crap. I’m on the homestretch and there’s just no need now to start riding before the sun comes up. Sipped motel room coffee while I watched the Sunday morning local news, and then went down and got going on the continental breakfast. Had some yogurt, bagels and cream cheese, packed and was motoring at 6:50 am. The temp was a very comfortable 52 degrees and there was a slight headwind out of the northwest. Not a cloud in the sky, and it’s supposed to be this way for the rest of the week.

As I rode out of Bend I was overwhelmed by the wonderful, pungent aroma of pine in the cool morning air. That sore arse from a day ago had actually healed pretty good, especially with a new kit on now, so I was feeling quite comfortable. What’s more the dead, heavy legs from yesterday had perked up for today, so I felt confident in climbing another pass today. Turned out of town on Rt 20 and just headed for the Three Sisters Mts. This was a fairly flat 20-mile stretch of road to the town of Sisters. I mean right now I feel such a sense of accomplishment, so I was just stopping and shooting pics way more than the last several days. It was totally casual with respect to the pace. Hell, I just have three days to go, so no need to kill it anymore. Besides this part of the trip is just so amazingly beautiful, I want to soak up each and every mile of cycling out here. It’s a dream come true for a cyclist!

As I rode west those mts were just getting bigger and bigger in the picture frame. Around me was all this farm and ranchland with some really swanky ranch homes nestled right below those big, snow covered mts. Made it to Sisters in just over 1.5 hrs, and I was really riding pretty mellow. Stopped at a Subway and got a fountain coke, hoping that it would me across the McKenzie Pass. While I was there a ACA - Adventure Cycling Association – van was stopped at the gas station next door gassing up. I later found out for another cyclist that this is a group who is about to finish up a fully supported transam crossing as I am about to do.

Sisters is a cool little resort town nestled at the base of all these big mountains. And there, I turned onto Rt 242 to take me to the pass. Now I’d found out that this stretch of road – the scenic route - just recently opened for the summer, like 3 weeks ago. Prior to that the snow was too deep for vehicular traffic up at the top of the pass. Now they did allow bicycles to ride up as far as you wanted, but no autos. So I got going on Rt 242 and was just blown away by how cool this stretch of road was. I mean it was narrow, with no berm, but there was so little vehicle traffic on this road that you could just ride in the middle of the road more than half the time. The road in the beginning was just arching up at like 1-2%, so I could still ride in the big ring. I mean the road, the cloudless blue sky, the cool temp, the amazing towering pines at the side of the road, and those gorgeous mts off to my left and right side – it just couldn’ get any better.

So I was in this state of total cycling bliss. You live for rides like this one. So I was expecting this climb to the pass to be like 20+ miles, much in the same vain as was Cameron Pass in CO, but then like 3-4 miles in I saw a sign that read: McKenzie Pass 11 miles. And I was like, “damn, I can this thing is not going to be some kind of killer climb. It just might take me 2 hrs or less.” And right about then these two riders pull out of a trailhead parking lot right behind me, a guy and a gal. So they pulled up to me and asked where I was headed and where I came from. I went through my itinerary, and then introduced myself. Rob and Rema were both from Bend, and had driven out to Sisters to do the pass climb on both the front and back sides. So we just continued to jaw as we rode. And I told them a couple times that I didn’t want to hold them back, but they continued to hang with me and talk.

Now I’ll have to admit that if not for them I’d have ridding easier, but it was just so nice to have company that I bridged up to them every time I kind of fell off the back. And about 3 miles up the road the pitch really began to change such that I had to shift to the middle ring, and then into the little ring. But they just stayed back and softpedaled with me. Now there were a couple of times where they got about 200 meters ahead of me, and then I’d just drop down a gear or two and get out of the saddle and bridge back up. Now we talked and talked and talked. Turns out that Rob is an Olympic Snowboarding coach in Bend, and once we each found that we both coached, the jawing continued ad infinitum. They are both Canadians, but have live in Bend in the US for many, many years. They love it out here, and I see why. I even told Rob that I was envious of the outdooring opportunities thay have here. This is Boulder, CO without the pretentiousness. But out here, the ocean is just 200 miles from Bend!

We stopped at a really nice observation point and Rob and Rema pointed out all the peaks, and even took some pics of me standing and riding. So the area out here is volcanic, and all along the sides of the road once we got half way into the climb, is made up of volcanic piles of rubble, this the result of an eruption that only dated back 1700 yrs. I mean surrounding all these mts was nothing but vast fields of volcanic lava flows that were bulldozed into this big rubble fields. It was otherworldly looking for sure. The higher we climbed the more intense these fields became, until finally, up near the top by the pass, you were completely surrounded by lava fields. The road just narrowed to this little pathway that cut through the lava, with the lava cliffs being some 20-50 feet above the roadway.

Topped out and I was just really elated to have experienced such an amazing ride, and to have ridden with these two great folks for the whole darned thing. I mean they could easily have just motored on their own, but they held back and rode me up the mt. Dismounted at the top and climbed up to this observation tower where the views were fabulous. Just couldn’t get any better! So I bid farewell to Rob and Rema and then got it rolling on the back side to descend for about a half hour and then climb back up on the west side. I got going and stopped a few more times for more pics, and then the fun began. I mean this was a technical, but totally exhilarating descent. You know when the speed limit is 15 mph that the switchbacks are wicked and the pitch downward is steep. And it was indeed. I felt like Casey Jones driving his train down the mountain what with that trailer lending extra weight to my descending speed so that when I leaned into a switchback I could really feel the weight of the whole rig just driving me forward and downward. It was actually pretty much of an adrenaline rush.

I mean there were a couple section where on this really narrow road with zero berm, it was pretty much of a rush to be zipping through some of those corners with the yak at 20-30 mph. Only one time did I kind of poop my drawers when some idiot went left of center on a switchback and was coming right at me. I yelled like crazy at the dude who apparently was NOT paying attention. Me on the other hand, I was like in a trance working through the switchbacks and negotiating around the occasional patch of loose gravel that had made it’s way onto the road. But damn, every like 8-10 min or so there’d be a sign telling you your elevation, and I was like loosing 1000 feet within that span every time. This just continued for miles. The climb on the west side was 100x harder than what we had climbed on the east side.

Down about 8 to 10 miles Rob and Rema were parked in a pull-off carbing up on some energy bars. I stopped and said a final goodbye and then continued the break neck descent, just watching the mile markers and the elevation drop drop drop. I caught a cross country guy, Matt, just before the jcn with Rt 126. Rob is riding from Yorktown, VA, and has been on the road for 70-some days. So we rode for a bit and talked. Rob is shooting for Eugene today, so with me stopping in Mckenzie Bridge, he just continued down the road. I probably could have put in another 2.5 hrs to Eugene, but I was good with making it a shorter day and getting some work done this afternoon. So again, another brief encounter and I was on my own.

Got to this little mountain motel in like 5 hrs of riding. Nice little place just across the street from a nice café. Did the shower and kit wash thing and then ambled over to the café. Got a nice little table outside on the patio and got a scrumptious burger, salad bar…and these totally killer micro brew oatmeal stouts made by the Ninkasi Brewing Co. of Eugene, OR. These beers were the topper to a perfect cycling day! I just lounged out on the patio after finishing the burger and salad and enjoyed the sun, the mts, that fresh mt air, and the GREAT stouts! I’m back there for their homemade pizza for sure this eve. Even went to the little grocery store next to the café and got a big 24 oz bottle of the Ninkasi stout for later this evening.

That’s about it. It’s nearly 5 pm now and I’m starting to feel that belly gremlin again demanding more food! I’ll work a bit more and then capitulate to the growling stomach. Two more days and the ocean is at hand. All the best to everyone, from the beautiful Cascade Range of Oregon, I’m out………Pete

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 55: Just around the Bend

Day #55) August 6, 2011. Bend, OR: Off day.

Not a whole lot to say on a non-riding day. Stayed up till 11 pm and got up at a recreational 6:30 am. That felt so good. Just walking outside this morning to get a red-eye from Starbucks, the aroma of fresh pine from all the pine trees in the foothills around here is just refreshing. Reminded me of ROMO in Colorado. The temp outside was a brisk 49 degrees. I’m going to have to really bundle up for tomorrow’s ride. Did red-eye coffee and worked in the morning till about noon, and then headed out on the bike to the downtown Bend area.

This is really a wonderful place. I mean to see the Sisters Peaks off to the west just towering over the foothills here in Bend, it’s quite beautiful. The city itself has a great vibe to it. Kind of a super outdoorsy place to live and recreat. I rode to a couple bike shops to put some air in the tires where I could use the pressure gage, and then looked around for a jersey top. Found one in the second shop, but at $115 that was just way too much for a souvenir jersey for this trip. I was good with 75-85 bucks, but not 115. I’ll look more on the coast.

Took a ride around town on my super sensitive butt – I mean we’re talking SORE – and went into the park down along the Deschutes River. Great, clean place with this big hot-rod car show going on, so it was just packed with people. Then hit the Old Town district for lunch. Did the Bend Burger Co, for an absolutely amazingly great burger. They had like 10 different burgers to choose from, and honestly each sounded like a winner. I ended up with the Black Butt Burger – filled with jalapeños, special burger sauce, cheese, caramelized onions. Great! Temp here is now about 78 degrees and nice and dry.

Going to just lay down and rest for a bit and have a couple micro brews from Bend’s local micro brew – the Deschutes Brewing Co. My legs were super tired on the noodle ride into town. So today was really much needed. I think I picked two great days for my off days on this trip: in Ft. Collins to visit Brad and Andrew, and here in Bend, probably the coolest city I’ve visited in 3500 miles.

Tomorrow is 60-80 mile ride o McKenzie Bridge, OR, and I’ll have one pass, Mckenzie Pass at 5200 feet to ride up. Then it’s a descent to the town. Monday with be a shorter ride 50-60 mile ride to Eugene, OR. And Tues, the last day will be a 60-65 mile ride to the coast.

Well, I hear a ice cold Black Butte Porter calling my name. Look forward to seeing you all when I get home…….Pete

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 54: Bent on Bend

Day #54) August 5, 2011. Burns, OR to Bend, OR: 132 miles in 10:19 hrs.

First of all….Happy B-Day Dad. All the best and lots of love. I hope your day today was a great one.

Ok, I bloody well did it. It hurt. It was hard. And I’m pretty wickedly tired. My arse is literally raw! I think I need a tube of Second Skin to plaster all over my arse cheeks! Also…not many pictures today. I was more concerned with keeping the rhythm going today than I was in taking pic, so the picture show today is rather meager.

So I got up at 3:30 am and got really to roll for a 5 am shove-off. Downed some motel room coffee and then pounded a foot long Subway sub as insurance for a long day. I had bought 2, 1-liter bottles of water and stowed those in the top of the yak for easy retrieval. I also had bought some Cliff bars, trail mix, and fruit trail mix. I mean I was prepared to make the camp-out in BLM land if it was just not in the cards today. I also broke out a new set of cycling shorts – one bib and one regular. These guys had never been used on this trip, and I wanted the very best padding on my arse that I could get today, seeing that I was getting mentally prepared to go up to 12 hrs in the saddle. And lately, with my arse getting pretty sore around 3 hrs in, I need extra insurance there to.

So I made it out the door at 4:50 am, and was riding before 5. The air was pretty damned cold, probably like about 48 degrees. I had on the polypro long sleeved top, vest, and I should have had my gloves out, but I shined that on. Too late there. Turned on my headlamp and got rolling, with a sign at the west end of town saying that Bend was 132 miles away. That was daunting to see that pup so early in the ride. Now the road kind of was doing this false flat thing for the gazillionth time, and on this day that’s not exactly what I wanted to see. The road was good, the traffic was almost non-existent and the berm was about 4 feet wide, so I was in good shape for my 30 min of night riding. Hell, I had toyed with shoving off at 4 am, but that just seemed a bit too dangerous to push my luck that long with a night ride, so I went with 5 am.

That false flat…well, it pretty much was the start, the base so to speak, of the first summit, and it just went and went and went until the morning dawned and I could see the ridge in the foreground that was the pass. Now the elevation of Burns is 4100 feet, so these passes today were not going to be the beasts that I did yesterday. I already had the elevation, and just had to gain several hundred feet on each of the passes today – but it was still climbing in the middle and little cookie! Climbing is climbing on a day when you have to pedal 130 miles. Probably took like 30-40 min of gradual climbing to get over this first one, Sage Hen Hill Summit at 4600 feet.

Topped out, took a quick picture and then just descended to the town of Riley. Now look at a map and you’ll see that Riley is a dot on the map. But in reality all Riley is…is a grocery store/gas station. That’s it! No houses, nothing else there but this little store. So I made it to Riley in 2:15 hrs, and that was 26 miles so my average was way under where I had wanted it. But nothing to do – can’t hammer for 130 miles – so I have to take what I can get. Stopped in the store and had a quick coke and bought two packets of Honey Stinger shot blocks. Those are the pups that saved me on the day I did 98 miles to Heber City, UT. Did the NASCAR pit stop thing and was back on the bike in about 8 min. And wouldn’t you know it, but when I hit this long section of false flat I detected a headwind out of the northwest. It was subtle first with the sun having just came up. The day dawned as a clear, cloudless day that was just beautiful. The temps were great, being nice and cool. Yanked the polypro top and vest and kept it going.

Rode past another sign: Bend 104 miles/Hampton 62 miles. “Ok,” I thought, “making a little headway here. I’ll see how I feel by the time I get to Hampton. That’s where I’ll decide if I can pull this off today.” So I kept it rolling. Around me was this just massive, endless, emptiness of a landscape. I was in a basin with mts to the north and south, on a false flat with a headwind picking up ever so gradually and this was like so bleak and barren. Gave me the feeling that I was totally outclassed by Mother Nature. I could really get my ass handed to me if that headwind got worse, and that’s usually the case as the sun rises higher into the sky – really stirs up the atmosphere. Made me wonder if I was in for a royal ass kicking today by the headwind and the false flat. This stretch certainly was NOT flat. It was really rolling up and up and up in steps.

Now I was really trying to be cognizant of my gear selection today and the amount of pressure I was putting on the pedals. What I’m saying is that I had to really concentrate on not mashing today. Mash for 4-6 hrs and you’re legs are just totally cooked. I had to spin at a higher cadence and just take what I could get – not to fight the headwind. And speaking of the headwind, it had gotten worse as the morning wore on – just as I had expected it would. And I was kind of bitching to myself about how I’d had these easterlies for so long on this trip that I’d come to expect them. And then WHAM I get a westerly on a day when I could least afford it. Poor, poor pitiful me!

So let’s see, we’ll make a list here: good temp and great day as opposed to hilly and false flat roads with a growing headwind. I guess that’s a wash right? So on to Hampton. And this was a grunt indeed, as it seemed that I was just false flat climbing and battling a growing headwind the whole bloody time. Made it to this little gas station/restaurant in the town of Hampton in 5:15 hrs. Again, just like Riley, the town’s nothing more than this gas station/restaurant. Went inside and this one guy at the lunch counter told me that I looked pretty tired. Told him that I wasn’t very good at hiding it was I? Yea, I was like 67 miles in at that point and I was indeed tired. So I ordered a giant fountain Dr Pepper (no coke) and a fresh strawberry parfait. Must have knocked it all down in about 10 min. The folks inside were just really friendly and asked me to sign their register. So on the way out I had a group of tourists looking over my rig, commenting on how cool the trailer was. And I told the one fellow, “yea the trailer is great, but the problem with the trailer is that you have so much room.” And he was perplexed by that. So I added, “well, when it’s roomy you tend to just fill it it – like I did! And then it’s heavy as hell!” He just laughed, and off I went again.

On to Brothers, OR for the next stop, some 21 miles west. Now on this stretch was more of a false descent, and I was able to work into the headwind with some decent speeds. Brothers, same story as the previous two towns – nothing but a gas station/store/restaurant. At this one I got a Powerade and a big blueberry muffin. This place is run by a couple of really nice ladies. They cook food as you order it, or you can choose from the limited amount of groceries. I wanted to make this another quickie stop, so I didn’t order a burger or sandwich. The one lady refilled my water bottles and then brought me a big pitcher of ice water and a glass of ice water in addition to the stuff I bought. Downed all the water and ate the muffin, and again, back to the road.

Now at this point I was a whopping 43 miles from Bend. And what with that wind it could have been 143 miles. It was going to be tough. From this point onward there was nothing in the middle. So I had everything I needed what with my food and water. And wouldn’t you know it, the first 20-mile section was all false flat leading into the final pass. This pass was a breeze compared to everything else, but still, it was climbing with 90 miles in the legs. Made it to the top of the pass with 20 miles to go to Bend. Wouldn't you know it, as I looked to the west I could see these big beautiful coastal mts in the distance, all snow capped and massive. What a sight to see after crossing the OR interior. And at that point I broke out the Honey Stingers and just gobbled down two packs of the shot blocks. They just exploded in my mouth. And then on to the descent – just about 3 miles down onto this place that’s called Oregon’s Badlands, and let me tell you that all of a sudden the temp increased by like 15 degrees, and suddenly I was really feeling the heat for the first time in the day. Really, like it was as if I’d descended into an oven. And what’s more ahead of me was a gradual climb that just went off into the horizon.

“Jesus,” I said outloud, “this is just NOT going to get any easier.” And so into the middle ring and I must have climbed for about 30 min up this thing. Topped out, then climbed yet again. And this stair step thing went on for another 10 miles. By then the headwind was really starting to howl, so I was thinking that this thing was going to be a grunt from mile 1 to mile 132. No “Freebe’s” today! That’s about the time I actually started to look deliberately at the mile markers to do the big countdown. And damn they were slow coming.

Made it into Bend in just under 10.5 hrs. And I was feeling pretty wrecked, but nothing like the day I stumbled into Jefferson City, MO. Checked the first motel I saw – Friday night and booked solid. Then on to the Sleep Inn – one room left on second floor. “I’m there,” I told the girl. Now this wasn’t one of the cheapies I’m usually getting, but I was so tired that I’d have payed triple one of those cheap places. I was done!

Showered and then did a chinese place where they had a 6 dollar special, and then rolled over to Subway and ordered two footlongs for tonight. Also got a six pack of Black Butte Porter. No work tonight, just this blog and then I’m vegging.

Well, I thought long and hard about it and I decided to take an off day tomorrow. I was really hoping to do this thing with just one off day. But man, I am just so cashed right now. I’m going to enjoy the city of Bend tomorrow and just relax. Then I have about 200 miles to the coast. I’ll break that up into 3 days of 70 miles/day. So that’s it right now. I’m going to lay down and rest up the legs – which have been going in and out of cramping spasms for the last hour.

All the best……Pete

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