The finale (9-14-2013)

Today was the final day of the ride.  The route was an odd one from Seneca to John Day.  Some cyclists elected to take a shortcut and travel the roads we had ridden on day 2, making for only 25 miles of riding and most of that downhill.  I thought about it for a split second and didn’t even consider doing that.  I’m here for the full experience.

The morning was freezing cold.  Seneca is known for holding the coldest recorded temperature in Oregon at -54 degrees.  It wasn’t that cold, but my fingers didn’t know that.  We headed off into the woods and I was able to see a couple of pronghorn antelope chasing each other about a mile from our first real rest stop.

The road after Hwy 395 was incredible.  It was about a lane and a half wide, trees everywhere, and beautiful country.  It was a very peaceful scene.  Towards the end, we encountered our final two climbs of the trip.  They were some of the steeper climbs that we’ve done but much shorter.  It’s nice knowing that you have no more serious climbing to do.

At the second summit, the forest service had Smokey the Bear out, so I have a photo of me and Smokey floating around out there.

The descent was crazy after the climbs.  The road was narrow, everyone was screaming down the mountain at 40+ mph, and there were cattle guards occasionally across the road.  At the bottom and final real rest stop, we road on the highway back to John Day.

That road was pretty anti-climatic.  The scenery wasn’t impressive and there was a lot of weekend traffic.  The road was mostly flat with a few rolling hills, and it gradually increased in elevation.

I skipped the final water stop as I started feeling stronger the closer I got to John Day.  The last few miles I put it in the big rind and really started cruising.

Once in John Day I stopped once to buy some lemonade from local kids.  I wasn’t really thirsty, but I didn’t see a lot of other riders stop in their dash to finish, so I wanted to make sure the kids got some attention.  We finished the ride to cheering from the Grant Union school kids and the usual chocolate milk.  

We also were given our finish awards, a Cycle Oregon bandanna and a Cycle Oregon dog tag.  After seven days and hundreds of miles, Cycle Oregon was complete.

I finished the day with pulled pork for lunch, met up with Carey and Kayla, and then got ready to leave John Day.

The plan was for me to camp at Clyde Holliday park while Carey had a hotel room reserved.  I set up my tent, but about an hour later she returned.  Apparently she booked a hotel in Mt. Vernon, IL instead of Mt. Vernon, OR.  Ooops.

We elected to just come home, making for a long day.  

The reason I’m here (9-13-2013)

Today’s ride was from Crane to Seneca.  The weather was pretty nice once again, staying pretty cool and hiding away the sun.  Both of those are great for cycling in hot areas.

The ride was one of the tougher ones.  After some miles on the road, we ventured off on a gravel road for a couple of miles.  I wanted to walk the bike for a lot of it, but decided to ride it even with the skinny bike tires I have on.  The road definitely favored those using wider tires.

After the gravel, though, is when things got tough.  The climb was a long one and steep.  I took a lot of breaks when I could find some shade.  The SAG wagon was full of people that elected to bypass all of the climbing and opt for the easier descent or van ride to Seneca.  It was tempting, but part of this ride is all about challenging one self.  What fun would it of been to just give up and not ride the route?

As usual for Cycle Oregon so far, I started early in the day and finished late.  I may not be the fastest guy out here, but I’ve spent as much time on my bike as anyone.

The headwind to Seneca was pretty brutal after a long day of riding, but I made it. 

Carey, Kayla, and myself also had a big meeting after the finish.  We met up at dinner time with Mark Bosworth’s family.  I have to admit that I was pretty nervous.  It’s one thing to meet someone, but it’s a whole ‘nother world when the people you are meeting are the ones that chose you to win a scholarship to ride Cycle Oregon.  You don’t want them to regret picking you or thinking that they made a mistake.

We had a pretty big gathering for dinner.  Besides the three of us, we were joined by Mark’s wife, his daughters, his brother, Igrid from Cycle Oregon and her brother, and Kirstin who was a friend of Mark’s.  Any fears I had were for naught after meeting this great bunch of people.  They put us all at ease, and we talked about the ride and what we thought about it.  

I was really impressed by them, and we all had a great time.

After dinner I got my gear ready for our last day of riding and went to sleep.  

The people (9-12-2013)

One that that I’ve forgotten to mention enough are all of the incredible people here at Cycle Oregon.  I’ve been surprised at how nice most of the people are.  When I flatted a couple days ago, it was almost tough to fix because I had to answer so many people asking me if I was ok and if I wanted or needed help.

All of the volunteers have been amazing and in pretty good spirits.  My fellow cyclists have also been a delight.  I’m not the most social person, but there are a few topics that I can usually enjoy talking about : my games, football, and of course cycling.  I’m with 2000-2500 cycling enthusiasts here, and it’s been great to meet so many people who have a similar love of cycling.

I’m pretty happy with my tent neighbors as well.  Jerry, an older gent in tent #1, is a pretty amusing guy with a love of the smoothies they sell here.  He’s also a pretty fast cyclist who rides a nice Trek.  Carey, one of my fellow Cycle Oregon scholarship winners, is on my left for another good neighbor.

I think what makes Cycle Oregon really work is all of these great people.  Without them, the ride would not be nearly as enjoyable.  There are so many different personalities, but our enjoyment of all things bikes makes us as one.

I’m having a great time so far here, and I’ll miss my fellow cyclists when it is over.

The Crane Kick (9-12-2013)

Today was probably my best performance so far.  I attribute most of that to two major keys:  My butt was rested and not sore from sitting in the saddle (perhaps it’s a little more bike ready now) and two, the sun hid away for most of the morning behind a layer of clouds.

It’s nice to be able to put out a good effort and not be beaten down by the sun.  The route was mostly flat, although there were some smaller hills in the Diamond Crater area as we left Diamond.

I regret that I did not stop to take pictures of the craters.  I wanted to take as much advantage of the sun hiding as possible.  I did stop at the Round Barn, a place that Cycle Oregon helped support financially about 12 years ago, and take some pictures. 

I had a pretty good pace for most of the ride, not taking much in breaks.  We had lunch at the hot springs.  I was tempted to get in, but I didn’t bring swimming shorts on the ride and decided that riding more today would not be much fun in soaking wet cycling shorts.  I’m sure my leather Brooks saddle agrees.  I did manage to dip my feet in the water for a few moments before I headed back out to ride.

I took more time at the lunch spot than I normally do.  The sun was still mostly hiding, so it afforded me some extra time on the bike.  The rest of the ride went smoothly as well, and I finished up in Crane. 

The sign to Crane says population 150, but I’d be surprised if that is accurate.  It seems like far less.  The local school kids (Crane has a boarding school) cheered us on to the finish.  Nosse Familia (wrong spelling), a coffee merchant that has been at all of our camp spots, gave out free espressos as we crossed the finish line.  I tend to not like coffees or espressos, so I skipped out on that treat.

My tent is set up far in the back, as has been standard, but I’ve started to consider that a good thing.  I have to walk further to any activities, food, or bathrooms, but I also generally have a quieter area as well.

I’m still operating on a tight budget, but I spent a couple  bucks to buy a baked treat from the school kids.  I didn’t really need or want it, but I think that it helps them and is for a good cause.  It was the right choice, regardless, because the lemon bar was delicious. 

Dinner was chicken breast and rice, topped with sweet and sour pineapple sauce.  I grabbed an extra fortune cookie as I consider them a special treat.

Last night/this morning had a few drops of rain, but for the most part today has been the best weather of the trip.  I’m hoping more clouds show up tomorrow to keep us cool.  I would even tolerate a little bit of rain if it isn’t too bad.

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day, just looking at the map.  Lots of climbing, over 70 miles, and probably very little shade as we head back towards John Day.  We’ll finish tomorrow at Seneca I believe for our last night with Cycle Oregon.

The entertainment for tonight is going to be a rock band, but I’ll probably skip out on it.  I want to be packed up and off riding early if possible.  The sooner I get some of the major miles and climbs out of the way, the better.

I’ve been pretty blessed with few bike mechanical problems so far, and I’m hoping that will continue for the remainder of the trip.  Only two  more Cycle Oregon rides to go.

 

The off day (9-11-2013)

Today started off poorly.  I woke up to the non-stop honking of a horn.  It was pretty irritating, but eventually it stopped and I could get a little more sleep.  I had assumed someone was being a jerk, but it turned out to be just a short in one of the trucks and was fixed by disconnecting the battery.

Today was an optional ride/rest day.  I was not alone in my choice to rest my tired muscles.  I suspect a good 75% of the camp had the same idea.

Breakfast was good.  Real eggs, potatoes, and salsa to top them.  I spent a couple hours talking to Kayla about our cycling past.  I also finished reading Congo and taking the day easy.

Tonight City Slickers, one of my favorite movies, is to be the entertainment.  Tomorrow we heads toward Crane for our ride.

Trek was out here demo’ing bikes, but they only showed off their road bikes.  I already have a Madone, so my only interest was in mountain bikes which they did not have.

Finding Diamonds (9-10-2013)

Today was an easy day, well at least on paper it was.  60 miles and some change with only two hill climbs.  A flat 100k is basically the Monster Cookie ride back home, one that I’m very familiar with and can usually breeze through even without much time in the saddle.

I was wrong.  Today was very tough.  Tough as any other day so far, really.  It started with my muscles aching and butt still sore from so much riding.  On the ride, I noticed my stem was missing a bolt.  I must of lost it on the ride yesterday.  Considering that the simple loosening of the bolt could mean my handlebars falling off, it could of been very dangerous.

At the first rest stop, about 14 miles in, I tracked down the bike mechanic.  It took about an hour of waiting for my turn.  Another rider had his shifting cables fray and it took awhile to fix.  A simple bolt for the stem and a ziptie for my pump holder (it broke yesterday) and I was on my way.  I was safer, but that gave the sun an hour to catch up to me and heat up the day.

I have to pat myself on the back for not quitting though.  I rode up each hill, a bit slow, but steadily.  “On your left” is a phrase I’m getting used to hearing as people pass me.  It’s tough to ride with no shade in this land, but I’ve been doing it and not giving up.  On some stretches of the road I’ve been going pitifully slow.  I’ve seen a lot of people quit, and I don’t blame them in this heat.

This was not an easy day whether you were in cycling shape or not.  I think I drank six bottles of water, 3 V-8s (for the sodium) and 1 can each of Cherry Pepsi and a sparkling lemon drink.

I stopped at one SAG wagon that was picking someone up just to refill my bottles with water.  Funnily enough, I was only about a mile from the next rest stop.  I’m not taking chances in this heat, so I consider it a good choice to not try and push my luck with no water and dehydration.

The ranger at the last stop lied to me, promising flat land all the way to Diamond.  It turned out to be chip-seal road (hell on the tires and lots of vibrations to numb the hands) that gently rolled up and down.  Little hills seem big after a long day in the sun.

Reaching camp was a welcome sight.  The local kids cheered us on and handed out popsicles.  It’s amazing how good one of those tastes after a long day in the saddle.

An easy ride it was not, but I did it.

I’ve learned my lesson on showering immediately after a ride.  The lines are long and the sun is hot while you wait.  The tent was also too hot to rest in.  instead, I skipped the shower and took a little nap in the shade of a truck trailer.  The field was used as a cow pasture, but after a hot day I didn’t mind.

After the shower lines died down, I did my usual routine of washing my clothes while I showered.  I use my tent as a place to lay my clothes and let them dry. 

Dinner was excellent.  I had a plate stacked high with BBQ ribs, corn-on-the-cob, beans and cornbread.  A bowl of salad and a slice of sweet potato pie finished it off.  I ate dinner while watching a Bike Gallery mechanic do a mini-workshop on bike maintenance. 

I stayed at the stage for the evening performances as well.  Poems by Jessica ?, cowboy music from Coyote Joe, and a poem written and recited by the Harney County queen.  She was nervous and forgot some lines, but the Cycle Oregon crowd cheered and clapped for her.  After the encouragement, she finished off her poem.

The ride announcements came up next, and afterwards the Bike Gallery guys put on a bike rodeo performance.  I need to learn how to handle my bike like they can, stopping and turning on a dime.

Burns, baby, Burns (9-9-2013)

Yep, you guessed it….more poor sleep.  It was slightly better than last night at least.  I left my clothes on and wore my coat, using the sleeping bag as mainly a cushion.  Did I mention I need a sleeping mat?

I left early today again.  I was awake, breakfast was uninspiring, and I wanted to get as many miles down as I could before the sun came out. 

I started out strong in the cool air at about 6:30am.  I wasn’t fast, but the miles ticked down reliably one by one.  Until the sun came out, I was doing pretty well.

Today started with another climb.  The first 16 or so miles was uphill with no breaks.  It started gradually until near the summit where the incline really jumped up.  I had to stop again on the climb, but less often than yesterday.

The descent was nerve-wracking.  No shoulder for bikes and the big trucks and semis from the John Day camp as well as regular traffic didn’t give us much space to work with as we cruised down 30-40 mph.

Lunch was at a classic school house with a nice green lawn.  Pastrami and cheese on Dave’s Killer Bread.  I usually avoid pastrami, but had no other choices.  Luckily, it was pretty high quality and very tasty.

After lunch, things went downhill quickly.  It was hot, I was tired, and we had to climb another 5000 foot summit.  I also got the first flat of the trip on the front tire while going up. 

I stopped quite a bit on the way up, especially if there was shade.  It was a happy time to get to the summit and do the last leg to Burns.

I met a rattlesnake a few miles from Burns.  I thought at first it was dead, but as I rode by it turned quickly and faced me.  I think we were both as surprised as the other.

The last few miles to Burns seemed to take forever.  The people of Burns had a very warm welcome for us, though.  They cheered and rang bells as we rode into camp.

My tent was set up in a dusty field as far back as you can get from everything.  Lots of walking to do while we’re here.

I skipped the Cycle Oregon dinner and instead bought spaghetti from the local parents committee and sweet tea from another vendor.  While eating it, I met up with Kayla and then we watched the local Piuite Indians do some of their dances in preparation for a future Pow-wow.

Things I learned today:  My long-distance bike needs better handlebars, cushy handlebar tape, and aerobars.  One of the kick-stand sticks for touring would be nice too.  Oh, and Keo Look cleats are horrible to walk in.

I also learned that no matter how much sunscreen I put on, I’m going to get fried out here.