Thursday, January 14, 2016

Random Rando

Late Saturday afternoon, I put on my jeans and rode my antique three speed over to the grocery store in Woodstock.  After shopping, I drove my cart out to the bike rack and transferred the panniers onto the bike before unlocking.  My receipt flapped away at the bottom of the cart and I left it.

A tall gentleman in Castelli knickers walked up to the rack, almost tripping over my front wheel.  He locked up his road bike, with its Brooks saddle and randonneur-style bag, and swiftly scooped my receipt out of the cart.  I marveled at how interested he appeared to be in this little piece of paper that revealed nothing more than how much I like expensive chocolate. 

"Oh, you've found my receipt.  Is there anything of interest on it?".  He looked up and told me he'd just finished the ride.  I am used to strangers finding me familiar, as I believe it's one of my overriding qualities, but he actually knew my name.  "The ride?" I asked.

Turns out, this was the chap who had requested to ride my permanent route, the PAP or Portland-Aumsville-Portland.  He was looking at the receipt because he thought he might use it as control proof instead of going into the store. 

He looked fresh as a daisy but insisted it had been a hard nine hour day.  My best 200k time is ten hours.  We chatted about the route, which he said was a nice easy choice for winter, and then we went our separate ways.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Spoke Card Etiquette

First, if you are planning any sort of urban ride, Pedalpalooza adventure, alley cat race, or bicycling event wherein your duty is to provide a dandy good time for your riders, and possibly perpetuate the reputation and therefore future attraction to your ride:

You shall provide spoke cards*, **

*except in the case where attendance far surpasses your expectation, or you have gamified the spoke card giving (as in the case of the In Search Of...ride series where riders were challenged to find hidden spoke cards along the route to win prizes).
**or in the case that you're giving away some other prize(s)/memento(s)

Second, these spoke cards must be your own art or imagery, or at least art or imagery you have permission to use.  The art or imagery must reflect the flavor, or branding (if you will) of the event.  Your spoke card must be two-sided and appropriately-sized so that it may be fitted between two neighboring spokes on a standard 32-spoked wheel with a double crossover lacing pattern.

The spoke card you create is required to be weather-proof, which may mean different things in different localities.  For Portland, it means: waterproof.  In Mexico or other points south, this means UV-proof.  Near the ocean?  Salt-proof please.  Etcetera.

If you are offered a spoke card, you may only refuse it if you have radially laced spokes on all wheels on your rig, or a minimum of eight spoke cards already installed and in good condition.  Otherwise, you must graciously accept this handmade gift and immediately install it on your steed, whip, ride, or whatever the heck it is you call your two wheeled tumbler.

Unless you are on a tricycle, cargo bike, or dragging a trailer, you will only have two installation choices for your new memento.  Front wheel or back.  Either is acceptable.  If you already have spoke cards installed, it is best to pair the new card with the existing card by displaying them in the opposing position on the same wheel.

Spoke cards installed on the rear wheel will ideally be on the drive side, where most photography seems to point, and opposite the valve stem.  Spoke cards installed on the front wheel will also need to be on the opposite side of the valve, except when an existing spoke card is present, in which case the new card shall be placed on on the same side as the valve.

The spoke card must not be deliberately removed in any case, with the following exceptions:
  • it is of shoddy quality and is shredding (shame on the maker)
  • it is compromising your aero-ness and you've registered for a triathlon
  • it is compromising your aero-ness and you've registered for a time trial
  • it is making noise and cannot be adjusted enough to be quiet*
  • someone died
  • you have crashed or otherwise "tacoed" your wheel
  • you are having new wheels built
*this condition is voided if your bike is making other noises including but not limited to chain squeak, bottom bracket chirp, disc brake squeal, spoke violin, rim brake-pad rubbing and/or mystery ticking.

If you are a bike mechanic, wheel-builder or somehow have found yourself in charge of someone else's bike which has a spoke card displayed, you may only remove the spoke card if it is required by the scope of work you are performing.  Please do not re-install the spoke card.

In the case of a new wheelset, the spoke card is removed from the old wheelset and handed to the customer (or friend you just did a massive favor for) when they are receiving the new wheelset.

That is all.  Unless it's not, in which case, please add your comments and I will amend this article immediately.

Many thanks to the Missing Link's talented mechanic Matt, who recently built new wheels for me and brought this important issue to my attention.  (He placed the spoke card he removed from my wheel into my basket, which is the preferred and premium method for those of you with baskets).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Portland Society Boot Camp

The mission statement listed on the Portland Society website reads "The Portland Society is a group of professional women who are passionate about bicycling in Portland, Oregon. We work together to support each other through referral, education, and community. We grow our businesses and careers while making Portland a better place to live and ride.".

If I had to elevator speech that (yes, I'm using elevator speech as a verb now!), I'd say "We are Portland women who are driven by our passion for cycling and for pushing each other up." 

We meet every month for an hour of coffee, round robin intros and a presentation on one of a wide array of topics including life balance, finances, legal stuff, public speaking, marketing, how to recycle correctly, or where to tour or even how to affect change in your workplace or your neighborhood or the world.  And once a year, we have a boot camp.  This year we took a whole weekend.  It seems weird to refer to it as a weekend, since it was so much more than a coupla days on the calendar.  It started Friday evening at the rather divine meeting hall near the cabin compound on top of the hill at Stubb Stewart.  I've only had amazing times on that hill, including one of the best New Year's celebrations ever. 
Happy hour kicked us off, followed by dinner and a scrapbooking session led by yours truly.  That's right, I'm a scrapbooker.  It's a dorky sport and I was nervous to share it with this group of thirteen sophisticated and cultured women, some of whom were self-described non-crafters.  I was shocked at how the room quieted as everyone went to "work" making their perfect scrapbook.  I stood stunned in the middle of the room and soaked up the open minded, creative energy.  It felt good.

The next morning, we awoke to yoga at the meeting hall.  Next to the wood burning fireplace.  Everyone participated in the peaceful practice.  It is a bonding experience to share morning yoga with so many friends.  The space made inside myself and my muscles during yoga practice was filled with friendship feelings, which are some of the best.
Breakfast was next.  We enjoyed a small banquet of three types of quiche, coffee and settled in for storytelling.  Our speaker shared her experiences with fear during solo adventures.  It was inspirational, and set the tone for the rest of the weekend, as we'd be talking about fear a lot.

A quick change of clothes and it was time for our branding presentation.  The presenter had travelled all the way from Colorado to teach us how to hone our personal and professional stories.  She asked us what our ultimate project would be.  It really got me thinking. 
I felt like the next presenter was speaking directly to me.  She taught us a heightened awareness of useless fears, learned helplessness and the best and easiest guide to self-care I've ever heard.  I was tearful and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.
It's hard to remember what happened next.  That's not true, I have my scrapbook to refer to.  The next lady who talked with us doesn't ride a bike.  I didn't know it then and it's only meaningful because she was able to see that even though the bicycle brought this group together, we're not a sports club and bikes didn't even come up that much.  She talked with us about creating space for creativity.  She asked us to split into twos and share with our partner every bad thought about ourselves that runs on our daily monolog ticker.  And then the positive things we believe about ourselves.  This made a few remarkable things happen.  First, and most important, no one hesitated.  Everyone jumped up and picked a partner to share their innermost dreads with.  Amazing.  Second, many noticed a marked repeat between the positive and negative sides.  Third, letting these things out into the open air was really liberating.
After lunch, we enjoyed a mediation walk.  I've never done this before.  We started out by standing in a circle outdoors performing leg and arm movement that synchronized with our breath, and with each other.  We spent the following forty-five minutes walking through the woods, silent except for the seven times our leader stopped, chimed a bell and walked us through a chakra.  We meditated on the chakra with our eyes covered, then spent the next section of the walk honing in on the sense associated with the chakra.  Woo woo stuff for sure, but it felt woop woop, not weird weird.
We ran back to our cabins to collect ourselves and get ready for dinner.  The moon was one of those crazy big moons with a beautiful blue haze surrounding it in a perfect circle.  We had another storyteller during dinner.  She'd been on a round-the-country several-month-long tour and we all expected her to tell us about that.  She talked about it a little bit, but then launched into appreciation for small adventures.  She coaxed us to find the small adventures in daily life, and not get distracted by plans for the big adventure.  They all count and they're all fun, but the small ones can be just as great as the big ones and are right here in our daily lives.

After dinner, we talked about our intentions for boot camp and if they were met, highlights and lowlights of the weekend.  My lowlight, or the closest thing I could think to a lowlight, was that I lost my coffee cup for a few minutes after breakfast.  Others expressed a similar lack of problems or low feelings.  I scrapbooked the dinner story and the review round robin, live-time. 

The next morning, half drove home and half of us rode the twenty five flat country miles to the MAX train.  It rained the entire time.  The Banks-Vernonia trail was a treat, even in the wet.  I got a flat tire and had to unload and repair it in the rain, which was also somehow fun.  We returned slowly to our regular world and daily lives, splitting off one by one, each brimming with fresh insights, new memories and fired up friendships. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Asphalt Dreams

I first fell in love with asphalt as a child.  Our forty acre farm was my whole world, and our blacktop driveway was my personal runway.  It was very black and perfectly smooth.  And huge. 

We used to lay out cushions and books to create obstacle courses we'd run on our polyurethane skateboards.  I learned to rollerskate there.  And, at the late blooming age of eight, I learned to pedal a bicycle there.

When it was wet, you could see the whole sky in the driveway.  It seemed so slippery I was sure I could run and land on my knees and slide like Pete Townsend, who wasn't in the Who yet.  As it turns out, it wasn't slippery enough and I experienced my first road rash.

Oh, if that driveway could tell stories.  I guess I can instead.  It was the launch pad for my first short road rides.  As soon as my parents would leave for an errand, I'd jump on my red JC Penney ten-speed and head west on Buffalo Road.

Buffalo Road is the busy highway that connects Rochester and Buffalo, New York.  It features two very busy lanes, filled with traffic that includes semi trucks.  The small shoulder was my escape for the twenty minutes I had before Mom and Dad returned and I'd push to make it further than the tine before on each try.

This is where my roadie roots originate.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Drinks With Dave

I woke up Tuesday morning knowing it would be a banner day.  Today I'd get to meet framebuilder extraordinaire, Dave Moulton.  Steel is real and that's what Dave worked with during his framebuilding career, which ended in '93.

Many of these classic road and touring bikes are still around, and rolling strong.  A couple nice folks brought theirs to the Bike Commuter "Drinks with Dave" evening and everyone, especially Dave, enjoyed geeking out.  That's what us bike geeks like to do!
It was my first night as a server and I managed to do quite well, only ruining a couple of beers with foamy heads.  I have a new respect for beer-pourers everywhere, or "beeristas".  There's more to it than pulling the lever that I hadn't understood from the other side of the bar.
How did this event come about?  Sheer luck.  While visiting the southern part of the valley, I joined a G.E.A.R.s bike club ride and someone mentioned that Dave Moulton would be speaking at their club meeting.  So, I took a chance and emailed Dave and was astounded when he called me right back to say he'd be delighted to plan an event with me.  Thanks, Dave!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Summertime

For me, summer started last spring when I separated from my job.  Separated, a politically correct term, fit well.  It felt like a divorce, with all of the pain that implies.  After several months of soul searching and yard work and starting the Bicycle Kitty business, I see now that this change is leading me to a better place.

Meanwhile, I slacked off on keeping up this blog.  I'm going to flush away the shame and guilt of getting behind by catching up in one entry to encapsulate the awesomeness of this summer. 

First off, the 4th Annual Tour de Beavers was a big success.  Eight ladies got together for a fun ride to Corvallis to drink beer, build new friendships, and practice our Tour de Beavs traditions.
Pedalpalooza provided its usual mix of crazy costumes and themed urban rides.  Last year there was buzz that maybe our little festival was dying.  This year, event attendance was huge and the calendar was stocked with both old favorites and new rides.  The ever-popular kick off ride was a highlight and it's evolved into a weekly Thursday night urban ride.  I believe they're on their twenty fifth consecutive week of taking the streets for human use.
The vintage ride gave me an excuse to dust off my old pink Torpado.  We rode close to twenty miles, all around the east side, including up Mount Tabor.  The leader offered a beer to anyone who showed up with a suicide shifter or old style derailleur. 
Grilled By Bike has become quite the movement and team.  They even had a group riding the Oregon Outback this year.  I met my basket twin at one of the delicious park stops.
The Northeast Alley ride was especially fun this year.  Over 100 riders wove their way through fifteen miles of unimproved roadways.  I had the privilege of acting as a sweeper and flat fixer. 
The Bike Play is also a big people pleaser.  Their story featured time travel to foil a villain whose evil plan was to replace the bicycle with the segue.  We visited Dunlop (inventor of the pneumatic tire), and rode past scenes of Bike Plays of previous years.  Afterwards, it was time for prom and your writer was all decked out in satin and sparkly makeup for the occasion.  Next year I'm not going without a date, as attending prom stag gets one excluded from some of the fun (like couples photos).
What Pedalpalooza would be complete without a Swim Across Portland?  I absolutely loved leading riders up Terwilliger to Wilson Pool, over the Sellwood Bridge to the next pool and finally to the Bike Commuter to take a dip in beer.
It's hard to even keep track of where the summer blew me next.  How about up and around Mount Hood on an adventurous and challenging ride I hope becomes an annual event.  We named it the Chalet Tour, since we were staying in a beautifully homey chalet atop the mountain, generously offered by rider extraordinaire MaryJean and her husband SAG extraordinaire Rick. 
Riders met in Welches, climbed Lolo Pass, hung around for a while on the gravel descent fixing a flat, and descended into Parkdale.  We were racing daylight, so we crammed in a quick lunch, then rode up Cooper's Spur.  This part is fast for me, because I know there's beer waiting at the lodge up top.  Then up highway 35.  And up.  Slow and hungry, I was seeing stars. 

The earlier flat reared its head again, and this time the tear in the tire was too large to boot.  So, I finally had the opportunity to test the "children in the village" theory.  The idea is that, no matter how worn out you and your legs may be, if there's an emergency, (ie children in the village awaiting urgent medicine), you can rise to the occasion.  I took my shredded legs and revved them up the rest of the hill at top speed, looking for a cell signal so I could call AAA.  It worked!  Children in the village is not a myth!
Soon it was time to head south for my daily dose of hippie-land.  Many adventures and even some misadventures make all of my trips south super fun.  I enjoyed a loop around Dorena Reservoir, some in-town exploration, a visit to Bike Church, even an illegal bridge crossing!
My eleventh STP.  The rally call of ON YOUR LEFT (usually as a "corrective measure" from newbie riders as I passed on their left) still echoes in my ears.  Eleven may be enough.

A new addition this year was a slight change in the route, taking us through a military base.  This proved awesome because of the views of aircraft, along with a temporary decrease in the enormous number of cars and PSV (personal support vehicles - yes, many riders bring their cars).
The rest of summer was whiled away acting as event support for several rides, including the Ride to Defeat ALS right near (but never actually up to) Mount Angel, the Portland Century, and Tour de Lab.  Riding event support is great fun, and free. 
I enjoyed the unparalleled privilege of leading century rides for the Missing Link bicycle shop.  In July we rode to Cascade Locks and back.  August took us to Ripplebrook, and up and over a large boulder barricade.  Riding out together with several types of riders, some with a different distance in mind than others, is a superb way to start the day.
There've also been some nice little side adventures, thanks to local clubs like the Vancouver Bike Club, the Portland Wheelmen and the meetup group NW Rideabouts.  I love me some freds! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bicycle Kitty Goes Pro!

That's right, cycling fans, I've opened my business!  And you're invited.

For a small fee, I create bike fun by planning and promoting events and rides.  Do you (or does your business) want a group of healthy, fun-loving, hungry and happy cyclists showing up at their door?  I'll create something special that captures your brand or style, plan it, promote it and execute it.

Spread the word!  And stay tuned to the event listing on the right to see what Bicycle Kitty is up to.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Oregon Outback, 2015 Edition

It's hard to even know where the story begins.  Do I start with last year's ride?  No, no one wants to hear about last year.  What about the taste of fame I enjoyed afterwards?  Or my team for this year?  The emails, team meetings and exhaustive preparations?  Our team Shakedown ride?  Nah, that's its own story. How 'bout we start on the way to the train station Thursday morning.

I stopped at Missing Link to say goodbye and wish their Outback team good luck.  I swung by Seven Corners, where Cory cautioned me about my worn out cleats.  I rode by People's, where a goggle of bikepackers were hanging about.  I didn't recognize any of 'em: out of towners!  These guys, who lacked a team name, rode to Portland from Winnepeg on gravel and back roads.  I led them downtown to the station, which felt like having six not-so-tiny ducks in a string behind me.  A passerby shouted "Have fun on the Outback!" as we crossed the Hawthorne Bridge together.
The hubbub at the station, the bikes, the people (so many cool people from all over the place), the SWAG, the hugs, the gear geeking - all of it just lit me on fire.  I met a gentleman who looked like he'd walked right out of Handsome Guy magazine.  Turns out he was tweeting for Bicycling Magazine, and writes a blog called Everything Will Be Noble.  He gave me a postcard filled with stickers, one of which read "Route Feminent"! If you know of my fixation with rando riding, and my bewilderment at being marked out as an F on my R12 listing, you'll know this sticker blew my mind.
Amtrak let us roll our bikes on this year instead of boxing them.  What a treat.  However, they didn't put us all on the same train car, so that diluted the party atmosphere.  Things still felt festive though, especially in the bar car and later on at the pub in Klamath Falls.

The mood the next morning was a bit quieter, probably due to the early hour.  My team was scheduled to meet in front of the Maverick hotel at 6:55am.  Two of us were missing and we wouldn't see either of them again (on the trip).  I was handed cool embroidered Oregon Outback patch that made me wish I brought needle and thread.  Everyone exchanged high fives and took pictures.  Donnie wasn't there to say "don't die" and he was missed.  7am came and off we went.

Day One: Klamath Falls to Sprague River

The first day was super fun.  The path was crowded.  I sailed through a small regatta of cows mid-morning, just before the rain started.  It had been misty, a sort of dry rain, but soon it was undeniably wet.  We ducked off the OC&E trail into an old horse barn and watched riders go by.
I couldn't help but think of my trainer, as I pushed my rig back up the steep embankment back to the path.  Sure, my team name was "Training Is For (Expletive Deleted)" but I cheated a little.  Just then, a rider slowed, staring at me and proclaimed "Maria?!  You're the reason I'm here!".  I about fell over.  Dennis had brought his team of five roadie friends, Team HardRoads, all the way from San Francisco, after hearing the interview with Donnie and me on the KBOO Bike Show last year.

I recalled saying something about being a roadie, not a mountain biker, and telling listeners that anyone can ride the Oregon Outback.  Sure, you'll need the right gear and preparations, but this adventure is open to anyone.  Dennis and his friends heard us and came!  Suddenly the rain wasn't bothersome at all.

Later on, riding with my teammates again, we agreed to match our pace to the hour.  I think it was around 9:30am then.  At 10am, we rode 10mph.  At one, we stopped at the Sprague River cafe.  I learned from some locals that Sprague rhymes with vague, not mosque as I had previously thought.  The nice man at the cafe told me last year 's Outback created his biggest revenue day of the year and he was disappointed he hadn't prepared for us this year. 
We made our camp along the river in a tight little cluster of fir trees, with features like soft beds and a place for a hammock and tarp.  It felt like a fairyville in the forest.  We were each dry and comfortable and could see each other from our little haunts.  We even had a visitor, Nick (there was no shortage of Nicks!) , who sat under my vestibule on a pillow.  Quite cozy.  We shared our team's signature cocktail, Fire And Ice, and were soon off to la la land.

Day Two: Sprague River to Silver Lake
Gal-dang it, I love a trip with numbered days. Keep in mind though, that some riders, including a chap named Billy Truelove, were done by lunchtime on this day.  In any case, today was race day for the team, as we were due at the Cowboy Dinner Tree by 4pm. To make it on time, I tapped into my inner rando and carefully kept track of miles and time cut offs.

Most of the team was ahead of me, so imagine my surprise when I pulled in to see only Clod.  By the time we sat down, Hitkicker and Emocrush slid in with us.  That still left four open seats.  Soon, we saw a friend from the Komorebi team and her riding partner and asked them to join us.
This restaurant is a cultural center in my mind.  Although the food is the real draw, people come back for the genuine homesteader atmosphere.  We enjoyed the crazy onslaught of delicious food and I was happy to have skipped lunch.  Grinda showed up, an hour late, but still enough time for steak.  Tears flowed almost as quickly as the strawberry lemonade.  NoNickname was two hours late, but seemed satisfied with leftovers.
Earlier in the day, I noticed a car and a u-haul trailer talking with some bikepacker-looking folks.  Then I saw it again.  And again, when it parked in the grass at Silver Lake's quiet city park.  This is what brought the sheriff out late at night with his flood light and booming voice.  Instead of being put out, he was inquisitive about the ride and confessed his own plans to try it one day.

My hackles felt hackly.  Cars help bike adventure in so many great ways.  But driving along, on dirt and gravel, on our "fully self-supported" trip, just felt like buzzkill to me.  I sincerely hope this self-supported adventure doesn't become a SAGathon, at least not during the event week itself.  Luckily, the buzz was not killed as they were gone when we awoke and we never saw them again.

Day Three: Silver Lake to Sand Springs
The buzz was alive and kickin' as we rolled into the Fort Rock Tavern the next morning.  Within the tavern, we met a posse of guys who all looked like they'd just stumbled from the pages of Cute Bike Boy magazine.  One of 'em was even on a tall bike.  We drank beer and ate fries, then rolled north on Pitcher Road.  They stopped after a while to share face paint.  I opted for colored hearts on my cheeks. I don't know if they had a team name, but to me they were the California Clown Posse.
Soon it was Red Sauce time.  This is the section of super loose sand we'd all been dreading.  Especially me.  But, behold!  The red sauce had been magically transformed into a much more ride friendly surface, which I would like to anoint The Brown Gravy.  Gravy like bike messengers get as opposed to the greasy brown condiment.  Soft and reliable, and not as hot feeling since it wasn't as bright red; it was the perfect example of how terrain changes with time.
This was our only night with a campfire, which I extinguished with poop.  Just kidding, I extinguished it with water I took out of the Sand Springs spring, which was otherwise unusable.  Still, I couldn't resist scrambling down to the hidden little pond-like spring.  Just to sit and hear the silence there felt good.

Day Four: Sand Springs to Prineville
The ride to Prineville was punctuated with rolling hills.  Just when I thought I couldn't go on, much less go any faster, James panted up next to me, on his brand new Gravity fat bike.  We raced to the top.  Exhausted but in high spirits, we kept the small sprints going all the way to Prineville.

The reservoir wasn't quite as blue as I remembered, but it was still beautiful.  The water was much lower this year and not easily accessible beach-side, so we searched for a spigot at a campground.  If the Prineville Reservoir Visitor's Bureau asked me, I'd advise they put a giant spigot with a big sign at the entry to the reservoir area.  After all, this is the first water in almost eighty miles, and something to celebrate.
The patio at Dylan's Grill in Prineville is one of my favorite places.  Sun and shade, burgers and beers.  These treats, along with the first shower of the trip, felt downright glamorous.

NoNickname, who rode a $45 Craigslist Schwinn he described only as "purple", broke a spoke just outside of Prineville.  This was pretty lucky, since The Good Bike Co had announced on facebook they'd be on call for Outback riders.  Sure enough, the nice gentleman agreed to meet NoNick at the shop and even brought pizza and beer to share.

Day Five: Prineville to Antelope
This is the hardest riding day of the entire trip, but it's offset by the scenery.  The Ochocos and Trout Creek are simply beautiful.  Beautiful isn't even the right word.  Spectacular.  Pristine.  Rustic.  Sublime.  Where God goes to practice making heaven.

One of my teammates, Mister Dithers, is no stranger to endurance cycling.  An accomplished randonneur and creator of a ton of permanent routes (many with gravel) and I had no doubts at all about Mister Dithers' riding abilities.  It never occurred to me that he'd never been camping before this trip.  Never been loaded touring.  So, why not dive into the deep end and learn how to camp on the Oregon Outback?!  That guy is hard as nails.

Stopping to gather water at the creek, we experienced a great Mister Dithers moment.  While we filled our bottles and bladders, he unpacked a padded manilla envelope from his pannier.  Inside the envelope, he revealed a brand new water filter, still in its packaging.  Maybe he thought it would lose its value if it wasn't in the original box.  He held it up and asked if anyone knew how to use it.  Classic Mister Dithers.
Later that day, after passing Ashwood and starting a series of endless-feeling climbs, a big truck went by us, on its way downhill.  The driver slowed way down but I was too tired and pushing too hard to stop and say hello.  A little while later, I heard a truck coming up behind me and saw it pass.  I looked up just in time to spy two of my teammies sitting in the truck bed with their bikes and a pair of gigantic grins.  I laughed so loudly, I may have offended our new friend.

This helpful truck driver was a local farmer, who'd been witnessing the outstretched nomadic habits of bikepackers over the past several days.  He seemed harmless and friendly, even offering us whiskey along with his warning "You won't make it to Antelope".  It was like something from a movie.

He did mention a movie to Mister Dithers, after inviting him in for a glass of water. The movie is called Deliverance and the detailed description that the farmer offered was enough to light a fire under that particular rider, who we didn't see again until Antelope. Yes, we did make it to Antelope.  A haunted feeling place.  We didn't see a single soul.  Those same morning doves from last year were coo-cooing hysterically and sent us off to sleep.

Day Six
A riot of birdsong woke us up the next morning, our last day on the road.  I felt sentimental during the nine mile climb to Shaniko.  Rolling into the park just in time to see many of the same gang I saw there last year made me even mistier.  They recalled my post office delivery from last year and asked if I had champagne and chips to offer again.  This was Team Leisure, made up of many members of last year's Whiskey And Wheelies gang.
On to Grass Valley.  First, we had to find the left onto Haggerty and off of I-97 with its adrenaline of double long semi trucks and RVs rushing past, just hairs away.  C'MON HAGGERTY I yelled several times.  Finally, back to our territory: the off-road serenity of gravel roads south of the Columbia Gorge.

There's a time during Spring in the Pacific Northwest when the sun is so high, it's hard to tell which way is south.  Mesmerized by heat and pebbles, I continued heading west instead of south.  I just put my head down, hypnotized by the blare of LeTigre from the chest pocket of my pink cowboy shirt.  Which reminds me, if you haven't stopped at the Western Shop in Prineville yet, make a point of it next time you're in the area.  This year I obtained a genuine cowboy shirt there, which I toted the rest of the way across the state, a gift for my nephew's 13th birthday.
Seven bonus miles later, I rolled up in front of the Grass Valley Cafe.  The image of a fresh cobb salad, topped with all good cobby things, disappeared quietly, like a picture in a book being slammed shut.  Not only was there no salad, there were no friends.  Not a soul.  My team would cross the finish line without me.  I sighed in exasperation and started eating candy.

A flutter of rainbow flag caught my eye.  Nearby a neon open sign looked lit, so I headed over.  Cold drinks!  Crazy crystals!  Tons of riders reclined in the grass.  Bathrooms.  A water spigot.  I was elated.

We split up again, a few opting for pavement.  I don't like the trucks, so I tried my luck on gravel again.  Then another split up as some of us detoured on Van Gilder, which should be renamed van GLIDER.  We started to turn left and noticed Grinda coming up the hill from our right.  She was on her way from Moro. The undulation of the team felt like a snake getting longer, then shorter, head and tail far apart, then close together again. 
The Fulton Canyon offers some of the longest, gentlest descending you'll find anywhere.  And just a soft breeze.  That's right.  Although the Columbia Gorge is known hereabouts for dishing out a nasty gusty headwind, the kind of heartbreaker that makes riders push hard downhill to maintain ten miles an hour.  That wind was nowhere in sight today.

We were no longer on the ride, we were on the home stretch and it was a celebration.  We screamed and yelled and waved our arms around like lunatics.  Rolling into the park, our finish line, was one of the better moments I can ever remember living.

Here we were, a ragtag hodgepodge of a team that had come together to conquer the challenge of the Oregon Outback.  Some thought they might not finish.  Others were confident but cautious.  One had never been camping before.  But none of that mattered, because we did it, and we did it as a team. 
That was going to be the end of my story, but it turns out there's just a little bit more.  Terrible news awaited us on our return to Portland.  It has nothing to do with the Outback, except that it offers some serious perspective.  While we were out joyriding in the desert, two cyclists were killed by cars in Portland.  Another lost a leg just before we left.  The Safe Streets and Vision Zero movements need to be spread as far and wide as the Oregon Outback.