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.
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.
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
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.
Day Two: Sprague River to Silver Lake
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.
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
Day Four: Sand Springs to Prineville
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.