Monday, November 20, 2017


Team NO was hatched when pre-registering for the first race of the season.  I entered "NO" in the slot for team name, and here we are.  We have just one member and our credo is NO!, unless the question is "beer?".  Team NO jerseys are scarce, so I stuck with an O jersey instead.
The new Troll is definitely not a cyclocross bike.  It's heavy and doesn't have gears.  But it's nimble and comfortable and accommodates super fat tires.
Cyclocross is a fun way to get some exercise while occasionally drinking beer and improving your off-road handling skills. A typical race starts lining up with at least a hundred other women, of several different categories. I am in category five, which is a nice promotion from my usual category six racing.
I took last place in almost every time, except for costume day when I managed to beat six whole racers.  I dressed to match my basket that day, which must've really given me an edge.  Or mayhaps it was the whipped cream and whiskey shots fed to me at the beachy part of the course.
Race organizers use existing land formations or build new obstacles to challenge racers.  These can range from stairs to wooden hurdles to gigantic muddy rooty "run ups". The stairs at Bend, which are actually railroad ties used as landscaping, are least 20" tall, and there are a dozen of them.  Somehow I kind of managed to struggle up them on every lap instead of taking the bailout path.
The format of cyclocross racing makes it perfect for athletes of many levels.  Faster, more experienced racers are given the extra obstacle of slower, less experienced racers while everyone picks their way through gravel and sand and mud.  Racers only need to ride for forty-five minutes.  For many, that means completing five laps.  For Team NO, that translates to three laps.

Cyclocross is all about friends and strangers shouting at you, heckling you, cheering you and even pouring beer down your gullet.  Here are my favorite heckles of the season (all directed at Team NO):

"Is that bike a dog?  'Cuz you're walkin' it like one!"
"Hey honey, will get me some milk while you're out?"
"Do you have that milk in your basket" (same guy, later race!)
"You need to put some TRY HARD in your basket!"
"If you hurry, you can still make the cat show!"
 "It's weird, 'cuz she's so fast on the road" (a comment I overheard!)


Coffeeneuring is seven years old!  It's a challenge not dissimilar to the Society of Three Speeds challenge, where one must ride a bicycle, (in this case, any bicycle), to a cafe, or a park to make coffee outdoors, or a friend's home where they serve coffee.  Riders must ride at least a mile to their destination, may not repeat destinations, and may drink hot cocoa instead. This is an excellent opportunity to get more involved in the randonneuring coffee-loving community without pouring on tons of miles, or kilometers. The best part is the requirement to document, or blog the each coffeeneur ride.

Ride One - Saturday 10/14

Seven of us met at Water Avenue Coffee for Portland's Coffeeneur Kick Off, to enjoy coffee together, compare notes on our Coffeeneuring plans, and generally chit chat.  I rode my new single speed bike, which is my cyclocross bike for this season.  I chose this bike not because of its rad punk rock-looking fork with its dozen of studs, or its sexy drop bars, or even its brand spankin new bright white basket, but because the gearing is way too hard and I needed to go to the bike shop to get it changed on the way home.  I paid $2.50 for a (refillable) mug of coffee, and it was delicious.  After asking about sweeteners, the barista slipped me two yellow envelopes of splenda as if they were contraband, and put her fingers up to her lips "sshhhh".

Ride Two - Sunday, 10/22

I rode to Heart Coffee, a new cafe exactly one mile from my home, and fourteen short miles away from the cyclocross races at Heron Lakes.  I waited several minutes for a lady and her dog to do  their poop dance before I could take this photo of my bicycle in front of the cafe.  After shooting the photo, I had the opportunity to wait for them again while he peed on the bike rack.

The house coffee was pretty good, and cost $3 (no refills).  The condiment bar was austere, offering only stevia or organic imported locally-sourced free range sugar.  There's a trend at Portland coffee house to enforce their "purity" on their future ex-customers, and this place is on the bandwagon.  Not even secret splenda.  I like my coffee the way I like it, dammit.

Ride Three - Friday, 10/27

It seemed appropriate to ride the three speed Ross for my third coffeeneur ride.  The weather was nice enough to enjoy the patio at First Cup, which is situated exactly 1 ½ miles from home.  I ordered a house coffee, which was perfect.  The coffee was only $2 and the condiment bar was fully stocked with everything anyone could ever want from a condiment bar.

Ride Four - Friday, 11/3

The maroon Miyata mixte came out to play for coffeeneur ride number four.  The weather defied the rainy forecast, staying dry and sunny all day.  My destination, a mere 2 miles from home, is my favorite diner, and has not yet been found (and ruined) by hipsters.  Therefore, I am compelled to keep this location top secret.  Coffee was $2.25 with unlimited refills, which were delivered on time and cheerfully to my table by a seasoned waitress with a pink apron.  Condiment offerings were  bountiful, and the greasy spoon breakfast was perfect fuel for a fifty mile non-coffeeneuring ride that afternoon.
Ride Five - Saturday, 11/11

It was an eight mile ride on a beautifully dry and cool day to Dean's HomeStyle Cafe in Clackamas.  A house that looks like it could be your grandma's was filled with tables which were filled with families enjoying lots of scrumptious food.  No less than three people asked me emphatically if I was sure all I'd have is a coffee.  The coffee was pretty okay and cost $2.  There were probably bottomless refills but I was full. 

One of the best parts of this ride is the new bike path I found, which heads east from the 205 path and parallels highway 212.  The other best part was the old man who stopped to chat as I unlocked my bike.  He spied the "fast" sticker on my bike and pointed at it.  "Is that true?".  I said yes, sometimes.  He told me he's had some strokes and moves slowly nowadays.  He served in the Korean War and everything's been easy since then.  As he shuffled away, the time on my odometer read 11:11.

Ride Six- Friday, 11/17

I celebrated my sixth coffeeneur trip with a peppermint latte, which set me back $3.50 and was not available in a mug.  It had been a sunny eight mile trip to Bob's Red Mill, but my phone showed green blobs of rain headed my way, so I slammed my latte, grabbed my bag of wheat and hightailed it home.

Ride Seven - Saturday, 11/18

At last, my own personal coffeeneur finale!  I rode four miles to Palio Cafe near Ladd's Addition, which was also the meet point of the Wombat Alley Cat.  I don't know how much the coffee cost because after a ten minute wait I just left a $5 bill on the counter and served myself.  They had plenty of condiments, and I've had plenty of fun riding around drinking coffee.  Thanks, Chasing Mailboxes!


Monday, October 30, 2017

Three Speed October, Week Three

The third and final week of the Three Speed Challenge opened with beautifully sunny weather.  My first ride took me from home to work, for five miles.  One of my colleagues is roommates with the creator of the challenge, so it seemed perfect to include her in the photo for this ride.

My second ride took me the five miles from home to work for an eight hour layover, before continuing 3 ½ miles to Velocult.  It was sunny but chilly and the wind and slight hill made it quite a strenuous journey.  Luckily they have beer at Velocult, so I was able to recover before heading home.

My third and final ride of the challenge also doubled as my third ride of the Coffeeneuring challenge.  It may be against the rules for both challenges to combine rides, but I'll count on the double ride above as a safety net.  It was another gorgeous sunny day and I simply rode 1 ½ miles from home until I came across a cafe.  A quick sip of coffee, then home, with tailwinds all the way.

Until next time, I hope you have tailwinds too!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Three Speed October, Week Two

Tuesday's ride included a five mile jaunt, with a quick eight hour stopover at work, followed by a pleasant three mile ride with Sarah to a wine joint.  Sarah is the first friend I made when moving to Portland fourteen years ago.  We used to meet weekly for a twenty mile ride but have grown more moderate and now meet monthly to drink wine instead..

The evening was chilly and the streets were wet, but the clouds stayed closed for the evening.  After we had our fill of wine and olives, we parted ways.  My odometer read thirteen by the time I got home and put my beloved Ross in its window parking spot.

Ride two of week two was fifteen miles long in all, and pretty dang damp.  I started at home, as usual, and rode five miles to work.  From there, I rode to the Ride With GPS headquarters for the WTF bike industry happy hour.  WTF doesn't stand for what you think it does, it means Women-Trans-Femme.  It was early and there was just a small but rowdy bunch there.

I put my very wet rainsuit back on and headed out into the dark wet again, this time to meet with chess club.  I'm not very good at the game but I sure do like it.  After a few great games, I retired back to the streets for yet another pleasant ride.  It was dry by then but quite windy, as me and my three speed tooled through back alleys to find a new way home.  Once home, my odometer showed a whopping fifteen.
Ride three of week two of the challenge took me three very wet miles from home to a Ping Pong party at a friend's.  The host didn't want my dripping wet steed dribbling all over his nice carpet for a photo near the Ping Pong table, so instead I captured the garage parking spot, next to my friend's posse of sweet road bikes.  The ride home was also rainy, and featured heat lightening that turned the sky teal for just a few quick seconds. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Three Speed October, Week One

It's October, and that means it's time for the Society of Three Speeds' annual challenge.  The requirement this year is to ride a three speed bicycle three miles three times per week for three weeks.  Yippee!

My first ride was a commute to work, which may sound like no biggie, but it's five miles each way.  My antique Ross, "the quality lightweight bicycle", is suited for just up to that distance, but not much more.  This is not due to the lack of speeds, but to the antique components that barely cling to the bike. 

Last year, I had a wheel laced around a brand new Sturmey Archer 3 speed internal hub.  I was sad to lose the built-in grip shifter emblazoned with the letters "H - N - L",  or high, neutral, low, from the old Shimano system.  The new thumb shifter is quite nifty though, and operated by a very slight flick of the rider's thumb.  I knew thumbs were good for more than hitch hiking.

The second ride was a shorty but a goody.  I tra-la-lad around the neighborhood, diligently checking my odometer for the correct mileage.  Then I headed over to the tennis courts in the park near my home to meet a mom and her daughter.  The daughter is 7 years old and had been having trouble learning to ride a bike.

It is an unparalleled joy to give the gift of bicycling to a child.  After all, once you learn, you always know.  At one point, after pedaling without help for several seconds, she hopped off and ran to her mom for a celebration hug.  My heartstrings came unstrung.  Before I left, we took a lap around the tennis court together.

The third ride was to my local fabric store, to procure materials for the upcoming Bike Craft show.  I'll be displaying at the Bicycle Kitty booth and selling butt pillows (somewhere dry to sit wherever your bike may take you), buddy flaps and embellished valve caps.  For a sneak peek of fabric choices, zoom in on the pink pannier in the photo above.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Somewhere Near Rainbow

The weekend in Rainbow was canceled due to smoke, almost as soon as it was booked. I made a plan to do some other camping somewhere else, but suddenly, Rainbow was back on.  I dropped everyone and everything, shook my ducks out and rearranged them, and texted in a hell yes.  There's no way I'd miss a Rainbow weekend with the Hybrid Moments gang.

We arrived late, or at least after dark, and quickly got situated in the chilly cabin.  Since there was a fire ban, we wouldn't have a roaring fireplace to keep us warm like last time.  Thankfully, I was assigned the master bedroom, which includes two down blankets and an electric heater.

The next day we awoke to a beautiful sunrise, which was bad news.  A beautiful sunrise in Oregon during wildfire season means the fires are burnin and the smoke is thick.  Riding in the smoke can feel burny on the eyes and throat, and even limit breathing.  We were close to the evacuation zone, so adventuring on little known trails could actually be dangerous.

We piled in the car and drove to find a less smoky area to explore.  We saw some hitch hikers wearing bike helmets and promptly picked them up.  They were shuttling to the top of the trail, with plans to ride back to their parked car.  We dropped them at the trail head, then decided to ride there too.  

I had been promised a mountain bike-free weekend, and here we were on single track.  I tried to be a good sport, but the truth is I don't like single track.  I brace myself, my knees hurt, I'm nervous and staring at the roots and rocks and berms and spending all my energy trying not to fall, instead of seeing pretty scenery and having fun.  A few miles in, our leader asked how I was doing and I confessed I'd rather be at the dentist.

We crossed a gravel road on our way back to the trail head, and couldn't resist.  About five or eight miles of pretty riding later, it dead-ended and we turned back again.  Back at the parking lot, we saw there was another trial to try - the Santiam Wagon Trail.

The Santiam Wagon Trail used to be the only way to get over the Santiam Pass, before they paved Highway 20 through and covered it with cars.  The wagon trail is still alive though, hiding in the woods, and we got to check it out in both directions.  The trail gets pretty rocky and we were grateful to have pneumatic tires.  I wondered how history may have been changed if Dunlop had been around during wagon times.
Pretty soon we encountered Fish Lake, pictured above.  The lake is bone dry half the year.  A bit further on, we found Fish Lake Camp, a treasure trove of historical buildings and plaques.  We especially enjoyed theorizing about the homesteader grave of a young couple and their baby, who had encountered snow on the pass and died before making it to the safety of the Camp.
That evening we noticed an old junky-looking tandem behind the shed.  We went to work like a pit crew, pumped the tires, oiled the chain, and even wiped down the frame.  Soon the bike was rideable.  Cosmo let me captain and after several false starts, we were off!  The chain wasn't aligned correctly and our pedal stroke, instead of being in tandem, had us toe to heel on each revolution.  I'm not sure I've ever laughed as hard as I did during that tandem ride.
The next morning dawned less smoky, so we ventured out to a nearby logging road.  We waited for more Hybrid Moments riders, but no one came.  They must've been scared off by the smoke.  We climbed and climbed, and finally caught our first glimpse of Wolf Rock, the largest monolith in the state.  Further on, at our summit, we had a nice clear view of it and howled together at its grandeur.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bikecraft Returns!

You heard it here first, dear readers!  Your favorite blogger will be appearing at the 2017 BikeCraft in Portland, Oregon.

Edit: you heard it here second - check out the Bike Portland coverage here.

The fun is set to take place the weekend of Friday, December 15th through Sunday, December 17th.  Friday's opening night promises to be well attended, with more happenings all day on Saturday and Sunday.

Check out the Microcosm (our hosts!) website about the event, here:

There will be lots of great wares to peruse and possibly purchase.  Over at the Bicycle Kitty booth, you'll find buddy flaps with reflective accents (stop spraying your friends or your Cat Six competitors!), embellished valve caps (both presta and schraeder), and of course, the infamous BumEase butt pillows.

The pillows are vinyl on one side and cotton on the other, offering cyclists, campers, hikers and general adventurers a dry place to sit wherever they may roam.  There will be plenty of sizes and colors to choose from.

See you there!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Swift Summit 200 / 100

I succeeded in my goal to make it to the start line of the Swift Summit 200/100.  My morning started at 3:30am at my mom and dad's house in Albany, which is pretty close to the start line in Lebanon.  My dad rose with me and gently hovered in the background, his hands crossed in his humble way.  After watching me wolf down a bowl of oatmeal and head out the door, he stopped me to give me a hug and said  "You are strong and you are brave.  Just remember to have fun!".

Entering town, I saw our Race Director, Trevor, at the Lobby Cafe and ran in to grab my second cup of coffee*.  I was so excited my heart was racing, and had been since the night before.  Being interviewed a few evenings earlier by the Sprocket Podcast only added to the pressure build up.  I dropped my drop bag and had bib number 224** pinned on to my back.  I had hoped for 211, with my special affinity for type II fun, and the number eleven in general.  It had been my messenger number, and therefore my name, for a couple of years.  Since then, I often notice a mile post 11 sign, just when I need a boost.

It was dark and chilly at the start line and I was glad to have my bunchable pink jacket with me.  I watched Mark slide in just in time, and madly pack his bike while Trevor spoke.  Although harried, Mark took the time to run over and give me a hug and a "Bonne Route".  Trevor's speech included the usual "look out for tracks and deer, turn left at the bottom of the hill" type announcements.  Then he went on to name the fallen, the killed endurance riders from this year.  I touched the MH sticker on my bike in honor of Mike Hall. After a silence, he read a poem.

I was honored to be queuing up with this bunch of amazing athletes, and somewhat incredulous to even be counted among them.  Trevor announced that we had some accomplished endurance bike racers in our midst and that he'd like to call them up.  Then he said my name.

Time froze.  Me?!  I'd never gotten a call up before, and he was calling me up and calling me up first?  My strategy of staying within myself immediately went to crap while I rolled my bike up to the front.  He called up others then, Kraig (winner of this year's Steens Mazama 1000), David for the Steens Mazama, Route 66 and TransAm, and Mark for his RAAM finishes.  And of course, Rob English, who'd go on to win today's event.

The group finally rolled out and I let myself drift to the back.  I knew if I rode with the pack, I'd chase and wear myself out too early.  As it was, our neutral rollout was at a 20mph pace.  The dark and chill exhilarated me and I missed a turn***, which luckily added only a couple of miles.  I pledged to pay closer attention for the rest of the day.

The alternating woods and countryside were simply glorious.  Watching the horizon dimly lighten and brighten over the span of an hour felt like having a front row seat to a pretty great sky show.  I rolled into the first control, in Lacomb, ten minutes later than my 8:30am goal time, but with plenty of time before the 10am cut off time.  "I better hurry up!" I thought to myself.  Before leaving, I recited my "blackout poem" to the volunteer.  These were hand created by our Race Director and mailed to us in advance.  I loved mine so much I'd memorized it.
Riding around Foster Lake made me feel sentimental for some reason.  It was so beautiful and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to see it in this way on this day.  Coming around the more populated southern edge of the lake, I noticed much of my water was already gone and wished I'd pocketed a third bottle****.  Luckily, a laundromat presented itself and I dashed in, bike and all, to fill up.

Below is the one photo I managed to take all day.  I was trying to capture the sweetly stenciled Swift Summit logo, but was too harried to notice it was blocked by my basket.  
The next control, Arturio's house, was coming soon.  I imagined there'd be a slip & slide and lounging racers scattered on the grass.  Instead there were a couple of nice ladies sitting in lawnchairs behind a table laden with fruit and chips.  I recited my blackout poem to them and munched on some chips while madly taking my jersey off to re-pin my number, which had come loose and was flapping in the wind while I rode.  Next year, I'll sew it on.

I had done quite a bit of math on the way to Arturio's, and calculated I'd be a half hour earlier than my goal of 12:30pm.  As expected, I rolled in at 12pm, an entire 2 hours before the control closed.  The climbing began in earnest after that.  Fern Ridge doesn't seem to have any ferns and felt like more of a mountain than a ridge, but the views were grand.  

Finally the uphill it turned to gravel.  The hill and the gravel were hard but not impossible.  The downhill portion felt sketchy and I had to coach myself not to fall: "Relax, roll right through, float float!" I yelled.  

Hot foot haunted me in the final stretch to control number 3 in Brownsville, or "Brownsville 1" as I had come to think of it.  We'd have three control stops in Brownsville, and my drop bag would be available at each.  Brownsville 1 closed at 3pm and my goal had been to get there at 2pm.  I was a half hour late.

The volunteers welcomed me as if I were their long lost best friend.  They took my bike from underneath me, filled my bottles and set up a bucket of ice water for me to stand in.  After a couple of sublime minutes standing in ice water, they urged me on, telling me I had 45 miles to complete in three hours.  So I put on my shoes and raced westward, looking forward to the long flat section.

I had envisaged this section would be my time to shine.  I'd have 110 miles on me, be fully warmed up and ready to roll fast, head down, hands in the drops.  There was just one tiny thing I'd forgotten - the north headwinds that the western Willamette Valley is famous for, which always kick up in the afternoon.  The dirt devils and yellow brown countryside scorched.

I decided to finish singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall before doing any race math.  I suspected my situation was dismal, but knew pedaling was really the only thing I could do.  After we passed around the last bottle of beer, I realized I needed to average 18 mph for the next hour or so.  I was working hard to maintain 12mph.  

Soon the route turned north again onto Falk Road.  "FALK" I screamed joylessly.  I saw a lady up head walking a bike and slowed down to suss her out.  She had heat stroke and was cramping and I stopped to hug her.  She started crying and I urged her to call in and get rescued, then said goodbye and pedaled on.

A few miles later, I saw another pair standing by their bikes by a mini-mart, with a large bottle of water on the ground.  I asked if they'd be using it all and they offered me some.  They told me they were done racing and riding straight to the brew pub finish line in Lebanon.  I told them they were a bad influence and left quickly.  Although I felt little hope of making it at this point, I didn't want to quit until I knew for sure I couldn't make it.

I don't quit.  I won't quit.  I will just pedal and sing and some magical tailwind will fast track me to Brownsville 2 and all I'll have to worry about then will be the Crowfoot and Brownsville 3 controls.  That's what I kept telling myself anyway.  At 5:20pm, I had 10 miles to go.  There was no way I could get there in 10 minutes, so I stopped and took a break on a small bridge over a little creek.

I thought for sure I'd cry.  I always cry when things get rough.  This was my first DNF (did not finish) in a big event; surely I'd be crushed.  Instead, I looked out over the creek and felt strangely peaceful.  I texted Trevor that I was scratching (bike racers scratch or abandon, we don't quit!).  

Then I texted my mom and dad and told them.  They were extremely sympathetic, imagining I'd be in mental agony over the defeat.  They offered to pick me up but I wanted to go for a little ride before facing my fellow racers.  I pedaled on and enjoyed being honked at angrily by some gangly teenage boys in a pick up truck.  If they only knew how much they motivate me and my kind.

It was on that last stretch that I finally figured out the "swift" in the race title referred to the birds in the valleys, not speed. I was checking out a big metal playground slide for sale when KP passed me as if I was standing still.  His number 211 was just barely visible as he blurred by.

Soon I was turning off the quiet alley and into the finish line party at Conversion Brewing.  Everyone screamed and cheered while I madly made the cut throat signal to indicate I hadn't finished.  I needn't have worried, everyone would know that because I wasn't presented with a finisher's cap.  You can bet I'll be back to finish up my business next year.

* mistake number one: my heart was already racing, I did not need a second cup of coffee.
** mistake number two: I was too shy to request a number I like.
*** mistake number three: I should've accepted a friend's offer to borrow their garmin.
**** mistake number four: I should have carried a third bottle, I was always low on water.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Local Legends

The day started with a mechanical, on the MAX train.  Apparently the train's brakes wouldn't stop stopping, so several riders had to ride from Beaverton to Hillsboro while the rest of us hung around Maggie's Buns eating pastries and drinking coffee.  When we rolled out, the head count was ten guys, two chicks.  I had invited the other chick, Erinne, who is a fun and strong rider.  She made it to the top of the massive gravel climb first.
I first met Erinne on this road, the Trask River Road, in 2012 during the Velodirt Rapture, which I rode twice.  The first year, I took my road bike with 32mm tires, and the second year I rode my "vintage" fully rigid 26" wheel mountain bike.  The latter was like riding a couch, so I opted for that steed on this latest adventure.
The second, and third, and fourth and fifth mechanicals all happened on the Trask River road.  There just comes a point where skinny tires lose out when confronted with lots of chunky sharp gravel.  I did notice that the rim tape had a sharp seam and used some pink duct tape to cover it.  Maybe that helped.  The impressive part was the 13 year old kid riding the bike with the multiple flats, his strong legs and good attitude under duress.
Also impressive is the gentleman in orange pictured above.  He rode a fixed gear and had a spare cog strapped to his saddle bag, along with a full sized chain whip strapped to his top tube.  At the top and bottom of each major climb, he'd pull over and change out his gearing.  He never coasted, and he never complained.

By the time we got close to the brew pub in Tillamook, the headwind had started in earnest.  Erinne and I worked together, or, well, okay she pulled me the entire time, and we finally made it to beer.  The Bike Concierge was right on time to scoop us all up and take us back to points east.  

I really appreciated the thorough ride leadering, support, planning, pre-ride communication and route details offered by our organizer.  Cheers, Gugie.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Us Versus Them

Photo credit: Keith Olenslager
I've been thinking a lot lately about two types of behavior: rolling coal and the human chain.

Rolling coal, in case you're unfamiliar, is when a vehicle with a diesel engine, usually a large pick up truck or SUV, deliberately spews black toxic fumes at bicyclists.  Yes, deliberately.  These fumes are toxic, especially to those humans who use their lungs in athletic pursuits like cycling.

The human chain is from a story I heard that took place at a Florida beach.  A couple had been out swimming and got caught by the rip tide.  They had been pulled out quite a ways and were in deep trouble.  The onlookers at the beach, all strangers, linked together to form a human chain and saved the couple's lives.  This is some top level human heroism.

I've experienced both types of behavior on rides.  The rolling coal phenomena, which should be pictured next to the word "sociopath" in the dictionary, is dangerous.  It is extreme bullying.  There's an imbalance of power (and intelligence) when a diesel truck, weighing in at approximately 2000 pounds, veers at, revs their engine and blows fumes at a 150 pound human atop a 25 pound bicycle.

If I ever met one of these drivers, I'd dare them to ride a bike, but I suspect they wouldn't even if they could.  I can't help but wonder though, if they read the story about the human chain, would they count themselves as one of the heroic types who would've taken part in that rescue?
Photo credit: Keith Olenslager
On the human chain side of things, most drivers I encounter slow down and go around.  Some motorists will even stop to check on cyclists doing roadside repairs, or offer water.  Cycling acquaintances are totally willing to ruin their ride to spend all day fixing seven flats with me.  Friends are willing to drop everything and come rescue me when an eighth flat will destroy me.  Pro tip: always check your rim tape when installing new tires.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Oregon Out-n-Back, with Team U-Turn

photo credit: Paula Funatake
What had once been a terrifying, epic adventure of a ride has morphed into a fun and almost easy vacation tour with friends. Changing the route to an out and back helped, although it made for a challenging day five and day six, as the OC&E trail is pretty dang bumpy.  Knowing what to expect as far as stores and distance really helped.  Having drinks at the Fort Rock Tavern not once, but twice, was terrific fun.

Thorn flats plagued us in the first several miles, but we won out.  While I fixed one, Linda stopped to rest with me.  She was feverish and seeing spots and had to make the tough decision to turn back to Klamath Falls, leaving eight riders.
When we rolled into Sprague River, a lady in front of the deli called us over.  "We're closed now but we have cold drinks for you!"  She mentioned her husband's legendary reuben sandwiches and reminded us they close at 2pm.

As expected, we encountered gates and more gates, and bumpy red stony gravel.  We encountered several cows to be cooed at and coaxed ahead so we wouldn't collide.  Finally sunset and a steep hillside hike to camp by the Sprague River, so named for the way it snakes across the land.  Sprague is a native word meaning snake, which describes the river perfectly.
photo credit: Paula Funatake
I spilled a beer in my tent that night but was so tired I just flipped my pillow over and went to sleep.  But, not to worry, the mess was still waiting for me when I woke up.  I sprayed everything down, packed up and climbed up out of the ravine to the red pathway.

It started heating up quickly and we stopped in the shade to stretch.  More gates and finally that fateful left turn that I missed three years ago.  I'm determined no one shall ever miss that turn again.  Most of us rolled by the Thompson Reservoir, but one smart rider stopped for a swim.
From there, we forked off on a rutted doubletrack dirt road that seemed unfamiliar to me.  Soon it degraded to nothing more than rocks, and a big bulldozed pile of earth.  We forged ahead, carrying our bikes over fallen trees for about forty minutes.  It was as if my friends invited me to go on a mountain bike ride on the way to dinner, and I one-upped them by suggesting we swing by the gym too.

The Cowboy Dinner Tree lived up to its reputation once again.  We enjoyed amazing food and service, along with that special intimate feeling of indulging in a well-earned feast together.  Stomachs distended, we slowly dragged ourselves to camp just a mile south. Matt took off early the next day, his sights set on reaching the Crooked River by nightfall. 
The five remaining riders rode through Silver Lake the next day, stopping at the beloved Mercantile.  The proprietor asked if we were "Outback riders" and told us we are always welcome in Silver Lake.  He said the scuttlebut about litter or bad behavior was simply not true and that he enjoyed seeing us pass through.  He pointed us to a spigot to refill our water, and to the cutest port-a-potty on the planet.
Arriving at the Fort Rock Tavern, the barmaid informed us we each had a shot awaiting us, courtesy of an earlier rider.  It was still early, but we didn't have far to go, so we sidled up to the bar and took our time.  A local lady came in to offer the owner fresh rhubarb.  I grew up eating fresh rhubarb, the farmer kids' version of super sour candy, and my mouth watered.
I followed the lady outside with the hopes we'd strike up a conversation and maybe I'd have the nerve to ask her for some rhubarb.  Instead, I walked outside and she turned around and said "Want some rhubarb?".  The folks out in this part of the state are downright generous.  I took her up on it and now I have a new favorite riding snack.  They're tangy and sweet, moist and full of electrolytes, and she gave me enough to last for the rest of the trip.
We dragged ourselves the two hot unsheltered miles from the tavern to the Fort Rock itself, and holed up in the shade for the rest of the day.  We flew kites, swapped stories, and continued having fun until almost dinner time.  Then we continued north to Cabin Lake, which has neither a cabin, nor a lake.  Luckily some nice ATVers offered to share their large supply of water with us.
The next morning we said our goodbyes as two riders continued north, and the remaining three of us did our U-turn to get back to Klamath Falls in time for the train.  Every out and back ride feels like a spool unwound and rewound, giving you a new perspective on where you've come from and where you're going.

We headed for the tavern again, then several dusty miles before stocking up at Silver Lake.  We made it to the Thompson Reservoir again, taking advice from the rider who swam there days before.  It was idyllic and empty of campers.  We chose a site, set up camp, and made our dinners.  It was a bit buggy, so we sprayed ourselves.  The golden hour was approaching, so we headed down to the dock to photograph the lake.

There was a loud whining noise coming from somewhere, and I guessed it was a chainsaw up on the ridge.  Except that we were in the middle of nowhere and there weren't any humans anywhere nearby.  I was halfway out onto the dock, and my friend was at the very end.  As I turned to look at him, I noticed a dark cloud between us.  Mosquitoes, hundreds of them!  "RUN!!!!"  We ran full speed back to our site and slid into our tents like sliding into home.  The rest of the evening was spent stranded in tents, but by morning the bugs, and their drone, were gone.
The three of us slowly picked our way through the cowpies and sage bushes littering the OC&E trail.  We rolled into a sweet camp spot on the Sprague River early enough to take a nap before dinner.  It was barely buggy compared to the previous evening.

The next morning, our loads light, we headed south for our last day of riding.  We couldn't wait to get to the Sprague River deli and its now famous reuben sandwiches.  It was the best reuben I'd ever had in my life, and that's not just the miles talking.  While we waited for the ruebens, we scarfed a couple of homemade apple turnovers that have forever ruined any other apple turnovers for me.

We experimented with some parallel paved roads with names like "Bliss".  We fantasized about organizing an "Outback light" that could be done on road bikes with minimal kit.  On the trail in between, we met a couple of genuine cowboys on horses.  They urged us to close the gates behind us, as they'd be driving cattle through soon.

Arriving back in Klamath Falls, we stopped on the bike path to wait for a traffic light, and I noticed I'd lost a rack bolt.  I felt lucky it didn't cause a crash and quickly replaced the bolt.  We reunited with Chris and Paula, who we hadn't seen since day one, and drank our fill of beer.  Much later, we stumbled to the neighboring Maverick Hotel.  After showering, I realized I'd left my cap behind at the bar.  There were police and ambulances swarming the place, but I managed to slink in and out unnoticed.