The days of sun and sea, sailing the Sea of Cortez faded in memory as the days of house projects and training for Cycle Oregon took their place. I’ve ridden two previous Cycle Oregon rides, in ’97 and ’06, and usually commenced training in earnest in March. This year I started in June, and despite the many miles of uphill through forests near Mt St Helens, experienced some pangs of nerves, thinking about the 30K of vertical feet to be climbed in six days. Finally in early September Cycle Oregon XXVII took off from The Dalles, on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, and for the first time ever, CO rode 61 miles across the river and up to Glenwood, WA, at 1900 feet elevation. Up and up and up along the Klickitat River, oaks changing to pines and firs, providing some much-needed shade on rest stops. The legs felt fresh, the aerobic engine was chugging away with relative ease, and I enjoyed meeting new friends (like the riders who called themselves “Chicken-Fried Steaks”), and listening to music along the way.
In the back of the second picture you can see the lines of porta potties, a necessity with over 1800 riders. The Cycle Oregon organization plans and plans, and “organized” aptly describes the paid staff and volunteers who provide food, bike repairs, merchandise, entertainment, hauling of the huge bags with personal gear, sag wagons to help those who can’t ride the whole way, and ambulances for medical emergencies. Luckily Steve and I didn’t need the services of the sag wagons or ambulances, but I did use a sag wagon to warm up when at lunch at White River Canyon Wednesday. But I get ahead of myself.
The worst day for heat was the first day to Glenwood, I think the heat coming off the pavement on the last uphill stretch was 120 degrees. I wilted. Luckily there was a water truck on one uphill stretch, and I poured water all over my head. Another time I pulled off on the side of the road and sat in the shade until my core temperature went down a bit. When I arrived at Glenwood my core temperature felt like it was about 120 degrees (I know it wasn’t, literary license there), and Nikk said my face was a startling shade of red. It was so good to see Nikk and our friend Peg there in Glenwood, welcoming me with a cold drink!
Glenwood was the destination of extremes; after the heat of the first day, that night our tent city went below freezing, with frost greeting the waves of cyclists heading for the breakfast tent, breath puffing in clouds. I went to breakfast in the dark, and came back to a sunrise spectacular with Mt Adams looming over the CO tents.
The cyclists soon warmed up. We rode uphill on a stretch of unpaved gravel for a little less than two miles, luckily my tires held together, others less fortunate were patching tires or walking their bike until help came along.
The road undulated past Nikk’s property at Timber Valley, I took a picture of the huge Ponderosa Pine at the entrance road, and a band of riders enjoying the downhill.
And then much more downhill, all the way down to the Columbia River, across the bridge at the The Dalles, and back up again to Dufur. The cheerleaders of Dufur HS greeted us in red and white sequined uniforms, cheering and shaking their pom poms. I was even excited to be in Dufur myself, until I found that the main area with Rider Services, and my brother’s note about where he was camping, was half a mile away from the HS camping area. But I did find Steve, set up camp under the scoreboard, and Nikk surprised me by showing up in Dufur too. CO has a huge massage tent, and I treated myself to massage several times during the week. It made me feel like a rider on the Tour de France, getting massaged after a hard day in the saddle. Dufur is a delightful little town, too. The night was much warmer than in Glendale, and the next morning after having breakfast near the old Fort Dufur, we rode out on a day of 73 miles with three major uphill climbs.
The first rest stop looked like a disaster area.
More uphill, with Mt Hood beckoning ever nearer.
Up past Tea Cup X-Country area, Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area, Bennett Pass, and finally White River Canyon lunch stop. Usually I visit White River Canyon for x-country skiing in the winter, it was strange to see the parking area filled with vehicles and bikes.
In September the mountain waits for the snows of October to bring back its mantle of white, and the shrinking glaciers are all too apparent. A cold wind blew down off the mountain, chilly even with my trusty windbreaker which has gone on all three CO rides, so I ate lunch in the sag wagon, until it had to speed off to pick up a load of cyclists who couldn’t continue any longer. Finished lunch in the Bike Gallery’s Subaru, sitting in the sun until toasty warm. It’s a good time to mention that the sun was shining the whole week, there were no severe head winds, and except for the first day, temperatures in the 80’s in the valleys, just about perfect weather for a CO week.
The downhill from Mt Hood to Tygh Valley had some of the worst paved roads I’ve ever ridden in the first section after lunch. Every 20 yards or so the pavement would have a crack across the whole road 2 or 3 inches wide, and not level with the other side. The jolts were severe, especially with my being a bit “saddle sore” on the third day of riding. After the excruciating first section, a section of flat road ensued, and then a beautiful section of sweeping downhill, with spectacular views of spacious skies and amber waves of grain. Finally at about 7 pm I arrived at Tygh Valley, at their fairgrounds, and actually found my brother, pitched the tent, and got to dinner before they closed the dinner tent. The band that night played good old rock and roll, good old Steve and I managed one dance before heading off to the tents for a much-needed night of slumber.
Wednesday was the true test of fitness; 83 miles from Tygh Valley to Madras, with some serious grades, including one section by Pelton Dam of 14.5%! Some of the early riders saw wild horses on the way to Kah-nee-ta, but my late start meant the horses were long gone by the time I arrived.
I did arrive at lunch in time to hear what I first though to be a CD of Carlos Nakai, but instead it was a flute player from the reservation, playing for us while we stretched out on the grass above the river for lunch.
He definitely earned his tips. He said he’d been playing for two and a half hours straight.
After lunch the route took us on a back road along the Deschutes River, and some of the riders rode down to the river and jumped in. I was running late, so just kept pedaling.
We rode across the Pelton Dam, normally the top is blocked to traffic, but they opened it just for us. And after Pelton Dam and a rest stop at a beautiful campground, it was time for a short uphill of 7% and then the dreaded 14.5% for a mile and a half. My legs were doing fine, but after about a mile my heart rate was way above the danger zone, so I reluctantly got off and pushed the bike the rest of the way. Most of the other riders were off their bikes too.
The final mile to the grassy fields of the sports area in Madras was uphill too, luckily I had another woman to ride and visit with the last ten miles or so, and we arrived just at sunset. It was the only time I didn’t find Steve, so camped under a little aspen, with views of Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson. The next day was a blessed rest day, some people went on a ride to Smith Rocks, but I had a shower, a massage, and lunch in town, then a long, long afternoon nap in the tent.
Friday brought a different kind of adventure, when I decided to take the opportunity to raft down the Deschutes from Maupin in the afternoon. One of my fellow passengers went into the river and got bashed around on the rocks, and I will save that tale for another time since my Internet cafe is closing.