Cycle Oregon 2008
September 5 - On To Cycle Oregon 2008 - Steve Whelan picked up Jim Duncan and me at 9 AM at Jim's house in his Lexus SUV. Gary Lusso (aka T-Bone) was already in the car. Mark Neer, Susan Gibbs and Christy Simpson were also there in Mark's car. We loaded our bikes on the Lexus' rear rack, stuffed our gear in its luggage area and set off for an easy convoy to Bend, OR. On the way, we stopped in Corning at the Iron Kettle for lunch. Steve has a Garmin Quest GPS system which guided us all the way up I5 and US 97 to our hotel - The Bend Inn & Suites. Questy led us to dinner at the Deschutes Brewery where we sampled some fine ales and ate some good pub food including its renown Mac and Cheese.
September 6 - After breakfast, we loaded up the car and set off for Elgin. Questy was on target steering us up US 97 and east on I84 in time for lunch in Pendleton. After lunch, we continued on for another hour or so and followed the signs to long-term parking in Elgin. Our gear was toted over to the first night's camp where we checked in. Except for Gary, we took advantage of CO's Tent & Porter Service. This service sets up and takes down our tents. It also delivers our gear in the afternoon and picks it up in the morning. It's worth paying for after and before a tough day of riding. Our tents were grouped together with Bob and Dave from Benecia.
After orienting ourselves to the camp, we found our way to the Beer Garden to sample some ales from Widmer Brothers Brewery.
There is a daily routine on Cycle Oregon. It starts with breakfast as early as 5:30 for those anxious to get going and for those that can't sleep through the zipper noise. Next is the daily ride. At the end of the ride, it's showers in huge shower trucks. Then it's on to the Beer Garden. The Beer Garden is near the sound stage so that you can watch and hear the early entertainment provided by locals. Dinner starts around 5 PM. Then it's back to the sound stage at 7:30 for announcements and major evening entertainment. Bed time is whenever you want it to be.
Part of the following narrative starts each day with the day's ride description from the "Rider Handbook". My ride perspective follows.
September 7 - Day 1 - Elgin to Union
“Peace in the Valley”
"We ease into the week with a placid day of backcountry beauty. From the quintessential Western town of Elgin, we roll out through the Grande Ronde Valley, where the river meanders, the soil is rich and the views are inspiring. Lunch is in tiny Cove with its picturesque Ascension Chapel, an 1869 jewel still used today. After lunch it’s a straight shot into Union, with the rugged Eagle Cap Wilderness to the east, looming with promises of the week to come".
Jim, Mark, Susan, Steve, Christy and I left around 8:30 and rode to lunch in a rotating pace line. We stopped from time-to-time at rest stops and to take photos, especially when we came upon colorful fields of sunflowers, hay bales, etc. (The first rest stop had good honeydew melon and grapes). We were generally going pretty fast. After lunch, Jim, Mark and Susan decided to add a few more miles and took an alternate loop before riding to the finish. Steve, Christy and I stayed on the official route and rode into camp at a slower pace. Gary was out there somewhere putting on extra miles wherever he could find them. We saw Bob and Dave from time-to-time but they were going at their own pace.
The day's ride was pretty flat. There was one short hill at mile 2 that got our hearts pumping and our bodies warm. The rest of the ride was over long rollers and level stretches. Wind was not a factor except at the end when it kicked up a little.
When we got to camp, my luggage was missing. After waiting for an hour or so, I went to the luggage trucks and discovered that it was put in the wrong truck. They filed it by rider number, not tent number. All was well, though. We got to the beer garden, dinner and announcements in plenty of time.
Miles Max Speed Average Speed Moving Time Total Ascent Weather 48 31.8 16.1 2:58 1048 Feet Cold to 80's and clear
Windy at the end and cold at night
September 8 - Day 2 - Union to Baker City
“The Long or Short of It”
"The road out of historic Union along Catherine Creek is among the most bucolic rides around. A long, gradual climb pays off with a descent into a scenic valley at Medical Springs. From there you’ll pedal through sagebrush draws, rimrock vistas and mixed conifer forests and on into Baker City. Feel like more? Continue on through Haines and North Powder, looping back to Baker City along the base of the Elkhorn Mountains".
Despite of the really cold night, I was able to get over 9 hours of sleep. Ear plugs and tent bottles really help. I was up at 6:00 which has become a pattern. After breakfast, we gathered the troops and were off at 8:15. This route to Baker City was the same as the optional ride on Cycle Oregon 2006. We started with a moderate climb of 1200 feet along Catherine Creek. I lagged behind our small group in this section. Then we dropped into a bucolic valley. Our next climb was for 800 feet in open terrain. I had to take off my jacket and leg warmers on this climb because I was getting too warm. I reached the lunch stop at 11:10 and met up with our group again.
After lunch we formed a pace line and took off on the optional route extension. The pace line didn't help much at the start because the road had very wide ruts across it for about two miles. The bumps really slowed everyone down. When we got out of the bad road, the pace picked up. We turned right onto a major road and sped on toward North Powder. I pulled off at Haines and went west on a cross road until I met the return route. This cut off about 18 miles of the optional route extension. When I reached the return route's water stop, Steve Christy, Bob and Dave caught up to me. They made the Haines turnoff, too, but were slower than me to make the decision. We shared pulls into camp.
We reached the Baker City camp ground at 1:30. This gave us plenty of time to shower and to walk into town. The town center was about 1 1/2 miles away. Christy, Steve, Dave, Bob and I walked on pleasant tree-lined streets past old Victorian houses for which Bake City is famous. The city center had lots of little shops and cafes. We stopped in a bicycle shop to see what they had. I got a smoothy from an ice cream store and some cash from an ATM. Baker City is also known for its good brew pub. The others stopped there for some refresments while I hopped onboard a horse-drawn wagon to take me back to camp. (My plantar fasciitis was acting up).
The camp routine was the same as the day before - beer garden, dinner, announcements and bed time.
Miles Max Speed Average Speed Moving Time Total Ascent Weather 65 35.8 15.3 4:14 3100 Feet Cold to 70's and clear
Cold at night
September 9 - Day 3 - Baker City to Halfway
“Highway to Hells”
"Today you set out on the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Start the day with a warm-up ride to the splendid Oregon Trail Interpretive Center outside Baker City. Then you’ll join up with the winding Powder River, riding beside it for miles before stopping for lunch in Richland. After fueling up, challenge yourself with a serious climb, then swoop on down into Pine Valley and Halfway".
It was not as cold overnight as the night before. To keep my head warm, I slipped the neck of a t-shirt over my head and ears. It worked. I got 9 hours of sleep for the second night in a row. I was up at 6:00, ate breakfast and left a little before 8:00. I dallied at the start and lost my group.
The ride had a short climb just after the start. A Lewis and Clark interpretive center was at the top of the climb. A lot of the riders stopped here to see the exibits and to walk along some of the trail's original wagon wheel ruts. I decided to ride past the center because I had seen a lot of Lewis and Clark memoralbilia on CO 2005.
There was a lot of downhill after this. The first rest stop featured melons. This had become a pettern. I don't get my melon at breakfast, but I do at the first rest stop. The second rest stop was the best. I almost rode past it because it came up too soon. But one of the riders that was leaving told me that I couldn't miss this stop because of the fresh peaches. He was right. An organic peach orchard was giving us #1 peaches that were picked the day before. They were very sweet and juicy - some of the best I have ever tasted.
Our rest stop was in Richland. The peaches made up for the almost unedible Asian noodles that were served at lunch. Here we were entertained by a group of seniors who played various instruments and sang old-time songs. It was a very strange experience.
We had a long, steep climb after lunch. I was greatfull for the new lower gears on my bike. After the climb it was downhill into Halfway. There were a few cafes and shops on the way into camp. I stopped at one a had a delicious mixed berry smoothy. Even with the stop in town, I was in camp at 12:45. My luggage was at my tent already so I was able to shower and dress before the rest of our group got in.
The camp routine was the same as the day before - beer garden, dinner, announcements and bed time. The only difference was that the beer garden and stage were set up in town about 1/4 mile from the camp. They even closed the main road through town where they set up the sound stage.
Miles Max Speed Average Speed Moving Time Total Ascent Weather 55 40.2 15.3 3:34 2717 Feet Cold to 70's and clear
Cold at night
September 10 - Day 4 - Hells Canyon Option
“Dam Fine Choices”
"Today is all about what you want. Feel like hanging around Halfway? Great; relax. Want a nice little spin out to Oxbow Dam and back, for an up-close look at Hells Canyon and the Snake River? No sweat. Feel like an in-depth exploration of the canyon? Spin up the Idaho side to the end of the road at Hells Canyon Dam. If you do head to a dam, just remember: On an out-andback, what first goes down must later go up".
I only got 8 hours of sleep. We stayed at the concert a little longer last night because the entertainment was supposed to be really good. So I got to sleep later than the nights before. I was up at 6:00, had breakfast and was on the road a little past 8:00. I was riding alone because the rest of our group had planned to do the long loop all the way to the Hells Canyon Dam.
After the initial flats and a short climb, the ride was on mostly downhill rollers for 17 miles to the lunch stop. I stopped here for a snack. Then I continued on across a bridge into Idaho. It was here that we started riding along the Snake River upstream into Hells Canyon. The road had three or four steep rollers as it followed the river. My plan was to ride up to the water stop near mile 30 and turn around. As I was approaching the turn-around, I saw Christy heading back. She waited for me and we rode back to the lunch stop together. Even though Hells Canyon is known as America's deepest gorge, the brown, rocky hills were not very impressive to me. The tailwinds back to lunch were impressive, though.
We spent a lot of time at lunch partly because it was still early and partly because Christy needed the mechanics to check out a clunking noise on her bicycle. We eventually started our ride back. We were blessed by tailwinds on most of this part of the ride. (As an aside, we were following a rider who kept pushing a real high gear and looking like he was struggling. I saw him later at the showers and asked him why he was doing that. He said that he was trying to conserve energy for the hard climbs the next day. That sounded illogical to me).
We got back to Halfway and I stopped for a pomegranite/blueberry smoothy. Then it was on to camp. When I got back from my shower, Rich Fuller was sitting outside our tent area. He told us that he was following Gary on one of the first downhills when he saw a cow and her calf jumped out of the roadside bushes right in front of Gary. He said that Gary "t-boned" the cow and went down. They took Gary to the hospital in Baker City where the emergency room found no broken bones, but some deep bruising. He came back to camp with massive bandages and a crutch. After checking on his condition, we found his bicycle. The hoods were facing outwards and had cow fur embedded into them. We found a bicycle license plate, wrote "T_Bone" on it and attached it to the rear of his bike. Then Susan found a small stuffed cow in one of the local stores and tied it onto his front stem on top of a small patch of hay. It's a lucky that Gary has a good sense of humor. Gary spent the rest of the ride being consoled by all of the mothers and by helping out Rider Services by handing out chocolate milk at the finish line.
Tonight's entertainment was karaoki. We did not stay very long there.
Miles Max Speed Average Speed Moving Time Total Ascent Weather 62 42 15.8 3:54 3000 Feet Cold to hot and clear
September 11 - Day 5 - Halfway to Joseph and Wallowa Lake
"Today will be a challenge. We have three – feel ‘em, three – major climbs, plus a bonus hill for masochists. Leaving Pine Valley, you’ll climb into the Wallowas, passing through multiple vegetation zones, but relax into it – the scenery makes it worthwhile. It’s your choice whether to propel up to the stunning Hells Canyon Overlook. Descend to lunch, then climb some more before soaking in the views along Little Sheep Creek, into Joseph and along the edge of Wallowa Lake".
I was up at 6:00 again. Then it was off to breakfast and on the road before 8:00. I decided to ride alone. It was advertised as a hilly ride and I wanted to go at my own pace. I needed to test my legs after my strenuous tour of the Alps and Dolomites.
We started out on the same route as the day before. At the 10 mile mark, we turned off of yesterday's route and started to climb. This climb turned out to be very gradual - around 2000 feet in 18 miles. There were a couple of stretches where it went over 6% but these were very manageable. We had a rest stop at mile 18 with all of the regular goodies - melons for me. There was also a water stop at mile 25.
When we reached the summit, we had a short downhill to an optional out-and-back to the Hells Canyon Overlook. The climb to this scenic spot was worth the effort. We had dramatic views overlooking the canyon. I saw Jim, Susan and Mark leaving the overlook as I was climbing to it.
Turning around, it was a sharp downhill to lunch at mile 38. We had lunch in a wooded, alpine setting. I met up with the rest of the group here, but they were finishing their lunches and were ready to take off. I didn't see them again until the rest stop after the next two summits. These climbs were also gradual, but the last one reached an elevation of over 6000 feet.
The last rest stop had peaches left over from two days before. They were just as good.
I joined my group here and we rode together all the way into Joseph. We split up here and I rode on to the camp at Wallowa Lake which was another 6 miles.
Our camp was set up right next to the lake in Wallowa Lake State Park. It was a beautiful setting at the head of the lake with mountains in back and on the left, a glacial ridge on the right and the lake in front. I arrived after 4:00 so I had to hurry to do my usual after-ride routine. I managed to get a smoothy at the Tom and Jerry truck before my shower. After that it was beer garden, dinner, announcements and bed. I bought a hooded sweatshirt to keep me warm at night. It worked really well.
Miles Max Speed Average Speed Moving Time Total Ascent Weather 84 39 12.7 6:35 7412 Feet Cold, hot, cold and sunny
September 12 - Day 6 - Joseph and Enterprise
“See What You’re Saving”
"What luxury – a second layover day! Volunteer for the Friends of the Forest Day, lounge around Wallowa Lake in the shadow of “The Oregon Alps” or spin on over to Enterprise for lunch and live music on the courthouse lawn. Whatever you do, note the natural beauty of the rugged moraines skirting the lake – this year’s Cycle Oregon Fund Signature Grant is helping protect key moraine lands from development pressure. This is one of the prettiest camp settings anywhere".
After 9 hours of sleep,I was up at a little after 6:00. Because our ride today was very short, we planned to leave at 10:00. This gave me time to walk around the camp to see what was there. I found deer sleeping at the ranger's house. There was a nice rustic lodge where non-campers can stay. There were Kokanee salmon spawning in the stream near the lodge. There were some local vendors in camp selling their products. I had missed all of this the day before because I was anxious to get into camp.
We left camp at 10:00 with all of the crew including Bob. Dave was taking the day off. At the foot of the lake, we stopped to see the memorial to Chief Joseph's father at his grave site. Then we pedalled through Joseph and along wheat and alfalpha fields on flat and downhill roads into Enterprise. The scenery was a contrast of mountains in the background with farms in the forground. It was very picturesque.
When we reached Enterprise, we had differences of opinion on what to do about lunch. We thought that we might go to the local brew pub that one of the other riders recommended. When we couldn't find it, Bob and I ate at the CO lunch stop. We had really good tuna and egg salad sandwiches. The rest of the crew ate at a local cafe. They were getting tired of CO mass-cooked meals.
After lunch, Bob and I rode back on a slight uphill to the outskirts of Joseph. He pealed off to do some touring on another road while I continued on into Joseph and then to our camp. I got in at 1:30, showered and lazed around until everyone else showed up.
We spent a lot of time hanging out at the beer garden because it was our last night on the tour. Rich Fuller joined us and talked about his day as a volunteer building a bridge on one of the trails. This was volunteer day and a lot of riders worked on local projects. Most of us were clueless and didn't know it was happening.
Miles Max Speed Average Speed Moving Time Total Ascent Weather 33 30.5 14.9 2:13 1105 Feet Cool to warm and clear
September 13 - Day 7 - Wallowa Lake to Elgin
“The Grand Finale”
"Somehow we’ve managed to revisit the best of the week all in the final day’s ride. You’ll skirt the lake, then glide through highcountry meadows, follow the winding Wallowa River through a narrow and spectacular nine-mile canyon, rise up the Minam Grade and cruise into Elgin – all with the Wallowa Mountains as your western horizon. Lakes, plateaus, rivers, canyons and mountains – yep, sounds about perfect".
We were up at 6:00, anxious to get going on our last day's ride. After breakfast, we packed our gear and left the camp at 7:30. Our run to the lunch stop was 32 miles and mostly downhill. I sat in the pace line and it really paid off. Even though we made a quick rest stop in Enterprise at mile 14, we average over 20 MPH to the lunch stop. We weren't too hungry at 9:15, so we just ate a small lunch and took off again. At mile 40, we had our only serious climb - about 900 feet in 4+ miles. This was similar to Tunnel Road in Berkeley. After the climb, we had a few high rollers and then it was downhill again to Elgin. I crossed the finish line at 11:15 after getting chocolate milk from Gary who was stationed at the end.
I waited a few minutes for the rest of our group to finish and then we cycled over to our cars. We had left a change of clothes in the car so that we could get our shower out of the way before everyone else arrived. We did that, picked up our bags and drove over to the finish to pick up Gary. Then we were off to Bend stopping once in Pendleton to pick up some meds that Steve forgot and once in Biggs for gas and snacks.
Miles Max Speed Average Speed Moving Time Total Ascent Weather 60 35.3 19.5 3:05 1700 Feet Cool to warm and clear
September 14 - The last morning we got up at our usual 6:00, had breakfast and were on the road early. We stopped for lunch in Redding where we had Mexican food. The rest of the ride was uneventfull except for almost running out of gas before we got to Winters. Ann and KD picked me up at Jim's house and we were home before 6:00. All-in-all it was a fun and successful trip.