Thursday, September 01, 2011

from the tour and from this summer

Well its been a while.  Summer.  That's what happens to blogging.  I'm finally taking a night off from whatever and writing this.  I have been wanting to post something about the tour but as it turns out the tour has just turned into Summer, busy as ever and all too short....and now it seems to be winding down.


It never really did have a name, but as things this summer have gone I think I'll call it the Well...Now What? Tour.  Cosmic happenings brought me on this tour.  Things I can't explain...the whole way.  Strange coincidences amongst friends old and new.  Muses and guides looking after me the whole length.  Serendipitous happenings.  And after all that I can only what?

I called Captain Ron the week before I left on a feeling that our travels might somehow overlap.  It would wind up that SF was be a fantastic start and end point for trip.  I rolled out from my house with the lightest load I have ever taken on so long a tour...this one was expecting four weeks.  I took a shakedown ride over to Garro's and rolled up with a case of those red cans.  He already knew where I was going if the Oregon gazetteer didn't give it a way.  He said hey, grab a smoked trout from the fridge and lets make a phone call.  He called up his buddy Eugene in Oakridge and before I knew it I was telling him my story and I had a place to crash when I got there.   A six pack later and I was on the Amtrak bound for L.A. and then onto Oakland.

Off the train I soon boarded local rapid transit and made it into SF and over to Captain Ron's sweet city dwelling.  He handed me a bike map first thing the next morning and said this is your scavenger hunt.  Cool places abound in SF.  Good coffee, beer, and most importantly burritos.  I had a three burrito day that day starting at the Velo Rouge Cafe, then onto Papalote's Mexican grill, and then finished with a night cap at a mystery late night taqueria.  Amidst all that was the Critical Mass ride.  More like a critical MESS.  Cyclists here get hearded around by motorcycle cops and there is no cohesion to the ride whatsoever.  Ron would eventually deliver me to Petaluma for the Bruce Gordon bike swap shin-dig and from there I rode away to the north bound for the Redwoods.

I was trying to meet up with some friends and doing so would mean I would have to catch a ride somehow.  Hitch biking in California.  I decided to follow the good advise of those at the bike swap and camp along the Russian River (thanks Mr. Inglis and Mr. Potts) somewhere near the last town before the 101 goes up a canyon.  I didn't have a map of California at all and its happening on this tour was rather a last minute occurrence.  I managed to follow those directions though and setup camp along the Russian River in what seemed to me a damn good hiding spot.  I bedded down and relished in the excitement of the days to come.  I was awakened however not an hour into my excited slumber by a flashlight stumbling down the hill where I had climbed down.  I called out into the night...."HEY,"  and got no response.  The guy finally noticed me and my bed roll and said he was just out collecting cans.  Can collectors keep weird hours.  And this guy was nowhere near anywhere.  I wasn't sure it even happened.

In the morning I'd get up and ride to Hopland for breakfast and then stick my thumb out.  Not even 5 minutes and I had a lift some hippies in a junked out van.  They had been working the pot farms and were none too stingy about sending me well on my way.  They would give me a ride to Willits, only about 30 miles, but along the way we picked up more people, travelers, dogs, one guy named Coyote on his way to the rainbow gathering, and on the way Josh would yell at Cheryl-Ann about how to drive.  We even stopped to get some free dog food for their dog.  I was glad for our time to be over and ready to be out.  After Willits the road was mostly freeway to Arcata, so Josh suggested only taking a direct ride.  I made a sign.  This time the thumbing was not so good to me.  I stood out for three hours and all I got was a sunburn.  I decided to go to gas stations and ask people directly.  No luck.  Then I just pedaled.  Somehow I came up with a map of this stretch that showed a road paralleling the 101 to the next towns.  I found it and took it.  Private lands adjacent to the Mendocino National Forest.  Pot country.  I've heard stories of cartels in these parts.  Somehow to me this is scarier than going into Mexico.  My road was steep.  It turned soon to dirt and got steeper.  This is what I wanted.  No trespassing sings abound on either side of the road lined with barbed wire fence.  Some signs say it is a private nature preserve but one would have to wonder.  I made camp back down toward the highway at the end of the road.

I awoke to rain in the middle of the night and scurried to setup the bivy that Aqua had given me when I left.  I did what I could and woke up in a puddle, but probably drier than if I had just slept out in the rain.    I got up early.  I can't sleep in the rain.  I rode north on the 101 and into the next town.  The day I left I learned that Pollard and Alicia were driving up from Flagstaff to Arcata, but I was trying to get up there a day earlier than they.  Now I was a day back and pedaling up what was to be a nasty stretch of freeway in the rain.  I stopped for a looong morning coffee break and made a phone call.  And the next I knew I was loading my bike onto a familiar car with familiar faces and making my way to Arcata at 75 miles per hour in the drizzle and fog, glad not to be pedaling this stretch of highway.  We rolled into Arcata in a few hours and wandered around.  Arcata was just a waypoint for me.  A place to hitch to and ride from.  I was actually trying to get to Prairie Creek Redwoods state park to meet up with Dawn and Luke from Ohio.  So when Eric and Alicia mentioned they were going there to camp, I could only reply, "of course you are."  How cool is that?  We met up with their friends and then I moved camp over to my other friends and ended up moving into their car for a day or two.

We went in quest of sun.  Dawn and Luke and myself.  Inland.  And landed ourselves at trinity lake and the place voted the finest little RV park for the year 2000.  We rented a canoe and bought some beer and had ourself a little wildlife day with bald eagles and otters and flowers growing underwater and a giant Luna Moth.  The next day I would get dropped off at a random crossroads in the middle of nowhere to again find my way north on the uncharted roads of Northern California.  53 miles to Yreka...and then my Oregon map started.

The next few days were some of my favorite.  The country between northern california and southern oregon is amazing.  Klamath River Country.  Mount Shasta.  Scott Valley.  The land forgotten by Interstate 5.  A random sign for Main Street led me to a brewery in Etna.  I didn't even know I was thirsty.  From here I would pick my way north following watersheds up to high country and then cross over a ridge to descend the next drainage.

I didn't quite make it to Yreka and wound up sleeping on the old road grade parallel to hwy 3.  I spotted a fox (I think) as I was bedding down.  The tour lends itself to nights upon nights of mediocre sleep punctuated by those nights of major catch up when you get to a safe sleeping place.  There's nothing like it.  My body learns to feed and thrive on this schedule and when its all over its this I crave.

From Yreka I found more dirt and more no trespassing signs.  I proceeded with caution but never felt in any danger.  This road would take me all the way into Oregon and when it ended I was faced with the decision to climb mount Ashland or descend to the I-5 corridor and its frontage roads.  I climb.  There was a network of dirt roads that would get me to town as per the map.  What worried me was snow.  This region saw an epic snow year.  I'd heard the snow line was only up to 5000' and we had been thwarted driving the day before.  Mount Ashland was over 7000, but the quest for trail on the tour lured me in.  I got to the top of the climb exhausted, beaten down from two days of mountainous climbing with my load and nearly two months off the bike entirely.  After a snack I was back on wheels.  Rolling down the network of dirt roads toward Ashland.  And then it came.  Singletrack.

Maybe I'd heard of this trail before.  But this was a marked, signed trail from Mount Ashland to Ashland town, all told dropping six thousand feet with some climbs.  Now this was sweet.  Loaded touring on singletrack.  Riding Mochilero back to the place of his very birth.  He did it with a skill and agility I had never anticipated or even conceptualized when I designed him.  In my head this bike would take on a tour TO the trails but never on a tour OF the trails ON the trails.  He did this WELL.   Coming off an injury, crashing wasn't really an option for me at this point.  We walked the steep stuff but rode every rock or technical section with confidence all the way to Ashland following the White Rabbit.

It was a short stop with plenty of beers and a Pizza that night.  I met some folks from Crater Lake as I was waiting for my bike to get a bottom bracket overhaul.  I'm pretty sure a muse in the east whom I happened to be talking to sent them to me.  David Henry was the ring leader and he was some sort of J. Snelson/M. Nelson half breed.  We smoked in the park and by the end of our time there I was bound for Crater Lake.  They wanted to roll out the red carpet for me.  I rolled out of town intent on taking dirt all the way there over the next couple of days and if I could, find some more singletrack.  I had a couple days worth of provisions and planned on heading through Prospect and following the Rogue River up to the Lake.  The roads were paved for a while.  The sun beat down on my back and radiated off the roadway as cars passed.  A girl waved at me from the back seat of a passing car and before I knew it they had stopped and David Henry and crew (an entirely different crew) emerged and passed me a little fuel for the climb.  We sat a bit at the pull-out before continuing.  The climb was much more bearable now and before long I was in the woods picking my way through a network of dirt and paved forest roads on the Rogue River National Forest.  The next few days and nights would be spent here riding hard and trying to escape the vortex of this forest.  Laps in the Cascades begin.

I started hanging my food though none of the campgrounds here were making any sort of mention at all about this being bear country.  When I packed up after the first night in the Rogue, it would be twenty miles and several wrong turns before I realized I left my camera at the camp spot.  I bought it for this trip in SF, so I went back. It would cost me half a day of riding.  From there I would attempt numerous shortcuts that existed only on my map as doubletracks...and to no avail.  All lead to more backtracking.  Laps in the Cascades.  I made it to Prospect luckily before the only restaurant in town closed and sat at the first chair I came to.  When the waitress came I said something to the effect of, "I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I'm tired."  She was rather helpful and friendly about it and brought me some soup.  I noticed that the menu offered double meat hamburgers for $2.50 extra and ordered me a one one-pound hamburger, fries, and pie.  There was a stir about the restaurant.  It was like the skinny bike kid just said the unspoken words when placing his order.  People watched with awe as I mowed down that massive burger in about five minutes.  Then onto the fries.  I took the pie to go.  I felt I needed to regain my loss from the morning so I pedaled on into the night up the Crater Lake Hwy until I hit a suitable dirt road and started climbing into the darkness.  I climbed slowly.  Exhausted, but fed.  I climbed probably twenty miles that night.  That seems to be about the average in the Cascades.  I climbed until I hit the first snow drift and decided it would be wise to make camp.  

I started pushing through the snowdrifts, hoping that my road would lead me through and not back the way I came.  This is where the mosquitos begin.  Not too bad at first, but the days that come would show me otherwise.  The road topped out after a mile or two but the drifts turned into puddles and running melt off and standing water at the top and my descent was on a north slope.  5 miles of hike a bike and I was back to solid dirt.  The first to pass the road this year.  Back on the pavement I climbed the long climb to Crater Lake,  the highest point of the trip topping out at about 8100 feet.  I searched out David Henry.  He said he worked at the lodge but I wasn't sure which one.   Eventually I found him and some of his crew from those days before.  He said they were going to Diamond Lake to camp out and watch the fireworks that night but weren't leaving until later.  I said I'd just ride it and maybe see them there.  

Crater Lake rim to Diamond=screaming downhill between the snowdrifts.  I called it a day at Diamond Lake and set about wandering about.  There was quite a crowd of 4th of July Americana.  BBQ chicken, rednecks, a cover band with a bass player missing his picking hand.  Parents would stand their children with their arms out and fog them head to toe with bug spray.  "Now stand in the fog hunny."  All I seemed to need was to stand in the vicinity.  Eventually I would need a break from the crowd so I would stumble to a quiet trail to the lake shore.  My bug repellent was my rain gear.  It was during this break that I met Vern.  Oregonian.  Logger.  Disabled somehow in a logging accident.  Had his green card though and packed my jar full for the departure.  Something about the locals here makes me want to be one.  They're just OK with everything...with life.   Anyways Vern was an interesting character and my next few days were better for having met him.  The fireworks began and I took a stoop behind a cabin.  I rolled into the campground after the show and took a spot in a site with an unfilled reservation.  No sense in riding away from here tonight.

I got up early and packed up in hopes of sneaking out the bike trail before the camp ground people made their rounds and found my meager setup.  I pedaled on over to the Diamond Lake Lodge and Marina for breakfast and then made a speedy exit.  Today I would reach the North Umpqua Trail.  It was a big landmark considering the unexpected efforts I had put in the past four or five days to get here...and as well one of the things I was most looking forward to riding on this trip.  Garro told me of this.  90 miles of point to point singletrack along the wild and scenic North Umpqua River.  This river as Steve Potts had recently told me is one of the premier steelhead spawning grounds in the country and sections are designated as fly fishing only to protect this.  75 miles of the trail are non-wilderness and are therefore bikeable and I ended up riding probably fifty of them in two days. 

After my exit from Diamond I found a downhill ride to Lemolo Lake, the trailhead best suited to head downstream on the NUT.  When I got to the river a picture was necessary so I reached for the camera only to find the case with the camera missing!  OH NO NOT AGAIN!!....I already went back once for this thing and after that it only made sense to go back again.  Besides it wasn't nearly as far this time.  So....back to the campground.  I went first to the entrance station that I had never registered and made a report, and the lady in the window said something to the effect of, "Do you want to PAY for your campsite."  I somewhat lamely tried to talk my way out of it by responding something like, "well I could, but..."  I only had $10 left.  When it wasn't enough I offered my plastic seeing as they had a plastic machine but it didn't work or something and she finally said just don't worry about it.  She wasn't going to make me ride to the lodge and back to use the ATM.  I rode to the lodge and scoped out around where I had watched the fireworks before checking at the marina where I was informed that someone had found a camera that morning and taken it up to the front desk.  I went up there and there it was.  The ATM was right there and so I brought the money back to the entrance station for my fee.  It seemed to me that the price of entry to Oregon was honesty and the Karma Camera was bound to keep me on that path or it would be forfeited.  And again I was off to the Umpqua. 

My plan was to fish as much of this river as I saw fit and subsist.  Maybe it wasn't the best plan.  I hadn't been to a real store since Ashland.  Only camp stores.  And good thing.  Lemolo Lake was rumored by Garro to have some monster trout, but when I got there the mosquitos were so bad that standing in one place for ten seconds would force me to wipe them from my exposed skin in a bloody mass execution only to be covered again in moments.  I bought some bug spray at the marina after seeing what had come out at Diamond Lake.  And good thing.  I bought the plant based kind and this seemed to be a deterrent at best, causing the bugs only to think about it before biting.  I did find one thing that managed to keep the bugs off....riding my bike.  So I rode.  When I thought about stopping for a tune-up, I rode, when I wanted to eat I rode.  As I made it downstream and into the section known as "DREAD AND TERROR" the bugs let up and allowed me to cast out the fly line a bit.  And after a few stops I found the easiest way to pack up and setup the four fishing setup.  Complete breakdown for storage isn't quite feasible when you're trying to be quick about things and still ride a singletrack through a dense forest, but neither is carrying the full outfit completely setup.  I finally managed a partial breakdown that left the fly on the line and the reel on the end of the rod but stuffed the rest of the rod pieces away.  

By the end of 15 miles of Dread and Terror plus my parade lap that morning I had had enough and made camp....actually this was somewhat planned due to the fact that the trail crosses the river here....oh, and there are hot springs.  I fished the afternoon away but the only things I caught were under six inches.  They all went back and left me having a meager dinner of instant mashed potatoes and cheese and chocolate.  Chocolate is always on the list of a starving menu.  Then I soaked for as long as I could stand it, jumped in the river to rinse off and bedded down in the bivy.  At this point the bivy had become known as the whack sack cuz man that thing is whack.  Puddles up on the inside and leaves me sleeping in the damp.  Only a man by the name of Aqua would have such a whack piece of equipment.  Sleeping in the damp beats the hell of sleeping in a mosquito swarm though and I was glad to have the whack sack. 

In the morning I would begin a long climb up and over deer leap rock, another stellar section of trail.  I must say that riding a loaded touring bike on trail is interesting.  Its a slow and steady game.  This bike would no doubt track over and through anything.  I cleared some sections that some guys yesterday were walking and more or less kept up with them at my crawl.  They would stop and I would catch up and keep them going.  Stopping and starting again was more energy than I had in my pack or in my fat reserves which by now were quite depleted.  You have to keep moving.  This means lots of time in the granny gear and the easiest three in the back.  My bike is a 3x8 with a 24-32 for a low.  Its enough.  Anything steeper and you'd be walking anyway, and let me tell you walking up a hill is much harder with this load than riding it.  The bags are already taking up all the space at the side of the trail so it doesn't leave much room for you along side of it.  One of the guys I was riding with asked how much my rust bucket weighed.  I shrugged and pushed it over for him to pick up.  He guessed 70 pounds.  I'll never know for sure but without the bags it weighed 34 with racks and a seat bag tool kit.  What he didn't pick up was the twenty pounds of food and water and such on my back.  Anyways, the bike would crawl up about anything as long as there was gas in the tank and would settle in to a low to medium speed on the descents.  I rode the moose stache bar and never had any numbness.  Sometimes I wondered if other positions would be nice but never actually felt the need for them.  The moose stache encompasses a little bit of extra extension as when you slide your hands inward on the grip you move a bit forward.  The steel bars combined with the long rake fork rack proved an agile setup for a touring load at a touring speed but it felt all out weird with the load removed.  Your muscles just get used to things.

The trail the second day was awesome.  My lack of food remaining was a bit of concern though, as I didn't know whether I would be riding all the way to Oakridge on what I had left.  The river this day didn't allow for much great trail side fishing access either, so I was left to a steady meander on the bike through beautiful forest.  A few sections of the trail were blown out from spring floods, forcing me to the highway for brief spells.  At one point I wasn't sure if I missed something so I did a parade lap back up a hill only to find out that I had been going along just fine.  Laps in the Cascades.  The camera was fine this time though and the battery dead so it was tucked away deep in my pack.  

I finished out my day at a spot on the map called Steamboat.  I did a bit of scouting and found only a DOT work station.  There were some buildings that looked like cabins but vacant, and certainly no sign of food.  So I fished until the sun went down, starving and eating only sunflower seeds.  I finally hooked one on the Crippler, the first fly I ever tied all those years ago at Big Creek.  Descent fish, probably twelve inches, my woes were solved, except I say probably twelve inches because I never saw it.  It had wriggled itself off my hook.  And about that time across the river I saw one.  A steelhead.  It jumped from the water revealing its whole body while swallowing up what must have been a sizable fly.  It was like a shark of the river.  If felt content in my starvation having just seen that fish when across the river and downstream I saw something else.  It looked like a porch light.  And closer to where the fish had jumped I now saw a blue sign along the highway with white letters.  I could marginally make out the word "FOOD," so I packed up my gear that was yardsaled about with haste and made my way to the road in a frenzy.  The light was the Steamboat Inn, an old establishment with a closed sign on the door and a light on in the kitchen.  I walked in and straight to the kitchen and found an older lady standing behind about five plates of what looked to me like leftovers.  So I asked her if she had any leftovers she wanted to feed to a hungry cyclist passing through, all the while staring at the food in front of her.  She said "would you like salmon, corn, chard and rice?" very politely and I said very politely said I surely would.  She heated the food and brought it out and when it was gone she brought out some pie and ice cream.  I probably paid more for it than if I had ordered from the menu but she fed me a ton and now I would have enough food to ride to Oakridge in good spirits tomorrow.  I left and made camp and slept.

I took all dirt to Oakridge.  There were detours and all the while I hoped for more trail but didn't find it until the end.  50 miles.  Up and over another ridge to another forest and another drainage.  This time the Willamette.   It was a beautiful ride that followed an amazing creek for the first 10 miles and then the climbs of the Cascades began again.  Really these climbs go on for no less than 10 miles at a time but usually its more like 20.  I stopped for the last of my food at a five way intersection and while sitting there a panicked californian came by in a hopped up van of sorts with a mountain bike on the back.  He was asking where Oakridge was.  I told him I wasn't completely sure but I was going that way to the north.  He had been driving around for hours on the maze of forest roads with no map or sense of direction and was down to a quarter tank of gas.  He asked me if I wanted a ride!?!  You're more lost than I am I thought and eventually replied "I have one thanks."  Then I hit the singletrack.  Larrison Rock trail.  WOW!  This was my first experience with the buffed out steepness of Oakridge and it was all too short but I needed food more than I needed trail.  Curves banked through drainages at speeds I could only begin to imagine on a loaded touring bike.  Flowering Rhododendron whizzed past and smells of late spring filled the air rushing by my face at a blur.  I was instantly reminded of the homeland of north Georgia, but the downhill went on and on dropping thousands of feet.  And this was a short one by the looks of it.  I was hooked and incredibly stoked.  I made my way into town and found the pub and ordered one of their cask conditioned pints and a burger and found the van man sitting there and joined him.  He didn't get it. The draw to this town or even that there were trails here.  He was quick to write it off as a dump of a run down logging town...and, hey, it is.  It just happens to have the sweetest trails around but that guy would never know.  He crawled back into his van and drove on never to be seen again.  Fine by me.  I checked into the hostel down the street and they gave me $10 off for riding up on my bike.  

In the morning I was served breakfast and coffee by Linda the hostel owner and it became clear that she knew the whole town...Eugene and the Merc and Pop Board and all.  This place is very small.  I went and met Eugene at the Willamette Mountain Mercantile.  What a chill place.  Carhartts and cast iron cookware and a sweet simple bike shop.  We talked of the Creampuff coming up that weekend and he told me where to find Scott the race director and how I would get myself into the race.  It was spot on.  I rode over to the Westfir School and made the arrangements.  I would pay half the entry up front and work it off in the days after the race cleaning up the course and the school.  Excellent.  I rode back to town and met up with Wenger.  He drove down from Seattle to ride for the long weekend.  He found me at the Trailhead Cafe.  He saw my bike out front as he drove past, and good thing...his phone didn't work.

We went back to the Merc for a ride recommendation and wound up on the Heckletooth section of the Eugene to Crest trail.  I was beginning to figure out the way the trails worked here.  Either A). ride up dirt roads to ride down trail or B). shuttle.  Heckletooth was awesome.  A good loop from town and very different from Larrison Rock trail.  It still reminded me of Georgia though, just bigger, steeper, faster, more.  This trail was more of a hiking trail at times....less flowy buffed out stuff and more jagged rock moves with steep exposure.  Equally awesome.  We found our way back to the pub where I ordered a SPAM burger and a hamburger for dinner and Wenger and I sat atop their couches in the reading room and filled each other in with stories.  Outside we ran into Eugene and wound up riding over to his place to crash out in the Airstream.  What a good dude....and a fine bike collection to boot.  Thanks man.

We found breakfast in the morning not at the Trailhead Cafe, but at the place next door on my request for "White People Food."  Big Mistake!  Worst biscuits and gravy ever.  Powdery and granulated.  Gross.  My guide Eugene was advising me not to ride today.  The Creampuff was tomorrow and I'd want the rest he said.  I thought No Way.  I've been riding all these days straight and now I'm in my groove and to miss a day riding would I would lose it.  Plus Wenger drove all the way from Seattle to ride.  So we took an easy one and rode the bottom end of the Middle Fork of the Willamette.  4 hours.  Nuthin to it.  We made it over the the Westfir school for the race meeting and Wenger drove the drive back to Seattle.

The Cascade Cream Puff is a hundred mile mountain bike race with no less than 18000 feet of climbing.  My strategy for the race:  Ignorance.  I didn't want to know or see anything.  Ride my ride.  Throw down.  Eugene said ride the first lap at a pace slower than you think you can ride the whole race and try to keep it the whole race.  It would be a three lap course with a forced hike a bike through some snow at the top.  0400 wake up.  0515 neutral roll out.  I got word from B that her dad would be serving dinner the night before and that I just had to say hello so I sat down with him and had at least three portions of food more than anyone else.  I thought B would like my race number, 135, a series of prime numbers.  She and Pop Board are math people.  I was still loitering around the cafeteria when all the racers had long since started their pre race rituals.  It was the same after breakfast the morning of the race, food loitering....and the morning after the race too.  This is the mentality of the tour.  After dinner I rolled around camp and met my neighbors.  Events like this one draw out the best of the race community I am convinced.  I even met a guy from Flagstaff.  Pollard told him to watch out for the guy with the giant moustache ripping the legs off isn't that optimistic!  

The wake up was Scott wheeling laps around the parking lot on his motorcycle with the horn blaring.  Then we were herded into food and before I knew it we were in the middle of the race.  I started toward the back but the need to warm up made me climb my climb, 17 miles to the top and then the single track started.  Now this is a race done well.  There are aid stations every ten miles with water/gu/gatorade in bottles to be passed out by neutral support people to racers and food for any diet.  Sandwiches made by the trailhead cafe were my choice, but I skipped all food on the first lap.  Probably a mistake!  The climb gave way to a rolling dirt road section and finally to singletrack and snowfields.  It was probably 0700 by the time I made it to the beargrass section of Alpine Ridge trail.  This was just the start of the magic.  This trail is unreal.  17 miles dropping 5000 feet, with a few climbs...and that's just the part in the race....there's more.  The sun was just beginning to break and the riding couldn't have been more perfect.  Dew on the ground kept everything tacky.  Turns and switchbacks flowed under my bike with a precision I had become unaccustomed to with the load.  My rigid bike sped down the mountain as poison oak plants wavered in the wind of my passing.  I hit a climb section that wanted the granny gear.  My bike didn't want this so I got off and walked keeping pace with the riders in front of me.  When they got a moment to catch their breath at the top I passed on foot and mounted my bike to continue the down hill in front of them.  Cyclocross style YEAH!  I got to the Jedi Section.  The trail only got better.  Flowy lines that favor BMX skill are always my favorite and this trail is exactly that.  Giant Doug Firs blow past and it is absolutely worthy of its Jedi reference.  I was quite surprised when after 15 miles of this no one ever asked to pass.  Occasionally I would hear someone on my wheel but as soon as the straight lines faded into curves the voices would disappear.  Some people made comment about my racks or my speed, but I figured it was a little early to let that build my ego.  I rolled through the rest stop at the bottom and onto the muddy slog that lead back to the climb.  

The second round of climbing started well, but soon I hit a wall.  My pace dropped and riders were dropping me...people that I felt I should be hanging with.  Oh well.  There's a long way to go.  I decided to try alternate the GU bottles with water when I got one by mistake on the first lap.  When I made it to Aid 2 on the climb I had a fan club!  Katrina from the merc had told her friends my story and they were cheering for me by name.  What a boost.  I stopped a while and gorged on brownies and peanut butter sandwiches and got some chain lube before continuing the climb.  Rolly dirt section to singletrack went by slowly as I burped up my snacks and the early singletrack was just as slow although I rode it all but the snow this lap.  I got back to Aid 2 and people were all in my face trying to get me fed so quickly with all the craptastic racer electrolyte "food" and I just kept shaking my head until one guy off in a corner said "you look like you want some BACON," and I did.  Bacon and brownies would get me down the hill the second time in a world of pain.  My hands ached.  My arms ached.  My muscles felt like they wanted to shake off my skeleton.  I still hauled ass down the hill despite all this.  A blonde girl with braids and a swedish getup played accordion to the rhythm of the Jedi section, and I went a little faster, briefly.  On the last section I heard someone back there, catching my wheel occasionally.  I was yelling at myself in my head and groaning aloud in agony every time I missed the smooth line.  "COME ON!"  He never asked to pass...I think I even offered.  We rolled out of the singletrack and I got to talking to the boy in the Canada jersey with the studded sparkle J-Lo glasses.  What a character.  He was on a rigid singlespeed.  I asked if he was from Canada figuring that only a canadian could have such a ridiculous getup, but he said no he was just a fan.  I told him he was the only person to catch me on the downhill all day and that would hold true.  I was glad if anyone were to catch me it was him.  I stopped at Aid 3 for a while before continuing.  The guy lubing chains at the bottom asked me if I was really going to ride another lap on my rust bucket of a 35 pound bike.  "Hey, man its all I got....WHERE DID YOU GET THAT BEER?!?"  They're waiting for you at the end he said.  I told him No I need one now and he just handed his over.  I sat on my bike and pounded it without taking a breath, burped up the carbonium and was off.  

I rode with the canadian for a while until some people started catching us and then we had us a little group.  The steepest kicker in the climb was about six miles up.  Some of the people that caught us were trying to make moves to pass but I would have none of it.  One guy got a little ways up before I reeled him in and then I just went with it.  Harder.  Faster.  Sharking people left and right.  The Yeah Yeah Yeahs playing on loop in my head.  The Warrior.  Every rider I sharked left me hungrier for the next.  I must have passed 17 people after that one beer.  Ride like you're in Flagstaff.  I passed a guy on a full suspension when I got to the singletrack cyclocross style.  I figured it would be short lived.  My body was still shattered but my mind was full race.  The downhill was started.  I was shocked to never see him again.  On the downhill I rode pretty balls out, saving a little so as not to crash knowing that one wrong bump on the rigid at this point could send me into the poison oak or worse off the cliff.  And there was plenty of exposure.  At the finish I was greeted with handshakes and people looking for "the guy in the camo shorts with the racks."  People stood around my bike in awe at his performance.  I may have been one of them.  A local I had met at the pub just had to buy me a beer.  It was the only one I found.  I made it to the river for a rinse.  The tour goes on.

I would spend the next few days working off my entry and sleeping in the trailer park where Scott the race director had a trailer parked.  Pretty much this included eating all the food that people left behind and riding two more laps of the Alpine trail with a free shuttle to the top both days.  Not too shabby.  The fourth lap was probably my worst and slowest but the fifth was almost as good as the first.  We got the beargrass section with rain threatening and morning fog cast over.  It was pretty surreal.  After all that I found myself in the hostel another night and then took a no ride day and wound up working at the Merc.  I made enough to buy beer and those red cans was on sale.  Hooray.  The no ride turned into a bit of a spin up Larrison Rock trail with Eugene and Charlie the shop kid.   

I got one more ride in Oakridge in the lands to the west where the horses go.  It was pretty but it wasn't the quality of trails I had been on in the preceding days.  I rode all day and was spent when I rolled back into town.  More notably I found the breakfast burritos at the Trailhead Cafe.  They were exceptional and could be ordered smothered in a lump of sausage gravy.  A land mark of the town in every way.  I must have eaten one three mornings in a row. Unreal.  It seemed like an anticlimactic end, but it came time to roll out.  I decided to ride to Eugene.  No more than fifty miles and I would take it in two days.  I was whooped.  

I took some friends from the Creampuff up on an offer to stay at their house.  Chris and Julie and family.  It was so nice.  A shower and a warm bed.  I made the brewery tour or Eugene that day finding my way around.  It was raining on and off and it felt pretty good all told.  My bike thought otherwise.  His bottom bracket was toast and he was letting me know.  That last day of riding had my head spinning all day from a story that printed words will not do justice.

On my way into town I was riding through an industrial park when I saw something that caused me to double take.  I spun around and rode back past the thing.  It was like some kind of bicycle space ship.  It had two wheels that looked robbed from some sorts of mopeds.  The captains chair and pedals set up front under a canopy and behind that was a large box covered in foil.  Before I could even understand what I was looking at the guy jumps out of the back with all the style and authenticity of a Jamaican Rasta.  What the hell is this?  I stopped to talk to the man.  He mostly wasn't making any sense but he asked me if I got stoned and I said no, knowing there was no way I could have handled that.  He was talking about turbomatic hyperdrive and the finest of bicycle technology and the last NASA mission and 75 miles an hour passing cars on the freeway and if you tell me I should put a solar panel on this thing I'll put a bullet right between your eyes.  I figured I wouldn't mention electronic upgrades.  He's talking space travel alien shit and the police on the coldest night in Portland come up to him proclaiming their diplomatic mission to his Death Star when Darth Vader himself is there to greet them and by the end they're all huddled around the opening to his craft warming themselves up.  I ask his name and he says it Brian....all this and he tells me his name is Brian, just Brian?!?  What kind of Jedi mind trick is this?  He invites me to check out the inside and he's got a bed made and a shelf that holds his drill bits and tools.  He's making more of these and is carting around the aluminum channel frame of the next space bike to be.  This thing will carry a thousand pounds, look, look, I've been over 124,000 miles on this one as he shows me the odometer reading written in sharpie on the back foil panel.  Its got top of the line hyper warp drive brackets and gears that look to me like recycled bike parts reconfigured into something I don't understand.  When I finally leave I wonder if it ever happened or if Oregon had just got the best of my rationality.  I spend the rest of the day wondering and drink several beers to the thought.  I didn't bother to mention it to my host family, as I probably seemed like enough of a nut job without stories of rasta aliens roaming the streets of Eugene on homemade space bikes.

Before I knew it I was loading my bike and gear into Ron's car and driving at warp speed back to San Francisco for a few days of processing and burritos..  Michael the Boy was coming to town and I had booked a flight out so that we would have a night in SF as the Bike Ninjas.  It turned into a brewery crawl and after a night of downing pint after pint of dark local brew I managed to make it up for a day of public transit and air travel on a painful hangover.  My own smell nearly made me vomit and I felt bad for the people around me.  I'd done it up proper.  Such is the tour.  Cheers.  Now What?


I made it back for the viking bachelor campout complete with mortar fireworks.  I couldn't stomach even a drink.  My head was still pounding but it was a great gathering out in the cinders.  My next three days would be consumed with wedding festivities for the viking pair and what a good time.  Did your wedding have a full size trebuchet tossing, rather, launching a Huffy a hundred feet into the air?  I doubt it.  Great Wedding.  Not too much to type about.  Here are some pics:

Viking Wedding Party Shred

Them Vikings

The Mini Trebuchet

The family at the bean farm homemade wedding

Huffy Toss

I'd say that about brings us up to August and August was mostly spent building and riding bikes but I'll cover that next time. Bye Y'all

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