A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cycle Oregon 2016: Days 6-7

One week ago today Jonny Rocker and I crossed the finish line of Cycle Oregon 2016, having ridden 431 miles in seven straight days of riding, gaining nearly 26,000 feet of elevation (according to my Garmin Edge cycling computer). In case you missed the first two installments of my travelogue, here are Days 0-3 and Days 4-5. And now, for the rest of the story...

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Day 6 (Friday, September 16): We woke in Indian Mary Park on the morning of Day 6 ready for what looked to be a relatively easy 66 mile day. I know better. The sixth day of a week-long ride is never easy (check out my Five Tips for Surviving Multi-Day Cycling Events). The miles -- 322 to this point -- and the big climb on Day 5 were taking their toll on my body. The usual suspects began to complain: my left foot, lower back, right shoulder, and the 3-pound mass between my ears!

Rest stop at the historic Wolf Creek Tavern (currently closed for remodeling)
Actually, my hot foot, back and shoulder pain didn't flare up as much this year as they have on previous rides (I'll never forget the day we rode the Three Bitches on Ride the Rockies 2014). My body held up pretty well but the mental issues began around mile 32 after we rode within two miles of our final destination for the day (Glendale High School) then rode in the wrong direction another 16 miles for our free* lunch.

*all meals are included in the Cycle Oregon registration fee.

First cell reception in more than 24 hours!
My RTR buddy Woody would call these "bonus miles" (miles added to the route for no particular reason other than to add miles). For the next 16 miles all I could think about was how much I did NOT want to be on my bike at that time! But Jonny Rocker charged on ahead of me and I knew if I turned around and headed back to Glendale I would never hear the end of it (after 52 years I'm still trying to "keep up" with my older brother!).
Chief Miwaleta Park at Galesville Reservoir
The lunch spot at Chief Miwaleta RV Park and Campground on Galesville Reservoir was actually worth the trip. We ate a leisurely lunch at a picnic table by the water and watched several cyclists go for a swim (which seemed like a bad idea since we still had to ride 16 miles back to Glendale and wet cycling shorts are kind of like a soggy diaper). The ride back was a lot better than the ride out and my attitude shifted from a camel trudging across the desert toward a mirage to a horse headed back to the barn!
Unofficial rest stop at the Azalea General Store.
I think this placard on the outside of the Azalea General Store
sums up the attitude of a lot of the folks who live
in this remote area of southern Oregon.
On our final night of camping in tent city we chose a location near the main stage and beer tent, but had to hoof it quite a ways to get to the shower trucks (and spend another night in a hay field). We were determined to make it to the end of the band for the first time since the opening night -- and we did (but only because we were able to watch the last few songs from our campsite)!
Relaxing with a cold one at our campsite on the final night.

For our last night of camping we chose a spot strategically located near the Main Stage, food and beer tents!
Choosing a camp spot is both art and science on these rides. Our approach was to ride around the area (park, school, etc.) upon arrival to scout for a site. Once we found a good site we'd go pick up our bags and ride back to the site with our backpacks on. Most riders bring their gear in large duffel backs and settle for the site nearest the luggage truck, rather than drag their gear to a nicer spot. We may expend more energy but prefer to get away from the massive tent city!
Packing up camp for the last time on Cycle Oregon 2016

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Day 7 (Saturday, September 17): I have to admit I bitched a little about the bonus miles on Day 6 but the organizers of Cycle Oregon nailed it on the final day. The 43 mile glide down Cow Camp Road was the perfect victory lap at the end of a tough week of riding. I picked up where I left off on Day 6 mentally and hammered the final 10 miles into Myrtle Creek with Jonny Rocker and several other riders in my wake (at 6'4" I create a decent slipstream :).

One last Team Beef selfie
Ice cold chocolate milk at the finish line. Yum!
The obligatory finish line photo!
I may have underestimated the amount of climbing we would do on this ride, having completed nine Ride the Rockies. Cycle Oregon 2016 was a tough ride. Crossing the finish line felt every bit as satisfying as any of those rides, though it lacked some of the emotion of saying goodbye to good friends. Jonny and I pretty much did our own thing and didn't really forge any lifelong friendship like my Team Bar2Bar buddies from Ride the Rockies. But Rocker did say he would consider RTR 2017 after succesfully completing his first week-long ride!

A big shout out to all the staff and volunteers who pulled off an amazing ride. I have been asked several times if I would ever do Cycle Oregon again and the answer is a resounding YES! From my viewpoint the week went off without a hitch, the route was amazing, the food was good, and there were never any lines for the showers or port-a-potties! Bravo.

Ride on!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cycle Oregon 2016: Days 4-5

When we last left off Jonny Rocker and I were in Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast about to begin Day 5 of Cycle Oregon 2016. It was an epic day traversing 71 miles of wilderness on seldom traveled Forest Service roads, but that story will have to wait until I finish my previous post with a recap of Day 4.

Face Rock near Gold Beach on the Southern Oregon Coast.

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Day Four (Wednesday, September 14): Day 4 was billed as the "optional day" -- a 55-mile loop from Gold Beach to Brookings along the rugged Pacific Coast, including portions of the Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway -- and it was immediately clear many riders opted out as we encountered far fewer riders on the road. Their loss! As touted on the Oregon Scenic Bikeways site, Day 4 featured "towering basalt sea stacks and vast ocean views" around every corner. What the site doesn't mention is that the weather along the coast can turn in a minute -- alternating between sunny and warm to windy and cold. At one point a foggy mist blew in off the ocean threatening to envelope and drag us with it back out to sea. As we rolled into Port Orford fighting a blustery headwind, I seriously considered turning around and heading back to the comfort of our hotel room in Gold Beach (we booked a room for the two nights in Gold Beach and camped out in Tent City the other five nights) but I pressed on despite a bad attitude and was rewarded with some of the most scenic views of the entire ride.

One of the highlights of Day 4 was a stop at the Arch Rock viewpoint.
We took the "high road" on the return loop and got some great views of the famous Oregon "sea stacks."

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Day Five (Thursday, September 15): The fifth day of Cycle Oregon 2016 began with a lovely 30-mile ride up the gorgeous Rogue River Valley to Agness (elev. 210) and the confluence of the Rogue and Illinois Rivers. Other than one decent climb this stretch was mostly a gradual 1-2% grade. At this point the Rogue River enters a gorge (accessible only by boat) so we turned on to Forest Service Road 23 (aka Bear Camp Road) and began the "real climb." For the next 16 miles we climbed 4,510 feet through the Klamath Mountains to Bear Camp Overlook (elev. 4,720) then essentially coasted the final . I don't think I have ever ridden a more isolated stretch of road in my life. For more than 40 miles we rarely saw a vehicle (other than the Cycle Oregon SAG wagons) or human being not clad in spandex! After meeting back up with the Rogue River we reached the overnight site, Indian Mary Park. It was a beautiful spot along the river reserved exclusively for our traveling encampment.

Riding along the Rogue River from Gold Beach to Agness, Oregon.

At the confluence of the Rogue and Illinois Rivers.

Riding on Bear Camp Road in the Klamath Mountains.

Jonny Rocker relaxes and refuels at the Day 5 lunch stop at Bear Camp.

Relief and trepidation. The climb is over. The steep descent looms ahead.
Next up: Days 6-7 and the end of Cycle Oregon 2016

Ride on!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cycle Oregon 2016: Days 0-3

Waking up in Gold Beach, Oregon, this morning I remembered that had really planned to post every day on Cycle Oregon and here it is day five and I haven't posted anything! The fact is finding time and sufficient internet access has been difficult, as it always is on these rides. But I hauled my Surface along on the tip, packing and unpacking it in my backpack every day, so I should at least take time to post some pics and brief travelogue.

Mt. Shasta in California on the drive up I-5
Driving up the I-5 from California
 Day Zero (Saturday, September 10): We drove from Sacramento to Myrtle Creek, Oregon, for the start of the ride on Sunday. Jonny Rocker's daughter, Tina, drove down from Portland, to meet us for the opening night ceremonies, sleeping over in Jon's tent. We found a good campsite near the baseball diamonds at Umpqua High School and settled in to the beer tent, listened to the bands on the main stage and got our first taste of the ride food (beef stroganoff -- not bad, actually).

First beer tent beverages!
Jon's daughter Kristina joined us for the opening night.
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Day One (Sunday, September 11): I woke for the first day of the ride in a bit of a panic realizing I had not charged my phone or backup battery charger overnight, so I climbed out of my cozy sleeping bag and tent and wandered around in the dark looking for an outlet. I was able to find one open spot outlet to get my battery charging. I'd just have to use it to charge my phone during the ride (I have my bike rigged to charge my phone, Garmin and bike speaker while riding!).

Crisis averted, we packed up camp, tried (and failed) to make our first pot of coffee with the Jet Boil, had breakfast with Tina, and rode off on our week-long adventure. As we prepared to ride the wind picked up and a layer of fog rolled in. We debated whether to wear our jackets, eventually opting to go without. We have since learned that the weather here is very unpredictable and have increasingly added layers!

The ride was a relatively short 52 miles with several steep climbs (a sign of things to come). We arrived at our destination -- a large dirt patch in the middle of nowhere (Camas Valley) -- in the early afternoon, set up camp, showered, and headed to the beer tent. It was hot and dusty all afternoon but cooled off significantly after dinner and overnight.

Team Beef getting ready to roll on Day One.

Tine sends off her dad with a big hug.
The BEEFMAN Rideth!
Our destination on Day One was a huge dirt patch in Camas Valley, Oregon.

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Day Two (Monday, September 12): We woke to the return of the fog from Day One (at least it was less dusty!). The ride from Camas Valley to Bandon-by-the-Sea would require us to climb over a number of steep ridges between us and the Pacific Ocean. The first climb was a nasty 4-mile hike up a Bureau of Land Management road that featured the steepest two-mile stretch I have ever ridden -- with grades between 10-15%.
Once over the first big climb we foolishly made the mistake of thinking "it's all downhill from here). Actually, the ride down the other side was as strenuous as the climb! We actually had to wait in line for over an hour to descend, as they spaced the riders out in small groups. No wonder, the steep descent was treacherous. We actually had to stop to rest our hands and let our tires cool from braking so much!

By the way, the climbing wasn't over by any stretch of the imagination. Between several shorter but steep climbs we headed toward the coast, battling a headwind all the way in to Bandon. At the end of the day we were relieved to find a nice (not dusty) campsite in the Bandon City Park. However, a heavy, cold breeze coming off the ocean drove us from the beer tent into our tents -- and warmth of our sleeping bags -- long before the band finished playing.

The scenery along the route has ranged from stunning to awe-inspiring!
Tent City on Bandon-by-the-Sea.
My trusty Coleman tent.

Jonny Rocker checks out the sunset on Bandon Beach.
Day Three (Tuesday, September 13): Our first day riding along the coast was, well, tougher than I expected. What appeared to be a relatively flat jaunt down the coast on Highway 101 from Bandon to Gold Beach featured less coast and lots of climbing over the massive ridges that jut out into the ocean forming the rugged Oregon coast and famous "haystack" rock formations.
We enjoyed our first in route beer near the first aid station on day there in Langlois, Oregon -- 14 miles in to a 70-mile day!
The highlight of Day Three was a 10-mile detour to visit the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. It was worth the trip!

Well, I have run out of time and need to get ready for Day Five, featuring the longest, and possibly toughest, climb of the ride. We head from Gold Beach on the Cast up the Rogue River Valley, climbing from zero to nearly 5,000 feet!

Here's a brief glimpse of Day Four. Stay tuned for the write-up on this amazing day and the rest of the ride in the days to come...

Sea stacks along the Southern Oregon Coast

More sea stacks

Lunch stop in Brookings (that's a fruit juice drink)

Ride on!