On Saturday I joined the Oregon Randonneurs' ("ORR") 400km Lebanon/Dee Wright Observatory Brevet, in near perfect weather.
This was the first time I have ridden a brevet in Oregon (Portland, Oregon being my hometown and where my parents still live). It also was my first brevet on the custom, purpose-built "Oregon Randonneur Bike" that Bob Kamzelski of Bantam Bicycle Works built for me last year and I initiated at Cycle Oregon 2015.
Vincent, who came to Hokkaido for the 1200km in July, made the trip from Seattle for this one, and I joined him and another SIR member, Audunn, for dinner on Friday evening near the start.
Of course, brevets are unsupported long-distance events, usually very spartan. Some Audax clubs go out of the way to provide some refreshments, or a manned "control point", a snack or a cup of soup at the finish. Of course, the longest and largest events provide more -- meals, showers and sleeping facilities along the way. I was told the Oregon rides are at the spartan end of the spectrum. The pricing (free entry) certainly matched.
Indeed, this ride had only 8 participants on 7 bicycles (one tandem), including 3 from the Washington-based Seattle International Randonneurs club, one from the east-of-the-mountains Desert River Randonneurs and myself visiting from Japam. (There was another Oregon ride the same weekend -- a 600km -- and both were styled as "makeup rides" for anyone who had missed another earlier in the year). The ORR representative who staffed the ride emailed us in advance to warn that he would be joining the ride, so riders would need to show up at 5AM sharp or be left without a card (but also, no worries, if we lost or rode without a card -- it would all be figured out in the end). It was a welcome relaxed approach to the brevet rules, in contrast with Japanese "a rule is a rule" bureaucracy.
The ride had two challenges for me: first, nearly 3800 meters of climbing, and second, extremely limited opportunities to get food and water en route. No 24 hour 7-11 or Lawson convenience stores. No vending machines by roadside in the middle of nowhere like in Japan.
|Elevation profile for the initial 260 (out of 400) kilometers - 3 long climbs, 2 of them with over 1000 meters elevation gain.|
|Dawn at the reservoir East of Sweet Home, Oregon|
|Ward and Audunn climb ahead|
|Who is that big shadow?|
|View from the top toward the East|
|Inside the restaurant at Marion Forks. The river runs just beyond the patio in back.|
I was still waiting for my burger a few minutes later when Vinny pulled in around 1125AM and showed me how it is done. Instead of ordering from the menu, he asked the waitress "what do you have that is fast"? After rejecting a few choices, she finally suggested a sandwich. He ordered one to eat at the counter, and one to go.
I amended my order to add a turkey sandwich to go. His sandwiches arrived before my burger! He got the check and settled up while eating, ... so I followed suit.
In any event, we headed out at the same time and were together on the first few climbs, until he pulled away. I saw Vinny again at the last water stop before the climb to McKenzie Pass/Dee Wright Observatory (the Ollalie at Mckenzie Bridge campground), and as he descended from the pass while I still climbed. He finished in around 21 hours, way ahead of my 23 hrs 45 mins.
The stretch after Marion Forks was for me somehow by far the hardest. We climbed up almost as high as the pass we had come over, then had a long descent punctuated by some intermediate climbs. But the entire stretch of 50kms was the shoulder of a busy road, and with direct sunlight and warm temperatures. The heat was nothing like Japan, but it was still mid-day heat and sun, with speeding traffic nearby, and already nearly 2000 meters elevation gain and 150kms under the belt. I was very happy to finally, just after 3PM, reach the entrance to the climb up to Dee Wright Observatory and realized that the winding road had little traffic and plenty of shade.
|Now the main event!|
|A beautiful view lying flat on my back.|
Around 1100 meters elevation, Ward and Audunn passed me heading back on the descent. A bit further it was Ron and Kathy on the tandem, riding with Bill. And not far apart Vinny, just as I started the long (10kms?) flattish stretch at the top toward the pass.
|Finally a (mostly) flat section around 1400 meters elevation. ~10kms and 200-250m up to the pass.|
|Getting closer to the pass now. Lava flows abound.|
|North Sister and Middle Sister, from near McKenzie Pass|
|A nearly identical view.|
|Is that South Sister just over the ridge on the descent back to McKenzie Bridge?|
The store had very limited choices for food that could be eaten on the spot. Lots of junk, and some groceries and frozen food that required preparation. At least there was yogurt, an ice cream bar (my body craves milk products at this point in a long ride) and hot coffee. On a second trip into the store I ventured into the "courtyard" out back, which I realized was where the restaurant is located. Next trip, I will head straight for the restaurant, and ask for something fast.
But for now, there was not a moment to waste. Paul told me to go on ahead as he wanted to keep to a deliberate, steady pace -- a tortoise to my hare -- and I rode alone the last 145 kms of the ride (except seeing Paul once more, coming into Coburg as I was leaving). It was a fast 60 kms stretch on the highway along the McKenzie River to a turn off to Camp Creek Road.
On Camp Creek Road there was no traffic, after midnight now, and I could incredible stars, the milky way visible together with thousands of others. Perfect temperature; my body not complaining. What a joy. This is the kind of stretch that brought me to randonneuring back in 2010, and it is always welcome.
I made excellent time to the next control at Coburg, as my Garmin track shows. Well, actually, my aging, always buggy Garmin Edge 800 crashed just before Coburg. It seems to have deleted my recording for this entire stretch in doing so. Anyway, I just needed to "bring it home" the last 60kms, which began with a straight, flat stretch of around 20kms. I was thinking I could finish by 4AM or so, but then the road headed into foothills. A few short climbs set me back, and I ended up rolling in at 4:43AM. At the all-night gas station where we got our proof-of-finish receipts, the guy manning the gas pumps seemed to have full knowledge of what I was doing and who I was with. He asked about the other rider, and I assured him "Paul should be along before long."
And then it was done. No celebration. The early riders already packed up and gone, somewhere. Vinny and Audunn back to eat and sleep again at their hotel. I loaded up the car, got some drive-through food and coffee at the local McDonald's, napped for 30 minutes, and drove back to Portland, where I showered, bathed, and went into a deep, delightful recovery sleep.