Monday, March 17, 2008

Nice Loop

I worked out a nice, flat little loop ride yesterday -- out the Springwater Trail, south through Boring, then Bakers Ferry, and the surprisingly rocking Clackamas River Road. The weather was crappy, although it never rained, it was chilly and windy. I really tried to talk myself out of going but I have been holed up in the basement working so much lately that I really needed to get out. This route is kind of a softball, but there are several long stretches with low traffic and no stops, so it's great for just hammering.

Clackamas River Road was the highlight -- it's a little under 10 mile stretch of fast rollers and curves with hardly any traffic. A steady 22MPH can be done with a small effort, even with the wind in your face. Super fun.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Little Sun and the Big Falls

Yesterday started out a little dicey, weather reports hinted at rain, and the morning clouds seemed to confirm that suggestion -- they were menacing and dark. However, I was antsy to get a good, long ride in, and I had cleared the time with the boss, so I geared up and hit the trail. I decided not to wear rain gear -- that shit sucks, and if it's not pouring down rain then I am not convinced I need it. Anyway, I had a couple good layers on as the late-winter chill was still in the air, and I am still on the Surly, which I will probably still ride for another month or two.

I opted to head for Multnomah Falls, first, because the ride there is awesome, a bit of climbing, a bit of descending, nice roads, not too many cars, etc, but also because Mandy and Miles were going to be out there hiking, and it's always fun to see the family out and about.

About twenty minutes into the ride, the sun peeked out from behind the gray, and proceeded to rip huge holes in the cloud cover until what had seemed like a precarious day at best, had morphed into another bright and beautiful preview of spring. This is the time of year where I loves me some global warming. The ride out to the Vista House is pretty much my bread and butter ride through the winter -- it's a good 3 hour out-and-back ride. The Springwater trail is nice and flat, although the surface is a little rough in spots, a 20-22MPH pace is easily achieved. The climbing starts just after the Sandy River and goes for about 7 miles after which a quick drop finds you at the Vista House. Another 10 miles and you're at the falls.


Friday, October 19, 2007

The Pogues!

My review and Mandy's pics of the Pogues show are up over at Loose Record. Checkit.

Monday, October 15, 2007

We Interrupt This Cycle Oregon Broadcast....

Ok, so just a bit of non-Cycle Oregon house-keeping to do...

A few weeks ago, former Univerity of Oregon basketball stallion and Cycle Oregon mate, Rob Closs, enlisted me to take his place on the annual Lance Armstrong Foundation LiveSTRONG Challenge ride on September 30th. I eagerly accepted, as it is a great cause and I am pretty much always down to ride a century. The LAF folks were very helpful in getting Rob's registration switched over to me and I was all set to ride in no time. Since it was a fund raising ride, I figured it couldn't hurt to send out a quick email to my friends and family to solicit some last-minute donations for the ride. Before I could even blink, I had collected over $1000 just from folks logging in and donating. I was totally blown away by everyone's generosity and willingness to give. Good on ya, friends!

The ride itself was nuts -- absolutely pouring down rain amidst a swirling cacaphony of wind, so much so that they closed the hilly 100-mile route and made all the centurions ride the relatively flat 70 mile route instead. If I weren't on a bike, I would refer to it as a miserable day, but it was fun and a positively Oregonian experience nonetheless. I met up with a funny Scottish guy who was pretty strong and we fought the vicous head winds together. I was freezing cold when I finally arrived back at Nike, and the beer and pizza totally hit the spot.

The next Sunday was the Harvest Century punctuated by markedly better weather than the LiveSTRONG ride. Justin was the one friend I could convince to do it with me, so I picked him up at 6:30AM and we headed out to Champoeg Park for the last supported century of the year. We ran into Mike Walter at the start just as his group was leaving and said hello, I had hoped we could catch up to them, but we never did. It was a flat, mellow course winding around the area south of Portland where the elusive Lonasaurus Lenevicus is known to ride around. That is, it was mellow until around mile 60, where the headwind started. For about 30 miles, a full-on headwind brought the entire crew of riders to a crawl. I did not want to spend one second more than I had to in the wind, so I put my head down and gunned it into the wind. I felt bad for dropping Justin, but there was no way I was going to have that wind in my face any longer than absolutely necessary. I waited for Justin at the penultimate stop of the day and we rode to the finish together... that is until I got a pinch flat on a railroad track in Newberg, and he went on. FUCK! I changed my tube as quick as I could and hit the road, swearing to myself that I would catch Justin before the end. I caught him with about a mile to go and we rolled in to Champoeg Park together and quaffed a free beer and a burrito.

Yesterday, Ben and I headed out to the Vista House, leaving my place at 7AM. It was a nice ride on a beautiful day -- cold and foggy starting out, but by the time the sun was out, the fog had burned off and it was gorgeous. I had my new Cane Creek Volos TI wheels on the Ellsworth, and they fucking ruled. Super stiff and fast. Now I have the Ksyriums on the Surly and the Volos on the Ellsworth, so both bikes have a nice set of wheels, which makes a huge difference, especially for climbs. Awesome.

So... for any of you Portlanders, I am going to be riding a 3-5 hour ride pretty much every Sunday morning through the winter. I would love to have company, so send me an email if you're interested. The routes are dynamic and always open for discussion, so let me know!

Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 5 -- What Doesn't Kill Lingy...

beard growth!For the first time of the week, I woke to the soft patter of raindrops on the nylon of my tent, and Day 5 began with a sinking realization that the week was now really almost over. Three more rides to go. Somewhere between the evening of Day 4 and the morning of Day 5, the week went from seemingly never ending to almost over. The good thing about waking up with a pang of could-be regret like this, is that it caused me to breathe slower and be more aware to take everything in on the last few days. I silently packed my things into my bag of increasingly dirtier and dirtier clothes. My kit selection process went from "what's left that's clean" to "what's the least dirty". I had some clean stuff left, but I wanted to save one clean setup for the last day, so I didn't roll into the finish line to greet my lovely wife smelling like a rotting onion. The fact that the morning was warm didn't occur to me until I was standing naked in my tent and my testicles had not retreated into my chest as per the previous 4 mornings. I slid into my gear, trying to balance the possibility of a wet ride with the fact that it was warm, and there was a pretty good bit of climbing to do. I elected for the standard issue outfit of shorts and jersey as well as arm and leg warmers, but no rain jacket or booties. I left my tent and grabbed my loaner 2008 Trek Madone and headed over to the RVs to see what the crew was up to.

carbon awesomenessI tagged a long with a group that was just heading over to breakfast and had a couple of spoonfuls of powdered eggs and a slice of kielbasa that I washed down with some watery coffee and some orange juice. I was a little hungry, but I didn't want to eat too much as the no-solid-food rule had been working out pretty well for me. Day 5 lunch wasn't until after the ride in Oakridge, but I had plenty of Hammer Gel and an emergency Clif Bar should the need arise, so I didn't feel obligated to chow down too much. Everyone ate essentially in silence and we returned to the RVs to prepare for the ride.

The mood of the entire camp was essentially a reflection of the weather... not terrible, but a little gray and soggy. The RV'ers were packing up as the group assembled and we all mumbled our good mornings to each other. I was pretty excited to try out the demo bike, as I had never ridden a carbon-framegroupshotbefore, but my enthusiasm also extended to the fact that we were going to be riding on a newly-paved stretch of mountain road for a significant portion of the day. We assembled for our morning picture and we hit the trail in two groups, as the Aussies were a little slow on the uptake that morning. I was in the second group with Amanda and the Aussies.

We were one of the later crews getting out of camp, and we had the first few miles of the course essentially to ourselves. Eventually, we got onto a multi-use path heading around Dorena Lake, and started to have to deal with passing as a group which proved to be a little sketchy due to frequent entrance/exit posts and road crossings. Still, we had a good pace and a string group, so we flew along nicely. The Madone felt great -- very snappy and responsive, and very, very light. I could feel the efficiency in the power-transfer, and the rolling hills on the course were like an amusement park ride. Eventually I pulled away from the group and caught up with Lingy, Ed, Keith and Steve and fell in line with them. I felt great -- which was good, because that entire group is nuts to ride with. These guys are all super nice and fun to ride with, but they ride strong 100% of the time, no one eases up and everyone takes their turn and pulls hard. We had a killer rhythm going which got us caught up to the front group of Lon, Sally, Roland and Matthew. All of this jockeying and pulling and drafting is an amazing way to pass the time. Before we knew it, we were pulling into the second ODS stop of the day (we skipped the first), which was at the base of the big climb.

I decided to let the front group go and wait for the Aussies, since I was enjoying riding with them, and I didn't really feel like hammering up the climb with the Lon train. We set off on a nice pace, the grade was only around 2-3% at the beginning, so we were chatting and goofing around, when out of the blue, Scottie just took off. Not to be pwnd, I jumped on his wheel and we set up off the hill. A short bit later, the course turned off the road and onto a newly-paved, 1-lane access road that was more like a bike trail in the middle of the wilderness. This was described in the Cycle Oregon literature as "virgin pavement," and it was super smooth and fast -- great for climbing; if not a little packed with recumbents and other slow climbers. Scottie and I took turns in the front and we flew up hill, "on your left" became the mantra of the day, and I think I was more tired from saying it than from the actual climb. It was a grind though, and before long, we were winding our way out of the soggy morning fog and into the hot, high-altitude sun. The path was beautiful, the climb was tough and the company was great, we set into a great rhythm and in fairly short order, we were at the ODS stop near the summit.

Scottie at the topWe downed some V8, filled the bottles and had some yummy fresh fruit while waiting for the rest of the group. We hooked up with Amanda, Zed, Robbie and Kirsten and were off again. There was a short two-mile climb up to a false peak, a two-mile descent, and another two-mile climb up to the real peak, and then a huge descent into Oakridge. We hit the trail amist tons of warnings from the CO staff about how gnarly the descents were. Amanda, Scottie and I were feeling strong, so we hammered up to the first peak and down the backside and stopped to take a couple of pictures where were could see the morning's fog way down below. We continued the fun drop and hit the climb on the other side. I still had legs and I knew the rest of the day after this 2-mile stretch was gonna be all downhill, so I really hammered on the loaner bike to see how she could climb. I left it in the big ring and FLEW up the 2-miles of 6% grade, out of the saddle the entire time. The bike was super-responsive, and this type of riding was perfect for a super-stiff, carbon frame. I waited for the rest of the group at the top, and we hit the descent together.

I started the descent a bit on the conservative side. It was a new bike and I am not a balls-out descender anyway, but the faster I let the bike go, the better it handled and the more comfortable I got. Eventually, I was all by myself absolutely flying down the hill. The pavement was smooth, excepting the occasional usually well-marked high-altitude blacktop separation or deformation, and the bike clung to the surface. I was on the drops, and barely ever even touched the brakes. Since it was a loaner bike, it didn't have a computer but I guarantee you it was the fastest I have ever been on a bike. There were a few rollers midway down and the bike sliced up them like it had a motor, I was flying past people to their occasional disagreement... more than once I heard, "too fast!" in my wake as I zipped by someone. Hahahaha, suckers.

The descent seemed to go on forever and it was glorious. Big, winding corners and wide open straight-aways -- the surface was dry as a bone and there was no reason at all to brake. There was one sketchy spot where there was a drop off in the middle of the road maked with "XXXXX" across it. I hit it, but I had seen it early enough that I was expecting it, so it didn't throw me at all. I couldn't believe how long the hill was, much like the climb up, it just seemed to go on forever. Finally, I hit the bottom and was bummed that it was over, but grinning like an idiot from the absolutely epic ride thus far. I stopped at the bottom and waited for the crew, Amanda was the first person I saw, but she didn't know how far behind the others were. I decided to wait a little longer for them and she went on to camp. I waited a few more minutes, but still saw no one, so I headed into Oakridge with thoughts of a cold beer and a hot slice of pizza, not to mention my 2nd massage of the week. It was a little windy for the last couple of miles into camp, but I was still beaming from the great ride. I pulled into Oakridge and quaffed my chocolate milk.

As I was heading to the tents, I ran into Lon who informed me that Lingy had wrecked on the descent. Shit! Our group had been so fortunate thus far that mathematics dictated that one of us should have gone down by now. Of course it had to be Lingy... the guy with the nicest bike of all of us his full-carbon Colnago masterwork. I stopped by the first aid station and didn't see Lingy, so I decided to head over to the RVs to see if he was there, but first I went and exchanged my awesome loaner bike for my trusty Ellsworth. I bullshitted with Dax (the Trek rep) for a while and got my bike back -- and immediately took it to the Bike Gallery station for a lube job on the bottom bracket. "It'll be ready after announcements, the gal told me when I dropped it off. Free bike repair, sweet.

I walked the fair distance from the tents to the RVs to see how Lingy was doing, and noted that the wind was still gaining strength and the clouds were beginning to look heavy with rain. The RV folks were pretty solemn and the news on Lingy was that he was pretty banged up, but OK for the most part, but no one was sure whether he would keep riding or not. I grabbed a beer and chatted with Ed and Roland for a bit, then Keith popped out of the RV and pulled out some tools and supplies and quietly began to work on getting Lingy's bike back in order.

Lingy's InjuriesThe comraderie of the week was completely underscored by this brotherly gesture from Keith -- he put Lingy's bike up on the repair stand and meticulously went through each component cleaning it and inspecting it and make sure the bike was up to snuff. I suddenly realized how fortunate I was to be with a group like this. Not only was everyone strong riders and fun people, but there was a unspoken bond that everyone had everyone else's back. It's sounds kind of corny writing it in retrospect, but it was a pretty awesome realization at the time. Lingy hobbled over right about that time and while he was obviously in some pain, he was in good spirits, and wasn't at all put off by having to repeat his story a hundred times. It turns out he hit that very same "XXXXX" bump I mentioned earlier, and came down crooked. He was badly scraped up and bruised, but maintained he would continue riding. I felt like a weenie.

The rain started later that evening, and when I stopped by the RVs after my dinner and massage, no one was around. I figured this would be a great opportunity to catch up on some rest and reading, so I retired to my tent around 8:30 and called it a night.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 4 -- Hump Day

I slept like a corpse after the beautiful and exhausting Day 3 ride around Crater Lake which was capped with a Flintstone-size slab of end-cut prime rib for dinner... not to mention the x-number of beers I put into my face, and our harrowing brush with death at the hands of the gruesome Oregon Mountain Hag. However, the pitiless morning bell tolled early with the swarming sounds of tent zippers and folks conversing at full volume without regard for others who might not want to wake up at 5:FUCKING:30. My common sense won the battle of "Should I Stay or Should I Go?", and I hunkered into my sleeping bag and made an attempt at reading my book until a more sensible hour for arising came, which it did all too quickly. I did the 50-second drill of sliding into my kit as fast as I could and then packing all my stuff into my huge duffel. Day for was the billed as a "40 mile descent", which, at this altitude and temperature meant "40 miles of freezing your ass off", so I was triple layered with long gloves, outer shell, booties and full arms and legs.

Day 4 Groupshot!I made my way over to the RV to meet up with the crew and noted that I was feeling pretty good -- my massage the day before had me feeling nice and limber, and not at all feeling like I had ascended over 6500' the day before. The RV inhabitants were stirring and I gratefully accepted a cup of hot coffee and a tasty muffin from the lovely Carol, as I shot the breeze with Frank and Lon (I was begining to feel almost guilty for as well as I was being treated, but not guilty enough to turn down any of the hospitality). The temp was in the 20s, but climbing, still, I was happy to be nice and bundled up; although I did get heckled for having so much kit on. We reminisced a bit about our encounter with the Mountain Hag the previous night, and Lon mentioned that their neighbors had stopped by and remarked, "Who the hell was that bitch last night?", they also said they had enjoyed the music. Sweet.

The crew assembled and we said our goodbyes to the recreational-vehicle-bound and hit the road. I was immediately happy that I wore so much as it was the true manifestation of "Butt Cold". A couple of small rollers out of Diamond Lake helped us warm up a bit, but once we hit the big downhill, it was all downhill for quite awhile, and I was again glad to have so much kit on. Lon, Matt and I jumped out in front of the main group and took turns out front as we rocketted down the road. Down, down, down we went at an average of 30MPH or so, just flat out flying, it was pretty awesome. Both Matt and Lon are ace descenders, so I was just hanging on for dear life, happy they were finding the good lines for me. After 15 miles or so, the route turned off onto a smaller road, and we waited 5 minutes or so for therest of the group to catch up, and then road a mile or so to the first ODS stop of the day.

At this point, it was warming up, and I shed some of my kit at the ODS gear drop (you leave your gear in a bag with your rider number on it, and you can pick it up at camp that night... pretty sweet). We filled our bottles, hit the blue rooms and got back on the road for another 20 miles or so of rolling descents. The road surface was pretty rough, which made it not quite as fast as the first 20 miles, but it was still pretty easy riding, and everyone was in good spirits when we rolled up on the lunch stop. The sun was shining, the temp was warm enough to get down to just a jersey and shorts, and lunch was a tasty chicken wrap with some pasta salad and the ever-present chips and grapes. I had taken to grabbing a few packets of salt and putting them on my lunch to help prevent cramps... which appeared to be working since I hadn't cramped since Day 2. I also tossed back a couple cans of V8 juice, which for some reason is particularly awesome in the middle of a big ride.

Robbie at the top!Full of a tasty lunch, we headed off under the agreement that we would be at a Sally-mandated "social pace". We took off in a double column of probably 10 people, and started into the big, parabolic climb of the day. The first couple miles were all 1-2%, and it was hard to even notice any elevation gain. We chatted and swapped positions, and enjoyed the company and the sunshine as we rose through the hills. There were lots of folks on the road and we passed through them, our eschelon of riders swelled, pretty soon, we were 20 strong and still managing our social pace up the steepening hill. As the grade increased, our group fractured and the conversation died. Before I knew it, I was all by myself working up the 7-8% last few miles to the top.

Me at the top!It was hot now, and there were folks stopping and resting and panting and wheezing as the hill continued its winding ascent into the sky. It was a long climb, but not really all that bad -- although you wouldn't know it from the carnage on the road. That said, the ODS stop at the top was a welcome site, as was the iced mocha compliments of Nossa Familia. We all re-grouped at the top and took a nice little rest as bottles were refilled and snacks were chomped.

The Cool KidsLeaving the ODS stopped was a staggered affair as there was a hairy 9% descent with a not so lovely chip seal surface that takes a wilderness beating in the summertime. They let people leave 4 at a time with abotu 30 seconds between each group. Our group at this point was me, Matt, Amanda, Zed and Robbie -- the staged descent had split our big group up again. We waited in line for probably 15 minutes and were finally allowed to begin our descent. The warnings had done their job as folks were literally crawling down the mountain... the sound of squeaking brakes was like a flock of dying birds and at least 5 people were fixing flats on the shoulder because their brakes had heated their rims and popped the tube. By the end of the 9 mile descent, my forearms were burning and my hands were numb from braking so much -- I was very happy to be back on the flat.

Back on a flat road with a good surface, we were all ready to get into camp. By this time, the wind had picked up, and was right in our face, so we formed a paceline and put the hammer down. Matt had the strongest legs of the group, but we all put in our time at the front. We picked up a straggler or two along the way, but we managed to drop most of them fairly quickly. At this point, we were 75 miles into a 90-mile day and just about everyone was beginning to run out of gas. I had some Hammer Gel left, which I quaffed, and it helped me keep up with Matt and do my duty at the front pulling into the building wind. The pulls got shorter and shorter and the wind strengthened, but we had a great crew, and before we knew it, we were pulling into the park at Dorena Lake and being handed the ice-cold chocolate milk that punctuated each finish line.

We hit the RVs and had a beer as the whole crew trickled in. We heard the story of how they actually had to close the road from the top of the hill because there had been so many accidents on the way down that they ran out of ambulances (there were 4) -- they literally had to wait for them to come back from the hospital in Cottage Grove before they let people go again. We were happy to have been in front of that mess. At 7PM, people were still rolling into camp.

After a nice, hot shower and a Ben and Jerries smoothie, I skipped the camp dinner and had a couple slices of Hot Lips pizza instead. I made my way to the RV and hooked up with the Aussies for a couple more beers and some tunes in the RV. Zed mentioned hitting the Trek truck and seeing if he could get a demo bike for the next day, so I walked over there with him. For giggles, I asked if they had any 60cm Madones, and it just so happens that they did. I went back to my tent and got my bike and swapped it for a brand new 2008 Madone 5.2 to use for the next day. Sweet.

I hung out at the RVs for a little while, but the big climb and the strong run into camp got the best of me, and I hit the tent around 9:30 for a welcome snooze.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 3 - All I Can Say Is Wow

I slept well after Day 2. I went to sleep before the snorers could strangle the silence of my night, and I stayed asleep. I woke to the expected high-altitude cold, but the theraputic embrace of a full night's sleep had me clear-headed and in good spirits. My legs felt great and my beard was beginning to grow in nicely from 3 days of not shaving; I felt ready for the biggest day of climbing on Cycle Oregon. I also felt ready to see the natural splendor of Crater Lake in person for the first time -- in my almost 15 years as an Oregonian, I had yet to see the lake in person.

Happy to not have to pack my bag before heading out, I dawned my riding gear and headed for the RVs. Due to the stomach-churning debacle on Day 2, I told myself it was a "no solid food" day on the bike... meaning I would wait to eat until we got back to camp after the ride. I had ample Hammer Gel, and there lots of drinks on the road, so figured that would keep me calorically balanced until we returned. I also told myself I was going to go easy on the day and enjoy the views of the lake and the company of my fellow riders. I was fairly certain I could convince a few others to take a congruent tack on the day along with me.

Day 3 Group!As we assmbled at the RV and riders began to trickle in, I was blessed with the gift of hot coffee, a banana and a muffin from Lon's mom, Carol, as well as a scoop of Cytomax from Lon and Sally. I was also able to warm up since they had both a fire outside and heat inside the RV. The crew was in great spirits across the board and everyone was psyched to have a beautiful, challenging day of riding ahead. We assembled for the group pictures and said our goodbyes to the non-riders and hit the road.

I had forgotten to pee before we left, so I jumped into the woods to take care of business before we got on the main highway. Robbie waited for me, but the rest of the crew went on. By the time we made it back up to Zed and Scottie, the main field was long gone, and we just settled into a groove to tackle the ~14 miles up to the rim. We were all feeling pretty good, not pushing too hard and grinding out the moderate 4-6% grade towards the lake. It was remarkably like the 14.5 miles up to Larch Mountain from the turnoff from the old Columbia River Highway. We were laughing and talking and passing tons of folks as we made our way towards the rim. We took turns pulling, but when you're climbing, leading the group is more setting the pace than anything. While we weren't setting any land speed records, we were certainly holding our own.

With probably 5 miles or so until the top, Zed broke off the front and Robbie, Scottie and I chased him the remainder of the way. It was a long slog to the top, and I was totally floored to pass a guy on a fixed gear. All I could say was "jesus christ!" as I rode passed him. Just as we pulled up to the parking lot at the top where lunch was being served, Lon, Sally and the rest of the crew had just arrived, but were electing to forego the lunch stop and get going on the rim loop. After about .03 seconds of contemplation, my companions and I decided that we would hang out, fill up the bottles and take some pictures of the lake before hitting the trail, so we waved them on.

First view of Crater LakeMy first view of Crater Lake made me weak in the knees. I knew it was going to be staggering, but I had no idea of the scale of both its beauty and size. The fact that it was created by an incomprehensible eruption and is nearly 2000' deep are mere metadata next to the awesome, blue spectacle that is the lake itself. It is an unbelievable testament to natural process, and I was angry with myself for not having been there before.

Robbie, Zed and Paul took for-fucking-ever at the lunch stop, but it was nice to not be on an intense schedule. The only commitment I had for the day was a massage at 5PM. We hooked up with Ed and Alex (a.k.a. the A Train), lathered upThe Lads! with sunscreen and made our way back onto the road. It seemed like around every bend on the rim road was another mind-melting view of the lake. There was one spot where you could see almost directly down to the water and it was the bluest blue that I had ever seen -- it looked like jewlery.

More of the LakeThe rim road was a fun ride. Big climbs punctuated by rocketing descents, only governed by a slightly crappy road surface, and the presence of other riders. As we were passing a group, Scottie, who was pulling at the time, said in his best Crocodile Hunter accent, "On your left, four bikes." And the gal we were passing said, "Four boxes?" To which I responded, "Yeah, that's Australian for 'Four Bikes'." We all got a good laugh out of that, and would use the phrase "four boxes" when passing others throughout the rest of the week.

More of the LakeWe made the arduous climb up to the overlook and were happy to be refreshed with drinks and snacks and good old blue rooms. We also had cell service, and I was able to call my lovely wife from perhaps the most beautiful spot I had ever stood. We took some pics and hit the road again.

By this time in the day, our group had slimmed down to just Robbie, Zed, Scottie and me, and we were pretty much being paced by Scottie who got some kind of insane kick of fresh legs. The climbs around the rim were not awful, but they were long enough that that the top was always a welcome site. The day had also grown hot, and at nearly 7000', the sun was a relentless reminder to keep greased up in sunscreen. Riding with the Aussie lads was a blast, we laughed and joked through the hard climbs and flew down the descents, eventually ending up at theMe and Scottie Crater Lake lodge, and the last rest stop of the day. More stunning views of Wizard Island were ours for the taking, as was the welcome information that we had less than 1000' of climbing left, and then it was all downhill back into camp. We all agreed that a jump into Diamond Lake was in order upon our return. We hooked back up with Ed and Alex and left the last rest stop.

Wizard IslandThe last bit of climbing was tough, simply because it was the last bit of a long day of uphill battles, but we slogged through it, and as expected, the descent off the rim was fucking unreal. The road was great, the visibility was great and we got lucky enough to hit a stretch of time where there weren't many other riders out, so we hit the gas bigtime. Before you know it, we were back in camp, and crossing a chocolate-milkless finishline (since it was an "option" day, I guess they didn't see the need for chocolate milk. FOR SHAME).

We stopped by the RVs and said our hellos to the other folks who had arrived shorty before us and had a beer and some Recoverite. I had a massage scheduled in a few hours, so I went and washed my ass and head in the shower truck, and spent sometime in front of the laundry bucket cleaning my kit and other 3-day funkdafied camping and riding gear. Freshly scrubed and in clean civies, I met the lads at the lake for a brisk, but marvelously refreshing dip. Diamond Lake was the perfect temperature: cold. The air temp was in the 90s, and the wind was just starting to blow a bit.

We dried off and got a beer and a slice of pizza, and sat down to watch the band play. The afternoon sun was shining through the trees, which provided the perfect amount of shade. Despite the fairly arduous day of riding, I felt great, and was enjoying the company and the pizza and beer. It was beginning to be difficult to imagine a better day -- save for the fact that I was missing my family. I found a spot with cell coverage and called Mandy and spoke to the boys too -- they were having fun and missing me too, but getting to hear their voices just made the day all that much better.

My 5 o'clock appointment for a massage rolled around and I made my way over to the massage tent to get the first of my two scheduled massages on the trip. The massage therapist was a gal from Portland named Nova, who was very friendly and conversational, as well as strong. She was a musician, so there was lots to chat about. She worked the knots and strains out of me, so that at the end of the hour long session, I was nothing but a grinning mass cookie dough. I hopped on my bike and rode back over to RVs to hook up with the group as we had agreed to forego the meal tent and head over to the Diamond Lake Lodge for dinner.

We had a very nice dinner at the lodge, with what ended up as around 20 people, laughing, drinking and eating real food for once -- it was like a Viking feast. I had a huge slice of prime rib and it was delicious. The only dent in the otherwise excellent dinner was that both Carol and Helgard didn't get their food until we were essentially done with the meal, but due to the innundation with hungry cyclists, I think the Lodge had their hands full and were doing all they could to accomodate. Roland was generous enough to pick up the no-doubt hefty tab, much to the delight of me and my fellow grateful diners. Our bellies full and our hearts content, we packed into Helgard's car and headed back to the RVs for some good ol' tunes around the campfire.

When we got back to the RVs, Derek and Tucker set about building a roaring fire and we all found seats in the ring with our beverages of choice in hand. I broke out the trusty Martin and began to tune up as the dreaded calls began: "Play Stairway!" and my favorite, "Do you know Freebird?!". Unfortunately, I know both of those songs (to some degree, anyway), and was drunk enough to own up to it, which lead to me playing them horribly to satiate the crowd (ok, I did it because Roland bought dinner, and he was the squeakest wheel, so I felt it was only fair).

I played a few songs and we were all laughing and talking in-between, when out of the darkness came a banshee howl, "SHUUUUUUT UUUUUUUUP! IIIIIII AM TRYYYYYYYYING TO SLEEEEEEEEEEP!". At this point, it wasn't even 10 o'clock, so we all shrugged it off as I delved into another song. Predictably, on the last note of the tune came another shrieking blast of vitriol from the abyss, "SHUUUUUUUT THE FUUUUUUUCK UUUUP, I NEEEEEEEEEEEEEED MY SLEEEEEEEEEEP!". To this, Sally replied into the darkness, "We don't have to, the noise cut off isn't until 10:30!" We waited for a response... nothing.

I continued to play, and we laughed and sang and carried on for another 25 minutes or so, when a small light appeared in the distance, bobbing angrily through the trees. I knew what it was, or at least, I had an idea... Seconds later, a hideous creature (which can best be described as an Oregon Mountain Hag; a term coined by Tucker after the incident) in a flannel, polka dot moo moo burst into our firelit circle and began waiving her arms in maddened fury and screaming at us to stop playing music as she needed her sleep. Her putrescent, yellow-eyed gaze fell upon me and my guitar. and her bony, wart-riddled finger pointed straight at me, as her acrid stench began to permeate the air. "YOU!" she shreiked in a voice like wet sandpaper, "are you the one playing all those fucking guitars?!" Seeing as though I was the only one The Oregon Mountain Hagwith a guitar in the area, the smart ass in me was overwhelmed by the possible responses to this inane and obvious query. However, I must admit that the guitar player in me was flattered that she assumed there was more than one guitar being played. "Yes" was my regrettable reply. To that, she marched straight over to me and grabbed the headstock of my guitar in an attempt to smash my 1975 Martin D28 and throw it into the fire. Luckily, the Oregon Mountain Hag is a weak, pathetic bitch, and her attempt was easily foiled by my casual grip on my beloved instrument. In her frustration, she circled back to Ed, who was standing behind me, and attempted to smash his head in with an empty beer bottle. The shock of the group turned protective as Ed grabbed her arm and said, "Get the hell out of here!". We rallied around Ed, and cries of "Crazy bitch!" and "what the hell was that?!" followed the Mountain Hag as she fled back to her hovel.

On the heels of a great dayStunned in curious amazement at the bizarre spectacle we had all just witnessed, the group made sure everyone was ok, and decided it was probably a good time to call it a night, although there was a deep temptation to continue playing, just to aggrevate the Mountain Hag. The rare appearence of the fabled Oregon Mountain Hag, while stressful at the time, turned out to be a perfect, albeat surreal, exclamation point to an absolutely marvelous day. I made my way back to my tent and fell into a dreamless sleep with a big fat smile on my face.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 2 - Step Away From The Brownie

I didn't sleep very well after the first day of riding. It was quite cold as well as uncomfortable, and there were at least 20 people snoring within dead-cat-swinging distance of my tent. I was instantly transported to the memory of camping with my dad as a kid. We would hike all day, fish, haul gear, setup camp and run ourselves ragged until we collapsed exhausted in our tent. Dad would fall asleep immediately and commence snoring almost before his head hit the pillow, which meant I would be relagated to lying awake until he woke up to pee, and hoping he took long enough to for me to fall asleep before he got back and fell asleep again. While no one at Cycle Oregon snored quite like the chainsaw wildebeast that was my father, the chorus of log-sawing was quite enough to penetrate the protective barrier of my earplugs and keep me awake until I finally fell asleep out of shear good fortune, or due to the Universe's pity on me.

The zippers woke me again. After lying awake for a half hour or so reading my book, exiting my sleeping bag at 6:30AM was bitter argument between my tired bones, the cold air and the hustle and bustle of the mass of Cycle Oregon, not to mention all the beer I drank the night before. The walk to the blue room in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops was enough to get me at least mostly alert, if not yet fully awake; alas my testicles did protest their exposure to the cold by boring their way into my stomach. Back in the tent, stifling yawns and stretching out my stiff legs, I dawned my gear and prepared myself for the ~95 miles of Day 2 from La Pine to Diamond Lake.

I made my way over to the RVs and said a good morning to Roland who looked almost exactly like I felt: eyes barely open and clearly not happy to be awake. It was very cold, but wonderfully blue and clear -- a tough day to decide what to wear on the bike. Too little and you'll be freezing your ass off until the day warms up, too much and you'll regret it woefully as the day wears on. I had opted for the same as the day before: arm and leg warmers, jersey, shorts and half-fingered gloves. This seemed to be reasonably close to what the other folks who were now trickling over to the RV were wearing. Lon and Sally we gracious enough to let me to their RV for some coffee and a muffin, and the warmth of the heater was a welcome friend, as was the coffee. Derek and Tucker were still soundly sleeping, and the sight of Derek crashed out made me miss my boys.

The crew assembled and pumped tires, filled water bottles, lubed chains and stretched out muscles as we discussed the route and argued over whether it was a day to hammer, or a day to take it easy. There was, of course no consensus, as we all knew it was going to be hammer day since it was Lon and Sally's first day on the bikes. I did not feel great and was resoundingly regretting the beer and wine consumption of the night before, but I internally vowed to ride as strong as I could. We gathered up for a group shot, said our goodbyes to the drivers (Scottie was driving for the Aussies today) and the creaky, cold peleton headed out.

Man, it was cold. Colder than the morning before's ride, and I think it took everyone a couple of minutes to transition into riding mode. Just as we got warm enough to tolerate being in the saddle, we came to an intersection where we had to stop and wait for traffic, which ended up being a 2-3 minute wait... exactly long enough to cool back down; several volleys of profanity were let fly before we were waived through the intersection. Crossing the road and grouping together, we were finally on our way. Lon jumped out in front and the pace was on. I was actually happy to be pushing semi-hard, since it was keeping me warm. Steve, Lon and I took turns at the front, but I was clearly not feeling as strong as I was the previous day. Still, I was able to hang with the group, and I knew I would start to feel better the more we just kept moving along.

The route was very nice -- winding through thickets of trees, along streams and rivers with periodic bursts of rolling climbs and descents. Everyone took their turns pulling, and it was quite obvious that we were in a strong group and everyone knew how to ride in a paceline. The group would break up a bit on the climbs, then regroup again. We stopped at the first ODS stop, just as the day was starting to warm up, and filled our bottles and grabbed some food for the road. I had a hunk of cheese and a bite of fruit and topped up my bottles with some Gleukos sports drink and we hit the road again, with less than 10 miles to go until lunch.

We blasted our way to a lunch, which consisted of a tasty chicken salad with fruit, chips and a very yummy Oreo brownie that weighed about 3 pounds. My smarter companions elected to forego eating all or most of the brownieLunch!, but being the dopey rookie I am, I scarfed it thinking that the carbs would only do me right. Wrong. From the moment the last crumb entered my stomach, I knew I had made critical error in judgement, and seeing as though there were still 50 miles to go, I was now foobar. My stomach turned before I even got on the bike, and I tried to hide the pain from the rest of the crew. My antics the day before had garnered me a reputation as a strong rider, and I knew I would be trying to live up to it all week. This latest intestinal faux paux would prove to be my undoing on this long day in the saddle.

I rode hard despite the brewing cyclone in my stomach. I thought perhaps I could get in front of the problem by sweating it out, but my exersion only made the lump in my stomach feel that much more pronounced. I could feel my body protesting the digestion of the brownie, and working overtime to break it down into some kind of nutritional gain, but it was not to be. As if to fly me the bird for being such a dillhole, my legs began cramping just as it was my turn to pull into the wind. We had several hangers-on in ou paceline now, and there was no way I was going to whimp out, so I just powered through it. Several miles later, fighting cramps and just trying to hang on (without looking like I was just trying to hang on), in the midst of a brutal, busy stretch on Hwy 97, Sally graciously convinced Lon to stop at a water stop to fill up bottles. I took the wonderful restful moments to regroup and pull myself together. I had been sweating profusely and cramping horribly for about 10 miles now, and it was my conclusion that I was woefully dehydrated. I drank what was left in my bottles, and refilled them, then drank another entire bottle and refilled it. An earth-shattering belch worked its way to the surface and brought with it glad tidings, I actually felt a little bit better.

Lon and Keith rocketed out of the water stop with a relentless veracity that would become commonplace in the ensuing days. Sally, fortunately, held back a bit and we kept a really nice pace for the remainder of the stretch on 97 -- passing group after group on the week's last bout with the dreaded rumble strips. We turned off to a wonderfully smooth stretch of Hwy 38 that was so straight and pointing slightly uphill that you could see for 15 miles down the road -- it was a very nice mental boost. We caught up with Lon and Keith and all turned off at the last ODS stop, where I again drank as much as I could and sucked down a couple V8 juice cans to re-load my body's salt balance.

Tent CityThe long steady climb up Hwy 38 towards Diamond Lake was the type of annoying climb that was too easy to complain about, but too hard to stand up on. It was also the last 10 miles of a near-century ride, and everyone was pooped. We all kind of splintered off and took it at our own pace. As I was counting my pedal strokes, fighting off cramps and just trying to get to the end, I ran into my buddy Matthew, whom I had ridden the eirrily similar last 25 miles or so of the Portland Century with. He was by himself and grateful for the company, and to have made contact at CO. Just as we were catching up, Sally came flying by with a bunch of our group in tow, and Matthew and I jumped on the train for the remainder of the hill, and the wonderful descent down into Diamond Lake campground. We all quaffed our blessed chocolate milk and headed to the RV for a wonderous pint of beer, and I made my way to unfortunately distant tent city, where I parked my bike and hit the showers.

Diamond LakeDiamond Lake has a beautiful campground, and by the time I had made my way over to the stage and food area, I ran into Zed, Robbie and Scottie, who were just getting pints of beer and slices of pizza, an excursion to which I was happy to join. We sat in the sun and ate pizza and drank beer and stared at the lake, and it was a righteous affair. After pizza and beer, we hopped into the dinner line and filled up our plates with the not-terrible turkey and mash potato dinner. The Aussies marvelled at the pumpkin pie. As it turns out, pumpkins are quite popular in Australia, but never as a sweet dish, so pumpkin pie is akin to us eating eggplant ice cream or something like that. Funny. After dinner, I made my way over to the RV and was careful to only have one more beer before the tryptophan would get the best of me, and I would make my way back to my tent and fall asleep soundly before my snoring peers could even think about keeping me awake.

Stay tuned for Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 3 - All I Can Say Is Wow

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 1 - The Quickening

The first day of riding on Cycle Oregon came blearily into my consciousness as the other six of them would: with a the sound of tent zippers. Just one in the distance at first. Then another; then two more; then ten more. Then, like a swarm of giant, angry bees, thousands of tent zippers were hurling themselves open as the reality of morning kicked me in the teeth. I stuck my arm out of my sleeping bag to grab for my watch and the cold of high-desert morning air instantly bored its way to my bones. My fingers numbly fumbled around on the floor of my tent and came to a stop on the leather band of my Fossil watch and I turned my head so I could see the dial: 5:47 AM. Too awake to fall back asleep and too cold to leave the loving embrace of my -20° sleeping bag, I laid my head back down on my makeshift pillow of a sweatshirt and a bath towel and stared at the red ceiling of my tent and listened to the increasing intensity of the morning's activities. People were talking now, and I could hear the sounds of the baggage-hauling ATVs in the distance.

After a while, my anxiousness for the ride got the best of me and I sat up. The insulation of my down sleeping bag slid away and exposed my shirtless torso to the cold air and an unintended, "fuck it's cold!" escaped my lips as my skin seemed to tighten on contact with the below-freezing morning air. The steam from my breath hung in the tent like cigar smoke as I hurriedly dug through my bag to find my riding gear for the day, my legs still wrapped in protest in my sleeping bag. The next eight seconds were my impression of what Superman does in a telephone booth... In a blur of limbs and spandex, I emerged from my down cocoon in shorts, jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, socks and gloves, ready to face the cold light of day. I packed up my sleeping bag, thermarest and other incidentals into my huge Adidas duffel bag and emerged from my tent.

I walked over and brushed my teeth at one of the many potable water stations around camp. I packed my toiletries bag into the duffel, made one final check of my riding gear and bid adieu to my things, as I would not see them until my arrival 68 miles later in La Pine that afternoon. Mesmerized by the efficiency of the logistics of supporting 2,500 people camping and bike riding, I made my way towards the food tents to find something hot and caffeinated to drink. I passed the Nossa Familia Coffee truck, which had far too long of a line of frozen, blue campers eager for a hot cup of coffee. Instead, I opted to obtain my morning fix in a large, inviting lodge-like building that housed the Sisters Athletic Club. Outside a sign read, "Come get your coffee here and get out of the cold." The sign's simple logic appealed to me and I entered the log structure, passing a thermometer on the outside which read "29°F". The door closed gently behind me and the blood in my ears, toes and fingers returned as the humid warmth of the athletic club percolated through me. A pretty gal in front of a barista machine smiled as I placed my order for a 16oz mocha with an extra shot. After getting my coffee, I lingered a bit in the warmth of the athletic club and then exited back to the cold. The thermometer on the door now read "33°F".

Breakfast was a blasé affair of powdered eggs, crispy bacon, oatmeal and some type of rolled up pancake that I dared not eat. I sat by myself and ate in silence nursing my hot, heavenly mocha, still wowed by the hum and efficency of all that was going on around me. The air grew steadily warmer as I finished up and decided to walk back towards the RV and see what the crew was up to. I passed the line of vans from the Bike Gallery and said hello to a busy James, who works at my neighborhood store and does a lot of work on my bikes.

Back at the RV, the crew was stirring, pumping tires, drinking coffee and gingerly stretching out cold muscles. I had only ever ridden with Lon and Sally, but everyone looked fast, and I was intimidated. Luckily, Lon and Sally were going to ride with Tucker and Derek in tow on tag-a-longs, so I would at least be spared their pace for day 1. Everyone else spoke about riding with Lon in hushed tones, so I knew he was probably still the fastest of the bunch. We assembled, filled our water bottles and said our good byes to Frank and Carol, Helgard and Karl and Zed (the RV drivers) and joined the throng of riders heading out towards Highway 97 and the first leg of Cycle Oregon.

We had a good group, this was evident from the first half-mile. Everyone was joking and laughing and still going nice and hard. Roland jumped out in front, and the someone muttered, "there he goes..." and the chase began, but didn't last long -- he just wanted to get the blood pumping. I jumped up with the front group, eager to have a pull while my legs were fresh, knowing I was a bit of an unknown, I wanted to show that I was more than happy to do some work for the group. We were pacing around 20-22 mph and still laughing and feeling great. Majestic mountains framed our panorama and the beauty of our terrain begain to sink into the Aussies, and phrases like, "have a look at that!" and "beautiful, mate!" began to permate the chatter in our peloton.

Then it was my turn to pull. We were a little bit into the wind and my legs felt great, so I went for it. I wanted to push kinda hard, but easy enough that I could sustain it for a while, so I bumped the pace to around 24 and pulled for around 5 miles until we came to a stop sign, where Keith and Chris took over. Comments like "Great pull, Big Dave!", and "Nice work!" as I faded into the back of the line made me feel like a productive part of the crew, and helped to get me comfortable in a group I had only met the day before. We ran hard all the way to the first ODS stop, which was about 25 miles in. I was pretty buzzed by the whole atmosphere and totally stoked to not be completely out of my element.

After leaving the ODS stop, we ran into some friends of the crew, and one particularly speedy 6'4" gent name Alex, or the "A Train" as he would thereafter be known. We jumped on with him and hammered like mad for 8 or 9 miles to lunch, which was in Bend. Roland, Chris, Keith and I arrived at lunch as the first part of a splintered group, having dropped the Aussies and some of the other folks on the last couple of climbs. I was hungry and quickly disposed of my roast beef sandwich and chips as we sat on the lawn under the late-morning sun and regrouped. We were at lunch for 45 minutes or so, and I was still feeling good, if not a little bit sunburned, having forgotten to grease up before leaving. We finished up lunch, and a couple of us remarked that Lon and Sally had not yet arrived, but figured they were just taking it easy on Tucker and Derek in the tag-a-longs.

As we were mounting up, Roland sped off, and I sprinted up to go with him, thinking that the rest of the group was surely close behind, when actually they were not. Roland and I rode on and chatted keeping a strong but leisurely pace through Bend and eventually onto Highway 97, all the while pulling away from the group. 97 had some unsettling traffic as we whizzed passed group after group. Roland kept remarking that we should slow down and wait for the others. And we would... for about 15 pedal strokes, then we would pick up the pace even faster than before. 97 got dicier as we ran in and out of rumble strips, passed recumbents and dodging the occasional maniacal 4x4, hell bent on scaring the shit out of cyclists. After several close calls and some not-so-fun time on the rumble strips, we turned off of 97 into Sun River. The pavement was smooth, the wind was at our backs and the grade was pointing slightly downhill, so we hit the gas and flew on towards the last ODS stop of the day, just before which we hooked up with the group and Zed, who had ridden the opposite direction from La Pine after having driven the RV that morning.

With a full crew and a tail wind, we cranked on from the ODS towards La Pine. The group had swollen a bit with some strangers and some friends, and the quickened pace was causing some folks to drop off as we got closer and closer to La Pine. I ended up at the front and hit the gas, anxious to drink a beer and enjoy the spectacle of my first day on Cycle Oregon. I kept glancing back and there were still folks on my wheel, so I kept pushing and pushing and eventually came upon the Finish Line sign, only to realize the folks on my wheel were not my crew and I just just given two dudes a free pull into La Pine.

One of the great things about Cycle Oregon is that at every finish line they have cold chocolate milk, which is one of the most fantastic things you can put in your face after a long, hot ride. I did quaff. I made my way to the tents and found mine... 215, then I did shower. Feeling good, but tired from the ride, I found my way over to the RV and sat my ass in a lawn chair and the beer fairy placed a cold bottle of Mirror Pond into my hand and I poured it into my eagerly waiting face. The crew trickled in and we drank beer and ate chips and crakers and talked shit about the day. I was happy to be among peers, and glad I wasn't the slow man in the group.

Just as I thought the day was as close to perfect as possible, we got the news about Tucker... 10 miles into the ride, his tag-a-long had sheared just above the handle bars and he had a 20 MPH wipe out right onto his face. Luckily there had been an ER doc two bikes behind them, and an ambulance nearby and they were able to get him to an oral surgeon in short order and save his front teeth, which had loosened significantly. When they arrived at camp, my heart froze to see the poor guy's face and I could not help but think about how awful that must have been for all of them, but him especially. It's hard not to imagine your own kid's face in that situation. However, he was in good spirits and was happy to have everyone calling him a "tough guy" and running to fetch him ice cream. After a dinner of pepperoni pizza and wine (the dinner lines for the regular dinner were too long and we were too hungry), we all retired to the ring of lawn chairs around the RV and I drunkenly played some tunes on my trusty acoustic guitar to a very kind and appreciative audience. Besides the ever-present beer soaked calls for me to play Stairway to Heaven or Freebird, it was a lot of fun, and I went to bed feeling very happy to have landed in the middle of such a great group of people.

Stay tuned for Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 2 - Step Away From The Brownie

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cycle Oregon 2007: Day 0 - The Prologue

My preparation for Cycle Oregon 2007 began for me around April of this year when I hit my fundraising goal of $3,000 for the Reach the Beach century, which was held on May 19th. The prize for raising $3,000 for RTB was a pass to the sold-out spectacle of Cycle Oregon. I initially was shooting for the $1,500 fundraising prize of a new mountain bike for my lovely better half, but the generosity of my friends soon proved that $3,000 would be easy to get to, and so it was (much to Mandy's chagrin). Right around this same time, I had eaten a monumental slice of Leneve-flavored Humble Pie, which was a painful taste of what riding Cycle Oregon with the Leneve-train would entail. Thus I knew is was time to get my ass in gear.

As far behind Lon and Sally as I was from a speed and climbing standpoint, I had not, however, been a slouch. I had still been averaging 150-200 miles a week on the bike, and getting stronger and faster by the day, I was simply not anywhere near their pace or ferocity in the saddle. From that ride on, I pledged to spend the majority of my time in the big chainring, and I began the quest for a high-quality road bike that would allow me a better shot at keeping pace with the breakneck Leneves.

ShavenWell, five months, 3,500 miles, a new road bike and negative 20 pounds later, I found myself in my living room on September 8th, nervously awaiting the arrival of Steve Williams, who had graciously agreed to let me ride with him to the Cycle Oregon starting point in Sisters, Oregon. I had checked and re-checked my gear against the collected list of necessary items, tuned my bike 4 times and shaved my head in preparation of my first Cycle Oregon. I was terrified of spending a week dragging my ass and lungs around behind the Leneves, but totally stoked to see Oregon like never before and to spend a solid 7 days in the saddle.

The EllsworthI had not met Steve when he pulled up in front of my house at around noon on Saturday. He had come down with a pretty serious respiratory infection a couple of weeks before and had missed the pre-CO kick off party at Lon and Sally's house the week before. However, he and I had exchanged emails and had talked on the phone a couple of times, and he was very helpful with suggestions of what to bring along to make the trip easier. We threw my gear into the back of his truck (which included my guitar as per a request from Lon and Sally), and put my bike on his rack and we hit the road. Steve and I rapped the whole way to Sisters about everything from work to cycling to music and before you know it we were pulling into a dusty field in Sisters which was already bustling with bike nerds, RVs and pick up trucks full of duffel bags. I went to toss my empty 1-liter bottle of Aquafina into the recycle bin, and Steve dropped his last bit of sage advice on me. He said, "Keep that bottle in your bag, so you don't have to walk to the blue room in the middle of the night. Believe me, you'll be glad you did." Which I was.

The lineI was very happy to be there; it was hot, dry and packed with people hauling bikes and huge duffel bags every which way. High school kids on ATVs were zipping around and shouting orders at each other and lines of people waiting for something or another seemed to spring out of nowhere and everywhere. I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, but Steve again proved a worthy companion as he deftly maneuvered us through the masses and into the registration area where we got signed in and assigned our rider numbers. The line for the rider numbers was short, but we waited for about 30 minutes in a line for our tent and porter service. Tent and porter service is an extra charge for CO, but essentially makes it so that you don't have to worry about setting up your tent or lugging it to and from the baggage trucks each day -- well worth it. We finally made it through the tent and porter line and within minutes were were glad-handing Lon's mom and step dad, Carol and Frank at their RV in the section of the campground that was reserved for "rider guests". In a ritual that would be repeated countless times over the next seven days, I plopped my butt into folding chair and a cold beer was generously placed into my hand.

The RVLon and Sally were there with their boys, Tucker and Derek, and slowly, car by car, RV by RV, the week's posse of riders began to assemble. We drank beer and wine and at chips and crackers and talked about the week. I met lots of folks, but only remembered a couple of names -- I figured I could get by with the usual obfuscations. As if on cue, two RVs showed up with the bulk of the week's crew: one loaded with 2 Aussies (Rob and Scottie) and a skinny Oregon ex-pat name Paul (a.k.a. Zed) and another RV with four guys whom I had met at Lon's get together a week earlier: Roland, Chris (a.k.a. Lingy), Ed and Keith. The gang's all here. As the drinking and carrying on ensued, I slunk away around 8:30 to get a good night's sleep (and not drink too many beers) before the mayhem began the next morning.

Stay tuned for Cycle Oregon 2007 Day 1: The Quickening.