Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Local hero

According to Steve (the organizer), when he put the route together tomorrow was the big problem. Most maps showed no obvious way to get from Westfir to Cottage Grove without riding all day on busy highways. Talking to locals he discovered there is a road, there is another way. That's the good news.

Bad news, the road climbs to over 4400 feet. Narrow but paved, it traverses a huge forested ridge. The climb starts at mile 6 and ends at mile 20. Another 14-mile hill! We've been doing a lot of those. At mile 23 we'll start to descend. Steve also tells us to carry lunch and at least 3 water bottles. There are no services of any kind until the afternoon.

From what Vic says it must be a steep climb:

  • West Cascades Scenic Byway is nothing compared with this ride.
  • Hope you have a triple (crank) on that bike.
  • This ride is "easy".

Vic, a Route 66 buddy, happens to be a local here. We ran into him and his wife Carolyn on the rest day in Bend. He's actually ridden his bicycle on the road in question. He's gonna ride it again today with us.

The day begins as a foggy cool morning. After not sleeping well I am feeling hazy and slow. Luckily having Vic to follow makes it easy. We ride through Oakridge and then hang a right. Right again at a functioning log mill. Up we go.

Some folks start rabbitting up the hill. I just gear down. For 4.5 miles the grade is steep, maybe 8 or 9%. Even the bunnies aren't talking much. Around mile 5 it becomes a regular hill for 10 more miles. The fog is burning off and it's a warm humid day. My gloves are soaked with sweat. The road winds on and on with no cars, just us. It's a real epic ride.
At the top!
It is hotter at the summit than on the descent. Vic says there must be an inversion layer today.

The busy road carries log trucks and locals, but a rail trail runs parallel. It gives us 17 easy and picturesque miles into Cottage Grove. My legs are lagging for no good reason. And at mile 63 both of us seriously need food. Vic knows a nice Thai restaurant right on the route. The waiter is so shy he almost doesn't speak at all. Green curry chicken and Thai iced tea hit the spot.

View 1 of Lorane Store
View 2 of Lorane Store
Ready (or not) for the out-and-back to Lorane. Several miles ago we passed the turn to the campground at Lake Dorena, and this extra leg rounds out the day's mileage.

We land at Lorane during the hottest part of the day, with cicadas buzzing in trees along the road. This farming community feels unchanged since, say, 3 or 4 generations. True to form, the store says it closes at 4pm but actually closes at 3, right after we get our cold drinks.

Vibrant is not exactly the word for this place.

My legs come alive in time to push back over the hill. The wind is at our backs, helping us in. In Cottage Grove Vic says goodbye just as Bonnie is rolling up. We get a chance to chat before landing in camp around 5. It's too late to nap in the tent but we're already relaxed and smiling. Our wooded campsite and lake view, icing on the cake. 100 miles, 7831 feet of climbing.

Today proves that to have a good day on the bike you don't have to be a criterium racer. Physical exertion and speed and ability? Not so much. I was sleepy and slow as a slug. But everything else went swimmingly: weather, food, company. The luxury of a local guide and domestique almost all day. It's been fabulous to catch up with Vic and meet Carolyn, too.

Our daily schedule and routes and even the menus are totally planned out in advance. Plans are good, but surprises can be sweeter.

The SuperTour charging station at Lake Dorena.
Tomorrow's ride is hard, too. Time to hit the tent!

1 comment :

  1. Bunnies - I like that. It's apt. :) Glad you're having a good time.