Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oregon Bike Ride and Mustache Contest.

Photo bombing the selfie.
The 2013 Bicycle Rides Northwest "Oregon Bike" ride has come to it's conclusion.  Spectacular scenery, wonderful clients and co-workers, and of course, a mustache competition made this the ride of rides.

The Ride started in Dayton, Oregon and circled through some epic terrain in eastern Oregon, as we visited dense forest, wine country, mountain peaks, deep canyons, and arid plains.

The write up is not a comprehensive description of every day of the trip.  But I hope I can capture some of the fun I had.  To be clear, this is not journalism:  I'm looking for a little humor out of life, not Shackleton's journals from the Endurance.

Bicycle rides northwest is a non-profit that runs an absolutely spectacular trip.  The food, camping, and routes are incomparable. One colleague, who's experience in the bike industry has taken them to many bike tours, says that this is the best trip in the country. 

While I can only look at one year to the next, I keep coming back to get out of bed at 5 a.m. and move literally tons of luggage.  So, I guess it's good to me.

Day 1) Day one was a morning drive from Bend to Dayton, Oregon.  Camping in the city park was cool and shady.  It was relatively uneventful from an employee standpoint:  Help the riders out, set up some canopies (I'll edit this later when I find a picture of the tents), set out some tables and chairs, and pick up some U-Hauls.

With no tales of adventure to share,  let me take the time to introduce a couple of the characters.  There are probably 30 employees to go with the 300 riders.  Mostly the individual crews tend to stick together, if for no reason than that they work on the same schedule.  I.e., 'baggage dudes' hang out, as do the hard workers at 'camp central' who keep the riders supplied with beverages, snacks etc, and the caterers who crank out 18 hour days.  But there is great camaraderie amongst the workers, and certainly we all had a lot of laughs together.
Tosch and Brett

Let's feature a couple of hard working baggage crew members.  Here we have Tosch on the left, and Brett on the right.  They are an interesting contrast.  Like everyone on the team, they got along famously, but they were very different in many ways.  While both are cyclists and climbers, there are some differences.

Tosch is a designer of custom hand made packs, musical prodigy, and all around renaissance guy. Brett is a commercial fisherman / rock climber.  They got along great, but it's an interesting character study.

Tosch, for instance, was the constant recipient of gifts of fruit, praise, and microbrews from riders.  Brett, on the other hand, was told by a client to, "hey, make sure my luggage is right side up when you unload it."

I don't want to make any broad assumptions about human nature, but Tosch is a constantly smiling cheerful young man.  Brett carries three knives on deck to cut himself free if being dragged by a longline to watery doom.  Just saying.

Lost in Flanders?
Day 2) Dayton to LaGrande.  Some fine memories for me of LaGrande.  This is where I spent 3 weeks in 2002 as I entered into my Eastern Oregon University Masters Program.  It was a fantastic summer then, and my one day there in 2013 was also great.   After a delay due to the site being occupied by 36 softball teams, with tents and evidence of a late night, the crew went through the daily ritual of offloading 6 tons of bags and setting up 12 tents (that's the last time I'll give those details).

While it was hot, Brett talked me into a 26 mile trip to check out some springs in the town of Cove.  After not really looking at the map, we proceeded to get lost.  And zig zag back and forth through the country.  And ended up on gravel roads.  And, As is my want, I complained mightily, but enjoyed every minute of it.  The springs turned out to be a pool that charged $7 for a swim.  Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.  We churned on, and while dehydrated, and laughing at our self made adventure, we ended up on and rode a marked Oregon bikeway.  The picture above was taken riding through a field of sunflowers.  We managed to take every wrong turn, but made it back in time for dinner, a sweet ska band, and some pops. 
wallowa lake
Eric's First Ever 'real ride'
 Day 3) LaGrande to Joseph.  If I have fond memories of LaGrande, my experience in the region around Joseph from 2002 are even better.  Joseph is a gateway to the Wallowas.  Nestled against a high alpine lake formed by glaciers 10,000 years ago (If you believe the Democrats). (That's a joke.  I mentioned in the preface I would do some of that.  Please don't take offense if you find my characterization of Democrats as liberal bothersome).

Brett and I took Eric on his 'first ever bike ride.'  Let me clarify, While Eric has worked on the trips for several years, he's not really been a cyclist.  But during the week off between the Montana ride and the Oregon ride, Eric threw down for a nifty Trek 1.5.  A very cool bike.  Compared to some of the exotic steeds that some of riders ride, it might be considered an 'entry level bike,' but it is no slouch.  Eric and I dropped off Brett, who headed solo up into the Eagle Cap wilderness.  I rode another 10 miles or so, and hung out in camp.

eagle cap
Chloe at Trailhead
I would make the hike in the next morning.  This was one of my defining memories of the trip.

Day 4) Joseph Layover day.  The riders did a 60 mile canyon descent.  I tried to round up more participants for my planned fast pack hike from Wallowa Lake to the Matterhorn.  Depending on whether you trust the guide book, or the map, it was 18-22 miles round trip, but over 5000 feet of vertical gain.

Only Camp Central worker Chloe would join me.  She'd never done much hiking, and was worried -- needlessly, as she cranked out the miles.  I've included a few extra photos to try to capture the amazing change in scenery.  The dense forest at the trail head provided views of the Wallowa River, but little else as we climbed, and climbed, and climbed.

Eventually, we began to get slight views of distant high peaks.  As we switch backed through the dense forest, we moved into more open terrain.  The views became more expansive, and we found cascading waterfalls, and animal tracks.  We moved quickly, stopping only to snack, and to purify water.

We knew Brett would be camping at Ice Lake, and summiting in the morning.  Whether we would meet him was a question, but, from the map, it seemed likely we would at some point.

Chloe shooting Ice Lake footage
Eventually we arrived at the incredibly scenic Ice Lake.  Nestled below Sacagawea and Matterhorn peaks, Ice Lake is a crystal clear gem of unparalleled beauty.  It's also the end of the real trail.  We paused, snacked, and planned our summit ascent.  Chloe chose to stay at the lake.  I went for the summit, but promised I'd not go all the way if It was turning into a time issue.   With 2000 vertical feet to go in less than 1.5 miles, I wasn't sure what would happen.

Mirror lake... 'mirrica lake

I climbed steadily, on what can best be considered a steep ramp.  There was a slight trail:  It disappeared occasionally, but small rock cairns ahead pulled me upwards.  I found myself simply counting one foot in front of the other, and would allow myself to pause to sip water after 2000 steps.
Brett, Mirror lake, even higher
In what was no huge surprise, I met up with Brett part way up the trail.  I estimate about 1/3 of the way up.  We agreed that as he was descending, he and Chloe would take off, and I'd be free to ascend to the Summit.
 And what a summit it was.  The Eagle Cap is a unique area of granite sprouting up in the far eastern portion of Oregon.  Having climbed 5000 feet, I was exhausted.  The last 300 feet was on bare exposed granite, with no trail.  I was happy to summit.
Summit, Matterhorn

Descending was a bit sketchy:  I started dropping to the climbers trail too soon, and suddenly found myself clinging to a pitch that was steepening rapidly, with a perilous fall below me.  I gathered my scant wits, and climbed up, traversed, and continued.  
The descent was the hardest part:  steeply walking downhill on a slippery trail was exhausting, especially after covering the miles and altitude.

I shot some panoramic footage from the summit.
Take a moment to scroll up and look at the astounding change in view as we climbed up 5000 feet.  Nothing compares to alpine scenery, and the Wallowas are world class.

Day 5) Joseph to Asotin.  The riders experienced one of the finest rides in America:  The rattlesnake grade.  10 miles of winding rapid descending, with a matched grade on the Washington side.  We camped on the Snake river. 

It was hot as blazes.  But gorgeous.  Multiple Osprey soared, and riders swam in the Snake, and several of us camped by the cool waters. 

If you ever wondered what 2 osprey fledglings sound like at 4:00 a.m., here is the translation.
Hey, HEY, Hey, HEY MOM, HEY MOM, DAD, are you up, HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY, hey, got a fish, FISH, GOT A FISH, HEY let's poop on a tent, YEAH POOP, POOP, hey... (needless to say, we were up early).
Dr. Bill and his 'stache

Day 6) Asotin to Dayton. Uneventful, but had a great burger at Threshers in Dayton.  Good time to talk about the mustache contest.  The crew managed to talk numerous riders and crew into growing, or shaving mustaches.  Clear winner, is our good friend, and rider of the year, Dr. Bill.  Yes, he's a doctor, and a hell of good guy.  My mustache?  Well, one week's growth on a pale blonde dude looks... dirty.  But I went for it.

Day 7) Dayton Layover ride.  I failed in not taking a picture of this 20 mile winding road to the base of Bluewood ski resort.  Steady smooth climbing with Don, Tosch, Brett was good exercise, without turning into a race (well, except for the last 100m).  I lost.  The descent was 20 miles of pace lining, averaging 30 miles per hour down the grade.  Burger, and late night dancing with a jam/ funk band at Threshers.

Day 8) Dayton to Athena for the riders.  We powered it out, did our work, and waited for the last rider to leave.  A reasonable 4.5 hour ride later, I was tucked into a Los Jalopenos Burrito, and asleep by dark.  

Another epic trip.  I'll update and edit this when I get a few more photos emailed to me.  And of course, after I go through and find all the grammar and syntax errors.  Summer's coming to an end, and I'm at last feeling recharged to teach.