G Man (Paul Glickman) and I have just returned from an exciting week of cycling in Oregon. Seven days of riding totaling 405 miles and 27,500 feet of climbing. Not the most miles or climbing I have ever done in a week, but still a very significant amount of saddle time and much more than I typically do.
We did the tour with Cycling Escapes (http://cyclingescapes.com/), my favorite touring company when doing tours in the western United States. I did my first Cycling Escapes tour back in 2006. On that tour there were only 5 guests, and I was by far the strongest rider among them. Their business has prospered; on this tour there were 26 riders, and I wasn’t even close to being the strongest. And many of them were repeat customers, affirming that Cycling Escapes puts on great tours for people who really like to ride lots of miles in beautiful country. Off the bike activities are limited and the tour routine is ride, eat, rest, repeat. Cycling nirvana.
Trip highlights included transiting from the Willamette Valley through the Cascades to central Oregon on some of the most amazing little roads I’ve ever come across in the U.S. These are paved roads that were built for logging trucks, but now they are almost completely deserted and they make for great cycling. We rode up the Mackenzie Highway (very few cars) and over the barren lava fields of Mackenzie Pass. We climbed Mount Bachelor outside of Bend, and circumnavigated the rim of Crater Lake. And then back through the Cascades via another nearly deserted 40 miles of road that featured a 20-mile climb. That sounds intimidating, but the first 15 miles were a 1-2% false flat. Things got steeper over the last 5 miles, and I was really glad to reach the last summit of the week.
The ride around Crater Lake is really a special one. It isn’t flat; 35 miles and 4,200 feet of ascent. G Man and I mostly rode together going easy and admiring the unequaled views. And freezing; the day was cool bordering on cold, and windy, with intermittent clouds but fortunately no rain. Someone told me afterwards that it was 38 degrees when we started at 8:30 am. Quite a contrast to the day before when we did the last 30 miles into a headwind with temperatures in the mid 90′s. I was dousing my skull with water to try to cool off, and the next day wondering if the fluid in my water bottle was going to freeze.
The trip was not without a mechanical misadventure. The cage of my front derailleur broke after 15 miles on the second day of riding. After 15 years of throwing the chain back and forth I suppose it simply got tired and decided to call it a career. The bike could still be ridden, but I could not shift between the two front chain rings, which meant I had a limited choice of gearing. I opted for climbing gears, which left me literally spinning my wheels on a couple of descents. Coming down Mackenzie Pass the road is a gentle downhill with few turns, perfect for churning a big gear at 25-30 mph, but I was spun out at around 19 mph and had to settle for coasting and getting passed. Fortunately Bend has plenty of bike shops and after a couple of phone calls I found the part I needed and a shop willing and able to do the repair right away. I didn’t miss a single mile.
So another trip with Cycling Escapes is in the books. It is my 12th trip with them, so you might get the idea I’m a satisfied customer. And it won’t be my last trip with them either. There is a climbing camp in the Santa Monica Mountains next January that I’m planning to do. And then a new tour in Idaho next August looks exciting. So many great roads to ride, so little time….