Arrived home last night after another week in that different world of Cycle Oregon. This year it was in the southeast corner of the state, starting in John Day, spending a night in Burns, then two nights and the rest day (which turned out to be a true rest as the optional ride was blocked by a cattle drive!) in Diamond, Crane, Seneca and home. This was familiar ground do many as it was done a few years ago and so, passed up. Also it was the probably the second flattest ad easiest CO in its 26 year history.
But what great riding! Great roads, about half with basically zero traffic. Wonderful country; different slices of the great American west, some with water, some without. Clean, clean air, like nothing I have ever experienced before. So few people that we saw the same the local volunteers, especially the kids who served up breakfast and handled out bags at several different stops. (The "town" of Diamond, our layover location, had a population of 5. Most of the volunteers came from Crane, population 75.) A young woman carried my bag and I by ATV to my campsite in Diamond. She said she played basketball, volleyball and, dropping her voice, track. I asked her about track and she lit up. I learned days later from the football coach that this quiet sophomore' family owned the ranch we stayed on and the she was this great kid willing to roll up her sleeves and work hard, that she was good in track and would be a find for some lucky man.
The riding; a lot of flat, some very straight roads that went on for miles, especially on day two. Days one and two opened up with long climbs that went on for miles climbing 3000 and 2000 feet but were not steep. Day three was flat. HTe rest day had as promised mile and a half of 9% but the cattle prevented that. Five was flat again and only forty miles unless yhou added the 45 mile option. Day six had 4000 feet. Day seven had a 900 foot climb with some 7% grades, then a 2500 foot descent to die for.
I knew I was not in very good form gong in so I paced myself on the first two day's climbs. Day 3, the miles of flat, I rode a medium pace until I got behind two tandems, then a bunch of miles flew by! The short rest day option I tried to close a minute on a paceline, did not suceed but got my upper zone work in. By day 5, my motor was working pretty well, ene with headwinds. The option was basically a square 11 miles on a side. Downwind, cross, upwind, cross. I rode alone until a passed a strong rider my age at the beginnig of the upwind leg who got on my wheel. I was stronge; he kept taking pulls that were too long. I kept telling him to take shorter pulls. We stopped at the next corner and I explained to him the concept that in a paceline, the speed is to be considered sacred; that anyone is welcome as long as the do nothing to disrupt that speed and that each rider should pull off the lead before they have slowed or tired. I think he got it and will be a little wiser and and an asset to the line next time.
Day 6 had some real climbing including the steepest yet. First hill was three miles upwind on a highway. I was going OK but got passed by a woman. Took her wheel and with no shame, followed her to the top. It was great, She had a motor and spent 3/4s of the time out of the saddle. At the top/rest stop we chatted. I thanked her for the wheel and commented she had good form, She was happy to hear that, was impressed I stayed with her and told me she had been riding 6 years and had a recent hip replacement! Wow! I told her that I love seeing women who could out climb me. On the second hill, the hardest yet, I paced myself and stayed well out of redline.
Day 7 had the one hill, only 900 feet but some 7.5% Two and one half miles, a slight drop, then an easier mile. I did the first at redline, full deep breathing and in the perfect gear (28 x 19. 18. 17). Fun! A whoop for joy at the top! The next mile, I couldn't get my heartrate as high, but that was OK. Then the descent. 10 miles of 5% average. Mix of straights and winding. In and out of trees. Some great views with he scenery changing a lot. No traffic at all. Good pavement all the way. Bike was perfect. Wheels were perfect. Rubber was perfect. So much fun my cheeks were getting tired!
Then 20 miles of near flat back to the starting point. Beautiful, kinda sad, the end to a magic week. I was gong to hang around until the 4:00 bus back to Portland, but they had space on the 2:00 so I took it, got a second row aisle seat with a great view forward next to a woman who had no interest in conversation. A friend met me at the Portland airport Sheraton and it was back to the real world. It started raining hard as I was typing this.