Friday, June 27, 2008

OBM1200 Ride Report

Bronze sculptures in Joseph Oregon

Ready to Ride:

We were ready enough to start the OBM1200km ISEP on Friday June 20, 2008, and by the time the ride was over six days later, we had ridden our bikes 1237 kilometers or 769 miles, climbed 45,000 feet or 13,655 meters, spent 76 hours in the saddle pushing the pedals, took 650 pictures and 49 videos, encountered three surly waitresses, had 0 flat tires, found three waitresses we could tease, drank nearly $84.00 worth of Hammer Perpetuem, got four good-n-sore legs, pondered what happened to the Six Easy Pieces thing exactly 6 times, and had an excellent meal with good beer at the Full Sail Brewery after we finished the last 200km stage in Hood River.

This is a great route! The 200 kilometer daily distance and the 9,000 to 10,000 feet of climbing on each of the first four days makes this a challenging series. The roads from Wasco east to Halfway and back are very quiet and with beautiful scenery. We were lucky to have great weather with temperatures in the 70's. Even though the last two days had less than 13,000 feet of climbing, the days were still challenging due to warmer temperatures in the canyons and intense or steep hill climbing. We had a good sense of accomplishment when we reached Hood River on the last day.

Rock Creek Grade

Day One Bingen to Heppner:

"The first day is the hardest day don't you worry anymore. Because when life seems like easy street there is danger at your door."

The first 38 miles were easy and then the hills started. By the time we got to Condon at about 140 kilometers, we were looking for a place to sit down and get some really large cold drinks. We purchased cold drinks from the the soda fountain and took a seat at a table outside next to several older ladies who were engaged in a marathon story telling session. Eventually, their curiosity turned to us, the crusty old guys in colorful spandex. They asked which direction we were headed. There are only three directions you can go from Condon. Rick told them we were going to Heppner and so then they looked real worried, and asked if we knew there were hills. Then the talkative one put her hand to her forehead and exclaimed, "And there's Rock Creek Grade!" We thought that was pretty funny. Silly hills in funny little Oregon. Bah, are we not serious randonneurs?

About half way to Heppner, Rick had to turn around and check on the Kramer and see what was taking him so long. The Kramer had the worst leg cramps ever and was pushing his bike and walking silly with one cramped foot twisted sideways striking the opposite leg in the ankle with every step. As the day cooled down, the Kramer was able to ride or roll on his bike more than push and with luck, the heroes of this story made it to Heppner in just over 13 hours. We ate dinner at the bowling alley in Heppner and went back to the apartment in Heppner to clean up and get some sleep. It was a tough day, gladly and luckily concluded.

Twenty Mile Headwind Hill

Day Two Heppner to Elgin:

The ride from Heppner to Pilot Rock was excellent featuring a quiet rural road with happy, singing birds, hungry horses and cattle, green hay fields and some really fine cycling hills to climb and descend.

From Pilot Rock to Westin, the route is pretty flat. The OR-11 highway was a good road with a little more traffic. We met Erik Ahlvin's Mid Valley Bike Club ride group as we pulled into Westin for lunch. Eric had not yet joined the group that numbered about 20 riders, some fully loaded, camping at the city park. We ate lunch at a nice little restaurant in Westin.

Our afternoon consisted of a 20 mile hill climb to Tollgate on OR-204 with strong headwinds and a grade that at first, appeared like it would kill us. The grade moderated after 5 miles but the winds continued to blow. The sky was dark and the pavement was wet indicating we were barely missing the showers and thunderstorms scattered across the mountains ahead of us. The descent from the summit near Tollgate was a great ride and it took us all the way into Elgin. The Stampede Inn in Elgin is a very small hotel and there are only a couple small cafes to eat. We made it to the best of them just as they were about to close.

Hells Canyon Overlook

Day Three Elgin to Halfway:

Rick and Barbara were not able to get a room in Elgin so they stayed in LaGrand, about 30 minutes away. We got started a bit earlier on day three hoping to arrive in Halfway before the cafes and store closed. The entire day was beautiful with many things to look at including the Wallowa River and Mountains. We had a chance meeting with Dave and Dani Rowe in Wallowa. We didn't stop and talk very long because we were hungry and could only think about finding a good place to eat just five miles down the road in Joseph. Dani recommended a small cafe/pub with the Cycle Oregon symbol in front and that became our mission. Find the Cycle Oregon symbol and eat!

We met Barbara in Joseph and enjoyed a good lunch at the cafe with the Cycle Oregon symbol. We left Joseph the wrong way and rode two miles before the Kramer called for a GPS check. We used Rick's Garmen 705 gps to confirm that we missed our turn in Joseph so we tracked back to the turn onto Imaha Highway. The rest of the day was up or down. The down parts were really good and the up parts had nice scenery with forests and mountains to look at while the legs screamed and the lungs heaved.

The road to the Hells Canyon Overlook has nice pavement and some nice steep sections to climb. We made it to the overlook and stopped for a brief look before moving on. It was late afternoon and temperatures were beginning to fall as the sun was sinking low over the horizon. The overlook provided a great view and a fast decent back to Forest Road 39.

Forest Road 39 continues to climb after the overlook turn for another mile and then it has a great 19 mile downhill to OR-86. After turning onto OR-86 there are still 10 miles of excellent cycling to Halfway. The ride to Halfway was beautiful in the early evening and there was almost no traffic. The valley and farms were very green and the mountains had a little bit of a glow as the setting sun illuminated the remaining snow fields on the mountains. We made it into Halfway in pretty good shape but found the food sources closed. We relied on groceries for sandwiches that Barbara purchased in Wallowa. Barbara saved us with Coca Cola and Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars. Please help the honey bees, eat Häagen-Dazs ice cream!

Last Pass on OR-7

Day Four Halfway to John Day:

We left Halfway without much to eat and were greated almost immediately with a nice long hill to climb. We climbed for most of the day. The route was mostly all up hill from the little town of Richland, through Baker City to Sumpter. We followed the Powder River for much of the uphill so the grade was not very steep except for the three passes before Prairie City.

There was a little store at the Austin junction with US-26 and we stopped for water and blackberry cobbler. Traffic on US-26 was very lite and the road was in great shape. The descent took us all the way to Prairie City. The 15 miles from Prairie City to John Day is pretty flat although the route is heading west directly into the prevailing west winds.

There are a number of motels in John Day. The Little Pine Motel is the first one and that is where we stayed. There was a good cafe three blocks further downtown where we ate dinner and breakfast.

Last Climb to Condon

Day Five John Day to Condon:

The route goes to Canyon City and back before turning west on US-26. Traffic is heavier on US-26 until the US-395 junction where the traffic thins out again. The highway department had just finished pea coating the road most of the way from US-395 to OR-19. The little village of Dayville had three open businesses, a mercantile, a mini mart and a tavern. We stopped at the mini mart and met Chuck and Marvin, the last two survivors of the Big Ride 2008.

There is a new interpretive center, Thomas Condon Paleontology Center for the John Day Fossil Beds on OR-19 four miles north of US-26. There are restrooms and water and a cool interpretive center to escape the heat. The interpretive center has a gate on the road and it is possible they lock the gate after hours. The ride on OR-19 is excellent. The rocks and mountains provide great scenery and the traffic was very lite.

We eventually made our way to Spray were we took a break in the store next to the motel where there is a tiny cafe in the back. Spray has another store on the left just as you enter town. We went to the store next to the motel. It looked like the only place to eat in Spray. We were ready to stop and take a break so we decided to try the cafe. I whispered to Rick not to tease the waitress/cook/store keeper. I was afraid we would get bounced and/or beaten. From Spray there are only about 12 more miles following the John Day River and then the first of the hills begins at Service Creek. There is a small cafe and rest stop at the Service Creek junction. There are three major hills on the way to Condon. The first hill is 10 miles long.

Mt. Hood Bound

Day Six Condon to Hood River

The motel in Condon was serviceable. My room was clean and had an air conditioner. The Television looked like it had a good selection of channels but I didn't watch any TV because I fell asleep immediately. The Cafe downtown provided us a good dinner and breakfast.

The windmills were turning in the morning indicating a west wind. The ride was pretty easy to Wasco. A local rider passed us in a blur. He was out on a morning ride from Condon, across the John Day River, up the other side and back to Condon. That's a really good training ride! The John Day River valley provides a good hill climb on either side. You can't go wrong.

We had head wind from Wasco to Hood River but we were lucky the wind wasn't real strong. We stopped for water at Biggs and decided to ride to The Dalles for lunch at New York Subs. It is a short 10 miles to The Dalles on I-84 from Celillo. It is best to turn off the freeway at the first Dalles exit, US-97. The freeway shoulder has a lot of junk as it passes through The Dalles. The Oregon road crew must have something against cleaning the freeway shoulders in the city limits. The New York Sub Shop is in downtown The Dalles and it serves real good hot subs real fast. There were soft leather chairs and a couch so that is where we perched to enjoy our lunch.

The route to Hood River took us on the old scenic highway. You can find a ride report for the Gorge Ride 2008 here. At the end of the Historic Tunnels trail, we found some good-n-steep hills to climb leading us through pear and cherry orchards. The OR-35 road to the little village of Mt. Hood was very rough. The asphalt is only several years old and for some reason the asphalt surface has eroded leaving the surface extremely rough. We both had 32cm tires, Rick was riding Grand Bois tires and I was riding Pascela TourGuards. The Grand Bois tires are a great tire for this series! The roads were mostly in great shape. The 8 miles on OR-35 was the worst road on the entire route.

We stopped for ice cream and fresh fruit smoothies when we got to Parkdale. It was a great feeling knowing we were close to the end and the last 20 miles would be very easy. We set out to finish the day following the Hood River north. There was only one small hill to deal with otherwise the route was trending downhill. After our last control we went to the Full Sail Brewery where we met Barbara and Cindy and proceeded to de-gear and call it a ride. On our way to the brewery we noticed another brewery downtown called Double Mountain. It was jammed with young people and looked like a good place to stop.

We had a good dinner at Full Sail. I was very fortunate Rick and Barbara decided to do this tour with me. It was a challenging ride and 100-percent more fun with their help and company.

Oregon Blue Mountains in Five Easy Minutes