TABR15- Day 2- Coburg to Ochoco Pass

My alarm went off and somehow I quickly shut it down. I almost seemed to spring up. Sleep had seemed to elude me somewhat, but then again, I felt like I had rested some. It was 5AM and I had laid down for a rather uncomfortable, shall we say “nap”, about 12:30AM after having ridden 233 miles. That is NOT a recipe for a good morning, but it was. I was racing the Trans AM!

Scott didn’t seem to rouse as easily, but he was putting on a good face. 4.5 hours wasn’t enough for either of us, but that is all part of the gig. Time to get moving!

I packed my things back in my bags, brushed my teeth and took a leak- not all at the same time, but all while eating some of the food that I picked up in Harrisburg the night before. The night before, knowing there wouldn’t be anywhere to resupply or eat breakfast on route for at least 20 miles, I stocked up on provisions and prepared for the next morning. Sometimes plans work!

Quickly we were on the road. I rolled on ahead and flossed as I rode. Gotta love those little flosser picks. The more you can do while moving, the better off you are.

The first potential resupply wasn’t open so we rolled on to a gas station another 10 miles or so down the road. Along the way, Odd caught up and the three of us had our gas station breakfast together. After eating, hitting the can, buying supplies and filling bottles, we were off again, headed toward McKenzie Pass. Along the way, I lost Scott and Odd. I spent quite a bit of time cruising along and enjoying the scenery.

The stretch of highway from Eugene to McKenzie bridge, although busy at times, is beautiful. As you ride along the McKenzie River, the lush greenery of Oregon pulls you in like a tractor beam. I absolutely love this area. Truly amazing beauty. Then it gets better as you turn onto the old McKenzie Highway in route to the pass. Huge trees line both sides of the road. Ferns and moss cover the ground. It is wonderful.

Right before I made the turn on the old highway, I saw someone up ahead. Obviously a racer (you can tell by the bags), I intended to catch up, but I didn’t want to expend too much energy- you only have so many matches to burn. Come to find out, it was Joseph Boquiren. As I gained slowly on him, I tried to just keep my cool. The last thing you want to do is burn yourself up trying to catch someone, only to have them re-pass you! Fortunately, I had a stroke of luck. Joseph turned off at Paradise Campground and I rode on by, hoping that I had made a move on someone.

Later on, after turning onto the old highway and starting the climb to the pass, things started heating up. Like I mentioned in my last post, the region was having record heat and I was getting it at a bad time. The climb to McKenzie Pass is a serious one- 20.8 miles and 3638′ of elevation gain with a climb rating of HC. If you don’t know what that is, go look it up or just take my word for it. It ain’t easy! Add in a bit of swelter and it gets pretty doggone hard.

About half way up, I had the unthinkable happen. I ran out of water. Over 50 miles had lapsed since I last filled my two water bottles and they were now empty. To make matters worse, I had been trying to stretch it out, so along the way I was cooking and denying myself the drink in an effort to make it last. Bad move. I slowed to a crawl and many stops ensued. Sometimes I walked.

Soon I heard the voice of Joseph behind me. He had stopped at the campground to fill bottles. Smart move! Passing him and not stopping? Dumb move! We chatted for just a moment as he passed, both of us creeping up the hill, but soon he went on and I wouldn’t see him again.

Not far after that, Gavaskar caught me. Hailing from Florida, he made the comment that his biggest hill to train on back in Ft Lauderdale was a whopping 150′ in height- a bridge over the bay! The climbing was a challenge for him, but this Army Ranger knows how to take a challenge on. Much in the same way as Joseph, Gavaskar and I chatted as we climbed and then he was gone. Not for long though.

Eventually I reached the summit and the Dee Wright Observatory where Gavaskar was stopped. With no where to get water and scorching temps, I saw no reason to stop. I have been there twice before anyway. All I had to do was descend to Sisters and I could get drink.

The descent was terrible. I was dehydrated and my thick blood was slowing my brain function and making me tired. I was having a hard time concentrating on the task at hand- steering the bike- and afraid I would fall asleep on the bike. I kept hollering out loud and slapping myself in the face trying to wake up. After about 5 miles of descending, I rounded a corner and found an aide station for a local ride that was taking place. I spoke with the guy manning in and he let me fill a bottle. Such a relief! It didn’t fix all my issues, but it helped immensely.

On down I went, making it to Sisters. It was very warm out and I needed to find a place to hole up. First thing on the right when I got to town was a gas station. I parked the bike outside and went in to grab cold drinks and food. Cold water, a 32 oz Power Aide, chocolate milk and a Mt Dew fixed me up. There was also a small made-to-order counter that offered Mexican cuisine. I ordered a burrito and received a delectable tortilla-wrapped wonder as big as my head. It was fantastic!

While I ate and drank, Gavaskar rolled in and then Scott and Andi Buchs. We all ate and rehydrated and discussed the plan for the afternoon. It was hot. Really hot. I made the determination that I would go to a city park down the road bit and pitch my hammock to sleep some of the heat away, then ride into the night. Gavaskar decided to ride on and the other two guys said they would go to the park for awhile with me. I went on to the park, rinsed off in a creek, strung up my hammock and tried to nap. I didn’t sleep much- it was just too hot.

After maybe an hour, I started putting everything away and getting ready to go. Scott and Andi were there. Scott said he was going to ride on ahead. Andi planned to stay and wait the heat out more. Shortly, I was rolling down the road, chasing after Scott.

In the next town, Redmond, I caught up to Scott and we headed for a gas station to resupply again. We ate, filled up on fluids and had a cup of iced coffee to perk us up. While we fueled, Andi rode by and didn’t stop.

Once we were back on the road, the sun started to get low in the sky and temps cooled. The ride to Prineville was actually very nice. A big contrast to the afternoon. Scott and I rode beside each other for awhile, chatting it up. We were really hitting it off and found that in many ways we had things in common.

We reached Prineville about 10:30pm and went to one of the few places that was open- McDonald’s. I ordered what turned into my usual for the race at the golden arches: 2 McChickens, a McDouble, dollar fries, a large Coke and an apple pie. Scott reluctantly ordered some food (he doesn’t really like McDonalds and usually eats pretty healthy, I think) and we sat, ate and recharged our phones.

As we were finishing up and getting ready to leave, Bradford Smith and Justin Chadwick came in to eat. we chatted them up a bit and started to head out. Before we could get away, Johnny Williams rolled up in his velomobile. Another chat ensued, but Scott and I cut it short and headed off into the night.

Before leaving town, we stopped by a gas station to make sure we had supplies for the next stretch, about 45 miles to Mitchell. We planned to find somewhere to camp along the road somewhere and roll into Mitchell for breakfast in the morning, but we would want something to eat first thing. The usual fare of Paydays, Snickers and beef jerky was on the menu. I also was taking a liking to Lays chips. Scott had suggested them and explained that he used them a lot on the divide. Carbs, salts and easy to pack. Just open the top of the bag, crunch everything down to a small ball crushing the chips and re-fold the top down. After this modification, they fit perfectly in a cycling jersey pocket. To eat them, you just pour them into your mouth.  Thumbs up to that one!

We rolled down the road and headed out of town, slowly climbing along the way. It is a climb from Prineville to the summit at Ochoco Pass. We didn’t have a plan of how far to go, but thought we would just see what we could do. Right away, I started getting a bit nervous. We were in bear country and it was dark which meant I couldn’t see. Bears are a fear of mine and I was feeling it. My light setup is a B&M dynamo light on the front of the bike that lights the road well and a small battery operated headlamp modified to attach to my helmet that affords me the ability to read my maps and do a little scanning of ditches for wildlife. The headlamp doesn’t light things up real well, but enough that I can see eyes in the woods.

As we climbed, I was out in front of Scott a bit and saw a pair of eyes within 10 yards of the road in the brush. I was immediately freaked! I was talking out loud and trying to look for signs of movement, but I lost visual and quite frankly was scared to death. The last thing I wanted to do was be running from a bear on my bike, uphill, in the dark! The worst part was Scott was behind me. Do I wait for him? How do I warn him? What do I do?

I could see his light approaching so I slowed and waited up a bit, but still moved forward slowly. When he caught up, I explained what I saw and he was very confident that it was a deer. I hadn’t even thought of that. Then I just felt dumb. I still wasn’t going to get too far ahead in the dark though! Scott explained to me that on the divide, you would see guy’s dots separated during the day, then groups would form in the night as it came time to camp. There is protection in numbers!

We rode on together and it got late. Sleep was calling and neither of us had the strength to fight it off. A little after 1AM, but before we got to the pass, we decided to stop along the road near a National Forrest sign designating the Ococho National Forrest (I think). Scott set out his bivy and I strung up my hammock.

As we both settled into our accommodations for some rest, I realized I was exhausted. Just very tired. I was a bit nervous as it was the first time I would be camping in bear country, but after 160 miles and lots of heat, sleep would not elude me. I closed my eyes and TABR15 day 2 was done.