TABR16- Day 4

I woke in my hotel room in Baker City a bit dazed and not sure that I wanted to leave the coziness of a bed to go out and ride through the lonely Eastern Oregon desert at night, but I quickly gathered my things and headed out. As I left town, I went by a gas station and supplied up, prepared for a night without services.

As I left the lights of Baker behind and climbed the hill outside of town, I was afforded a fantastic view. I didn’t pause to take it in, but instead glanced over my shoulder a few times and plunged into the desert with intent. I really wanted to have my next sunrise be in Idaho, but there were a few obstacles to deal with to make it happen so I needed to “make hay” as Grandma would’ve said.

As I dropped into the desert, the road came alongside the Powder River. Soon I was in the gorge of sorts that the river flows through. There wasn’t much pedaling to do and I coasted along, enjoying the night. A few times rats would run across the road in front of me. This made me a bit nervous. I wasn’t afraid of the rats, but rather what might happen if I ran one over. Would it send my careening off the road and into the river? Who knows. Twice I saw big owls in the road in front of me, perched upon one of the aforementioned rats that they had caught. It was a little disturbing to suddenly see a 2′ tall bird standing in the road in front of you, mostly because my light system didn’t give me a great amount of time to deal with going around them and they had zero interest in moving. I could kick my head lamp on high and have a better view, but it would only last a few hours in that mode. Better to leave in on low and conserve the battery. That did mean I would need to be careful of the wildlife.

I went miles without seeing a soul or even a car, then suddenly there was a vehicle behind me. I could tell it was a pickup truck and strangely it refused to go around on the winding road. Without a shoulder to get off on, I felt a bit trapped, but continued to ride. They never honked the horn or got too close, just far enough away. I let myself get a bit creeped out by it when they seemed to be staying behind me way too long and refused to pass. After what seemed like a very long way, I came up on a straight stretch of sorts and the truck went around. It was an old beater with a wooden rack across the back of the cab in the bed of the truck. Sticking up from the rack prominently as they went by was a shovel and an axe. My mind immediately went to crazy-axe-murderer thoughts. I carried on in the dark, once again alone with the stars, the river and the rats.

A mile or so farther down the road, I saw the sign for a rest area. I remembered this little spot and had stopped there in both of my previous bike trips on the Trans Am, but both of those had been during the day. This night I didn’t need to stop, but curious of my surroundings, I kicked my light up on high to scan the small parking area, thinking there might just be another racer hunkered down there. No racers were lit by my beam, but there was the axe-murdering-beater pickup, sitting parked, engine off, lights off and in my mind at least, stalking me.

I bolted. Not initially, as I didn’t want to give anyone the thought that I knew I was being chased, but rather slowly built up speed until I was around the next corner and then I laid it all out. I just wanted to get to Richland! Around each corner I watched for headlights behind me and prayed to see some in front of me coming the other way. If I was going to die, I wanted witnesses! I saw neither and soon made my way into Richland. Looking back now, I am sure it was all on the up and up. Nothing for me to worry about, but in that moment I was truly terrified I was being stalked. It is really silly what our minds will conjure up when we let it run away with adrenaline and exhaustion.

Richland was all shut up. I paused outside a cafe that I have eaten at a few times, missing that part of this trip. Sitting down and chatting with folks at little diners across the country is one of the things I absolutely love about bike travel. It just wasn’t to be on this trip.

I left town and began the long slog of a climb up the unnamed pass Northeast of town. The pass was long, but the worst part was the descent. As I came off the pass, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was shouting, slapping my face and doing everything I could to stay awake. It scared the crap out of me. Once at the bottom of the pass, I saw the turn for the little town of Halfway in the pre-dawn light. There is a large wooden sign denoting the turn with a planter around the bottom. I decided to go behind the planter and roll out my bivy for a nap.

I slept 2 hours and was awoken just before dawn by a very strange sound. A thrumming sort of noise, at first I thought it was a cow mooing and that I was getting checked out by some bovine escaped from it’s fence. I realized as I woke that it was a bird, but had no idea what it was. Over and over I heard this strange mooing sound, just over my head. Having since researched it, I now know it was a common night hawk. Check out the video below to hear what I heard.

Back up and on the road, I made fairly quick work of the remainder of Oregon, cruising into Hell’s Canyon and across the Brownlee dam into Idaho. One state down!

I made the significant climb out of the canyon without much ado and rolled into Cambridge for a resupply, then it was on to Council. The slog up to New Meadows wasn’t any fun, especially with some rude drivers and a bit of traffic, but I tried to take it in stride as I was looking forward to the big drop in elevation that was ahead of me from New Meadows down to White Bird.

I ate Subway in New Meadows, grabbed supplies at the gas station across the street and headed out of town. Immediately there was fresh oil and chip-n-seal so new it had not set up yet. My 25mm tires couldn’t navigate it well at all, so I rode along a small bit at the edge of the shoulder that wasn’t covered with the goo and rocks. It was maybe 2″ wide. I was really bumming as it seemed that I would be in for a long haul of road construction. Not far ahead was a road crew stop sign and I was told I couldn’t ride the next few miles. I would have to ride in the pilot car. I’ll admit being torn as I wanted to make the trip within the race rules and under my own power, but was told by the crew that no riders were being allowed to ride through and the others in front of me had ridden in the pilot car as well. I took the ride and as we zipped along for about 3 miles, I found myself thankful I didn’t have to ride the chip-n-seal!

The road from New Meadows to White Bird follows the Little Salmon River and descends some 2500′ along the way. It is beautiful and hot. I stopped in Riggins for drinks and a snack at the same general store where I had sat at the year before with Scott McConnell and Andi Buchs. Great memories flooded in and I missed the camaraderie of other riders around me. I didn’t stay too long and headed back out into the evening heat, headed for White Bird.

When I arrived at the small spot in the road know as the town of White Bird, I was disappointed to see that the GPX file I had downloaded from the TABR website showed that I was supposed to climb the “new” pass, a boring, traffic-heavy grade with multiple lanes. It is the main highway through the area. I knew that the real Trans Am route went up White Bird Hill via a beautiful switchbacked road that was much longer, but a much better way to go on a bike. In the twilight I saw the lights of a couple other racers up ahead on the correct route, so I made the executive decision to do what I knew was right and ignore the GPS. The climb was fantastic and I was grateful to be there after dark so it was cooler. The only thing that would have been better would be to climb it at daybreak. It was a beautiful night.

Once over the pass, I rolled quickly to Grangeville, grabbed food at the 24 hour gas station and went across the street to the Super 8 for a room. It had been a long nearly 24 hours on the bike. Riding through the night, I had made 245 miles despite my nap in the morning and felt really good about my progress, but I was beat. I showered, ate while I washed my clothes and then slept hard.

TABR16- Day 3

When I went to sleep in Redmond, I was in 9th. I slept 4 hours which translates to 5 hours down between renting the room, showering, dressing, packing and grabbing supplies on the way out of town. While I snoozed the heat away 9 people passed me, putting me in 18th. However, I was a “math” genius and would make up all kinds of time while they all slept through the cool night. “I’ve got this!” *Insert ominous sound effect alluding to the obvious*

I left Redmond about 7:00PM and headed off toward Prineville. It was still smoking hot out, but the sun was low in the sky and soon it would cool down. I was looking forward to that! In Prineville, I stopped by McDonald’s and ordered double: food for my meal then and extra for the night ahead. I scarfed down my meal, then stopped by a convenience store before leaving town to load up on bottled drinks in my jersey pockets. The road ahead would have few-to-zero services through the night.

The sun was setting as I left Prineville and I was excited to see how the night would unfold and how much I could make up on the other racers. I climbed up and over Ochoco Pass and was finding comfort in the night. With almost no traffic I was alone and OK with it. It was just me, my bike and the small beam that shone ahead of me from my lights. That lack of scenery to watch became mind numbing as the witching hour approached. As I came off the pass and down into Mitchell, I was getting tired, especially so on the descents. With nothing more to do than hold on as I went down the hills, my body was craving sleep.

Mitchell is just a spot in the road and is completely closed overnight. Much to my surprise there was a church-turned-bike hostel in town that had a sign out front beaconing cyclists to stay. They also had a cooler filled with water to refill bottles. I had prepared for the stretch of no services through the night and did not need the water, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I leaned my bike up against a low wall along the walkway out front and laid down on the ground next to it for a short nap. I had my alarm set for 15 or 20 minutes and got up with a start when it went off. Slightly relieved of my drowsiness, I hit the road again.

I rode on through the night, alone and sleepy, but making headway. As the sun started to brighten the horizon, I came into the little burg of Dayville. The mercantile was still closed at the early hour, so I went on ahead and stopped at the city park where there was a rest area with running water. I went in and freshened up, then came out and decided to take a short nap. Riding through the night was hard for me and the morning sun in my eyes was once again making me sleepy. I went down the hill behind the rest area and rolled my bivy out in the grass. I crawled in and set my alarm for an hour.

My nap was short, but seemed to do the trick. I climbed back on the bike and headed out of town. It was about 6:00AM and I was starting to get pretty hungry, having ran through my stores of food overnight. I made the 33 miles to John Day pretty quickly and went in to a diner for some breakfast. As I sat eating, I checked in on the race to find that my “math” had not worked out as well as I hoped. My original plan had been to make John Day by the evening before. Having stopped to sleep in Waterville, Redmond, Mitchell and Dayville, I was now about 12 hours off schedule. My choice to ride through the night had made up a bit of time, finding myself in 11th, but while I ate, two riders passed and two more were coming in fast. I made quick work of my meal and hit the road, anxious to keep moving and get back to some semblance of my plan. I would never be able to make up for the lost time, but I didn’t want to just throw the baby out with the bathwater and ditch the whole works.

I left John Day about 9:00 and began the long, 90-ish mile stretch to Baker City. There are few services and plenty of climbing, crossing over three passes along the way. Add in the regional heat wave and the fact that it was Day 3, there were parts of the day that were just a slog. I carried plenty of food and fluids, refilled when I could and kept moving mostly. The last 20 miles or so before Baker offered up a significant headwind to boot. I rolled into Baker City about 4:00PM, a bit scorched, tired, hungry and thirsty.

Having not learned my lesson completely from the night before, I made the decision to get a room in Baker and avoid the desert that lay ahead during the heat of the day. I figured I would be better served sleeping the afternoon/evening away and then riding through Hell’s Canyon at night, saving me from the heat and making up more “math” on the competition. I was back in the top ten and wasn’t too far removed from my plan, having put in about 230 miles. I grabbed a meal at the restaurant next to the hotel and set my alarm to get 5 hours sleep. This was opposed to my plan of 4 hours per day, but I thought that just a bit extra might save me from having to stop and take the naps along the way. I cranked the air conditioning up and slept hard.

TABR16- Day 2

Day 1 was a win because I made 250 miles in 17.5 hours, but it was a bit of a loss in my mind due to a 2 hour nap that had to happen in order to stay awake. To make matters worse, I was so amped up when I laid down, worrying about who might pass, that I had a hard time sleeping. I did get some rest and was back up at 4:30AM, ready to make up for some lost time.

The gentle grade toward McKenzie Bridge was a nice way to warm back up. One positive from my nap- it bought me enough time so that a convenience store was open along the way. I had planned to grab water at the Ranger Station and cruise on through at night. The store was better. I refilled bottles, grabbed some grub and carried on. I knew when I made the turn toward McKenzie Pass what I had in store, so I settled in for the climb. It was nice to climb the pass with it not being so hot as it was in 2015 when I climbed it in the afternoon.

I made it over the pass and on to Sisters for another resupply stop. There is a great little Mexican grill in a gas station there where I have stopped every time I have been through that town. I grabbed more food than I could eat and ate what I could outside while talking to a couple other racers. The temps were really starting to heat up now that we had crossed over the Cascade Range and I needed to cool off. I went in the gas station bathroom (think 1950’s around the side of the building bathroom), stripped down and rinsed my kit out in the sink. Putting on the wet kit in the high dessert climate made me cool REALLY fast! I gathered my things, feeling some respite from the heat, and headed down the road.

The road from Sisters to Redmond was nasty hot and I did not have the tail wind I have had through that area before. By the time I reached Redmond, I was scorched and dried out. My plan had been to make Prineville before stopping again, but I was just too hot. I needed to get cooled off. I found a McDonald’s when I came into town and went in to get some drinks and cool down.

Temps were in the upper 90’s to low 100’s, it was 2:00 in the afternoon and I knew that the heat wasn’t going to let up for hours and hours. I did some “math”.

Side note: Doing “math” during a race is a bad idea. You will always THINK its a GREAT idea, but it isn’t. What I’m talking about here is looking at Trackleaders, checking where you are compared to everyone else (This is a REALLY bad idea) and making assumptions on what the people in front or behind you will “surely have to do because of ______”. (Insert headwind, rain, heat, lack of services, whatever in that blank.) Basically what is happening here is you are having some adversity and you are trying to find a way out of it or to reduce it. You THINK that the others around you will have to slow down, sleep, eat, etc, but the reality is they won’t. This “math” you are doing is a head game with yourself that will end in you doing exactly what you think the others will have to do and you will end up way behind.

After my “math”, I came to the realization that it was super hot and it would cool down later after the sun went down. I was at that time in 9th overall, so the folks in front of me, for the most part, had ridden through the night and would need sleep that evening. If I grabbed a hotel room in Redmond, slept through the heat, then rode through the night, I would make up for some lost time from the night before and make up for any ground that the crazy people out in front of me would make while I slept. I sleep while they ride in heat, then they sleep while I ride in cool. Genius!!!

So that is what I did. I grabbed a hotel room in Redmond with the plan that I would sleep 4 hours and roll out a little before dark. The shower was nice and the air conditioning was nicer. I was cool and slept well in a very dark hotel room. Bad news was that I was now really off my plan and I had only made about 100 miles on the day since my sleep in the post office at Walterville. I hoped to make up the difference riding through the night ahead. Surely the others would have to stop, right???

TABR16- Day 1

I must admit, that I write this account somewhat reluctantly. Overall, I feel like I am done with Trans Am Bike Race (TABR) for now and I would rather leave it “there”, but I have a part of me that feels obligated to write it down. If anything, so I can go back at a later date and try to convince myself not to do it again, but that thought should probably reside at the end of this account instead of here. I’ll get to that later. For now, lets just look at what happened. I’ll spare you too much introduction and explanation of my history with this route/race. If you want that you can read my previous accounts.

I came into the race this year better prepared and armed with my experience from DNF’ing last year. Of my goals I set for preparedness, I had accomplished most of them. I hadn’t done all the speed work that I wanted to and I was heavier (my body) than I wanted to be, but my overall kit was pared down and much lighter than before. I was also very familiar with said kit and had gotten out numerous times over the winter and spring to use it. I had researched things to absolute death and felt that I had the best setup I could amass without spending more than I was comfortable with. I had put in plenty of miles and had the success at Trans Iowa in April (a 340 mile gravel race) under my belt. I had a specific plan to ride roughly 250 miles a day and felt that I was capable of meeting it. I had done plenty of reading, meditating and affirmation exercises to mentally prepare. In short, there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish and finish well.

On June 4th at 8AM, after a few words of wisdom and some photos, 66 riders took off on an epic adventure, some of us in Astoria headed East and a few in Yorktown headed West. I believe there were 57 riders who departed from Astoria, myself being one of them. The same as the year before, it was a pretty chill roll out as we went out of town, crossed the bay and made our way toward Seaside. I remember trying to take it all in, knowing full well that I might never see most of the people I was riding with again. It makes for a very bitter sweet start.

A few miles down the road things started to sort out quickly and I made a point to stay focused on not going too fast. My opinion is that there isn’t a lot of point in getting all worked up on the first day of a 4200 mile race. Just do your own thing and it will work out in the end. In preparation for the race, I had marked out specific stops where I planned to get supplies so as to stay moving and keep the distractions at a minimum. What that meant was that I didn’t go too fast, but maintained momentum. At nearly every convenience store I would see bikes leaned up outside as I rolled through. I made my first planned stop in Garibaldi at 63 miles. I was quick and efficient, having planned what to get.

The rest of the day went much like that, making my planned stops, staying moving and hitting my timeline. In fact, I was quite pleased with myself as the day progressed for having prepared well and sticking mostly to the plan. It was empowering when things got off the rails a bit.

As I left Pacific City, just a bit over 100 miles into the day, an old Datsun pickup went by and threw something at me. Fortunately for me, I had a Gatorade bottle in my middle jersey pocket and whatever they threw hit the bottle, deflecting the blow. Later I would hear about Brian Steele being struck with a water bottle at the base of the neck, giving him a concussion and ending his race on the very first day. Despite being fortunate, I was very annoyed, not only with that driver, but with the level of traffic. The coast is usually busy, but this year it was even more so because of the later start. Being 3 hours later into the day meant we caught the full force of the weekend traffic, where as in 2015, many of us were down the coast and heading inland before things got heated up. Speaking of heat, much like 2015, the region was experiencing higher than normal temps and that added to the things to think about. Being on the west side of the Cascades meant that the first day wasn’t too bad, but it would certainly come into play over days two and three.

Coming over the coast range was easy and eliminating the possible stops was a big plus. I came down into the Willamette Valley and into Monmouth on task and on track. I carried on south and made Corvallis right after dark. My planned stop at the edge of town was closed so I went on into the city keeping an eye open for other options. I knew that the route went a couple blocks to the west of the main drag which meant I would miss most of my options unless I went off route. I didn’t want to do that, thinking that my best plan was to stay as close to the route for resupply as possible, so I went on and hit up a McDonald’s in the city center. They took forever to get me my food and I was a bit frustrated by the time I left. I probably would have just bailed, but I wanted the food for later in the night, knowing I would be going through a long stretch with no night time services. Once out of there, I was looking for a convenience store to grab some other things. Across the street was a gas station, but they didn’t have anything except gas. I got directions from a local and had to ride over a half mile off course to get to the nearest store. I would have been better off going the few blocks off route on my way into town. Oh well. Live and learn!

Back on course and out into the night, headed south down the valley, I was pleased to find John Williams and friends at their racer rest stop. It was great to see a familiar face. I didn’t stay long, just long enough to fill a bottle and hit the restroom, but it was very nice. Thanks John!

Back on the road, I continued south and rolled through Harrisburg and then on to Coburg, which was where I had camped on the first night in 2015. It felt great to get there around 1AM, a similar timeframe as the year before, but this year we started 3 hours later. I felt great and was ready to push on, besting myself from the year before and staying on plan.

Over the next hour and a half, the sleep monster came on and came on hard. My plan had been to push over McKenzie pass through the night and on into Central Oregon the next day before taking a break to sleep. That would put me in great position to stay toward the top of the race. I knew that I could do this having ridden through the night before several times. Unfortunately it seemed to be beyond my control. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Frustrated, I found a post office in Walterville and threw out my bivy for a nap at 2:30AM. I set my alarm for 2 hours and laid down. I had a mixed bag of emotions. I was stoked that everything had went according to plan. I was 250 miles in on my first day and I was in good position, right then, but I knew that people would pass me while I slept and this two hour nap wasn’t in the plan. Tomorrow would be another day and my first day off script. How would things go? Only time would tell.

TABR15- Day 4- Sumpter Pass in OR to Cambridge, ID

Lying in my hammock at 5AM near the top of Sumpter Pass with the dawn sun gleaming through the pines, some 30 miles to the west of Baker City, OR, I awoke to the sound of my alarm, opened my eyes and noticed several things that were contrary to what I thought they should be at that particular point in time:

  • Despite the quite high temperatures we had experienced in the previous 3 days, I was chilly! In the dry of the high desert, temps had dropped quite a bit overnight. I’m not sure what the temp was, but my guess was in the 40’s. Much cooler than the upper 90’s we had the day before.
  • Despite the fear I had of bears, the bear-y feeling I had when I went to sleep just 5 hours before and the crap ton of convenience store food in my pockets, I had, in fact, NOT become a bear burrito buffet over night and there was no sign that any sort of mammals had been anywhere near me as I slept. One caveat- I DO NOT suggest sleeping with your pockets full of food in bear country. It worked out this time, but isn’t a smart move.
  • Despite the cold and lack of other mammals around besides myself and Scott, there were actually a lot of other animals, in particular the flying kind. Birds you say? Nope. I could’ve went for some of those. The mosquitos were thick! Thank God I had a bug net around my hammock or I might have ended up a bloodless corpse on top of that beautiful mountain!

As I lay there, I started contemplating how I was going to get out of my hammock, go through my gear to put on my cold weather gear and then get going without loosing too much blood. The mosquitos knew I was there, they just couldn’t seem to find a way to get to me through the bug net. They clung to the outside of the bug net like starving little vampires in wait, knowing that I couldn’t stay in there forever. That meant I could see them and the anticipation was killing all of us. I did a mental check of all I needed to do and where things were or needed to go, then dove out and went straight to work. Scott did the same. Quickly we had our cold gear on, which made the possible biting spots fewer. We then slammed our kits into their respective bags and hit the road.

Unlike the day before, this time we didn’t have any climb at all to get over the pass. If memory serves, I think we were actually right near the top. Without the aid of cycling to heat us up, the early morning descent was a chilly one, but oh so beautiful. The sun was highlighting the browns and blacks of the pine trees and the bright green grass was such a contrast that it was stunning.

Not far along the way, we were cruising along downhill at a good clip. Out of now where, less than 50 yards into the woods to our right, a herd of elk got spooked and started running parallel to the road. 30 or more of the huge beasts handily bounded between the trees, running from what they thought was a threat and giving us a show as they went. Suddenly, we were fortunate enough to see and hear a young calf. When the adults began to run, he had been caught off guard and seemed to have a hard time keeping up with the melee. Bleating loudly for his mother, he chased the herd. As they all ran along, the road curved back to our right and toward the herd, giving us an even longer look at these magnificent animals as they ran. After what seemed like a quarter mile, the herd veered to their right and away from the road. Scott and I marveled at what we had seen. Neither of us had been able to get a photo as we were in the middle of a descent, but the mental pictures were priceless. Yet another early morning treat on the Trans Am!

On down into the valley and alongside Phillips Lake, I realized that nature was knocking and I would not be able to make it to Baker City for our planned breakfast stop. At a turn off for a boat ramp, I spied some facilities and decided to take the opportunity. Although a primitive vault toilet, it was a bit better than digging a hole. While stopped for my business, I got a text from my wife. She had gotten up and according to Trackleaders, I had been sitting still for 8 hours or more. She was concerned that something had happened. I reassured her that I was fine and that my Spot tracker batteries must have died. I proceeded to then change the dead batteries. I hadn’t noticed that the little light on it had stopped blinking.

Back on the road, I decided to “stretch my legs”. I was feeling really good and somewhat rested after a solid 5 hours of sleep. I set out to make up the distance between Scott and I before Baker City. I hit it pretty hard over the next 15 miles or so and caught up to Scott just as I reached the edge of town. It felt good to turn it loose a bit.

In Baker City, we found a great place to have breakfast and ate like kings. Well, kings that hadn’t had a meal in a few days anyway. 🙂 Wait staff always assume you are nuts when you order food, but very rare are the occasions that I haven’t put all of it away.

Before we left town, Scott needed to stop by a bike shop and have some adjustments made to his steed. I took the chance to use a floor pump to check tire pressure and charge my phone. We left there and stopped at a gas station on the way out of town to resupply. Then it was down the road, into the desert proper to the east, headed toward Richland, Halfway and Hells Canyon.

The road from Baker City to Richland is about 45 miles of mostly down hill highway through a striking change of landscape compared to what is just to the west of Baker City. After the miles and miles of pine trees the day before, we were now in scrub land. Not a tree as far as the eye could see and soaring temps. Glad it was downhill! As the road seemed to drop and drop, eventually it began to follow along side a little river bed into what I would define as a canyon, but others may call a big wash. Snaking back and forth along the bank, the descent gave me a chance to watch the landscape and notice that there were some really nasty clouds forming behind us. The warm air in the lower areas ahead was rising rapidly to meet the thunder head behind us and creating a mighty head wind for us. With that, the thunder head was building and looked to be gunning us down, in search of a place to soak us and sling lightening bolts.

Scott and I beat feet hard as we could go! Richland wasn’t far ahead and there was a cheeseburger at some diner calling my name. The chance to get some shelter and eat would be one I would gladly take advantage of. The descent into Richland was a little dicey at one point as we turned sideways to the wind that was now howling. We seemed to roll into town just in time and took the first stop we could find, a little diner on the left.

Once inside, we ordered food, charged phones and talked strategy. We didn’t want to be out in a massive thunder storm and the radar looked rather ominous. As we talked and ate, we saw Andi Buchs roll into town! He came inside and started his tale. We just KNEW that he had been soaked on his way and had a massive headwind. In fact, we were wrong! He had left Baker City right ahead of the storm and the winds had actually pushed him all the way to Richland. He said he had made the 45 miles in 2 hours! I must say, I was a bit jealous!

We soon realized that the big storm just wasn’t going to amount to anything. The lightening and thunder we had heard behind us was all bark and no bite. The storm fizzled and we made the decision to head on toward Halfway. The way there was blocked by a pass, but as grandma would’ve said, that’s only a hill for a stepper. 🙂 Off the three of us went went up the climb and in no time it was behind us.

Down the other side, Scott and I went off route the mile to the town of Halfway to grab more water. Andi rode on to try to track down Gavaskar, who was out ahead.

Back on route, we started down along another wash, this time headed into Hells Canyon and the Snake River. Unfortunately it was afternoon. Something that Thomas Camero had told me came to mind at that moment. If at all possible, go down into a canyon at night or early in the morning as the cooler air falls into the canyon and pushes you in. In the afternoon, the warmer air that has been cooked in the bottom of the canyon all day comes rushing up the washes to get out. We were doing it all wrong, but it just had to be that way. We weren’t going to wait to go down there until after dark, so we just fought the wind. It was rather frustrating to be going down hill and having to pedal nearly hard as you could just to maintain 8mph, but we made it.

At the bottom, just before you get to the river, there is a mercantile. I stopped to eat and fill bottles. I knew from the time that it was that there wouldn’t be another open stop until morning. While I sat, Scott, who had fell behind me, came rolling in. He supplied up as well and we took off together into Hells Canyon.

The ride along the river/reservoir was a pretty one in the light of the sunset and then twilight. Very serene. We got to Brownlee Dam and the Idaho/Oregon border right after dark at around 9PM. We stopped for the obligatory border photos under the light of camera flashes and headed on along the east side of Brownlee Reservoir. About 9:45PM, as the road turned away from the water and up a wash, we began climbing our way out of Hells Canyon.

*Flashback*

When I toured the Trans Am in 2011, I made the climb out of Hells Canyon in the morning. Although I didn’t make much of that climb, you can read about that account here. To fill out the details, I had camped at Brownlee Reservoir State Park the night before. As I climbed up the narrow, two lane, winding road with no shoulder, I distinctly remember being weirded out by the situation. On the left side of the road, there was a bluff wall that went up. On the right side, immediately next to the road was super thick blackberry bushes. The berry bushes blocked from view a noisy mountain stream that tumbled along toward the canyon bottom. All the way up the road, I saw bear scat littered about on the pavement at regular intervals. I never saw a bear, but their, “signs” made me very glad that I wasn’t going up that road in the dark.

Back to 2015, Scott and I were climbing that very same road…at night. Let’s just say I was a little more than skittish! I kept talking, whistling, singing- anything to make noise. The last thing I wanted was to surprise a bruin along his way at night. The climb went on and on. At one point, I was out in front of Scott and I thought he was behind and on my right. I just about had a stroke when I suddenly saw something move and heard something on my left! Just Scott, coming up and around. Jeesh!

We finished the climb and realized that it was really getting chilly. As we crested, we pulled over and added our cold weather gear to our ensembles. Down the road we went in the dark and I was freezing! After having gotten sweaty on the climb, every piece of clothing I had wouldn’t keep me warm in the dropping temps. Adding to that, I was really getting sleepy. I caught myself several times on the descent into Cambridge, having fell asleep while riding. Each time it would scare me awake, but only momentarily.

One strange note: I remember seeing all kinds of cats eyes in the ditches along the way on the road to Cambridge. I thought it strange as I figured they would be easy prey for any wild animal. Who knows, maybe I hallucinated them.

Rolling into Cambridge was a huge relief. It was right at 1AM and I needed some rest. We found a city park where they allowed cyclists to camp and set up shop under a pavilion. Scott rolled out his bivy and I strung my hammock up between two of the posts that held the shelter up. In what had to have been seconds after getting in my hammock, I was out. It had been yet another “short” day (right about 145 miles), but it was no matter. I was down for the count.

TABR15- Day 3- Ochoco Pass to Sumpter Pass

A mere three and a half hours after laying down in my hammock alongside the road on the west side of Ochoco Pass, I awoke in the dark at roughly 4:30AM to a strange sound. It was a hollow, almost thrumming noise. As I got my wits about me, I saw the lights and low profile of John Williams’ fiberglass-covered recumbent bike (called a velomobile) go by on the road. Immediately I felt like the race was getting away from me in that moment. Too much sleep! Need to move! Then I realized I was exhausted and thought better about getting up and moving. My alarm was set for a half hour later and I wanted to sleep. So I did.

Just a bit later, it was up and at em’ and down the road toward the pass and on to Mitchell, OR. We warmed up quickly as we finished climbing the pass and I was surprised that we caught up to John. Although his rig was extremely aerodynamic, it was very heavy in comparison to our road bikes and the climbs really slowed him down. After summiting the pass, the ride was fantastic, flying down the east side of the pass into the very small town. One of the best things about it was the “town draw” I was feeling- I knew I was going to get a good meal!

On the way down, John flew by at an amazing rate of speed. So fast! Over 60 mph. Scott and I continued on and rolled into the one horse town, looking for the small diner we knew was there. Outside the diner was John and his velmobile. We went inside together and ordered breakfast.

I remember that meal being one of the first times I felt insecure. At this point, the three of us had ridden 425 miles in a little over 2 days and none of us, or our clothes, had seen any soap or water. I didn’t notice the smell of myself, but I did notice the other guys and I am sure the waitstaff at the diner were hoping we would make quick work of our meal and hit the road!

Mid-meal Bryan Heselbach came in and ordered breakfast. The four of us ate, chatted and talked about the heat. Central Oregon is always pretty warm in June, but this year it was especially so. The day was early, but we knew the heat was coming. Better to make hay while we could and not sit too long. Soon enough the sun would be high in the sky and we would be looking to find cover somewhere or risk our blood boiling our brains.

After eating, one by one, each of us hit the can and did our own version of “doctoring” our business. That’s a very nice way of saying the heat, sweat and friction of sitting on a bike saddle for long days does a bit of a number on the specific area where body meets said saddle. Of course this was a topic of conversation, albeit possibly not the best fodder for breakfast table talk. The others seemed to be doing ok. My business was in a state of near failure, quite frankly. I didn’t have any open sores, but was struggling to keep things as clean and doctored as possible so as to prevent further irritation. It seemed to be a losing battle, but a battle I would continue to wage, none the less.

While I was playing Dr. McEntire, Bryan gathered his things and hit the road. I wouldn’t see him again the remainder of the race.

As we started to leave the diner, Bob Hedrick rolled into town. We had a quick chat and off Scott and I went, John in tow as well.

The climb out of Mitchell was a hot one. Mitchell is down in a hole and smack in the middle of the high desert of Central Oregon. The heat starts early in the day and is relentless. We made the climb and started a very long descent into the John Day Fossil Beds. Miles and miles of easy riding were a great reward for the climb and it was so nice to not have to push it.

Me being a larger-than-most cyclist, I really didn’t have to work to maintain speed on the down hills. Soon enough, I was shocked to see Bob Hedrick come into view of my helmet mirror. Being a little guy, he was working hard on the down and I thought it strange. Why make such an effort to go so hard downhill in such a long race? Soon enough, he went past and I watched him continue to make ground away from me. I wasn’t worried. I would catch him later. 🙂

Once down into the flats, it was smoldering hot! The refuge of the Dayville Mercantile called my name. The miles seemed to drag and I was really very hot. Finally I made it to Dayville and saw the humongous hanging pots of flowers that surround the old-west style front porch. I leaned my bike up against a hitching post and went inside for cool drinks and convenience food.

Bob was there and Scott wasn’t far behind me. Very shortly, John rolled in and right behind him was Andi Buchs. Bob grabbed a few things and left, leaving the four of us stinking cyclists to chill on the couch in front of the swamp cooler. We took full advantage of the time, charging phones, using the store wifi, eating, drinking and laughing. We were all feeling the wear and tear of the road and heat, but the camaraderie we shared made up for all of it. Moments such as these are what I remember most fondly about the race.

The road from Dayville to John Day proved to be a brutal stretch. It was so hot and no shade was to be found. Drinks turned to hotter-than-bath-water in our bottles and sweat did little to cool you down. The heat was oppressive. Taking a break along side the road only proved to make you hotter because you didn’t have the movement of air. All we could do was keep trudging along.

Rolling into John Day, it was late afternoon and the heat combined with lack of sleep and 3 days of cycling meant that I was falling asleep on the bike. I looked for a place to nap, but didn’t get picky at all. Beside the 4 lane road, literally less than 10′ from the drive lanes, I found a small patch of beautifully manicured grass that was calling my name. I laid down next to my bike, in the sun, set my alarm for 20 minutes, closed my eyes and tried to nap. Scott was near doing the same. As I laid there, it was a monumental struggle to try to sleep! I just couldn’t do it. So strange to be so tired and yet sleep eluded me.

Finally I found rest and within what seemed to be a minute, my alarm woke me. I sat up, feeling a bit rough, but more awake and noticed Scott was gone, but his bike was there. When I stood up, I saw him 25 yards away, washing his face in a creek. I stumbled over to do the same and let him know my frustration of not being able to sleep. He said, “Dude, you were asleep and snoring like a chainsaw in less than 2 minutes!” I guess perspective is hard to be found when you are truly tired. 🙂

Before leaving town, we grabbed supplies and drinks at a small coffee shop on the main drag. A shot of iced coffee and a soda gave me a jolt and I was ready to go.

Scott and I enjoyed a great ride to the small town of Prairie City. The sun relented and the evening was gorgeous.

In Prairie City, we stopped at a gas station to refill bottles and found Gavaskar. We all rolled out together and set to climbing the pass before us just outside town. As we climbed, the sun set and the view was absolutely amazing. Just at sunset, the three of us pulled off at the big covered wagon commemorating the journey of the pioneers. Another awesome moment to share the Oregon sunset overlooking the valley with these two great friends.

We turned our lights on and headed back out, continuing the climb up the pass. Once over the pass, it was a screaming descent down toward Bates State Park. There were times the descent was a bit sketchy as our lights found many deer along the sides of the road in the dark. My fear was that one of them would run in front of us, but they never did.

At the bottom of the pass, we found the artesian well along the side of the road that has aided travelers for years. We filled our bottles and enjoyed the cool night air. So much better than the heat of the day! Refilled, we rode on into the night and started climbing again up Sumpter pass.

Gavaskar rode on ahead as we climbed. He had said he planned to make Baker City before stopping. Around midnight, Scott and I decided to do another side-of-the-road stop and crash for a few hours. It was just so hard to keep my eyes open. Scott rolled out his bivy and I strung up my hammock in a place that felt very bear-y. I was a bit nervous, but so tired that I wasn’t going to complain too much.

Once inside my hammock, I nestled in quickly. It had been a short mileage day (only about 140), but the heat had taken it out of me. I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. My fear of bears wasn’t going to keep me awake. Still in my bike clothes and with no shower after 3 days and 530 miles, I closed my eyes and started to drift. At that moment, I had a scary thought, realizing I had an opened and rolled up bag of Lays potato chips in my back jersey pocket. I probably had a few other morsels in there as well. Maybe a Payday candy bar? I was basically a burrito- in bear country, in a hammock with food in my pocket- and I didn’t care. After the last 3 days, I just wanted to sleep. So I did. In less than 3 minutes I was out.

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.

 

TABR15- Day 1- Astoria to Coburg

At the start of a bike race, especially one with some top notch competitors, you would think that it gets dicey really quick. That was not the case for TABR15. Granted, with a bridge closure on the route just south of town and the subsequent re-route around said bridge, there was a neutral roll out headed up by Nathan. That helped to keep things pretty mellow. Even after we finished the small detour and returned to the route, as Nathan pulled off, gave high fives and watched us ride by, the group stayed pretty well intact and at an easy pace.

Full disclosure: I can’t say that I know exactly what took place up front because I wasn’t there. With 40ish cyclists, it was a pretty big group and I had settled in to a bit-slower-than-normal pace for me, hanging at the back. I was enjoying the chat amongst a few folks and knew that I didn’t want to get caught up in any sort of free-for-all that might possibly take place farther up in the group. I knew someone would eventually make a push and I was in no shape to chase rabbits.

What do I mean by that? Well, my plan to prepare for this race had been a grand one, or at least in my mind it was. My intent had been to be lightweight in bike, gear and body. I also intended to be well trained and in that training, to have used all my gear sufficiently as to make the act of using said gear almost second nature. Another plan I had was to have plenty of funds to make the trip. In summary, I was too heavy (234lbs) and so was my bike and gear. If you don’t take into account a 115 mile gravel ride I did about a month before the start, in the 6 weeks leading up to the race I averaged 29.83 miles/week. Hardly training for a 4233 mile race. I finished putting my kit together the week before I left for Oregon and had only used some of it sparingly. I had never rode out with the total kit and used it. I did, however, have one goal: to make Coburg, OR the first day (roughly 230 miles). You say,” that’s a big goal for a guy who didn’t prepare”. I say bring it on.

The first 40 miles or so flew by. I was chatting with Fran, Yukon, Tommy Chen and some others as we enjoyed a foggy early morning along the coast. It was beautiful! I love the wet and the green. It makes me feel alive and in touch with the earth. It smells so clean! Oregon is amazing.

Upon reaching Manzanita, Fran, Yukon, Tommy and myself stopped for a second breakfast. One of the beautiful things about riding a lot is you can eat a lot and that, I did. The four of us sat in a little restaurant and ate eggs, pancakes, bacon and the like. It was delicious and the company was great. A great memory of mine from the race.

When we finished eating, I decided it was time for me to race properly. Up to that point, we had been keeping a really slow average for me, maybe 10mph and quite a gap had formed between us and most of the other racers ahead, especially after we stopped to eat. I don’t believe anyone else had stopped that early. I said my goodbyes to the group and took off, cranking it out, intent on catching up to some of the folks in front of me and more importantly, doing my best to reach Coburg before I stopped for the night.

Over the next 60 miles, I spent most of my time in the aerobars, rolling along pretty good and averaged more than 16mph. It felt good to “stretch my legs” and get my heart rate going. I rolled in to Pacific City at the 100 mile mark, stopped at a gas station to quickly grab some food and drink, then hit the road again. It was a very short stop. Probably my best stop of the entire race. I remember one of the other racers was there too, but I can’t remember who it was. Maybe the French racer?

Back on the road, the miles ticked away. A little south of Neskowin, the route turned inland and upward. The small two-lane Slab Creek road lead up into the coastal mountains and the temperature started to climb a bit as we left the coast. Along the way, before the route turned on to the busy Hwy 18, I passed Scott McConnell, Jason Woodhouse and Paul Gildersleeve, only for us all to end up together, along with Odd Jordheim and Eelco Weijmans at a gas station. We all filled bottles, grabbed food and sat down outside to rest a bit. It was hot!

After a respite, Eelco took off first, then shortly after, the rest of us. Traffic was pretty bad. Lots of folks headed back inland after weekends or vacation stays on the beach. We tried to somewhat stay together without getting too close and breaking the rules, but it didn’t help matters. The traffic was relentless and sketchy. Pretty quickly we were all properly spread out, Jason and Paul in front of me somewhere and Odd and Scott fell behind.

Later, maybe 20 miles down the trail, I saw Jason and Paul stopped along the road in the shade. The heat was working the Brits over and they needed to cool down. As I chatted with them a moment, Odd caught up. As he pulled up, I left and went on ahead, head back down and in the bars cruising.

Not far up the road, I found Chris Hockett changing a flat. I made sure he was fine and rolled on. Somewhere along the way I passed Eelco as well, but I don’t know where. I just know I got in front of him because he later passed me and had been in front of me.

When the route turned south along 99 toward Corvallis, I was starting to feel the heat that had slowed some of the others. It was late afternoon and the region was experiencing warmer than normal temperatures. All you have to do is make sure you drink plenty and you should be fine. Problem is, sometimes that doesn’t happen. I was dried up and started cooking. I needed a break.

I rolled into Monmouth and saw exactly what I needed- Burgerville USA. Imagine your typical fast food joint and you have Burgerville. I parked my bike and went inside for food, Coke and A/C. I probably sat there 45 minutes or more, but by the time I left, I had perked back up and was ready to ride. Meanwhile, I had watched Eelco go by again, as well as Odd, Chris and Scott. Jason and Paul had also caught up and were at the gas station across the street.

I rolled out feeling fresh and enjoyed the next section of the ride. It was now early evening and it had started to cool off to make for a pleasant evening. As I rode, I called my wife to say hi and fill her in on my day. Things were going well, I felt good and it looked like I would make my goal of Coburg! It was a great day!

Upon reaching Corvallis, I caught up with Scott at a gas station. We chatted, refueled and hit the road together, both with goals of reaching the same spot. As we left Corvallis, we left Eelco and Chris’ dots behind, as well as passing up Justin Chadwick and Bradford Smith, who had bedded down for the night somewhere in town.

Riding south, Scott and I chatted and got to know each other a bit more. We had “met” in a Facebook group called Endurance Rides and Bikepacking. The leader of that group, Scott Thigpen, wrote a book about his experience racing the Tour Divide in 2013. Scott McConnell was in that race and in the book as well. I should add that although he hardly talks about it because he is so nice and humble, Scott McConnell was the single speed winner of Tour Divide in 2013! That’s a big deal! To add to the awesomeness that is Scott, he decided to ride TABR ON THAT SAME SINGLE SPEED! What a beast. Chapeau!

We rode and chatted, enjoying the evening. Somewhere along the way there was discussion about girls chasing boys chasing girls. It was interesting conversation! The weather was perfect and the traffic was light. Day turned to night and we got our lights working. It was a great night for riding!

As we rode, I started to feel a bit of chaffing happening in my nether regions. Nothing too bad, but you have to be proactive. I stopped for a minute and applied some chamois cream to cool down the friction. It didn’t feel like it helped much, but it was about all I could do to doctor the problem at the time. I was unaware, but this would turn into an issue later.

In Harrisburg, we stopped at a gas station for provisions and passed by Odd bedded down for the night. It was 10:30PM and it had been a long day, but I wasn’t done. I had a goal to meet!

We carried on south, headed for Coburg. As we rode through the night, we didn’t know it, but we passed Gavaskar Josephs and Bryan Heselbach who had also bedded down. Little did we know, but as we rode, we were making our way toward the top ten of the race!

When we arrived in Coburg, we went straight for the city park. Coburg is a very small town, basically a village, just a few miles north of Eugene. The only scouting I had done before the race was to look for a potential place to camp in Coburg. The park made sense to me and I was REALLY looking forward to setting up my hammock.

The park was dark, which would be good for sleeping and being covert. It also had some trees (good for the hammock!) and restrooms. Jackpot! I leaned my bike up against a tree and started pulling my things out and setting up. While I did this, Scott was scouting around. Just as I got my second tree strap strung around a tree, Scott walked up and said, “there is a big sign over there that says no overnight camping.” My first thought, and what I said was, “it’s after midnight. Nobody will know we are here and we will be gone before anyone notices in the morning.” At this point, I got my first experience with Scott’s code of ethics and moral compass. “You can stay if you like, but I am going to go look for something somewhere else.” I knew I couldn’t stay. I put everything away and we rode off into the extreme early morning to find a different spot where we wouldn’t be breaking the local law.

There were two churches in town, according to iMaps. The first was nearby and had a great lawn, but no trees. I lobbied to go to the other church just south of town, if only for the chance that there would be two trees between 10 and 25 feet apart.

Upon arriving at The Bridge Open Bible Church, I knew right away that I wasn’t going to like it. There wasn’t a tree one in the yard. Oh well. Part of the gig.

This was where I began to realize just how poorly I had planned and thought out what to bring for this trip. Scott had a waterproof bivy sack, a lightweight blow-up sleeping mattress and a 32 degree sleeping bag. He would be warm, dry, bug-free and comfortable anywhere he decided to sleep.

I, however, (against the better judgement of TABR14’ers that I spoke with) went with a hammock/tarp setup. My thought was that if I was going to get very little sleep, I wanted to make sure it was good, comfortable sleep. I went back and forth on the issue during the months leading up to the race and made my final decision when Adrian O’Sullivan told me he was bringing his hammock. That sealed it for me. So I was carrying my tarp and hammock, an integrated bug net around the hammock to protect me from little critters,  a 1/4″ thick closed-cell foam sleeping pad to lay on in the hammock and prevent my back from being cold (an issue with hammocks) and lastly, my Big Agnus 45 degree sleeping bag that I modified by cutting off the back. This made it lighter and it took up less space in my kit. It also effectively made it a sleeping quilt.

Back to the story, Scott and I proceed to set up our stealth camp around back of the Open Bible Church. Scott rolled out his setup and started to get comfortable. I did the only thing I could do and laid on top of my foam pad on the grass and covered myself with the quilt. No pillow, so I improvised and set my helmet, bucket down, and laid my head on top it. I was very uncomfortable, but I didn’t care.

Exhausted from my biggest day of cycling ever (233 miles), I went to sleep quickly despite the comfort level, satisfied that I had made my goal of Coburg and I was doing what I set out to do: race the Trans Am! Day one was done!

TABR15- Astoria and the start

Well, hello there! My last post was June 4th, just 2 days before the start of TABR15 and 44 days ago. Wow. Where does the time go? It’s been a crazy 44 days with so many highs, lows and in-betweens. The best thing I know to do is just tell you about it. I’ll spare you the entire story at once and break it up into a few posts over the next few days.

To pick up where I left off, I was staying at Thomas and Jane Camero’s home in Hood River, OR. We had just picked up Michael Mausser, another TABR15 racer, from the airport and the 4 of us sat around over dinner telling stories of cycling past, talking race goals and enjoying each other’s company.

The next morning, Thomas, Michael and I packed our things and headed toward Portland and then on to Astoria. It was a beautiful drive along the Columbia River Gorge, across the Willamette Valley, over the coastal mountains and to the coast. This region is my favorite part of the country. Simply gorgeous.

We arrived in Astoria and checked into our accommodations at the Norblad. From this point on, the next two days were a blur. Catching up with friends like Fran from Germany and Scott from Nashville, plus all the new friends that I made with racers from both last year and this year, there was just so much going on, it is really hard to remember. I wish I would’ve written it down at the time as I know much of it will be gone from memory forever.

There was food and drink. There was a fantastic joy ride Friday morning out to the Pacific Coast with Michael and Fran for the ceremonial wheel dip. Then lunch at a little coffee house with friends and then the group meet-up with most of this year’s racers at the Column. Somewhere in there a group of us went to the post office to ship home anything we didn’t need. I sent my street clothes, which meant my wardrobe was a pair of bike bib shorts, my cycling jersey and a pair of socks, all of which were on my body. Life gets real simple real quick when you only have one change of clothes!

Later Friday, there was more food and drink at the Fort George Brewery at the race meeting. Then a small group of us rode to the hospital to give our regards to Mathias Mueller, the German racer who was hit by a car two days before the race on a training ride while crossing the Columbia River Bridge coming back from Washington. Then dinner with friends at a restaurant down on the wharf, followed by a cool little ride to see a bunch of sea lions at the marina.

Later yet Friday night, around midnight, I found myself struggling to lie down and get some sleep. Not only did I have a bad case of the night-before-a-monster-race jitters, but I wasn’t really looking forward to lying down. I spent both Thursday and Friday nights on the hardwood floor of Thomas’ room. I did this in an effort to save money, sharing the expense of the room with Thomas, but in the end, it was probably a poor decision as both nights I slept very little and woke up sore and not rested. I estimate that I had about 2 hours of sleep each night. Not the way I wanted to start an endurance race where I would be struggling to find sleep.

Saturday morning, my alarm went off somewhere around 3:30AM. I had no problem jumping up despite my lack of rest. I was full of bike stoke! I grabbed my things, brushed my teeth and went down to the hotel community kitchen for a blueberry pancake breakfast provided by Thomas. What a guy!

I went back to the room, packed up my gear and rolled out of the Norblad with a couple other racers about 4:45. We made the few block trip to the Maritime Museum, where the race starts.

It was a tense and happy scene. Everyone was excited. I would guess that most were a bit nervous, although no one let on. I know I was nervous.

After a champagne toast by some, of which I didn’t take part (5AM is just TOOOO early for champagne, IMO!), Nathan Jones, the race director, said something like, “OK, let’s go!” and we all started rolling. Trans Am Bike Race 2015 was on!

 

Chillin’ in paradise

Well, after days on end of late nights and early mornings, trying to wrap up things at home, work and prepare to leave for the race, the day finally came and Monday I flew out.

My dad picked me up at 6:45am and dropped me at the airport in St Louis. Checking my bike box was a breeze as was security. My first flight was on time and uneventful.

Upon arrival in Phoenix, I checked the boards and saw my flight to Portland showed on time. I had about an hour and a half layover, so I took care of personal business and grabbed a burrito from the food court.

Right away, I got the text reminder that my flight was delayed about 30 minutes. No biggie.

When the plan arrived, it was announced that it was out if service and we were being delayed indefinitely until they could get us another plane. There was lots of grumbling in the terminal, but my thought was that I would much rather have a fully functional aircraft!

After another 30 minutes, it was announced that we would be boarding the plane. Nothing was ever said about the integrity of the aircraft and I was sitting by the window the whole time- I never saw a NASCAR pit crew come out and do anything either. Hmmm. Oh well! This whole ordeal is supposed to be an adventure, right?!?

Of course, everything was fine and we landed in Portland unscathed. My buddy Thomas Camero, the infamous lantern rouge of TABR14 picked me up at the airport and hauled me off to his home in Hood River, about 50 miles east.

Since then, I have spent 2 glorious days in what I would call paradise. Not only are Thomas and his wife Jane fantastic hosts, but the food and company have been top notch. Add to that beautiful views of mountains and the Columbia River Gorge, great cycling and just being able to relax. This has been a fantastic respite.

This evening we went to Portland and went by the Rideyrbike Shop, Nathan Jones’ bike shop. Nathan not only raced Trans Am last year, but he organizes and directs the race! I met him when he came through last year and it was great to sit and chat with him.

Thomas and I then headed to PDX to pick up Michael Massuer who is also racing this year. I met Mike in 2012 as he was touring the Trans Am and came through Farmington. Actually, he is the reason I found out about the race last year. He signed up last year, but had to withdraw prior to the start. Seeing his Facebook posts about TABR sparked my interest to follow and the sign up myself.

This evening, the three of us and Jane enjoyed a great dinner and then lots of talking about the route, our experiences and expectations of this race.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Astoria. Just 2 more days before the race! I can’t wait!!!