Day Five – the last day

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We exit the historic Union Hotel at 6:30. The sky is sunny, wind minimal and temperature a comfortable 51 degrees. I have mixed emotions. The setting is beautiful, cycling conditions perfect but I feel a bit of apprehension. My quads are sore and feel bruised. Each pedal stroke causes a twinge and I know that we have a climb coming up within a couple of miles.

The Sweet Spot

This conflict between pain and the joy of cycle touring is a daily occurrence and I know that it will pass. After about forty five minutes the legs have adjusted, acquiesced really, to the task at hand and pain is no longer a part of the equation. The mind is free to focus upon the truly awesome beauty of Eastern Oregon. Distant snow capped mountains, huge ridges in the immediate distance and familiar crops of my childhood, alfalfa and prairie grass, are adjacent to the smooth paved road of Oregon highway 237. It is quiet, the light soft, the birds are active and chirping away, traffic minimal and we enter into the sweet spot of bicycle touring. All is well.

Middle Chain Ring / Large COG

The climb begins in a canyon with winding roads. Earl and I settle into a comfortable pace and spin up the grade. It’s a moderate grade but several miles long. Neither of us are bothered and simply stop for a photo break when necessary.

As we pass the windmill farm and railroad trestle at the top of the grade, Earl says, “four more miles to a pile of hash browns.” I find this to be enormously funny and have to stop the bike to recover. Earl always has a quip just at the right time. Love that about him.

Last night, Earl and I stopped into the Union Public House for a pint to discuss our route, weather forecast and, more importantly, where we could get breakfast at an early hour. The Pub owner suggested that we wait for breakfast in North Powder River just 15 miles down the highway. The North Powder Café is  famous for its breakfasts. So we decided to wait for breakfast until arriving at North Power.

Big Chain Ring, Smallest COG

Highway 237 suddenly reached the top of the last ridge and we can see the valley below. We can see the village of North Powder River  and trucks snaking along interstate 84 in the distance. As we descend a 9% grade, I say to Earl, “better tie yourself down for this one”, as we glide smoothly down a twisted highway to flatland below.

After breakfast, we ride under the freeway overpass and take old highway 30 toward Baker City. The Big Chain Ring, Small COG combination allowed us to efficiently pedal on the flat ribbon of a highway as it meandered away from the freeway. Twenty Two miles to go to the end of our tour in Baker City.

Conclusions:

  1. This has been an extraordinarily fun experience. Love Eastern Oregon, Earl’s companionship and the ups and downs of the experience. So grateful for the opportunity,
  2. Earl and I learned from the Trans-Am that it takes three to four weeks of riding for the body to acclimate to the load of daily touring. I’m now aware of the difference between a mini tour and a long distance tour. The Mini has the benefit of requiring fewer resources and, obviously, a lot less time. On the other hand, on a mini tour, the body doesn’t really have time to acclimate to the load. The tour is over just as the body is beginning to strengthen. It also means that the 1400 miles of YTD advanced training is sufficient. Mostly I needed back to back rides in advance and more hill training. Lesson learned.
  3. I’m looking forward to a ride next year with Earl. We are contemplating a Montana loop, Olympic Peninsula, or Pacific Coast ride.

Thursday, June 21, 2018. An easy day

Day Four (Thursday, June 21, 2018)

An easy day

Breakfast Cowboys and Angels. Excellent breakfast for a send off…in the rain.

Interesting but it feels good to ride in a light rain minus the lightning.

Short ride of 30 miles from Elgin to Union. Union Oregon is a small clean town with delightful restaurants, coffee shop, hardware store, drug store and grocery within a block or so. Very inviting.

We met Earl’s sister in law and her husband for dinner. Lively and interesting conversation. Really enjoyable.

Had time for a short nap and time to catch up on the blog.

One more riding day. Sunny and hot tomorrow so will leave at 6:10. Short ride of 41 miles back to Baker City.

Stay tuned

Day three. A long down hill plus an even bigger climb

Day Three (Wednesday, June 20, 2018)

Started a bit later than usual. Had a wonderful breakfast in Joseph. Left Joseph about 8:30. Feeling a bit apprehensive.

This is our first day of not riding in the rain, which we missed. A light rain, once you are in it, is pleasant) better than a scorcher.

Today the temps reached into the 80’s. We did fine with it, after repeated applications of sun screen.

Note the elevation profile for today. Thirty Eight miles of downward grade. Not a free for all but 18 mph with light pedaling in high gear. A relief.

Now look at the last 10 miles 😮. Five mile steep climb; equivalent to Stevens Pass with a bit steeper grade…and in the heat.

Earl and I did well though. With patience, we would ride for one half mile, rest and repeat…10 times.

Each half mile segment seemed excruciating as I watched the hundredths of a mile click by on my Garmin. It was a slog but we just dug in and got her done.

We rolled into Elgin about 3:30.

Elgin is a bit depressed economically but had a bar, a restaurant and a motel; all that we needed. The room was surprisingly large and pleasant. The bar was cool and they had Irish Death on tap.

Earl flatted on the way to the bar so our beer had to wait. We were on it though and were enjoying our beer in near record time.

50.9 miles. 1500 feet of elevation gain. Long downward offset by a big climb. A good day.

Day two. It started out well

Day two.

It started out well.

We stayed at the Pine Valley Lodge on Monday night (day one), a lovely space and they gave us the combination to the kitchen so that we could get coffee and a light breakfast early (5:30).

We rolled out of Halfway OR at 6:10. The temperature was cool and it was nearly silent. We could hear the morning birds chirping and the sound of our tires against the pavement. The hills and fields are a soft green. The horses and cattle would stop their munching and raise up to look at us as we rode quietly by. It is joyful.

Ten miles down the road, we turned off state highway 86 onto Forest Road 39. A pleasant and cool rain began as we made the turn.

The climb starts here. It’s a 6,000 foot day ahead. I felt confident but after an eighteen mile climb, I was spent.

I have been here once before with Jamie Sutherlin and Paul Brunton. “Bonking” isn’t fun. It occurs when your glycogen is depleted. The legs just don’t have anything to give.

I think the “light”breakfast may have contributed to my bonking and we were so enamored with the ride that we didn’t stop for a snack.

I knew that I needed food now and that it would take hours to get the glycogen replenished. I downed four power bars and continued my hydration. I had been hydrating; four bottles of water. I still had a 2 liter bladder attached to my bike.

The climbing was far from over but we had a big downhill just ahead. We rode to near the bottom just before the next climb. We pulled into a campsite and I took a nap, hoping that I would be back in business upon awakening. “Not yet”, said my legs.

Earl was the perfect companion. He was patient, which counts for lot (just like Jamie and Paul on the Great Divide Ride)

We started playing pick a tree and make it to that point, stop, rest and repeat. At each stopping point, I would lean over my handle bars and breathe heavily.

We did that for ten miles of climbing. I could not have imagined making it to the top. Earl said, “it’s just like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time.”

Unbelievably, as we crested the second pass, I could feel my energy returning. We completed two more climbs before arriving in Joseph. 71 miles and 6,000 feet of steady climbing. I was actually feeling pretty good as we arrived in Joseph but not something that I wanted to let happen again.

We arrived in Joseph at 6:30; over 12 hours on the road today.

We had a beer and a massive burger before going to bed.

Fingers crossed that I will have a complete recovery before day three. (Wednesday, June 19)

Stay tuned 😮

Day one in Eastern Oregon with Earl Grout June 18, 2018

Drizzle and cool temperatures at the start. “Refreshing”, I thought to myself as we negotiated surface streets through Baker City on the way to highway 86.

Highway 86 is lightly traveled and in good condition with great vistas.

The climb out of Richland was a doozy; requiring frequent rest stops. Good thing the last few miles into Halfway Oregon were a down hill reflection of the climb.

Earl and I are settled in the Pine Ridge Lodge, a delightful space.

I am in serious recovery mode anticipating tomorrow’s ride with an additional 20 (70+) miles and two big climbs. I’m hoping that the grade is a little more gentle than today’s climb.

We will be on the road tomorrow by 6:00 AM. Early to bed tonight.

Territory re-visited

Earl Grout and I have known each other since 1975. Our friendship deepened when we did the Trans-AM bike route in 2013. (Along with Michael McGinnis)

Today, Sunday, June 17, 2018, we met in Baker City, Oregon where we had a rest day in 2013 as we neared the end of our 4100 mile bicycle adventure. I have very fond memories of our time in Baker City.

Tomorrow, we begin a 256 mile loop beginning and ending in Baker City. Rain is forecasted but we aren’t bothered by rain. Lots of climbing (15,000 feet over five days) this week. Memories of these climbs flood in as I see the terrain in the distance.

Earl and I have immediately fallen into our routine honed by 88 days on the road together.

We had a wonderful dinner at the Geiser Hotel tonight and are staying in the Oregon Trail Motel.

Stay tuned for daily reports.

An adventure in June

The bank sign in Cambridge Idaho reads 104 degrees at 6:30 PM, June 20th, 2017. Jim O’hare and I are driving from Weiser, Idaho (where we left Jim’s vehicle) to New Meadows Idaho. We are exploring the Weiser River Trail by bicycle. We are doing it mostly for fun but also are checking out the trail conditions for possible future trips.

The genesis for the adventure starts when my neighbor, Ken Ditzler (originally from Weiser), gave Barb and me a regional (southern Idaho) recreational pamphlet containing an inviting article about the Weiser River Trail. The website for the Friends of the Weiser River Trail offers this bit of background: (http://weiserrivertrail.org)

Friends of the Weiser River Trail (FWRT) is a private, nonprofit organization formed to convert the old Pacific and Idaho Northern (PIN) railroad grade from Weiser, Idaho, to Rubicon (near New Meadows, ID) into a trail for public recreation. Starting in Weiser, the 84-mile long trail passes through the towns of Midvale, Cambridge and Council. The entire right-of-way was deeded to Friends of the Weiser River Trail in August 1997 by the Union Pacific Railroad under the railbanking law.

The trail includes many miles of riparian habitat, an additional 1,400 acres of wildlife habitat, and will provide access to 16,000 acres of BLM and State of Idaho Lands currently otherwise inaccessible to the public. Wildlife often seen along the trail include deer, elk, heron, bear, water fowl, raptors and wild turkeys. The setting in the lower (southern) part of the canyon is rolling hills and open canyons topped with black lava cliffs, while the upper (northern) portion is forested.

Barb did some online research and found reviews stating that some of the trail was pretty rough and not an easy ride. Consequently, Jim and I decided to check out the trail for the reference of those interested in riding the trail.

We left my car at the WYE trailhead just off highway 95 a couple of miles north of Tamarack, Idaho. We were on the trail by 7:45 PM. The temperature was very comfortable and the mosquitos were mild and were manageable with a little bug spray.
At 8:00 PM, we came upon the Evergreen campground.

evergreen campgroundThe campground is accessible for cars on highway 95 and hikers / bikers from the trail. The campground was pristine and quiet. Jim and I found a campsite near the restrooms and water. The camp host arrived shortly after and told us the double site was $15.00 per night but we received a 50% discount for being seniors. After we had set up our tents, a neighbor and his wife walked into our site carrying two beers. They had seen us ride in and thought we might appreciate a cold beverage. Smiles all around.

IMG_3371

Wednesday morning we were packed and ready to ride by 6:30 AM. The temperature cooled to the point that we were wearing long-fingered gloves and a light jacket.

The trail is surrounded by lush trees and ground cover and follows the Weiser River; birds were chirping as we rode down the trail. IMG_3415

Half an hour in, I decided it was time to set up the iPhone tripod for a video of Jim and me riding the trail. The video took 20 minutes to complete because of my inexperience. We had to take a number of videos as I adjusted the angle to avoid cutting off our heads as we rode toward the camera.

Mid-morning, we arrived in Council and had a second breakfast at the Seven Devils Cafe. We almost missed Council because the trail / railroad traversed to the west of town. After realizing that we were riding away from town, we turned around and rode back to an access point that led us to the city center.

As we left Council, the forest transitioned to grassy ridges and valleys. Snow topped mountains could be seen in the distance. The trail follows the river away from highway 95 and we are soon in a remote valley carved into the massive ridges. The trail condition is near perfect and the riding is easy. The temperature is rising. IMG_3439

Cambridge is 22 miles south on the trail from Council and we stopped for a light lunch before continuing to our stopping point for the day in Midvale, Idaho; a sweet town with a swimming pool, grocery and city park. We obtained permission to camp overnight in the park in spite of the “no overnight camping allowed” signs. IMG_3459

The park has a lush green floor and a canopy created by a large number of  trees. The temperature was in the nineties but very comfortable in the shade with a gentle breeze. All was well until about 10:30 PM when the sprinklers came on. Things were a bit frantic as we tried to protect our belongings from getting soaked. Jim, wisely, ended up sleeping under the stars just out of range of the sprinklers and I managed to get my rain fly up and in place. We slept well and were up at 5:30 for a 6:15 departure for Weiser.

Mileage summary:

The evening of July 20, 5 miles from start to Evergreen Campground.

July 21, 47 miles from Evergreen Campground to Midvale. 

July 22, 32 miles to Weiser.

We arrived in Weiser about 10:30 and were back at WYE (and my car) by noon. Jim and I arrived in Spokane (separately) about 8:00 PM. IMG_3475

Trail Report:

The trail is in excellent condition and an easy ride (especially from north to south because you lose about 1800 feet in elevation over the 84 miles). We recommend this trail to anyone able to comfortably ride 30 to 50 miles a day. The last 10 miles into Weiser were on crushed rock which took a bit more effort than the rest of the trail but still very doable. The trail is flat as it follows the Weiser River and cuts through the hills and ridges from New Meadows to Weiser.

What’s next?

Barb is committed to doing the trail now that she knows the conditions. We will probably do the Weiser River Trail in early September.

Life is good.

Video (4:55) Weiser River Trail

Into the unknown

I’m coming out of a deep sleep and semiconscious. I’m aware of my deep sleep breathing and my legs feel extremely heavy, almost immovable and foreign. I’m not asleep nor awake. I can hear Barb’s bathwater running in the background. It is June 12th, 2017- 15:45 and the room has heated from the afternoon sun. The fog has cleared in my head and have a good feeling about this morning’s solo fat tire bike ride in Riverside State Park. I rode into new territory on trail # 25.

I switched out my pedals at the car from clip in on both sides of the pedal to clip in on one side and flat on the other so that I could be clip free in tight spots.  I knew that I was in for some rough terrain because of the color-coded profile on the MTB project App Map. There were several areas in red indicating steep grade and little squares on the trail line with exclamation points.

As I pedaled away from the Wilber Street Trailhead alone, I felt a small amount of apprehension but also felt like I could handle whatever the exclamation points were warning about.

A short distance into the NW bound trail, I came to the first steep climb. I geared down and lowered my shoulders almost to handle bar level and pointed my elbows out as I was taught in a class that I took a couple of years ago. The idea is to spread out the weight so that the front wheel doesn’t come off the ground and the back wheel has enough traction to keep from spinning out. I gave it all that I had but had to stop and hike a bike about a third of the way up. After reaching the top and recovering my breath, I took out my phone to see where I was on the profile. To my astonishment, the section that I had just climbed wasn’t even a blip on the map’s elevation profile. Yikes.

I was in familiar territory for the next mile or so until I crossed the dirt road adjacent to deep creek. I stopped at the trail marker to access the situation. The trail was narrow and lined with tall bushes with a slight bend and I couldn’t tell what I was getting into until I was on the bike and committed.

The trail followed the steep deep creek contour nearly straight down with no switchbacks. The trail is dusty with basalt rocks poking through like mountain tops mysteriously popping through the clouds as your plane glides toward to Seattle over the North Cascades on a cloudy day. The difference is that it isn’t eerily silent. The four inch tires groan as they pass over and from one rock tip to another. The hydraulic powered disc brakes are doing their job and stopping the wheel rotation as requested but I must release and engage repeatedly to keep from going over the handlebars. As I near the bottom, there is a ninety degree turn and my momentum has slowed enough that I could unclip and dismount to walk the bike the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the grade and momentum didn’t allow me to get control even though I was off the bike. I let go of the bike as I fell to my left onto the rocky trail and felt a thud on my helmit. No injuries, only a few scrapes on the elbow and knees. As I was descending, my conscious self-seemed to be watching objectively in slow motion and heard me say, “holy shit, that was steep.”

As I emerged from the trail into a nearly dry creek bed, I felt like I had emerged into another world like in Jurassic Park. I looked around in awe and couldn’t find a continuation of trail #25. I laid my bike down and wandered up and down the creek until I saw the familiar “25” on a signpost and a nearly hidden trail back up the canyon wall. This was without a doubt, hike a bike for me and it was a long time before I could attempt to ride, even for short distances. Pushing my 37-pound bike up a narrow rocky trail was humbling. I was glad that I was riding solo.

Forty-five minutes later, I descended onto West Carlson Rd near a parking lot and outdoor restroom. I tried to orient my map and find the continuation (back towards the beginning) but couldn’t find it on the map or physically. I decided that I must have missed a turn back up the trail so set off in that direction. (up a steep incline, of course). The trail looked familiar for a short time but then looked unfamiliar. I decided that I must have accidentally gotten back on the right trail and pressed on over rough terrain and frequent hike a bike circumstances. After about an eternity, I came to a sign, “interpretive trail ->”. I remembered seeing it earlier and immediately realized that I had, indeed, backtracked on the trail and was about to re-enter the Deep Creed Canyon.

I had previously noticed a trail on the ground and on the map indicating a way to traverse down the ridge to the Aubrey White Trail (paved). I rode (and walked) back to that point and was soon descending a steep and winding trail back to the paved road. Twenty minutes later (on dirt trails), I arrived at the car.

Once home, I studied the maps and figured out just where I had been and how much of trail #25 that I still need to do. I had a good feeling about the experience.

I’m grateful, at age 70,  to be able to get out on the trail and experience the unencumbered terrain of Eastern Washington. I’m also grateful that I can still mountain bike with my kids, their spouses and grandkids (this does require some patients on their part).

What else is going on? I’m doing a dirt rails to trail in Idaho next week: https://www.traillink.com/trail/weiser-river-national-recreation-trail/ with a friend. This will be an overnight self-supported Bikepacking experience. It is a trial run in anticipation of doing the cross-state Washington rail to trail (named: John Wayne Pioneer Trail. https://www.traillink.com/trail/john-wayne-pioneer-trail/) )this September. Stay tuned.

Life is good.

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Strategy for resumption of activity

The Arthrogram showed a small tear in the labrum, compressed disc at L5 (previously known) and an inflamed tendon where the thigh muscle joins the hip.

Next step is an injection of steroids to reduce the pain enough for effective physical therapy.

Fortunately, getting an appointment for the injection was quick. I have an appointment on Monday, February 8th. A week or so later PT will begin.

If that doesn’t work, we will talk to a surgeon in six weeks.

I’m looking forward to getting some exercise and am reasonably optimistic.

Updates to follow

Garry

Epilogue

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The Doctor said, “describe your pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being almost unbearable.” I didn’t hesitate, “nine”, I said.

It didn’t start out that way. In late November 2015, I noticed a twitch in the upper part of my thigh as I walked. By late December, it was unbearable to put weight on my left leg. The sports doctor has predicted that I might have a tear in my labrum. An Arthrogram has been ordered for February 3rd. After that, we will have a clearer idea of what to expect.

August 7th, the day we finished GDMBR seems like ages ago. My recent bout with hip pain has colored my view of the GDMBR. I am exceedingly grateful for having completed it in 2015. It was, almost certainly, my last opportunity for such a challenging tour.

As I look back over the photos and video of the 50 days, I see them with fresh eyes. I no longer feel the pain that accompanied most day’s ride but I do now feel joy as I look them over; especially the videos where I tried to capture the feeling of the day or week.

Thoughts of The Three Amigos and the 50 days we shared on the Great Divide bring good feelings of camaraderie and a deep sense of gratitude. We did amazingly well together.

What is my favorite memory? I think it is the day between Selida and Hartsel, Colorado. The day was so varied; starting with a nice peaceful three and half hour climb and ending in a wild thunderstorm as we pedaled madly into Hartsel. Hartsel welcomed us with buffalo burgers, beer and a lodge, just down the road. That day was our first encounter with bike stopping mud.

Now what? I’ve been humbled with the back and leg pain, knowing that the level of fitness and endurance that I can achieve in 2016 is in question. I will be starting from near zero as I try to make a comeback. What I do know is that part of the solution is setting a big goal. How big? We will just have to see after the diagnosis. If there is not surgery and I can begin crawling back on March 1st, it might be another cross state ride or a mountain bike ride across the state on the John Wayne Trail or maybe something a little more aggressive.

My hope is to dodge this bullet and have a great year in 2016. If not, I will be content. It was a fabulous season culminating with an adventure of a lifetime in 2015: GDMBR.

Stay tuned…