Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oregon Blue Mtns 1000k -- Full of Surprises!

The Oregon Blue Mtns 1000k has officially been "broken in" (if you will) and has many surprises that will keep you "out of the saddle" in many occasions. This was my first 1000k brevet, and even though I've done Race Across Oregon 500 the past two years, I still learned a great deal while riding this course that John Kramer did such a great job putting together and organizing. Thanks to my fellow pre-riders: Kole Kanter, Vincent Muoneke and Vincent Sikorski for pulling me through. And special thanks to John Kramer and Eric Ahlvin for supporting us at the controls!

Purchasing the Garmin Edge 705 was the best thing I could have done for this ride. On several occasions, it was difficult to look down and read the paper cue sheet while descending, which was good to let the GPS lead the way. Thanks to Kole for giving me an adaptor to plug my Garmin into my generator hub that allowed me to charge my Garmin and my Busch Muller Cyo light the entire ride!

After hearing about all the cold temps and rain predicted for the passes, I decided not to bring my carbon bike but I still managed ok with my Specialized TriCross. Just was hard to keep up with the 3 other guys on the descents since I also had my 28 mm tires and a seat post rack and pack. If you have a carbon fiber bike with thinner tires, I would definitely have it ready for this ride. Just make sure the tires are relatively new as there is a lot of gravel on some of these descents. Also, be prepared for cooler temps on the passes (especially at night) and warm or hot in the valleys/canyons during the day.

The ride covered a lot of new territory for me on the 1st and 2nd days and was delighted to finally get up in the heart of the Blue Mountains. Kramer did a great job in setting up a great course, with plenty of climbing and with great valley stretches to break up the climbs, at least in the 1st and 2nd days. The 3rd day was nothing but climbing or descending and had more familiar territory to me since it covered much of the 2009 Race Across Oregon course from Fossil to Dufur.

Here are some notes from my perspective:
Day 1 Saturday (Departed 07:00)
The Dalles to Umatilla
The 1st day we had a strong tailwind the entire stretch along the Columbia Gorge. I think we averaged about 19 mph to Umatilla. We met a guy riding across the country at Roosevelt. There was a bicycle journal at the Riverview Market to sign in. There was also a family with their kids, riding with a double and triple. We took advantage of this tail wind and didn’t stay long at the controls. We only hope that the actual ride will have similar tailwind conditions on this first day. When we got to Plymouth, there was glass in the I-82 bike tunnel.

Umatilla to Tollgate
Along with the gradual climbing to the base of Tollgate climb, we discovered some big rolling hills before you get to the base of Tollgate. I think there was 2,000 ft more elevation gain between Umatilla and Weston than originally predicted. This stretch before Athena is a really good place to eat and hydrate before the big Tollgate climb. Thanks to Kole for hanging back with me as I had to go a little slower to work out some minor stomach problems. But it was also great to work with Kole on the long climb up Tollgate.

Tollgate to North Powder
The Tamarack Inn (bed and breakfast) at Tollgate is quite the warm and cozy place. I will be there volunteering on the actual ride next week. It was quite cold at the Tollgate Pass with some snow patches, so expect cold conditions if you get there after 18:00. We had to bundle up in our rain gear as it rained on us most of the descent to Elgin. Descending down from Tollgate the road has a creek running along the side that is cutting into the shoulder so use extreme caution, especially if you are descending at night. In other words, don't ride the shoulder unless you absolutely have to or you are able to slow way down!
Between Elgin and LaGrande is mostly flat and typical wind patterns are out of the NE (Wallawa Mtns) so you might have a tailwind here.
If you are among the faster that is expected to get a room in North Powder, The Flying J truck stop in LaGrande is worth stocking up on some food, since the smaller 750’ climb actually seems to go on forever after Union. Kole and I arrived at North Powder at 0:15, just about 30 minutes behind Vinnie and Vince.

Day 2 Sunday (Departed 6:09 a.m.)
North Powder to Prairie City (I nickname "The Cardiac Needles" section), which includes the Austin House control.
The 1st 20 miles was a nice flat and easy spinning that helped get our breakfast digested. However, we encountered there was no stores or even gas stations open when we got to Baker City, at about 7:30 am, Sunday morning. So perhaps if you leave early out of North Powder, take some extra food with you so you have something to get ready for the big Cardiac Needles. After Baker City, you climb up to a plateau that approaches the Cardiac Needles (which are the three 1000 ft spikes that show up on the elevation profile). These are substantial climbs that all are above 5,000 feet in elevation and it was chilly at the top of each of these passes. The valleys between each needle had beautiful snow capped peaks rising above them. Austin House is perfectly located at the base of the 3rd needle (actual name is Dixie Pass). Austin House has great food...Vinnie, Vince and Kole got buffalo burgers while I got toast and cheese/ham sandwich that was great to get those calories for all the climbing that remained this day. The climb up to Dixie Pass seemed to be not as steep as the other two needles, but the descent into Prairie City has a great view of north face of Strawberry Mtn, which was a highlight view point of the ride.

Prairie City to Parish Cabin control
The climb up and around Strawberry Mtn was a thrill. We topped our bottles off with the good spring water at the campground about 2/3 up the 2500 ft climb. It was very cool to cross the John Day River that was just a small tributary, compared to the larger river we would eventually see downstream later in the ride. After you reach the top on this Logan Valley Road, the descent has a large amount of gravel. After the turn right onto Forest Road 16, there are a few smaller climbs along with the stellar Logan Valley that is above 5,000 feet in elevation, with the south face of Strawberry Mtn rising above.

Parish Cabin Control to Dayville
The descent off of Forest Road 15 is spectacular, although, this is one place I couldn’t keep up with the other three guys. But I managed to keep plugging away after the town of John Day and rode strong with a tail wind all the way into Dayville. I thought that they would be long gone by the time I got there, but they had only been waiting for 10 minutes. I was pretty worked over and so it was good of everyone to have patience with me despite the pouring down rain while standing around the Dayville city park.

Dayville to Mitchell
(arrived at 23:55 )
The next section was important to get bundled back up since we would climb about 2500 ft up Keystone Pass at night and in some heavy rain to start off. This is a long steady climb that is about 26 miles long and has a couple small downhills that are a nice treat.
But once we got to the top, the descent into Mitchell was so cold, that I thought I was going to shiver right off the bike. Thanks to my Garmin for directing me towards the hotel in the pitch black and rain, otherwise I might have missed the turn. We all decided to sleep in an extra hour to let the it warm up a little before heading out in the morning. The bedrooms in the Oregon Motel in Mitchell was quite pleasant and the apartments that John rented out for dinner and breakfast was nice too. John and Eric did a marvelous job cooking us up hot pasta for dinner and then omelets for breakfast.

Day 3 Monday (Departed 7:17 a.m.)
As I mentioned before, the third day is full of climbing and descending with very little valley riding between the climbs. I think we discovered there was about 12,000 ft of climbing total for the day. The climb out of Mitchell is quite pleasant and once you descend there is a sharp left turn onto Girds Creek Road that eventually turns into Twickenham Rd. This road is full of gravel and full of surprises as Vince will attest to… Read Vince’s blog comment and find out all about his near miss deer incident! The climb up the Rowe Creek Road had big strips of gravel that weren’t bad on the climb but it was tricky in places descending down to Hwy 19. Once we arrived into Fossil, Kole was waiting there for us for 15 minutes who decided he wanted to ride ahead so he would get an additional 5 miles in, to get his personal goal of 13,000 miles for the year so far, by the end of May. The store in Fossil was a perfect place to stock up on ice cream and burritos.

Fossil to Antelope
The 1000 ft climb out of Fossil was on familiar ground for me, that covers the last section of the RAO course. But this time, the fields were greener than ever! The descent into the John Day River/Clarno is one of the nicest descents on the ride. Once you past the Clarno Fossil Bed park, there is a 200 ft warmup climb before you actually climb the big climb. Immediately after you cross the John Day River, the climb out of the John Day (Clarno Climb), is one of the biggest of the entire ride (about 2500 ft in 8 miles). Once you reach the top, there is another nice descent into Antelope. If you’re at Antelope while the store is open, make sure you get some pie or cobbler (a la mode). The ice cream actually helped relieved my gassy stomach!

Antelope to Maupin
There is another 1000 ft climb up to the town of Shaneko. After the first 4 miles you’ll top off out of the valley and you’ll be in headwinds for while, all the way down to Maupin, especially on the Bakeoven Road. The Bakeoven can be really bad with headwinds but for us, it wasn’t as bad as other times I’ve been on this road. And drafting made a huge difference. Once we arrived in Maupin it felt really hot, as it usually is one of the hottest places on the ride. The Deschutes Pizza Co. was a great place to stock up on food one last time before the final push to the finish. The service was great and the food was fantastic. I think Kole and Vinnie ate more ice cream on this trip than all the Randonneurs combined. By the time we left Maupin, it was already cooling off.

Maupin to the Dalles
The final push to the finish was not as bad as it could have been. Last year the XTR climbed up the Tygh Ridge in blazing heat. But we were fortunate we left an hour later on this day since we arrived at the toe of the Tygh Ridge climb in the shade. We reached the top of Tygh Ridge just in time for a beautiful sunset. Descending to Dufur and only 20 miles to our final destination was a relief to know we were almost there! The turn onto the 8 mile Road has a lot of gravel, so use extreme caution when turning!! And be glad you are not taking 197 since 8 mile Road mostly descends all the way back down into the Columbia River and the Dalles. The lights of the Dalles was a so great to finally see! It was a pleasure to ride with Vinnie, Vince and Kole on this fantastic 1000k journey around eastern Oregon. We made it in at 22:07, giving us a total time of 63 hours and 7 minutes, with about 13 hours layover in the overnight!

Good luck to everyone riding next week! See you all at Tollgate!

John Pearch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Found your blog and must compliment you on your dedication to the sport(s) in spite of knee complications. Good for you!!
I'm a Pearch, too. Not sure how we are connected, but I could figure it out if you tell me who your parents & Grparents are. I'm in Ohio and have emailed with a Pearch in Federal Way about 8 years ago...perhaps he's part of your family with you being in Oregon. My mom was Shirley Pearch, daughter of JJ, granddau. of Jacob, grtgranddau of John, then there were a bunch of Conrads before that!
I'd love to email with you if you have the time. Mine is jzabmom@gmail.com. In the meantime, safe riding/biking and trails to you!
Julie Smith Zakbar