Thursday, September 23, 2010

Road Trip

Aj and I took off for Northern CA this past week. We got back Wednesday night and I am leaving for Crater Lake in about an hour with Zach. All play and no work for me until school starts next Friday. Till I have some time to give more details about our trip, here are some pictures. In short, it was incredible to see (what's left) of the Redwood forest. It's a shame that their used to be 2 million acres of forest and now only 100,000 remains due to logging....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Oregon Stampede

On Friday night Aj and I headed East of The Dalles, OR to Deschutes State Park to camp and partake in a unique gravel/road race Saturday morning. I signed us both up back in March when I first heard about the event. Having participated in many gravel races back home in the Midwest, I was very excited to find something similar out West. Donnie Kolb, the race director, invested a considerable amount of time and effort putting the course together while trying to form a gravel niche here in Oregon. I am still trying to process the whole day and feel very lucky to have been a part of it.

It was the same game out West as it is back home, a free, local grassroots event with a wide range of participants looking to challenge themselves individually. It was very convenient for me to participate in these types of events back home because it is where gravel endurance cycling events started. The races I have participated in have been both physically and logistically challenging and vary greatly in terrain and environment. The Oregon Stampede varied more in terrain and environment that I had expected and made for a much longer day on the bike. Back in Iowa, obviously, we don’t have any six-mile climbs, or even the possibility of finding a course route that proceeds to take you uphill for the first 20 miles. So it goes….

The start was unrushed and easy going as we rolled out of the park area and hit the gravel quickly. Steep sections of gravel seemingly came out of nowhere and quickly separated the group of 50 riders. Climbing out of the Colombia River Gorge area was beautiful and made it hard to look at where my front wheel was headed. My lungs quickly began to gasp and rear wheel began to slip as I got out of the saddle. My bike gearing for this course was not ideal, quickly finding myself cranking up the hills in my lowest gear ratio. As the road grades leveled to a more manageable bike environment, Aj and I were able to settle in for the day. Everything about the day was going perfectly. Weather was awesome, views even better, and chatting with Aj about random thoughts helped pass the time quickly. After climbing for about two and a half hours we were treated with an epic panorama of various mountain peaks. Visible to us were Mt. Adams, Mt. Ranier, Mt. Hood. and Mt. Jefferson. Not a bad view to earn. An exceptional five-mile gravel decent took us back into the valley before finishing it out on pavement. Aj had some trouble keeping the water bottles in their cages and I had to retrieve one, but otherwise we kept on flying down the hill.

As we approached Dufur, the first of three towns on the route, I mistakenly miss-read the cue sheet and took us on a six-mile detour. We got back on course and made our way into town to fill up on water and grab myself some food. Aj’s dietary decisions required him to carry all of his food for the day, making his race even more true to the un-supported ethos of gravel racing. Besides some water re-filling, he hauled everything he needed for 130 miles on a bike.

From Durfur to our next checkpoint, was for me, the best part of the ride. We were on some awesome minimum maintenance roads and had a four-mile stretch of some pure gravel lunacy. Dusty gravel quickly turned into full on mountain biking, which helped take my mind off of my tiring legs. I would try to explain more of this awesome backroad but it wouldn’t give it much justice.

The rest of the ride was more of the same, including a mix of road and gravel roads. Aj and I rode with a few others, which was a pleasure and makes these events more memorable, until the long and steady six-mile climb out of the valley. One more pit stop and it was relatively downhill from there. A few short climbs and we summated the last leg of the course. We began our descent back into The Gorge just before sunset and had an awesome ride down. I was too busy looking around to take pictures and took in much more enjoyment celebrating the moment flying downhill for well over 10 minutes. We came into the campground just as darkness set in with our lights on…..right at 12 hours and 30 minutes for the day. Considerably slower than I expected to complete the course in, but I couldn’t have asked for a better day on the bike with my brother riding beside me. It was a day I will not forget.

It was a great feeling to finish and hang out with some cool people around the campsite afterwards. It would have been awesome to stay for another night but Aj had finals starting Monday and needed most of the day on Sunday to study.

Many thanks to Donnie for organizing the Oregon Stampede and providing those who participated with an awesome opportunity to experience all of the natural beauty surrounding the course. I love these events and the people who attend them. I would much rather go and support local people who put on these events for the love of cycling and being in the presence of others than those with outrageous entry fees. Go ride, give it your best, have a blast and share your experience. That is why these events are growing in popularity in the Midwest and it will certainly follow suit here out West with awesome people putting these events on and participating in them.

For some pictures much better than mine, check out Matt Haugheys photos.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mount Defiance

Aj, Casey, Zach and I headed for Mount Defiance on Labor Day for some suffering by hiking to the highest peak in the Colombia River Gorge. 12 mile round trip which included approximately 5,000 feet of climbing. I think the pictures will explain most of the hike....
View from the parking lot.
Working our way was STEEP!

Mount St. Helens
Warren Lake 3/4 of the way up. Lots of huckleberry bushes, but we may have been a few weeks early.

Mt. Hood

Colombia River Gorge...we started at the very bottom!
Aj taking in the view and some food.

Back down was just as steep as the way up....legs are paying for it today.
Three waterfalls welcomed us back to the car.
Good way to refresh yourself after a strenuous hike. It was cold!!!

Another awesome Oregon adventure in the books.

For those wondering, yes, this entire state is pretty much a playground.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Aj and I were fortunate enough to be loaned some kayaks from the Steinberg's (a family Aj met through various Luther friends) who have been very giving to Aj during his time in Portland. Mary dropped us off for a three hour kayak adventure on the Clackamas River just south of Portland on Friday afternoon.
As we were loading our kayaks into the river when Aj spotted yet another one of the thousands of blackberry bushes I have seen in a week (the bushes are also great if you are close to bonking on a bike ride because you can find blackberries almost everywhere to refuel). We loaded up our hats for a snack during the ride and departed.

I couldn't have imagined a better day to spend on the river. A rare clear sky gave some great views of Mt. Hood and the crisp, clear water felt refreshing while relaxing in the 85 degree heat. To top things off, the Steinberg's prepared an awesome supper for us when we returned before Rich proceeded to walk his way through the cribbage tournament.

Yeah, life is pretty good.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ronde PDX

Aj and I had another opportunity to get out and ride on Thursday afternoon after he was finished with class. We decided to give part of the Ronde PDX route a try before we got lost and ended up finding some pretty good climbs. The climbs here are long and grueling compared to the short and steep climbs back home. However, today we found something both short (about 1/2 mile long) and steeper than any road I have ever been on featuring a 23% grade.

The route started off by taking us up Saltzman Rd., a climb that took us approximately 25 minutes before we reached the top. Lungs and legs were feeling good until we found our first "lion." It's one thing to be sitting in granny gear and making your way up a hill, but standing, cranking and grueling through granny gear is another. It was one of those hills where your lungs feel like they are going to pop right out of your mouth and every one of your leg muscles are going to burn from the inside out. The ride up Byrnside Rd. started with a lady driving down the road from her house and stopping to ask us if we were planning on riding our bikes up the drive. She advised us that she won't even walk up the hill, let alone give thought about biking up it, and wished us well. Not exactly motivation before a big climb! So it goes...

Admittedly, Aj and I didn't make it to the top without walking the first time. I stopped and walked to the top, which was hard enough. Aj turned back around and took another run at it before meeting me at the top. I decided I couldn't let my pride suffer without conquering this beast, even if I was still gasping for air after walking up it. I rode the bike back down, put my head down and tired not to think about the terrible burning in my legs. Conquering that epic of a hill was a good feeling. We continued on with our ride, adding another 25 miles or so, and Aj put it best by saying that, "we defeated the lion, but it left some scars on its slayers."