Sixty-Eight: Last Pass, First Flat and a Little Trail Magic (Prineville to Eugene)

Miles: 137
Total: 4,573

Ever wonder how many licks it takes to get to the middle of a Schwalbe Marathon? 4,937 fully loaded miles and a wire nail finally put an end to my flat-free streak. Darn.

Lots happened today! The morning started talking to WB BCers, who worried their ’87 camper-van wouldn’t fare well up Ochoco Pass. I pulled out my map and showed them the elevation profile. If I can do it on a a bike, I have faith in the ol’ Chevy V8.

Grey morning, with sprinkles. Nothing so heavy to warrant a jacket, the rain felt nice as I pedaled through Redmond and into Sisters. The town’s named for three 10,000′ mountains: North, Middle and South Sister. I had a sandwich here and drank a quart of chocolate milk in prep for my final big haul on the TransAmerica, a 15-mile climb up 5,325′ McKenzie Pass. It’s frequently closed into July, and my maps offer an alternative through Santiam. I’m glad the road’s open, because it was barely trafficked, twisty, narrow (no vehicles over 35′ allowed) and drop-dead gorgeous.

Toward the top, the road runs along lava flows, the most recent deposited only 1,500 years ago. From the summit, it’s possible to see a whole host of mountains, including Mt. Hood, a goodly ways off. Spencer flagged me down at the peak and asked whether I wanted any kale-quinoa salad. What a question! Yes, of course. He’s a cyclist and hiker, and working as a guide for seven folks doing a supported tour of Oregon. I met two Pacific Crest Trail hikers, who just about lost their minds at mention of a leafy green. The TransAm crosses the big three hiking trails: Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest. He said he’s been the beneficiary of trail magic before, and tries to feed wanderers whenever possible. Loaded down with fruit, water and even a beer for later, I worked to get closer to sea level.

After the summit, I lost almost 4,500′ and will live in the arena of 800′ to the coast. The ride down was terrific fun with miles and miles of switchbacks through densely wooded forest. The west side of the Cascades are lush. The trees are huge and humidity’s returned to the party. The air’s thick.

I planned to call it quits in McKenzie Bridge, 80 miles in, but the sun was high, and the USFS campground $16, which got you potable water and not much else, so I rode on. I figured on pulling off on a logging road and putting my tent up, but as I got closer to town, National Forest gave way to private property, so I decided to make for one of Eugene’s city parks. Four miles from quitting time I heard a hiss after putting my water bottle back in its cage. Flat! The rear tire’d given up the ghost after probably close to 6,000 miles, nearly 5,000 with 50 pounds of stuff hanging over it. I’m lucky to be close to a big city, and will pick up a new tire tomorrow. Local Donovan told me to get sorted at the perfectly named Center for Appropriate Transportation,¬†Eugene’s bike kitchen.

I got to the park at dark, and the host had turned in. The campground’s full, but I found a spot next to a few trees to set up. As soon as I got cleaned up and settled down, the sprinklers started, and the north side of my tent’s in the line of fire. Too tired to move everything, we’ll let this serve as a test of REI’s seam-sealing prowess.