Friday, August 21, 2015

Final data and thoughts

Friday, August 21  At home, a week later

Another picture of me taken from the PAC Tour website, on a cold morning when I needed the vest and arm warmers during the initial 25 miles.

The ride back to Sea-Tac Airport the previous Friday was okay. While still in Oregon, I drove for about two hours while the other three mostly slept! Pretty funny. At least I got to drive before it rained and before the bumper-to-bumper traffic we had up in Washington.
We stopped near the Portland Airport for lunch, and here's Tony getting back in the car while Rebecca watches.

Once at our motel near Sea-Tac, I strategized with Tom and Sharon about how to get to Everett to pick up our vehicles. Sharon finally figured it all out and made bus reservations for us, to depart the airport at 7:00. We went early and ate some dinner, but still had to wait a long time because the bus did not depart until 8:00.

The scheduled bus stop was actually in Marysville, a bit beyond Everett. But Sharon's mother lived nearby, and drove us back to the motel in Everett where I hopped in my car and headed straight back to the Sea-Tac motel. The next morning I drove to Clarkston and loaded up all the things Janet had set aside of her parents' to bring home (remember, they are moving to Utah and needed to get rid of most everything in their house). I returned the borrowed front wheel to my riding friend, who noted that since Janet's parents were moving, we'd likely never see each other again. A strange thought.

I had a nice visit with Janet's parents that evening, and then drove home over the next three days, arriving Tuesday, August 18.

Final Pacific Crest Tour data

Miles    1234
Elevation Gain   72,500 feet
12 days
Avg of 103 mi/day and 6042' of climbing/day

Final Skyline Dr/ Blue Ridge Parkway data 

Miles  634
Elevation Gain   66,612 feet
7 days
Avg of 90.5 mi/day and 9516' of climbing/day

Final Continental Divide data

Miles  1447
Elevation Gain   61,600 feet
17 days of riding
Avg of 85 mi/day and 3623' of climbing/day

Totals for the three tours

Miles    3315
Elevation Gain   200,712 feet
36 days of riding
92 mi/day and 5575' of climbing/day


They were grand bike rides, that's for sure. I do think combining all three was perhaps more than I should have tackled. By the last one, I was anxious for it all to be over and get home to Janet and return to my normal life. That was just too much time away from Janet and home sweet home.

Taken individually, I did love the challenges, the scenery, and meeting new friends. The first two had advantages in that they were smaller groups and therefore more intimate and flexible in the daily routines. The last one, with 43 people, had to have more rules and inflexibility to survive, which made it less enjoyable for me in comparison.

Also, in the last tour I had the serious saddle sore the entire time, other than Day1, which prevented me from enjoying the riding as much as I could have. I was thinking more about how to reduce the pain (by standing often, for example) rather than concentrating on the scenery or my performance on the bike or visiting with others as we pedaled along.

I did love my new Cannondale bike! Its light weight helped me up the 200,000 feet of climbing. Probably I was the strongest rider up steep hills in all three tours, other than Alvin in Tour 2. I thought my saddle was just fine, but maybe it was a bit too hard after all. Then again, any seat would be irritating to a new saddle sore if you cycle on it for 8 to 10 hours a day. It was so severe, that I have been home a week now and it hasn't healed yet.

The amount of climbing in Tour 2 (9516' per day average) sounds worse than it was. The hills were rarely very long or steep, whereas in Tours 1 and 3, we had long, sustained climbs that sometimes were quite steep. They seemed tougher. In other words, my memory of Tours 1 and 3 is that they were more mountainous and had harder climbing days.

My bike did well mechanically except for the final five days of Tour 1. During the rest day in Winter Park, CO, I made the mistake of thinking we could fine-tune my front derailleur to get it back to "perfect". I should have left well enough alone. Paul Wood and I worked with it for a long time and it got worse, so we had the bike shop next door fix it. Well, they fixed the shifting from the small to large chain ring, but they did so by setting the derailleur so far to the right that it prevented me from using seven of my gears (due to rubbing, which I did not discover until we'd ridden out of town many miles the following day). I was no longer able to use gears in the needed range of 61 to 79 inches. To put that in perspective, my complete gearing range with my 22 gears is 123 inches to 33 inches (of travel for each revolution of the crank). You tend to rarely use the extremes, but rather the middle, such as exactly what I could not use. Therefore, I was stuck having to ride in too high a gear, such as an 84-inch gear, on those many occasions when I should have been riding somewhere between 61 and 79. It tired me out on those five days of riding much more than if I would have had all my gears.

I feel a proud sense of achievement for having completed each ride in its entirety - every inch, so to speak, of the stated route. I will always treasure this accomplishment and the beauty of the three rides. One's spirit soars when it's you against the elements -- no gas pedal to push, only your own strength and stamina -- and you complete your goals feeling healthy and strong and able to savor the splendor of your surroundings with all your senses.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Crater Lake splendor, and a slide-show look back

Thursday, August 13  Day 12   Diamond Lake to Ashland, OR    123 miles with 6000' of climbing 

This was the scenic highlight of our final day! We rode along the rim for 6 miles and were rewarded with several slightly different perspectives of Crater Lake. What a gem!
Our day began in the dark with a 5:00 breakfast in the parking lot. The staff served its usual hearty fare, as we all scurried to get underway by 5:45. But I didn't get going until 6:00, almost the last one. For only the fourth day of this tour, I needed extra clothing for early-morning warmth. This was the only morning that I needed leg warmers and a t-shirt, in addition to the vest, arm warmers, and full-fingered knitted gloves under my regular gloves.
 The initial 8.5 miles retraced our final 8.5 miles from the afternoon before. This time, we turned south into Crater Lake National Park and rode 9 more miles uphill to the rim of the crater.
 They got this shot of me as we entered the National Park.
Here are Jon from Alexandria, VA and and Nerius from Solana Beach, CA.
The shadows know. Matt, from Bellevue, WA and I rode together all the way from the motel to the rim, and when we reached the rim, we had caught the leaders who departed 15 minutes before we did. Matt and I were screaming along that morning, both good climbers.
Our 18-mile rest stop was just below the crater rim. A few of us walked up the final hill to see the lake. That's Louise, from Atascadero, CA, savoring the view at 7:30 am,  before any tourists had yet arrived.
A view back down to our van and the bikes at our rest stop, with the smoke from the fires out beyond. We were lucky the winds weren't blowing that smoke toward us, because the next day they were, and the views of the lake were hazy (so I heard the next day).
We continued southward along the Rim Road to several viewpoints. This spot was at 7480 feet, and we had climbed almost 3000 feet from our motel in 20 miles. 
If I looked southward, I could see Mt Shasta! I used my telephoto to get this shot. Its peak is almost twice my elevation when I took this - 14,182.

After six miles from our original rest stop, I arrived at the lodge and realized that my phone was  missing. I assumed I left it in the motel room, but I also thought it might be in my briefcase on one of the trailers. When I inquired about checking the briefcase, Susan suggested I ride back the six miles to the van and ask George to drive me to the motel. I quickly rode off to try to catch George before he packed up and left. I passed several of our group who asked that evening why I was riding the wrong way.

I did get back to the van while George was still there. He put my bike up on the rack and we drove the 18 miles back to the motel, where I got  my phone and we then returned the 24-miles to the Crater Lake Lodge where I had reached 1.5 hours earlier. I didn't want to miss any of the route, so I resumed my riding from the lodge even though I knew I would not have van support until I caught up to the back of the group. I filled up both bottles with water and took on several snacks, knowing I would miss the 42-mile rest stop (48 miles for me since I had ridden those extra six miles back to the van), but thinking I would make it in time for the 66-mile lunch (72 miles for me).

Regardless, I was completely focused on fast bike riding for the next several hours. I did not stop for photos, nor for anything else. My adrenaline levels from being upset about my cell phone and catching up remained high and despite my sore butt, I truly was riding strong, without stopping, right up to about Mile 70 (Mile 76 for me). I had "raced" for 46 miles, but when I realized I had missed the 66-mile lunch stop, I had to slow down to conserve my dwindling water supply. (In fact, I had been mistaken that it was the lunch stop. It had been only a rest stop.) I then assumed I would be on my own all the way to Ashland, another 46 miles, and would need to seek out water and food on my own.

But there was no civilization in sight. I climbed a long hill and reached the final turn before reaching our destination -- the route would follow Dead Indian Memorial Hwy for 41 miles to Ashland. I just prayed I would come across a source of water. Water and food would be ideal, but I needed water. By then, it was extremely hot and windy, so I was needing lots of water but could take only sips since I did not know when I would get more.

I pedaled easily along the road, trying to minimize my need for water. It was all forested with no civilization nor sources of water. After about five miles, in a worried state of mind and with only a few sips of water left, I rounded a bend and there was our van! Praise be! Water! Food! Thank you God!

It turned out that this was the lunch stop, which always means they are there for a much longer time than when it's only a rest stop (to merely replenish water and snacks). There were two riders still there, the tandem team of Tom and Sharon from Fresno, CA. I drank tons of cold water. I got to have a veggie burger with salad, cold Coke, and I got to sit in a soft chair to give my sore butt some relief. I kept thanking God!!

I was thankful that I had ridden so fast for those 46 miles (until I eased up 11 miles earlier). Even the staff commented how fast I must have ridden to catch up to them when I did. Tom and Sharon eventually went on, and I stayed to savor my lunch and my first rest off the bike for 57 miles.

Before getting back on my bike, I phoned Uncle Harry and Aunt Bev to suggest an earlier visit than I had previously estimated.

Off I went, with the satisfaction of a full tummy and topped-off water bottles, now knowing I could enjoy the scenery over the remaining 35 miles. It turned out to be a life-saver to have ample water because there were numerous long climbs in 90-degree temps. I had heard how Dead Indian Road had a long descent, but that didn't begin until Mile 100 (Mile 106 for me). Thus, there were 19 miles of up and down before the big descent began. Even then, I needed ample water because there was a very strong head/side wind in temperatures that kept increasing as I dropped into Ashland where it was over 100 degrees.
During the descent into Ashland, I finally stopped to take my first photo since six hours earlier at the Crater Lake rim.

It was so hot in Ashland, and I was beyond relieved to be finished. The all-day focus on catching up, and then worrying I would suffer dehydration, had colored my final tour day in a way I had not expected. The usual joy of completion was instead only a relief of completion. Even as I rolled up to the van at the motel and dismounted, no one said anything, such as a cheer or a "way to go" the way we usually do at the conclusion of a tour. I realized later that no one knew I had returned to get my cell phone and was chasing all day.

But Aunt Bev and Uncle Harry were coming soon! I hurried to get my bags and shower, although some who had asked previously to buy an autographed copy of my book were now asking for it and handing me money, and so on. So, I was scurrying about with books and money and getting things off my bike, and still trying to rehydrate.

Once Bev and Harry arrived, we drove to where the final pizza party was going to be. But we couldn't find it. After many turns and u-turns, we got back to the motel and I inquired at the desk. It turned out the map on our slate was showing the opposite direction, so I informed a staff member and went on with Bev and Harry to the correct location.
We had a nice one-hour visit at the pizza restaurant, before all the cyclists started showing up. So great to see them healthy, active, and happy after 27 years of retirement there in Medford.
After all-u-can-eat pizza and salad (and a couple Ninkasi IPAs), Lon Haldeman auctioned off the map, which we all autographed, for his charities. The winner, at $800, was Bill Phillippi, the rider who had crossed the country with me in 2007. As a final commemoration of our achievement, Lon and Susan showed a 30-minute slide show, complete with music, of our tour. I think there were about 400 photos they or other staff took over the 12 days, and everyone enjoyed it.

Once the slide show ended, we walked back to the motel and Bob and I were ready for bed. Not only were we dead tired, but Bob's van back to Seattle was departing at 5:00. I was in the Lincoln Continental departing at 6:00, but breakfast was being served at 5:00.

The reason we had a Lincoln sedan was because of Susan's 96-yr-old father, Tony, who accompanied our tour. Lon's and Susan's daughter, Rebecca, and Susan's niece, Eliza, were in charge of Tony during the tour, although both of them also helped as regular staff members, and they also rode their bikes sometimes. For the drive to Seattle, I would be with Rebecca, Tony, and Veronica (from Anchorage).

It didn't take Bob and me long to be sound asleep. The bike riding was over, but the early next-morning schedule was continuing.

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

Wednesday, August 12   Day 11   Bend to Diamond Lake, OR  127 miles, 6300' of climbing

For the third day in a row, we rode on an Oregon Scenic Byway, but this one wasn't as densely forested and "back roads". As you can see in this photo taken at Mile 18, it was more an open highway near Mt Bachelor. We rode around Mt Bachelor on its north side and then circled south past several lakes.
Actually, it was more densely forested here, after about 10 miles as we started a long climb. Such a nice, wide shoulder for bikes.
After passing Mt Bachelor, ahead was South Sister. I'd seen North and Middle Sisters yesterday, and now there was the third Sister, which we passed below to its south.
They got a shot of me riding the way I had to ALL THE TIME on this tour - standing up to give my saddle sore a break.
One of many Cascade lakes on the way south was Devil's Lake.
This was my attempt to be artistic, but it didn't work. As I was riding along, Lower Sister filled my rear-view mirror, much as the Grand Tetons had filled my rear-view mirror on my final day of Tour 1 and Mt Adams had filled it on the ride to Mt Hood. I finally decided to illustrate this with a photo, but I couldn't capture it. All I got was a small piece of the mountain.

I actually was trying to minimize my stops, and I even skipped the rest stop at Mile 42, because I was trying to meet Jeff at Lake Cultus at 10:00. The evening before, Jeff said he wanted to do a ride out to the Byway we would be on, and we chose 10 am to meet and ride together for about 9 miles. I was running behind, so I hurried to get there and ended up just 6 minutes late (but he was 15 minutes early, so he did have to sit there a while and told some of our group who passed by that he was waiting for me).
I forgot to take a photo of Jeff, so I pulled this from my pictures during the Skyline Drive ride back on July 5. We had a good time yakking for our 9 miles together, and then he had to turn left and head back to his home to complete his 65-mile ride. I continued on to our lunch stop at Mile 70.
 Enjoying some energy intake with Ron and George.
We then rode 14 miles southeast toward Hwy 97. Along the way, I passed two lakes that were obviously affected by the drought. You can see how low this one is.
And this photo shows another low lake, surrounded by the remains of a major fire. All the mountains on both sides of the highway here for several miles had fire-scarred trees like these.

Once at Hwy 97, I did not like the bike ride very much. We had a strong, hot, dry headwind, and the road surface was the rough chip-seal. My saddle sore had worsened. During the entire 19 miles on Hwy 97, I looked forward to when we would turn west onto a different road for our final 23 miles. I remember feeling the same way on Day 3 when we also rode south on Hwy 97 in Washington along the Columbia River, and that day also had a hot, dry, strong headwind. I don't do well in headwinds due to my upright, non-aerodynamic position on the bike. Seems like everyone who had been behind me passed me during this section.

Once we turned due west on Hwy 138, on this Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, I had a resurgence! The road was smooth, no headwind, and we had a rest stop after just three miles. My final 23 miles saw me speeding up and passing several riders up the hills after they had all passed me back on Hwy 97.
 See how straight and smooth the highway was along Hwy 138? What a shot this is looking back so far on this road.

It was a relief to finally reach our destination at Diamond Lake, hazed over from the wild fires farther to the west.
Once in, I took this photo showing the smoke from the nearby fires. To be "fair", I also took a photo to the south that was not tainted by the smoke:
 I also enjoyed my 6th and final massage from Barb. For the first time, I washed my bike, which some riders did every single afternoon.
There was only one restaurant at this resort area on the lake, but it was a good one. As you can see, all of us were there. I ate with Bruce, from Chicago, and enjoyed sharing stories. When he learned about my book, he bought one. (I took six copies, and eventually sold all of them.) He also told an interesting Peter Sagan story, of how he saw him climbing Independence Pass in Colorado the previous year when Sagan was training for the U.S. Pro Challenge. The two of them ended up talking, and Bruce said that Sagan was just the nicest fellow you could ever imagine. He got this photo of the two of them, and he said that I looked like Sagan when I wore my full Cannondale kit on the first day of the tour.

It was a late dinner, and soon afterward Bob and I turned out our lights. The final day was not only going to be a long one, but breakfast was scheduled for 5:00 to give us an early start.

Over McKenzie Pass into Bend

Tuesday, August 11  Day 10   Detroit to Bend, OR   119 miles with 7600 feet of climbing

Lava rock everywhere at McKenzie Pass, after a beautiful scenic ride up there on yet another of Oregon's Scenic Byways. Lava fields were in all directions for miles. The Byway boasts the highest concentration of volcanoes in the lower 48 states (Broken Top Mountain, Mount Washington and The Three Sisters, among other peaks, contributed to all that lava flow).
 The day began with our route continuing along the Santium River. Another perfect day for our weather.
Just one more pretty scene as we enjoyed our morning bike ride southward along a quiet highway.
After 54 miles, we turned eastward onto this Scenic Byway toward McKenzie Pass. The Byway yesterday and today are incredible biking roads due to minimal traffic and spectacular scenery. Much of it was steeply hilly, but that's where I usually catch up to others and did today too.
This is a typical view along the Byway before the climbing got steeper. This road is not kept open during the winter.
Another "typical" view as we gained altitude on the Byway. My saddle sore felt better after the 50-mile rest stop because I removed a shirt I was using to provide extra padding. The extra layers were actually making my butt more sore rather than less.
I rounded a bend and suddenly the landscape was filled with lava rock. But when I stopped to take this photo of Belknap Crater, the pile of lava was so high at the roadside that you couldn't see beyond it at how it covered everything as far as you could see (northward). But those photos would come later.
As we went higher, we got this view of the Upper and Middle Sister peaks. The lava rock is across the horizon here too (southward).
As I approached the summit, the lava landscape got more pronounced, with only a scattering of trees left.
At the McKenzie Pass summit was this observatory made from lava rock in 1935 as a CCC project.
The stairway up the Dee Wright Observatory.
Below the top was a room with window views of various peaks, and this dedication plaque. Each view had the name of the peak you were seeing and how far away it was, but they were carved into the rock and mostly had eroded making it difficult to read them.
View out the northwest window looking at Mt Washington. NOW you can see how the complete landscape was lava rock. Bleak in one sense, but spectacular in another. I don't think too many of our group took the time to visit this observatory. While I was up there, I watched every cyclist behind me ride on past it.
This is at the very top of the observatory, showing geographical highlights in all directions. That's Black's Butte back there.

I finally got back on my bike after Bill Phillippi took the picture of my in front of the McKenzie Pass sign at the top of this posting. We then descended to the lunch stop at Mile 84, and they cooked bratwurst for us! It really hit the spot, but my beer would have to wait til later in Bend.
The descent took us into the town of Sisters, but I didn't stop. Just outside of town on Hwy 20 was this artwork that had a realism to it. This two-dimensional photo makes it seem even more real.
The only reason I took this picture was to illustrate the less picturesque high desert landscape we had during our final 30 miles into Bend. It was mighty hot by this time, too.

I kept an eye on my watch because I had set a 5 pm meeting time with Jeff Eorio to go taste some fine Bend beers. I had estimated for Jeff a 4 pm finish time, and I'd be ready by 5 pm. Well, I was pretty close; I rolled into the motel at 4:10, and Jeff was already there. He had decided to arrive early, with his dog Annie, to cheer my finish, and then he planned to do some errands while I took my shower and changed. It was great to see him again since a month earlier when we said goodbye in Cincinnati after Tour #2 on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

As it turned out, I was ready by 4:45 and Jeff drove me to Crux Fermentation Project, one of 16 local breweries Bend has to offer. One reason he chose Crux was there were outside tables where Annie could be with us, as you see in the photo. Jeff treated me to two of their IPAs and we shared some chips and dip.
Just HAD to get my photo with their brewmaster! By the way, that t-shirt I'm wearing, a gift from Paul Amuchastegui, is for Polygamy Porter Beer, a Utah favorite!

Jeff then drove me on a brief tour of Bend. We went past the huge new Deschutes Brewery, as well as its original location, still operating, in downtown Bend.
This is Mirror Pond, which is the name of Deschutes' original and most popular beer nationwide.
Jeff also suggested I see one of his favorite stores that combines three prime life experiences in one: Coffee, Beer, and Cycling. It's called Crow's Feet Commons. Jeff then dropped me off downtown at Noi Thai Restaurant for my second visit of the evening, with my high school buddy Dan Jones.
I completely forgot to get a picture of Dan even though I had my camera sitting right there, so I took this one from Facebook. Dan was a water polo/swimmer at HHS, and just retired from a 40-year teaching career, almost all of it in Bend. We had a wonderful visit; we hadn't seen each other in about 25 years. When he dropped me off at the hotel, he bought a copy of Head Over Wheels, which I of course signed.

Roommate Bob was still awake, but wondered where I had been all evening. I was in such a rush earlier, I didn't even leave a note (Bob finished his ride after I had departed with Jeff). We went right to sleep, however, since the next day would be a tough 124-miler with 6300 feet of climbing.