that had I not carried so much food I wouldn’t have needed to eat so much. What we have and what we need are relative. I shoot a few frames as the group drops in to the maple lined, single lane, paved road with layers of mountains veiled in smoke as the back drop. This is the last descent on our 260 mile, 6 day bike tour and it begs me to reflect. I feel the sweat drip down the side of my face and I think a bit more about perception and effort and food. I shove down the overwhelming sense that reality lies on the other side of sunset, where all the things I should have done await my return. I drink the last of my electrolytes and rally to catch the guys. As we hoot and holler and ring our bells down the fast and smooth, winding, slightly moss covered black top at full speed, I can’t help but acknowledge that this moment, too, is my reality. My mind goes silent and my awareness turns to the sound of our tires barreling down the road, the wind on my face, and how much I love being alive.
This concept rolls with me into the next few days. As I ease back into a life filled with indulgent comforts and distractions, I contemplate how going into the world on a bike with all the tools you need to survive is so liberating. I keep coming back to the idea that life doesn’t need to be as complicated as we seem to make it. Riding a bike through the Cascades for 260 miles with 24,000 feet of climbing on old mountain roads makes that crystal clear. I understand why people quit their jobs, sell their homes and become nomads. Still, there is this part of me that finds comfort in the chaotic pursuit of trying to control the very chaos that is life. I think it’s easy to get lost in the romance of escaping society and forget that this kind of freedom, too, has a cost. Where there is liberty, there is limitation. It’s all relative.
At the top of a climb, Eric could be found lounging in his ultralight chair - an ironic yet essential piece of his minimalist set-up.
Intentionally lower mileage days on this tour allowed for chill vibes and plenty of time to enjoy places like Green Peter Lake.
Tory found a fun trail along Hwy 26.
We rode single track from camp into town for coffee on the last morning.
As Taylor would say, "good camping". It's a hallmark of our adventures and this shot from our campsite on Day 5 proves it.
All-Road Touring: a mix of gravel and paved forest roads. Ride all the roads.
With water sources abundant, filtering water and bathing along the route were daily tasks. Jordan pumps water on our first night at camp.
It's 7 am on a Tuesday late in August. We take Dan's courtesy shuttle from Bend, OR to Rainbow on the McKenzie River. The mini van is full of panniers and a sleepy-eyed crew ready to ride for 6 days with nothing more to do than find the most beautiful places to sleep, eat, and frolic in the water. The route takes us up Blue River Reservoir Rd to the hardest climb of the journey - Buck Mt. The steep, loose gravel road proves to be relentless and the smoke from what seems like a wildfire apocalypse continues to thicken as we approach the summit. The highway we took from Bend to Rainbow closes due to fires later that afternoon. Finally, we reach the top with no reward of mountain views. We are, however, grateful for the fact that we made it. The salami and cheese feast that goes down when we get to camp, along with the sweet taste of a ripping descent on fully loaded touring bikes, washes away any level of defeat induced by Buck Mountain. We set up our tents on the smooth rocks that bank the Calapooya River. We bathe. We fish. We chill. We eat. Tory and Eric laugh while they enjoy sling-shot target practice and the light fades as we recollect the day's events and crawl into our sleeping bags.
I open my eyes to see stars against a dark sky. No smoke, I think to myslef. Tory is antsy about the log trucks hauling ass up the road, though it's only 4 am. A too-close call on a recent tour makes the sound of the trucks into a real-life nightmare. We toss and turn in our ultralight, ultra-tiny, 2 person tent until sunrise. Coffee and breakfast ensue and the soothing sound of rushing water eases us into a beautiful day of meandering along Green Peter Lake toward Quartzville. The section of road treats us to a jungle of ferns and moss and water flowing alongside it. We come into a mineral mining area, which lends distraction from what our legs are being forced to do. There are roadside campsites with creek access for miles. We scout for a site and decide that camping at a fee site with a swimming hole and a picnic table will suffice. We swim. It's Tory's birthday and we sing to him while the guys wear their own birthday suits and rinse away the day's sweat. We drink beer that Tory packed from a stop at a market earlier in the day. Fishing, sling-shotting, and giggling commence. We heat water and eat our dehydrated dinners. We roll some dice, share a few more laughs and close our eyes.
The French couple who borrowed Taylor's stove the night before ask if they can use it for breakfast. Taylor's compassion and general goodness is contagious and makes me reconsider much of my selfish behavior. Eric's Jetboil stove is operating like an F-16 fighter jet while our's is more like the Wright Brother's version. We joke about a Jetboil ad campaign that is mostly Eric whispering "Jetboil". Hot water is poured over instant coffee in our stainless mugs. Re-organization of bags and gear, more jokes, and cleaning of drive trains takes up the rest of the morning. We are on our bikes by 9 am and head up Forrest Service Road 11. I am partial to this road; 11 is my number. The paved FS road is littered with mining claims and campsites filling with folks out to enjoy the long weekend. The moss and greenery send me into a state of pure bliss. I remind myself how fortunate we are to be here and to experience life. We ride Upper Blowout Rd and land at Detroit Lake for the night. We find a primitive campsite on the beach of the Santiam River. Baths. Food. Fishing. We wash some clothes and hang them to dry. Tents are pitched and the sunset enjoyed to the last drop.
We pack up quickly this morning and roll to the Korner Post Restaurant in Detroit. We plug in our electronics and check the news for a brief moment to find that Hwy 46 may be closed due to a new wildfire jumping the road. Tory researches whether we need to reroute around Brietenbush but we hear from locals that they are letting traffic through with a pilot car. We eat greasy diner food and enjoy the names and notes on the walls of past visitors. I capture a few photos and we load up on peanut M&Ms and $2 IPAs at the convenience store. The smoke is the thickest we've encountered so far. We ride up 46 along Brietenbush River and chat with the flagger who allows us to head through the lane closure into the fire. Waves and thank you's are distributed to firefighters as we climb into the smoke. We finally reach the top and take a turn onto 42. Our destination is Summit Lake, but Labor Day weekend is upon us and the lake is simply too crowded. Pedaling continues and we stop in to Clackamas Lake where the camp hostess informs us there is no vacancy and suggests another dry camp site up the road. We proceed to find our own site behind the historic ranger station and leave no trace. We bathe in the coldest water ever and feel more alive for it.
The sun peeks through the old growth trees while a brown squirrel rightfully curses us out for being in his home uninvited. Tory leaves the tent early to explore the out buildings. His departure prompts me to get up to grab a sunrise shot of the tiny cabin across the highway that we had tried to find in the dark the night before. I walk down the highway and breathe in the cold air that makes my hands ache and I am reminded that summer won't last forever. I turn my camera on; battery exhausted. I berate myself for making these kinds of mistakes. I walk back to camp. He returns from exploring the old blacksmith cabin with excitement still lingering in his eyes. I adore his curiosity and find a place in the sun to enjoy my coffee and oatmeal. We fill our water, stretch our bodies, and mosey out onto the road with hopes of pizza and beer in Rhododendron tonight. We get a long, enjoyable descent into town. We make a stop at Mt. Hood Rec Center and post up at our campsite about a mile from town. The river water is frigid but we love how refreshing it is. We go to town for great pizza and cold beer on tap. I feel content. Happy. Tired. Relaxed. The dark comes and we lay down for our final night. A tickle war breaks out in the tent and we laugh until our eyes shut.
Our neighbors in the campground are splitting wood for a morning fire. They don't watch the news or breathe the air, I think to myself. The entire state is on fire. Highways are closing down and homes being evacuated, yet our neighbors feel like they should still have a campfire, even if it is warm at 7 am. I remind myself we are all hypocrites and begin to pack and dress for the last day of an amazing adventure. We treat ourselves to lattes and cappuccinos at Mt. Hood Roasters. Jordan makes friends with the kind lady who is roasting coffee beans and we take our time sipping coffee and eating pastries before we begin the smokey climb up Lolo Pass. At the summit we find Eric in his usual form - kicked back in his chair, pink Crocs strewn about. We descend a bit and then climb on gravel. I feel the sweat consume my cotton shirt and I allow myself to mourn internally for what I know is the end of an adventure. We are truly rewarded with a descent that feels like a downhill go-cart track of single lane pavement with banked corners and all. We drop into the orchards above Hood River, eat a roadside plum, and roll into town grinning big. Food. Drinks. Laughs. Hugs that mean something. We've become a team. A family.
2018 Rainbow to Hood River All-Road Tour Crew ready to roll out.
Road 11 on Day 3 did not dissapoint.
Sling shots are a must-have source of entertainment on a bike adventure.
Swimming and fishing in Quartzville on the second evening of the journey.
Coffee and breakfast at the Korner Post in Detroit to start Day 4 while we figure out if we need to reroute around Hwy 46.
Jordan, Eric, and Tory joke and chill at the summit of Buck Mountain, our toughest climb.
We used Ride with GPS to map out and navigate this trip. You can see the details, download the map and plan your adventure from Rainbow to Hood River along this route at:
You can find the routes that Tory Sox has mapped out on his Ride with GPS Profile: https://ridewithgps.com/users/953824 His niche for curating bike tours that utilize as little major highway and heavily traveled road as possible make for trips full of swimming and fishing holes, amazing scenery, big mountain passes and huge, smile-inducing descents. His passion for enjoying the ride shines bright through the routes he creates.
From Surly bikes, Ortlieb and Revelate bags, to Luci lanterns and stainless mugs - they've got your bike adventure gear.
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