You’re probably familiar with that old adage, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, that pretty much sums up my experience while on vacation last week.
I left my house at about 5:40 a.m. on Saturday, June 15, and, loaded down with enough gear for a week, I pedaled out of my driveway. That’s right, on a bicycle.
I was embarking on another one of my adventures, the kind that leaves my wife just shaking her head and wondering yet again what kind of man she married almost 30 years ago. For the last several months, a friend and I had been planning to ride our bicycles across Oregon, from Newport to Ontario on the Oregon/Idaho border. I met up with him at his house and we left Newport around 6 a.m., heading east on Highway 20, which we would be traveling on for most of our journey.
Taking breaks now and then, we made it over the Coast Range and eventually into the town of Lebanon, a journey of around 70 miles. One thing that became pretty clear to me early on is pedaling while carrying all that gear is much more challenging than simply riding a bicycle, particularly when going uphill. We had originally planned to camp that night but opted instead for a motel and hot shower. Neither of us regretted that decision.
Heading east out of Lebanon the next morning was fine for a few miles, but it wasn’t long before we started some serious climbing … and then it seemed to get steeper yet. I’ve been over that stretch of road many times, but your perspective certainly changes when you’re supplying your own power for the ascent. The last 10 or 11 miles were the toughest, climbing up to what’s called Tombstone Pass – I hoped that name wouldn’t take on a personal meaning for me. We took many breaks, and at one point, my buddy decided to walk his bike for a while. He said his bike computer showed he was traveling about 3.5 miles per hour while walking. Hmmm, I was pedaling and only doing 4 mph.
Finally getting to the top was an almost spiritual experience. This was followed by a fast, four-mile coast downhill, reaching speeds of close to 40 mph as we cruised in to our camping spot for the night.
The next day involved more climbing – not quite as intense as the previous day, but tough nonetheless. It was this morning that it became apparent our plans for the week were about to change. My friend had been sick the previous week, and although he felt much better by the time we left Newport, he just didn’t have his stamina back. He asked me what I wanted to do, and the idea of going on by myself and doing a solo ride across the eastern Oregon high desert – with spotty cell service, should I, too, run into trouble – did not appeal to me. We both ended up pulling the plug on our bicycle trip after making it to the town of Sisters. His son drove over and picked us up.
So that was Monday, and I had taken the entire week off from work. Still wanting to go on some type of adventure, I decided to switch bikes. Tuesday morning, I left the one with pedals in the garage and jumped on the one with the motor, heading out for the next three days on a motorcycle trip that would go wherever the road took me. One of the great things about Oregon is that there are so many scenic back roads to explore and beautiful areas to enjoy.
When I set out on this second half of my biking adventure, one place I definitely wanted to check out was a road called Aufderheide Drive. It’s a 60-mile scenic route that runs between the McKenzie Pass near the Cougar Reservoir over to the Willamette Pass near Oakridge. Another friend had told me how much he enjoyed that ride, so I thought “perfect, that’s where I’ll go.” But then the plan changed once again. After getting up there, I learned that a wildfire last year caused damage to the area, and the road was closed for repairs.
Contemplating my next move, I found out the old McKenzie Highway had opened for the season just a few days before. This old mountain pass runs through lava beds, provides fantastic mountain views and comes out at Sisters. I decided to take this scenic route instead and was not disappointed. The views were incredible, and cruising along that winding highway is a lot of fun on a motorcycle.
As I reached the end of this “plan B” scenic route, I pulled into the exact same town I had been in just two days before on my bicycle. What a sense of déjà vu! I had traded one bike for another, but the turnaround point was the same. I couldn’t help but think, however, that even though I traveled many of the same miles of road both times, it was a whole lot easier on a motorcycle.
My week certainly wasn’t what I had expected starting out, but even so, my “Tale of Two Bikes” turned out to be filled with adventure, and that’s what I was looking for. Now what should I do next, I wonder, as my wife just rolls her eyes.