Crater lake 1000
Somewhere up in the redwoods near Santa Cruz, Steve urges me to join him and Tom up in Oregon for the Crater Lake 1000k. If we complete the randonnee, we would earn the RUSA cup.
The cup! The cup! You need to earn that thing.
Ok. What is it? I ask. I have earned a few medals from RUSA, but I don’t often seek them out. I did have my eye on a second SR5000 and that required a 1000k to complete the requirements.
So I told Steve, I was in. Truthfully, he had me at Crater Lake.
Fast forward through the next month… I rode a 600k, and then a few 200k’s, and then I headed to Alaska for the Big Wild Ride, a 1200k from Valdez to Anchorage. And before I knew it, it was time to head to Seattle for the 1000k.
The Seattle Randonnuers are a large rando club, with the fullest calendar of rides of any club. This 1000k ride was the third, I think, being hosted by SIR and it was going to be a good one. The route started in Bremerton, and wound down the sound to Astoria, crossing the bridge into Oregon. It then followed the Oregon coast down to Reedsport, where it turned inland to follow the Umpqua river to Diamond Lake. From there, the route continues up to Crater Lake NP, and then drops back down to Klamath Falls, via Ft. Klamath. The route has everything: coastal scenery, bucolic inland fields and farms, a spectacular river valley, topped off with a steep climb to Crater Lake, and a fast descent to the finish in Klamath Falls. The train goes through there, and so folks can train back to Seattle, or train down the coast to SF, or LA. Good logistics.
There were 17 riders in total, and 7 of those were from SFR. Seattle had 5-6 riders, and others came from Oregon and southern Cali. Roger traveled the farthest from AZ, and Eric was down from BC. A strong group for sure.
Gary P. was our ride coordinator, support, and brevet master. He had just been given the green light to walk and ride from his doctors after a nasty accident where he broke his hip in July.
I wrangled a posse to come do the ride. Steve and Tom were in, and I worked Willy and Phil to join in the fun. David was also coming, and Eric was piecing together his 1000k that would link up with this one, making a 2000k ride possible from Seattle to SF. We didn’t plan on all riding together audax style, but I hoped to hang out with everyone at some point in the ride.
Day one: Bremerton to Pacific City, 250 ish miles
The day before the ride started, many of us convened at Gary’s house for dinner. We left off dropbags, drank beer, got to know each other a bit, and saw rando-friends. Gary cooked paella, salad and a killer cobbler. Yum. The next night the ride was starting at 10:30 PM. The day was long, people waiting for the ride to start. Taking it easy, waiting. I worked on my fenders, attaching them to my Ibis Hakkalugi cross bike, which I had brought to see how it would hold up as a rando bike and a mixed terrain bike. (Prior to this ride I spent a couple of days camping in the East Cascades. Took the Ibis out for a gravel ride. Fun).
Weather reports looked pretty good, but I’ve been caught out before without fenders and so I wanted to make sure my bike was Pacific North West ready. Fenders, mudflaps and rain gear with me at all times.
All of the Seattle folks and a few of us started on the Seattle side, which meant we took the ferry over to Bremerton, the official ride start. Rode our bikes onto the ferry in the early evening. Weather was clearing, it had been grey and drizzly all day. Seattle is a lovely city. Beautiful on the sound, and with the weather clearing, a half moon was showing itself, as were the Olympic mountains out in the peninsula. Very nice.
We get off on time and the most of the SFR riders are close to each other, David flats and we stop, which puts all of us off the back of the pack. We stick together throughout the night, and head on down the road. At some point, we hear the wail of a siren and carefully come upon the accident scene. A truck is flipped over, ambulances and fire trucks are on the scene. We cautiously ride by, praying to not see a mangled bicycle, or a reflective vest, that would for sure mean that one of us was down. We are riding through the night on roads we aren’t familiar with, and the accident tempers our initial excitement about the ride. We carry on.
A bit farther down the road, we come upon one of us. A guy is off the road, with a broken spoke on a set of wheels that are not rando friendly. This sport rests on the assumption and expectation that the rider will be self sufficient while out on the road. All mechanicals will be taken care of, food ingested, clothing carried etc. Ksyrium wheels just aren’t a great choice, because if a spoke breaks, they are very hard, if not impossible to fix, when out in the middle of nowhere, which is where we came upon him.
He says he will limp into the control about 8 miles away. He doesn’t have a cell phone on him, but has borrowed one to call Gary at 3:00 AM! At the control, I get a text from Gary with info for him, who has been named Racer X by Willy.
We are taking a few shots at him. As a bike racer, and as it turns out, a very good one, he looks ill prepared for the ride. He has barely any clothes with him, has a tiny bar bag on the front of his bike, which looks like it holds next to nothing. He is riding a fast bike, with a broken spoke, officially ending his brevet about 80 miles in. Too bad.
I tell Racer X that his wife is on her way with another wheel and he needs to sit tight until 7:00 am or so when she will be by. He will wait for her for 3.5 hours. We leave him with the news and push on.
At dawn we find ourselves at a McDonalds, coming upon Kerin and Asta who are leaving as we arrive. We’ve made up some time, although we are still in the back. It’s nice to see them, and to know that the rubberband that holds all of us on the road, stretches and contracts as the ride continues. There are those on the ride I will never see during the ride. Just at the start, and again at the finish.
As the sun rises we make our way to Astoria and into Oregon. A bridge crosses the Columbia river here and it’s so cool to ride across it. In the Astoria side, we stop for a second to decide where to have lunch and Gary lets us know that he has seen Racer X, and that he is back on the road wanting to complete the distance even though he will not be credited for the ride. Racer X waited for his wife and dipped into a Goodwill box, pulling out a blanket to wrap himself up in to keep out the cold and to catch a bit of shut-eye. We laugh. Racer X is gaining rando-cred for being resourceful!
We continue down to seaside and stop at a brew pub in Cannon Beach. Fries and an IPA work their magic on me. The sun is out too and so I change out of night clothes and into a lighter jersey for the coast. Gary reports that the weather will be sunny from now on and says I can lose my fenders. This, from a PNW local. I believe him and so drop my fenders off my bike. Willy, Phil and I are with Steve, Tom and David, and the 6 of us continue into the rollers that seem to be the hallmark of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Every once in a while the route jogs inland and so do we, coming back to the coast for more rollers. Up and down, up and down.
Up and down, up and down.
We are tiring and the day is coming up on 20 hours long. Tom and I break away from the group and pick it up a notch, and arrive at Pacific City our first nights destination. David is already there, Phil, Steve and Willy arrive soon thereafter. We crash.
Day 2. Pacific city to Roseburg, 206 miles
I get 2.5 hours of sleep, which isn’t enough. Up and gone by 3:00, Willy, Phil and I go out into the morning. And it is crazy foggy. The soup is really thick and the road is wet. We needed those fenders, but they are gone. I curse Gary. The rooster tails off the back of our bikes makes it tough for Willy to draft. The stripe up my back is cold and wet, and I realize it’s going to be a tough day.
And I am really sleepy. Nodding off on the bike is one of the worst feelings. You want to rest your eyes and so you close them only to wake with a start, because you are heading off the road. More than one rando has fallen asleep, crashing their bike. I hate the feeling, willing my eyes to stay open, even though they aren’t focusing anymore. I sing to try and stay awake, but it’s not working. The best thing to do is to take a power nap, and have some coffee.
We stumble into a Starbucks at 6:00, we have not made much progress down the road, but we are, at least farther down the road. The sky remains grey soup and we continue on, taking the rollers. We scoop up Eric and we roll south.
The sun finally appears near Reedsport. I pull into the Safeway parking lot and see David on a bench and a few other riders who are about to depart. David looks bad.
I’m done, he says.
What? of course, you’re not.
Yes, I feel horrible. I’m done, I can’t go any farther.
What? You’re throwing in the towel? No way!
Yes. I’ve called my wife, she’s on her way.
To quit at a control when you don’t have a mechanical, the sun is out, you have plenty of time in the bank and you’re way past halfway through the entire ride is just plain crazy talk. Most everyone has really low times during a long ride like this, so I spend a few minutes working on David. Julia arrives and by then I have talked him into finishing the day. She will meet us in Roseburg, and they will decide about the future there.
Just get to Roseburg, then you’ll know for sure if you can’t ride the last day.
Roseburg or bust.
Gary shoos us out of the control. You can’t get to Roseburg sitting here! He’s right so we group up and depart. Six of us decide to ride up the river valley to Elkton and we maintain a steady paceline the entire way. Once there, it is hot! We stop for a break and some excellent ice cream.
You’re a hard woman to say no to, says David.
People say no to me all the time. But you stopping? Nope, you only thought you were going to throw in the towel. But then something changes, and here you are.
Yes. What time shall we leave in the AM?
Now, you’re talking!
Our group takes off and splinters on a series of long and hot hills. David and I ride them together, and it’s about all I can do to keep up with him. We talk some smack and laugh and enjoy the section, and wind our way down into the valley where Roseburg is.
Julia is there with a hug and a cold beer. I jump into the pool in my cycling clothes. Totally refreshing.
Day 3, Roseburg to Klamath Falls, 116 miles
We depart at 3:30. David, Willy, Phil and myself. I had gotten 5 hours of sleep and was feeling so much better than the day before. We make our way out and up the Umpqua river valley. Phil disappears ahead of us after complaining about feeling bad. Sandbagger.
The course goes up this valley at a low incline, steepening as it gets up towards Crater Lake, which is at 7000′, a 100 miles in. The lower section is stunning. The river is great to ride by, the roads are empty and we make good progress heading up.
Gary zips by in the car and stops up ahead. Out pops Racer X, who has been suffering from a hard saddle and saddle sores. Gary has given him a Rivet to try, so we stop for a minute to help him get it adjusted. Racer X is moving pretty carefully on the seat, so I give him something for the pain and he rides with us. Gary does too.
We continue upward and stop at the turn off to Diamond Lake where we will chow down before heading into the park. We stop to talk to Steve and Tom who are about to make the final assault up the hill to Crater Lake. Racer X, Gary and I head to the lodge to chow. I order a large piece of berry pie ala mode. It’s just the fuel to get me up the hill.
Upwards. The scenery is beautiful. After a couple of steep hills, the road opens onto a high plateau. Desert like, almost moonscape in nature, and really pretty. In the distance is the Crater, which we pull ourselves up to, reaching the first viewpoint, which doesn’t disappoint. Willy and Racer X are there. We take in the view.
Our control is around the crater at the Lodge. We make our way over there and run into a pack of randos. Everyone is thrilled to be here, as the rest of the ride is either downhill or flat.
We head down in a groupo of six. The top part is a fast descent with sharp hairpin turns. I turn on the gas and pass a motorcycle which is too slow. Total fun! We regroup towards the bottom and then hang together all the way to Ft. Klamath, where we stop for a beer. Somewhere along this section we learn who Racer X is: Doug Reid, current Washington state cyclocross champ!
The last 20 miles is flat and we have a bit of a tailwind. Everyone does some work at the front and it passes quickly. Soon we are working our way through to Klamath Falls. I spot Alayne H. and her new rando-baby. Poppa Tom is right there and we all finish at the Best Western.
For me, the ride was extra special. I was with good friends the entire time and I felt like I rode within myself. Sure, it was hard, but I never felt horrible, except when I was falling asleep on the bike. I definitely needed more sleep. I would highly recommend the ride to anyone. The SIR folks did a great job.
Many thanks to Willy, Phil, Steve, Tom, David and Eric – the SFR posse. And also to Gary for organizing the ride and for taking such good care of us.
Another round of applause for Eric’s fine photos.
Special kudus to David Walker, who stuck with it, and in the end killed the ride! And to Racer X, aka Doug Reid, who had a tough ride, but was resourceful throughout, and kept his good humor along the way.