Well, the fourth running of the Oregon Stampede is in the books, and boy was it a doozy. Grab a cup of whatever and I’ll share a tale of awesomeness with you.
For the first year since 2010, I was planning on skipping the Stampede. This wasn’t something that sat well with me, but the combination of my new house and the busy shop meant that it wasn’t in the cards this year. But the Tuesday before the event I glanced at my calendar and noted that I did in fact have the day off. I immediately made plans for the weekend. The one catch was that I had to be home by 11am on Sunday to work on a fence project. With everything in order, I organized my gear and tuned up the bike.
My sinuses had been acting up for the previous week, and as we arrived in camp I felt my head fill up. I wasn’t sure how things would feel in the morning, but I was excited to give it a go. I fell asleep in my tent wondering if I’d be able to breathe the next day.
The morning of every Stampede is a special time. Some people wake up extra early to get a headstart on the day, while seasoned veterans like myself sleep in until the last moment. That is, the last moment that still allows cooking water for coffee and oatmeal, getting dressed, and pooping two to three times. That may not sound pleasant, but ask anyone who participates in long bike rides or other endurance style events and they’ll tell you the same thing. You gotta get those nervous poops out before you find yourself in the woods looking for leafy greens.
With everything in order, Donnie gathered us around him at 7:30am. He gave the usual speech, and with that, we were off. In my haste to join the group I failed to fill two of my three waterbottles. It appeared that I’d be rolling with one bottle to Dufur. Thankfully, Mike hooked me up with a bit of water on our run in to the first stop.
Knowing the course is always a good thing. Back in March, a couple of us rode the first leg of the route, which ended up being really helpful. I paced myself up the climbs and enjoyed the scenery. As we crested the top of Center Ridge, we saw a herd of cows ahead of us on the road. We pulled as far off the road as possible, and the cowboy drove his cattle by us. He had some colorful language for his herd, and we were in awe of his task. I remember thinking that this would be a good omen for the day.
Shortly after our cow sighting we descended into Dufur. I love this little town, and it’s market. It’s fully stocked and the people who run the place are really nice. I picked up a carrot and apple, filled up the bottles, and got a move on. I don’t like to spend too much time at the stops on rides like these, so I left the group I was riding with, hoping they’d catch me on the next leg.
And then, things kinda went south for a bit. My stomach was tied into knots, and my legs felt like sacks of cement. Again, knowing the course was a great asset. I knew how far I had to go before Tygh Valley and everything that laid in between us. I purposely took a slow pace and tried to enjoy the scenery. The White River Wilderness Area was empty of people, and I rode in quiet solitude. As I exited the area, Mike caught me. We pedaled into Tygh Valley and made plans to drink some beer.
Halfway done and already cooked, we packed our beers into my bag and made our way to the Deschutes River. We split our beers with our friend Ed while joking about how sunburned we were getting. The beer helped to calm my stomach down a bit, and thankfully the climb up from Sherar’s Bridge was over after about 40 minutes. We continued on into the stiff headwind with our heads down. It was a rough fifty miles.
Somewhere just before Grass Valley my stomach made another turn. There wasn’t much to do for it, and I decided to head into Moro and take pavement the rest of the way home. With the exception of one hill, the route from Moro to Hwy 206 is mostly downhill and even with the headwind it was a good decision. I grabbed an ice cream bar at the store in town and we aimed for the finish. As I wrestled with the thought of not finishing the “official route” I realized that riding the same exact course four years in a row would be negligent. The other roads in the area are just as beautiful, rough, smooth, and remote. I was happy with our detour.
Unlike last year, the descent through Fulton Canyon was devoid of any wind. We took the opportunity to shred and pinned it. Exiting the canyon, we were greeted once again with our friend the headwind.
The last two miles to camp are almost comical. After 127+ miles of riding the sun is low in the sky and here I am giving everything I have on flat, fucking pavement. I can see the trees of the campsite in the distance and the wind knows this. Eventually we turned into camp and arrived to cheers from other riders. We cracked our beers, took showers, and made dinner. At some point I passed out.
Now it’s Tuesday and all I want to do is ride the Stampede again next year. Thanks for another amazing year Donnie and crew! Velodirt goes hard in the paint and that’s what brings me back every year.