Lennard vs. The Oregon Outback

This in from Lennard P. Great job!

“I rode the 2015 edition of the Oregon Outback this past May, going with the ‘grand depart’ on the 22ndon May.

The brainchild of Donnie Kolb from Velodirt this was the second running of this 363mile (590km, more than 75% of which is on gravel and old rail bed) ride from Klamath Falls on the southern border of Oregon north through the arid basin of the sparsely populated and wide open eastern part of Oregon referred to as the ‘Outback’ – passing through a few small one horse towns and only one town with any services other than water and a small general store along the way.

The ride starts in the parking lot of the Maverick Motel in Klamath Falls where, on the morning, I estimate about 80-100 like minder suckers for suffering gathered – some more so, intending to ride the route straight through in about 30 hours, and other much less so, planning a 5-6 day tour of the route. My plan was for 3 days, 2 nights out on the trail – 200km/day average. This I thought would be a good balance between enjoying the ride and seeing the landscape in daylight but still challenging myself physically. ‘1 minute’ someone shouted from the riders assembled and then a ‘Go’ shortly thereafter – and just like that it began.

The first day is best described as wet – it started raining pretty much as soon as we left and never stopped until the next day. This made for some interesting riding – the first 115km was on an old railbed now called the OC&E trail. Being a railbed it had no steep grades bit the surface was rough gravel, soft in spots and overgrown with grass and weeds in others – add some mud and this made for some tough going at times.

After the railbed I was very thankful to have a few km’s of pavement before ending up on a gravel road, which although easier going than than earlier was still quite soft and muddy at times – did I mention it was raining!

At 190km I rolled into Silver Lake where the small general store stayed open later to accommodate us – ate a foot-long hotdog, muffin, a bottle of Gatorade, 3 chocolate bars and was still hungry! I knew most of the 3 day crowd would be spending the night here (I heard afterwards they all ended up crowding into the local pastor’s barn to escape the rain – sort of glad I missed that) but it felt a little early yet to call it a day. I thus saddled up and pushed on for another 20km to spend the night camped behind a tree on a ridge by the roadside with Fort Rock in sight at 209km for the day.

By far the hardest part of this whole ride was convincing myself to get out of my comfy warm sleeping bag and tent into the rain the next morning and start riding again in the wet. The rain did clear a few hours into the second day though. 
 The route took us on some straight gravel roads past Fort Rock and onward into the Deschutes National Forest where the dreaded ‘red sauce’ awaited – as 50km stretch of thick and loose red sand that had some people crying by the roadside last year.  It turns out the silver lining to the rain clouds of the previous day and memorial day traffic of the weekend was that the sauce actually got packed down and made for relatively easy riding. A endless gravel stint after that brought a nice gravel decent into the Crooked River valley (with a nice punch of climb just before the hitting the river) followed by a ‘easy’ pavements decent into Prineville – only there had to be headwind making it hard work to just keep going downhill!

Into Prineville with a  quick stop to say hi at the local bike shop and refill my water before heading out for the final push to end off the day. Ahead lay the biggest climb of the ride over the Ochoco mountains – the initial plan was to get into the national forest and camp at the first suitable site. Once there I felt a little better and decided to push some ways up the climb, about 2/3 up I was again ready to pack it in when Paul McKenna from Boise, Idaho cough up with me – he was hanging in there pushing for the summit – if he can than so should I! We thus made the summit by 19h45 and pitched camp together just on the other side of the climb for the night.

 Despite the ‘wild west beans’  dehydrated meal not agreeing with my gut and had me leaving the tent a few times that night and some rodent knowing a hole in my backpack we had a reasonably good night and were flying down the decent by 7am the next morning. The ride down a narrow valley to Ashwood on muddy double track with several water crossings was some of the nicest riding on the route. We met up with Rich Otterstrom on this stretch,  a Tour Divide veteran from Salt Lake City, Utah – he was yo-yoing the course (now on the way back) on a single speed fatbike – RESPECT!

Out of Ashwood we had a unexpectedly tough gravel climb out of the valley at the top of which I (riding alone at this time)  hit a wonderfully speedy and great descent down into the next valley – only I had gone off route doing this and only realized it due to the lack of other bike tracks once at the bottom – climbing back up allowed Rich to pass me. Once back on route we enjoyed some great views riding along a ridge before descending into Antelope, where there were not much more than some much needed water.

Met up with some others here and together we took on the steep and short switchback climb up to the last little town on the route – Shaniko.

Had some ice cream to boost the spirits, refuelled and took on the last 100km and the Rollers of Doom to end this thing off. The first stretch of about 15km was pavement and went by quickly – this is going to be easy – NOT! As soon I left the pavement onto the gravel the rollers began, one after the other each sucking away a little bit of whatever was left in the legs. I caught up with Rich on his fatbike with about 65km to go and needing some company to get me through the last stretch decided to ride it out with him – this was wise as I really enjoyed his company and suffering is always a bit easier when shared.

We both rolled down to the Columbia River and finished a very long day in the saddle and the Oregon Outback at 8pm, 2 days and 13 hours after starting it.

Huge thanks to my wife and kids for enabling me to do this, Paul and all the other like minded characters met along the way and Rich for suffering out the last few hours with me.

What’s next….?”


Cup O'Dirt Admin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s