"Bikes are the only thing keeping me sane in life"
Recently I made the decision to take a week off work and travel up to Oregon and ride the Oregon Outback; a common term used to reference the high desert Basin and Range country of the central southern portion of Oregon running along the eastern side of the Willamette National Forest.
The Oregon Outback is an unofficial race/ ride in which cyclists on adventure bikes of all kinds meet in the small town of Klamath Falls, OR and ride north through the "outback" to Deschutes, OR some 365 miles, 14k FT of elevation gain via 75% dirt/ gravel roads. Passing towns with only a dozen people inhabiting them to larger ones with grocery stores and small diners.
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On Friday May 22nd, 90+ crazies (along with myself) met at the Maverick Inn on Main St, Klamath Falls, OR set to ride sharp at 7am. While some were riding straight through (roughly a 30+ hour ride), others were packed with gear to ride for the next 6 days.
We started off with high energy, eager faces and enough excitement to fill a stadium!
Myself, I traveled up from LA with the homie Foon: 12 hours of driving and sharing a hotel room with a complete stranger (a man by the name Coach). Soon we found ourselves right at home amongst the bike punks, jocks, nerds, dorks, kooks, and straight weirdies. Personally I found myself fitting into just about every category. Meeting up with friends from NYC, it finally hit me that the day had come and here we are!
"1 minute!" The ride organizer shouts as we roam the Maverick parking lot.
"GO!" And like that we're off!
Excited as ever (since I've been planning this ride for the past 4 months) I took off and about a block down the road I realized that I left my SED BAG (hydration pack) at the local coffee shop where we had breakfast. I quickly zoom over and head back to the route. If I had left the bag entirely, I would have been with out water and food for the trip till our first general store in Silver Lake.
We started on a trail titled the OC&E where we rode 70 miles on a car free stretch. We hit rain soon after, yet continued on until we stopped at a deli and cafe for lunch. Since I was not too hungry at our first stop, I stayed outside and made new friends (Tony and Bridgette), and spent the time shooting their pellet gun and slingshot. Shooting the shit (literally) and getting stupid, we departed for the small town of Silver Lake; sorry no ultra hip bike shop or coffee shop here.
Along the way we caught up to Spencer Harding, who left the day before on his makeshift quirky tall bike and gate party posse, they were doing the Outback the right way: beers, bikes, babes and smiles all around. Along the OC&E there are some 50 Cattle Gates all requiring one rider to stop and open for the other coming through. At every gate, Spencer and his gang took the opportunity to stop and throw a little party.
The first day we clocked in 125 miles, riding through rain, cold crisp wind and then darkness until we arrived at the Silver Lake General store. The only store we would hit for another 100 miles where I restocked on all of the food I could carry. Everything from string cheese, flaming hot peanuts to microwaveable bean and cheese burritos, it was mine and I was hungry.
Before leaving the store we heard word that a local farmer had opened up his barn to the traveling cyclists to stay dry from the rain that was set to come later in the evening. We found the barn, reconnected with friends and had ourselves an unofficial "barn party" for the night. "BARN PARTY" yelled coach as he sipped old fashioned’s and danced around half nude.
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Waking up to the sound of rain on a tin roof I couldn't be any happier. Feeling nostalgic of my childhood (living at the base of Lake Tahoe) where our roof made a similar sound to the inconsistent pitter-patter of raindrops.
Spending the next day riding through rolling hills with our sites set towards the Prineville Reservoir where we would set up camp.
100 miles later and we found us amidst a beautiful hilly reservoir beach with the sound of a shotgun blasting clay pigeons, which seem to echo into the background. Our bush campsite came stock with a beautiful fire pit built up by the local Oregonians for their summer shenanigans. Crushed BUDWISER cans scattered around the site really give you an idea as to who had traveled the lands before you.
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After a misty morning and seeing the sun peek out from behind the mountains, we packed up camp and headed into Prineville where we would hit the first diner that passed our eyes.
With 7 in our group (a mix of road racers, track racers, cyclocross racers and other tom foolery style of riders) we made our descent into the diner and mauled through anything they put in front of us.
The skinny bunch of sunken faced cyclists munched on their chicken fried steak omelets, buck wheat pancakes and heaps of biscuits and gravy until our bank accounts were drained and our stomachs thanks us for the swell time.
After our successful morning brunch we set out for our next stop Shaniko. 5-mile gravel road descends, multiple water crossings, mud mauling’s, dirt climbs, and lastly the final climb into the small town; we found some 40 people camping in the town square. The town of Shaniko has a population of 36 and pulls tourists in who are driving the old Oregon scenic byway. They've got one general store, an ice cream parlor (sadly wasn't open) and a historic town jail, which we used, as a changing room to get away from the cool breeze blowing through the town.
From the sunrises to sun sets, I've never felt so alive. Seeing the beautiful landscapes of the Oregon Outback while I was planted firmly and comfortably on my bike saddle, I was in total awe.
Sore necks, backs, legs and asses we all changed a bit after riding the rugged roads of the Outback.
I had one goal on this trip, to ride bikes with my friends; old and new and I couldn't be any happier to have fulfilled that goal many times over.
Our 4th and final day was the shortest yet: clocking in at 65 miles this was also one of the hardest days we had. Constant gravel road rolling hills through wheat fields spread across the land; if the sun didn't beat the hell out of us, the winds came in as a reminder that you're never alone. The group split up immediately as we traversed the roads up to Deschutes. Ending a climb only to see another in the distance, mental fatigue was wearing on me more than the physical exhaustion I was suffering yet I pushed on, head down and mind set straight I completed the final day in some 5 hours.
High fives and hugs rattled the land as other riders began to finish the ride and gather up their homies.
This trip forged new relationships, nestled old ones and reminded me that rad people come in all shapes, sizes and from everywhere you can think of.
As I ride the 30 hour train back to LA, I have plenty of time to reflect the emotions we were all going through as the days ride took longer than expected, the wind was colder than we wanted, and the rain was heaver than needed; I remember how lucky I am that I can take the time needed to build these relationships. How lucky I am that I have built the skill required to ride-these-roads. How lucky I am that I've built my business around creating bags for people to hold their gear and share these moments together. I remember how happy I am to live in this golden age of bikes and remember where I came from, and where I'm going. It's trips like these that keep me sane and push on with the daily habits of life back in Downtown LA.
Till next year, I hope to see you all again. New adventures, new sights, new people and of course new bikes!
A huge shout out to the boys on the ride:
Mr. David Hall (the Scott) / Mr. John Freeman (the Aussie) / Mr. Chris San Augusten / Mr. Don Nivea / Mr. Bryan Banducci / Mr. Calvin Rocchio
And a huge thank you to Chris and Bryan for providing the images used in this publication.
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