Elgin, Oregon to Pendleton, Oregon - Cycle Oregon 2018 - CycleBlaze

September 12, 2018

Elgin, Oregon to Pendleton, Oregon

Let 'er Rip, Son

There was a swell of enthusiasm in the tent city after yesterday's ride. Everyone had a Peak Experience sailing down that long, gradual downhill and it was agreed all over that we were all amazingly talented cyclists ... that hill had nothing to do with our impressive speed.

The day's ride kicked off immediately with a sizable climb. From base to peak it was about 10 miles long (We see there are no "short" climbs out here) and gained a couple thousand feet. At the top was a snack and water stop where the Elgin Lion's Club had created the best possible kind of Photo Op. Who says service clubs don't have a sense of humor?

Yeti Photo-Op
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The Mrs. decided to get in the action too.
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It has not been all unicorns and rainbows out here though. We shall now talk about one of the two dangers lurking out there on the road: Goat Heads.

I have heard and read about Goat Head thorns in various cycling journals. Here in the midwest there is no such thing, but down in the south they look to be a true scourge of bikers everywhere. Apparently, to the surprise of many, they are also thriving here in the arid easterly part of Oregon and Washington. Goat Heads are small thorns that look a bit like the iconic metal pieces you pick up in a game of "Jacks." To carry the metaphor a bit closer to reality, they are more like little bits of botanic shrapnel, waiting to puncture your tire. These pieces of flora have the hardness and stiffness to be considered almost metallurgic in nature. Look at them closely and they do resemble a goat head. Or to me, a Devil's Head. Regardless of your metaphorical preference, Goat Heads are the cyclists equivalent of Voldemort in the Harry Potter books. They are the evil that shall not be named ... for fear that doing so will draw them irrevocably into your orbit ... and your doom. Our introduction to Goat Heads was arriving at the Halfway tent city, where a handmade sign of tagboard and sharpie marker was taped to the side of a wall. It warned, "Goat Heads in the Gravel!!!" Those who were "Goat Head Aware" immediately picked up their bikes to prevent any contact. Goat Head Deniers rode their rigs right through the gravel and dirt to their tents. Aye, that was a mistake, laddie. Much of the afternoon we heard 1st and 2nd hand tales of woe about riders who had one or even two flats by the time they had ridden/rolled their bikes to the tent city, punished by the unforgiving Goat Heads. One women on our "block" of the tent city even shrieked in pain inside her tent. Her tent was pitched on a non-grassy, dirt part of the baseball diamond and she was sure she was being poked by a phalanx of Goat Heads through the floor of her tent. Hearing that, others in the vicinity started checking their floor and were sure they could feel the dreaded Goat Heads pricking them as well. I'm not sure if that was a bit of "Group Hysteria" or truly a Goat Head attack, but it gained enough inertia to the point where the CO support crew moved the handful of offending tents into the grass, and away from the Goat Heads, whether they be real or imagined. Throughout the rest of the ride, everyone gingerly carried their bike over anything that wasn't tarmac to avoid the wrath of the Goat Heads.

Into the Blue.
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Oh My. Who Wouldn't Want to Ride Here?
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But even that horror could not detract from yet another downhill so beautiful it was almost an erotic experience. Let us raise our mugs and toast the 18 mile descent on Hwy. 204 beginning at Tollgate, Oregon. This was a true downhill, not a gentle suggestion of altitude loss. The segment was an average of 3% decline with a great many sections of five, six, and seven percent drops. As you well know, you can generate some serious speed on that kind of pitch and there we all were, absolutely FLYING downhill, on the drops, grinning ear to ear. Gravity loves the big biker on a downhill, and yours truly, who weighs in at 195 pounds even when "supermodel" skinny, can drop like a stone on a hill like that. All those tiny little sylphs who danced past me on the climbs of the last few days receded into the distance as I roared by them shouting (helpfully, of course) "LEFT!!!" Strava said that downhill was indeed 18 miles long and I averaged just over 20 mph, with an elevation loss of almost 3,000 feet. No wonder it was so much fun.

Big Sky and Wheat Fields.
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The greatest descent ever
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Yeah, that has Right of Way, for sure.
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Finish Line Fan.
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Today's destination was the largest host city by far; Pendleton, Oregon. After the last few days in the hinterlands it felt like we were riding into New York City, but Pendleton's population is only about 18,000 people. The tent city today was planted on the grounds of their lovely High School campus.

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Today's ride: 76 miles (122 km)
Total: 276 miles (444 km)

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