Alfalfa Road - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

September 9, 2019

Alfalfa Road

Our plan for today was to drive to Sisters and bike from there to the summit of McKenzie Pass and back before continuing on to Eugene for the evening.  This set of facts causes us to reconsider:

  1. Sisters lies at an elevation of 3,182’;
  2. The summit of McKenzie Pass is a bit higher, at 5,325’;
  3. It’s 48 degrees out this morning, with a fairly strong west wind;
  4. We didn’t bring any cold weather clothing with us for the weekend.

Weighing these considerations against each other and throwing in the fact that we can’t find any information about what weather conditions might be like at the summit, we remember that we have another think coming and decide to use it.  I pull out the map, stare at it a bit, and come up with a flattish loop to the northeast of town.  It will be cool and windy when we start, but the wind will be our friend at first.  On the return, the day should have warmed up enough to offset the wind chill factor.  I draw it out on Ride With GPS, Rachael does her magic trick to download it to our Garmins, and we’re off and rolling.

Leaving our palatial estate in Bend for one last time.
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The ride begins with the usual several miles of biking through Bend’s broad sprawl.  I’m still surprised at how far out it extends, and how much the city has grown since I first came here.  In 1990 it still felt like a fairly small town, with a population of 19,000.  Since then though its growth rate has been meteoric, and it’s now Oregon’s seventh largest city with a population of nearly 100,000 - it has quintupled in size in just two decades.

Once we escape the subdivisions the traffic disappears and we head due east on Alfalfa Market Road through ranch land and juniper woods.  We’ve biked Alfalfa Market numerous times, often as part of a multi-day loop through Redmond, Smith Rocks and Prineville.  Alfalfa Market continues east for roughly thirty miles before ending at the Crooked River Highway by the west rim of the Prineville Reservoir.  From there it’s a delightful twenty five miles north dropping through the Crooked River Gorge to Prineville.  The whole ride is great, especially done in the opposite direction so you drop down from the reservoir toward Bend with the Three Sisters and Broken Top strung across the horizon straight ahead of you.

Too much for today though.  Instead, we’ll turn north at about fifteen miles, just shy of Alfalfa Store.  After that we’ll bike north to the southwest shoulder of Powell Butte before doubling back and into the wind to Bend.

Pilot Butte, Bend’s resident volcano. Bend and Portland are two of only four cities in the country with a volcano within their city limits. Jealous? I’ll bet you’d like one too.
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Gregory GarceauI'd definitely like to have a volcano in MY Town. Better yet, in my yard.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauNow, now. Don’t be greedy.
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2 months ago
Leaving Bend, eastbound on Alfalfa Market Road.
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Pretty tempting, but we’re in a hurry this morning.
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A feeding trough they won’t tip over.
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Juniper is the dominant, practically the only tree growing here. They grow in such a malformed and contorted fashion that they remind me of olive trees.
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High desert barber’s pole
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REO Speedwagon with junipers
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Not such a speedy wagon any more.
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The other Powell Butte (there’s a much smaller one in Portland).
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Leaving quiet Alfalfa Market Road, we turn north on Johnson Ranch Road, which in a few miles will rebrand itself as Alfalfa Road.  We’ve never ridden this road before, but it’s about time.  It’s great riding - scenic, quiet, interesting, with sprawly Powell Butte slowly swelling as we approach it.  It’s an especially enjoyable ride today, when we’re bolstered by a substantial southwest breeze. 

North on Alfalfa Road, toward Powell Butte.
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Video sound track: Joy Will Find a Way, by Bruce Cockburn

Horse and the Three Sisters
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It’s been a good week for hog sightings!
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To infinity and beyond!
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Ron SuchanekDoubled up there...
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2 months ago
Another look at Alfalfa Road.
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Along Alfalfa Road
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On Alfalfa Road
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Still life
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Our new favorite discovery. For all the years we’ve been riding over here, this is our first time on this road.
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Strange subject, but I thought it was a cut above most utility poles. Something to do while waiting for Rocky to catch up after her snack break.
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A last look at Powell Butte.
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We continue on Alfalfa Road for about ten miles as it grazes the southwestern tip of Powell Butte, bends to the west, and eventually ends at its intersection with the Powell Butte Highway.  At this point, the fun for the day ends.  It’s a straight shot southwest back to Bend fifteen miles off - upwind, a bit uphill, and on the shoulder of a fairly busy two lane highway.  It’s safe enough and a good workout, but not really a pleasant ride.  I’m sure this is why we haven’t ridden Alfalfa Road before - it doesn’t connect with anything you’d really want to bike on.  If we come here again, I think it will be as just an out and back that avoids the highway.

We’re spending the night in Eugene with our long-standing friend Lynn, whom we haven’t sat down with in far too long so there will be plenty to catch up on.  The last time was almost a year and a half ago, when we stayed with her when we drove down to pick up new Bike Fridays before leaving for Greece and Albania.  And before that she stayed with us over Christmas, just a week before we decided to flip our lives upside down and sell our home.  She was our last guest before we were born again as cycling vagabonds.

The drive to Eugene is long, stressful and difficult.  As we approach Sisters it begins raining, and by the time we crest the summit of Santiam Pass it’s really coming down heavily (which makes us feel really happy with our decision to take a pass on McKenzie Pass today).  Visibility is bad, traffic is heavy, and it causes me to miss the turnoff to Eugene.  We end up going well out of our way by dropping down the Middle Fork of the Santiam through Sweet Home and adding an unwanted half hour to the drive.

As we near Sisters a pair of bikes come down the road, flying the other way.  Then two more; then another three.  They’re the leading edge of a cycling torrent - Day Two of Cycle Oregon is heading our way, its riders stretching to reach Tumelo before they get any wetter than they probably already are.

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Ride stats today: 43 miles, 1,200’

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Janet Anspach-RickeyScott and Rachael, We are in your fair city tongiht on the Northeast side!We are almost home! We head north tomorrow. Thank goodness you two are heading out for three months so we can follow you around Spain! We still have a van in Kingston so we are going to load it up and head south for the winter! Maybe we will stop in Bend on our way South! We love it there.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonOh, for goodness sake. I knew you were in the neighborhood, after reading that you just biked the gorge (as we did last week). We’re in the northeast this week also, near Mount Tabor. It’s too bad we didn’t hear earlier - we might have gotten together, but we have tickets to a play.

Hey, what are your plans in the AM? We might get together for coffee.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Janet Anspach-RickeyWell, rats. I thought I was replying to your comment last night, but just added it as a new comment instead. Sorry we missed each other, have a safe trip home.

12,000 miles!!
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3 months ago