Oh how I love my friends. Midway through the first of eight 100km rides called Brevets that I have mapped for this fall, we are climbing Otto Miller. It’s a gorgeous September day, there are 5 of us slowly making our way up this 6-mile gravel climb. They have recently re-graveled the road and the small chunky rocks are pretty deep in some sections. We climb slow and spread out, I try to keep Stacy in my sights but lose her around the steeper switchbacks. The grade levels out a bit and we regroup. Stacy for all her disgust of gravel is the first up. I smile as I approach where she is waiting; she takes my picture. Karin is crushing the gravel and come to find out this is the most gravel she’s ever. Brie and Karey come up together and soon we are laughing at these rides we do. Brie is passing around Sour Patch Kids, we all pick out our favorite flavors, and she re-names my rides to Courtney’s Bullshit Rides. I’m smitten and flattered.
This route today takes us on a new adventure I’ve been wanting to ride for months. It’s a section of gravel road linking Otto Miller to Pumpkin Ridge that is called both the Missing Link and the Northwest Passage. I know it’s mostly rideable but have no idea beyond that. From Otto Miller we turn onto Smoke Ranch Road, we pass a dead end sign, and have the road to ourselves. Our route takes us to a yellow forest service gate that we jump over. There are shot gun casings and broken glass all over the place and we all carry our bikes for twenty yards, but the rednecks out shooting didn’t venture much further and soon we are on impeccable double track with an occasional bear scat along the way. This is bike heaven. It is quiet except for our tires rolling over rocks and giggles and gasps after each turn in the road. It’s like a secret garden our here, somewhere you can go and escape everything else.
Soon we come to the end of the road and hop over the second gate onto Pumpkin Ridge. On a map it looks like you can take Pumpkin Ridge down to Dairy Creek Road, but soon we find out why the Strava segments out there have only a few rides on them. No Trespassing and Do Not Enter Signs are firmly attached to a large cattle gate completely covering the road. We hem and haw about going back or going through. I know this section of trespassing would be really short, but definitely not worth it if the property owner is shotgun wielding. We send Stacy on recon to ask if we can come through, she returns saying no one is home. We heft our bikes over the five foot gate and ride less than a quarter mile until we get to the next gate, heft back over, and ride a steep gravel road down to Dairy Creek. The intersection at Dairy Creek is familiar to all of us from the Official OR Randonneurs Verboort Sausage Fest Brevet we did last year. This point was the turn around control and I recall getting to this point and gazing longingly at the roads that continued into the woods.
Heading south on Dairy Creek we take turns pulling and chasing, laughing as we catch and pass each other. Soon we reach our next turn. Little did I know this next section would be twice as long as anticipated and a grueling gravel climb back up to Pumpkin Ridge. There is always a part in the ride when you reach your limit and this climb appears to be breaking my companions. Stacy is over the gravel, having reached her gravel threshold miles before. Brie has a recent knee injury and once at the top realizes her wound has split open. Karey’s bike is not shifting into her smallest gears, so she is pushing 6-8 more teeth per rotation than the rest of us. I on the other hand feel great, but my time will come soon enough.
We descend Pumpkin Ridge, and head back towards McMenamins Rock Creek where we had parked the cars, but not before we have a few more short climbs that splinter us further. We slowly roll to the finish. Another 100km ride done, and what should really only take about 4-5 hours has been stretched to 7. We are all moving slowly, but with big smiles on our faces for a day well spent.
Courtney’s Bullshit Rides, come and get ’em.