Day 52, Redmond, OR – McKenzie Bridge, OR 64 miles (3949 total)
August 1, 2008
Time on bike: 5:59:09
Daily Ascent: 2855 ft (45 ft/mi)
Elevation at days end: 1400 ft
Max: 32 mph
A really tough day. I was supposed to meet up with my friend Dan in McKenzie Bridge, OR at 3:40, so I woke extra early to get my miles in. I figured I’d be over McKenzie Pass and in town by noon to relax until I met up with Dan. McKenzie Pass is significant for several reasons. First, it’s a challenging climb, up 2,000 feet over 15 miles. Secondly, it’s the last real ‘climb’ of the trip. Elevation is over 5,000 feet and after that I don’t reach over 1,000 feet in elevation again.
I began the climb excited that there was no traffic on the road, much to my surprise. The road was a smallish road with no shoulder. A few bicyclists passed me and I finally asked one of them if the road was open ahead. I heard there was a land slide and the road had been closed. “It’s closed but they sometimes let bikers through. Just depends on what they’re doing. They’re logging and if they’re not cutting trees they’ll let you pass.” I was over halfway up by this point so I figured it was worth a try.
I began seeing cyclists heading back down the hill. “It must be closed,” I thought to myself. Finally I saw the guy who passed me and he shook his head no. “Oh well, I’ve come this far, maybe they’ll let me pass.” I stopped at an overlook near the top and met another cyclist name Jonathan. We talked for a while before riding up together.
We reached the roadblock and went around and eventually came to the crane and I saw one of the loggers and shrugged and pointed ahead to ask if we could continue. “Go ahead!” he said, “and thanks for going slow.” So Jonathan and I soon reached McKenzie Pass. It was gorgeous. It was very barren, covered with lava rocks and almost no trees or growth. There was an observatory which resembled a small castle which was built when they built the road. The overlook was really neat. You could get into it and then on top of it. Once in it, you could look through ‘tubes’ which pointed to the various peaks around telling which ones they were and their elevation.
Jonathan headed back down the same way he came and I headed west towards the town of McKenzie Bridge. About 5 miles into my gently sloping descent I got a flat. Talk about a gorgeous place to have a flat tire. Beautiful pines grew up all around and it was so peaceful and serene. I fixed that flat and then a few miles later another flat! Then the trouble started…
Up ahead was a work crew working on a section of the road. When I approached I could tell by the guys body language, not to mention the hunk of skoal in his lip that this wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
“You CANNOT cross here! You aren’t even supposed to be in here! You’ll have to go back!” They were working on a tiny stretch of the road, removing rocks from the surrounding hillside. “If you don’t like it, my supervisor will be here in 20 minutes.” So I waited.
An hour later the super showed up. “You CANNOT go through here! You weren’t supposed to be on this road at all. Those loggers shouldn’t have let you pass.” Water under the bridge at this point, I thought. It’s inconceivable for me to go back to where I came from, some 40 miles back. There was another road, but it was another climb up another similar hill. Just not feasible to go back. “If you could just let me through…” “Can’t happen! I’ll have to call the state police if you try it.” “I can go around, in the woods, can’t I?” “I can’t give you permission to do that, all I’m saying is that you can’t go through here!”
The terrain around where they were working was steep and with heavy undergrowth. Nearly impossible to pass on foot, not to mention carrying a heavy bike and all my gear! I started to walk through the woods to size it up when one of the road workers who was looking on said, “We’ll be done working by 3pm, why don’t you wait and cross then. Either 3 or 3:30.” It was2:30 by this point, so I decided to wait.
Three p.m. came and went. So did 3:30. Then 4. Then 5. Then 6. Then 7 and finally 7:30 before they finally wrapped up. I had waited there almost 6 hours from when I first came. Just sitting and waiting. They wouldn’t let me go through, so what was I to do. Had I known I was to wait so long I would have devised another plan, but I was waiting for what I thought would be a short time. Clearly I had miscalculated.
I finally reached McKenzie Bridge well after dark and called my friend Dan. He thought he had gotten there late and had gone ahead and ridden into Eugene which was the plan from the start. I found some food at a mini mart and then went to the campground. Of course, the campground was full so I had to search for an alternative. I found a clearing on the side of the road next to the Highway Department. There had been sand dumped there at one time, so it was soft and not visible from the road. I slept there and woke before dawn to clear out. It had certainly been a long day!