2021 Trans Am Bike Race Day 3 Report
Tuesday June 8, 2021: Day 1 sucked. Day 2 was better. What would Day 3 bring I pondered to myself as I faffed around my hotel room. Ablutions, leftover gas station vittles, packing up and getting dressed. All conducted at a snails pace with ample interruptions for general procrastination and online perusal of social media and Trackleaders. My body’s attempt to delay the inevitable task of riding my bike all damn day. It wouldn’t get any easier but it would become more automatic as the days became weeks.
Just before slipping into unconsciousness last night I had checked Tracleaders….as you do. There were 6 other dots in town, some of which I recognized, some I didn’t. AT (?), SR (Sonny Rasmussen), JH (Jeff Hunt), AR (?), HS (Hunter Shaak) and LD (?).
As of 5:45am this morning all 6 were still in Redmond with 2 others (SB – Simone Bailey and Da – De’anna Caligiuri) just the other side of Prineville, 30ks down the road.
A jolt of motivation.
All of a sudden the plan for the day unveiled itself. Get ahead of those 6 dots and chase down the other 2.
Pitter patter lets get at’er!!
Out into the morning. Yet another chilly one. A little backtracking to get back on route and then a right turn onto the Ochoco Highway.
Attack, attack, attack.
A few k’s out of town I spotted a racer about 100m off the road to the right pushing his bike out of the sagebrush. He must have camped out there. I slowed down and waved enthusiastically. Nothing in response. Oh well…..bugger him……attack, attack, attack.
Not long out of Prineville I came across Nathan and Anthony who were by the side of the road taking photos. They then Dukes of Hazzard’ed back into their car and chased me down whilst one of them snapped a few more from the car window. It gave me a solid hit of adrenaline and I put in an extra effort, anticipating a resultant image that I could blow up and impress visitors with post race. That image remained in my head until later that night when I eagerly flicked through the days photos on the race website only to be confronted with a brightly coloured fat bloke with a scowl on his face trying to be a bike racer.
(Mental note for my next ultra race: Trim the Fuck Down)
I rolled into Prineville just after 7am. Time for some breakfast. I wasn’t that hungry but knew that services on route from Prineville on were few and far between so I loaded up on supplies and forced down a couple of breakfast burritos from the 76 Gas Station on the far side of town.
Into The Ochoco National Forest
A 20 minute break in Prineville and then back into it on the Ochoco Highway, the natural environment now distinctly arid as compared to that covered during a majority of yesterdays riding. I was now well and truly into the rain shadow desert of the Columbia Plateau, the high Cascade Range which I had traversed late yesterday via McKenzie Pass preventing a majority of the plentiful rainfall west of the range from making its way further east.
From Prineville which is surrounded by livestock farming it is up and into the Ochoco National Forest with its less thirsty old-growth ponderosa pine trees dominating the scenery. Despite my earlier morning energy bursts and calorie intake in Prineville I was starting to feel decidedly low energy. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t settle into any kind of rhythm and I found the long steady climb up Ochoco Pass a real struggle. Frustratingly slow too, the 30k ascent taking 2.5 hours although there were a couple of road work enforced stoppages.
It was with a tangible sense of relief that I crested the Pass and then buckled up for the very fast 20k descent into the valley (you could almost classify it as a canyon) and then a slight incline into the tiny town of Mitchell.
The Spoke’n Hostel
As I rolled into Mitchell, I was welcomed by the sound of ringing cattle bells. The first proper taste of Trans Am Trail hospitality as offered by the friendly folk at the Spoke’n Hostel. Jalet Farrell and her husband Patrick acquired this shuttered Church building in 2016 and have since converted it into an award winning hostel and essential rest stop for cyclists and tourists attracted to the area by the natural beauty, in particular the Painted Hills, one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.
Businesses like the Spoke’n Hostel are bringing Mitchell back to life. There is a Brew Pub there now as well as 2 coffee shops, all of which weren’t there when I last passed through in 2017. Not bad in a town with a population of around 150.
Jalet and a guest who was helping out (I can’t recall his name) welcomed me off the bike. Given my sluggish progress I didn’t want to stop long, maybe a quick chat and water bottle top up. Any resistance soon became futile however and before I knew it I was whisked away into the hostel proper. It really is a lovely comfortable space, plenty of spots to rest and replenish. Jalet is lovely, the consumate host, so interested in the Trans Am Bike Race and its recent history. I chatted away with her and the other chap who turns out toured the Trans Am route in 2017 east to west at the same time of the year that I first raced. Our paths must have crossed at some point. There was an extraordinary array of hot and cold food on offer but I declined, with the exception of a couple of bananas and iced water for my water bottles. I’d soon regret not taking on more calories there.
A gap in the conversation drew me to the large screen displaying Trackleaders…..shit…..that’s right, there’s a race on. The urgency of the racing bit had dulled considerably since earlier in the morning but it was still nice to see that those 6 dots remained behind me.
I made ready to leave but first had to sign the visitors book. As I hadn’t signed it in 2017 I made an entry on the same page as some of me ole’ mid pack muckers from that edition; Mike Benigni, “The Kiwis”, Russel Jones, Dave Campbell, David Barstow-Robinson and David Horton. Day 3 of that race at the Spoke’n Hostel had been a hive of activity.
A wave of nostagia swept over me………Ahhhhh the memories.
Of course I completely forgot to write anything for today…..maybe I’ll need to race again in 2025 and make another retroactive entry ;-).
Jalet and the other chap escorted me out. I took a few photos and then it was back into it. As I was clicking in, the sound of cow bells rung out again. The next racer was rolling up. Despite it being a full day since the last time I had spoken to another race participant I just couldn’t be arsed going over to say a quick hi. Nothing to do with racing, I literally couldn’t be arsed. I didn’t even look back and just pedaled off out of town.
It was quite the dick move but hey what can you do. My belated apologies LD.
John Day Country
From Mitchell it is a tough 10k climb out of town, still on the Ochoco Highway. It started to get hot and for the first time in the race I layered down to just a Tshirt. It felt good to finally get the guns out.
The second half of yesterdays riding passed through territory rich with the name McKenzie, a nod to early 19th century explorer and fur-trader Donald MacKenzie. This afternoon the name John Day would be everywhere; the John Day River, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the John Day Highway, the towns of Dayville and…….another drum roll please…….John Day.
I picked up on the regularity of the name 4 years ago but didn’t bother to research the man, the myth, the legend any further…….until now that is. Let me briefly regale you.
John Day, seeking fame and fortune I assume headed west from Virginia to an area now known as Missouri in 1797. In 1810 he was taken on as a hunter for the Pacific Fur Company and joined an overland expedition which traveled west to Fort Astoria. On route, he and another bloke were robbed and stripped naked by Indians on the Columbia River near the mouth of another river that now bears his name. (I could think of better ways to get a river named after you). It must have been one hell of a walk from there to Astoria where he finally arrived in April 1812. On the return journey back to St Louis he reportedly went mad (can’t really blame him) and was left behind. He made his way back to Astoria and then spent the next 8 years hunting and trapping mainly in the Willamette Valley. He died in 1820, ironically at the winter camp of one of Donald Mackenzie’s expeditions.
Tis’ quite the story.
Growing up in Australia the early pioneers that explored west and north into the nothingness of the Australian Continents interior are afforded mythical status. The stories of Burke and Wills and Wentworth and Lawson are built into the national psyche. Fertile ground for me now as I cross the US Continent for the second time by bike, determined to absorb more of the historical significance of the areas I was riding through and its context within the greater story of The United States, both during and after the ride. The first time around every last skerrick of my attention was taken up with just finishing the damn race. This time there was a little more room in the noggin to absorb stuff. To assist I had come armed with a bountiful supply of audiobooks covering such topics as; Alexander Hamilton, the Revolutionary War, the Lewis and Clarke Expedition, Chief Joesph and the Nez Perce Indians, the Civil War and Barack Obama’s Presidency.
I now knew for example, that a fair bit of the first two thirds of the Trans Am route was the Lewis and Clarke Expedition in reverse.
But I digress.
Far from the dire circumstances of John Day en route to Astoria I was starting to feel decidedly crap though. Every pedal stroke tougher than it should of been despite a gradient that trended downwards. I got a little burst of enthusiasm on a brief section offering beautiful vistas through Picture Gorge as the route joined the John Day River, but by the time I finally rolled up to the Dayville Mercantile, one of Oregons oldest general stores, I was cooked. I sat on the veranda for a while with my eyes closed to gather myself before ambling inside, walking the aisles trying to decide what food groups would revitalise me. I decided on a couple of microwaved chicken pot pies, a magnum icecream, a Redbull and a chocolate milk.
I had no appetite but forced down the beverages and icecream. I just couldn’t face the anemic looking pies however and ended up giving them to a local dog that had been sniffing around. I got the permission of its owner first but that started a long conversation that I really didn’t want to be part of.
I hung out on that verandah for a while and then finally forced myself back on the bike with a goal of getting to the town of John Day, 50 kilometres away. Get there and see how I feel was the plan.
Uncannily as I was clicking back in LD rolled up! This time I waved and made to go over and say G’Day but he pedaled off down the main street.
Out of Dayville, past LD who had stopped at a little shop and then out along the John Day Highway heading east. The John Day river on my left and cattle either side. No attack, attack, attack going on, rather struggle, struggle, struggle. The hours rest off the bike and calories hadn’t helped. Hard to know what the damn problem was. Maybe still recovering from the food poisoning and had pushed too hard yesterday and earlier today? Maybe hadn’t eater enough? Maybe a bit of both.
Whatever it was, I was not having fun although I did get a little giggle when the roadside got political; “Hillary for Prison” – let it go ffs! “Move Oregon’s Borders”, “www.greateridaho.org” – I’ll graciously accept any move that will get me into the next state. Thanks! 🙂
A quick photo of the arts and crafts fair and then expediently back on the bike before copping the 2nd Amendment up my arse. The pink Tshirt providing an ample target and possible indicator of liberal tendencies.
My mum rang and got me through the next bit to John Day. During the conversation I developed a nasty sounding cough.
“You should really stop and get a good nights rest”
“OK mum”. I didn’t need any convincing.
I pulled into the same hotel that I stayed in 4 years ago. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, I had caught up to my 2017 pace. A good sleep and hopefully I could start eating into those days that I wanted to beat that 2017 time by. That was the focus all of a sudden, not keeping “those dots” behind me. Given the early finish (it was only 6:30pm) no doubt most of them would pass me tonight anyway. I didn’t particularly want to see it happen live so kept my eyes of Trackleaders.
Delivery pizza (yep, delivery!), laundry and beddy-byes….