TEAM TODAY AND THE OREGON RAMBLE RIDE
I’ve changed as a cyclist. Even last year, I had no real interest in touring or bikepacking. I held those who went out on multi day trips in high regard, but wasn’t personally interested in spending long and slow days on the bike with what seemed like complicated and highly specific gear. But one day, my mindset shifted. I was talking with a friend and seemingly of out of the blue I really wanted to join her on a semi-supported trip that she was helping to plan in Oregon. That friend was Jocelyn Quarell and that ride was the Oregon Ramble Ride.
In the week leading up to the ride, it became clear that the weather was going to be a potential issue and that we should prepare for some cold and wet days both on the bike and at camp. I was bummed, Annalisa was bummed, and we made a pact that we’d turn around after the first day if it really wound up being nasty. With the caveat about bailing in the back of our minds, we drove from Portland to Prineville (in a downpour) with our friend Sharon Sandoval who, relative to our rookie status, is a bikepacking expert. Upon arrival, we met up with Jocey and introduced ourselves to the crew of 40 or so that we’d be riding with for the next three days.
The route on day one was a fairly easy 27 miles out to a campsite where food and beer awaited. Upon finishing the ride and getting our brand new bivys setup, it promptly started to downpour. Annalisa dove into her bivy while Sharon and I ran for cover under a popup tent. Things continued like this over the course of the evening, rain would turn hail and then calm down for a period. It wasn’t great, and we were far from excited about sleeping in our bivys in the rain. We called it a night pretty early, but some stayed round the campfire and enjoyed more of the free beer and good company. Overnight, we lucked out and it stayed dry. As a result, we proceeded to pack up and head out on day two’s ride without any discussion of the aforementioned plan to turn around after day one. We were in.
At just about 70 miles and over 5,000’ of climbing on a loaded bike in gravel, day two was the longest of the Ramble Ride. With this in mind, we set off on our bikes with Jocey and Sharon with a fair degree of both excitement and trepidation about what lay ahead. We were prepared for a variety of weather and knew that the ride kicked off with numerous water crossings. We survived those, started climbing, and got a little goofy. Have you ever wondered what Beyonce would sleep in if she were bikepacking? Well, we asked everyone we saw as though it was the most pertinent question in the world, and at the time, it was. For the record, answers ranged from teepee to hammock to a moroccan style tent, but all seemed to agree that it would be very gold. We kept chipping away at the miles and the scenery kept getting more beautiful. When we started the descent towards the John Day River, the scenery really became overwhelmingly gorgeous. The whole weekend was worth it for for these 10 odd miles if nothing else. It was that good and we were all feeling pretty high off the experience as we rolled into the Painted Hills. When we got there, Sharon asked someone if they could take a photo of the four of us by saying “can you take a photo of Team Today?” Something about the expression just felt so right, we had been a team and we’d been riding in the present with each other all day. It was truly a great team on a great day. We got into Mitchell where we found we had bunk beds to sleep in and a warm shower at the charming Spoke’n Hostel (Beyonce would have approved). We went to bed warm, clean(ish) and happy.
Personally, I underestimated the 59 miles on day three. I thought that the worst of the weather was behind us and it looked like a long but gradual climb followed by a long descent into Prineville. I was confident as we setout to climb some 20 odd miles to the lunch stop which would mark the top of our climb, and the beginning of the descent. The first 15 or so miles ticked by and then we made a turn onto a rougher road/trail and the tone of the day changed quite drastically. First it started to hail, hard, and as we climbed higher, the hail turned to snow. We kept climbing, and despite the conditions we were all riding so strong. I was so happy in those moments, weather and all, but knew that it could all change quickly if someone had a mechanical or we had any small thing go wrong. Eventually we reached the lunch stop, whose location had been modified due a recently downed tree. We hurried through some snacks, put on all available clothing, and started to work our way down through the mountains. The downed tree had also complicated things for the Ramble Ride organizers, preventing them from being able to mark a portion of the route. We fumbled through, made some wrong turns, figured it out and picked up a handful of riders along the way. After the majority of descending was behind us, we still had about 20 flat miles on pavement to go, it was raining and we were riding into a pretty stiff headwind. Our group of ladies knew a thing or two about riding on the road, so we organized our crew of bike packers into a paceline and knocked out those final miles in just about an hour. It was rad, and hilarious. The four of us rotated through, but stayed on the front. My aerodynamics were compromised by many things, but namely the hood on my jacket. I tucked the hood into my bandana, got back on the front and took my turn pulling this happy and bedraggled bunch of bike packers back into Prineville where we had a few more beers and enjoyed more delicious food.