We warm up our legs in route to the Mavericks Hotel, the start of the Oregon Outback in Klamath Falls Oregon. We are greeted by a parking lot full of riders ready to take on the infamous 369 mile route created by Velo Dirt. It’s 7am and the group rolls out. Bikes are everywhere. It’s fucking chaos. The first 8 miles of the OC&E Woodsline State Trail is paved and here riders scramble to find their friends and get into position.
The pavement quickly gives way to the rugged rail bed that once carried timber and cattle through the Pacific NorthWest. It feels real now. We’re on the Outback. This is the fucking Oregon Outback. Our group of three forms into a group of seven; Dave, Don, John, Calvin, Bryan, Brad and myself. We’re a goofy bunch from Portland, Berkeley, Los Angeles and New York. I know Don; Don knows Dave, John, Calvin and Bryan. Calvin knows Brad and so on and so on. We’re an eclectic bunch and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of dudes to ride with.
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The gravel dances beneath our tires as we make our way through the vibrant green. We eventually catch up with the clouds as we make our way through Switchback Hill. With our rain jackets on we navigate our way through the muddy switchbacks in route to Sprague River.
We spit out onto the road and grab lunch at the Running Bear Deli. The place is packed with BikePackers. The line is out the door and my mouth is watering. Pulled Pork Sandwich or Burrito? I went with the locally smoked ham sandwich. Winning. After filling our bellies and our bottles we head back on the road. The trail follows the Sprague River and I recall this particular stretch being pretty muddy from the rain . At some point Dave hit the deck and I narrowly missed running over him. We had a good laugh and took a detour in Beaty to load up on Water and most likely some form of Junk Food.
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Back on the trail we pedal along Five Mile Creek in the Fremont National Forest; which is just fucking beautiful. I recall moments where the woods opened up and the creek twisted through a lush landscape of green. It was so cinematic. The long day on the saddle was taking a toll on me. My body was longing for food and I set my eyes on our 7pm reservation at the Cowboy Dinner Tree. Dave had legs and set off to make sure we could eat our 30oz Top Sirloin Steaks.
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The sun is setting fast and we realize we’ve missed the turn to the Cowboy Dinner Tree. Was Dave there waiting for us or did he miss it too? We take a moment to figure out our options. Do we ride back and look for the turn off? Do we push forward and hope Dave meets us at camp? My energy levels are at an all time low and we decide to push forward.
Dave is shivering in the Silverlake general store. The sun is nearly down and the temperature is quickly dropping. We all missed the turn for the Cowboy Dinner Tree. Bummed but it’ s a huge relief that we’re all back together again. Cold hot dogs and frozen burritos kinda taste good after a 120 mile day anyways.