The sun rises in the high desert illuminating the canyon surrounding the Prineville Reservoir. One by one we crawl out of our tents. Our weathered hands reach for the sky as we stretch sore limbs and rub sleepy eyes. Brad offers to make everyone coffee and one by one we fill our empty cups. We take our time cleaning up camp and enjoy the beautiful glow of morning.
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Today is another big push of a 100+ miles. My knees feel broken and it definitely hurts to sit down on the saddle. I take some Advil and try to put the pain behind me.
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We hug the canyon walls as we descend down the Crooked River. Fully tucked, teary eyed, the descent is fucking amazing. We pour out onto rolling roads with the Crooked River to our left and towering Canyon walls to the right. The river runs a 125 miles long and is a tributary to the Deschutes River. Its a short push to Prineville.
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Call it a coincidence, call it fate; I rather believe it was our destiny to eat at yet another place called Brothers. Yesterday it was Brothers Stagecoach Stop and Cafe and today would be breakfast at Brothers Restaurant in Central Oregon. Coffee and the best Chicken Fried Steak I’ve ever fucking had. Enough said.
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It’s a long paved climb into the Ochoco National Forest. My knees crack and I tell everyone to push on. I climb in silence. It’s beautiful here. Alone with thought. Alone with the dizzying pain each pedal stroke makes. I push on and thankful for the friends that await for me at the top. It’s always worth it. Always. The descent through the Ochoco National Forest was good; really fucking good.
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It’s our first time that we’ve had to filter water on this trip. It’s exciting and I don’t know why.
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I’ve been looking forward to this section of the Outback. River Crossings and incredible remote roads that traverse through ranch lands on the edge of the Ochoco National Forest. This feels like Bikepacking.
My knee hurts so I pedal off the front to give myself ahead start. I approach the first creek crossing. There is a group of cyclists on the other side cheering me on. “Stay to the left. Stay to the left.” I stay to the left. My cadence is high as I cross the rocky creek bed. My feet are soaked and I am properly doused in water. I am smiling. I must be smiling. Fuck. This is so good!
Theres a few more creek crossings. The last one is deep. Dave almost makes it but pinch flats. I dip my cap in the ice cold water while we wait in the hot Oregon sun.
We descend. My front wheel hits a pot hole. I am going fast. I am loosing air and my front wheel is feeling really soft. I corner and my wheel sends me out of control. I panic knowing that I could be going down hard on this fast gravel descent. I have one foot out and carefully apply the brakes in hopes to not skid out. I loose control and point my bike towards a ditch. I feel lucky to walk away.
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After I fix my flat we regroup at what looks like an abandoned church. There is still a lot of riding to do. My legs are tired. We fill our bottles in someones yard and push forward. We’re climbing. The road is steep and the gravel is loose. I crack. The sun is really intense, sweat stings my eyes. My legs will not turn the pedals. I walk up the rest. Frustrated; I look down to realize I had been in the big ring the entire time. Fuck. Back in the smaller ring John and I decide to go at a more sustainable pace.
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It’s the final stretch to Shaniko. We’re on pavement now and it feels really good. The climb into town seems to go on forever. We’re buried deep in our own thoughts. The sun is setting and the light is incredible. Such an amazing and tough day on the bicycle. It’s rare to live in the moment these days. Setting up camp I come to realize what that truly means. We’re in the moment now and thats something I will now forever search for.