Friday the 13th – Riding the Umpqua River

(September 13 – written by Dave)

Day 6 – Diamond Lake to Dorena Lake– 147k/3,500ft

After a day off, everyone was raring to get on the road this morning. We only needed to make three coffee brews as it seemed that riders were ready to roll early. It could also have something to do with today being another 90+ mile day riding. Riders learned from the last such day that an early start was merited. We were released from the coffee booth early, though it should be noted that the overall team’s improving efficiency meant that most of the chores were completed before we left. Dare I say it, Teamwork makes the Dream work.

Parked in the start shute

This yabbo in a Mercedes thought it a good idea to park his car on the start-line – the Cycle Oregon organizers couldn’t find the owner so they made available a post-it note pad and pen available to riders. Several riders left their thought for the car owner – funny.

The noted highlight of today’s route from the route description was a 45 mile downhill – along Highway 138 and the Umpqua River. Nancy and I were particularly excited to ride this section as we rode it uphill back in 2017 when were heading south on our Americas trip. On the earlier trip, we spent an entire day on loaded touring bikes plodding uphill at 5-7 MPH. The scenery was stunning and helped make the slow uphill ride much less painful.

Mount Thielsen - last photo

Last view of Mount Thielsen

Today after a gentle 4 mile warm-up ride away from the shores of Diamond Lake we turned left on Highway 138 and started the 45 mile downhill. It was cool still but we were rugged up and enjoyed the decent. It was funny being passed by a good number of what can only be described as “big boys.” We’d spent many past riding days passing said big boys on the uphills and flats. On the downhills, well, team gravity is their friend and they move right along.

Overall, the downhill was fun but to be completely honest, we both more enjoyed the slow uphill back in 2017. While physically much harder, riding slower and getting a sense of one’s surroundings was easier on the uphill, and ultimately more rewarding. The full 45 miles were not at ripping downhill speeds but overall, the scenery was more or less one big blur.

We didn't see any hunters or gruose

Seen on the downhill – we did not see any hunters or grouse

We turned off of Highway 138 at Steamboat Creek Road. The ride profile looked like we would be starting a long 20 mile uphill here but if anything, it was flat to very gentle. Steamboat Creek Road was another classic Cycle Oregon goat track – big trees, narrow road, traffic free – perfect, actually. And then it got better as we turned left on an even smaller road called Canton Creek Road – a no centreline, near single-track ribbon of US Forrest Service asphalt. Somehow Cycle Oregon got their support trucks half way up to a wide spot in the road where we had a lovely lunch stop sitting in the sun in an old growth forest.  In contrast to the previous days’ rides, we were looking for shade to sit in to get out of the heat of the sun.

Steamboat Creek rules

Keep Steamboat Creek free!

Steamboat Creek

Steamboat Creek

After lunch, the climb got a little more serious, but the road remained very narrow. There were a couple Cycle Oregon Sag vans and an ambulance that somehow got just in front of us. They hung out going slower than we wanted to ride as they got stuck behind slower riders that we’d otherwise passed. The ambulance was the last car in the row. At this point, I enjoyed calling Nancy an ambulance chaser – she is a lawyer – I think she laughed (Senior editor note – hahaha, very funny Dave).

Nancy and her Kitsbow kit

Nancy on Canton Creek Road – note shorts and no rain gear – woohoo

Nancy's mudguard

For contrast, a photo of Nancy from earlier in the week. She’s wearing a lot more clothes and still sporting the custom made (by me) milk carton mudguard on the back of her bike.

The other side of the climb was slightly steeper downhill. There was a rest-stop at the top and they were warning riders to take care on the downhill. We didn’t linger at the stop and headed down the hill well before the crowds. We heard that later in the day they had to close the road for a spell because one private car wanted to drive up the hill. Yes, the road was that narrow and yes, one car was able to hold up probably half of the Cycle Oregon riders – 1,000 people.

While we really like these goat-track roads that Cycle Oregon organisers find, we are not super excited about the downhills. They tend to be bumpy, pot-holed, sketchy, brake burners – we take them very slow but don’t enjoy them as much as one should enjoy a downhill.  Being on constant watch for the “big boys” barrelling down alongside you is also a bit stressful.

Our first bigfoot sign

Share the road takes on a whole new meaning on these sleepy goat tracks

The last 25k was slightly downhill to flat and we just smashed it. Nancy started it by pushing the pace past a few groups and that got me going. We were passing groups of pretty fast riders with ease. It’s been 8 months since we finish our Alaska to Argentina ride and we figured that by now, fitness from that would have faded. I’m sure it has but clearly, the tank is not completely empty – we had a lot of fun this week being faster than average and really pushing the pace a few times. Not bad for a couple old geezers!

Kitsbow riders

We were all smiles at the finish – here shown rocking our Kitsbow jerseys at the Nossa van

We finished at Dorena Reservoir to find that the finish line chocolate milk normally provided by Cycle Oregon had been replaced by free iced coffees from none other than Nossa Familia. Thanks guys for the extra work last night getting these ready. They really hit the spot.

I took a wander around camp tonight and got some photos of the Cycle Oregon circus. The scale of what gets done every day on Cycle Oregon is pretty amazing. Just a few items are noted in the photos below. Check back later for updates on tomorrow’s ride, the last day of the circus.

Food tent

The main dining tent – it was packed on the rainy days – hardly a seat to be had

Doreen Lake camp

Our camp at Dorena Reservoir – while there are massive tent areas, the Nossa crew almost always got to set up near our vans

25 gallon water pot envy

Nossa Brewmasters, Kris and I had real pot envy of these massive 40 gallon Cycle Oregon pots. Though their coffee brewing technique was interesting – they basically tied a cloth bag of coffee to a spigot and let water run through to a large cambro.

Nancy and random CO rider

A photo from camp the other day – this random Cycle Oregon rider from Colorado got to chatting with Nancy standing near our cookers, I thought that their matching outfits were funny 🙂  On cold days, our cookers drew quite a crowd of riders.

8 thoughts on “Friday the 13th – Riding the Umpqua River

  1. We drove on Steamboat Creek Road to Dorena Lake in mid August after white water kayaking on the North Umpqua. I thought at the time it would be be beautiful road to ride on. I won the women’s road race(one and only) on the Dorena Lake course in 1994, Karen Holtz was second. Note : You are not a couple of old geezers! I like the custom mudguard.

  2. Your story reminded me of Avenue of the Giants in Nor Cal. A great stretch of gentle downhill surrounded by the redwood giants. I’m sure you rode stretch that on your journey to Ushuaia.

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