Today was our last riding day. We took the McKenzie Highway from Sisters back to Rainbow – 2000 feet up, 4000 feet down.
The morning way fairly nice. We stopped at a grocery store in Sisters for breakfast and lunch supplies. Ruth and I hung out outside with the bikes while Anne got the goods.
Then on to McKenzie Highway. The climb started right away, but very gently. It was a big broad forest, although with lots of stumps. Chipmunks scurried about, threatening to jump under our wheels. We had the music going for Ruth, and she would occasionally sing along.
The grade slowly ramped up over about 10 miles, peaking at about 6%. Then it got a bit more erratic. The scenery changed, too. To the north was a lava flow, mostly without anything growing in it. It looked like a big pile of rubble. It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s a natural formation.
The lava flow kept flitting about on the right, until we got near the top. Then, the road was cut straight through the flow. It felt kind of like being on an alien world. Finally it opened up a bit, and there was the Dee Wright Observatory. This is a structure built at the McKenzie Pass summit out of rocks from the lava flow. It’s kind of a tower, with stairs (made of the lava rocks) and railings (made of the lava rocks and chains), with a room inside that has holes in the walls to view each of the 8 or so mountain tops visible. The whole thing felt like something that belonged in Mordor. We ate lunch in the observatory, since it was the only shade wert had seen for a while.
As we were leaving, we saw a supported tour group setting up, complete with a canopy and takes and chairs. I’m glad we did the ride self supported, but it sure would be nice to have other people carry all the water, food, and luggage, and have a hot lunch waiting for us after each climb. We saw a number of folks from this group climbing later, including one that was getting SAGged to the top.
Then, the descent. It started off pretty moderate and straight, but then got steeper and curvy, including several switchbacks. This was by far the most windy road on this trip, but we trained on much worse back home.
Near the end it started to level off, but stayed generally downward to our hotel where we had left the car. The innkeeper came out as we pulled in to saw she was glad we made it back safely.
It’s nice to be back, but I’m sad that we’re done with the tour. I know that Anne had fun, because she’s already planning the next one.
Overall, I think we prepared enough for this trip. None of the climbs exhausted us, although we were ready to get off the road by the end of most days. Anne pulled the trailer the whole way every day, which really impressed me. We had enough food and water every day. We never really got lost. Ruth was pleasant most of the time, and napped well in the trailer. The only things we brought but didn’t use were rain gear and most of the first aid kit. Those seem like good things not to need.
Now I just need to remember to stay out of the shoulder for the drive home.