Heat, headwinds and hills, that’s the mini-version of this report on the NW Tandem Rally (NWTR) in Pendleton on the 4th of July weekend. It was our first big weekend of riding this summer and though we weren’t in the best condition, we had a lot of fun.
We left Seattle for central Oregon on Friday the 4th. About a hundred tandems had arrived a day earlier and so were able to participate in the 4th of July Parade in Pendleton that morning. They were all decked out. Plus, since they were tandems, the crowd loved them. They won a trophy for best community group. You can see a photo in this Oregonian article. I think that’s a first for the rally! We got in about 2 and set up camp behind the Pendleton Roundup stadium. Sheila was in on a meeting of rally organizers who have finally codified NWTR as an official entity. They will now serve to guide groups who want to do the rally in the future and make sure every event is well-planned. Nobody has taken that role in the rally’s first 25 years and last year the local person who was organizing it, failed to actually produce a rally. We don’t want that to happen again.
Friday night there was time for lots of socializing at the BBQ in a nearby park. Met new and old friends, heard fantastic stories from the road (“You rode self-supported from Canada to Guatemala?”) and hob-nobbed with the group. When we went back to the tent we discovered there was an additional treat in store for us. The Professional Bull Riders were putting on a show in Happy Canyon, an auxiliary venue on the ground. Lots of yelling into a microphone, loud, LOUD, music, cheering and bull-riders. It went on until the fireworks started at 10. It was too much for us, so we just put in our ear plugs, donned our eye-shades and went to sleep. I guess we’re just party-poopers.
Saturday morning we had a mass start for the nearly 200 cycles. We headed up into the hills and out towards Athena. There was lots of climbing to get up there and then we had steady rolling hills all day. The downs were never quite long enough to get up back up the other side. The landscape was mostly bare ground or stubbled cropland. After lunch at the 30 mile mark, we decided to trim some miles off the route and head back. It was so hot it reminded us of our cross-country trek, except we were not in condition for this riding. Eight miles from lunch we discovered one of our problems was a slow leak in the front tire. I couldn’t pump it up enough to get us to the next rest area, so we had to change the tube. No shade to be found. Just us, hot asphalt, and lots of empty fields. The house in this picture was just about as tired as we were when we left the last rest stop. The last 14 miles after the final rest stop were excruciatingly long. A friend said her bike thermometer clocked in at 110 degrees. I know it was over 90 in the city, so it could well have been that high on the pavement. The headwinds cooled us some, but made the climbs that much harder. We ended up doing 62 miles and 2800′ of elevation gain.
We finally got down off the plateau and in to the showers. What blessed relief! Sheila went off to another NWTR board meeting while I scavenged our dinner. The only Thai restaurant in town was closed for the weekend and the catering was all meat-centric (“Get over it.”), but we found a friend in the local Safeway. They had vegan cheese and deli slices. For Saturday, I bough the toppings for a pizza, took them to a local parlor (Big John’s Home Town Pizza) and they built us a beautiful pie. We shared it after the board meeting. Later we met up with Amanda and Rob from our tandem club who were also camping. We gave them their first lesson in playing pinochle and had lots of laughs swapping stories. They already knew bridge, which helped them in some ways and really confused them in others. The PBR was done with their shows the the nighttime was much more enjoyable.
We debated whether to leave Sunday afternoon or camp a third night. We were very sore and very tired after Saturday’s ride. A lot of people were bemoaning the heat and hills. We decided to ride the short route and leave early. It turns out that being in our cross-country tent helped signal our bodies to waken at 5:30. It seemed natural to hop up, dress, break camp, and pack up before breakfast.
Sunday the course was a straight out-and-back. The long distance was set to be around 63 miles to the Bar M dude ranch. We’d been there the last time we rode here and knew it would be just fine to turn around at the rest stop half-way up the hill. There were more flat stretches than Saturday, but plenty of the big rollers, too. When we got to the rest stop, we discovered that my arms were a mass of dead bugs. Nothing like biking through swarms of gnats when you are covered in sweat and sunscreen! On the return we had 4 miles of steady down followed by another 8 miles of hills, heat, and headwinds. We were glad to be returning before 11 because the temperatures were surely lower than they’d be later. We totaled 38 miles that day, making an even 100 for the weekend.
We arrived back at the Convention Center and celebrated with showers and peach cobbler. By 12:20 we were on the road home. It seemed like we beat much of the holiday weekend traffic, only slowing for about 20 miles on the east side of the pass. It was a great weekend, but ever-so-nice to be back home.