When photos started coming up from the very first Oregon Outback ride last year, I remember being excited. I saw the blog posts, the instant grams; 364 miles of dirt and gravel, high desert, unsupported riding, I mean whatever that's cool but hold up because it looks like everyone's taking the train to the start of it? I was so stoked. That was a year ago, and in the days following all the posts of that inaugural ride I blocked off most of May 2015 to make sure I could join in on the experience.
Now I'm in Portland. The train's leaving at 2:25pm for Klamath Falls and from gracious Joshua's couch I'm realizing I just rode my bike for four days through Washington and everything smells bad and I have no food left. So, there's only a few hours to run enough errands to make sure I don't die or get a rash on the Outback. This didn't allow for a lot of cruising- something I relish amidst all the intense outdoor activity. But, getting clothes and food in the few hours left before a train leaves is kinda the norm for me at this point. On with it, then.
Luckily I'm not the only one who stinks after riding through Washington. But, packing light as I do means there's only one shirt, one pair of shorts, etc, and my desire for a decent breakfast at Sweatpea- a place I have to go to when in Portland, sends me out solo for the rest of the day until we all rendezvous at Portland's cute Union Station along with 100 other riders. I finally meet the awesome Komorebi Bicycling Team and we resolve their bikes' lack of Route Feminent stickers.
Impressively, an extra baggage car has been added to the train for our bikes. No special boxes needed, on every rider's bike (unless in a box due to coming from somewhere else, of course) a tag is hung with a corresponding claim ticket. Honestly, it's the best bike-train system I've seen outside of just bringing the bike in the passenger car with you. That's not really an option with a hundred bikes, of course.
I'm stuffing myself with vegan cookies to fight off the doldrums of farmland and industrial spaces that follow exiting a city on the train. It works- it always works. But now the train's climbing into the mountains and either that or the sugar rush has me buzzing. Drizzle starts, the light's fading behind the clouds as we enter dusk, and my camera is struggling to get just one good shot (let alone three, if you'll permit this moment of bragging) of the clouds hovering in the dark woods of these mountains. It's beautiful, and I'm so thankful to have a talkative seatmate who happens to be going to Klamath but not to ride bikes. Talking about bikes too much can be tiring, y'all. Meeting strangers and learning about their lives is far more enjoyable than discussing the latest bags or tires or whatever. We listen to folks behind us talking about previous dogs from their lives and how they died. Awkward looks are exchanged between us. More cookies, immediately, and I think about my totally-alive dog back in Chicago.
Klamath Falls, Oregon is of course a small stop. The train's not used to spending more than a minute (two, tops) here, and the baggage crews are acting like it would be a mortal sin for this train to be even a minute delayed. It's hilariously ironic to me. Despite having my camera glued to the window and trying to talk about anything other than bikes, I secured a floor to sleep on for the night at the nearby motel with some other riders. Once again, all the sugar is working in my favor as I zip up inside my sleeping bag while simultaneously crashing off a sugar rush.