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Tim and I had settled on an 8am start, and so at the appointed time I rode over to the RV park in Prospect where he was staying with Laurie, and found him unprepared to ride, as he had damaged his Achilles tendon the previous day; this morning it was so stiff that there was high risk of a tear if he put it under the pressure of a hard ride – a big disappointment for Tim, and for me, who was looking forward to riding with him. He planned to get some acupuncture to help alleviate the stiffness, in hopes that that, combined with two days of rest, the rest day commencing tomorrow, would loosen up the tendon sufficiently for him to continue riding.
So off I went on my own, which is to say, riding with 2,200 other riders, and started making my way to Ashland. I was able to partner up early with several different riders, and rode together with them to the first couple of rest stops. This day was expected to be nearly 6,000 feet of climbing, with the major climb starting after the second rest stop. Again, the scenery was lovely, as we were riding primarily in high altitude coniferous forest land, which provided, besides beautiful scenery, also a nice wind break and shade from the sun. The climb was challenging, but went without incident, and the lunch stop at the top of that climb afforded some rest and respite.
Cycle Oregon provides a great deal of musical entertainment as part of its charm, much of it on the rides. They also had a stage show every evening, but I was always too pooped to attend it, preferring sleep in preparation for the next day, but each evening could hear the sounds of highly varied and generally high quality music as I drifted off to sleep. The music along the routes was another thing entirely. Many of the rest stops featured a local band performing, often country or folk or blue grass or jazz- and they were all good!
At lunch I met a woman from Chico, California, who was wearing a jersey promoting the Wildflower ride in the Chico area. She told me that its best feature was in fact a ride through many mountain meadows filled with wildflowers, timed so that they were all in bloom. That must have been a glorious sight!
Continuing the ride, I met a woman who hailed from Philadelphia, another East Coaster who had found the lure of Cycle Oregon irresistible. As we climbed the last 4 miles before the long descent into Ashland, I noticed a woman who was maybe 65 years old who was just ahead of me, and going just a little faster, so I set my pace to match hers, maintaining a discrete distance, and she, unbeknownst to her, provided me with a focus and motivation to maintain a higher speed up the climb than I otherwise would probably have done. I caught her at the top, introduced myself and thanked her for her leadership, and she responded that she didn’t feel like she had done that well up the climb, while I assured her from my point of view that she was awesome!
Shortly thereafter, she joined a group that descended together the 13 miles down to Ashland; they rocketed down the hill at speeds a little higher than I was comfortable with, and she stayed right with them! For myself, I teamed up with another rider who was slightly less aggressive, and we made our way down rapidly enough, the need for speed being attended to, the excitement of riding a bicycle down the hill fast still as appealing as it was when I was a child.
Ashland was visible for most of the descent, at first a glimmer in the valley below, then slowly spreading out before our eyes as we descended to the valley floor. Arriving in the town proper, it was as lovely as I last remembered it, when two years ago Cindy and I visited for a spate of plays with my brother Peter and his wife Bonnie.
Arriving at the camp, I rode by the acupuncture and massage tent, where I found Laurie sitting outside knitting, and Tim sprawled out on his stomach, with maybe 50 long slender needles stuck in various parts of his body. I went to set up my camp and shower, and returned to find Tim limping less than he was before the acupuncture, and he and Laurie offered to take me out for dinner in Ashland as an early birthday present, my 60th birthday imminent hard by the end of the Cycle Oregon. We went to an Engish pub and had some great beer and good Irish stew; all in all a great birthday gift! I spent the evening reading more Russell, and fell asleep with the promise of a day off the next day.