25. The Perfect Ride

When asked by people over the last three months how our daily bike rides crossing the country have been, I’ve heard Shelly say several times, “You know, we’ve never had that perfect ride, where everything is just right. It seems like there is always something that comes up at some point during the day: weather, bad roads, heavy traffic, physical ailments, something like that.” 

I’d have to say that was true . . . Until this past Thursday in Oregon, when we enjoyed The Perfect Ride, pedaling 40 miles from Sisters, over McKenzie Pass, and down to Belknap Hot Springs. 

With our friends Mark and Pat, we had turned in the U-Hauls (no, we couldn’t get anything smaller)  we had rented to drive around the wildfires in Montana and Idaho to Bend Tuesday morning, loaded up our bicycles, and pedaled just  20 miles to Sisters, where we camped overnight in the Creekside City Park. 

Thursday morning, we awoke early to clear blue skies and 37 degrees. After breaking camp, we rode across town to eat breakfast at one of Shelly’s and my favorite coffee shops, Sisters Coffee Company.  My lox toast and coffee were so tasty, a great start to the day.  Next stop was a grocery store to buy lunch, dinner and breakfast to get us through the next 24 hours, one of the very few times on the trip that we had to carry that much food, for our destination of Belknap Hot Springs did not offer much in the way of food.

And then we were off.  As we left Sisters on Highway 242 for the climb up McKenzie Pass, we knew we were in for an epic ride, with the Three Sisters mountains standing prominently to our left,  in sharp contrast to the deep blue sky. 

The 17-mile climb to the pass was easy after having ridden so many miles and so many mountain passes  much, much steeper than the gentle grades that took us up the east side of McKenzie Pass. There was very little traffic.  At times it seemed that there were almost as many bicyclists as motor vehicles on the ride  up the pass.  It was so peaceful, the four of us quietly pedaling upward, through the forest of pine trees.  We were so grateful to have escaped the smoke-filled skies we had been riding in just a few days before. 

Shelly and I have stood on summit of McKenzie Pass many, many times during our 44 years in Oregon.  On Thursday, we both agreed that “it doesn’t get any better than this on McKenzie Pass” as we stood at the top of the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit.  Brilliant sunshine.  The clearest blue sky, not a cloud in sight.  A pleasant temperature.  Little wind.  Very little traffic, and very few people.  The sky was so clear that we could see Mount Hood, 75 miles to the north. 

After eating our lunches up top, we were ready for the 22-mile descent down the west side. Boy was that fun, plunging over 3,000 feet down to the McKenzie River Valley. Much of that descent is steep, with several hairpin turns.  With little traffic on the road, we could let our bikes run,  and not ride the brakes.  It was a blast. 

And it was incredibly beautiful.  Living in Oregon, it is easy to take our lush green forests and our massive old growth  Douglas Firs for granted.  But the experience of slowly making our way across the country and then suddenly being engulfed in a sea of green forest as we dropped down the west side of McKenzie Pass reminded me of the rare and magnificent  beauty of Oregon’s forests.  Nowhere on our journey across the United States  did we see trees even remotely resembling the giant Douglas Firs, or the dense green understory beneath them, that we enjoy here in Oregon.  Not in the Appalachian Mountains.  Not in the Ozarks.  Not in the Colorado Rockies. Not in Grand Teton National Park.  Not even  in Yellowstone.  My  eyes were misty as we coasted down the narrow highway through those massive trees, overcome with appreciation and gratefulness for the beauty of Oregon’s forests.

At the bottom of Highway 242, at its intersection with the Santiam Pass Highway, we turned uphill for the very short ride to Belknap Hot Springs.  We camped there near the banks of the McKenzie River in the forest, and enjoyed a long soak in the hot springs.  

Sitting on the banks of the McKenzie was yet  another reminder of what we have here in Oregon.  The only river we saw during our cross country trip that compares to beauty of the McKenzie is the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park.  Most of the rivers and streams we’ve seen east of the Rockies were muddy, slow-moving ribbons of molasses, often polluted by the cattle that used them for drinking water. To think,  Oregon doesn’t have just one magnificent river in the McKenzie:  think of the Willamette, the Rogue, the Umpqua, the John Day, the Grand Ronde, the Owyhee, to name just  a handful. 

Friday,  we four rode the 60 miles from Belknap to our house.  It is bittersweet to be home, as it means we are almost finished with this adventure.  But we still have to get to the Pacific Ocean . . .

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Gail

    Welcome home! I bet your bed felt good! As Dorthy said”theres no place like home” I’ll be watching for your toes in our beautiful Pacific ocean. Make sure you get a good bowl of chowder while your there.

  2. Margie & Larry

    Wow! What a “welcome home” you got from the sky, the trees, the river, and the enjoyment of the road!! May your last stretch put BIG smiles on your faces! Thanks for the reminder of how very blessed we are to call western Oregon home. ❤️

  3. Diane Schilling

    Your last sentence gave me a good laugh. Enjoy your ride to the coast, after the laundry gets done, you get some real food, and a good rest!

  4. Diane

    Welcome back to beautiful Oregon! You two are incredible, amazing people! I’ve enjoyed seeing and hearing about your adventures and challenges along the way! The photos and blogs are great! Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Bob P.

    NICE! What a fun post to read!

Leave a Reply