Sunday, July 18, 2010

McKenzie Pass

I’m all about tradition. And if there’s a singular custom that holds true for the endurance athlete – whether they be skiers, cyclists, paddlers, whatever – it’s the Sunday long workout. This week was no different. Only today, instead of heading out for a semi-epic crust cruise that circumnavigated either Moon Mountain and Broken Top, or hitting all the neighborhood streets from West Bend to Tumalo, today it was time to get out on the road bike.

The past couple seasons I worked with a coach who didn’t really believe in cycling. With mountain biking, he thought the chance of injury too high. With road biking, that it wasn’t sport specific enough. To mention the desire to get out and spin on the S-Works would invariably be met with a variation of the theme, “Skiers ski.” Anyways, today brought back how much I missed getting out on the roads and watching the miles click by while being powered solely on muscles, powerbars and the desire of a gluttonous feast consisting of cheese and bacon and guacamole topped hamburgers and greasy onion rings, all washed down with a chocolate-banana malted shake.

With my Bend days now down to single digits, I knew I needed to get in a least one decent ride in Bike Town USA. Sunday morning a group of seven professional athletes of either cycling, triathlon or skiing descent rolled out on the roads to the cowboy town of Sisters, Oregon. From here we made our way up McKenzie Pass. As the pace picked up and the gradient steepened, I was a tidbit nervous with my serious lack of cycling miles and with both the eastern and western climbs of McKenzie Pass looming. McKenzie is a fabled road here in Oregon, the original pass through the Cascades that connects the high desert of the East with the wetter West. Being so oldschool the postman used to have to traverse it on skis at the turn of the century, the road snakes and weaves its way along the mountainside, a two-lane path matching nature. It stands so much in contrast to modern road straightened through dynamite and man’s might. Certainly better for quicker driving from point A to B, but it’s like a friend of mine says, “Take the interstate if you want to go from one place to the next and get there absolutely as fast as possible, and see absolutely nothing.” Both have their place. I just seem to overemphasize speed and miss out on taking in roads that roll along with lava fields and country estates.

Getting back into town, ravished, its time to slide into Sno-Cap for the aforementioned all-American culinary experience. But it’s a hot Sunday afternoon and the line stretches straight out the mom-and-pop burgershack to the street. We’re hungry, real hungry, so we head down the street to a café that specializes in all-natural vegan food. The wait was non-existent, but so was that malted milk shake.

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