Day 5, Friday, September 15, 2000: The Home Stretch
It was a little chilly, but sunny, when we rolled out of the Diamond Lake lodge. I dressed warm, as we had a 5000' descent ahead of us, starting in the shade at 52 F. Cheryl and I hopped on the tandem, to take full advantage of the downhill. I did this knowing I'd break our personal rule to limit tandem rides to no more than 50 miles; after about 4-5 hours stuck on the bike together, we tend to want to go our own way, which NEVER works on a bicycle built for two.
The route followed the North Umpqua River for most of its course. At the start, we were high enough up to see the start of Fall's color changes. We hit our first rest stop, after more than 2000' feet of down; I found the only sunny spot on the whole hill. At about this point, we had to begin actually pedaling; we'd gone about 18 miles in 40 minutes.
20 miles farther on, we rolled into the "town" of Steamboat. It basically consists of the Steamboat Inn, a small but superbly operated lodge and restaurant set by a small falls in the N Umpqua. We had the BEST MEAL of the trip in a little alcove of the dining room. The food was fresh, well-presented, and ample. So ample, I took a half a sandwich along for the rest of the ride, which saved by life later on.
The downhill had been so compelling, we insisted that the morning's SAG driver, John, be given a ride back up to tandem down with Ken, so he wouldn't miss all the fun. They reported that "things are never as good the second time around", meaning the mountain's afternoon uphill headwind had set in, and the drop which carried us at 35-40 mph coasting now required steady pedaling to reach 25-30. Bummer.
Dave was sagging the afternoon, and Mike had pressed on to the finish, so Cheryl and I pulled Craig and Leigh through Glide and on to Wilbur. The terrain and flora changed from vertical Cascade Green to rolling California Sierra foothill brown, with oak trees singly placed along the slopes. A promised 9 mile swoop into Wilbur became a prolonged 17 mile slog up and down across the bluffs above the river. Tempers grew testy as the temperature rose, and the sun fell lower to our left. We did manage a smile or two near Colliding Rivers, with a reunion of the Poison Spider Bike Shirt Club, commemorating our times together on Nichols Expeditions' trips.
But hit Wilbur we did. However, once again advance information proved overly optimistic. Leigh had been promised a full-service Espresso shop in Wilbur, but the place was a biker tavern with an outside pig roast at a wide spot on the highway fronting the I-5 freeway. Luckily, the promised 9 mile ride into Sutherlin turned out to be a little more than 5, so we hit the pool and hot tub before 5:20. Still, a nearly 9 hour day, and 90 miles on the tandem. Ya just can't beat a downhill like that, though.
Dinner was another lucky find - Pedrotti's, across the street from the motel. A true Italian restaurant, with Calzones the size of footballs. The wine was poured perfectly, befitting our toast to the mountains, and the joys of riding in them. This salad looked so good, I asked it to pose for a picture.
Miles: 90 Elevation gain: 550', loss 5180' 52-78 F, clear.