Rolling Hills and Snakes: AWOL on the Oregon Outback – Day 03

When Erik and I committed to riding the Oregon Outback, we didn’t want to absolutely kill ourselves, but we wanted it to be tough. On paper, 360 miles is totally doable in three days without crushing your spirit. Hell, I think we could have done it in two and we still would have been ok but that’s not the point.

I had a responsibility. One that I take seriously and that’s documenting this trip. Granted, most of the time, I didn’t want to stop to shoot a photo, or hop off my bike, I just wanted to keep going…

This was the hardest ride I’ve done and not because it’s the longest, or the dirtiest. It was difficult because I had to keep forcing myself to document the journey, when all I wanted to do was put my head down, eat a scoop of Nutella and keep pushing forward.

Day three was the most difficult. The night before, I had awkwardly slept on my knee and when I awoke in the morning, my leg was alseep. Not knowing, I stepped out of the hammock and twisted it until I felt a pop. 80 miles later and it was on fire. I had to lower my saddle considerably and stand for just about every climb.

Still, as I’m typing this, my leg is elevated and being iced down.

As cyclists, we’re stubborn, goal-driven fools. Whether our goal is to just finish the fucking ride, or to work ourselves into fitness, we, or at least I, get tunnel-vision.

It just so happens that the last day’s tunnel vision was clouded by relentless headwinds, rolling hills and snakes. A lot of snakes. Erik even bunnyhopped one on his bike. When we rolled into the Deschutes State Rec area, we were both pretty beaten up. But hey, we did it… and I highly suggest you do it next year! Same time, same place, Klamath Falls, Oregon on Memorial Day Weekend.

Read up more in the Gallery captions.

Here’s our route and the full breakdown. 368 miles, over 15,000′ elevation with 28 moving hours and 60 hours total.

  • Johnny

    Great photos and write up. My girlfriend and I did your day 3 as our days 4 and 5 (slept in the lobby of the Community Center in Shaniko). Similar to you, we spent the entire time taking pictures and swearing. It was beautiful but fuck that fucking bullshit asshole fucking headwind. Funny, the paved road in photo 54 had been covered in tar with gravel laid over the top of it by the time we got there a couple days later. It was a strange surface to ride on; gravel but it was solid. It was really nice to meet you and Erik at breakfast on day 1 (Johnny with the AWOL); the bike worked out perfectly and thanks for the photo.

    • Awesome! It was a pleasure to meet you dude. Glad you two made it out unscathed!

  • Sean Talkington

    “We call them gopher snakes John!”- The West Coast

    Nice work buddy

    • Bull Snakes are a subspecies of Gopher Snakes…

      • Sean Talkington

        I just wanted to give you an opportunity to talk about reptiles. #snakenerd

  • Ornotbike

    This whole trip was documented so well. I often forget to pull out the camera when I’m having a ton of fun or when I’m over it and done. Nice work. I bet Erik had to do some waiting for all of the photo ops as well.

  • PNT

    Thanks John and Erik this was the best photo story so far! Highly inspiring as well!

    • Much appreciated dude!

      • PNT

        for us the radavist is all about pushing things forward on all levels not just bike riding. Seeing that it all works motivate us to do do our stuff. Keep the progress!

  • Goog Smells

    Nice herp spotting, bruh!

  • Zach Kahl

    Here is a pretty cool interview with Donnie Kolb, the guy who founded and created the Oregon Outback..

    • You could just email me rather than spamming the comments dude…

      • Zach Kahl

        I did email you dude. Check your inbox… May 22, dude.

  • Guest


  • *Raspberry eating

  • Badass mother F$ckers! Beer and Skol for energy right!

  • Clément ‘Karibou’ Malinski

    So rad ! Many others already said it but, again, great work photographying this “race” or should I just say adventure.
    I thought E would go there with his full nuke peacock though…and was a little surprised to see him riding a chain drive after the Alfine 11 x Gates combo.
    Anyway, really great recap and what a scenery ! Makes me want to go to Oregon even more, and maybe taking part to the Outback once, who knows !

    • Erik takes his matchy matchiness to serious levels.

  • James

    John, due to the winds why isn’t the ride rode north to south?

    • Donnie had a few reasons. One of which being it’s “mostly” downhill / false flats going South to North. Another reason, it’s more enjoyable to ride an hour in a car home to Portland (where most people were from) than have to box your bike up and Amtrak it back to Portland from Klamath.

  • James

    And also, who makes your riding partner’s orange vest/jacket?

  • Jamie McKeon

    crushed it

  • Harry

    I was taken aback how lean you look in the last photos! Congrats on the ride and fitness levels

  • Rasmus Riemann

    #58 for July’s calender?
    Do you think it was worth bringing the heavy 5D over a lighter compact with less resolution?

    • Clément ‘Karibou’ Malinski

      IMHO it’s always worth it !

  • Travis Dubose

    You can’t have your best day(s) on the bike without flirting with your worst. Good job!

  • Jesse Gubb

    Insane ride! As everyone’s said, excellent work on the documentation, as always. I’m always too busy having type I or type II or type III fun to remember to pull the camera out. Doing this ride next year…

    After 3 days on the AWOL you coming around to discs? Or would you still prefer cantis, if you were riding your own bike?

  • Public_Parent

    #23, “Morning snake”. Is that like morning wood? Epic report!

  • Marcus Edvalson

    I love seeing the contrast in stories about this route. You guys rode this like proper tourists, soaking up the trail at a reasonable pace with plenty of stops and good times. Ira and Jan told a different story, but no less beautiful or fitting. What an adventure. Thanks for sharing John!

    • Ira and Jan missed all the good stuff! ;-)

  • Dan Clements

    Thank you for the photos John. Wasn’t sure how to carry a camera with out it being a pain in the ass to use.
    And there was plenty enough discomfort down there. Riding in the dark, hallucinations, sleeping while riding,
    all part of a normal day during the OO.
    Had a beer with you at the finish (I am the one with the black toque)
    Fuck that loose deep gravel bullshit, and the never fuckling ending rollers of death with a side of headwind.
    See you next year.


  • Area45

    This was a great series John. I’m super impressed that you did all of this while documenting it. I know for me that I end up just keeping my head down and pushing. I think in some ways stopping to take pics helps to keep the stoke high when the road/hills/whatever is trying to bring it back down. Great story man.

    • Thanks dude! See you out there next year? It’d be great to ride together. That is, if you don’t try to Heine it… ;-)

      • Area45

        Haha! Is that a thing now? “Don’t Heine me!”. Might be in your town next April. Gonna plan on having a bike with me for some pedal time.

  • Remus Andronicus

    Wow, wow, wow! What an amazing adventure! Chapeau to the both of you!

  • Adam Miller

    Incredible photos. I love the 368 dirt mile stare in #76. It could be a still from a Bergman film.

  • Steve Helberg

    John, what size AWOL are you on? Awesome pics by the way.

  • stefanrohner

    great trip!

  • I feel your knee pain! I’ve been thinking poorly of the way I ran my last long ride. It was nine days to Ga and back, and I was cramming miles. I pushed through two full days of screaming knees, and they’re still healing. I’ve learned a lesson, but it’s good to know I’m not the only zealot!

  • Old Fat Slow

    Awesome. Thanks for the journal.