Welcome to a story, or stories I should say. A compilation of adventure tales. An ongoing itch to see, smell, and touch the world, or at least the deserted roads and rarely trampled mountains of America. Characters within the descriptive paragraphs of these stories carve out the coming and going companions in life; vital life people and pieces that parallel a universe for moments, days, years. And then spear off, leaving granules of magnificent memories of magical places. They leave a lasting trace, a gained sense of courage to stand tall on oxygen deprived mountains and shout absurdities like: I love you Ralph! Ralph is a teenage reindeer stuffed of the finest synthetic polyester fiber poof; he says made in Indonesia but really tells me he is from the North Pole. Delivered through a chimney one December night 20 years ago, we instantly became cuddle buddies upon that morning's sunrise. He is the instigator. The inspiration. And the imagination. He breathes creativity. Laughter. His is a dear companion. And yes, at 4lbs he tags along atop a pack or strapped to a rack. In delirium of 107 degree heat, the small possession of material belongings gain a persona. Innate objects become friends of the road and trails. And as for the humans who accompany, their presence reads priceless. Without O'Reilly, a 29 year old New Hampshirian with superior taste buds, the mathematical six foot four inch tall German, or handful of organic peanut butter and 99 cent jam eating munchkins, there would be a lot less excitement. The encounters we make with our specie, encapsulating the world with their awkward ways and over consumerist love, somehow we have managed to become overly adored creatures. Their generous hearts restore a faith that goodness prevails in the upheaval of a sometimes lost humanity. As for myself, I'm just the navigator, paddling up the stream of life munching on Clif Bars, with an iPhone documenting the frailties and goodies underneath all the simplified complexities in the world we reside. So again, I welcome you to get lost and dream a little through this typed text and your imagination. My name is Kristen Gentilucci. I live in Berkeley California and I love dogs.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mountain Bicycle Tour: Oregon's Willamette National Forest

Oregon remained that image: surplus of blackberries, small adorable hippy towns, and the lush green was about to show its true colors once again. Riddled with more fire roads than paved roads and more single track than even a lucid dream could spawn up, it was truly what all the locals call...epic. 

Two years had melted by, but there we were again, traveling via bicycle with our used and abused gear, in someone unknown rugged mountain territory- with our posses: this time 3 city bikes, one mountain bike, and four crazy humans. 

We consist of the M Cubed Crew of three bearded boy (Matty Michael and Mikey), and me - the girl. Meet Michael. At the age of 27, a nurse, he comes geared with medical stitches and a slough of unnecessary items. 4lbs of sunflower seeds. Blow up lantern. Fresh whole food marinated top serlion steak. A tub of sunflower butter. Disposable camera. A pair of neon pineapple printed speedos. An intervention was needed and we convinced him ditch his down puff jacket and long underwear with the forecast of 90 degree heat for days ahead. 

Mikey - bearded boy #2, is laughing fellow. A lumberman by day, he is laced with a thicket of red hair and scruffy beard. He is the mechanical skills behind the crew. Knowing his bikes and Kentucky whiskey well, he is unafraid of any bumps or bruises. 

And then there is the famous O'Reilly, my editor in chief back in business with Action Boy - his steel framed gentlemen of a friend. Wearing fat knobby rubber circular shoes this time around, the steel bike is once again ready for "action". And yet, once again it is O'Reilly who's words of poetry that weave this blog like a king on a precisely built wooden throne. Or a man nestled in the seat of his bicycle flush with superfluous amount of cheese. 

And then there is me...and Betsy. My beautiful white unicorn of a bicycle built only for mountain terrain. 

Our posses started somewhere in the southern Cascades of the Willamette national forest, an easy hour west of Bend. The trail meandered the southern racing rapids on the McKenzie river. It was warm, hot to be exact, but still somehow ice blue seeped from rocks filling lakes with crystal like water. It flowed everywhere, feeding the color green as if a paint bucket exploded in the woods. 

Trails were groomed out within the dense thicket, paved with a plushness of pine needles. It was a heaven for any tires with treads and a captain awaiting a ride of bumps and jumps. 

Staying upright was a task at times. Rubber side down is what the pros call it.  Lava rocks with holes like Swiss cheese jetted the landscape. Tree roots unafriad to show their face to the sun dotted manicured trails. We spent days on repeat: bike, camp, eat, sleep. Campfires burned late into the wee hours of the night. Oregon wood burned hot like pizza ovens keeping the abundance of fire roasted cheesy tortillas toasting till nearly dawn. Bodies drenched in sweat and bug spray rested on moss mattresses of green fungus, sleeping soundly to the song of the river. 

And then along came Scott. We found him at the only stop in town chowing down on a burger and beer. He was a meditative fellow in his early 40s telling us stories of his epic journey from Alaska to Argentina on his steel framed mountain bike of a rig. He was now spending his days touring through dusty dirt and expansive forests heading back north to the unknown. We are not sure why he chose to join us for a campsite hunt that one night. Perhaps a loneliness set in. Or our supply of 3 bottles of wine, 1/2 a liter of rum, and 12 ice cold beers was enough to make some wild kids riding cross bikes through the woods look like company. 

Turned out he was a nice fellow. We still can't quite piece together his elaborate travel story, but who knows. One fact was true, he crushed the trail without a flinch faster than we could fly. But perhaps three years on the road solo touring trees and rocky fire roads makes one a bit disconnected to reality. Who are we to judge though, demolishing litters of whiskey and rum with a few "wild" mushrooms like it was a good day of hard work. 

However it wasn't till our crew hit the bike shop in Oakridge that we got the ride of our lives. We are still unsure if the cool dudes who fixed us up were taunting us for their own pleasure. We dropped our gear in town and so, they sent us on a loop. "A loop" that most tourists shuttle to the top and bomb down the so called "EPIC" trail of the northwest. 

"Just shred up fire road 1910 to alpine trail," were the words that brought us to a halt mid ride. Fire road 1910 was a 12 mile 3000ft climb in 90 degree sun baked heat. We had already pedaled from our campsite to the bike shop, then to the town over the hill to meet the North Fork trail which took us up the poison oak ladled river to fire trail 1910. Completely out of water half way up, if we didn't reach the top, we chattered fears about showing our faces again to the shop men who sent us up this mountain. But really, we wondered who did they think we were? 

But three boys loaded with testosterone is enough juice to power any dazed and dehydrated crew up a mountain. It was worth every ounce of pain. We bombed down the most EPIC trail I, at least, have ever ridden. The feeling doesn't have perfect words, but it was an hour down that mountain, adrenaline gripping the breaks, the sunset scratching through the tops of trees top with bicycles tightly hugging the rugged escarpment of the EPIC landscape. Exhilaration put any exhaustion to shame. 
With days upon end of this cycling behavior, soreness and the abundance of welted itchy mosquito bites started to sink in. Muscles felt like tree trunks unable to move like those nimble children. 
Before departing the square state of the Trail Blazers a lasting pit stop to Crater Lake captured a Blue so deep it sunk into a soul. As the sun set west the vast firmament unfolded and the end was near. And once again new vibrant memories become tucked away deep within the creases of the mind.  


The End.