Booming thunder rolled down from the mountains as if the Sisters were waging a battle with kettle drums, the unsettling sound echoing off endless ridges.
Big rain drops, the kind that land with a splash, hit here and there as the wind rustled through the towering Ponderosa Pines.
It felt as though the heavens were conspiring against me, the kind of message I typically treat as gospel. But I was on a mission and would not be denied.
I drove up to the Cold Springs campground two days early to pedal up Scenic Highway 242 to McKenzie Pass before Debbie would come up and ride it Memorial Day weekend. The heart of the climb is closed to traffic until mid June or so.
The day before the storm, I rode up the 4.5 miles to the snow gate only to be thwarted by the hand of man. A large NO PUBLIC ENTRY sign blocked my path.
Are you kidding me? No access on the holiday weekend that kicks off the summer?
Dejected, I coasted back down the hill a bit where two older roadies were gearing up. They asked about the conditions on the climb and I shared the bad news.
What do you think Bob? One asked his partner.
Ah, let’s do it anyway, Bob replied.
I wanted to say jerks like you give cyclists a bad rep and I wasn’t going to use jerks, but rather some more crude adjective. But I passed and headed up a dirt road for some fun.
Later on my descent back on the road, they passed with their bikes on the truck. It was way too soon for them to have climbed to the summit. A minute or two later a DOT truck breezed past. Ah ha! Busted!
Then I thought again. Just maybe that DOT dude had another task. Maybe he took down the sign.
Before heading down into the Willamette Valley to pick up Debbie I drove up to check. Sure enough! The sign was gone and the path open.
That meant a late afternoon assault for me, which, as you probably have surmised, was about to be denied by the approaching storm.
No problem riding the storm out, we only felt the edge of it. In no time I hit the road in a light rain — kittens and puppies — with clearing skies ahead.
When the rain stopped, I began a mental inventory of everything I might need that I jammed into my backpack. Then realized in my haste to hit the road, the backpack still sat back at camp
A wildfire raged through this side of the pass a couple of years ago and riding through burnt match sticks as far as the eye can see instead of lush green forest can be a bit disheartening at first.
The late afternoon sun casting long shadows and glimmering off the green leaves of the shrubs that have emerged from the darkened soil created a vibe of rebirth, in harmony with the post-storm sense of relief that washed over me with waves of sweat.
Only a handful of other bike riders were nuts enough to be out, so for most of the hour climb I savored the peace of just me and the mountain.
Slicing through the high snowbanks atop McKenzie Pass felt like a ride-in cooler — the last half mile twisting through the lava and ice anointed me with a mystical finish.
Dark clouds smothered the peaks of South and Middle Sister, that storm probably spoiling more than a couple late day hikers while the curtain fell on Mother Nature’s symphony as I turned and headed home.
Time to ride