Author: Leon Matz
Conor and my trip to Southern Oregon and Northern California started at 4:00 AM. We drove for 6 ½ hours to get to Merlin OR (near Grants Pass) for the start of our Bear Camp Rd. Climb. Most of the way the road was wet from some light rain. The first rain I had seen in two months. The sky was pretty cloudy and somewhat threatening. As we climbed over the last hills prior to our start the sky cleared and the air warmed up considerably. We hoped this sign was an indication of good fortune.
The first 10 miles of the ride were rolling hills. It started with 3-4 % grade following a creek. The grade soon changed to 10-12% and lasted for about 10 miles. Conor enjoyed the steep pitches while I just sweated and tried to somewhat keep up. He kindly would wait or loop back when he was too far in front. The climb was mostly shaded with very few cars and 2 logging trucks. It is the road that about 10 years ago a couple and their daughter became trapped in the snow and the husband actually perished trying to get help. On the decent our roles reversed as I felt more comfortable going fast and Conor taking it slower. We eventually made it back to the car grabbed a quick bite of food and for me some chocolate milk; we headed off for Mt. Ashland and our second climb.
|Conor atop Mt Ashland (Mt Shasta in backgroung)|
Although we were both a little tired from the first climb we quickly jumped on our bikes and started our climb knowing that we had to get up and down pretty quickly to avoid trying to come down in twilight. The 17-mile ascent started right away but only a 5-6% grade. With the temperature in the low 80’s I enjoyed the shady start. On this climb I was doing a better job of staying close to Conor. At about mile 12 I started feeling a little stronger and Conor started feeling the effects of his first double climb. I lead for a while and then gradually pulled away. Wanting to stay close to each other I would loop back or just wait. I saw a side of Conor I had not seen yet. I could see he was in lots of pain but he would not give into that pain and kept riding hard. After arriving at the ski area we took a few quick pictures including some of Mt Shasta, our next challenge. The climb was a very nice climb with no steep pitches but with lots of smooth curves and lots of trees the decent was pretty cold. As the sun had started down the temperature quickly went from the 80’s to the low 60”s and racing down the mountain caused both us to get cold with goose bumps evident. We quickly loaded up the bikes and headed to our hotel and eventually dinner having road 79 miles and climbed over 8,000 feet and 480 miles of driving. Conor was a little down because I had beaten him up the second climb. Who knows but it may be the last time I beat him up a climb.
|Conor heading up Mt Shasta|
|Leon climbing on Mt Shasta|
The next day
we were up at 5 and on the road by 5:30 heading to CA. After about an hour we could see an outline
of our next challenge. It actually
looked a little scary. The 14,140 ft peak is pretty impressive looking. When we
arrived at the start of the climb we put on all of the clothes we had because
the temperature was in the low 40’s. As we headed out I worked hard to get warm
and to try and stay with Conor. I wasn’t
very successful with either. Conor would
loop back every mile or so come back and say hi and then just as quickly leave
me behind. Gradually I warmed up and even stopped to take off my jacket as the
sun started to warm up the air. The
climb was full of wonderful vistas of the mountain and the foothills
below. Conor patiently waited on a regular
basis. I started to feel think that the
previous climbs had me tired out and causing me to climb slowly but after
checking my climbing rate I discovered I was actually climbing pretty fast;
with over 2,250 feet climbed in the first hour. What this meant was that Conor
was climbing incredibly fast. I wish his
Strava time didn’t include all the looping back he did to keep us somewhat
together. As we started getting closer
to the top I started feeling stronger and tried to catch up with Conor but as
soon as he noticed me starting to move up he stepped on the gas and he left me
far behind. The view at the top was
wonderful as you can see. It was probably in the top 5 of my all time favorite
climbs. I hope all of you have a chance
to climb it someday. The 14-mile climb is not easy with 4,300 ft of climbing
with an average grade of 5.9% and a max of 11%.
The large number of views of the mountain and the foothills surrounding
it were wonderful. I was grateful that
our 3 climb was finished. The 9 ½ hour
drive was still to be completed. Almost
1100 miles of driving, 107 miles of riding and over 12,400 ft of climbing in 39
hours left us both tired and anxious to hit our own bed. One of the best parts of the trip was getting
to know Conor better as a cyclist and as a person. He is a very special 15 year
old who has an exciting future in cycling.
I don’t know of any other 15 year olds who would take on this challenge
with some “old guy”. It was a trip I
will never forget.
|Mt Shasta from the air|