March 1–3, 2013
Every year, when the first weekend of March approaches, I think of two things: 1) Am I ready to get my legs torn off in the first cross country race of the season? 2) How much money will I spend with the winery who hosts the event on their own private land?
Echo Red 2 Red has become a bit of an annual pilgrimage to north central Oregon for me. It’s three days and two nights of mountain biking, fire building, beer drinking, wine tasting, and generally excellent company. This year was nothing less than all of those things and just a little more.
Friday took me the 3 ½ hours east on I-84 to the tiny town of Echo, OR, just outside of Hermiston. I was joined by a bunch of friends from the Trusty Switchblade team and their team dog Sasha. We rallied into town and picked up our numbers at the winery’s tasting room. After, we said our hello’s to the generous hosts Lloyd and Lois, and collected ourselves for further adventure. Accepting an invitation to the home of race organizer Shane, of Echo Bike & Board fame, we drove into the middle of nowhere to his place. My friend Jason noticed they were raising rabbits (something he did in his youth with 4-H) and then we ate some of the rabbits…really. After dining on Thumper we headed to the trailhead camp site, where we drank whiskey and beer to steel our nerves for a midnight ride. Everyone survived.
Saturday morning was a clamour of coffee, elk sausages, and enthusiasm for the upcoming race. Now, dear reader, I’m no cross country racer. This isn’t really my thing, but I do love riding in this area and I like an excuse to ride faster than I would normally do on my own. I had just recently set my IF up with Rubena tires of the tubeless variety. I haven’t done this before, so I was a little wary. I’m also a big fatty, so that didn’t make me feel any better. My fears were realized about 5 miles into the 27 mile race when I burped my rear wheel to the point of flatness. Apparently there’s a learning curve for setting up tubeless tires. I tossed a tube in there and it treated me well all the rest of the day. My nonchalant-ish pace and my extended rear tire time out pretty much put me behind everyone in the field, but that was fine, think of me as a spandex wearing Ferdinand.
Finally, the single track ended and the road home was in front of me. I took this time to stop by the camp and fill my pockets with malt beverages for my Trusty Switchblades, I figured since I was pulling up the rear I may as well complete my domestique duties and bring hydration. With the race over we retreated back to the camp for dinner, beers, liquor, surprise deep fried turkey and fresh French fries, a big ass fire, and the opportunity to ride over it on a generous gentleman’s Moonlander. News flash! Fat bikes are really awesome.
Sunday gave us another chance to drink coffee and get another ride in. The views of the Umatila River, and the riding beside it, are reason enough to make the trek to Echo next year. I’ll be there, hope to see you too.