Road Engineering Analysis & Photos: Race Across Oregon
By Ken Bartholic, Cheryl McMurray, and Chuck Bramwell

We rode the Race Across Oregon Route in the 4 Day Training Camp of May 12 to 15, 2005

Start in Portland
Ken Bartholic, Cheryl McMurray, Chuck Bramwell, and Anne Schneider at the Start in Portland

Mt. Hood
We never knew what was looming around a corner ... like in this case, Mount Hood!!

"We rolled across the high plains ... Deep into the mountains
Felt so good to me ... Finally feelin' free"
"Roll Me Away" by Bob Seger

A Wild Rollercoaster Ride
What an awesome Rollercoaster ride!!

Flyin' down the road!!
We were flyin' down the road!!

Canyons and Streams
It seemed we were constantly climbing through beautiful canyons with rivers and streams on the side.

"And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was."
"Balance" by The Moody Blues

Final Climb to Timberline Ski Lodge went up into the clouds
On the final climb up to the Timberline Ski Lodge, we rode through the rain and up into the clouds.

Race Across Oregon 4 Day Camp Table of Contents

Click on a Date to View Maps, Elevation Profiles, and Photos

Feet of
Day 1--Thursday 5/12/05 Portland, OR Maupin, OR
Day 2--Friday 5/13/05 Maupin, OR Long Creek, OR
Day 3--Saturday 5/14/05 Long Creek, OR Prineville, OR
Day 4--Sunday 5/15/05 Prineville, OR Timberline, OR

Feet of Climbing and graphs were built using Chuck's Ciclosport HAC4 Computer

Feet of % % Miles -
RAO Climbing Miles Climbing Climbing
Mile on HAC4 Completed Completed Completed
Start - Portland 0.0 0 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Wamic Road 60.2 5660 11.2% 15.3% -4.2%
Bennett Pass Summit 62.1 6070 11.5% 16.4% -4.9%
Sign: Dufur 5 Miles 90.7 7500 16.8% 20.3% -3.5%
Time Station #1 - Tygh Valley 111.6 8830 20.7% 23.9% -3.2%
Maupin 120.4 9518 22.4% 25.8% -3.4%
Bake Oven Road Summit 145.4 12398 27.0% 33.6% -6.6%
Time Station #2 - Fossil 190.8 16448 35.4% 44.6% -9.1%
Butte Creek Pass Summit 199.8 17538 37.1% 47.5% -10.4%
Kimberly 235.2 17998 43.7% 48.7% -5.1%
Time Station #3 - Long Creek 270.2 21293 50.2% 57.7% -7.5%
Summit 4687 Feet 282.8 22943 52.5% 62.1% -9.6%
John Day Fossil Beds 327.7 23073 60.8% 62.5% -1.7%
Keyes Creek Summit 353.8 25213 65.7% 68.3% -2.6%
Mitchell 359.2 25353 66.7% 68.7% -2.0%
Ochocho Pass Summit 376.2 27653 69.8% 74.9% -5.1%
Time Station #4 - Prineville 406.4 27766 75.4% 75.2% 0.2%
Bottom of Canyon 472.6 29726 87.7% 80.5% 7.2%
Second Summit 478.7 30986 88.9% 83.9% 4.9%
Walter's Corner Market 499.0 31786 92.6% 86.1% 6.5%
Blue Box Pass Summit 525.4 34396 97.5% 93.2% 4.4%
Time Station #5 - Chevron 528.9 34396 98.2% 93.2% 5.0%
Finish - Timberline Lodge 538.7 36920 100.0% 100.0% 0.0%


By Cheryl McMurray

     One of the most challenging bike races in the West is the Race Across Oregon (RAO). This 535 mile nonstop race, with over 37,000 feet of climbing, is held in June of each year and attracts strong riders from all over America and even from other countries. The race starts in Portland, climbs around the north side of Mt. Hood to Tygh Valley (111 miles from the start), then on to Fossil (191 miles), Long Creek (270 miles), Canyon City, Prineville (406 miles), then to the finish at Timberline Lodge (535 miles). For more information, please go to

     The organizers offer two training camps for the race using the same course; one over a three-day period, and a four day ride in May. I decided to join the four-day training camp, along with longtime OCW member Chuck Bramwell and former member Ken Bartholic, who now lives in Reno. Why would I enter such a tough event? First of all, I thought it would be a lot of fun to recapture old times with Ken and Chuck from our previous PAC Tour trip in 2000. Second, I did not know how difficult this ride would be until I received an urgent e-mail from Chuck informing me of the 40,000 ft. of climbing, thus leading to the first time I tried to back out of the ride. After an emergency call to Ken, he encouraged me to start training and just do the best I could. I also received a very encouraging e-mail from George, one of the organizers of the ride, telling me that the scenery was beautiful, the climbing not as bad as it sounded and that I would regret not doing the ride. Who needs regret?

     Now that I was committed to go, fear set in which drove me to the hills for training. Chuck Bolin kept me company during the first month of hill repeats using Newport Coast, San Joaquin Hills, Vista Ridge, Ridge park and Pelican as my training ground. It started at first with five hill repeats, and gradually moving up to ten totaling about 4000 feet of climbing in each training session. Alan Dauger made the mistake of volunteering to do my last ride with me and I think he began questioning my sanity halfway up Ridge Park for the second time. Bless his heart, he did the whole thing and never complained. Would this be sufficient training for this ride, which averages 9000 feet of climbing each day? - Iíll just have to find out when I do it.

     The next obstacle was the Oregon weather. I am not a rain rider! Not good for this area of the country. I became obsessive about checking the weather for the towns we would be going through and began noticing that the drought they had been experiencing over the winter was now over. Panic set in leading to the second time I tried to back out. An emergency call was again made to Ken and after forwarding an e-mail to me from George addressing this topic, was reassured that the weather in May is not usually as bad as April. Weíll see, so itís back to the hills. In April I added extra miles to my March hill repeats to bring me closer to the mileage we would have in one day. Well, almost.

     Chuck and I drove up to Reno to pick up Ken. After two long days of driving, including snow flurries and ice on the windshield, Ken, Chuck, and I arrived in the Portland area in the late afternoon of May 11. I wish a ride like this could be closer to home!

     Altogether 15 riders and 4 volunteers joined the training camp, most of them ultra-distance cyclists. There were just three women: Isabelle Drake, who lives in Laguna Beach, my roommate Ann Schneider, who holds the record for the fastest time in the 50+ womanís category for the Furnace Creek 508 race, and myself. The ride organizers and support were the best ever. George and Terri helped us whenever possible and never lost a single rider.

     Thursday, May 12: Ken, Chuck, Ann, Isabelle and I started the ride together today. During the first 40 miles I was wondering why I got myself into this -- a little tired already, 500 miles to go and 36,000 feet of climbing! Then we rounded a turn and there was Mt. Hood in all its glory! Wow! This was going to be a fabulous ride! I was a little ahead on the climbs, as the others were conserving their energy so I was able to take a lot of pictures. It was sunny and getting warmer but the scenery never failed us. We did 124 miles today with 9,500 ft. of elevation gain only adding 3 miles to course from a wrong turn. We finally arrived at the cabins (no TV or phone) and ,oops, a 20% grade up to them. I walked. Dinner was at an incredibly nice little restaurant with yet another view of the Deschutes River. Not bad for a small town. Anxious about tomorrows ride, only 150 miles, I fell into a well earned sleep.

     Friday, May 13: Today would be a long day with 150 mi. I got to figuring out that if we have 10,000 ft. of climbing today, I would not get in till after 7pm. Thatís just too late if I want dinner, so I aimed for the last rest stop at mile 115. The weather started out sunny and warm, went to hot, followed by rain and scattered showers. We started a little late, 6:30 am, with a 25 mi. climb out of the starting gate. And, to top it off, few of the miles today were flat. If we werenít going up a mountain, we were coming down one. Well, 88 miles into the ride, after a three mile long 10% climb, needing one more gear, I was toast with a side order of hot foot. I felt it was best to take the SAG wagon at lunch if I wanted to get up and ride tomorrow which was most likely more of the same. Ken was very considerate to warn me of a dead snake they affectionately named Fred strategically placed by the lunch chairs. I guess he didnít want to hear me scream. I was glad that he got a proper viewing before burial but did he have to be right next to my chair? Ken and I got in early and began watching the riders come in. I will not forget some of the looks on the faces. The total elevation for the day was 11,600 ft. and it showed. Ken helped Chuck who arrived around 7:15pm and I tended to Anne who came in at 8pm. The owner of the restaurant/mini-mart/post office was very kind to give us two dinners to go so we could feed our tired warriors.

     Saturday, May 14: As the saying goes: "What a difference a day makes!" Another 6 mi. climb on wet roads greeted us at the beginning of the day but after that it was downhill for miles with flat and rolling terrain to the second sag stop. It felt like a recovery day. Upon entering the John Day Fossil Beds, we were greeted with the most incredible rock formations. Just when you think this ride couldnít get any better, it finds a way to amaze you. After getting dumped on by rain at lunch, I looked for a break in the weather and climbed the last summit. After another 35 miles, mostly downhill, I was able to finish the day and was thrilled to see a Pizza Hut next door to the Best Western. Hooray, cable TV, cell phone coverage, and coffee pots in the room. I knew this would be a good night. As usual, I flipped on the TV to the weather forecast. Oregonís forecast was rain for the whole day so I informed George that I would be sagging Sunday because, well, I donít ride in the rain. Anne said "Well, weíll just do 100 mi." Like that made it better.

     Sunday, May 15: The weatherman was right for once and last day was raining so I decided it was time to face my fears. Dressing for a ride is usually simple but when you have not really done much rain riding, you find yourself putting on this and taking off that. I tried to followed Anneís lead and ended up changing about 3 times until we had it right. We were ready to roll. As weíre riding in the rain, I began to get wetter and wetter, realizing that water resistant clothes definitely resist the water but not indefinitely. Chuck, Isabelle and I just made the best out of it and talked, joked, and told stories. The miles went by quickly. After the rollies and some flat, we were climbing again but as we started to descend, I shifted the front derailleur and "snap"! The cable had broken, leaving me with only my 34/27-22. Not ideal for pedaling under 150 rpm. So after another 12 mi. of frantic spinning and annoying chain rub, I knew it was over. The moral to this story is bring spare cables, itís a 5 minute fix. Mine was the least of the problems that some had. There was also a bottom bracket meltdown and a cracked frame found only by luck. Chuck persevered and Ken and I met him coming up Timberline Lodge Rd. which had changed from clouds to drizzle, fog and temps that dropped to 46 degrees. He looked cold, wet, and one step above wimpering, but still smiling as only Chuck can do. After 5 mi. of this 10% average climb and what felt like gale force winds coming around the corners, he crested the top and rode over the finish line. Isabelle and Anne finished not too much later. What troopers! This last day had a total of 132 mi. with 9,000 ft. of elevation gain bringing the total of the trip to 538 mi. with 37,000 ft. of elevation gain.

     In conclusion, this is the most beautiful ride that I have ever done. The support was A+ and I hoped to say that the difficulty was off the charts but since I cut day 2 short and had a mechanical on day 4, Iíll just have to wait till next year to to experience that.

     Special thanks to Ken Bartholic, Chuck Bramwell, Chuck Bolin, Alan Dauger, Jane Sheldon and of course Steve McMurray for making this trip possible for me.