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I got to drive to this one by myself this year because Dave went to Italy to watch the Giro d'Italia Feminin. A great deal for him, anyway. Took me 7 hours with a gas stop in Boise, luckily I had left midafternoon so I wasn't too late arriving at Lehman Hot Springs somewhere between LaGrande and Ukiah, OR. Several thundershowers on the way over, not another muddy race!

As a Wild Rockies staff member I got to use the bunkhouse, instead of just plain camping. Woo hoo! There I was, sleeping in a bunkbed in the bunkhouse. Ok. Jay got a new Y-22 (orange) so I had to get mine out to compare. New one has stiffer but heavier rear triangle (steel vs. alum), lockout on the rear shock, restyled carbon bits, and a radial-laced front wheel (don't let me near that!). The rear triangle makes it significantly heftier than my flimsy flyer. Oh well.

In the bright sunny morning, did some registration work, yadda yadda yadda. Didn't see Mark anywhere, or Rich for that matter. Where's my competition? Riding around the parking lot, experts have already started (experts have an extra loop added to the sport course which has an extra loop compared to the beginner course), Mark pulls up with about half an hour till we start. Did he forget the time zone coming to Oregon? No, just thought he wasted too much time last year so cut it closer this time.

The expert and sport fields aren't particularly large, but there seem to be a fair number of vets in our wave, along with four (a new record!) sport Clydesdales. Mark and I and the guy I beat last year (from Portland, friend of the resort owner) and a guy from Spokane.

For the first quarter mile, the start is neutral as we coast down through the parking lot. After turning off the main road the pace picks up a bit, but still hanging out. So just we turn up the singletrack climb I put down the hammer and pass all but two guys in front of me. That ought to give Mark something to work on, passing lots of people on a climbing singletrack. When lots of the vet sports are skinny climbers just now getting warmed up, they start passing me, of course. This climb lasts a good long while, but eventually rollers out to a course split. Sports and experts turn onto...a gravel road? The hammer goes down again, I get back several climbers. But this fun ends and there is a nice singletrack descent (fun, not too technical) which then meanders along a riverbank for a few miles. A few serious sidehills, but nothing I can't handle.

That part's over, and it's...another fire road, slightly downhill. Again with the hammer, this sport course is pretty fun. I had put a little more air in my rear shock before the race, and it seems to help with the climbing while still dealing with bumps.

A couple miles of fire road, which I could get too used to, and then it's back uphill with some singletrack. After some climbing, to a bit of flat road, the doubletrack climbs to the start of the downhill. I haven't seen Mark since the initial hammer session, and I am moving past people on the last climb too. Things are looking good.

And surprise, I do have a good day. I cruise down the downhill without unduly impeding anyone's progress or needing to run over anyone myself, and there I am finished. Mark comes in seven minutes later, says he had back trouble and starts talking about getting back to a full suspension bike.

Hang out, have some BBQ chicken, a dip in the warm (not the hot) pool, and wait for awards to be over. I get some too-small gloves that I swap out with Jeff (the wrong) Conner's slightly larger ones.

Pretty much fiddle around until bedtime.

Sunday is the next-to-last downhill of the (South series) season, but although the sunny weather makes moot my don't-want-to-get-muddy-for-just-a-few-minutes argument, something about all the long-haired, tattooed, variously-pierced downhill-only freaks in body armor makes me want to just say no. So I'll just work instead. The shortness of the course (Keith the dual slalom expert is clocking 90-second runs) has prompted Ron to make it a two-run cumulative format. Which can conveniently be handled by the dual-slalom software program, pretending it's a DS qualifier.

So with enough qualified people in the finish tent, times can be put into the computer almost as fast as they are printed out/written down. This and the short runs down the hill mean we are finished with results only a few minutes after the final run, and quite early in the afternoon at that. Well, that's over with.

Help Ron load the trailer, and I make it back to Boise in time for the River Festival finale fireworks, lots of cash going up in smoke. Ooh. Aaah. There were even some canine fireworks fans nearby where I watched up on Eighth Street with Ronda and her friend Collette. Aoowh. Aoowh.

A "furlough" at work meant I was able to stick around Boise on Monday and manage to locate a replacement transmission for my GTI, helpfully draining my checking account thanks to the cash-only nature of your typical salvage operation. It even fit in the trunk with my bike (VW transaxles are pretty small) after I moved the bags to the back seat. And back home I went.