Portlander Tomas Quinones loves to find adventure on his bike. While out on a bikepacking trip in a remote section of southern Oregon last week, he found a lot more than he ever bargained for.
Quinones was on a week-long bikepacking trip when he came across an elderly man who had been stranded after his Jeep got stuck in a canyon. According to the Oregon State Police, the man was nearly unconscious after he attempted to walk to safety. “The subject collapsed with one of his dogs faithfully by his side,” OSP shared on their Facebook page. “A bicyclist [Quinones], who luckily happened to be in the area, came across the man and called for help. The gentleman was taken to an area hospital for treatment.”
You might recall Quinones as the creator of whimsical, bike-themed illustrations we profiled back in 2011.
After hearing about this ordeal, I asked him a few questions via email.
Turns out Quinones was riding the Oregon’s Big Country route and was six miles off Highway 140 between Sheldon Refuge and Hart Mountain, just north of the California border. He’d been pedaling for six days and was without cell reception for two of them. It had been nearly 20 hours since he’d seen another vehicle or human.
The red arrow in the map below is where Quinones found the stranded man.
“When I found him, he was already collapsed on the ground, red with sun all over any exposed skin, and not responding verbally to questions but making grunts and trying to move around.”
“At first, I thought it was another dead cow as I had seen a lot of cattle over the last six days,” Quinones shared. “When I found him, he was already collapsed on the ground, red with sun all over any exposed skin, and not responding verbally to questions but making grunts and trying to move around.”
“When I realized he needed help,” Quinones continued, “I started looking around for any sort of vehicle that might be nearby. I had seen some dust being kicked up north of my location, so I gave him a bottle of water and bolted toward the dust hoping to find someone in a vehicle or his vehicle with some clue as to why he was out there.”
According to The Oregonian, the man was 72-year-old Greg Randolph and he’d walked 14 miles in four days looking for help.
It was just moments later that Quinones realized he needed to send out an S.O.S. signal on his Spot tracker device, something he’d carried (and paid a subscription for) for years without ever needing. After he pushed the button to send the signal, he raced back to the man lying on the road. “I did whatever I could to keep him alive until help arrived.”
By this time, Quinones shared, Randolph was still not responding to questions and was shaking uncontrollably as if he was cold, even though the sun was raging overhead and temperatures were in the high 80s. Quinones set up his tent to create shade. Then he got a scare: “At this point, one of his dogs popped out from the bushes and really startled me as I though it was a bobcat or something.” Thankfully the dog was friendly and just wanted a drink.
Quinones figures he spent nearly two hours by the Randolph’s side waiting for help to arrive. When an ambulance finally arrived, EMTs assessed the scene and acted with even more urgency when they realized Randolph was diabetic. Minutes later Randolph was headed to the hospital and Quinones found himself all alone in the canyon with the man’s few belongings and his dog.
“I was running low on water myself, so the EMTs left me with two small, half-drunk bottles of Gatorade,” he remembered.
10 minutes later a Sheriff from Lakeview rolled up. The sheriff wanted to know more about what happened and promised to contact Quinones’ partner to tell her he was O.K.
Quinones wanted to push on with his journey. He said he followed Randolph’s footprints for about four miles before they disappeared on a dusty road. It took Quinones about six hours of riding until he got cell reception again and was able to contact his partner.
According to The Oregonian Randolph has been treated and released from the hospital and is recovering at home. He’s been reunited with his dog.
Quinones’ quick thinking and wilderness first aid training likely saved Randolph’s life. And of course his Spot tracker device came through big time. Without it, Randolph would have suffered for another eight hours or so before help would have arrived. Quinones implores everyone who goes bikepacking off-the-grid to get one. “Even if it doesn’t save your life, you may end up saving someone else’s,” he said.
Someone like Greg Randolph, an extremely lucky man who will never forget the helping hand he received from a stranger in the middle of nowhere.
“It blows my mind that this all took place in a few hours and that he lived. I’m still processing the magnitude of the situation.”
Read more about Quinones’s seven-day bikepacking trip on his blog You can also follow him on Instagram at adventuring.bike.
UPDATE, 8/5: Greg Randolph has spoken to The Oregonian. Read more from the man Tomas saved.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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What an awesome outcome. Thanks for sharing.
Wow. That is an amazing adventure with, thankfully, a happy ending. So many things lining up perfectly to give this unfortunate/fortunate fellow another chance. Tomas, so glad you were there, and that you get to experience the rush (if that’s the right word) of coming through as this guy’s seemingly only chance at survival. Way to go!
This is a great (real-life) story. The Oregon Big Country route is a huge ride in some very remote areas, and Tomas was doing it alone. This is where those satellite communicators are a necessity. 3 of us did a condensed version of this ride in the Hart-Sheldon area last year, and hardly saw another soul for quite a few stretches, and water was VERY scarce in a few areas. It’s beautiful country, but not to be taken lightly.
I briefly chatted with Tomas on the way up Steens Mountain a couple of years ago as he was coming down. Quite the adventurer!
Made national press. Tomas’ full photo appears on USA Today, is a bit better at telling the bikey storey: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/07/26/man-and-2-dogs-stranded-remote-oregon-days-miraculously-survive/1835404001/
FWIW I opted to not use a more detailed photo of the man lying down because I don’t think it’s very flattering of him and I don’t think he’d appreciate having it spread so widely. Just my opinion.
Thanks Jonathan. I was hesitant use take or use any photos as all due to the severity of the situation. I didn’t share any until I found out that he had recovered and out of the hospital.
The guy is obviously very obese, probably played some part in his inability to hike out. I am scratching my head at my Quinones did not build tent over the guy. He said the guy was too big too move into the built tent. But, he could easily have built the tent over him, cut a hole in the floor and provided him with protection from the sun. Maybe I’m missing something here.
The vestibule flap of the tent is shading the man’s exposed skin. There’s less airflow inside the tent.
That does raise the question for me: I always feel much ‘hotter’ when I am in direct sunlight on a hot day than in the shade. That makes sense. But, at what point are you in more danger from being in a hot tent than in a lower temperature, but exposed to direct sunlight situation? I know this is a bit of a theoretical question, but there must be some kind of metric. I also hike in direct sun at high altitudes, and wear as little clothing as possible (except for a big hat), but maybe I am better off covering up more with light-colored clothing.
Steve, I didn’t put him in the tent for the simple reason that he would have been far hotter in the tent than just in the shadow of the tent. If we were going to be stuck out there any longer, I probably would have started fashion more coverage with my parachord and clothing but the ambulance appeared soon after I finished the tent so it’s a moot point. If this were a colder situation, I would have figured out a way to get him into the tent to help act as insulation.
In these days of click bait thanks for making such a wonderful gesture of cropping your photo.
It is a great article anyway about someone helping someone else in need.Best wishes.
Awesome, Bikepacker as hero. This is Dejavu for me. As a middle school kid many years ago I was on a special school summer fieldtrip/excursion in this part of SE Oregon. Our minibus had a flat on what was probably this same road in the Wildlife refuge, when the teacher/guide went to get the spare there was not one . At that point it was a 40 mile trip (cross country) to refuge head quarters. Our teacher had to leave 12 middle schoolers alone in the desert while he headed off cross country to get help. During the next two days while we waited for help to come we had a lord of the flies experience where two of us( left in charge by teacher) confiscated everyones liquids and then doled them back out to much anger, plus building signal fires. The isolation in this part of Oregon is no joke, and has not changed in 45 years. If our teacher had collapsed like this poor fellow we may have all perished in what would have been an incident to rival the OES Mount Hood disaster. I am glad he turned out well for him also.
It is great to hear of the “happy ending”…especially as bicyclists do save lives!
As for driving out in these remoter areas it may seem that all folk are relying too much on mobile phones for safety net help (I have too looked into buying these GPS SOS devices)…other than the all too common mistake of not checking an “out of sight” spare tire…which is an age-old mistake. [The State needs to put out a “verified” cell signal map for remote areas vs. us all relying on prayer and the phone companies marketing materials.]
I assume the press will give us an update on what did happen once this gentleman is back to health.
Perhaps the insurance companies of these rescued injured can donate / reimburse for the use of these GPS SOS devices…like how some companies pay it forward with how many public places have AED defibrillators.
That’s crazy for them to send a bus out to that area without a spare tire, water, supplies, etc. I wouldn’t travel in this part of the state without additional supplies and a spot tracker. It’s among the most sparsely populated areas in the lower 48.
It was the 70’s, no cell phones, no GPS, no bike helmets, and everyone kept an old couch in the bed of their pickup for spare seating ( driving around). The teacher trusted Tigard School District with keeping a working spare tire in all of its buses and middle school kids were trusted to pack their own supplies ( wise or not). Luckily for us one girl had 4 cases of pop with her, and the rest of us had 2 quart jugs of kool-aide. We actually dug dew collection pits with tarps and were getting ready to drain the oil out of the engine and burn it in the hubcaps of the bus to attract attention.
Great story and bravo Tomas!
Tomas is awesome.
This is a great story. And really makes me want to get a spot tracker!
This is a nice story of respect and compassion. Score 1 for “mountain” biking.
Sounds like a lifetime endorsement deal for Spot Tracker too! <3
What a fortunate conclusion to this. When I hear stories about this I can’t help but reflect on the fragility of humans or how quickly a situation can turn desperate (especially when being reliant on a vehicle) but also on the resilience and ability to endure such harsh conditions. I mean this with no disrespect to Mr Randolph but the contrast between someone traveling by bicycle vs vehicle/foot is so stark here. I often worry when traveling in remote areas in a vehicle despite the convenience and ease. Not so by bicycle despite the immediate effort required.
Awesome! Way to go Tomas!!!
I received a call around lunch from the Deputy involved in this case. The subject is doing well, recovering, has left the hospital and safe at home with both dogs. At some point I should be receiving a phone call, but will likely be after he has recovered more.
Guys like Tomas make America greater.
Every freaking day.
This story is amazing. Go Tomas! Go bikes!
Glad the SPOT tracker worked. I used them about 10 years ago, both 2 models I owned broke just getting jostled around in a camelbak and one of them failed to send check-in messages. I haven’t tried them since but looks like reliability is better?
That’s some VERY sparse country out there. I did the drive from Lakeview to Christmas Valley a few years ago, over the 100 miles or so I barely saw anybody else; and that was on a highway. Can’t even imagine some of those back roads. May be weeks or months between travelers heading down some of them. Glad to hear stories of people helping one another out of nothing but kindness and compassion. It’s too easy to get caught up in rancor perpetuated in the media, things like this are a reminder that there’s still in fact good out there in the world.
Come on. Let’s not get carried away here. I drive that section of Hwy 31 several times a year, and I probably see something like 50-100 cars on that drive. It is out there, but it gets plenty of Bend to Reno traffic.
Good thing I wasn’t talking about Hwy 31
It is indeed very remote country, and if you get in trouble on a lot of those jeep trails you might not get found for months. At least the location where this guy was found is within a few miles of the highway. Obviously he is extremely lucky to have been found by one of the very small handful of bikers who randomly pass through.
I’ve done quite a bit of biking and bikepacking in the SE Oregon desert (mostly before SPOT trackers were widely available). It’s one of my favorite places on the planet: spectacular desolation. In fact, I’ve biked in the immediate area (between the highway and the south side of Hart Mtn) several times.
I always left extremely detailed travel and rescue plans with loved ones when I went out there. Even with the experience and local knowledge that I have, I would not do it again without a tracker – and that includes venturing off the major roads in a motor vehicle. It’s literally more remote than most people have ever experienced.
Leaving a “flight plan” on where you’re going and when you’ll be back is a smart plan. Even for rinky dink day trips, I like letting someone know exactly where I’ll be at. Got to stick to the plan though or it’s no use!
SE Oregon is a beautiful place. Wouldn’t want to live there, but a trip every handful of years is enough for me. Oh and that night sky….
I bet we see some car centric folks soften up here and appreciate those who ride.
Perhaps there needs to be an annual “SOS Spot Tracker Hero” award to the hero (plus lifetime free Spot service)…with a $ prize and donation to ones favourite 501c3.
I think that is a great suggestion, and being tied to a product, the capitalist dimensions of this idea actually might mean it could happen.
Awesome, Tomas! Have you had a chance to talk to the guy since he got out of the hospital? Also glad to hear you helped his dog.