Day 16: Baker City, Oregon to Halfway, Oregon

56.62 more hot miles today, for 571.52 miles total. There was a very optimistic bicycle store sign leaving Baker City, for a store in Kansas. Only 1510 miles (2430 km) ahead.

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It was super hot out there. It was so hot that I stopped at Richland, 13 miles from my destination and slept in the shade for a few hours.

The Grange organization in Richland has a really nice park with a pavilion, so I went in and napped on the stage.

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There was nobody around. The woman at the cafe in town suggested I go there, she said nobody would bother me and she was correct. I didn’t check the thermometer, but I suspect 100+ F. I can’t imagine what it was like for those settlers coming across on the Oregon Trail. I’ve made several attempts to put a photo of an Oregon Trail memorial in here, but WordPress keeps insisting on putting it in upside-down. Why? I have no idea.

The cafe was interesting. It was all old cowboy types and tall tales. Off in the corner was a big screen TV playing some hunting channel. What caught my eye was that the whole time I was there they were doing a show on the AR-15 and then went to a show about some machine gun. Hunting? I couldn’t make the connection.

I stopped at Richland because the profile map showed a huge climb going to Halfway. It was just too hot for a climb where there is no shade. I wisely waited and made it to Halfway just as it was getting dark. Tired, I opted for the first place I found to stay—a motel.

Of course, the town restaurant and convenience store closed at 8 pm, and I was about five minutes late. With all the heat I wasn’t hungry anyway, so I grabbed a few cans of soft drink, a bunch of water and some trail mix I was carrying on the bike, and nibbled before going to sleep.

Timing is everything.

Days 12, 13, 14, and 15: Baker City, Oregon

20160727_112404515 Miles ridden from Lincoln City, Oregon to Baker City, Oregon. I’m almost into Idaho and should be there by tomorrow.

As mentioned previously, I had to spend several days in Baker City to repair my Chromebook computer screen. Most of the days were spent eating, sleeping, swimming in the motel pool, and going to the park. They have some very nice parks here and the citizens use them.

Most of the time I would go to the park and throw a wire into a tree and get on my ham radio. Since I didn’t have the Chromebook, I would mostly talk to people on Morse code, or what we hams call, “CW,” it has to do with how the signal is formed and means, “Continuous Wave.” Actually, it isn’t continuous, the code key turns the signal on-and-off to form the characters, but such is how things get named.

On my last night in Baker City, I was in the park after dark. Some local group sponsored a movie night in the park pavilion and there was a great turnout of young kids to watch it. Everything ended about 10:00 pm. I had just finished talking with a fellow in Santa Clara, California, KK6ZHK, Ken, when a police officer walked over and asked me what I was doing.

I had the computer, antenna, radio, batteries, wires everywhere and I’m thinking he must see me as an Al Qaeda operative. At first, he looked a little nervous. I explained what I was doing and I saw a light go on in his head, he had heard of ham radio. Whew.

He told me the park was closed and I’d have to tear down. He explained that they had had “youth” problems lately after dark. I explained that I wasn’t a youth, but he didn’t have much of a sense of humor, so I went back to the motel.

Water source about 15 miles up SR-7 and 31.5 from the center of Prairie City, going east.
Water source about 15 miles up SR-7 and 31.5 from the center of Prairie City, going east.

Going back to the ride from Prairie City to Baker City: The difficult part of the day’s ride to Baker City was not only the 68 miles but riding over three passes that were all over 5000 feet (1524 m). After that, there was another section that had various ups and downs before truly descending along the Powder River into Baker City. I left Prairie City shortly after sunrise and arrived late in the day in Baker (the locals just refer to it as “Baker.”)

The other big question riding from Prairie City to Baker city is water. The map showed nothing between their home and Baker City, but Jimi and his son, Daniel, filled me in on some sources that were not on the map. Just about a mile after the restaurant at Austin junction with SR-7, there is a water pipe coming from a spring and it had plentiful water. It is directly across from the entrance to the Bates State Park

At 31.5 miles from their place, mile marker 15 on SR-7, at a highway maintenance building someone leaves water out for bikers. True to their word, both places offered plentiful water. Thank you, citizens of Oregon.

When I finally pulled into town, I wasn’t certain about where to stay. I called Jimi and asked him because he had mentioned a few places and I made the mistake of not paying attention. He suggested that he call a friend that was sometimes on WarmShowers and even though I considered it very late in the day, he gave the friend a call and then called me back.

His friend, Gayle, said yes, come over. I arrived, almost delirious from the heat and exertion. I felt that I was just babbling, but she took it in stride, showed me some of the nicest soft grass to put my tent on and, like everyone else, set me up with a shower and towels. I washed and crashed into my bedroll, oblivious to the world.

I slept like a dead man.

The next morning I told Gayle I was interested in taking a “zero day,” a day with no miles, to rest up and she suggested several places that were reasonably priced and had WiFi. I opted for the Oregon Trail Motel, on the other side of town.

Thanks for following along and please do leave comments.

 

Day 11: Prairie City, Oregon

Today’s ride from Dayville to Prairie City was almost 47 miles. Once again, relentless heat and blue skies. I can take the skies, and I haven’t had rain since beginning this journey, but cool air would be refreshing.

The ride wasn’t too bad. I managed to do it in about five hours and saw some really spectacular country. Mountains in every direction and a few even have traces of snow on them.

I’m seeing midsummer plant life now. Most of the fruit on the trees, such as apricots and juniper are ripe. They use the juniper berries to make gin.

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I arrived in Prairie City in the late afternoon. I once again had arranged to stay with a WarmShowers.org family. Nobody was home when I arrived, so I collapsed on a bench in their garden and fell fast asleep. About an hour later, I heard a car stop on the road below and Jimi hopped out and ran up the bank to the garden where I was. He didn’t seem surprised in the least and invited me in. He showed me around, gave me a place to put my sleeping gear, pointed out the all-important shower, and then left me alone.

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View of Strawberry Mountain from my sleeping position. 9042 feet (2756 m)

The view from the room was breathtaking, looking out towards Strawberry Mountain. He had offered for me to join him and Karen for dinner, but I opted to walk down to town and get a few things. The next day’s ride was about 68 miles (109 km) and I wanted to have something to eat. Food wasn’t certain until Baker City. I learned later that there was a restaurant/convenience store about 20 miles (32 km), but there was some question as to whether it would be open on Sunday…it was.

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You know there are rednecks around when you see a sign like this.

I slept a deep sleep in Prairie City after going out and looking at the star-filled sky. The stars are brilliant here, something one rarely sees in Florida.

Thanks for following along and please do leave comments.

 

Day 10: Dayville, Oregon

I’m writing this entry on Day 15, in Baker City, Oregon, but didn’t want to jump ahead, I might fail to come back and fill in the story. Yes, for those of you that read my last posting, Day 9, I do now have my Chromebook computer back.

The ride out from Mitchell, OR, faces another steep climb to the top of Keyes Pass. At 4369 feet (1332 m) it isn’t highest climb thus far, but it averages about a 7% grade.

20160722_111013The good news is, the downhill to Dayville is about 33 miles (53 km). It was gradual, I don’t think I broke any speed limits, but it was a relief to not pedal too hard in the desert heat.

About halfway down, I was approaching a ranch entrance off to the right. I think the ranch was named, Great Creek Ranch. In any case, just as I neared an entrance gate to a field an animal jumped out in the road in front of me about 50 feet (15 m) ahead. At first, my foggy, heated, brain didn’t register what it was.  Dog? Pig? Antelope? Gradually my brain started to assemble the pixels and it registered that it was a cat. It was then that I realized that the cat was large, very large. In fact, this was the largest cat I had ever seen in the wild. It was a cougar, also known as a mountain lion or puma.

It all happened so suddenly that I think we were both surprised. The bicycle is silent and the animal was used to hearing traffic on the road and chose the silence to cross. It stopped right in the middle of my lane and looked right at me. Instinctively, I rode directly towards her (it did look like a female cat, I could be wrong). After what seemed an eternity but was probably a few milliseconds, she turned, darted and ran off into the bushes on the side of the road.

I didn’t even have time to be scared. I was rolling along about 10-15 miles per hour. I think they can run about 40 or 50 mph. What if she took me for game? Whew. Nonetheless, that cat was a breathtaking sight. The locals here tell me I was lucky, not many actually get to see them, sightings are rare even though the cats are not.

In midafternoon, I arrived in Dayville. It is just a few buildings and has a population of 148. A quick stop at the cafe for some cold drinks was in order. I’m certain I was a sight, all sweaty, dusty, and sun burnt. After cooling down I went down to the church, which was reputed to be a biker hostel. I didn’t find anyone there, so I just parked on the lawn in the shade and laid on the grass and promptly fell asleep. After an hour or so a neighbor, Cindy, came along to mow the grass and water it and told me where I could find Rose, the hostel proprietor.

She lives just behind the church and immediately made me feel at home. She opened up the church and attached meeting room/kitchen and invited me to use the place. Nobody else was there, although she thought there were two others that would show.

I unpacked, put down my mat and sleeping bag on the floor and connected the electronics to the WiFi. I also put up an antenna on a nearby tree for my ham radio later that evening. Following a refreshing shower and cleaning up, I put on some regular clothes, as opposed to bicycle riding clothes, and headed back to the cafe for dinner. When one of the waitresses they spied me she commented: “Hey, you’re not half bad, once cleaned up.” I wasn’t quite certain how to take that, was I that bad before?

Back at the church, the other two did show up, Issac and Kevin, both young fellows doing an east coast to west coast ride. They’re doing it on a budget and have about a week left. Issac had an interesting arrangement for his gear. He was pulling a trailer and the hitch had broken quite some time ago. It was rigged up with bolts, tie-wraps, and bailing wire and seemed to be working. I couldn’t have imagined how one would replace the rear tire, should that be necessary. Sadly, I didn’t think to take a picture. Maybe if he sees this, he will send one along.

The rest of the evening was uneventful and I did mess around with the radio for a while before turning in for a very good night’s rest.

I may come back and add more photos to this later, the Internet connection is so slow here that it is impossible to do at this time.

Day 9: Mitchell, Oregon

First of all, I am posting this from the library at Baker City, which is day 12-14 of the journey. I have gotten behind for various reasons, mostly just due to being old, hot and tired.

More importantly, my bicycle managed to fall over a few days ago onto a strategically placed rock. The impact to my imperfectly packed Chromebook laptop destroyed the screen:

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That pretty “flower” pattern is the result and, of course, there is no data display. I was lucky to find someone to repair it. Thankfully, the inexpensive, new screen will be delivered tomorrow (27 July), I’ll soon be on my way on Thursday morning, and into a new state (Idaho), a new timezone, and new mountains to climb.

Anyway, I’ll save all that for the future postings, once I catch up. Now, about Mitchell, OR.

I left Prineville (rhymes with “wineville”) early in the morning, just after sunrise. The climb out of town was the usual ascent into the sky. By midday, I was feeling quite tuckered. Fortunately, I did carry a good stock of Gatorade and water and, in spite of the heat, was doing a bit better than previous climbs. I reached Ochoco Pass (4720 feet, 1438 m) and took a good rest period; I think I even fell asleep for a bit in the shade of a tree.

The one saving grace of these big climbs is the following descent, and this one was no exception. Even in the hot desert air, it felt somewhat refreshing, although it was still a refreshing blast furnace of heat.

Coming into Mitchell, I observed a tire shop and espresso shop, all in the same building. I just couldn’t bring myself to stop. I had this vision of a fellow in greasy work coveralls, running an espresso machine and passed it up. Later on, just down the road, I took the main street into town and hit the first cafe on the right.

The young lady (they all seem younger than I am now) working the counter offered me several drinks, Pepsi, lemonade and water and I had several of each. Even though I wasn’t that hungry, I ordered a BLT. She cooked up some fresh bacon and as she made the sandwich, we chatted. She was pleasant and has a college degree, I think in one of the sciences, but there isn’t much call for that around there, so she is making do. She was originally from Tennessee, as I gathered from her accent. Funny how some things we just never shake.

While chatting, another woman, Jalet, came in and realizing immediately that I was a bicyclist, filled me in on her biker hostel, the Spoke’n Hostel, just down the road. I must have been tired and hot, I completely missed it on the way to food and drink. It is a converted church and a super place to spend an evening.

More to come later, I just had a notice on the screen the library is timing me out for today. I’ll be so glad to get my Chromebook back!

Day 8: Prineville, Oregon

After leaving Bend, I rode to Prineville, OR, some 43.8 miles (70 km). Even though it wasn’t a particularly challenging route, the heat was oppressive and the terrain is becoming much more desert-like. I was glad to see the day end.

I stayed with another WarmShowers.org host, Kim and Dennis. I didn’t meet Dennis, he came in later, but Kim set me up with a place to sleep in their yoga studio. They teach yoga and the large room is a biker hotel at night.

After a hot shower, I roamed into town, had some chow and lots of liquids and then returned. In my absence, a few other riders had arrived. One was a fellow doing a coast-to-coast ride from Virginia to Astoria, OR, and the other, a French-Canadian woman doing a six-month journey around the country. What made her interesting was that she was pulling a trailer with a dog, a black lab, in the trailer.

I didn’t actually meet her, but could see her down in the courtyard with her dog and bike. I understand that her longest day so far was 18 miles (30 km). Amazing.

The coast-to-coast rider wasn’t terribly sociable so we didn’t talk much. It is a shame, I had some questions about the road east, but I guess I’ll just have to find out for myself.

In the morning, Mr. Unsociable had his alarm set for about 05:15, headed out about 05:30 into the darkness with no lights on his bike and left the garage door open. As I watched him leave from the second story window I wondered how he doesn’t get killed riding on those roads in the dark.

I got dressed, brought my gear down and loaded the bike. When Mr. Unsociable left, he didn’t turn off the garage lights or close the door. My bike, as well as all the other bikes in the garage, were totally unsecured. It was an open invitation for someone to roll away with a new bike. Lesson learned, lock up my bike, even indoors.

As dawn broke, I rode back into Prineville village to dig up breakfast. Not much was open, not even McDonalds, but I did manage to find a Tastee-Freeze that served breakfast and it was actually very good.

Summits to climb today, Ochoco Pass, at 4720 feet (1439 m), I’m starting to feel my age, especially with this heat.

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Operating ham radio from Ochoco Pass, Oregon

Days 6/7: Bend, Oregon

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Phil, outside a “ghost town” general store

This is just a quick note. I have to hit the road soon. I just wanted to thank my friend Phil in Bend, Oregon. Jane and I met Phil on the Camino de Santiago in 2011 and he insisted that I stop to see him as I crossed Oregon.

He and his family were exceptional hosts and made me feel like a king. He took time from his busy schedule to give me a tour of the immediate area.

20160718_171338 (2)He showed me his “secret” gulch where we explored various flora and fauna of the area, this was my first exposure to the desert regions of Oregon, and I found it fascinating.

Thanks so much for having me in Phil and I hope I can reciprocate one day.

 

Day 5: Sisters, Oregon

My goal today was Sisters, Oregon, only about 42 miles away. However, to get there I had to climb up and over McKenzie Pass, around 5324 feet (1623 m).

Profile of McKenzie Pass

I packed up my tent and headed back to the Belknap Lodge for a breakfast and look at the hot spring. I didn’t bother going into it, I was already packed and they wanted $7.00 for it.

Leaving the lodge, I went back up the road about a mile and turned onto route 242, towards McKenzies Pass.

The highest point, the pass itself, was 22 miles away. I started at 10:30. The first seven miles or so were not too bad, I was using my middle gear ring and lower gears. Then the climb began for real. For the next 12 miles (19.3 km), I stayed in my lowest gear and crept along at 3-5 miles per hour.

As one nears the last few miles before the pass, you pass through the Belknap Lava Field. An eruption about 1700 years ago buried the entire region in a deep lava flow. Nothing has started to grow there yet and it will be a long time before something does.

Belknap Lava Field

As exhausted as I was, I stopped to take lots of photos and use the photos as an excuse to rest.

McKenzie Pass,

I was totally spent when I arrived at the top, some five hours later. It was, without a doubt, the most grueling ride I’ve ever done, rivaled only by, perhaps, the Vermont 50 Mountain Bike race. Climbing to the pass with 71 pounds of bike and gear is memorable.

Local "moochers" looking for handouts at the passA local fellow I talked to at the pass filled me in on some of the area, such as the hunting, lakes for fishing, that sort of thing. I expressed being thrilled at now being able to go downhill into Sisters. He didn’t seem to think it was very much downhill and deflated my expectations. True, I wasn’t going down as far as I had come up, but the ride down did prove to be a thrill.

I hit peak speeds of 45 MPH (72 km/hr). There were numerous curves where the speed limit was 15, 20 or 25 and I usually went through a little faster than the limit. I felt like I was back on one of my old motorcycles.

Having taken over five ours to reach the pass, it only took me about 25 minutes to do the 15 miles to Sisters, Oregon.

When I arrived in Sisters, a thunder shower passed through. I pulled under a cover at a tire store that was closed on Sunday and waited out the rain. I had sent a request message to a WarmShowers.org host and checked my phone to see if there had been a reply. There was. I had two voice mail messages from the person and they apologized for not being available but offered me some great advice. I called them back for details and they explained that they were in Iowa for a wedding but wanted to help me out.

They suggested going just a short distance north and camping in the National Forest, or, going to the Creekside Campground, which is operated by the town of Sisters. I checked in at the campground and had a wonderful tent site, right next to the river, with hot showers; all for only $5.00. I was thrilled!

I set up the tent, went back into town for a pizza and then came back and fell into a very deep sleep. All was good…McKenzie Pass was behind me.

Day 4: Belknap Hot Springs

I set out from Rachel’s, a WarmShowers.org host in Eugene, OR, on an early Saturday morning. Most of the town was still asleep but after a mile or so I found a Starbucks shop open. I put the bike in a bike rack, locked it up and went in for a light breakfast. The hot tea really hit the spot.

While I was sipping my tea I observed a city worker come along the sidewalk with a golf cart, carrying water tanks. She stopped outside the cafe and stuck a hose up into some hanging plants and turned on the water. When the pots filled up they started draining onto the sidewalk below. I panicked for a second but the water missed my bicycle below. Even the worker looked concerned and I could see her trying figure if she could move it, but she spotted the locking cable and didn’t try.

Bike "shower" outside Starbucks, Eugene, ORIn the end the bike didn’t get too wet, just the rear wheel. I finished breakfast and rode off. My goal was to get out to the intersection of state roads 126 and 242, about 48 miles away. Following 126 out of Eugene I had no idea where I would stay for the evening. I had messaged a WarmShowers.org host to find out if they would have any room, but had not received a reply.

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The “Three Sisters,” in all their glory.

Most of the ride was uneventful, but very hot. Just a few miles from the destination intersection I had to decide on what to do for the night. I stopped at the McKenzie Bridge General Store and had a meal at their restaurant. I asked a few local fellows I ate with about Bigelow Hot Springs. One of the fellows is a neighbor of Joe Kurmaskie, author of the Metal Cowboy. I’ve read his books and have enjoyed them.

Bigelow Hot Springs is in the National Forest and free. It was late in the day and it was apparent that I’d not get there in time to get to the hot spring. Close by there was a hot spring at the Belknap Lodge Hot Spring, but the lodge is one of these fancy lodges that has a hotel, tour buses and recreational vehicles. Bikers with a tent are the camping equivalent of a homeless person. The RV park was full and they just gave me a sideways glance as if to say, “Get out of here kid.”

They did have a small camp store there, so I picked up a few small items and headed out into the National Forest. I went across the road from the lodge driveway and went up a forest road and found a trail off into the woods. I rode up a way into the woods and started setting up my tent. I heard some kids laughing and realized that there was a family some distance away, on another branch of the trail, that had already set up their camp.

I quietly finished putting up the tent and I don’t think they were aware that I was camped there.

After settling in, I put up an antenna wire and operated the ham radio for a while and then went to bed. Tomorrow was the assault on McKenzie Pass.

Day 3: Eugene, Oregon

I’m currently in Eugene, OR. I’m staying with another WarmShowers.org host, Rachel. She lives in a little funky community of homes that remind me of something you might see in Lord of the Rings. If Bilbo Baggins jumped out of the door, it wouldn’t surprise me.

The 43-mile ride today was hot and dry. There is no rain predicted for the next week, so my record is intact for now. Rumor has it that it “doesn’t rain on Dennis.”

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Wild blackberries in Oregon

I rode by miles and miles of blackberry bushes today. They are everywhere and delicious. I think I ate about 5 lbs (2 kg) of them.  I also rode by endless fields of blueberries, but they were being commercially grown, eating them may have gotten me shot!

Commercial blueberries in Oregon.
Commercial blueberries in Oregon.

This state is one big breadbasket. All I see are vast fields of oats.

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My Cannondale bicycle in front of a field of oats in Oregon.

Of course, no discussion of Oregon is complete without mentioning the Redwood trees. Directly across the street from where I stayed last night there was a whole row of them. They were planted in 1932 and are now 200 feet (70 m) tall. They were planted too close together and will eventually kill each other off until the stronger ones win more room. I wouldn’t want to live across the street when that starts happening!

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I’m planning on riding to McKenzie Bridge, OR, tomorrow. It is about 54 miles (87 km). I may camp there and get on the air with the ham radio. If I’m really up to it, there is a hot spring, known as Deer Creek, or Bigelow Springs, about ten miles further, and camping near it. That would be comforting after a long day’s ride.

Thus far on this journey. the drivers have been decent, but going a little too fast for my liking. Then again, this is the west and the roads are long and straight.

Rachel, my host this evening, was off to a birthday party. She asked me to put the chickens away for the night and do a head count to make certain they were all there…all eight were. They’ll have a lot of nice fresh eggs. Now that the chickens are in for the night, I am too!

Good night all.

Dennis, K1YPP