Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Before reaching Oregon, I met several Oregonians during my ride. Clearly proud of their state, they always wanted to see my maps to check the route that I was going to take across Oregon. Several of them told me that the road through John Day and Dayville is beautiful. I wasn't disappointed. Compared with Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, eastern Oregon's landscape is more subtle. Nonetheless, it's beautiful to ride through.
The last few days have been defined by a series of passes. On Sunday, I rode over a trio of summits -- Sumpter, Tipton and Dixie. For each pass I climbed to 5000 to 5200 feet and then dropped between 1000 and 1200 feet before climbing to the next pass. Fortunately, in Baker City I was able to fully inflate my new tire tubes with a bike store's floor pump, making the climbs much easier.
At one point in the ride, the setting reminded me of northern Michigan -- a first on this trip. Pine trees lined both sides of the road and the sound of motor boats rose from a lake just beyond the trees.
After spending the night in John Day, I rode through the John Day valley yesterday. The valley is home to fossil beds that preserve its history as a tropical jungle where saber-tooth tiger and giant sloths once lived. While I wasn't able to see any of these remains, I did ride through Picture Gorge, named for the prehistoric pictographs on its face. The overcast skies muted the color of the Gorge's red rocks.
Of course, where there is a valley, there are also mountains. My day ended with climbs up two more passes. My destination was a U.S. Forest Service campground at the top of Ochoco Pass. As I neared the summit, the clouds darkened and I raced to beat the rain. I managed to set up my tent just before a short rainstorm.
This morning my day began with a gradual decline from 4700 feet. As I headed west toward the Cascades, the relatively quiet roads became busier. However, I still managed to see some wildlife.
The scenery became more dramatic when the snow-capped mountains of the Sisters range came into view.
While I was taking a picture of the mountains, a woman got out of her car and walked over to me. She invited me to camp out at her property. I just happened to be stopped right near her house where she and her husband have hosted cyclists for twenty-five years. Unfortunately, I had to push on, but the gesture boosted my spirits.
Tomorrow I have my last big climb. McKenzie Pass, the more scenic, less trafficked route is currently closed, allegedly due to snow and logging. This means that all cars are driving up the Santiam Pass, a route twenty miles longer than McKenzie. I wasn't looking forward to pedaling up to this busy summit. But tonight I heard conflicting reports about whether bicyclists can ride over the McKenzie Pass. Some say that it is open to cyclists, others say that loggers at the top may not take kindly to our presence. Given the prospect of a thirty-five mile car-free ride, I think I'll take the risk.