Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oregon! September 21-24

Sept. 21st
Goodbye Fabulous Farm
We wake up at 5 AM to a loud screeching outside our tent.  Peering outside, we discover that it's coming from two Great Horned Owls perched on a nearby telephone pole. Pretty cool, but still annoying when you're trying to sleep.  We actually get up around 8 and make an amazing vegetable curry for brunch. It included 14 different types of veggies, all fresh from the farm! We spend the rest of the morning working on small projects, playing and singing music, and talking to our good friend Karis on the phone.  So excited to visit her when we get to Ventura.
It's late afternoon when we're ready to roll out. It's very sad to say goodbye to Liz; we've had such a wonderful time here! But we must continue on.  So many thanks to Liz and everyone at the farm for being so generous and welcoming.  What an incredible place to live and work!
This photo was taken by 4-year old Hazel

Just down the road, we realize we have to turn around because we forgot to pack the bread and hummus we'll need for the next few days. After removing multiple goat heads (nasty spiky things) from our tires, we actually are on our way out of Walla Walla.
The road we take passes little farms and orchards. We stop at one recommended by Liz to purchase delicious apples. Crossing into Oregon entails crossing "State Line Road." Our easiest state crossing yet!

We bike through the town of Milton-Freewater, and then into the golden hills. As first there's a lot of ups and downs, but then it flattens out.  We even have a bit of a tailwind! With the help of the good weather we reach our destination, the town of Pendleton, quicker than expected.  We find a small grassy spot along the river that runs by the edge of town. Perfect to enjoy dinner and spend the night.

Monday Sept 22nd
Pedals in Pendleton?
As we're getting out things together in the morning, we realize that the bearing on one of Danny's pedals is very loose- perhaps about to break.  Since this will be our last sizable town before Bend, we decide to purchase a spare pedal here so we don't get stuck down the road. Easier said than done.  The town has two bike shops, but they're for motorbikes, and the sporting goods store only sells guns.  We finally see a bicycle in the window of an antique store, which of course, is closed. Tells you something about this town. Luckily, a friendly policewoman stops to help us and directs us towards Bi-Mart, where we're able to track down a set of pedals.
It's past 10 when we finally ride out of town. 9 hot miles past farms and fields brings us to Pilot Rock.  It's 80+ degrees in the shade today- a typical temperature for June in this region, not September! We sit outside of a gas station and drink lots of cold water.  95% of the people who go in and out are wearing an article of clothing with camo print on it. Seems like hunting is quite popular here.
Once we leave town, we're immediately surrounded by dry, grassy hills, speckled with sagebrush and large mulleins.  It's hot and hilly.  We stop for lunch at the junction between 395 and 74, where we're able to find a bit of shade.

After lunch, we start riding on 74, and find, to our great enjoyment, that there is very little traffic- maybe one car every half hour. So nice to get away from the loud trucks! We've been climbing up all morning; now we go down, then back up again, then down, then up.  This final long up brings us to the top of Franklin Hill, Elevation 3,456ft. Someone has annotated the sign so that it now reads 13,456.  That's more what it feels like. From up here we have a clear view of the dry golden hills in every direction, a landscape too textured for farming but perfect for ranching. Danny describes the hills as a bunch of hands placed next to each other because they have such interesting shapes.
At this point, we're running low on water and going so slowly that we're losing daylight. I'm tired, but doing my best to ride fast.  Luckily, there's only one more hill before the town of Heppner. As we roll into town, the sky flashes with lightning and the temperature drops. We're grateful to have water and a nice little park to camp in.

Tuesday, Sept. 23rd
California Love!
At the gas station we meet a friendly guy who points out the better of two routes we've been considering on our map. He says this one will have less traffic and is a bit shorter.  We fill up water and grab some groceries before heading to the post office. Here we meet a few more nice older folks, who ask about our trip, and point us towards the historical courthouse. Apparently, it's the most photographed courthouse in all of Oregon. There's an unexpected Irish influence in town.  A giant shamrock is painted on the main intersection, and we pass "Hepner's own Blarney Stone!"
At the post office we receive zippers from Mountain Hardware to repair our sleeping bags, and an envelope full of love letters from people at High Trails. It makes our day to read these notes! I'm smiling from ear to ear. Thank you everyone! (Extra hugs to Lisa.)
As soon as we leave town, we start to climb. We see the occasional farm, some cows or horses, but mostly just barbed wire fences and dry golden grasses.
A blasting headwind greets us at every turn of the road, and makes every pedal that much more challenging. After about 4 miles of up, we go down, then up again, this time for 8 miles. Just over the crest of this hill we roll into Hardman- what the locals of Hepner told us is a ghost town.  We find ramshackle buildings, lots of abandoned cars and pieces of junk.  I see one old man emerge from a shack, the disappear again.  A few dogs bark at us.  It's kind of creepy, so we don't stay long.
Thankfully, our road begins to descend, and takes us into lovely forest. How nice it is to be among trees again! The fall foliage is beautiful. Down the road a bit we find a park, with picnic tables and water! What a nice surprise.  We stop for lunch.
A bit reenergized, we start to climb steeply up through the forest. It's cooler here, with a bit less wind.  We enjoy the silence and lack of cars.
After 12 miles of up, we reach a sign that says: Summit, 4,600ft! Hooray!
A long downhill takes us through the forest, and then out into a huge valley. The scenery is spectacular! Before us are desert hills, terraced and carved, painted in yellows and reds, dotted with sagebrush and juniper trees.
The high desert at its best. At the bottom of the valley we find the small town of Spray.  There's not much here, but there is a park where we can set up our tent.

Wednesday, Sept. 24th.
Journey Thru Time
Our day doesn't start well when Danny gets a flat tire rolling out of the park.  Oh well, even after fixing it we're on the road earlier than yesterday.
The road we begin to bike on is one of Oregon's Scenic Byways, "Journey Thru Time" presumably called this because of the interesting geological history of the area. This section of the road reminds me of Idaho's Highway 12.  We follow the John Day river and find beautiful scenery around every turn.  
We we see huge osprey, great blue herons, quail, and kingfishers. The first 13 miles are a breeze. I can't say the same for the next 25. We turn south on 207 and immediately start climbing out of the river valley.  This is not a flat section of the world! The "hills" here are worse than many of the mountain passes we have done. We round one twisty switchback after another.
Looking Back

After 5 miles or so our road curves and enters a new valley.  Here we see pronghorn antelopes,- two babies nursing from mom, Scrub Jays and Townsend's Solitaire- two new bird species! We also pass hills streaked in pale green, perhaps a copper deposit?
When we're tired and hungry we stop for lunch.  Although there was no summit sign, it so happens that we stopped at the top of the pass! It's almost all downhill to the town of Mitchell.
Mitchell is of particular interest to me, since I biked through here 4 years ago on my way across the US. Since there was so little activity the last time I was here, I'm surprised to find that it looks much the same. Everything is still closed and boarded up except for the grocery and a small cafe. There's still a park where we can camp, and an old empty cage where they used to keep a bear as a tourist attraction. Apparently they get enough tourists coming through here to see the Painted Hills that the small businesses have been able to continue to cling to life.
We're tired from all the steep climbs we've done over the past few days, so we decide to stop and recuperate with some chips and salsa.  So nice to have the rest of the afternoon off.

No comments:

Post a Comment