Saturday, April 12, 2008

At the Idaho border!

What else needs to be said? Alison and Gus reach the

A view from near the summit of the killer hill.

Alison and Gus ride the white line.

Alison and Gus (in the center of the picture)
crest one of the many rollers on the route

The kids peak from behind the monument
at the top of Flagstaff Hill outside of Baker

We Made It!

Day 8
Sunday, April 6
Baker City to Oxbow Dam

After eight days and over 400 miles we made it to the Snake River at Oxbow Dam! What an amazing adventure it was.

On this last day we rode over 70 miles, leaving Baker City at 9:30 am. We knew that we would have a long day of riding so we limited our break-time off the bikes for lunch and rest/snack breaks.

A few miles after leaving Baker City we had to climb Flagstaff Hill. If you have visited the Oregon Trail Museum, you know the hill I am talking about. It was steep, but our legs were fresh and our spirits high.

Most of the day consisted of rolling hills in very beautiful country. We had a mix of sunny, warm weather and cool, drizzly weather, with a bit of freezing rain mixed in for fun (but, thankfully, short-lived).

After lunch, however, we had to climb a MONSTER hill. Between the towns of Richland (Oregon) and Halfway stands a six mile, seven percent grade hill (un-named on our maps but clearly named in our minds!). At about 3 mph it took over two hours to climb. We made it, however, and rejoiced on the screaming downhill afterwards! This hill was certainly the most physically and mentally challenging part of the entire trip across Oregon. But what a thrill to get to the top. There is a great picture of Alison and Gus (see above) just as they reach the summit. What a great feeling!

We had some fantastic scenery today. For most of the ride, until we dropped down closer to the Snake River, our view was of the mountains across the Snake River in Idaho. It gave us a glimpse of what we will face as we look to cross the Rockies in the early summer.

Crossing the Snake River bridge was a great relief. We were racing both daylight and a storm moving in from the west. We celebrated for a few minutes and then had to pack our gear, breakdown the bikes, and get them on top of the car. Just as we closed the doors to head home, a huge wind and rain storm hit! Had we left Baker City any later in the morning, or taken longer on our breaks, we would have just missed reaching our goal because of the storm and darkness. It seemed as though providence was on our side (as well as a good helping of spaghetti that Elaine prepared for us at lunch!).

We are now setting our sights on June and the start of the cross-country trip. We learned a lot about ourselves and our equipment in Oregon. The real test is about to begin...and we are looking forward to it (I think)!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

All geared up for the ride to
Baker City -- at 28 degrees!

On the back of the RANS you have time for
things like self-portraits!

Deep snow in Sumpter, Oregon

Day 7 - Sumpter to Baker City

Day 7
Saturday April 5th, 2008
Sumpter to Baker City

Alison and I rode by ourselves today to Baker City, a fast 29 miles from Sumpter. The ride was mostly downhill. Although we didn't have a bike computer, it seemed like we were riding fast. Not fast enough, however, for a pickup truck that wanted to pass us on a curve. As the truck went by, a very large man with very large sausage fingers said something to us through his open window and then flipped us off. This was the only time on the trip when someone gave us a sign as they passed.

As we talked about the event we wondered what would make someone do this. Are they mad that we are on the road and they had to slow down (losing precious seconds on their way to the all-you-can-eat lunch special in Baker City)? Do they harbor a secret desire to be on a bike but their own self-loathing and sheer mass prevents them? Do they hate the color of my bike helmet? Whatever the reason, it was clear they did not like us being on the road.

Tomorrow (Sunday, April 6th) is our last day of riding, as well as our longest. We have about 70 miles to Oxbow Dam. Both kids are feeling better and everyone seems to have rested legs.

Before the trip began I would have looked at 70 miles and thought "almost impossible", 40 miles would have been very long. Now, 40 miles seems like a jaunt and 70, although a long ride, seems doable. I guess we will see tomorrow!

Sumpter to Baker City

Distance: 29 miles
Time: ~ 2 hours

Happy to be at the top!

Alison realizing that we are almost there!

Getting near the about 5 mph!

What we just climbed to get to the viewpoint
on the way to Dixie Pass

Windy and cold as we near Dixie Pass

Whenever we saw this sign we knew that a
big uphill was coming

You really must want to throw shoes into a
tree this far away from anywhere!

Dan was convinced that the cows were
trying to psychically communicate as we
rode by!

A view from the bike on the way to Dixie

Day 6 - Dayville to Dixie Summit

Day 6

Friday, April 4, 2008
Dayville to Dixie Summit

Last night we stayed at the Fish House Inn (formerly a bed and breakfast; the owner said he stopped doing breakfast several years ago!).

Gus was sick yesterday with a sore throat and maybe a slight fever. We decided that the kids needed a day off. Alison and I rode the RANS today. It is an amazingly comfortable ride. The day started out overcast and cool; perfect cycling weather. We even had a tailwind!

When we planned the trip we thought we would go from Dayville to Prairie City (44.5 miles). Alison and I decided, however, to go a bit farther and climb Dixie Pass, 5277 feet, a climb of about 2200 feet in seven miles. This way tomorrow would be shorter for the kids and we wouldn’t have to start with a monster pass first thing in the day (although it does help when your legs are fresh!).

The pass was well worth the effort. The views from a pullout near the top were outstanding. These views were behind us while we were riding so it was great to get off the bike and look at what we had just climbed. Unfortunately, the climb wasn’t over. We had about a half an hour after that before we reached the summit.

On the way up we saw Jim and Elaine coming back down the hill toward us. The plan was to camp at the campground near the summit. The campground was still closed for the winter as the snow was still pretty deep off the main road. We decided we would drive down the mountain to the next town, Austin Junction, and if there was nothing there on to Sumpter.

There was a small café at Austin Junction, but it was closed so we travelled to Sumpter. It was a good thing that we did sag this far because the two passes we would have needed to climb were snowy and the riding would have been treacherous.

In Sumpter the motel at the start of the town had a vacancy sign but we couldn’t find the office. It was supposed to be in a double-wide across the street. We couldn’t find it; it may have been under a deep snow bank! We talked about going on to Baker City which was probably about an hour away. Jim suggested we drive down to the end of town to see if there was anything else. Luckily, we found the Depot Inn. A small sign on the door said they would return at 9:00 (it was about 8:45), so we went next door to Borello’s Restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was just about to close but our waitress told us that the bar could make us anything as long as it could be made in the deep fryer! It sounded good to us! I asked the waitress about the motel next door. She said Lil, the owner, was in the bar. Our waitress became our booking agent arranging a room for us at the inn next door. It felt good to have a warm room to sleep in after the ride today. Camping would have been cold! Even in town, about 2000 feet lower than the summit, it is about 20 degrees as I type this.

All in all, we have really lucked out with the weather. When we have had snow it has been kind of fun to ride in. I like riding in cooler weather, especially on long climbs.

Tomorrow it is on to Baker City and then we get ready for our last big day to Oxbow Dam.

Total Miles: 51.5
Time on Bike: ~ 6 hours (we don't have a bike computer on Alison's bike yet)

After a day of tough cycling!

John Day Fossil Beds, Condon Unit

Happy for a break from riding

Lobby of the Oregon Hotel in Mitchell

Day 5 - Mitchell to Dayville

Day 5

Thursday, April 3, 2008
Mitchell to Dayville

During breakfast we revisited the idea of making today easier so we could both ride and recuperate. Alison had a great idea to sag to the top of the pass (about a 2000 foot climb) and ride down to the John Day fossil beds. We could then get some time on the bikes and have the whole afternoon to rest, go to the visitor center, and spend some time off the bikes.

The car ride to the summit took a few minutes. It probably would have been almost an hour and half or more on the bikes. The ride down hill was great – fast in spots, but slow enough in others where I actually got to take in some scenery. At about 10 miles into the ride we entered Picture Gorge. The colors in the rock ranged from deep rust-reds to yellows to chalky white. The entire road followed a river.

As our descent started to flatten there was a turn to the north to the Condon unit of the John Day fossil beds. We met Jim and Elaine at the Cant Ranch historical site, where we changed clothes, ate lunch, and enjoyed our time visiting the Cant house and the Condon Visitor Center, a short walk up the road (it felt weird going somewhere and not being on the bike!).

The visitor center is beautiful. Built about three years ago, it houses specimens of fossil finds from the surrounding area. After Gus got done watching a short video on how the paleontologists extract fossilized remains, he said that he wanted to do that for a job! Sonia has always been interested in fossils. This was her type of museum. Had they not been closing she could have spent another hour looking at all the displays.

This would be the end of our riding for today. We had a much needed rest. Even so, Gus was starting to not feel so good. He has a sore throat and was a bit on the hot side. Tomorrow the kids may need to sag while Alison and I ride.

Total Miles: 27.41
Time on Bike: 1:39
Average Speed: 16.47 mph
Maximum Speed: 35.16 mph

Another reward for a hard climb!

The reward for a hard climb!

At the top of Ochoco Pass!

A smooth road, a wide shoulder, no traffic,
and great scenery. Cycling doesn't get any

Day 4 - Prineville to Mitchell

Day 4

Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Prineville to Mitchell

This day was a great cycling day! The weather was beautiful and the traffic was almost unnoticeable. Just outside of Prineville we started a long climb to the top of Ochoco Pass (a climb of over 2000 feet). There were actually two pitches to this climb. As we topped the first a car passed me and Sonia, slowed down, turned around and parked on the opposite side of the road. A man got out and as we passed by yelled “Dan!” It took a second to register that it was Jeff Struck, a teacher I worked with at the Pacific Crest Community School in Portland. As it turned out, his wife was from near Mitchell (she told us about a hotel and café), and they were in the area rock climbing and visiting her family. We stayed a talked for a few minutes and were back on our way.

Jim and Elaine met us for lunch about half way up to the pass. We were getting tired but really wanted to get to the top. At one point on the climb I looked at the speedometer and we were going 3.5 mph! A stiff breeze coming at us could have stopped us dead in our tracks!

It was worth the effort, however. We got to the top, rested a bit, took some pictures, and then started down. We were rewarded with a 7 mile descent! We screamed down toward Mitchell at about 35 mph. Going that fast is fun, but I don’t really get to look around much. I am more focused on keeping the bike (and its riders) safe and upright. But from what I did see we rode through a thick Ponderosa pine forest almost all the way to Mitchell. The last few miles into town, however, were uphill and it slowed our pace considerably.

Mitchell has the historic Oregon Hotel. Luckily for us they were empty. It was such a treat to have a room for the kids and a room for us – at less than one-half the cost of the hotel in Lincoln City. The hotel reminded us of some places we stayed at while cycling through Ireland – more home than hotel.

Mitchell is also home to a black bear. The owner of the hotel (and restaurant where we ate) also owns the bear. He told us stories about wresting with the bear. He said that the bear usually understands that wrestling is play (unless it is over Oreo Cookies!).

Before going to sleep we talked about making tomorrow an easier day. On the summer trip we would have one day a week off and no days longer than 60 miles. This week would be nine straight days of riding with at least three in excess of 60 miles.

Total miles: 47.99
Average Speed: 9.97 mph
Max. Speed: 39.41 mph
Time on Bike: 4:49

Dan working on a flat

Alison and Gus

A beautiful day for cycling.

Day 3 - Sisters to Prineville

Day 3

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sisters to Prineville

On paper, this should have been the easiest day so far: a little over 40 miles of cycling, no major hills, beautiful views of the Three Sisters mountains. Alas, it was not to be!

First, we didn’t even get on the bikes until 11:30 (we really are going to have to get better at that!). Then, we weren’t even a mile from the hotel when we all decided to put on our balaclavas because it was cold. I dug through my panniers with no luck (grumbling, to my regret later, that someone must have put it in a different bag). As Elaine (Alison’s mom) was about to drive by to our first rendezvous point she saw us and stopped. I searched my bag in the car with no luck. I searched the other bags – same result. I thought that I must have left it back at the room. Elaine drove me back to the hotel. I got the key and was walking toward the room when I reached back and felt the balaclava in the pocket of my bike shirt! When I got back to the bikes Alison asked if I found it. I said yes, but was vague about exactly where I found it! Gus then asked if it was in the pocket of my shirt. I couldn’t help from laughing at that point. After a few choice expletives by Alison, and much to the delight of the kids, we were again on our merry way.

The ride did start out great. The views were incredible. Then the gremlins struck. First, I got a flat tire – the rear of course! Luckily, I had a spare tube because the hole was big. The culprit was a sharp piece of metal that punctured the tire and tube. Alison and Sonia were riding ahead of us. Because the traffic was constant and so loud they couldn’t hear us when we yelled for them to stop. They did return about 20 minutes later as I was finishing up the repair. After we got the bike together we stared off again. As Alison and Sonia cranked to get the bike going (it was uphill), there was a loud snapping noise from Alison’s bike. We could turn the pedals backwards but not forwards. After checking the dérailleurs, chain rings, rear cogs, and the chain, we couldn’t see any obvious problems. As we looked closely at the rear tire, we saw that the quick release had somehow come loose. When Alison cranked to get the bike going, it pulled the entire wheel forward. We aligned the wheel, re-tightened the quick release, and were on our way. Except that it happened again! This time we really tightened the quick release. After this, the bike did fine. The lesson here is to check the bikes before we head out in the morning.

The traffic was horrendous, however, so we couldn’t really enjoy the views. The shoulder was narrow in most spots, and there was a lot of gravel. There were also some drivers who weren’t very courteous. At one point a pickup truck blasted Alison with diesel smoke just as it passed her, on purpose I am sure. So much for sharing the road!

The rest of the trip to Prineville went well. The downhill into town was actually a bit nerve-racking. It was steep, had a sharp curve, a lot of traffic, and gravel. This was the first time on a descent on this trip that I had to use the brakes.

We stayed at the Best Western on the east end of town. Luckily the hotel had a guest laundry and we were able to wash our very odoriferous biking clothes!

Tomorrow it is on to Mitchell, Oregon.

Total Miles: 40.39
Time on Bike: 3:24
Average Speed: 11.9 mph
Maximum Speed: 37 mph (downhill into Prineville)

The bike I want for the cross-country trip.

After lunch in Mill City

Day 2 - Salem to Detroit

Day 2

Monday, March 31, 2008

Salem to Mill City (kids)
Salem to Detroit (parents)

Quote of the Day

Gus to Alison: “Mom, pedal faster, there are two vultures circling overhead.”

Well, we after waking up to beautiful weather we decided not to sag today. And we were rewarded with a wonderful day of biking!

We didn’t leave Salem until about 11:00 (we are definitely going to have to get going earlier in the summer). The traffic out of Salem was heavy and constant for about five miles. There was, however, a wide shoulder mostly cleared of the winter traction gravel we encountered in the coast range.

Our lunch/dinner stop was at Giovanni’s Mountain Pizza in Mill City. The food was good here; better than much of the road fare we have had in the past. Alison raved about the homemade stew in a bread bowl.

It was getting pretty cold at this point and we decided to let the kids sag (a decision that we regretted later because of the gorgeous views). Alison and I rode the recumbent. I had never ridden on a recumbent before, let alone a tandem recumbent. It was an amazingly comfortable ride. Before I got on the bike I told Jim (Alison’s dad) that this may be an expensive mistake if I really like the bike! Well, I loved it (although I’m not sure we will get another one for the cross country trip). Alison and I rode from Mill City to Detroit. There was very little traffic as we made our way up the pass to Detroit dam. There were waterfalls cascading beside the road and beautiful views of the Cascades and Detroit Lake. It was cold, however. We were glad for all our winter cycling gear (including the balaclavas). I can’t think of a more beautiful ride we have taken, except maybe in the west of Ireland. And riding behind Alison as she deftly piloted the recumbent was great -- I was even able to take video and look at the scenery!

When we got to Detroit it was late and getting very dark. This would be the evening that we needed to make up our one-day late start to this trip (due to the snow on the Oregon Coast!). We put the bikes on the car and rode over Santiam Pass to Sisters. There was no snow on the road over the pass but the shoulders were covered with over five feet of snow. That, in addition to all the lava rock traction gravel, would have made this part impossible to ride.

We arrived in Sisters late – nearly 9 o’clock. The Ponderosa Best Western was our abode for the evening. Unfortunately, the only dinner option was McDonalds! I guess when we are on the trip this summer we will be stuck with whatever we can find, so getting used to it now is probably a good thing!

Tomorrow it is on to Prineville, Oregon.

Salem to Mill City (kids): 32 miles
Salem to Detroit (D and A): 62 miles
Time on Bike (kids): 3 hours
Time on Bike (D and A): 5 hours
Average Speed: 11.1 mph
Fastest Speed: 35 mph