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Day 1 (Oregon) – August 2, 1992 Beachside State Park to Eugene (95 miles, 2800 ft, $49)

 We started our grand adventure this morning from Beachside State Park, near Yachats.  My mother kindly transported us down to the coast from Portland and was there to wave us off.  We first put on our fancy helmet covers for a “wedding” picture (our friends Robin and Steve had made a tuxedo helmet cover for Dave and a veil helmet cover for me) and did a lap around the park.  Then, it was time to set off – out of the park heading north to Walport and then turning inland towards Corvallis and the East Coast!

 We’ve never ridden the tandem this loaded, so the first few miles were a bit unnerving.  The bike seemed to handle well, just a little wobbly at first.  Dave did a good job steering, though he might need bigger arm muscles – they will certainly be bigger by the time we reach Virginia!  Nothing like jumping straight from two months of intensive study for the bar exam to 2 months of pedaling a bike to test out the old fitness.  Luckily, Dave was able to ride more and is pretty fit.  Somewhere round the 10-mile mark Dave announced that we only had 3990 miles to go.  I warned him that counting down every 10 miles out loud was not going to win him friends from the back of the bike.

 We rode through Siuslaw National Forest to the small town of Alsea, where we stopped at the Farmers Kitchen for lunch.  The place was quaint, food was good, but the waitress did not seem to be having a good day.  A couple at a nearby table asked us how far we were going and suggested an alternative route towards Eugene over Alsea Falls.  We thought, what the heck.  They said that there was 2 miles of gravel and it was not in the hilly section we knew was coming up.  It was our first lesson in learning to take a car driver’s recommendations with a grain of salt.  The gravel turned out to be on the uphill part and we almost crashed once.  I’m not sure how we kept going on a few spots – it was quite a challenge for our first day.

 The rest of the day was uneventful until we reached Monroe, where we ran in to Mariner Orum – a 75-year-old fellow who had already ridden 80 miles that day.  Dave asked about the route to Eugene and campgrounds.  He pointed out the best route and offered to guide us as he was heading back that way himself.  Along the way, he offered us his backyard to set up our tent for that first night.  We were pretty tired by then but had to work hard to keep up with Mariner’s pace of about 18 miles an hour all the way to Eugene – Mariner is fast!

 Mariner offered the use of his house for showers, which felt great after a long first day.  Then we headed off to North’s Chuck Wagon for all-you-can-eat dinner with Mariner and his wife Carolyn.  They are both real characters.  Mariner rode cross country in 1980 and Europe in 81, 83 & 84 – it was great to hear his stories and feel like we were joining the club of long-distance cyclists.  We are sleeping in their backyard without the tent – bugs and all!  Off to brush our teeth and hit the sack.  It’s 9:00 PM and we are both tired.  It was an exciting first day!

 August 3, 1992 Eugene to Belknap Hot springs (62 miles, 1500 ft, $25)

After a pretty calm night out in the Orums’ backyard we were up at 7AM.  It was a little hard getting everything packed again – first re-pack and all.  Mariner & Carolyn insisted that we eat some granola, so that was breakfast.  They were a very nice couple with a lot of stories – it was really a great first night out.  We got a nice photo of them and then detailed directions through Eugene.  We soon crossed the Willamette River and found ourselves in Springfield, another busy town, without local road knowledge.  A couple maintenance guys told us of a route that allowed us to use bikepaths all the way through Springfield.  From there it was up Highway 126 along the McKenzie River.  It was a pretty ride, with tailwinds up the hill.  It did get very hot though.  We stopped at Leaburg Dam County Park for lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  There was a fish hatchery with some very big fish to entertain us while we ate our lunch.  Inviting as the water looked, we stayed out for now. 

 We were going to stop for the day in McKenzie Bridge but decided to keep going on to Belknap Hot Springs on the recommendation of a park ranger.  It’s beyond the interchange to McKenzie Pass but only by a couple of miles.  We’ll have to backtrack tomorrow back to the Pass.  Tonight we are heading to the hot springs to work out today’s pain and get ready for tomorrow’s big climb over the famous McKenzie Pass.

 The campground is very nice and very quiet – we really feel out in the woods.  The hot springs pool is a short walk from our campsite.  We spent enough time in it to get nice and relaxed (and wrinkled!).

 August 4, 1992 Belknap Hot Springs to Redmond (62 miles, 4400 ft, $42)

 We got up early today, at 6AM.  We set the alarm to make sure we had an early start on the hill.  Last night, Dave woke up and went outside the tent to attack a cricket.  He kicked dirt on it, threw rocks at it and even peed on it.  To no avail, it started making noise as soon as Dave got back in bed.  I guess you could say that we have not quite yet adjusted to life on the road!  6AM was pretty early this morning.

 We made it on the road by 7:30 – not too bad a start, we’re getting better at packing already.  We rode the two miles back to the cutoff and headed up McKenzie Pass.  The climb wasn’t that that bad really, but it is a long one.  It was nice at the bottom and gradually got steeper but was never too bad.  It’s quite interesting to ride up through the changing forest – very green and lush with trees and underbrush at the bottom of the pass, which eventually turns to trees with less and less underbrush and then the trees eventually get quite sparse and you begin to really see the volcanic rocks and boulders that cover the top of the pass.  Towards the top we saw a deer and lots of chipmunks and birds also. 

 The traffic was very light, which was good because the road was very narrow.  The morning was cool, which also helped on the climb.  All total it was about 22 miles of climbing.  At the summit there are lava fields and an observatory built out of volcanic rock.  From there you can see all the nearby mountains – Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and Washington.  We had great views with sunshine and blue skies.  We got the obligatory summit photo and headed down the other side.  It was 12 miles of downhill into Sisters, the next town.  Given our heavy load we had to stop once to let the brakes cool down.

 We stopped for lunch in Sisters, where a milkshake highlighted the meal.  We were so hungry we ate our dessert (chocolate chip cookies) before the meal arrived.  Not sure if we’ll gain or lose weight on the trip but it’s fun being able to eat anything you want.  From Sisters to Redmond it was only 20 more miles so we decided to push on.  It should have been easy but they had just chip sealed the road and there was lots of thick gravel.  It was scary riding but Dave did a good job keeping us upright!  I have to learn to keep my mouth shut and just pedal, I think.

 In Redmond we are staying at the Desert Terrace RV Park.  We have a tent site next to Highway 97, the big north-south truck route, which means lots of traffic.  Our next-door neighbors have been crabbing at each other since we arrived.  It might be an interesting night!  We’ll try getting out early again to beat the heat.  Heading for Mitchell tomorrow, about 70 miles.

 August 5, 1992 Redmond to Mitchell (73 miles, 2500 ft, $21)

 The traffic never calmed down last night but the neighbors did so we slept ok.  We left camp about 7:30 and headed to town.  We saw a McDonalds and thought “what the heck”.  Actually the pancakes were good and only $1 for three of them.  Dave had two servings!  Little did we know then but this would become a staple for us through out the trip.  We bought muffins too, but saved them for later.  We had tied some bananas on back rack but unfortunately they were gone by the time we got to McDonalds – they must have bounced off somewhere.  Another learning experience about packing things on tightly!

 The first 25 miles went quickly.  We stopped in Prineville for a pit stop and ate our muffins. We stopped again a little later at Ochoco State Park.  From there it was gradual uphill.  Pretty country – we are clearly out in the desert now.  We passed the famous Smith Rock – known as a rock climbing mecca – and saw lots of plateaus.  We stopped for lunch alongside a gravel pit – it seemed to be the only place we could find some shade.  From there it was a big climb up Ochoco Pass where we thought we would find water (there was a maintenance station).  No such luck.  A friendly BLM worker gave us some of his water to get us to the rest stop at the bottom of the hill.  We’ll need to be better about having extra water, as it gets hot quickly.  The ride down the other side was a bit scary, with multiple log trucks.  We even had one pull out to pass a second when the driver clearly knew it was not safe for us.  We were going down hill pretty fast and Dave had to brake hard and steer off the road.  Both truck drivers were laughing… !#@#@#!!

 As we rode into Mitchell we stopped at the Blueberry Café for a chocolate milkshake.  We ran into four westbound Bikecentennial riders but unfortunately they were not overly friendly.  We were still pretty excited to be on our trip, but they were clearly ready for theirs to be over.  After that interaction we both hoped that when we hit our last state we would still be having fun and speaking to each other.  We stayed in the city park where on arriving we found the other seven Bikecentennial riders.  They were friendlier but you could see a lot of friction in the group.  Also in the park were two guys riding from Missoula to Chico CA.  They were much friendlier so we chatted with them instead.  I think that there were more cyclists in town that night than residents.  We did laundry, wrote postcards home and hit the sack.  We are hoping to make 80 miles and Prairie City tomorrow.

 August 6, 1992 Mitchell to Prairie City (83 miles, 3030 ft, $36)

 We got off to an early start today, on the road by 7AM.  We are getting better at packing up in the mornings.  There was a 6-mile climb straight out of Mitchell.  It was pretty steep, seemed harder than McKenzie Pass even.  But as it was still early at least it was nice and cool.  We stopped at the top and put on our jackets for the downhill.  It was a very pretty ride along the John Day River to Dayville.  We went through a place called Picture Gorge near John Day Fossil Beds, lots of red rocks and earthy colors.

 Dave broke my water bottle cage this morning.  We carried a bottle in the front bag, plus two more extras in the back.  It was 40 miles to Dayville and we didn’t want to repeat yesterday’s running out of water.  Lots of wildlife out today, saw four fawns (with does) and a coyote.

 We stopped in Dayville for a snack (with plenty of water this time!).  From there it was 23 miles to Mt Vernon.  More pretty country with lots of alfalfa farms, all the way following the John Day River down the canyon.  We stopped for lunch at the Mt Vernon store on a shady bench out front.  Lots of icy stares – it seems that cyclists might not be that welcome in “redneck” country.  From lunch it was 8 miles to the town of John Day where we stopped to buy a new water bottle cage at the only bike shop in Eastern Oregon (or so it seems!).

 From John Day it was 13 miles to Prairie City where we found a nice campground on the edge of town.  What town there is anyway, not much here really.  At $2 for a site, plus showers it’s a hard price to beat.  The campground is a little crowded but after a long day sleeping should not be difficult.  We are planning on another early start in the AM, as we are aiming for Brogan with the hope of a rest day, if the campground is ok.  Pretty long first week but we seem to be holding up OK, even without much training for me.

 August 7, 1992 Prairie City to Brogan (79 miles, 4300 ft, $25)

 After a weird night, we were on the road by 7AM.  Some people staying in the park were up really late talking very loud in the picnic area near our tent.  They showed up around 10PM, keeping us up well past midnight. I finally got up at 12:30 and asked them to be a little quieter, which seemed to help.  They were pretty snooty about it but did quiet down at least.  They disappeared back into the night round 1:45AM!  Of course Dave hardly remembers the anything, I think he slept through it – story of my life.  Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep.

 Today’s route took us over 4 summits.  They were all pretty hard.  These “little unknown summits” seem worse than named summits like McKenzie Pass.  It was pretty cool and even cloudy in the morning, which helped.  There were more animals out today also – we saw a badger and more deer.  We stopped at the town of Unity for muffins and Gatorade.  We had to buy bottled water because the water at the store was bad.  From Unity it was 20 miles to Ironside, our planned lunch stop.  Ironside turned out to be nothing more than a couple houses and an abandoned store.  We had more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in shade of the store awning.

 After lunch we had another climb heading to Brogan.  It was not bad though as we had a huge tailwind, just about pushed us up the hill.  Sure glad we weren’t going the other way!  We arrived in Brogan about 3PM, though somewhere in the desert, we passed the time zone line and are now an hour later.  We stopped at the Brogan store for lemonade as the park is just down the road.  The park is nice, with laundry and showers.  Unfortunately, it looks like we might not be able to take the rest day here though, as the store has virtually no food.  Food makes the rest day, so that won’t work! The storeowners are trying to sell out and thus aren’t really stocking the shelves.  The result is that we’ll have to pack up and head 24 miles down the road to Vale tomorrow, not a full rest day but much shorter and certainly better than the longer days we have had to travel between Eastern Oregon towns.

 August 8, 1992 Brogan to Vale (25 miles, 0 ft, $48)

 Last night a great horned owl visited the campsite.  He landed on a TV antenna and proceeded to check out the entire park by swiveling his head nearly 360 degrees (yes they really do that!).  One of the cabins in the park also had 7 puppies, some mixed breed, so we had lots of entertainment.

 This morning, we slept in, with no alarm clock.  We were still on the road by 8:30.  Yesterday’s tailwind was still blowing and we averaged 20.3 MPH for an hour, pretty fast for a loaded tandem!  On the last bit we hit more chip seal and had to slow down but Dave did a good job steering through it.  We did not climb a single foot today.  Not bad, 25 miles of mostly just flat – a nice break.

 Once in Vale, we hit the stores and seriously debated on heading to Ontario, the next town.  A local told us that the county fair was getting started in Ontario and we would have trouble finding a place to stay so that decided it for us.  We pedaled over to the Prospector RV park and found a shady spot.  The park was completely empty but the owner said that it would be full by nightfall.  He wanted to charge us $14 for a full hook-up site but gave us a $4 discount when he realized that we had nothing electrical to plug in, no use of the sewer hook up and no TV to connect to their cable.  Guess we are a little rougher than most of their clients.

 We set up camp and showered, then walked back into town for lunch at the Starlite Café.  We had pancakes even though we weren’t riding anymore that day.  Dave had 3 and I had 2.  Not sure who would normally eat at these little dinners, but they sure make big pancakes for whoever does.  We managed to force down a piece of apple pie with ice cream for dessert though!

 After lunch we stopped at a local barber for Dave to get a haircut.  There was a funny little old man running the joint.  When Dave asked him if he was the barber, he replied:  “No, but I’ll get started ’til he gets back…” The next half hour was a steady stream of one-liners, honed by years of cutting hair at that very spot.  $5.50 for a haircut and lots of laughs, quite the bargain.

 Looking much better, we headed back to the RV park and took naps, making it an official rest day.  For dinner we made burritos, plus some fresh corn on the cob that the park owners gave us.  We did laundry then walked back to town for a DQ Blizzard!  The campground filled as promised.  Us in our little tent, everyone else in giant motorhomes.  We felt like paupers but knew we were doing the trip the way we wanted.  Tomorrow we head for Emmett, Idaho, our first state border crossing.

 August 9, 1992 Vale to Boise (86 miles, 1440 ft, $36)

 We left the campground in Vale fairly early, before we heard any people in the motorhomes start to stir.  We were in Ontario by 9:30.  We went past lots of onion and potato fields – we’re clearly heading for Idaho now.  Just outside of town we crossed the border.  Stopped for the photo, though the bridge was narrow and the traffic was picking up.  From there it was only 45 miles to Emmett, our intended destination. We ate lunch in Emmett – roles, muffins and Gatorade, sitting on the curb of a mini-mart.  (Mini-mart curbs were another constant companion on the trip, normally cold drinks and something edible, plus lots of locals asking about the trip and giving advice).  Back in Brogan, OR, we had left the Bikecentennial route, so we were winging it a bit now.  At Emmett, since it was still early and only 30 miles more, we decided to shoot for Boise.  One of those famous locals told us about an old road to Boise to avoid traffic.  Freezeout Road turned out to be windy, pretty steep but had no traffic.  There was a great view at the top of the Emmett valley, plus lots graffiti and broken bottles, indicating that this was probably not such a quite road on weekend nights.

 At the top of the climb, we joined back up with the main highway.  The main road was constructed in a way that every 5 meters, there was an expansion joint.  This became very annoying and eventually lead to our first flat tire of the trip.  The flat was actually caused by the bumps and our “Mr. Tuffy” strips working together to pinch the tube.  A quick change and we rode through Eagle and onto Boise.

 Once in town, we looked in the yellowpages for a campground, locating one on the western side of town.  Lots of traffic and city riding later we found the park, only to be told that they did not take tents.  The owner gave us the name of another park back on the other side of town where we came from.  Halfway there, a local cyclist stopped us and told us of another park back on the west side of town, so it was a third trip across town to a spot we already passed twice.  They had tent sites next to the office and big night light but the miles and riding through traffic had us to the point of not caring.  They had nice showers and bathrooms, plus the people were really nice, so it worked out.  After setting up camp, we walked to Burger King for dinner where Dave had 2 BK Broilers and I had 1, plus we shared a large salad.  Lots of energy burned today.

 Tomorrow we are headed for Lowman, about 73 miles, back into the mountains and out of the city.  The route traces an important stage of the famous Idaho woman’s bike race.  There is a fair amount of climbing and city traffic in the AM so we’ll start early again.

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3 responses to “Oregon

  1. Dave has hair. You married a man with hair. Where is it? I married a man who took me dancing. Where is he? I call that bait and switch.

  2. And John’s hair is getting mighty thin…. I, however, am just the same. The very same woman he married.

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