Coast to Coast for the FFB: THE ONLINE JOURNAL

Welcome to our online journal brought to you by PocketMail!

Check back here daily to read about our progress in our cross-country bicycle tour to benefit the FFB.
Recent postings will appear at the top of the page. All posts have links on the right.
Please feel free to leave comments for all to read!

Be sure to check out www.biking4theFFB.com for more information about
the FFB, our motivation, retinal degenerative diseases, and more.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Day 86: Archie Knowles Campground to the Pacific Ocean! (22 miles, 4265 total)


Done! I cannot believe it; we are have officially biked across the country! Our ride for the FFB has come to an end, and now we have to get back to the real world. Son of a...

The three of us slept well in the campground. Since we knew we had a short mileage day to the coast, we decided to wake up with the sun and pack leisurely. It was odd to think that we had just slept in our little tent for the last time on our trip.

Fearing the clammy discomfort of riding with a wet crotch, Rebus spent a portion of the morning drying his bike shorts with the hand dryer in the restroom. He had rinsed them out in the creek the day before, but of course with the damp climate they did not dry over night.

We finally rolled out of the campground at about 9AM. We stopped a few miles down the road in Mapleton for breakfast at the Gingerbread Village Cafe. My mother, Joe and Jean Alice all arrived shortly after we did to join us. Sadly, pigs in a blanket were not featured on the menu, but gingerbread pancakes were. The resturant was terribly understaffed for a Sunday morning. Our server told us that two others had called in sick this morning. I told her that they probably were just ditching work to go to church. Anyway, despite the lack of help, our server still did a good job bringing us our breakfast, and we were rolling out by 10:30.

Just after Mapleton, we made a left turn towards the coast (and the town of Florence) along the Siuslaw River. Fortunately, the shoulder opened up quite a bit more and we could relax a bit under the roar of the speeding traffic.

As we wound down the river passing berry bush after berry bush, we started to smell the salt of the ocean and see what was left of the morning marine layer. With every curve I thought the ocean might just come into view.

After we passed the nearly-nothing town of Cushman, we finally got our first visual indication of our proximity to the coast; we spotted the towering sand dunes that stand between the town of Florence and the Ocean.

A few miles later we entered the town of Florence. From there, Jean Alice, Joe and my mother guided us (in their rental cars) over the Siuslaw River and into the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Trucks loaded with ATV's waited to enter the park to race around on the dunes. We entered the park and the parents guided us down to a parking lot near the coast that was off-limits to ATV's.

To the cheer of our parents and with Rebus right behind, AK and I rode side by side into the parking lot. After hugs and congrats all around, Jean Alice handed out these awesome "Tour de America" t-shirts that she had hand painted herself. Then we all climbed the sand dune that stood between us and our first touch of the waters of the Pacific.

The wind was whipping around and as we reached the top of the dune to see the ocean the temperature seemed to drop dramatically with a huge increase in the wind velocity. Hand in hand, AK and I walked down the dune and into the ocean.

The water was absolutely fridged. We turned back to our parents and Rebus as they all took photos. But to be honest, the short time we stood in the ankle deep water was way long enough. It felt like ice water, and I was eager to get out of it. Rebus and I originally thought about going for a swim, but after touching the water, there was no way I was going in. Besides, the clothing of choice on the beach was a thick jacket!

Rebus's parents showed up as AK opened a bottle of champagne. With the wind blasting all around we sipped crunchy champagne and took photos. It didn't take long for us to decide to climb the dune and head back to take cover from the harsh on-shore breeze.

We all layered on the warm clothing as we chatted in the parking lot and began to pack up. My mother rented a minivan with folding rear seats for us to toss the bikes in and for all three of us to ride in back to Southern California.

AK and I worked to fit our bikes, the BOB trailers and all our stuff in the car while Rebus joked that if we had Bike Fridays, we would be done by now. Of course his bike was already quickly folded and in his parents' truck long before we even got the seats down in the van. Did I mention the paint job on his bike is awesome? It is "candy apple red", a color I would not immediately think to get, but it looks sweet. I've told Rebus this about a 100 times now, but I am bummed how much I like the color but I won't let myself get the same color as him when I finally get a chance to buy one.

Anyway, once we were all loaded up, all of us headed back into Florence for lunch to celebrate the finish. We found a nice resturant on the river with a view of the old bridge we crossed the river on. With all our handpainted t-shirts that Jean Alice made, we looked like some sort of team and we got a lot of questions about them.

After lunch, we said goodbye to Rebus, Bob, and Ellen who were heading to Portland. The Butterworths and the Basenbergs wandered around the small old town area of Florence before heading back to Eugene for the night.

It feels really surreal to be done with this trip. I already feel like I miss it. It will be nice to get back to a life with a more regular shower schedule, but with that I will also start having to comb my hair again. Bummer.

Anyway, this entry will mark the end of the daily updates of our journal. I hope it was an enjoyable read. I will be really busy in the next few weeks, but I will upload all the photos to the website as soon as I can. I plan to upload the photos to the journal entry that they correspond to. I know you all are looking forward to seeing the photo of the boxing squirrels in Virgina City, MT, an instant classic. Additionally, I will be posting our humourous "Best of and Worst of" list. All of the updates will occur as I have time to do them, but I will summarize the latest updates on the main page as they are completed.

I also plan to keep the website up for good. We found websites from other bike tourists to be very valuable while preparing for our ride, so we wish to return the favor to others. Plus, we want to keep increasing the awareness of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Although we have finished the ride, the FFB will still be accepting donations. If you have been meaning to make a donation, now is the time to do it! Visit our main page to learn how to make a donation.

AK and I would like to thank all of the donors to "Coast to Coast for the FFB" for supporting the FFB in their efforts. We also want to thank our families, our friends, the Bonnings, and Susan DeRemer of the FFB for all their support and encouragement.

Jeff

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Day 85: Eugene, OR to Archie Knowles Campground, OR (42 miles, 4243 total)


Wow, the second to last day. I cannot believe the trip has almost come to an end. We purposely opted for a long day yesterday in order to make our last two days relaxing. So, 100 miles yesterday means a short day today and finishing the ride around lunchtime tomorrow. Wow, I just said "finishing the ride"; we are not in Virginia anymore.

Ok, so the biggest highlight of the day... Last night my mother (Charyl), AK's parents (Jean Alice and Joe), Rebus, AK and I all stayed in a hotel which happened to be right down the street from the Bike Friday factory and store. Rebus has been lusting after Bike Fridays for years (by the way, so have I), and for someone that doesn't drive anymore (because of the effects of RP), they are very practical. Fridays can quickly fold in seconds and be tossed into the trunk of a car, or they can be packed into a suitcase and flown anywhere with ease. Plus, they are way cool.

As a wedding/groomsmen present, all of us groomsmen in Rebus' wedding pitched in some money to help take the sting out of the cost of buying one. Unfortunately, we could not afford to buy it for him, but we did help put a dent in the bill. Anyway, shortly after the wedding, Rebus got to work ordering his new bike.

Bike Friday is a small opperation, and they build their bikes specifically for each customer. As a result, Rebus was able to pick out every component to suit his needs. The idea was to have the bike done in time for the last week of our ride, but this proved to be impossible. The manufacturing time was a bit longer than the time available.

Well, everything worked out perfectly as Rebus was able to borrow a bike from Nate for the first five days of riding, and he got to personally pick up his new bike from Bike Friday in Eugene.

So anyway, Rebus left Nate's bike in my mom's hotel room, and AK and I rode down the street to Bike Friday. Rebus got a ride with Joe, Jean Alice and my mother, and we were all at the factory when they opened at 9.

We had a great time watching Rebus get the quick run down about his new ride from Dave of Bike Friday. The bike looks awesome and I am jealous!

After a few test rides, Rebus loaded up his trailer (fashioned from the suitcase that the bike packs into) with his stuff, and we were on the road by 10:30.

We rode a bike specific trail for a few miles before we had to get back on the traffic infested Highway 126. A few miles out of town I scored my 6th flat of the trip (our 12th total). I heard the tire blow as I ran over some debris on the side of the busy road. We had to ride a bit further for a safe spot to fix the flat, but luckily the stopping point had plenty of roadside blackberries ripe for the scrutting.

The parentals rolled up while I finished working on the flat. After a few berries, we were rolling again. A few miles later, I felt a symptom of another flat, a shimmy in my rear wheel. We pulled over to check it out. Since it was not an instant flat, and we were only 9 miles from our lunch stop, I just pumped the tire up and we rolled again.

Nine miles later, we rolled into the tiny town of Walton to have lunch with the parental units in the Green House Cafe. The place served tastey gourmet sandwiches and awesome desserts. After lunch I returned to my bike to confirm my 7th flat of the trip (our 13th). I fixed the flat and we headed out on the traffic laden highway to finish the last 16 miles for the day.

A few miles from our campground we encountered what would be the most dangerous and scariest portion of the ride thus far. After winding up this nearly shoulderless road full of speeding cars, trucks and RV's, we arrived at a narrow tunnel with no shoulders. A sign above the tunnel pictured a bicycle and the words below it read, "Bicycles in tunnel when flashing, speed 30mph". Just before the entrance to the tunnel was a button for us to push to activate the flashing lights. The situation looked sketchy, so we surveyed it closely. There was a double sold yellow line running down the center of the tunnel (so motorists are not legally allowed to pass), and the tunnel sloped downhill in such a way that oncoming trafic could not be seen. Sketchy.

We decided to wait for a slight pause in the traffic and then go for it. We sent AK first, then Rebus and then me. We wanted to keep Rebus between us since we figured we were more visible than he was. Since there is no shoulder, we had to ride in the middle of the lane and hope the first motorist that came upon us would be a patient one.

Well, that was not the case. After we got about 50 yards into the tunnel (it is about 300 yards long) the first car came upon us. At that point we could still not see the oncoming traffic, but that didn't stop the jerk driving a huge pick-up truck from swerving into the other lane and stomping on the gas. At this point we were reaching speeds of 30mph in the downhill portion of the tunnel, and this guy must have passed us going 60. Angry at the fact that this jerk was risking killing all of us, I cursed loudly at the truck. Seconds later, I was completely shocked when a second pick-up of equal size did the exact same thing. I was too busy focusing on how to survive the situation to curse at the second car.
Miraculously, no cars were coming the other way, so the two jerks were able to pass the three of us that were now spread out over about 20 yards and going 35mph. The third driver was kind enough to follow the law and patiently follow us out of the tunnel as cars in the opposing lane zipped past. I wonder if the jerks were even aware that their actions were putting us at extreme risk.

With jangled nerves, we rode the last two miles with seemingly increasing traffic. We were happy to find Rebus' parents (Ellen and Bob) waiting for us at the campground. The campground was full, but the hosts made an exception for us.

Rebus and I took a quick dip in the river with the snakes and crawdads and then returned to the site to hang out with AK, Ellen, and Bob. Soon the second car load of parents arrived. We had a great time chatting before heading over to the tiny town of Mapleton for dinner. Bob and Ellen bought us all dinner at the cafe that featured fresh gingerbread and ice cream with every dinner.

By the way, the scenery today was beautiful, but with the heavy traffic it was nearly impossible to appreciate. We hope to get on the road early tomorrow to avoid it.

Oh, if you want to learn more about Bike Fridays, go to their website www.bikefriday.com. The bikes are pretty funny looking to those who are not used to them (Mac calls them "clown bikes"), but they are awesome.

Jeff

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Day 84: Sisters, OR to Eugene, OR (100 miles, 4201 total)


Century ahoy! We blasted miles today, 100 miles in six and a half hours with a mountain pass. Not too shabby. Anyway, Rebus will have the pleasure of writing the journal tonight. Ha, free labor! --Jeff

We got up early today because we knew it would be a long day, I think the alarm went off at 5AM but I am not sure because I usually go back to sleep after telling Jeff what I would like him to make me for breakfast. This morning was poptart surprise. The roads were nice and empty this morning and the temps were cool. We started climbing right out of Sisters. The 2-lane road wound through pine forests, and we climbed and climbed and climbed. The rises were actually not bad and the scenery was pretty. The best part was the light traffic; I think we were passed by 5 cars during the entire 15 mile climb. When we got to the top, the trees opened up and we were surrounded by huge lava fields. With the wide open views we could see multiple snow capped volcanic peaks running up and down the Cascade Range. The views were amazing, and we climbed up to the mini castle for more information about the geography and geology of the area. After some pictures, we began the last descent of the!
trip. From the top of the pass it is basicly all down hill to the beach. The descent was curvy and fast and the west side of the mountains are much more lush than the east side. It reminded Jeff of the Moon of Endore. I think I saw some Ewok roadkill, but it may have been a racoon. We met up with the McKenzie River and Highway 126. After a great lunch at an idyllic garden cafe we headed out. The road was in fact down hill but with a headwind the speeds were not as fast as we would have liked. The other problem was that the traffic was super heavy and at times quite stressful. After about an hour of post-lunch riding, we had the much awaited reunion with AK's mom and dad, Joe and Jean Alice, and Jeff's mom, Charyl. They brought us some cold drinks and we agreed to meet up again further down the road. We pressed on through the heat, wind, and traffic and followed the river down towards Eugene. We made a couple of short stops for snacks and Jeff picked some plump berries fro!
m the roadside, but we really wanted to get to the hotel and hang with
the padres. Once into town the traffic got worse and so did the potholes, but in the end we all made it in safe and sound. After much needed showers, we headed to a great dinner at a nearby BBQ restaurant. We are looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and a mellow day on the road. So to recap, 100 miles today!

reeb

Friday, August 05, 2005

Day 83: Ochoco Divide Campground, OR to Sisters, OR (78 miles, 4101 total)


Well, there is nothing to exclaim about today. It was a longer day with hot temps but nothing extraordinary to start out with. Oh wait, Jeff and Rebus got to eat pigs in a blanket for 2nd breakfast and they were in hog heaven.

We woke up at 5:30 and the boys started boiling water for oatmeal. It was the first time we had a hot breakfast in weeks. After that we packed up and headed out for what we thought would be a long downhill day.

We did get a downhill but it was a slow one. For the first time we decided that this pass was easier coming from the West. That is one pass out of too many for us to go back to count so thats not too bad.

After 33 miles we arrived in the town of Prineville. Fortunately, the place we chose to eat breakfast/lunch served the boys Jeff's favorite. Rebus declared that it isn't his favorite but he was happy to partake in the rare menu choice. Being entirely sick of breakfast foods other than cold cereal with milk, I opted for a lunch choice.

We had great cell phone service there for the first time in days. I learned that my bridesmaid dress for my friend Lauren's wedding was on its way out to California to a house where no one lives anymore. There always has to be something with wedding stuff to add a little drama.

We read in our guidebook that Prineville had a great 2 story museum with free admission. Hoping we would run across more boxing squirrels there, we headed over after scrutting our meals. We didn't find any crazy stuffed animals, but it was an interesting stop. There was one display honoring several fallen wild firefighters from a 1994 wildfire. Though it was a long time ago, I remember hearing about that tragedy and the 9 smoke jumpers that lost their lives.

From Prineville we headed over to Redmond. Our map had us going a slightly longer route but we took it in the hopes of escaping from some traffic. Our road wound through a valley area where we got our first glimpse of the snowcapped Cascade mountain range. We also ran into truckers that were only interested
in getting to and from their drop points and fast. Rebus and I were riding together and ditched off the road quickly as a truck came barreling up behind us with traffic approaching. We got a sympathy shrug and wave from a passing motorcyclist. That hasn't happened yet on the trip.

After a cold drink break in Redmond, we pushed the last 20 miles to Sisters. The sun was intensely hot as it beat down on us, made worse when we started a short but steep climb. We started noticing a change of scenery as pines and grasses started appearing with more frequency. If only that would bring cooler temps with it!

Sisters is a small town but was bustling with activity when we arrived. It is a big tourist area and was packed with people. We looked at the few options for camping in town. None had showers and after two days of biking in the heat, I was bad fer one. We opted
for the cushy motel option and got a great deal. Well, not on the price but at least on the ammenities. The room is gigantic and has plenty of room for all of our bikes, gear and us. The boys headed to the pool while I enjoyed a cool shower. I will not be missing my camp towel at the end of trip. After we were all clean, we walked to a nearby restaurant to fuel up for tomorrow's century.

My parents arrived in Portland tonight. I haven't seen them since Christmas so I am really excited for them to get here. They are picking up Jeff's mom at the airport in the morning and then the three of them are heading out to find us on the road. It is really the beginning of the end now!

AKB

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Day 82: Dayville, OR to Ochoco Divide Campground, OR (57 miles, 4023 total)


We've reached another landmark of this trip and rolled over 4,000 miles.

Neither AK nor I slept well last night. Perhaps it was the random alarm clock that went off loudly at 3:45 AM that caused the lack of sleep. But it could have also been the voices I could have sworn I kept hearing in the church in the night. That combined with a knocking sound emitting from the floor whenever anyone moved sorted of freaked me out all night. AK told me the voices I heard was her telling me to shut-up because I was snoring up a storm. Maybe I did sleep well after all.

Today was a tough climbing day with two big passes back to back. Rebus declared that today was the most he has ever climbed in one day. I don't doubt it; in one day we climbed about 5,000 feet in only 57 miles. AK and I are very excited as we only have one more mountain pass left in the entire trip. It will be a tough one, but after it we will have a huge, long downhill.

We woke up around 5:30AM and started the usual pack up. The night before, I made a quick trip to the store for some Honey Nut Cheerios and some milk for breakfast. It has seemed like ages since AK and I have had cold cereal, so we were pretty excited about it. It's really nice to have access to a fridge.

Speaking of which, the Presbyterian Church in Dayville is a cool place to stay. They offer cyclists carpet to sleep on, showers, a washer and dryer, a full kitchen and internet access. It was way cool. Plus they have put litte plaques on many of their applicances that read "Purchased with Cyclist Donations." We have been giving donations to all the churches we have stayed in since the first one, so it is really nice to see the impact our donations can have.

Anywho, after some cereal we rolled out of town by 7:30. A few miles later we rolled into Picture Gorge which was beautiful. We got to ride right through it and past the famous John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It was too early to stop in for a visit, but we heard it is really cool.

About 10 miles later we stumbled upon another "Feed Local Predators" program. Outside this home was what looked like 30 (but could be many more) young cats and kittens. I think they were hungry as several came to investigate us when we stopped to look. A woman and a child emerged from the house and we spoke with them for a bit. I asked the woman how many cats she had and she replied, "I've no idea. The owner of the ranch asked me to get some cats, and now they seem to be multiplying". No kidding! Rebus and I decided that these cats were named either Scraps or Bits.

33 miles from Dayville, we arrived at our first pass of the day, Keyes Creek Pass at 4,357 feet. The climb was rather simple, but we were happy to be at the top. We hoped that seven miles down the backside of the pass we would find a cafe in the town of Mitchell.

When we pulled into Mitchell, we found a grocery store and two closed cafes. The owner of the grocery came out and asked Rebus if he was lost. We were sure we would be having another cold-cuts and crackers lunch, but fortunately the shopkeep told us about a cafe on the edge of town.

We zipped down to the cafe and had a great meal before heading back to the grocery store for items for making dinner. We had heard from the owner of the store that the campground water was bad too, so we bought two gallons of water. Some local kids were very impressed with Rebus' bike and asked him to jump it. Rebus wimped out and dissapointed the kids by not catching air on the Lemond.

From Mitchell, we had 16 miles until our next pass and the stopping point for the day. We loaded up all our new food items and headed out. We descended a bit before flattening out and starting our uphill burn. The elevation profile for Ochoco Pass on our maps made it look super tough, so we decided to have set stopping points at various locations.

At the 10 miles-until-the-pass mark, I stopped in front of a home for sale. Rebus read the details of the sale out loud for us to hear. A 1,000 square foot two-bedroom home on 450 acres of land for $350,000.
After a moment a local on a bike stopped by to chat. He was on his way up the hill too (back to his house). He looked a bit like Doc Brown from the movie "Back to the Future," and he fit the part too as he kept talking about his inventions. We asked him about the status of the water at the campground, and he told us he thought it should be fine, good even. He did warn us not to drink stream waters as we could be exposing ourselves to "Beaver Fever". Seriously.

We rolled out and up. The climb remaind chill until about three miles later and it began to steepen. After five miles, we stopped for another breather. While waiting for Rebus and AK, I spied a motorcyclist burning down the hill in the other direction with a fly-swatter flapping in the breeze. I laughed out loud when I picture the guy riding down the road trying to swat flies.

After the rest stop, five miles remained between us and the top of Ochoco Pass (4,720 feet). Up and up we went with a slight downhill before arriving at the top of our second to last pass of the trip.

The Ochoco Divide Campground waited for us about 50 yards from the top of the pass. We picked a campsite and set up camp. We all headed over to clean up in the fridged water from the spigot. In the Dixie Summit Campground, the tainted water was locked in the off position, so here we are pretty sure the water is OK. Rebus was first to drink it.

For dinner we had a meal of pasta, peas, and tuna. It was actually pretty tasty. Rebus made our first campfire for the entire trip and we are happy to have it as the temperature is dropping with the setting sun.

Concluding that it is funny that in some ways we are all destined to be a bit like our parents, Rebus declared that he'd like to be sipping on some whiskey while sitting in front of the fire. Yep, I could picture Bob, Rebus' father, doing the very same thing.

Jeff

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Day 81: Dixie Summit Campground, OR to Dayville, OR (56 miles, 3966 total)


Well, since he is our big motivation for doing this ride for the FFB, it seems only natural to have him write a journal entry or two. So without further adieu, I bring you the man, Rebus Bonning... -Jeff

What a day, what a day, what a day! This is what bike touring should always be like. We awoke to a chilly morning and a quiet campground. after a breakfast of peanut butter on a variety of starchy products we packed up and headed off. A short climb to the top of Dixie Pass (5277 feet) helped warm us but that was quickly erased during the 10 mile descent. We made a stop in Prarie City to dump our trash (pack it in pack it out as I like to say), Jeff said I looked like a hobo with dirty socks, a pair of boxers and a bag of trash strapped to the back of my bike. He and AK have ridiculed me into a state of submission in less than 2 days, I hope they are happy! Just kidding.

The majority of today's riding was flat, smooth, and fast as we rolled through a low valley along the John Day River. We ate breakfast #2 in John Day (the town not the river) at which point we were almost half way to our destination. From John Day we continued to cruise along cattle ranches and past farms as the scenery changed back towards the dry desert like terrain of Baker City. Except for the areas surrounding the river the hills have become dry and dotted with small pine trees and shrubs.

The highlights for the second half of the day include some trout roadkill, the first I have ever seen, and a pile of bleached deer bones along the side of the road. They don't look they have moved since Bambi was hit and as a result they were in showroom quality, I thought about bringing them back for my dad (the bio teacher) but then decided against it.

Our stopping point for the day was Dayville. First things first, it was 2:30 and we wanted lunch. We scored provisions for lunch and dinner at the only game in town, the local mercantile. Lunch was a Bonning camping classic, salami, cheese, dijon mustard on triscuts. After lunch we bought ice cream and beer and headed down to the river for some tasty refreshments and cooling off. The river is more of a crick but we did see some tiny fish jump and even some crawdads. With such a fast day of riding, we hade plenty of time to relax this afternoon and it was great. After plenty of soaking and beer we headed back up to the Presbyterian Church for bike tune-ups and a charming dinner of "pitros" (see journal entry from day 9, Troutville, Virginia). All in all it was a great day of fast miles, short hours and river beer.

As for me, I feel good with minimal aches and pains. The Lemond Nate lent me is running well and will more than get the job done. As for my riding partners, I am impressed, they have this down to a science; from packing camp to picking the route to making dinner they pull it off with ease. I am pretty stoked to be here with them.

Rebus

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Day 80: Baker City, OR to Dixie Summit Campground, OR (64 miles, 3910 total)


Well, we have completed day 1 with our newbie featured guest rider, Rebus Bonning. The terrain served up a bit of a slap in the face for a first day, but he survived to smile about it. We've come up with a traditional Native American name for Rebus, it cannot be phyically written, but it means "one with few miles and a very sore bum."

We woke up just after 5AM to pack up. The storm the night before passed without much rain, but there was a lot of wind and plenty of lightening. When we woke up, dark clouds still surrounded the town, and they opened up to lightly rain on us as we packed up.

We left the campsite by 7, and in a light rain, we headed over to the supermarket. After stocking up on snacks and dinner items for the day we rolled to a cafe for a big breakfast before our day of climbing.

We finally got on the road by 8:30. We first found ourselves biking through some Baker City farmland. The immediate area around Baker City offers quite a transition of terrain in about 15 miles. On our way into town yesterday, we biked through harsh desert hills but we arrived to plush farmland. And today, just out of town, we were in thickly wooded forests.

After the first 20 miles we stopped at a campground to replenish our water supply and eat peanut butter smeared snacks. After that, the next 11 miles to the top of our first pass seemed to pass quickly. We pedalled along the scenic Powder River for miles and then stopped to watch some young Osprey high in their nest.

As we climbed the first pass, Rebus quickly learned that the bike he was lucky enough to borrow from Nate for the week does not quite have the proper gearing for touring. The bike is very nice, but it has only a double chainring, so he is missing those hill climbing gears that AK and I have come to love. As a result, Rebus has to climb most of the hills out of the saddle (a brutal feat) or take a breather and walk a bit. It makes for a tough day on top of an already tough day, but if anybody has the right attitude about it, Rebus does. He is just really stoked to be here.

The ride down the backside of Sumpter Pass (5,082 feet) was fun and fast. We zipped down for miles and pedalled through a few flats before starting to climb our 2nd pass of the day. In the distance behind us, we heard the rumble of thunder and looked back to see a looming storm. Not wanting to get stuck in another storm, we made quick work to the top of Tipton Pass (5,124 feet) which was much easier than the first pass. By the time we had made it to the top, the storm had disappeared from view. The ride down this second pass was not as exciting as the first, but we all appreciated the chance to coast for a few miles (especially Rebus).

Between the 2nd and 3rd pass, we arrived at the tiny "town" of Austin Junction which is made up of one building that houses a cafe, and a small store. We ate lunch in the most amazing old bar that was built in the 1860's. It was awesome, and the oweners have done a great job keeping it up. I stupidly managed to forget to take photo of it. Anyway, we scarfed our lunches and some fabulous vanilla milksakes and discussed our plan for the rest of the day.

Seven miles away awaited the crest of the third and final pass of the day (Dixie Pass, 5,277 feet). A campground sits a 1/2 mile from the top and that was our original goal for the day. AK was feeling ready to call it a day in Austin Junction and camp behind the cafe, but Rebus and I prefered to camp in the US Forest Service campground at the top of the hill. The owner of the cafe told us that there is not water available at the campground as it had recently failed some contamination test. Knowing that made the decision to push on even tougher. In the end, we decided to fill all our water bottles, buy 2 gallons of water and push for the top.

AK and I each carried a gallon, and upon arrival, we all concluded that the last climb was relativey easy compared to the others. We found a nice site and paid our 6 bucks for the night. The water spigots are locked in the off position so we could not even take "contaminated" psuedo showers.

Anyway, we setup camp and began cooking our meal of green beans, red beans and rice, and prepackaged tuna steaks. It was not a bad spread, plus dessert was Oreo cookies with peanut butter smeared on them.

Darkness has fallen and stars are all above us. We should have a mostly downhill day tomorrow which should be nice. AK is pushing for a century into Eugene (2 days from now) which is just awesome. Whether we do it or not, it is cool to know that she wants too, look out Lance.

Jeff

Note from AK - The trip is really winding down now. By doing all three passes yesterday, we now only have three passes left for the rest of the trip. Yeehaw!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Day 79: Richland, OR to Baker City, OR (44 miles, 3846 total)


More hot, hot, hot weather roasted us today in Oregon. The heat is just as intense as it was in Kansas but then even worse because you throw in the climbs. Water is my most precious commodity these days by far.

We slept very well last night as the dogs in the pasture next door stopped harrassing the group of horses just about the time we got ready for bed. There was a group of three dogs, one border collie and two border mixes that wanted their 6 horses in line and at one corner of the pasture. Every few minutes one would come out of the field and one would come from the house and they wouldn't rest until those horses were where they wanted them to be. I thought one of the dogs was going to meet his end at the end of a hoof the way the horses would fight back sometimes. Anyway, it was neat to watch instincts in action.

The wake up alarms started going off at 5am. Since we just switched into
Pacific Time, and since we were meeting Rebus today, we wanted to be sure to get an early start. As there were no stops listed on the map between Richland and Baker City, we ate breakfast at a diner before heading out.

Though it wasn't too tough, we started climbing almost immediately. The heat kicked in early too so I felt like I was pedalling and pedalling, sweating buckets, sucking down water, and not getting anywhere. What made things harder is that our first landmark on the map wasn't until 18 miles into the day so there wasn't a short goal to reach early on.

The route lead us to and then generally along the path of the Powder River. At one point there was a pullout with a sign talking about a landslide that happened in 1984. You can still see where the old highway 86 (we were traveling on the rebuilt section) was plowed over by the moving face of the hillside. A note on the sign said that the slide is still moving at 1/2 inch per year and is not expected to stop until 2014. How do they calculate things like that? Is it just a given that landslides continue to move for 30 years?

We biked onwards and upwards and there really was nothing between the two cities. Hillsides were brown and sparsely covered with drought resistant plants and sagebrush. Grasshoppers continued to be the highest density insect though there were several giant beetle/stink bug things running around as well. Continue this for miles and miles and miles.

Finally, just when we were wondering how much farther we were needing to go, we rounded a corner and saw the covered wagons and large interpretive center for the Oregon Trail...off route and up a giant hill. As I'd been looking forward to the center all day, and as I wanted a cold drink in the worst kind of way, I gave the nod that we would attack the hill. Holy moly was it a doosie. I haven't been in my little ring very much since Missouri and I certainly haven't been in my lowest gear setting since then, but today I clicked over to them in a hurry and stayed there for the entire MILE up. Sheesh!

At the top we were greeted by stubborn vending machines that would only take dollars, no change, wouldn't give us any water, and held on to the snacks we purchased until we beat bruises into our hips. It was all good in the end and we finally recovered our energy enough to go into the center. I could have spent hours there. If you are ever in or near Baker City I highly recommend stopping by.

We walked around for an hour and a half or so and then got word that Rebus was waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. We refilled our water bottles and headed out to bomb down the entrance hill to meet him.

After greetings and stories, we all clicked into our pedals and rode about a half mile down to where we were told there were wheel ruts from the wagons on the Trail visible in the ground. I haven't been so disappointed in something since learning that Kentucky was just as hilly as Virginia. I never would have guessed that what was before us was an old wagon trail. A Jeep trail, maybe, but it would be a stretch. There weren't any ruts to speak of that we saw. Oh well.

After that it was a fairly downhill trip into Baker City. Rebus had already set up camp at an RV park as he got here yesterday, so we cruised over there to make it home for the night. Jerry and Anne, a cycling couple in the site next to us, gave us a ride into town for some Mexican food. This was our first into town ever offerred by anyone so it was a great treat. After stuffing ourselves we walked back with full bellies. Off in the distance we could see some raging storm clouds. Turns out they were headed right for us. Though there hasn't been much rain yet, the wind is ripping through the trees and lightening and thunder are cracking every so often. Looks like it may be quite a night ahead!

It is fun to have Rebus for company now. He is "Reeb" from the comment section for those of you who have been following on for a while now. He is also the reason for the first wedding break. Nicole, his wife, is stuck at work this week so she can't join us.

Our arrival into Baker City signals that we are in the homestretch now. We finished another map section today and we really only have one and a little bit left.

AKB