Howard writing: We’ve made it to Vale, Oregon – the Idaho border is just 15 miles away. This marks our 9th day on the road. What a trip this has been – everything we could have asked for.
On Thursday, I rode from Mitchell to John Day, over one long pass and into the high desert. It was a day of firsts: first thunderstorm, first rumble strips, and first flat tire.
They call the thunderstorms out here “water spouts” because they are brief and intense, but very localized. If you’re lucky (and fast) on a bike, you can sometimes get outside the rain swath, which might be only 1/2 mile wide. Or you can take the full force while fumbling around for your rain jacket, as I did. I’ve learned that these deluges are announced by strong, swirling winds that can almost blow a cyclist over.
Rumble strips are 3 inch indentations stamped onto the right edge of roads as a safety measure. I appreciate the safety aspect, but if your wheel drifts onto the rumble strips, your head is nearly bounced off your neck.
The flat tire was very frustrating, because it took me over an hour, and two tubes, to complete the job alongside the road, with occasional rain. The wheels on my new bike are excellent, but replacing a tube involves a Herculean effort because the rims are engineered for a very tight fit with a standard tire. As it was, I never completely resolved the leaking air, and fortunately for me, Wendy had visited John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and was a bit behind me. She arrived at the scene of the flat tire just as I was finishing up. I was able to rely on her to stop every 3 miles so I could top off the leaking tire with our floor pump for the final 17 miles into John Day. I replaced both tires at camp last night.
The rain was heavy in the night, but we were happily cozy and dry in our little trailer.
On Friday, to our delight, our friend Greg Archbald met us in Unity, after driving all the way up from Nevada City, CA. He’s our first visitor, and it was great to see him.
The three of us watched the Warriors get smacked around by the Cavaliers at a very cool cafe/bar in town. As everywhere, the people we struck up conversations with were very friendly and interested in our journey.
Yesterday, we had planned a layover day in Unity, but my legs were feeling strong, so we decided to move 70 miles onward to Vale, OR.
The first 50 miles from Unity were just spectacular. Wendy rode with me in the rain and hail for around 16 miles, up a beautiful canyon to the Eldorado Pass, before turning back to move the van and trailer.
The changeable weather has added a great element of beauty and drama to the experience.
I carried on over Brogan Hill, cruising along at 20+ mph by those blessed west winds. Greg leap-frogged me along the way, stopping for photos several times. It was fun to meet up with him on the route. He joined us for an Oregon Trail mural walk in Vale and dinner at our campsite last night, where there was much toasting and reminiscing on the day’s trip across a uniquely western landscape. We really appreciated Greg’s two-day visit, and miss him already.
Around 20 miles west of Vale, we entered an entirely different landscape. Gone are the ridges and basins of central and eastern Oregon. Now we’re into flat farmland that extends well into Idaho. Sugar beets and especially onions predominate. The onions are mostly destined for the fast-food onion ring market. I think the famous Idaho potatoes are found further south and east.
Today we will move 54 miles east to Emmett, Idaho. This will make it easy for us to pick up our son Reed in Boise tomorrow afternoon. We are thrilled that Reed (and on June 20, his partner, Amanda )is joining us for 2 weeks of cycling and national park touring. Reed is a super-strong cyclist, and I plan to have him pull me all the way to central Wyoming.
Wendy writing: It’s been a while since I entered a post. The days have been surprisingly full without much down time: breaking camp, cycling a portion of Howard’s full route, moving the van and trailer, keeping ice in our ice chests, etc.
As Howard mentioned in a previous post, I enjoyed a day without cycling – going to two of the three units of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. There is unbelievable geology to be seen on the surface with different areas going back to 44 million years ago, 30 million, … This makes it a world-renowned area for fossils; in one small hill, the scientists found 26,000 fossils. I was blown away by what I was seeing on display in the visitor’s center.
This was also the day when Howard was dealing with his flat tire. When I was following him with stops every three miles to pump his tire, I found myself reflecting on Howard cycling into my life in 1981 when he rode from San Francisco to my Mill Valley home – and then on our cycling portion of our “honeymoon year” in 1984 when we cycled from London to Athens; lovely memories that brought up a full heart and teary eyes.
Howard is so strong – powering up the mountains to each summit, making it look easy. With my e-bike, it is easy – I’m really enjoying how I can select the level of workout I want, and can already see that I’m getting stronger and leaning on the assist less.
With the rain and windy conditions, we are really thankful to have the trailer. We are finding that the RV parks (with the rigs lined up like a parking lot) are surprisingly nice. Because everyone has power and water hookups, camp is really quiet (i.e., no generators, no water pumps, everyone sleeps inside their own walls). There are campgrounds and RV parks everywhere – so finding lodging without an advance reservation is easy, even on Friday and Saturday nights.
When I’m driving, there are very few radio stations – and the ones that I find are typically country western stations. The lyrics of my favorite song so far are, “God is great, beer is good, and people crazy.” They also have very different commercials than we hear in San Francisco (e.g., logging jobs) and PR announcements (major breakthrough: the juniper berry causes premature birth in cows).
At Unity State Recreation Area, we had a great conversation with Jack, an 80-year-old man. He was raised in a Democrat home, is registered Independent, and voted for Trump. Some of his thoughts: Trump is doing a good job, the country needs a businessman to correct things (e.g., the US pays an unfair share in NATO), of course, there will be a learning curve for Trump to know how to work with Congress, the press is not giving Trump a chance. He loves Medicare, Social Security, and VA benefits. He is alarmed about the health care bill that the House passed re: how many people will lose their health care – and thinks/hopes that the bill will look very different after the Senate process. Anyway, it was an interesting and respectful conversation with us also sharing our differing views.
It was so great to have Greg join us for two nights. We hope that our paths can cross with more of you – take a look at our itinerary and let us know. On to Idaho!