Bike Tour 2022 – Mitchell to Redmond

The day began with a huge bowl of Cheerios, the old fashioned kind not the honey nut monstrosity. I also had a massive cup of coffee and a banana.

Locked and loaded we left the hostel around 6:40, heading west over Ochoco Pass. When the day begins like this, you know you’re going to have fun.

Oh what a beautiful morning

After some warm up miles we began the climb to the pass. Knowing that some types of pine trees need fire to generate seedlings, I had been expecting to see a burn area along this route and today we rode through one. This part of the forest will regenerate over the next decade or two.

Burn zone on the way to the pass

Just like the last few passes, today’s was more of an exercise in persistence. I didn’t run out of breath even as my left quadriceps muscle ached a bit from time to time.

When I reached the pass Corey was waiting in the shade. Mark was right behind me. We munched on some snacks then began the fun part. Down!

Hey, only one more to go

The ride down was somewhat steep but we are descent veterans so it was not at all scary. The grade lessened after a few miles but remained a slight downhill nearly all of the 30 miles to Prineville.

When descending, watch out for large ruminants

In Prineville we had lunch at a Dairy Queen. They have a $7 meal that is a very good calories per dollar deal.

I have been using an out-of-date Adventure Cycling map for planning purposes. The newer maps direct riders on a northerly path from Prineville to the town of Terrebonne. We followed the old route, state highway 126 to Redmond because Redmond is a city with many more services. It was a very busy, mostly two-lane highway. The shoulder was narrow and filled with assorted debris. It was a stressful 18 miles. I rode it as fast as I could.

In Redmond we stopped at a bike shop then spent about an hour trying to find a reasonably priced motel. The cheapest looked like a hangout for junkies and hookers. A Motel 6 only had single bed rooms. Another hotel told me over the phone that they had a two-queen-bed room available but when we pulled up on our bikes just minutes later it magically had been booked by someone else.

We ended up at a Comfort Inn. It’s quite nice and ought to be for the price. It’s my turn to sleep on the floor. I have vowed to lay waste to the continental breakfast.

One thing about living in the DC area that I have grown to dislike is the departure of so many friends.

After getting settled at the hotel, I spent the late afternoon with one of my favorite bikedc expats, Rachel Cannon. She moved to this area a year and a half ago. We spent a couple of hours nursing beers and nibbling at nachos but mostly just catching up. The visit was too short but the hugs were heartfelt. Thanks for coming by, Rachel. It was great to see you.

Rachel and me.

Tomorrow we climb McKenzie Pass, our last big climb.

Miles today: 72 Tour miles: 2,983.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Dayville to Mitchell

It was a day of the unexpected. We left the church hostel at 6:30 to eat breakfast at the town cafe. The food was mediocre (my kingdom for some Cheerios). The owners/cooks were both wearing holsters with side arms. I know we look fearsome but we were wearing freshly laundered clothes! There were magazines on our table. The one on the top of the stack was “Open Carry”.

After breakfast we rode west on US 26. A mile out of town we came to a full stop at a construction zone. A section of the road ahead was being chipsealed. We had heard about this and were dreading it. It turned out to be a great break for us.

Half the road was closed to traffic with each side being let through at 20 minute intervals. We followed the last car and had four miles of road to ourselves. The side of the road we were on was untreated. Beyond the construction zone, we still had the road to ourselves thanks to the intervals at the start of the zone.

The road next passed through Picture Gorge in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This part of the road is narrow and twisty with no shoulders, normally a real headache for cyclists. Without traffic it was like the best bike path ever. We could stop and take pictures of the gorge to our hearts’ content. And we did.

We skipped going off route to the fossil beds because we wanted to get off the road before temperatures hit the forecasted 104.

We began a gradual climb out of the gorge toward Keys Creek Summit. As in days past, our effort told us we were climbing but our eyes said we were not. The views were splendid regardless of our delusions. The summit came without extraordinary effort. Are we getting stronger or are the climbs getting less intense? Are we overloaded with hemoglobin? Maybe it’s just the fact that we weigh less.

We’d been told the descent from the summit would be very scary. It wasn’t. We are jaded. I think I touched my brakes twice. Mostly I braked by sitting up tall.

We pulled into Mitchell. I found the hostel and backtracked to the Tiger Town Brewery for a much deserved lunch. The food, a big salad with spicy chicken, was excellent and the pint of Kolsch hit the spot.

After lunch we moved into the hostel, Spokes N Hostel. This place is terrific and the owner, Jalet Farrell, has thought of everything. Comfortable beds, a fully stocked kitchen, showers, clothes lines, seating areas, hammocks, charging stations next to each bed, and on and on. We’d been hearing about this hostel for weeks from eastbound riders and it has definitely lived up to its reputation.

Tomorrow another climb, our next to last pass.

Nice day for a ride
Waiting to enter the chipseal zone
Approaching Picture Gorge
Picture Gorge
Picture Gorge
End of Picture Gorge
Leaving Picture Gorge
More rock formations
Today’s summit
Home for the night

Miles today: 39 Tour miles: 2,911.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Bates State Park to Dayville

After breaking camp (and eating all the Pop Tarts) we immediately rode uphill through the ponderosa pines seven miles to Dixie Pass at 5,279 feet. I used my granny gear only for the last half mile. The crest came nearly a mile sooner than expected. Happy face.

The screaming descent to Prairie City was a hoot. Our discovery that all the breakfast joints in town were closed was not. We ended up eating breakfast burritos and donuts in the park. (The donuts were Corey’s idea.) The town seemed like an outtake from a Green Acres sequel.

As luck would have it there were two other cities on route to our destination in Dayville. As luck wouldn’t have it there was nothing but gas station food in either town. Mondays are days off in these parts.

Our ride from Prairie City to Dayville was gently downhill for 45 miles. We were in a race to beat the heat which was forecasted to break 90 degrees. Also, we had learned in Green Acres that the road we were riding was scheduled to be chip sealed today. (Crews lay gravel then set the stones using oil. It’s messy.)

As it turned out the chip sealing began after Dayville so we get to deal with that tomorrow.

We’re staying at the bike hostel in the Dayville Community Church. We’ll be camping on the floor. We’ll also be cooking from the hostel’s food supply which is impressive. We’ve already laid our tents out to dry, and showered. We’re doing two loads of laundry which will make anyone in our immediate vicinity grateful.

Early morning summits are the best
Cool old hotel with mural in Prairie City
The road to Dayville

Miles today: 63 Tour miles: 2,872.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Baker City to Bates State Park (July 10)

The Churchill School Bike and Ski Hostel was a great find. We were the only guests so there were no Covid concerns. The beds were incredibly comfy.

After leaving the hostel we wandered around Baker City looking for a breakfast cafe. After a mile or two we found one. I thought the basic eggs and sausage and hash browns were meh. Corey had some strawberry concoction that looked amazing. The coffee was about as weak as you could make it and still have it be brown.

We next headed across town to a Safeway where we stocked up on food for a night in a state park. I, being the group’s nutritional expert, bought Pop Tarts and trail mix. Corey and Mark are oatmeal people. (Corey also bought mashed potatoes that looked like gruel when he cooked it in camp.)

After four miles we finally headed out of Baker City. In our meanderings we did manage to pass through the old part of downtown which had some impressive old office buildings. It’s not a bad place but locals don’t want it to turn into a replica of Bend. (Bend is a derogatory verb in Baker City.)

We had perfect riding weather all day. After ten miles riding south along the Powder River we turned following its westward track. We met Felix, an eastbound TransAm rider. He had just graduated from college in Seattle. He was in good spirits besides having a wonky knee.

The ride continued until we entered the Sumpter Valley. We stopped for an impromptu lunch, sitting on a guardrail and watching cattle graze through some roadside ponderosa pines, the dominant tree in these parts.

At one point Corey spotted a pair of ospreys in a nest. It was clearly a parent and fledgling. What was most interesting is that we could see down into the nest.

The fun began when we climbed to Sumpter Pass at 5,082 feet of elevation. Ponderosa pines were everywhere. With no under brush we could see far into the forest. The air was pristine. No sooner did we crest the mountain than we began a speedy descent. I had filled my tires up at the hostel and it made a big difference in the bike’s stability at high speed. Weeee!

Alas, we ended our descent with a second climb to Tipton Pass at 5,124 feet. Boo. The seven mile descent was worth it though. Yay.

At the bottom we turned into Bates State Park to camp for the night. I had imagined being in tents in the woods but this park was cleared of mature trees.

Overnight the temperature dropped well into the forties causing me to freeze in my skimpy sleeping bag. No sleep for me.

Miles today: 56 Tour miles: 2,809.5

One of the few farms we’ve seen with rolled hay bales
Felix
Ponderosa pines and cattle
Old farm building on the side of the road

Bike Tour 2022 – Hells Canyon seedy motel to Baker City

The day began with breakfast al fresco. Oatmeal for Corey and Mark, PB&J for me.

Yesterday Mark had the first puncture since mine on May 22 at the very start of the ride. He pumped it up a couple of times and rode all day. This morning it was flat again. We all looked in vain for the cause. Mark patched a second hole and pumped it up. It stayed inflated all day.

Our route took us along a reservoir formed by the Brownlee Dam across the Snake River. We crossed over a bridge into Oregon and rode along a second lake formed by the Oxbow dam. Idaho does love its hydro. It’s not so good with truck traffic or road design. We were all happy to bid it farewell.

Corey spotted a bald eagle over the lake seeking breakfast. After a few passes the eagle landed a fish. I came upon a rafter (that’s what it’s called) of wild turkeys in the road. They dispersed as I passed by.

We started climbing away from the lake and encountered an eastbound rider. He was from France and was riding a custom made titanium bike. An approaching car ended our conversation.

At the top of the hill, I stopped to watch and cheer on a young woman climbing from the other side. She was a strong rider and looked to me like a younger version of a family friend named Claire. Her name was Fanny and she, too, was French. She started in Oakland, made her way up the coast then turned east to check out Crater Lake. She did not know the Frenchman but she did mention camping with a guy named Keith in the town of Halfway.

We stopped at a convenience store for nutritious food. Having none, the store sold me Pop Tarts and Gatorade. To its credit it had the cleanest porta potty I’ve ever used.

Back on the road we met yet another eastbounder. He was 70 years old, I later learned. “Ten years ago this was fun, now it’s work.” Hard earned wisdom.

A few miles further on, Corey and Mark met up with yet another eastbounder. It was Keith Adams (Franny’s camping friend). I met Keith during my first 50 States Ride in DC in 2006. We did another ride or two together before parting ways. Keith was riding a Bike Friday folding touring bike. It appeared to be nearly identical to mine.

We had a good chat along the guardrail. Keith seems to be having a ball. His itinerary is flexible. “I may ride to Boise to see some friends.”

Keith’s tour journal can be found on cycleblaze.com.

Off we rode over a big hill to Richland. After riding past several bars we found a modest cafe. The service and the food were terrific. I must have downed a gallon of ice water with my meal.

Since Richland was only 46 miles into the day and since we had a bonus hour from moving into the Pacific time zone, we called a hostel in Baker City, 42 miles away. They had beds for us so off we went into the canyon then back out. And into the canyon then out. We switched from the Snake River to the Powder River. It didn’t make things any easier. Eventually we climbed another pass, although crawled up would be more descriptive. Even a tailwind didn’t speed us up. The heat, the hills, the miles, and the chip seal pavement made for a long, hard day. All three of us were exhausted when we arrived in Baker City.

The hostel is in an old school building. We are the only lodgers. We were told by several people that Baker City hotels were likely filled because of a motorcycle rally and some sort of festival. When we arrived the town was unexpectedly quiet. The hostel is fine, and at $25 it is infinitely better than last night’s motel.

Miles today: 89 Tour miles: 2,753.5

Later, Idaho
Brownlee Resevoir
Fanny from Oakland and France
Keith Adams from Rockville, MD
World’s biggest shuttlecock or maybe something else
Summit sign with snow gauge
Corey relaxing in the Churchill School hostel

Bike Tour 2022 – New Meadows to a seedy motel in Hells Canyon

If you want a good breakfast, don’t go to New Meadows, Idaho. Nothing was open at 7:00. We made do with oatmeal (Corey and Mark) and PB&J on an English muffin (me) in our motel room.

We headed west on the hated US 95. Idaho drivers are the worst. They should be arrested and sentenced to one month of driving in Providence after the streets turn to glaciers. That’ll fix em.

We briefly tried the Weiser River Trail, a rail trail that runs for 90 miles. The surface was little more than gravel and potholes so we returned to 95.

We climbed a deceptively hard hill that rewarded us with a descent into Council for gas station convenience store food-like substances then continued uphill through Mesa and eventually to Cambridge.

We arrived around noon. Like New Meadows, most of the town was closed. We ate mystery food at the town Chinese restaurant. The best part was the watermelon slices that we were served as appetizers.

Mark found a motel in Hells Canyon some 22 miles south so we braved the heat and a long climb and soldiered on. The top of the climb was steep. Fortunately I was cheered on by a vocal bovine fan located behind a hedgerow on the side of the road. Thanks, Bossie.

The descent took us back into Hells Canyon. The grass in the fields looked very dry. Needless to say it’s hot as Hades. Not that I noticed during the descent. I was holding on for dear life.

The motel was over six miles down the mountain. The building is basically a converted semi truck trailer. The room is very small and smells of pee. I’m glad it’s Corey’s turn to sleep on the floor.

On the plus side the cafe next door serves a mighty good grilled cheese with more fries than three people could eat.

Miles today: 71.5 Tour miles: 2,664.5

More Idaho farmland
Council, Idaho stacks a mean pile of hay
Back over 4,000 feet
I’d have taken a better picture of this mountain but I had to wait until the bottom of the descent
Our motel room has a broken ceiling fixture with only one working bulb and no smoke detector. Fortunately it has an electrical outlet in the ceiling

Bike Tour 2022 – White Bird to New Meadows

The breakfast at the town cafe was absurdly huge; none of us could finish our meals. The town of White Bird, named after a chief who led a small band of Nez Perce to Canada after Chief Joseph surrendered, is filled with Trumpers. I suspect there is a serious distrust of Washington. I can‘t imagine why.

Our maps and apps all indicated that we’d be doing some serious climbing today. A very short climb out of White Bird put us on busy US 95 for the day.

We traveled up the Salmon River, which is a whitewater hot spot. Looking down on the rafters, we knew we were gaining elevation, but it barely felt like it.

The landscape changed every few miles which was a nice distraction from the heavy traffic to our immediate left. There were rounded green hills, craggy cliffs, mountain meadows, all carved down the middle by the twisting Salmon River.

We stopped at a farm stand for a break about half way. A cold sweet tea and a big cookie topped off my tank. The farther we rode the hotter it became. After weeks in the high mountains summer appears to have caught up with us.

We checked into a motel in New Meadows instead of camping in the town park. It’s Mark’s turn to sleep on the floor.

Idaho forever
Equinoxes are probably a big deal around here
Salmon River rapids in Hells Canyon
The Mule abides

Miles today: 64.5 Tour miles: 2,593

Bike Tour 2022 – Kooskia to White Bird

We knew about the sprinklers in the town park so five of us, we three and two eastbounders, set up tents under the pavilion. Mark set his up in the sandy, kids’ playground area. As it turned out, only Corey and I escaped the spray.

After breakfast at the town cafe we headed south to the town of Stites where we crossed the south fork of the Clearwater River to begin the climb that looked nasty on our Adventure Cycling maps. At the base of the climb a flag man advised us to take a detour because a road crew was spreading oil on the road ahead. This was part of the chip seal paving process.

The detour was every bit as nasty as the main route. The climb was steep and steeper, peaking at a 10 percent grade. (Other riders report the grade on the official route was, at one point, 25 percent.)

Three weeks ago this would have been impossible but the combination of a recent day off and three weeks of riding and climbing at altitude made it doable. I never ran out of breath though my legs were on fire from time to time.

After ten miles we reached the top and rode some rather daunting rollers to the county seat town of Grangeville.

Mark took his ticket to the magistrate’s office and arranged to have his case heard via Zoom in early August. We’ve all been playing Perry Mason in our heads over the past day so we’re confident that Deputy Fife’s ticket will be voided.

After a rather unsatisfactory lunch we headed out for another climb fest on old US 95. This was not as steep but it did punish us. Mark and Corey were way ahead of me. I stopped to take off my jacket and made a couple of friends.

When we came over the top, the downgrade was crazy steep! I had to feather my rim brakes to maintain control. This causes the rims to heat up. Care needs to be taken to make sure the heat build up doesn’t cause a tire failure (kaboom!). Corey and Mark have disc brakes and could let ‘er rip.

Also we were riding on chip seal with fresh gravel. So we all needed to ride under control in case we hit a gravel patch.

We briefly popped out onto new, smooth US 95 where traffic was passing super fast. I stopped to check my rims and my front rim was very hot. I waited for it to cool down before continuing. Soon we were back on good old gravely Old 95 again.

We came to a turn and there before us was an amazing landscape of rounded hills with folds between and within them, such a change from the densely wooded landscape of the past couple of days.

The descent was a series of steep switchbacks. The disc brake boys took off. I stopped now and then to cool my rims. On one curve ten horses were grazing on the road. They let me pass, probably recognizing The Mule as a kindred spirit.

We ended our day in the small town of White Bird at about the same elevation as we started. 3,500 feet up, 3,500 feet down give or take a switchback.

We had defeated the two-headed mountain beast, only to face similar climbing challenges in the days ahead. We rented a motel room with air conditioning and three beds for $100.

Miles today: 43.5 Tour miles: 2,528.5

New landscape
Two new friends

Bike Tour 2022 – Lochsa Lodge to Kooskia

After arriving in Lochsa Lodge, I took a shower, ate lunch, then took a two-hour nap in my tent. I had a post nap dinner then went back to sleep until morning.

The camping is very good as long as you don’t mind the hum of a fan (from the general store next to our camp site) all night.

The lodge’s breakfast was huge. I was stuffed. We broke camp and began a 90-mile downhill ride through the Lochsa River valley. It was just beautiful. White water, massive mountains covered in evergreens, curvy road.

I saw a muledeer, a white tailed deer, and two eagles during the ride.

We stopped at a couple of towns along the way but decided to continue on to Kooskia and stay in the pavilion in the town park. My tent is not free standing so I’m lying in a big net that caves in on both sides.

The park has a splash park which we used as a sort of shower. The water was cold and refreshing.

We are no longer in dry mountain air. It’s warm and muggy. This is my first day below 2,000 feet since eastern Kansas.

Mark got a traffic ticket for failing to ride to the right of the white line. A pick up truck passed him on a curve and nearly hit a sheriff’s car head on. The sheriff pulled the driver we over and the driver said “I came upon the bicyclist so quickly there was nothing else I could have done. He was riding to the left of the white line.”

Apparently the driver was unfamiliar with the brake pedal.

Then the Sheriff probably a deputy (he was young and chubby) let him go and pulled Mark over.

We are all kinds of pissed about this. It’s impossible to ride to the right side of the white line. There’s not enough room, but Deputy Fife wouldn’t listen to Mark’s explanation.

Tomorrow we ride up a very nasty hill then pass through the county seat where we intend to talk to anybody who will listen about Deputy Fife and the unwarranted traffic ticket.

One oddity we are dealing with is time. Some places operate on Mountain time, others on Pacific. I feel like I’m stuck inside a Chicago song.

Mikes today: 90 Tour miles: 2,485

We stopped for lunch along the Lochsa River. This is the upstream view.
Same spot looking downstream
Mark takes a shower
Rough day at the office

Bike Tour 2022 – Missoula to Lochsa Lodge

A night of purloined Netflix put us in the mood to break camp and get back on the road.

Motel breakfast was so so. We left on the roads for Lolo somewhat underfed. Coming into Missoula we used bike trails but leaving we used city streets, devoid of traffic early on this Fourth of July holiday.

As luck would have it the road took us to a WalMart where we bought a few essentials. The streets gave way to the bike trail which is in decent condition from Missoula to Lolo.

We rode the trail into Lolo where we had second breakfast at McDonalds. Don’t @ me. We needed calories because the next 26 miles would be gradually uphill.

We turned onto US 12, a road that followed Lolo Creek towards Lolo Pass. The creek was beautiful and it’s surroundings became more so with each mile. We clipped along at (for me) 12 mph. After 38 miles we took a break at Lolo Hot Springs. The soda machine charges $3 for a Coke.

Another eight miles took us to Lolo Pass (elevation 5,235 feet) and the Idaho border and the Pacific time zone. Trifecta! We had climbed just over 2,000 feet. Neither my legs nor my lungs were stressed at all. The day off did them and my mood a world of good.

What followed was a five mile twisty descent into a gusty wind. Big fun. The wind was unpredictable. At one point I was going 29 mph when a headwind gust knocked my speed down to 22. I got the message. Feather the brakes on the turns!

The mountains around us on this side of the pass were densely forested right to the side of the road. I kept expecting a bear to emerge. I’m glad that didn’t happen.

We were riding next to Crooked Fork Creek on our left. The trees were a mixture of cedar, spruce, firs, and other evergreens. They were immense.

After a fun downhill ride we arrived at Lochsa Lodge, a rustic resort that sets aside a lawn area for bicyclists to camp.

Tomorrow we will ride further downhill as far as our bodies and minds allow.

Beatles fans can guess the name of this business
Riding toward Lolo Pass
Bye Montana
It’s like a cell phone that you put money into

Miles today: 59 Tour miles: 2,394.5