6/9/12 43 miles over 3 mountain passes from Prairie City to Sumpter, OR.
Woke up early to 37 degrees or so an rainy. I was a little concerned about the ride over the 5277 ft elev climb over Dixie Pass. Took my time enjoying the morning and walked a couple of doors down to Chuck’s Diner for breakfast. Had the works – eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits. This seemed like the place all the locals hang out. They were talking about the fresh snow in the mountains the night before, but that Sunday was supposed to be a beautiful day. One odd fellow was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt.
After breakfast, I walked down to the little grocery store in search of something to alieve the ear itching/pain I was attributing to wind/sun, and check out the snacks for the road again. It is so odd how central food is to your thinking on these bike trips. I actually think I have lost a little weight, although that doesn’t seem possible given the amount of food I eat at meals + snacks throughout the day. I resolve to eat healthier, I.e. cut out all bad foods, but never follow through because I am definitely vulnerable to the thinking that I can eat whatever I want and will burn it off – plus when will I have the chance again to experience all these great homemade pies, etc with a minimum of guilt? And I supposed to be in the present and go with the flow, right?
Found McKinley at Chuck’s diner with the other 3 bikers that had stayed at the same hotel as me. 2 men and 1 woman who had met several days ago and had been traveling together. However, the 2 guys were headed to Boise and the woman, named Patrice, was continuing on the Transam route. Turns out Patrice found my Road ID bracelet at the John Day Fossil Beds where we had stopped the day before. I was really happy to get it back, since it has all contact info/ medical info for first responders in case of an accident. Patrice is from New Jersey, and she was thrilled to find some other women to ride with. Since McKinley and I were ready to head out, she said she would catch up with us wherever we landed for the night.
We left town around 9:00. The weather had actually improved and was sunny for the moment. About halfway up the climb to the Dixie Pass Summit, we came across an old Saratoga wagon that I had read about in several of the books written by other cross country riders. I stopped to take seems pictures of the wagon and Strawberry Mountains in the distance. It started snowing a little for just a few minutes.
On up to the summit. While the ride was challenging, it wasn’t near as hard as some people described. Just long slow incline along 11 miles to 5200 feet. By the time I reached the top, the weather had turned really cloudy and it even snowed for about 5 minutes. I added a jacket for the long descent into Austin Junction. Still, I was frozen by the time I reached the Austin Cafe – another famous biker landmark. We went in to thaw out and eat again since, believe it or not, we were hungry again. Mostly, I was cold. We looked at the map and decided since it was only lunch time we would go ahead and ride another 23 miles or so to Sumpter, which would leave less than 30 miles to Baker City on Sunday, where we planned to take a rest day on Monday and re-group for the next leg. The only problem was those 2 additional 5000 foot elev mountain passes between Austin Junction and Sumpter and tired legs. We decided to just gut it up and do it. First, however, we were stopping at the festival for a few minutes. I was still cold and parked by the fire to warm up before the ride. Christy from the Bike Inn was there and updated us on who else had been traveling after and before us. There was an interesting assortment of people gathered around the fire, including several motorcycle riders in their leathers that looked liked they had just emerged from the woods. They were fun. A 90 year old man and his wife teased the motorcycle gang about how they were soft, and how the young women were doing the work peddling and were more impressive. The guys took it well, and I sidled up closer for more warmth. Again, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
We finally got away about 1:30 and started the ride to Sumpter. After about 15 minutes, I was sweating – hot/cold, hot/cold. I decided I definitely preferred hot. The ride over the final two passes, Tipton Summit and Sumpter Summit, were little grueling, even though not as difficult as Dixie Pass. Mainly because of tired legs. Plus, at the final summit, it started dazzling fairly steady which made the fast descent even colder. To add insult to injury, the final 3 miles to Sumpter were into a very strong headwind, even though the road was flat at that point. It was really grueling. We arrived into Sumpter approx. 5 pm, and I found there were essentially no rooms due to the motorcycle convention in and around the Baker City area. Christy and the folks at the festival had told me that they had just checked that morning and there were rooms available in Sumpter. Wrong. As I was contemplating my fate at the 1 restaurant, it appeared to be camping in the cold after a very hard day. All of a sudden, the restaurant person told me she had just had a cancellation of one of the cabins on site. So, I ended up in the cutest, cleanest little log cabin for the night. Very rustic and quaint.
As I met McKinley at the restaurant for dinner, Patrice rode up and joined us. She had been delayed from leaving Prairie City because of rain and was just getting in. Apparently she started the ride the same day as McKinley from Astoria, which was 3 days before me, and had ridden alone for almost a week before meeting the 2 guys, who more or less took her under their wing. She said she kept thinking it was strange that no one else was out there, and would occupy her time talking to the animals along the way and singing songs. Her trip definitely started out on the wrong foot when all her stuff that she had shipped from New Jersey, except for her bike, was lost in transit. She ended up at REI buying all new stuff, including bike racks, clothes, you name it. REI was nice enough to let her buy “garage sale” items, I.e. returns. Still, I can’t imagine having to face that at the start. Patrice also told us that she had hiked the Appalachian Trail several years ago. It took almost 6 months. While on the hike, a woman she met told her about having ridden cross country on her bike, and Patrice decided she would like to do that too. At the time, she was not a bike rider at all. Patrice just got her teaching certificate and taught art last semester after several years in the corporate world. She says she cannot imagine going back into the corporate environment. She seems to have a very good sense of humor and adventure, and seems really happy to have found McKinley and me to ride with.