So I’m sitting here in Vale, Oregon in an RV park next to what looks, sounds, and definitely smells like a cattle ranch. It seems that tonight we’ll be lulled to sleep by the gentle hum of cows screaming as loud as they possibly can in our general direction.
The last two days have been pretty tough. After leaving the plush sanctuary of the Dayville Presbyterian Church (I actually slept between two pews for the night), we pushed ahead. We were feeling really good and making great time when we were brought to a halt by a construction flagger that informed us that we would have to load our bikes onto a pickup truck to be shuttled across the construction zone. Disappointed but compliant, we quickly tore off our panniers, threw the bikes up (and thankfully the super long Xtracycle fit in the bed of the pickup) and rocketed our maximum speed up to 50 mph. This shuttle took us about 6 miles up the road across what looked like terrible riding conditions. It was a quick and chilly ride, but worth skipping the wet tar that we would have had to ride through had we tried to defy the construction gods.
Pilot Car Fun
We met up with Dave again first in the town of John Day and again for lunch in Prairie City, where we had an amazing lunch. Dave is a really interesting guy; he’s a retired police officer who apparently is an avid adventurer, having hiked the AT and is now doing the Trans-Am route biking across the US. He seemed to have a great zest for life and a fierce passion for that which he loves, including his wife who he mentioned more than once with great adoration. Always a beautiful thing to hear! He had lots of great advice about packing light and was a pleasure to meet and hang out with for the day. After putzing around town a bit and me fighting the urge to purchase a cowboy hat, the four of us hit the ole’ dusty trail again and headed up the Dixie mountain pass for a grueling 9 mile climb. After a 7 mile descent, we arrived at Austin Junction, the diverging point of ours and Dave’s routes. Dave is swinging Northeast while we are heading southeast towards Ketchum.
Before we parted, a duo arrived traveling the opposite direction. One of the pair was a French guy, Claude, and traveling west from Chicago wearing socks and sandles as his shoes of choice – way more hardcore than us! After we told him of our plans to ride to Alaska, a puzzled look crept cross across his face at which point he informed us: “You’re going ze wrong way.” We explained that we were first swinging way east to go through Idaho, then cutting up north. He seemed relieved, and we then all split off, each group heading a different direction at the threeway intersection. As we pedaled away, we heard the faintly diminishing voice of the Frenchman telling us to “Say hello to ze bears for me!” Great.
It was fun hanging out with Dave, and we hope to hear from him again. If you’re reading this Dave, please post on our blog and let us know where you are and what you’re up to!
Two Bike-and-Bearers and Dave Pointz
We then pushed the final 10 miles of the day’s ride up Blue Mountain Pass which should have been called ‘You Should Have Trained More Before This Ride’ Pass and we settled in for the night at Wetmore National Forest campground.
Today, I learned what a Cheddarwurst is. Apparently it’s a bratwurst (try one in Pittsburgh if you’ve never had one) stuffed with cheddar cheese – amazing. I encountered this gastronomic delight in Brogan (not to be confused with Brogdon), Oregon, today on our lunch break.
It was a scorcher today, with temps in the 90s. We started off with what seemed like a chilly morning, which quickly turned for the warmer once we hit the tiny town of Unity. We stocked up on gummy bears in a gas station that had as many deers’ heads as it had candy bars and headed out for a nice climb up Eldorado Pass. We had expected today to be a rest day of sorts, with the starting and ending elevations netting in a large downhill. However, the roads had a rolling quality much like Appalachian roads, draining the energy out of our legs with each successive hilltop. We descended finally into the town of Brogan, where I had my Cheddarwurst introduction. The cafe where we ate was great: it was homestyle cooking. I had roast beef with gravy and mashed potatoes, something called ‘Cowpuncher Chili’, and, of course, Cheddarwurst. It was serve-yourself, and all the aforementioned food for a measly $4.50. Amazing.
We left Brogan in high spirits, which was almost immediately crushed by a brutal headwind and temperatures in the mid-nineties, which we fought all the way to our destination, Vale, Oregon. After all that hard work we were relieved to find a great RV park/campground that has running water and, best of all, showers. After relaxing in the shade and cleaning up, we headed into town for a hamburger and a beer, both of which tasted amazing. We’re now turning in for the night and preparing for the next couple days. As I lay in bed and try to figure out what the cows are yelling about, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll have the energy for the next three days: Tomorrow will be a long grinder uphill for about 85 miles. The next two days afterwards, we are diving into two killer 50 mile days where we have to climb to about 7500 ft. to Stanley, Idaho. (We’re now sitting at around 2000 ft.) We’ll see how this goes!
(We haven’t found a good internet source yet to upload pics and videos, but keep checking back for those! Our maps will still be available though. If nothing else, we’ll be able to upload them from Ketchum in about 4 days!)