Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oregon, Chapter 3: Cycle Oregon Begins

After a week on the road in Oregon, we finally arrived in John Day ready to ride. 
As soon as we got out of the car, members of the John Day High School football team arrived on a four-wheeler to carry our bags to our campsite. 
We set up camp on a baseball field under the blazing sun, with the Strawberry Mountains in the distance. As soon as we were done, we went off to find some lunch (a smoothie) and build bikes.
Michael dragged the bike boxes off into the shade to work on them. This is my frame coming out of the box.
After building them, we took them for a spin on the local bike path to make sure everything was working correctly. This is one danger I don't face on the bike paths on my morning commute.
We got up early Sunday morning to begin the ride:  a 73 mile loop through the Strawberry Mountains with over 4,300 feet of climbing. This first hill was 35 miles long.
At the top of the first hill. This easterner could definitely feel the altitude as we climbed up to over 5,000 feet.
The view at our first lunch stop of the ride. The Strawberry Mountains are in the background. The loop brought us back to John Day, where we spent a second night.
On Monday, we began the journey south to Burns, Oregon:  71 miles with 3,200 feet of climbing over the course of two big passes. I felt good the second day and found a groove on the first long climb. It was a beautiful, winding road up a nice cool pass in the Strawberries.
Our lunch stop on day 2 was in the Silvies Valley south of the Strawberry Mountains. Out of the mountains, it was hot and it would remain that way the whole week. All three of us had a little trouble staying hydrated.
At the lunch stop, the Silvies Ranch had a number of animals on display, including these Clydesdales.
At the top of the last climb on Day 2 and closer to Burns than John Day.
This woman is using her llama to pack cyclists' bags to the luggage trucks.

We accidentally camped near the luggage trucks in Burns. For some reason, a whole bunch of people like to get on the road before the sun rises. We paid for that mistake by lying awake at 4:30 a.m., listening to people pack up their camp so they could have their bag on the truck the moment it was opened up. I'm all for getting up early to beat the heat (and it was hot), but that was a little insane. It wasn't as if we were sleeping in. We were on the road by 7:30 a.m. most days. We did not make that mistake again.
On Day 3, we had a mostly flat ride, 63 miles, from Burns to Diamond, Oregon. This is Malheur Lake south of Burns. This is the largest body of water we would see all week. It is part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and is a major stopover for migratory birds. We saw flocks of Snow Geese in this area.
A hummingbird at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, where we had lunch.
Another view of the refuge and Malheur lake.
We only had two hills of significance on day 3 and they were nice and short. This is the second one and it was only 1.5 miles long. The entire day's ride was in the blazing sun.
 Our first view of Steens Mountain in the distance.
 Riders in the afternoon sun.
Our first view of our camp at Diamond.
Camp at Diamond with Steens Mountain in the background.
We decided to celebrate doing the ride with a wine dinner at the Hotel Diamond, located next to an old stagecoach stop. The food was amazing and it was a fabulous way to spend the evening. This is the cabin on the back of the hotel where we ate.

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