Thursday, September 19, 2013

Oregon Chapter 4: Cycle Oregon Days 4-6

Day four of Cycle Oregon was a layover day in Diamond, Oregon (population 5).
Even though no one technically had to be anywhere, people were still up and about in camp really early, so I caught the sunrise. There were a bunch of activities that riders could do, there was an optional ride, or one could just hang out in camp. The only trouble with the campsite in Diamond was that there was no shade and it was going to be hotter than the previous day. 

Since we didn't want to take the vans up to Steens Mountain, we figured we may as well ride. The route description originally gave the option of a 50 mile or an 80 mile ride, both out-and-backs. We were debating the merits of the longer ride at breakfast when another rider said that the route had been shortened. The announcement had been made while we were at the wine dinner the night before. Apparently, a rancher needed to drive 500 head of cattle across the road at mile 24, so the only choice was a 48 mile ride. Sometimes it is nice to have decisions made for you.
Heading out for the morning's ride.
The sign at the turnaround, just north of the cattle drive.
We weren't allowed to get very close to the cattle drive (for good reason), but I was able to catch a few of them.
After the ride, we went back over to the Hotel Diamond for some shade and wifi. Unfortunately, everyone else in camp had the same idea, so we shared the shade and overwhelmed the hotel's wifi. It was a good afternoon anyway. This is the view on the drive over.
Back in camp, Portland-based Community Cycling Center was offering charging services at each overnight stop. Those are cell phones charging in plastic zipper bags, which the staff cheerfully referred to as IV bags.
The solar panels the Community Cycling Center used to power their charging station.
At the end of the day, we went to a star party put on by some of the astronomy clubs from Sisters and Portland. We got to see closeups of the moon and the rings and a moon of Saturn. We also saw the Chinese Space Station transit the sky. The area of Oregon we were in is one of the darkest places in the continental U.S. due its distance from major population centers. 
Day five dawned with a little bit of cloud cover, which was a relief after several days of riding through the high desert in the blazing sun. We had a nice, flat 40 mile ride to Crane, Oregon.
We made a stop at the Pete French Round Barn, which was used to train young horses and keep them in shape during the winter. They would then be ready for work in the spring.
Crane (population 51) was the overnight stop on day 5. Nearly half of the geographic space in town is occupied by the high school. It is likely the only public boarding high school in the U.S. The school district covers 7,500 square miles (for reference, that is more than half the size of Maryland), making it impractical for students on far flung ranches to be bused to school every day. Approximately 100 students stay in dormitories and go home on weekends.
We camped on the Crane High School football field. We noticed two things:  1) The kids still had practice that afternoon, but they had it on the lawn of the local Mormon church. 2) The field doesn't have lights, so they don't play any night games.
One of the amazing things about Cycle Oregon was the showers. Four tractor trailers that had been converted into shower rooms were parked near the campground. Each one of them had two shower rooms with about eight showers in them, complete with hot water. Each trailer also had a set of sinks on what was basically a drawer under the trailer. Getting a shower each night while camping was a really nice luxury.

On Day 6, we rode 73 miles from Crane to Seneca, Oregon. I was feeling really strong by this point, but it would actually turn out to be a very long day for Michael and me.
This was along U.S. Highway 20 east of Burns. It was the only real highway we had to ride up to this point, and it was only four miles. We are climbing towards the mountains and, again, grateful for cloud cover. In spite of the passing lane in the picture, the climbing wasn't too bad.
Just after we turned off of the highway, we got our first glimpse of the mountains to the north. We would have to ride through them later in the afternoon.
And then the flat drama started. Michael got four flats over the course of 12 miles, which added a couple of hours to our trip.
The sag wagon checks to see if Michael has what he needs to get back on the road. Fortunately, we didn't have to ride in the van.
We had one 1.5 mile stretch of gravel on day six, always an adventure on skinny road tires. We finally rode into camp at 4:30 (we started at 8 a.m.). Our friend, once we found him, had picked out a nice campsite and I got a massage that night. Earlier that afternoon, I realized I was having trouble shifting into the smaller cogs on my cassette. One of the mechanics from the Lake Oswego Bike Gallery store replaced my rear derailleur cable and re-adjusted my drivetrain. Not a bad last night on the ride.

Tomorrow, I'll post pictures from the final day of Cycle Oregon and the drive back to Portland.

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