Sometime last winter, Gabe and I started scheming on a trip to Eastern Oregon this spring. The recently designated Old West Scenic Bikeway seemed like a great way to get some sunshine and explore parts of the state neither of us had seen much of. I’ve floated the John Day River from Service Creek to Twickenham Bridge, but until this past weekend, I’d never been farther east in Oregon.
The website is lacking quite a bit of info (If you’re reading this Travel Oregon, get someone on this!!!), so if you can find the brochure it’s really handy for locating campsites and water sources. But be wary if you tackle this trip, some of the info is outdated already, such as the water icon for Kimberly. We didn’t see any, but it was a Sunday and the Post Office was closed. We contacted the local Chambers of Commerce to get the scoop beforehand.
The first obstacle in making this trip happen was finding a vehicle that would take us five hours east. Neither of us own a capable rig and finding one that we could leave in John Day for three days seemed like a tall order. With a couple days to go, our friend Tobin offered up his Volvo. We were set!
In a flurry of emails and text messages, we recruited our friend Ed to join us and everything was set in motion.
Gabe picked me up after work on Saturday and we scooped Ed on the way out of town. Getting to John Day isn’t all that easy. Every highway that leads there is a two lane affair that winds through valleys and alongside rivers, which done during the day is quite remarkable. We would discover this on the trip home thankfully.
We arrived in John Day around 1am to find that the only camping was in the RV park on the edge of town. At $27 a night and nothing but gravel to lay on, we headed for Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, which is essentially a city park with a historical landmark. We didn’t see any signs forbidding camping, so we set up camp and swapped stories until we were all tired enough to pass out. The soft grass was almost luxurious compared to the next two nights we’d be out there.
I woke up around 6am, excited to get going. After a morning beer and a survey of the park and creek, we made some coffee and geared up for the day that laid ahead of us. We all agreed that a solid breakfast was the best way to start our day, and found the Outpost Cafe, which greeted us warmly. Hot coffee, and large portions set us up for success. I squirreled away my biscuit with a solid dab of butter and some bacon for later, and with that we headed off!
A couple of miles into our first day, we realized that the wind we were riding into wasn’t going to quit. As we settled into a paceline, the reality of 20mph headwinds sunk in. We wouldn’t be discouraged though; this was our trip and we were having a killer time. Ed got a rear flat, and with that we took the opportunity to savor another tasty beer. Turning lemons into lemonade, we continued on to Dayville, where we stocked up on dinner supplies and yet more beer (are you sensing a pattern?). The owner of the Merc told us it was cool to drink in the city park, which we made good use of. Sitting in the shade, eating lunch, and drinking suds boosted our spirits!
After Dayville we hoped we’d lose the headwind when we turned north onto Hwy 19, but it was not to be. We stopped at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center to fill up on water and archaeology info. The main exhibit is pretty cool and I highly advise a stop if you pass through.
With our heads full of thoughts of fossils, we headed out for the remaining mileage. We buried our heads and pedaled. We were tired. We were really, really sunburned. The entire day was supposed to be slightly downhill and fairly easy. As we rolled into Kimberly, we were cooked. And then something beautiful happened.
As we were hanging out, a guy named Jerry pulled over and offered us each a beer. The four of us cheers-ed and bullshitted for a few minutes. Jerry lives and works at one of the ranches we had just passed and was happy to see us out there rolling along. He clued us into some good fishing holes (a theme that would repeat itself) and wished us luck on the rest of our journey.
Full of happiness and cold Coors, we pedaled the last two miles to camp and made a home for the night. It was far too windy to fish, but I threw the line in anyway for a bit. We cooked up a huge dinner and made a nice fire. I passed out fairly early, exhausted and quite curious as to how the wind would treat us the next day.