Recently, a friend told me he was envious of all the trips I had been taking. I laughed it off as best I could, but it made me think a bit; I have been riding quite a bit lately, but it’s because of how I organize and plan things in my life. That being said, two short bike tours in two weeks is a bit too much when there’s things to do around the house and a job to go to every week.
This year I’m finding that I don’t have a whole lot of extended free time. My weekends are about all I can manage in terms of adventures this summer, and so my plan is to work as many little trips into my tight schedule as possible.
With the emerging summer, there are plenty of hours for yard work before and after I need to be at my paying job. This allows me to work out plans for short trips around the region more frequently. I’ll be staying close to home for the next couple of weeks as I tackle some larger house projects, but rest assured, there will be more adventures and recaps to come.
I’ve got at least three more small trips this summer in the works, one of which will hopefully take me to Orcas Island in Washington. We’ll see what happens!
I don’t think any of us were ready for the temperature to spike the way it did. This isn’t a complaint in any way, but in Western Oregon, we’re used to sliding into summer gradually. This recent heat wave we’ve been in the middle of has been quite impressive.
We rolled into the Flying M Ranch on Saturday night after a long Max ride to Hillsboro and a fast paced ride on some backroads. It was around 11:30 when we pulled into camp and we passed out pretty shortly.
We woke up the next morning to the sounds of airplanes landing in the field adjacent to us. Every Sunday, the Flying M serves breakfast to anyone who makes a reservation; this Sunday there were a large number of riders as well as pilots, horse riders, and other assorted stragglers. The famous sticky-buns that brought us to the ranch in the first place were gone by the time we made it out of bed. But the eggs, waffles, etc were a solid start to our day.
Our route to Rickreall from the ranch would prove to be more difficult than the three of us had initially thought. I always seem to remember how little I enjoy riding in the Coast Range, that is until I do it again. Up. Down. Up. Up. Up. Down. You get the point I think. With the temperature in the mid-eighties, we were slogging away and gulping water. Thankfully, Dylan brought his water pump and we took a nice break to put our feet in a creek and fill up bottles. Shortly after this I misjudged a patch of really loose gravel and sent my knee to the ground.
As we continued on, we started losing elevation and found our way to Willamina Creek Rd, which was a welcome sight. The feel of fresh pavement lifted my spirits and we motored into town. I had expected Willamina to be a quaint little town, but I was dead wrong. The little main street was pretty intense, but the road out of town was the most surreal. We were shouted at by at least 5 different cars even though we were in the shoulder. Rolling into Sheridan however, was nice. The remainder of the ride was spent in a stiff headwind.
We found our way to Amity where we stocked up on food and beer. Thankfully at this point we had a tailwind all the way to Rickreall. We arrived at the farm and settled into a long afternoon of grilling, drinking, bocce ball, and bullshitting. I passed out a little after ten next to the wheat field. It was a great sleep.
In the morning, my knee was acting up from the fall and I decided to grab a ride back home rather than punish it on another 70 mile day. I was home by noon, and spent the rest of the day reading in the sunlight. It was a great way to end a fun weekend.
I woke up earlier than I was hoping and debated on getting up. My feet were frozen and I knew the fire wasn’t going to get started quickly. I finally heard Gabe rustling around and went for it. I found my last pair of wool socks and put them over the other two pairs I was wearing. We were smart enough to save a few pages from the fishing regs from the night before, and thanks to some dry twigs, we got a small fire going.
Because we’re classy, we had been slow cooking our dinners each night. Because of this, we ran out of fuel after two cups of coffee. Knowing that hot food would make gearing up easier, we fed the fire until we had a good bed of coals. We boiled some water and ate oatmeal while we huddled around to stay warm. The snow was falling at this point, but it was the small ball-bearing sized stuff that doesn’t stick around. We laughed together about the ladies at the restaurant the day before who warned us of the cold temps in the mountains. They thought we were crazy; to be fair we kind of probably are.
As we fed the fire, our rush to get out of camp disappeared. We took our sweet time packing up, feeding the fire, and sipping whiskey. Eventually, around 11am, we saddled up and started riding. I wore almost everything I had to stay warm.
After the previous day of climbing, we thought we’d be pretty close to the top of the pass. We were close, but still had a couple miles of steady gravel climbing before we found a winding descent. The road was much rougher on the backside, but we shredded along until we came to the intersection for Magone Lake. Our spirits were high.
A ripping two mile descent followed by a steep one mile climb popped us out right at the lake. It was still snowing and the campground was deserted. We rode the lake trail until we found a nice deck over the water to have lunch. Looking at our maps, we decided to climb back up to County Road 18 before heading back to John Day. Leaving the lake, we found the climb to be pretty gnarly. The road was freshly graded, and the few car tracks had barely compacted the loose gravel. We slogged away for a good five to six miles before reaching the top. We each knew that there would be a solid climb in the morning, and this one delivered on all fronts.
And with that, we were faced with a 10 mile descent back to reality. Ten miles passed quickly as we pedaled on quiet roads complete with breathtaking views of Strawberry mountain around every corner. The fastest descent of the trip was over before it even began it seemed, and we found ourselves standing at Hwy 26 with 9 miles to go.
The same headwind we had battled on Sunday was still kicking strong. We pedaled slowly back to John Day, partly because of the headwind, and partly because we weren’t quite ready for the trip to be over. The sun was out, we were full of fresh air, and none of us really wanted to get back to the real world.
Upon arriving back at the car, we each drank a warm Rainier and high-fived. Our trip to the Old West was a success on many levels. I felt relaxed, stress free, and ready to plan the next trip.
On the way home we stopped in Condon, OR at the Roundup Bar for dinner. As we left town, Gabe dug through the tapes in the car and found one with the words “Freaky Tape” in sharpie on it. We popped it in the tape deck and jammed out to a choice selection of classic funk and disco for the remainder of the drive home. It was a fitting end to a great adventure.
I found that my setup for this trip was pretty near perfect. I’m headed out tomorrow for another two nights with a similar setup. I’ll post what I used and what I thought about it next week.
I woke up to the sounds of a pot being filled with water for coffee and the river flowing swiftly a dozen feet from my tent. Stepping out of the tent, Gabe pointed to a bald eagle soaring over our campsite. Seeing such a magnificent animal in it’s natural surroundings is always a treat, and in my opinion, a good omen of things to come. We took our time packing up camp, in no real rush to be anywhere other than in the moment. The sun was out and we were looking forward to a day of leisure.
As we saddled up, we noted that the wind was still just as strong as the day before, but today it was at our backs. We pedaled effortlessly along Hwy 402 towards Monument. The John Day on our side and the rolling hills and mountains surrounding us made for a memorable morning. We arrived in Monument around 10am and headed straight for the only store in town.
We hadn’t planned on taking a break, but upon seeing my fishing pole, the owner of the market clued us in on a local fishing spot just outside of town. There was a small boat tied up to the dock that was free to use, and with that, we purchased some tall cans and made our way to the pond. Upon arrival we found no oars for the boat, but a nice dock to fish off of. We cast a few times, but the wind was too strong for any real attempt. We drank our beers and enjoyed watching a Golden Eagle soar above us.
After leaving Monument, we found the first big climb of the day towards Long Creek, OR. With a generous tailwind, we climbed swiftly to the summit. We left the steep and colorful mountains behind and found ourselves in big sky country with plains surrounding us. Ranches with cattle, sheep, and llamas were a common sight as we kept lightly pedaling. We took care to not take our tailwind for granted though, should it decide to turn on us.
Arriving in Long Creek, we sat down for some hamburgers and planned our next step. If we stayed on route, we’d be heading north for the next 8-10 miles with a stiff crosswind. After the previous days 60 mile grind, we started looking at the map for another option. If we headed east out of town, we’d be cutting the course, but opening the possibility for more remote riding and adventure. County Road 18 was a red line on the map, and looked promising. And boy was it.
About 8 miles east of town, the road turned to smooth gravel and we entered the Malheur National Forest where we wouldn’t see another person until the next day. The wind was still very strong, but thankfully was still pushing us along nicely. We climbed past alpine meadows and springs until we found a small sheltered spot next to a small creek suitable for camping. At 5,500 feet, we were cold, tired and completely alone in the woods.
For the first day and a half I wondered if I had packed too many warm clothes, but as I cooled down, I was thankful for every last bit. We put the beers we carried up the mountain into the creek, made a small fire and started cooking dinner. As a precaution, we hung our food about 100 yards from camp to keep bears away.
The night was pitch black, and we eventually ran out of beer. The three of us each dipped a bit too heavily into our whiskey reserves, after which I fell asleep quickly. It was very cold that night, and my feet froze in my 30 degree bag. Adventure!
I’ll post Day 3 tomorrow. It’s a doozie!
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.