Journal July 3-July12--Oregon
July 3 Caldwell, ID to Ontario, OR
We were talking about lunch at 2:00, riding into a headwind on the flats between Caldwell ID and Ontario, OR, when we were flagged down and invited to join the Wagstaff family reunion at a park. Well, three hours later we had eaten, gotten an education about irrigation and farming, and given 20 people rides on the quad. We are now at Grandma's farm in Ontario full of home cooking and feeling like one of the Wagstaffs. We have never felt so much like part of a family so quickly. These folks are great! I better go to bed, though. I think I have to milk cows in the morning before breakfast.
July 4 Ontario, OR to Juntura, OR
We enjoyed the unusual (for here) cool and cloudy weather on our ride through the deserts of eastern Oregon. The flat land here is sometimes lush with irrigated agriculture, sometimes sagebrush desert. As we climbed in the afternoon we got into high desert, cattle rangeland, and beautiful mountains. After a long, hot day, we camped in the desert by an abandoned railroad grade, and listened to coyotes howl as the moon rose. We are in an area where the distance between towns is long, and the towns could have a diner or store, but might be completely without merchants of any kind. We carry extra water, about 40 pounds of it, and several days worth of food. It's hard to describe the beauty and appeal of the desert, but part of it is knowing that in a huge area, there are few people and few roads. The silence is like nothing we have experienced in the east. The occasional skeleton (thankfully not human) reminds us that this is harsh territory and we need to be alert and careful. With no moisture in the air, the stars seem close and dense; we have never seen such skies, and even after the moon sets, there is enough light from the stars to walk among the sagebrush and see our tent from the top of nearby cliffs.
July 5 Juntura, OR to Summit Prairie, OR
Don't look for Summit Prairie on a map. At the diner in tiny, isolated Juntura we met Ken Whitney, former world rodeo champ and now an all-around buckaroo with 600 head of cattle up in the high rangeland. Fifty miles of rough gravel road (in Ken's pickup!) brought us to his camp, where we spent the day learning to shoot pistols and chew tobacco, and the night listening to Ken's stories and cowboy poetry. We stayed up until the firewood and the whiskey ran out, some time between 3:00 AM and first light. Huge flapjacks and cowboy coffee eased the sunrise wake up call.
July 6 Summit Prairie, OR to Dayville, OR
Ken brought us out to the pavement on the western side of the mountain, just seven miles. Now we were poised at 7000 feet, the top of a 23 mile downhill with nothing but forest and rangeland between us and Seneca, a town of 200, back on the state highway. Unfortunately, my first test of the brakes caused a failure of the front wheel hub, and we lost four spokes in an instant. I managed to true the wheel and make it rideable, but with our heavy load and the rough, steep road, we never felt good about speeds above 10mph. Even that was uncomfortable. We got down the mountain, however, and called Santana, our bicycle sponsor. They had a hub on the way immediately, and we hitched a ride to Dayville, where we spent the night in a free hostel that the local church has provided to cyclists for the past 23 years.
July 7 Dayville, OR to Prineville, OR
We hitched another ride to Prineville, which is where our bicycle part was being sent. You may wonder how a family of five with a 12 foot long bike and a trailer hitches a ride. Well, out here the four-door (crew-cab) pickup truck is a common sight. Ranchers and horsemen and loggers and firefighters and others choose the "Cowboy Caddilac" for it's utility and family-sized comfort. Back home, the Romp family is the only family we know with a one-ton crew-cab. At the local store in Dayville, we simplyasked for a ride from a woman heading west, and she was delighted to have us load up and tell her stories for a half-hour. She was a rancher going to Prineville for supplies, and she taught us a lot about the area and about firefighting, which was her family business. She employed about 20 rugged men and women for the short firefighting season, and covered an area the size of New England, usually working under a contract with the forest service or a timber company. Very interesting. In Prineville the local Best Western motel was our host, and the front desk clerk drove me to Bend for some bike parts. The special 48-hole hub didn't arrive today, so we enjoyed a rest and laundry day, and rented a movie to go with our popcorn.
July 8 Prineville, OR to Madras, OR
By 10:00 AM we had received the hub, rebuilt the wheel, had breakfast and were on the road. The way to Madras was through the desert, over a mountain pass and into the wind. At lunch Henry, Timmy and I hiked on a trail and got far from the road at a wildlife management area. How those prospectors and pioneers lived in the desert was a question never far from my mind, as I baked in the sun and sawsnakes and lizards motionless in the shade. Madras was a nice town, an oasis of sorts where irrigation had created a green town in a brown area. Grandma Hoffay's hotel and restaurant had seen us on TV and were pleased to offer complimentary accomodations and meals for us.
July 9 Madras, OR, to Trillium Lake, OR
Today we left the desert and entered the mountains, traveling through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, climbing up to where the huge Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pines grow. The snow-capped volcano Mount Hood was before us all day, visible through the haze that several forest fires had created in the entire state. The dry mountain air was hot in the sun and cool in the shade, and the higher we climbed the cooler it became. Trillium Lake campground was full, but we squeezed our tent between a family from Portland and some snowboarders headed for Mount Hood's snowy slopes. Camping in the cool, tall pines was a treat. The desert portion of our trip is behind us now as we enter the Pacific Northwest climate.
July 10 Layover at Trillium Lake
We met a great guy named Andrus, a weekend ski patroller at Mount Hood, where a chairlift runs on Palmer Glacier all year long. We left our tent set up and caught a 5:30 AM ride with him to Timberline Lodge, where we rented equipment and skiied all day on the steep glacier. There were several ski race camps and snowboard camps in session, and the US National Ski Team was training there, but the huge area was never crowded. Timmy skiied for his first time, on expert-level terrain (the only terrain there), and we all had a great day, skiing in July. The lifts opened early and closed at 1:30 PM because the snow softened by then. We were tired by then anyway, slightly sunburned, and hungry. Andrus drove us back to the campsite and we all napped in the shade before dinner and turned in early.
July 11 Trillium Lake, OR to Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, OR
The short distance from our campsite to Timberline Lodge was all very steep uphill, and our leg muscles were in knots from skiing the steep terrain all day yesterday, so we accepted a ride in a pickup truck to the lodge, making this a much-needed rest day. Timberline Lodge is a unique CCC project from the 1930s, a huge stone and wood structure built at 6000 feet on the south face of 11,000-foot-plus Mount Hood. Italian immigrant stone masons and blacksmiths and artists and woodworkers created a masterpiece of rustic, nature-themed architecture, with oversized doors, fireplaces, timbers, and stairways. Owned by the Forest Service and operated by a private company as a four-star hotel, there is no other place like it. Billy worked and lived there in 1977-1978, during a three-year tour as a ski bum, and has looked forward to this visit for weeks. Being a guest there and showing the family around the lodge and the mountain was a highlight of this trip for all of us. In the lodge we found our friend Don Kjelleren, who had been at our send-off at the Ski Rack in Burlington, VT. He's on his own adventure, climbing and hiking and bicycling and camping all over the west, and he found us here quite by accident. Don is the most fit and vigorous 66-year-old man you will ever meet, and he was recently honored by the governor of Delaware, his home state, as Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. He sets an example as he speaks to senior groups around the country, campaigning for fitness and exercise as a way to improve the quality of life for seniors. He is an inspiration to us, and we made plans over dinner to join forces in a project or two.
July 12 Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, OR, to Vancouver WA.
Today was our second-longest mileage day, 71 miles, made easy by the fact that we started at 6000 feet and ended at 200 feet above sea level. The descent from the lodge involved several stops to cool the brakes and gasp at the scenery. We rode further into the Pacific Northwest climate and grinned at the lush greenery, such a change from a day or two ago. No more searching for a bathroom bush to hide behind; two steps into the underbrush we found a cool, dark jungle where we were hidden from view! There was climbing to do and the hilly Portland area was clogged with traffic, but we skirted the downtown area and crossed the mighty Columbia River into Washington on a bike path sandwiched between the north- and south-bound lanes of a busy freeway. Beautiful and noisy! On the Vancouver, Washington, side we were greeted by Ayla Grant, the local bike club president, who guided us to the home of Andrus and Melissa Pahl, the very same Andrus who helped us get skiing on Mount Hood. Our kids got busy playing with theirs, and our late arrival and long-winded storytelling put us to bed nearer to dawn than sunset. They are a great, adventurous family. We are sure to cross paths again.