Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 85 - August 27, 2013 - Eugene, OR to Florence, OR

Miles - 80
Total mileage - 2,310

We originally had talked about splitting this final portion of our trip into two days, stopping about 14 miles short of Florence, camping for the night, and having a short and enjoyable last day's ride to the coast.  As we left the hotel this morning, we were still undecided as to whether we would make a run for it all at once, or split it up - as you can see, we went for broke and made it in one day!

Our hotel was right on the river in Eugene, and also right on the awesome bike path that ran along the river.  We hopped on the path and headed north out of town.

After a quick stop at Mickey D's for breakfast (we were the only people there on a Tuesday morning who weren't pushing 90!), we were pedaling out of Eugene and past a dam.  

There were only 2 noticeable climbs left, and they were tackled before we were even 30 miles in.  Shortly after the first one, we came to our first Florence sign!

The last climb was rather sustained, which meant Mel went pedaling on past while I took about 10 breaks on my way to the summit!  It was nice at the top to know that we had tackled the last big challenge of this journey :)

We enjoyed the last big downhill to, and continued on past Triangle Lake, and through some beautiful Oregon countryside.

We stopped for drinks and a snack at a country store in the tiny hamlet of Deadwood, and took a little break outside on their picnic tables.  I (Erica) was pretty tired, and we still had almost 30 miles to go to Florence.  We were still undecided about our final destination for the day at this point.

We pedaled through a few more tiny towns, and finally got to our decision point for how far we would go - Mapleton.  This was the last camping option before Florence, and only 14 miles from the coast.  We stopped in to another convenience store for our last convenience store snack of the trip!

As we have done so many times this summer, we parked it on the sidewalk in front of the store and took in some fuel.  At this point, I had decided that I wanted to press on and get to the coast today, we were ready for the conclusion of the trip, and would rather not drag it out for another day.  We still had plenty of daylight, and only 14 miles of gradual downhill to go to Florence!

It was then that we met Jodi - she pulled up in her car to the market, asked where we were heading for the night, and when we said Florence, she asked if we had a place to stay.  We definitely didn't, and had been planning on camping, but Jodi graciously offered us her cabin she built behind her home, and also picked up dinner for us to enjoy once we arrived at her place!  With renewed enthusiasm, we pedaled down he river headed to the ocean!

Finally, we arrived it Florence!

We wanted to try to find a beach to dip our wheels in that night, but the best we could do was a boat ramp on the river.  People probably thought we were nuts, but oh well.  The picture is on the real camera, so it'll have to come later.  We planned to find the real beach tomorrow, after we find a suitable place to get our bikes out to the water.

We did that, then headed to Jodi's.  she welcomed us to the cabin, and invited us in for dinner after we got settled.  How nice!  Jodi is a retired folk singer, Milly still works in town, and they became friends when they were both correctional officers in Texas.  They have traveled all over together, and have such interesting lives!

We changed clothes and came inside, and met Jodi's friend Milly, who shares the house with her.  We enjoyed a lovely meal, followed by ice cream cones, yum! Jodi and Milly both ride recumbent trikes - these things look awesomely comfortable!

We had some good conversation, the  retired to the cabin.  Jodi made sure to leave the back door open for us in case we needed to use the bathroom during the night.  We are continually awed by the generosity and kindness of people!

We had a great night of much needed sleep in the cabin!

We had such an eventful day, and an emotional one knowing that our journey is officially complete, and that we would wake up tomorrow with nowhere to pedal.  The rest is welcome, but we will sincerely miss the adventure.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day 84 - August 26, 2013 - Springfield, OR to Eugene, OR

Miles - 8 ish?

Today was another unintended day off. We got ourselves all packed up and ready to go, and were headed down the hall of the hotel...I noticed that rolling my bike down the hallway felt slightly strange, and just thought that maybe it just felt different with all of our gear reconfigured. Then, Erica says "Ummm...your back tire is flat." All I could say was "Ugh." But I wasn't incredibly surprised. As we were riding down Highway 126 a couple of days earlier, I was constantly dodging stuff on the road. At one point, I was pretty sure I ran over a tack on the road. I was pretty bummed about the flat tire for a couple of reasons:  I knew we had to find a shop to go get it taken care of (don't judge...back tires are a pain in the arse to fix and in our previous attempt to change a flat on my back tire, we ended up pinching the tube and wasted a bunch of time and a new tube) and this was costing us time on the road. 

But first things first, we stopped in to the post office and sent lots of stuff back home. Erica is quite the master at packing, and she managed to fit tons of our gear into a box to ship home. 
Then, we attempted to inflate my tire just enough to get us to the local Performance Bicycle store. The crew there was really cool and the technician was super fast at changing my tube, making sure to check my tire for any remaining debris. We chatted about bikes and our trip, and he was pretty impressed we didn't have any other mechanical issues. When we went to pay him, he just said "This one is on the house! Have a great rest of your trip!" I continue to be amazed at the kindness of people. 

Now we were approaching lunch time, so we made the decision to stay in town again, this time in Eugene. We hit up Chipotle for lunch again (my wife is so awesome for tolerating my love of this place) and found a room at a nice hotel right along the river, which had a great bike path! 

We wandered over to the shopping mall and decided to catch a movie (Despicable Me 2). Later on, we enjoyed the hot tub at the hotel, followed by a nice dinner at Noodles and Co. We went to bed pretty early in anticipation of our last day of biking ahead of us. 

Day 83 - August 25, 2013 - Springfield, OR

Miles - 0

We kept seeing a 30% chance of rain in the forecast for this day and were hoping we could make it out of town, but the rain and storms moved in overnight and we didn't feel like taking the risk. The night before, we had some trouble deciding on a route to take to Florence...we could either continue to ride down 126, a constantly busy road, but less miles, or take 36 out of Eugene and up a small pass, less traffic, but adding a few more miles. We spent a lot of time weighing these options and even considered splitting the ride to Florence over two days. Unable to make a decision meant a rough night of sleep. When we awoke to a rainy day, I think we were both relieved to have another day to make a decision. 

We knew that we could begin the process of sending some of our gear home, so we took some time looking through all of our stuff and deciding what we knew we could live without for the rest of our trip. It still amazes me how much stuff our bikes can carry, and how amazingly light they feel without all of our stuff on them! We decided to go buy a duffel bag to have once we shipped our gear home, so we could consolidate our clothes and necessities down to one bag. Thank goodness it is back to school season, as we found a pretty good deal on a bag! Of course, our mid-day shopping trip would not be complete without a quick lunch stop at the local Chipotle. 

We spent the rest of the day reconfiguring our gear and making a giant pile of stuff to send home. At least the rainy day was a productive one! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 82 - August 24, 2013 - McKenzie Bridge, OR to Springfield, OR

Miles - 52
Total mileage - 2,222

We awoke in our rainforest campsite, ate some nutritious powdered sugar donuts purchased at the country store last evening, packed up camp, and headed out.  It was chilly this morning, and we were both in long sleeves when we started pedaling.

Luckily, a few miles down the road we came to a convenience store with hot coffee to warm us up!  After a short break, we were back on the road.

The time we spent on Highway 126 today was mostly a gradual downhill, with a small shoulder to ride on.  Traffic wasnt too heavy, but the road is definitely well traveled.  We rode past another bicycle traveler who was waiting at a bus stop when we rode by, then he passed us by in not too long.  Must have decided to skip the bus!

We stopped for lunch in Vida, at the only restaurant, the Vida Cafe.  This place was pretty busy after we sat down!  Looked to be a good mix of locals and tourists camping in the area for the weekend.

We had the McKenzie River on our left for most of the day - our favorite roads are flanked by a river and beautiful forests!  We ride through a virtual tunnel of trees at some points today, such a pretty ride!

We stopped in another small town for a cold drink, and found a pretty unique art studio across the road - complete with its own Conderella carriage!

We turned onto a less traveled country road near the end of the day.  The scenery changed from forest back to rural farms and ranches as we approached Springfield.  On the outskirts of town, we found bike lanes again!  Yay! Bicycle friendly cities are the best!  The rest of our ride was through busy city streets to our hotel.

After a quick dinner at Taco Bell (only the best!), we took to going through our stuff and deciding what to send home as we headed out the next day.  With only two days of riding left at the most, we wanted to lighten our load a bit.  The feeling in our room that night was pretty melancholy - so hard to believe this adventure is nearly over, this thing we planned and looked forward to for so long will soon only be a collection of memories as we get back to reality...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 81 - August 23, 2013 - Sisters, OR to McKenzie Bridge, OR

Miles - 42
Total mileage - 2,169

Finally McKenzie Pass day!  We were excited to tackle our last mountain pass of the trip, looking forward to the beautiful scenery along the way, but also experiencing a little trepidation - we had 15 miles to the top, and we weren't sure how tough the grade would be.

We enjoyed some of the berries we got from the fruit stand for breakfast, packed up, and got on the road.  It was still a little cool out, but felt nice, and the forest smelled lovely after the rain the orevious day!

The first 7 or 8 miles were relatively flat, taking us to the base of the mountains through the Deschutes National Forest.

We saw this lovely sign:

McKenzie Pass is a big deal for cyclists.  In fact, the pass is closed in the winter because it gets so snowy, but they plow one lane through it about a month before it opens to vehicles for cyclists and hikers.  Cyclists make treks from all over to ride the road without any car traffic!  Google pictures of that if you have time, they are pretty impressive!

After those initial miles, the grade got steeper rather quickly.  Just for a short bit though - we spun away in some of our easier gears and kept at it, taking several breaks.  There wasnt much traffic, as promised, and we did see tons of cyclists (all one light road bikes without any other gear) pedal by us on their way up.  One guys stopped to chat - he was visiting his mom in the area and came over to do the ride up the pass.  Another couple passed us cheering us on...I'm sure we look a sight as we struggle away up the hill with pounds and pounds of stuff on our bikes!

The lava rocks started making their appearance soon enough:

Then we got closer to the summit and found this :

Lava flows!  Such a night and day difference as you head up this thing!  A group of three cyclists passed us on their way back down, and told us the last 3 miles to the top are rolling and not so bad.  That was all the motivation we needed...the last 3 miles went by quickly!  We met a couple at the top from Canada spending their vacation driving around Oregon doing day trips by bike.  Sounds like fun.  In fact, their first date was a trip to Africa to climb Kilamanjaro!  Cool couple!

It was windy and cold at the top of the pass, and you could see mountains all around.  Some still snow covered, with glaciers that never melt.  Very pretty, and interesting see all of the contrasting landscapes.

The road meanders a bit atop the pass, then finally, graciously, begins the long descent down the opposite side.  I'm going out on a limb to call today the best day of the trip.  We felt accomplished pedaling the entire pass, then had a spectacular almost 20 miles of beautiful descent.  Some of the hairpin turns were tough, and we had to stop a few times to give our hands a rest from braking, but it was fabulous.  Surrounded by towering evergreens, cruising through a virtual tunnel of trees, breathing in the fresh mountain air...I'm so glad this day was saved for one of the last of our trip.  It doesn't get much better.

We eventually met up with the busier highway, but has a wide shoulder up where we are, and cruised on into the little hamlet of McKenzie Bridge.  We arrived at the one small deli in town 10 minutes before they were due to close at 4:30.  The lady was gracious enough to serve us a late lunch and tell us she wasn't in any hurry anyway.  People are so nice!

We devoured lunch, headed to the country store for dinner and breakfast snacks, the  onto the USFS McKenzie Bridge Campground.  There were only a couple of campsites left since it was Friday night, unfortunately the ones right on the river were all occupied, so we picked one and set up camp.

It felt like being in a rainforest...the ferns and trees created a secluded cocoon around us.  We took some snacks later on and went to sit at a table by the river and just enjoy nature.  This is what I call camping!

It was not even 7:00 yet, but we were both exhausted.  We forced our eyes to stay open long enough to watch a few episodes of Friends, then succumbed to the exhaustion of the day.

Day 80 - August 22, 2013 - Sisters, OR - Rest Day

Taking a rest day today before tackling McKenzie Pass.  Our legs desperately need a break!

We wandered around town a bit, had lunch in the second oldest building in Sisters, checked out the famous Sisters Bakery, bought some fresh berries and peaches from a fruit stand, and browsed in the local bike shop.

Then it started raining, complete with thunderstorms, so we hid out in our room and rested with the sound of the rain outside the windows.  Always nice when you can stay inside on a rainy day!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 79 - August 21, 2013 - Mitchell, OR to Sisters, OR

Miles - 10 by bike, 78 by car
Total mileage - 2,127

We got to enjoy the last little but of downhill out of Mitchell before the climb up to another pass began.  The grade wasn't incredibly steep, but we noticed that our legs felt like Jell-o after the last week or so of tough pedaling over several mountain passes.  We were out of steam, and had 7 miles of climbing to go before we reached the top of the Ochoco Pass.  Neither of us knew how we were going to make it, given our exhaustion!

Secretly, while taking a break from walking my bike uphill, I was wishing for something to help ease our struggles for the day.  Not long after that, we noticed an SUV pull over about half a mile up the hill.  We pedaled up a little more of the hill, the SUV drove off again, and we settled in for more pedaling.

Not long after that, the same SUV pulled over on the other side of the road, and asked us if we needed help or a ride.  The woman said they had been the sag wagon for their kids several times, and hated seeing us walking on such a long climb.  We needed this break, so we decided to take them up on their generous offer!

They had a hitch rack for bikes - we loaded them up and crammed into their car next to their dog, Cody, in his cage.  They were packed to the gills because they had been away from home for a month and a half - first in San Diego watching their grand kids, then at their cabin in New Mexico.  We were so lucky to be crossing paths with them on their way home!

When they heard where we were headed, they offered to take us all the way to Sisters instead of Prineville, and we took them up on it, planning to take a rest day in Sisters before climbing our last mountain pass of the trip, the challenging but beautiful Mackenzie Pass.

They dropped us in the middle of Sisters, we thanked them for their generosity, and they headed for home in Bend, just 20 miles from Sisters.  We grabbed lunch, and decided to check into a motel in town.  Unfortunately Sisters is another tourist town, and everything is pricey!

It's cute though.  We checked in, and relaxed for a bit, had pizza for dinner, relaxed a little more, and slept.

Day 78 - August 20, 2013 - Dayville, OR to Mitchell, OR

Miles - 40
Total mileage - 2,117

We started today by making pancakes at the church.  They generously provide pancake mix for cyclists!  We were looking at another mountain pass today, so we headed out soon after breakfast.

In just a few short miles, we approached the entrance to picture gorge, part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  The ride through here was really pretty, with very little traffic early in the morning!

After the gorge, we had about 25 miles of gradual climbing to do before reaching the pass.  The high desert scenery was beautiful.  We noticed that the area must have gotten a lot of rain recently because a lot of the ditches on the side of the road had been washed out.  There were trucks full of rock passing us all day headed out there to repair the damage.

We also rode past what us known as the "pair tree".  Basically a tree that people toss pairs of shoes into.  Interesting.

We passed through a wide valley just before the final climb to the pass, and had a chat with some friendly local cows.  I never tire of the looks these guys give us - they are so curious!

Our personal little curse of the headwind struck us then as well just to make the last tough part of the day a little tougher. We made it to the top of the pass though, and couldn't wait for the downhill coast!

We stopped into the cafe in Mitchell, a really small town, and then to the hotel next door.  It was set up like a bed and breakfast, very quirky indeed.  On my way out of checking us in, two gentlemen on the porch asked where we had ridden from, and invited us to share their microbrew beer after we got settled.

We headed back out to the porch to join them for snacks and delicious Mt. Hood Brewery IPA.  Turns out, they met in third grade in a town about 47 miles away, and come back to the area every year for a class picnic.  Then they take 3 days at this hotel and use it as their home base for fishing together.  Al and Stan were 75 and 76 years old respectively - they have been friends for nearly 70 years!

We had some great conversation about religion, politics, and all of those fantastic topics :)  We helped them finish off their beer, delicious French cheese and crackers, and a bottle of wine, so they didn't have to take all of that home.  Just trying to help!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Day 77 - August 19, 2013 - Prairie City, OR to Dayville, OR

Miles - 45
Total mileage - 2,077

One of those lovely camping minute, you're wrapped comfortably in your sleeping bag as the sun rises, the next minute you can't unzip yourself from that thing quick enough to get out before you sweat to death.  That's how we awoke this morning, and quickly opened up the tent to let the cool morning breeze in as we packed up the sleeping bags and mats.

We stopped for breakfast at a local coffee shop, then headed on down the road.  Today's elevation profile showed a gradual downhill all the way to Dayville.  The scenery was more of the same - we were in a valley in the high desert - dry hills with sometimes lush farm or range nestled between them.

We had heard from several people weeks ago that the town of John Day had experienced a big wildfire recently - and we certainly saw the remnants of it as we approached the town.  Burned hillsides with the ring of red fire retardant dropped by helicopters marked both sides of the valley.  The fire came dangerously close to nearby homes.

We stopped in John Day for a bathroom and snack break at Dairy Queen, and there were many firefighters there grabbing lunch before heading to more hotspots in the area.  Summer sure keeps them busy around here.

We rolled through the town of Mount Vernon, eager to reach our destination.  And wouldn't you know it, about 10 miles out of Dayville, our pleasant day of riding is smashed with a strong headwind!  We took a lot of breaks, and powered on through, finally reaching Dayville and were greeted by this amusing sign

Dayville is close to the John Day Fossil Beds...haha.  We had a cold drink at the one gas station in town, had lunch at the one cafe, picked up a few drinks for the evening at the mercantile, and headed to the Dayville Presbyterian Church, which provides a hostel for cyclists, and has done so since the 70's.

We called Rose, as the sign in the church instructed us to do...she walked down from her house just next door to tell us about all the amenities they had for cyclists, all paid for by donations from cyclists (a shower, washer and dryer, fridge, full kitchen).  She welcomed us, had us put a pin in the map indicating our hometown, and told us we were welcome to sleep in the sanctuary.

Not too long after Rose left, a guy came in and let us know that he was teaching a hunter safety course in the sanctuary, but that they would clear out by 9.  Fine by us, we took showers, did laundry, made grilled cheese sandwiches from the leftovers in the fridge, and watched the first part of Ken Burns' documentary on The Dust Bowl.  The things history nuts do to wind down after a day of cycling...

Can you see the Shep silhouette in there?

I also had a tiny piece of what may have been the largest cake ever, leftover from a party for a local teacher who celebrated 30 years as an educator.  That's dedication!

The sanctuary was nice, but it took me forever to fall asleep - sleeping pads are much more comfortable on grass rather than a hard floor!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 76 - August 18, 2013 - Sumpter, OR to Prairie City, OR

Miles - 45
Total mileage - 2,032

We are ready for these mountain passes today!  Had a good breakfast at the cafe in town, and got on the road at a fairly decent time.

We hit the start of the climb to Sumpter Pass just out of town.  It wasnt all that steep to begin with, and wound through some beautiful pine forest.

Certainly not the worst way to start a morning.  It got steeper here and there, but we pedaled all the way up, with plenty of breaks, and made it to the top of number one - two to go!

The downhill was fun, but it's slightly depressing to lose all the altitude it took you a couple of hours to gain in a matter of minutes!  Someone needs to build a bridge from the first to the third do you only have to climb once!

We had a long flat valley to pedal through before the start of cling number two.  14 miles I think of rolling hills.  We kept anticipating the start to the climb at each little hill, but they let us down!

We passed a place offering rest and water for cyclists - I didn't go seek it out, but that person is awesome for doing that!

We finally found it, and the first part was steep!  We walked it, but were soon back in the saddle, pedaling away.  After the first part, the climb wasn't as steep as the first, and we made decent time to the top.  The bonus was that we knew there was a cafe in between this one and the start of the third!

We sailed down the hill, pedaled through a little more flatland before we found the cafe, and had a good lunch, including some ice cream for me!

Time for the final pass...this one was not nearly as steep as the first two, and we managed to pedal most of it, even though we were pretty darn exhausted by this point.

Now, nothing but downhill to Prairie City! It was a fast one, 6% or so grade, and beautiful views of the valley below.

There was a giant wagon thing halfway down the hill that we paused to take a photo on, then continued down.  We were going to go the extra 13 miles to John Day, but they had no camping options, it was getting late, and the dreaded headwind had found us again.

We grabbed drinks and rode to the local RV park to camp.  We couldn't find a camp host, so we didn't end up having to pay...they had really low cyclist rates anyway.  I pedaled back to town and visited the good old convenience store again for dinner snacks.  If I never eat another convenience store dinner, it'll be too soon!  We used the pay showers at the place, enjoyed our convenience store snack dinner, I made a cow friend in the field next door, watched some episodes of Friends, and drifted off to sleep.

She licked my hand, and probably loved it because I was still covered in salt at that point!  I've been whistling at and talking to cows in fields all across the country...they are all very curious, but this is the only one who wanted to actually come over and chat!