Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 56: Prairie City, OR to Mitchell, OR (84.5 Miles)

The temperature decided to dip down into the upper 30's last night and made my tent seem all the more worthless. They should include a caveat when selling this tent: "Eureka Single Season Tent: Not Applicable to the NorthWest." Falling out of my tent, I walked over to the bathroom and came upon a small family of deer. There's a lot of wildlife out here. I heard an interesting trifecta of canine noises last night... an eclectic mix of long wolf howls, short coyote calls, and rapid domestic barks. I wonder if they all understand each other or they're just trying to out-shout the other like O'Reilly and Olbermann?

I broke camp and got on the road by 7:30 and began a pleasant ride to John Day, only thirteen miles away. I made it to my breakfast stop within 45 minutes and found a nice little restaurant to serve me a very delicious french toast breakfast. They not only had great food... they also supplied free WiFi, so I hung around for a bit updating the travel blog and checking emails. I had a short day planned, so I was in no hurry to get back on the road. However, I soon became bored with the internet world and quickly got back on the road. I noticed that my front tire had a very minuscule puncture and I decided to see how long it could last with each inflation. I stopped again in the town of Mount Vernon to send off my last batch of post cards and was assaulted with questions by a group of curious children. "Where are you from?" "Where are you riding to?" "Why are you riding?" The last question actually stumped me... maybe there are too many reasons or just one simple, yet allusive, reason?

I arrived into Dayville a little before noon and I instantly realized I couldn't just stop here for the day... in spite of a free stay at the local Presbyterian Church. I stopped in at a gas station, purchased some junk food and looked over the maps. The next stopping point was about 40 miles away and included a 2,000 foot climb up to Keyes Creek Pass. My legs were feeling just fine and the afternoon heat was somewhat tolerable due to some prevailing winds, therefore I quickly decided to keep riding. Little did I know that I was in for a very scenic, albeit challenging, afternoon of cycling.

The climb up from Dayville was very gradual and surprisingly enjoyable. Within minutes, I was riding towards the John Day fossil bed area. The gorge was very scenic and very windy. As I've written before, these narrow valleys and gorges funnel down winds and concentrate them into steady deterrents for cyclists. The next trip I do, I'll be sure to check out trends in wind patterns and will hopefully not have as many headwinds as I've had on this trip!

This section of the ride featured a multitude of snakes. The sight of slithering creatures makes on think they're seeing mirages. It's only when you ride up on to a nasty rattle snake, do you quickly recognize that threat and try to bike around them. Now, I have the knack for being susceptible to stereotypical phobias, poisonous snakes being one of them. It's not the bites or the creature that scares me, it's what they violently send into your bloodstream. The conscious awareness of a deadly substance traveling through your body is not very desirable. With that in mind, I was very aware of my surroundings when I stopped to take pictures or to eat a snack. Blake no like snakes!

As I was riding upward, my phone began to rang. Apparently, I had turned it on during my stop in Dayville and forgot to turn it off. The voice on the other hand was Chris Holmes (one of the lads) and he told me that he, Callum, and Dowds had met up to ride with the Chrisses, the Bernsteins, and Matt from Manchester. I would have loved to be riding with these guys, but I was happy to be this far along (I'm about 3 days ahead of these guys). I told Chris to send everyone my love and got back to the road. The ride up from the gorge was thrilling and beautiful, but I was not rewarded with my climb up into the high plains. I hit more winds and slowly inched forward as best as I could. I stopped to change out water in my bottles and then noticed a tree full of shoes. If I had an extra pair, I would have loved to build upon this beautiful work of art...

At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I finally climbed over the pass and headed down towards the town of Mitchell. This descent was still slow, due to the omni-present headwinds. When I finally did pull into town (if you could call it one), I had to look hard for a person to ask about lodging/camping. I found a big bear of a man (who, ironically, takes care of a bear) and he told me that the local hotel offers a bunk and shower for 15 bucks. This sounded like a deal and I headed across the street to check in. After dealing with a very rude/impatient lady, I carried my junk up to the room and found two men already claiming their bunks. Robert and Rich were out from Portland on a photo expedition. I chatted with them a bit, took a shower, and headed next door for a bite to eat. I had the greasiest food and was attacked by flies and promptly paid the bill. It was probably the quickest dinner I've ever had. The waitress was nice, but she showed me a crazy picture of her feeding the local bear, "Henry." In one hand she was holding the large carrot into Henry's mouth and in the other hand, her baby. Good parenting 101. Oh, and I also met another Brit who was riding from Portland to Chicago. I told him what to expect and he headed off into the blazing late afternoon heat... I did not envy him. I'm going to head back to the room to hang out with the guys and hopefully talk more about photography. G'night!


Aaron said...

Holy smokes...You're almost there!! That's so exciting.
PS. I love the shoe tree!

may said...

WHY are you riding? You should attempt to answer that in your next entry. :)

I loved the shoe tree as well!

Momma said...

I love the blog!
I love the photo's
But, I really love that you will be home soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love you, Momma

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