Exploring Central Oregon by Bicycle (Part 2 of 2)

Before I give the run-down of the rest of last weeks bike tour, here is a picture of the tent. This was taken in 2012 on my cross-country tour. The tent really is shorter than the picnic table.

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Day 3

Once again, it was rather cold as I began pedaling out of John Day, heading south on hwy 395. The road curved gently as it headed out of town and except for more than a dozen log trucks heading north into John Day, I had the road to myself. Growing up on the coast of Oregon with only a vague understanding of the eastern side of the state, I never really considered that there would be logging operations out here. But there seem to be plenty of trees in the Blue mountains and given the truck traffic…

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My short day yesterday seemed to have rested me as I easily cruised up the first pass of the day. On parts of the road that didn’t get any sunshine due to shadows, there was still frost and some snow clinging to the side of the road. But I soon left all that behind, well until I reached the top. Then I got to take a cool picture with my bike next to a bunch of snow with a sign of the impressive elevation I had achieved.

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Above: looking back down the valley I just rode up. Below: the top of the first pass.

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From here, the route descended a little and then leveled out into a high valley surrounded by low, snow-covered mountains. The air was cold, but the only wind was generated by my riding. Creeks were frozen. It was beautiful riding. For miles the road gently meandered through the most beautiful part of the trip, then gradually up to the final pass before heading down to Burns.

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As I descended the last pass, Devine Summit, the scenery changed. The road descended into a canyon (filled with cold air) and the forest disappeared and was replaced by Oregon’s high desert. Some people don’t like deserts, but I do. I like the simplicity and the stillness. I love how, at first, deserts can appear plain, but once you start paying attention, you realize there is an endless amount to discover. In part, one thing I like most about deserts is how they keep you focused on things that are truly important: like water.

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Day 4

The wonderful thing about starting the morning off bicycling in a desert is that when your phone battery is low and you need a solar charge, you don’t have to wait for the sun to be high enough in the sky to reach over the trees alongside the road. Because there aren’t any trees.

Hwy 20 between Burns and Bend is, by some, considered the most boring road in Oregon. After this trip, I am not one of those people who thinks it was boring. First, the scenery is great. But, it is a desert, and just in case the scenery gets monotonous, along the road, there is a lot of history that one can absorb.

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Unfortunately for this otherwise perfect day, the nearly non-existent tailwind I was supposed to have all day actually ended up being a mild headwind. Not nearly enough to make cycling too hard, but I definitely wasn’t traveling as fast as I would have liked. So as the day began to end and after about 85 miles, I pulled off the road and set up camp near the town of Brothers, about 45 miles from Bend. I could easily to that in the morning right?

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Day 5

So, I woke up, unzipped my tent door, looked out at the desert, my bicycle covered in frost, and thick fog. This was not in the forecast.

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The fog was so thick that I couldn’t see the road from my campsite, and I wasn’t that far from the road. I read a book for an hour thinking maybe it would burn off, but it didn’t. Well, no problem. I’m in Oregon. I packed up my bike, headed out to the road, stuck out my thumb and in 3 minutes I was loading my bike into the back of a pickup truck.

So I didn’t ride the whole 350 miles, but I still put down a little over 300 miles of cycling. It was a good adventure.

One final thing: if your looking for a good book about adventure, my reading for this trip was Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen.

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5 thoughts on “Exploring Central Oregon by Bicycle (Part 2 of 2)

  1. What a great tale with beautiful pictures! Wish I’d been there. . . . . Well, maybe not. My recliner and warm blanket along with my movie of a crackling fire is hard to leave. Glad you enjoyed your trip.

    • In 2012 I did a cross country tour from Washington to Maine. I think it might have taken almost a thousand miles before the leather saddle was fully broken in, but after about 500 miles, it wasn’t too bad, although any really long day can make one sore. The saddle I use is a Brooks B17. Many long distance cyclists use this seat. At this point, it’s pretty great.

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