Nick on the bike 2005: Oregon to Virginia
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Day 8: Sumpter to Richland
July 22, 2005, 7:32 PM
Where am I now: Richland, Oregon (44.76893N by 117.16692W at 2165 ft.)
Today's distance: 80 miles

gatorade factor: 64 fl oz

Today has been a study in contrasts. When I woke up at dawn it was raining gently on my tent, and a family of deer was munching on the scraggly grass of the campsite. The rain put me back to sleep, but shortly I emerged to discover that although it was sprinkling, nothing was getting wet, it was evaporating as soon as it hit the ground.

I fixed oatmeal & tea, broke camp. I rode back into Sumpter to photograph a huge old mining dredge that's beached in town. The whole river valley has been churned through the dredge in search of gold, now people are building upscale homes amid the tailings piles.
gravel chomping mobile miner on the Powder River



upscale houses amidst churned-up alluvial gravels
I'll ship a CD with images to Jonathan a soon as I come to the next WalMart. Trouble is I haven't seen any WalMarts in have these folks managed to survive? (Or, how have they managed to escape WalMart proliferation?)

The ride into Baker City along the Powder River was a joy. 25 miles or so mostly down hill, under overcast skies, cool temps. What a relief from the past few days' heat!

Baker City, Oregon is a very nice western town of about 10k people. I cruised Main Street, made my usual inquiries as to where get breakfast, and ended up in a grand old lady of Baker, a hotel who's name escapes me (but when we get the images up it will be there).

street scene in downtown Baker City, Oregon

breakfast at the Geiser Grand.

This place is where I'd stay if I were staying in Baker. I don't know if it's been restored or just well maintained, but it's a 3 story center-of-town hotel with early 20th century decor, good food and nice people.

Two folks from the group of seven with whom I dined in Mitchell and again last night in Sumpter had sought out the same breakfast venue. We chatted.

After breakfast I rode around Baker in search of a bike shop that has tubes to fit my wheels. After visiting one outlying shop that was closed, I ended up at another shop back on Main Street near where I'd started. They had the tubes, and the proprietor was into my steel frame Bontrager mountain bike. It's something of a rare breed in the realm of transam touring bikes.

After I left the bike shop is when the contrast stuff starts. Having decided to ride on, since it was a relatively cool day, I navigated out of town under what had become partly cloudy skies.

Flagstaff Hill, east of Baker, is riddled with wagon tracks from the old Oregon Trail, and is currently locus of the BLM's Oregon Trail interpretive center. The Hill also seems to mark another transition in my eastward trek, from somewhat forested desert scrub landscape, to land that is sage brush and rock, devoid of trees. The view east brought to mind the vastness stuff I was thinking about on the airplane.

The interpretive center involved a climb similar to going up Afton Mountain in Virginia, but hey, what's another climb? When I got to the top, the two folks I'd eaten breakfast with were there, they'd (sensibly) stashed their bikes & hitched ride to the top. The interpretive center is very good, I didn't know BLM did this kind of stuff. I met a black guy while eating my peanut butter sandwich who is from Williamsburg (VA), out here doing a lecture series for BLM on black people & the Oregon territory. It's not a pretty story.
windy times on Flagstaff Hill, BLM Oregon Trail

By the time I left the center, the winds were up, sun was partly out, and the temps were back up there. I got blown eastward in high gear for about 8 miles to where the road got back to the Powder River.

home on the range


The route descended into a twisty canyon, and things got crazy with the wind. I think the steep rock walls had some kind of cork-screw effect, on minute it would be a 30mph tailwind, the next it would be in my face & just about stop me in my tracks. No way to anticipate & switch gears as when a hill is coming up. All this with air that is now about 100 degrees warm. It was one of the toughest mostly downhill rides I've done, but it was exhilarating. Stark scenery; neat geology, cool river.

sunrise on Main Street, Richland, next morning

I beat my way into Richland around 3pm and checked into to Hitching Post Motel (the only game in town). After 6 nights in the tent, I'll take a pass this night, I really don't feel like fooling with pitching my tent in this wind. It looks like the group of seven will be here too, I'll probably dine with them again tonight.

Tomorrow: Idaho!

Photo of the day: