Sunday, September 27, 2015

Prairie City to Boise

September 17 - 21, 2015

Garmin GPS data - with maps: 

Hotel Prairie
After 9 days of riding, I was happy to be resting in a comfortable hotel. Prairie city is a very quaint, historic town with a population of less than 1,000. Since it is located on the TransAm bike route all the businesses have signs inviting cyclists in. Recently, there had a been a very big fire that raged through the Strawberry Mountains. In fact, the fire is still burning deep in the mountains but close to containment. The fire came within 2 miles of the town just last week. Everyone said the atmosphere in the area was apocalyptic. The sun was almost completely blotted from the sky with ash falling like snow. All the businesses also had signs thanking firefighters for saving Prairie City. 

I had breakfast my first morning at a nice coffee shop, Java Jungle, across the street from the hotel. It's bow hunting season and 3 hunters were also getting coffee. These guys had been in the woods for the last 10 days. They were all in their 20's and have hunted from the time they were big enough to hold a bow. They told me a story of a great elk that is so famous he is part of hunting lore in this area. The young man told me the elk must be 10-12 years old by now, which is very unusual, and it is huge. Yesterday, he and his friends couldn't believe their luck when they tracked the 
fabled elk. The guy telling the story said he had a clear shot from only 30 feet away. The elk was his. He drew back his arrow....and his shoulder popped out of the socket. The elk got away again. The guy couldn't decide if he was in more pain from his shoulder or losing that elk. One of the guys got a picture and the elk is huge and magnificent.

The next morning I had breakfast at Chuck's diner. I've been wondering about something I heard and hoped there would be locals I could get verification from. The locals are so used to seeing cyclists, I easily started up a conversation and was able to quickly get my info. While I was camped at Ochoco, the camp host told me a story about a cyclists that had been rudely splashed with cow manure while riding. He was covered head to toe with manure run-off from a passing cattle transport truck. What a nightmare! Ever since I heard this story I wondered if it's legal for cattle trucks to spew manure like that.  Yes, in fact, it is legal for cattle trucks to spew manure. Considering manure spray could also dangerously muck up a windshield or easily be sprayed inside a car, I was really surprised. Manure is also a big source for ecoli and that spray could, quite possibly, make someone deathly ill. These locals also said that if a cattle truck hits property, and maybe even a cyclist, they will not be held liable for damages. Cattle trucks truly are bullies on the road. I guess this shows how powerful the cattle industry is.

Ray from Fish and Wildlife
After 3 nights at the Hotel Prairie, I felt much better and ready to hit the road. From the moment I started out, the rain was falling lightly. My first day of rain. From Prairie City, there is a gradual nine mile climb. A couple of miles into the climb there is a view point with a huge covered wagon landmark. I was able to ride under the covered wagon to keep the trike dry while I put on warmer clothes. I got about 6 miles up the hill when a guy from the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife offered me a ride. He had just finished clearing beaver dams and, because of the rain, his day was done. That ride was a short 3 miles to the top but probably saved me an hour of riding. Very nice! Once I got packed up again there was a great sweeping downhill to Austin Junction. The only thing in Austin Junction is a cafe where I stopped for coffee and met some cyclists that had abandoned their Cycle Oregon ride because of the fires. I think this junction is where the TransAm bike route turns northeast to Baker City. I haven't seen very many cyclists and, now that I was leaving the TransAm, I would probably see even less.

Covered wagon respite from the rain

Put everything back on the trike at the pass

Beautiful countryside

Rains moving on
As the afternoon wore on, the winds picked up but by the time I got to Unity the rains had stopped. I stayed at the Unity State Park Campground which is nice but totally exposed. Hiker biker sites ($5) have no trees but a nice view of the lake. The showers are solar heated so, since it rained all day, there was no hot water. The lake was built for agricultural irrigation and the water had a weird smell. The only spot out of the wind was behind the shower building. After asking the camp host, I set up the tent on a grassy patch out of the strong winds. Just as I was getting the fly up a big rain squall went through. Then there was a terrific rainbow - beautiful.

Fabulously fat rainbow
There had been one night of planning this stretch into Boise where I couldn't see a place to stay. I noticed an RV Park on the map in Brogan and wondered if they would allow tents. It's such a small town the RV Park might not even be in business anymore. The thing is, if I call and they say no, I can't show up. And, of course, my T-Mobile phone service has been completely useless since leaving Sisters so I couldn't make the call if I wanted to. I asked the camp host in Unity if she could call Brogan to see if I could set up a tent. Camp host to camp host might have better results. The camp host in Unity was great about it too. There is very little phone reception in the campground but she found a spot a few sites over where, if she faces the lake and stands perfectly still, Verizon offers 2 bars and the call might go through. She made the call and the Brogan RV guy was fine with me setting my tent for $7.50. Now I didn't have to worry about where to stay. It's the only thing I ever worry about. 

In the morning, I woke up to pea soup thick fog. Everything was wet. Even stuff in the tent felt damp. I was nervous about the 5 miles I had to ride into the town of Unity for breakfast. Luckily, there wasn't any traffic. The temps were in the 30's and my socks got wet from the fog. Wow did I have painful, frozen toes by the time I got to the cafe. Many cups of coffee and a good breakfast of poached eggs and hash browns and I was ready to carry on. The fog wasn't as thick and the temps were warming up by the time I started out again. There was lots of climbing over 2 passes all morning. I also saw clear evidence of recent fires with both sides of the road being burnt and the smell was still strong too. I also had my first experience with deep rollers of the trip where the up was longer than the down. 25 mph down 2.5 mph up - over and over. At the top I was hit by a big headwind riding a long plateau. At the top of another pass I met a cyclist headed for the TransAm. He said the RV Park in Brogan wasn't safe but there was a city park to set up a tent. Hhhhmmmm...sure didn't like the sound of that. There was a wonderful 7 mile decent the rest of the way to Brogan. Even into a headwind I managed a good speed.

Summit before the wonderful 7 mile descent into Brogan

First thing when I got to Brogan, I pulled into the small grocery to have a look around and get info. 2 older cowboys were sitting at a table sharing a box of cookies. Both had lived in Brogan all their lives. One guy also owned the store. They didn't have anything good to say about the RV park. The owner's nickname is Jeff the meth. They said the police are called out often and speculated that jail time is required to get a space there. One cowboy had read a cyclist's blog of his stay at the RV park where the showers were described as filthy and guarded by huge spiders. The other cowboy, like the cyclist I met on the pass, suggested I pitch my tent in the city park and even offered to show me the way. He said he would be getting up at midnight to chase elk out of an alfalfa field and would check on me. Both these guys were very nice and I really enjoyed talking with them.

The park was a big surprise with thick, flat green grass, a gazebo covering a picnic table, water, bbqs, electricity and outhouse. The gazebo had a guestbook for visitors to sign and people from all over the world had written notes. The town really takes good care of this park and it was obviously a source of pride. The rest of the town didn't look this nice. And the wind had died away.

A couple of locals living across the street were curious and came over for a chat. I suspect they wanted to know my story to make sure I wasn't up to mischief. Another woman offered for me to pitch my tent in her yard a couple of blocks away if I didn't feel safe. I was already set up and it seemed like a lot of work to move to another location.

A Brogan local stopping by for a chat
I slept well but was awakened at 5:30 am by a deluge of water hitting the tent. Sprinklers!! Wow did that scare me. Luckily everything was in the tent and Myrtle's seat was also covered. I had crossed into mountain time so the time was actually 6:30 and was a perfectly reasonable time to get up.

With an earlier start I headed towards Vale. There was no wind and a slight downhill. This was my 4th day in a row having poached eggs with hash browns. Today's were the best - breakfast with coffee for $4.50 in the blink-and-you'll-miss-it small town of Willow Creek. At Vale, I had to decide which way to take into Boise. Hwy 26 had been really good and I was planning to continue stopping for the night in Nyssa. I met a group of cyclists who said the hotel in Nyssa isn't good and gave me a wonderful cycling route into Ontario. They said from Vale Hwy 26 is very busy and unpleasant. Riding into Boise from Ontario is also easier. Great!! I rode passed fields of onions being harvested. Lots of overloaded trucks passed me leaving a trail of onion skins. The side of the road was littered with fallen onions too. It was an easy ride and I got a room at the cheap Oregon Trail Motel on busy Hwy 30.

Video into Emmett

Idaho! My first state crossing.
In the morning I was delayed because the sun was directly in driver's eyes. I stopped for breakfast having poached eggs and hash browns again. Good but not as good as Willow Creek. I left Ontario, crossed the Snake River and I entered Idaho, my first state crossing. I stopped for a state sign picture. All day I rode through agriculture land where farmers were busy picking onions. Since it was Sunday, there wasn't much traffic to compete with. Just onion trucks but they were all very patient. Halfway between Ontario and Boise sits Emmett where I got a cheap room at a RV park/campground. It was a very easy and flat ride for the 30 miles.

Video climbing Freeze Out Rd
Again in the morning, I had to wait for the blinding sun to rise. Today I found a cafe that served, my favorite, oatmeal. I also stopped at Walmart for some fruit before the sun was high enough to continue. Today was a big day, I was riding into Boise. Getting to Boise had been my focus up to this point and I had today marked for my arrival. 

While I was in Prairie City, I put out a message on BentriderOnline and the Recumbent Trike Group's Facebook page that I was headed to Boise. I knew there are trikers in Boise and I was hoping to meet up. Someone responded that their brother-in-law is a Boise triker and made the introduction for me. Kurt Z and his family opened their home and warmly welcomed me. Kurt gave me really good directions to the house from Emmett taking Old Freezeout Road and I arrived in the early afternoon. One of my urgent concerns was to find a place to store Myrtle while I fly to Los Angeles for my aunt's 90th birthday. This was not a problem. Kurt was happy to keep Myrtle and my gear safe and let me stay as long as I needed. Kurt is also very involved with Warm Showers and does programming for their smart phone apps. We chatted about trikes and gear for hours. Really fun!

Kurt with the trikes
Funny thing happened after Kurt and his wife apologized for their calico cat. They said the cat is very moody, doesn't like anyone and will probably swipe at me if I try to pet her. Somehow, Maggie the cat, loved me. She sat purring next to me while I did computer work and even slept with me. We were bestie pals.

Maggie the cat

Fun meeting trikers Justin and Josh in Boise

There are other trikers in Boise too! I had lunch with Josh and Justin, guys I know from the recumbent retreat and TOT. They took me to a lovely vegetarian restaurant where we talked about travel and had a nice time.

I also met up with Nancy from the Family on Bikes website. I followed the adventurous tour she took with her husband and twin sons on uprights from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina a few years ago. This is one of world's most epic routes. We yakked away an afternoon going on a nice hike with her dogs and then out for lunch.  Nancy is intrigued by trikes and talked about switching for future tours.  She took Myrtle for a spin and I think she liked it.

Nancy and pups trying out Myrtle
Family celebration
I had my flight to Los Angeles on Wednesday. Lisa, Kurt's wife, generously took me to the airport. The trip to Los Angeles was short and sweet. We had a very nice party for my aunt's 90th birthday at the home of friends who live in the Franklin Hills with a stunning view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign. We all enjoyed being together, eating wonderful food and singing songs. It was a special time and I was super happy to be there.

Yesterday, I returned to Boise and am now preparing for the next leg of my trip to Salt Lake City. The big news is I have a triking friend from Washington flying in to Salt Lake City to join me. I've known Maryann for many years mostly from attending the recumbent retreat. She has done trike tours but this will be her first 'big' tour. We'll see what happens but I might have company all the way to Florida and think this will be a blast. Who knows, we might even get others to join us....

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

First week on tour update.

September 7 - 14, 2015

Ready to ride!
Zero, zero!
Wow, the start of a new tour. It wasn't an easy decision about when to start riding. After Labor Day means less traffic on the roads which makes for more enjoyable cycling. This time of year can also be very hot and this year there was the added complication of terrible, historic fires in Washington and eastern Oregon. These fires had devastated many, many communities. Luckily, the week before I started there was enough rain to make riding through Oregon possible. Originally, I was going to ride north through the Olympic peninsula and then east in northern Washington but the fires made that route impossible. I changed the route so that I go through Boise instead of Missoula.

A big consideration for my route planning included making sure I would get to a birthday party on time. One of the main reasons I wanted to ride in the US is I have friends and family celebrating big birthdays this year.  It will be much easier to fly-in for a weekend from the US than out of the country. The first birthday party I'm going to attend is for an aunt in Los Angeles. She is turning 90 and I really needed to figure out where to get a flight from. It's not easy to calculate where to ride so I can get a flight to Los Angeles at the right time.  First, I needed to get to a town big enough to have an airport, and hopefully, an airport big enough that the flight wouldn't be too expensive. Eventually, I settled on riding from Portland to Boise starting on Labor Day. I would have 520 miles to ride in 16 days. Barring any mishaps, that should be very doable. Hopefully,  when I get to Boise I will find someone able to store my trike and gear while I go to the birthday party. 

Starting out the driveway to begin a tour across the US.

So, with everything set I was ready to start riding. Bags were packed and it was time to go. My friend Annie saw me off and took some video. And that was it, I was flying down the hill to start my tour from Portland to meet triking friends in Mt. Angel. It was a beautiful day and the ride was easy except for one small section around Oregon City. I had to ride up and over a good hill to avoid a dangerous section of Hwy 99. The road put me back on Hwy 99 with a couple of miles of less than ideal conditions. I had very little room with grumpy, heavy traffic. But after that it was smooth sailing.

Connie and Jerry with the chicken flag in Mt Angel
Connie and Jerry have lived in Mt. Angel for a long time and they are very involved in the community. Mt Angel is especially famous for it's Octoberfest. This small town of 3,700 people sees 350,000 people attending it's festival. Connie and Jerry proudly fly a large chicken flag they found in Germany to commemorate the festival. They showed me the important chicken dance and sang me the theme song that includes yodeling.  Connie made a wonderful meal with lots of veggies fresh from her garden and Jerry opened some nice wine.  Jerry also told me that Wednesday was international-bring-your-local-priest-a-beer day. He had a very special present ready for his local priest.

Jerry's gift to his local priest.

In the morning, Connie took me on a tour of Mt. Angel and then escorted me with her trike out of town. She also gave me a delicious gourmet food package for the road. Thanks for the wonderful visit!!

With Connie getting ready to tour Mt. Angel
Covered bridge in Scio
On the road to Sweet Home
Warm Shower hosts in Sweet Home
My destination for the day was Sweet Home to stay with Warm Shower hosts.  About half through the ride I left them a message to expect me around 5 pm. The ride is 54 miles which is a lot for me. The scenery was great and the terrain wasn't very hilly but the surface turned to chip seal that really slowed me down. I didn't arrive until almost 7:30 pm. Jonathan and Almut warmly welcomed me and had a fantastic meal ready. They had been to Newport and picked up tuna right off a fisherman's boat. The tuna was grilled with lots of delicious veggies. They have a very comfortable set up for cyclists with a separate guest house. Thanks for your hospitality and opening your home Jonathan and Almut!

Cyclist guesthouse in Sweet Home
Ron, 1st trail angel
Hand pump at Lost Prairie campground
The next day I had picked out a campground on my way up and over Santiam Pass. The scenery was beautiful and there wasn't much traffic. There was a lot of climbing though. At about 5 pm I looked at the map and saw I had close to 5 miles to go. Climbing at 2.5-3.0 mph meant it could take me another 2 hours to get to the campground. Then a woman rolled down her window as she passed saying the sun was shining right into driver's eyes making it difficult to see the road much less me. She suggested I be careful. Hhhhmmm...  She was driving a truck and could have at least offered me a ride! I rode for another 1/2 mile and decided getting a ride was a very good idea. I flagged down the first pickup truck and Ron generously helped get Myrtle and me to the campground. Boy was I happy I flagged him down too. It turned out the campground was more than 9 miles. Lost Prairie is a somewhat primitive campground with a hand pump for water and pit toilets (with toilet paper!). No one else was camped and I had the place to myself. 

First camp meal
1st camp site - Lost Prairie on Hwy 20

I had packed enough food to make a nice meal. Online, I read there was only a hand pump for water and wasn't sure what that meant so I filled 2 bladders carrying 6 liters just in case. I'm glad I did too. The water was safe and drinkable but had a strong, unpleasant mineral taste. It was fine for cooking but drinking on the road would have been less than ideal.

Mt. Washington

This year I upgraded most of my camping gear and was more comfortable. I have a bigger 2 person tent, 25 inch wide pad and plush 20 degree down sleeping bag. In the morning I made my usual oatmeal with a strong cup of coffee before getting packed up to start more climbing to summit the Santiam Pass. The downhill was great and I was in Sisters sooner than expected.  I stopped at Ray's Market for some supplies and called my next Warm Showers hosts, Karen and Steve.

Terrific WS hosts Karen and Steve in Sisters

This couple has done a lot of touring, mostly on recumbent tandem. What a surprise to find out I had met them before, a few years ago at the recumbent retreat. They made me a fantastic meal and gave me lots of info about the road ahead. I was now on the Trans Am bike route and there were lots of interesting places to see and options for places to stay. 

View from Warm Shower host's home
The next morning Steve showed me on the map where to take the O'Neil Hwy which parallels Hwy 20 but is much quieter with lovely scenery. After a few pics, I said goodbye and pushed off. Karen and Steve have a fantastic view of 7 surrounding mountains and lovely farms.  It was another beautiful day. I easily found the O'Neil Hwy outside of Redmond and enjoyed every mile riding into Prineville. I stopped at a market and ran into a group of cyclists from Portland who were just beginning a week's ride. It was already after 2 pm and I was surprised they were starting out so late in the day. Even though there would be a lot of climbing to their destination at Ochoco Pass, they were young and strong enough to make the campground before night fall.  

Old time scenery on the Trans Am
My destination was the hiker/biker sites at Ochoco Lake campground, only another 7 miles beyond Prineville. I registered paying the $5 fee. The campground is in a beautiful setting overlooking lake Ochoco. The bathroom is spotlessly clean and the shower has very hot water. I also found an electrical outlet outside the bathroom to charge up my electronics. The only issue with the hiker/biker area is it sits on a sloping hillside. Luckily, there weren't any campers in the RV sites and I was able to put my tent at the top of the hill on even ground. I made another nice meal frying up veggies and cooked rice from a pouch.

Lake Ochoco

Everyday I've had a tailwind and it really helped me get up and over Ochoco Pass the next morning. It was Saturday and probably a third of the cars that passed me had fancy bikes on the back. These bikers were on their way to the start of Cycle Oregon. This week long ride starts on Sunday in Baker City. I even saw quite a few recumbents.  Coming down from the Pass was fun and fast. Boy o boy was it hot though. I think the temperature went up 15 degrees from one side of the mountain to the other. Many people had recommended taking a detour to the Painted Hills. I really wanted to but I was frying in the 100 degree heat and was just too hot. I ended the day's ride at the city park in Mitchell where the cyclists I first met in Prineville were already camped. This is a group called Cycle Wild who do long weekend and week long rides around Oregon. Yesterday, they had used a company called Bike Concierge to take them from Portland to Prineville and they would use the same company in a week's time to take them from Baker City back to Portland. This company will take bikers pretty much anywhere in Oregon. I thought that sounded like a really great idea.  

Mitchell Park
Staying at the park was really fun. There was the Cycle Wild group, a couple of other cyclists, people car camping and even hikers staying. I think we counted 15 tents set up. It costs $5 per tent. There is a gazebo with lots of electrical outlets and a public bathroom across the street. No showers but the bathroom door can be locked. I took advantage and rinsed out my cycling clothes while taking a sponge bath. It was so hot getting the clothes dry was no problem. Mitchell is really cute and there were a few restaurants open. The grocery store had a sorry selection of veggies but I managed to find enough to restock my supplies.

Cycle Wild cyclists caught me at the top of the climb out of Mitchell
The next morning the Cycle Wild folks were busy making a hearty breakfast of pancakes. We had the large picnic table crowded with hissing canister and alcohol stoves. I was packed and on the road about 8:30. One cyclist, Jimmy from Philadelphia, was still asleep in his tent when I left. There's a 6 1/2 mile climb out of Mitchell and the Cycle Wild group caught me close to the top. Everyone passes the turtle. There was a wonderful downhill for miles and miles. It went through the John Day fossil beds and Picture Gorge. Amazing scenery and, boy o boy, it was hot. I stopped to chat with a cyclist, Don from Idaho, coming westbound. He highly recommended staying at the church in Dayville which was my destination for the day. Jimmy from Philadelphia passed just as I got to Dayville. It was fun seeing everyone throughout the ride.

At Dayville, I stopped at the grocery/bike service/souvenir shop where I met up with the Cycle Wild group again. They had detoured to the John Day Fossil beds and looked about to collapse from the heat. I also met the new family from Portland who owns the grocery store. The husband was a bike mechanic in Portland for 10 years. Simon asked if I needed any help mechanically with my trike. In fact, I had been hearing a pinging sound from my rear spokes and wondered if the wheel needed truing. I unloaded the bags and he took a look. He said my rear wheel was really strong and totally true. He noticed I had black spokes and said the coating is known to cause the spokes to 'sing'. Fantastic. Nothing was wrong and I didn't need to worry about that anymore. I said goodbye to the Cycle Wild people who were going another 22 miles to Mt. Vernon and made my way to the Dayville Community Presbyterian Church a few blocks away.

Dayville Community Presbyterian Church

Sleeping in the chapel.
This church is famous on the TransAm and I was excited to stay. Rose Saul runs the place and lives a few doors away. She came over introducing herself and showed me around. The church is like an oasis for TransAm riders. All cyclists are welcome 24 hours a day. The doors are never locked and the fee is by donation only. Over the years, through donation, the church has been able to slowly add amenities and now has everything a cyclist could want. There's a washer/dryer with detergent, hot shower with towels, full kitchen with anything you could need for cooking and wifi. They even offer all the fixins for pancakes in the morning. The appliances had little plaques saying they were purchased with biker donations. Bikers set up their sleeping mat and bag wherever they feel comfortable in the chapel-just not on the pews. I was the only person staying and had a very peaceful night. It felt luxurious to have all my laundry done. It's interesting how the hiker/biker sites ask for $5 and it never occurs to me to leave more. The church is by donation and I left them $30 feeling like that was a great deal. What a terrific concept and wonderful example of 'true' Christian action.

Donations help the church purchase appliances for cyclists to use

I had been on the road over a week when I took off in the morning from the church. Even though I slept well, I could feel I was ready for a rest day. Today's ride would be 44 miles with a gradual incline to Prairie City. The skies were overcast and it was nice to ride in cooler temperatures. The scenery was very beautiful with soft hills and lots of lush green farm land. As I arrived in Prairie City, I could see evidence of the large fires this area experienced very recently. There was still some smoke rising in the distant Strawberry mountains. Every business had a sign in the window thanking firefighters for saving the small town. 

A few cyclists had recommended a charming, old-time style hotel in Prairie City and I decided to take a couple of rest days here. I was very behind on my Internet stuff with lots of photos and video to upload. I also needed to get a journal update posted. Just as I rolled into town it started to rain lightly. My timing was perfect. Considering I had only spent $40 for accommodation up to this point, I didn't feel too guilty spending the extra money for a hotel splurge. There is also a campground in town but I really wanted to have a good rest.

While I take my rest days, I'll be trying to arrange for a host in Boise that can take care of Myrtle while I go to Los Angeles. I'm hoping to meet some triking people there too. 

This first week of touring simply couldn't have gone any better. The roads and weather were good, there wasn't much traffic, I had fabulous scenery and ate well, met lots of wonderful people and I found a safe place to sleep every night.

Video update of first 8 days of the tour

So far I've ridden 350.80 miles. Not bad for an old turtle, eh?