June 20 - 29: Oregon

6/23 - Mitchell (74 miles 3712.5 total)
another beautiful day dawned at john day....& we were up to see it dawn. breakfast was at 5 a.m., so everyone was up early, & the really early-birds were on the road by 5. sari & i were off by 5:30...a new record for us.
we were rewarded for our efforts by brisk tailwinds for the first 30 miles or so...all the way to dayville, the first & last town with food on our route today. we quickly spotted the bike-marked cafe...not so difficult, since it was the only cafe in dayville. there was a tableful of locals lounging over their coffee on the front porch. one commented that the temps today were going to hit 100. they also told us about the big july 4 celebration in their town next week; they encouraged us to bike on to florence then drive back to be a part of it.
inside most tables were full (with bikers), so sari & i joined a young fellow at a booth; his name was ben & he turned out to be a hiker passing through town. he's from corvallis, but will spend the summer hitchhiking & hiking through wilderness areas of oregon & nearby states. since sari is also an experienced hiker, they enjoyed sharing stories of their hiking trips & it was fun for me to hear them.
service was quite slow at the cafe because, as so often happens, we had overwhelmed the one staff person on duty, who quickly got on the phone to call in reinforcements. she took our orders & cooked them up as quickly as she could; the denver omelet that sari & i shared was very tasty.
back on the road, we pedalled on to the much-anticipated sightseeing highlight of the day....the john day fossil beds national monument. i never dreamed that there was this sort of landscape in oregon. this was our first taste of what was to come: picture gorge.
i took this picture with a zoom setting a ways from the split in those rocks. our road continued right between them. i was awestruck by the walls of fascinating rock formations towering on both sides of us as we rode. it's called picture gorge because of the indian pictographs that have been discovered on the walls.
on the other side of that gorge we turned right onto the side road that would take us to the fossil beds visitors' center 2 miles off route. there we found a beautifully restored early-oregon ranch that served as the visitors' center....chockful of interesting displays on the fossil beds, some of the richest in the world. as the info pointed out, fossil beds that span even 5 million years are rare. yet these beds show an almost continuous 40-million-year fossil record of diverse plant & animal life that existed here 54 million to 6 million years ago.
here's a photo showing the fossil-laden hills out behind the visitors' center. again at this site we found that oregonians do an excellent job at showcasing the wonders of their state, just as we had found at the oregon trail interpretive center a few days ago.
we'd only accomplished half of the assigned miles for our day so needed to move on west. jo was driving the subaru today; she told us that the roads ahead were "rolling," but as we pedalled we found that they were pretty much a steady uphill. we were headed toward the top of keyes creek summit (4,357). we were kept busy dodging lots & lots of lumber trucks, the job made trickier by rough-surfaced roads with usually no shoulder. fortumately the temps never reached 100, but it was still very warm & the scrub vegetation of this area provided few opportunities for shade. finally sari & i spotted a shoe tree near the road with a cement wall nearby so gladly stopped to sit in the shade, eat a sandwich, & drink lots of water. sarah stopped to join us. you probably wonder what a shoe tree is doing in the middle of oregon. it was a tree from which were hanging about 20 pairs of used athletic shoes. it smacked of a high school prank to me, but it provided us an entertaining respite.
headwinds made our last few miles to the summit quite a strain, but fortunately the climb itself was quite gradual. near the top we saw some signs that surprised us....signs i've never seen before. here's the spanish version; in the bargain you got a look at one of those giant trucks so common along our route today. these seem to be more like 2 trucks pulled by one cab.
earlier signs had been in english, warning drivers that a narcotics agent & police dog were working ahead. at the summit we found 3-4 police & sheriff's vehicles; some of the officers were in camouflage garb. i called out to one of them sitting in his car, asking him what they were trying to find (i meant what kind of narcotics). he said it was like fishing; they never know what they'll catch. he asked me if i had anything they might be looking for, & i told him that if motrin didn't count, i didn't. later jo talked to them & found out that they post the warning signs down the road & have officers in camouflage hiding in the woods near the signs. if a vehicle, upon seeing the warning signs, throws anything out of the car or quickly makes a U-turn, the nearby officers radio their comrades to pursue the possible offenders. later in mitchell we learned that the officers had made a drug bust that day. in fact, across from our hotel they had a little red car on a flatbed that they had confiscated earlier. who would've dreamed we'd be witness to such excitement in this quiet little part of the world.
at the end of a leisurely 5-mile coast down the other side of the pass we found ourselves in tiny, quaint mitchell. here's a picture of the historic oregon hotel with me sitting out front; new owners dan & cherie hopper have renovated it. our rooms are very homey & quiet.
patty is happy to have a grill in the back yard. for supper she grilled steaks, made a big spinach/feta salad, sauteed yellow & green squash with herbs, prepared some of her famous garlic mashed potatoes, & created a rhubarb cobbler. we greatly enjoyed our luscious supper, but quickly, since we were off to see the painted hills before the sun set.
we piled into the van & subaru for the 6-mi drive to painted hills. these are composed mostly of claystone layers, which include ancient soils & lake beds. mixtures of various elements produce beautiful colors on these hills.
i took this photo with a zoom setting to try to give you an idea of the unique texture of the hills; they have an organic look to them, the way they lie there almost like a huge prehistoric creature. that's gerrie & sarah sitting there taking it all in.
it was entrancing gazing at these hills, but we had another full day of biking ahead so needed to return to our hotel. finally tomorrow, our 8th consecutive day of biking since our last layover day, we'll reach redmond & our last layover day on sunday.
Higher quality versions of the pictures from my trip are available here. If you would like copies of the original, full-size photos, or if you would like text-only versions of these daily reports e-mailed to you, feel free to e-mail my son Mark with your request. Stay tuned....

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