View Eastern OR: Day 5 in a larger map
Start: A few miles from Spray, OR
End: the Dayville Presbyterian Church, Dayville, OR
Miles Biked: 49
Money?: $10, 5 for food, 5 for lodging
Today’s theme: EXTREME HUNGER. Seriously, like a bottomless eating machine. When I took a break at a picnic area near the John Day fossil beds–only 11 or so in the morning–I’d already eaten my standard hefty oatmeal breakfast, plus a banana, a huge bagel with a shit-ton of almond butter, a tangerine, a peanut butter Clif bar, two other fruit bars, and probably some other munchies I don’t remember. We’re talking maybe 16 or 1700 calories already at 11. And I was still famished. I guess I didn’t eat enough the day before, but damn. I seriously felt like I could snarf my entire food supply and still be hungry. So today contained a lot of eating.
That’s also why, when I passed a sign for “fresh eggs,” I turned right in and found myself asking the woman who came out to meet me if she’d mind hard-boiling me some eggs from her lovely chickens. Not only did she not mind, she invited me into her kitchen and made me up a sandwich and a glass of kool-aid to snarf while we waited for the eggs to cook. It was the sweetest thing ever, and totally typical of the kinds of interactions I had with people on this trip. Awesome:)
Okay, food aside though. Today was a day of days. The journey south through the John Day Fossil Beds is amazing. Not only is the landscape totally beautiful, there’s a whole bunch of different hiking, a historical ranch you can visit, and the Condon Paleontology Center which has both crazy informative displays and real live paleontologists you can watch at work unearthing fossils.
Even though you’re not technically in the Painted Hills here, the minerals that make the Painted Hills look so painted are still present in a lot of this landscape. So the Cant Historical Ranch, for example, where the Cant family raised sheep up until World War II (and where they still employ a full-time farmer–the only National Park to do so–to keep up the ranch and orchard), has all sorts of awesome paintedness as a backdrop.
Plus, it was sunny until almost 3pm, so that was a pretty good ratio of good weather for the day!
When I first hatched the scheme to bike out to Eastern Oregon, I wanted to do so to bike on the Old West Scenic Bikeway, and when I turned south on Highway 19 today, down through the fossil beds, I finally joined up with it. I followed it not very far today though, just to Dayville, another itty-bitty Eastern Oregon town which this year boasts a whopping 4 high school graduates (and in a move that I found extremely charming, they’d put up banners with pictures of them on their street lights).
I didn’t mean to stop here, but while I was pulled over taking a picture of the post office (the “Pony Express Depot”), a woman who had clearly pegged me as a bike traveler rolled down the window of her pickup truck and asked me if I was going to stay in Dayville that evening–because if I was, she said, she would go unlock the church which also doubled as a bike hostel. Intrigued, I rode up to meet her at the church, where she’d already unlocked a few inner doors (the outer doors are always unlocked) to the laundry room, computer room, and bathroom/shower.
It was kind of amazing. Here was a functional Presbyterian church that also takes in bike travelers and offers free laundry, showers, kitchen, sleeping. They take donations, of course, and all the provisions are funded by those, but they turn no one away. Even though it was only 3pm and there was plenty of biking time still left in the day, I decided I would camp out in Dayville and spend the first night I’d ever spent in a church.
Sleeping before god wasn’t the only cool thing about this though. heh. The weather turned amazingly crappy not too long after I got there, with thunder, lightning, and rain, so the idea of being able to walk around town and then come back to a cozy, dry roof sounded pretty good. Plus, it was a chance to charge up my camera and phone (and I actually got reception there, so a chance to talk to my family too:), and to wash myself and my clothes. Pretty sweet.
It was fun to read their guestbook, which dates back ridiculously far, full of people who had traveled through before me. Many of them were coming across the country, some were just traveling for a few days; all were thankful for their time there. It made me feel like part of some large and largely unseen community of itinerant cyclists. I liked what Jeff wrote in August of 1997 after having traveled all the way from Virginia:
I am glad to have confirmed for myself that this country is not only beautiful, but is full of wonderful, generous, kind people.
There is also a lot of sagebrush, quite a few recreational vehicles, and some interesting road paving techniques.
I also know that there is so much more to see, and that I don’t want to look at it from behind a windshield.
The point of the journey is not to arrive.
So rad. There is so much left to see. And I want to see it on my bike:)
(more church pictures (and other adventures:) here)