Eastern Oregon Bike Tour: Day 8

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Start: Malheur National Forest
End: A mile or two outside of Kimberly, OR
Miles Biked: 95
Money?: none. free day!

Best day ever! For several reasons:

1. I decided today that I would have to make friends with the headwind or else I would go crazy. So I started calling it “stasia’s special headwind,” as in “aw, stasia’s special headwind is back, how lovely,” or “oh man, I missed it for the last five minutes or so, but I’m so glad my special headwind is back to keep me company!” heh. It sounds silly, but it actually did help me re-frame the wind as something funny instead of infuriating.

(a helpful flag outside of Long Creek helps illustrate my very special headwind)

2. State Route 20 is amazing! The Old West Scenic Bikeway follows it in its entirety, and though the whole thing follows the middle fork of the John Day River, it never commits to any one kind of landscape. I went through forests with osprey high in the trees, to grassland and desert, to crazy lava spikes, and everything in between. It also twists and turns enough that stasia’s special headwind, though certainly present, was often confused enough to leave me alone for a few minutes at a time.

(just one example of route 20–though the first part was somewhat roughly paved and spotted with cattle guards, it was overall an extremely beautiful and no-traffic road)

3. Highway 395, which I turned onto once route 20 ended, is also an amazing ride, taking you up into what feels like the top of the world (though at just shy of 4000 feet, Ritter Butte Summit is definitely not the highest point of the trip)

4. Did I mention that once the morning clouds burned off, it was sunny for most of the day? And warm?! I was so psyched to be able to take off my jacket for once–and by the late afternoon, I was even wearing shorts! YES!! That’s the desert I thought I was coming out to see! :)

(only warm-weather clouds here:)

5. I saw a bunch of awesome animals, including two sandhill cranes just chillin’ and looking like dinosaurs on the side of the road. Those suckers are huge!

6. Small-town eastern Oregon residents are the nicest people ever. After I asked some people in Monument if there was anywhere I could camp in the city (“city”), they directed me to a park that definitely said “no camping.” I mentioned my trepidations about the no camping sign and they were quick to reassure me that it doesn’t matter, everyone does it (in fact, one of the other places they said I could camp was right in front of city hall, also not a designated camping area but also something “everybody does”).

Later, when I’d been chilling at the park for a while trying to decide if I was going to camp there or not, one of the same women I’d talked to before came driving down on her ATV to “check on me” and make sure I’d found the good place at the end of the park where it’d be more quiet. She also wanted to invite me back to her place once I’d set up camp to have some beers with her and the other people I’d originally asked about camping. So sweet. I ultimately decided to keep biking down the road for a while since it was still early to camp and I was feeling spunky, but as I biked past them again they all waved and cheered and offered me beer to go. This is totally representative of how I was treated in basically every little town I biked through.

(sheep in the Monument suburbs:)

7. I found an amazing place to camp–again, right on the John Day River, so peaceful and lovely. It was also nice enough that I could finally sleep without my rain fly.

(so psyched!!)

This was a great day, especially following yesterday’s total lameness. It was the kind of day where I kept having to remind myself that this really was happening, that I really was out here feeling so strong on my bike and rocking my way through eastern Oregon, so far now from home… This is the kind of bike travel day I live for.

(more pictures here)

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