Day 50, Baker City, OR – Mount Vernon, OR 95 miles (3753 total)
July 30, 2008
Time on bike: 8:43:03
Daily Ascent: 4347 ft (46 ft/mi)
Elevation at days end: 2900 ft
Max: 39.5 mph
I took the day off yesterday to get rested up. I spent my day off exploring Baker City and photographing the town as well as uploading pictures. I also visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The Oregon Trail began in 1843 and it took emigrants as long as 6 months to get from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. There are still wagon ruts visible near the Center.
From Baker City today there’s a 60 mile stretch without any towns, restaurants or convenience stores, with the exception of McEwen Country Store. I opted for a 3 mile detour off the route to Sumpter for a bite of lunch about 30 miles into my ride. Lunch included a salmon sandwich and a waitress who refused to let my Coke get beyond ½ empty.
After lunch I had 3 passes to climb in a 30 mile stretch. Each mile went up 1,000 feet from the valley below: Sumpter Pass, Tipton Pass and Dixie Pass. From Baker City the land was still arid and dry, covered with sagebrush, but about 15 miles past the rolling hills became covered with pine trees making it a pleasant ride. It’s amazing what adding one accessory can do to improve the whole landscape wardrobe. My ride continued through pine tree lined route 7. I did stop at McEwen’s Country Store, or at least trying to. From a ways off I could see the Coca-cola sign hanging up, but I couldn’t see the store. Only a church. Behind the church, where the sign was hanging was a house. I recognized the barn from my guidebook so I was sure this was the place where the store once was. The old barn was covered with a myriad of antlers and old rusty tools, and I mean covered! A boy of maybe 7 saw me pushing my bike up the hill and shouted inside, “Grandma, someone’s comin’.” “Is the store open?” I asked. “Grandma, is the store open? …Nope, not today, but you can get some water if you need it.” I talked to the boy for a while. His name was Lucas and he was visiting for the summer now that summer school was out. He’d never heard of Virginia, where I’d started, but he’d heard of Florida. He told me the names of the 3 dogs who were very interested in smelling me and all my stuff. Eventually “Grandma” came out. She was very friendly and I showed her the picture of her barn in my guide book. She’d never seen the picture before. It was taken 12 years ago and the barn had a new metal roof put on since then. Before it had a wooden roof. She’d been out weeding around the barn yesterday. She called her husband over to have a look at the book who had just come out of the garage. We talked about biking and about other bikers who had come through. They said they were almost all friendly except for a few. The store they opened on occasion but there just wasn’t much business. “Grandpa” talked about the friendliness of people he’d met when he’d ridden his Harley to Sturgis. He looked like a Harley rider, for sure! I wanted a picture of him just for the heck of it but was semi-afraid to ask. He actually used the word ‘bitchin’ at one point. A true Harley rider. They were both super friendly though and I could have stayed and talked to them all morning, but I had riding to do.
The road I was on was being redone with tar and gravel, so it made riding difficult. If I rode in the road it wasn’t much different than a gravel road, but the narrow shoulder where they hadn’t worked wasn’t bad.
I’m noticing veins in my legs where I didn’t even know veins were supposed to exist!
Riding today through the pine forest smelled like a Hallmark store around Christmas time.