Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Jerry, Robbie, and companion Blackie We're dressed for riding...but not this day!




Thanks to Jerry of Portland who came down to see me and ferried me past Eugene, Oregon for the gain of a day, desired for San Francisco arrival. Jerry accompanied me to sea fall on the Pacific Ocean, where I completed my cross-country bicycle tour by dipping the front wheel into the western waters. The Oregon sand dunes had very strong evening winds that made lofting my bike overhead difficult. We didn't linger on the late evening beach. Jerry was also with me at the conclusion of the 2013 cross-country ride, riding that year the last two days with me to the beach west of Astoria, Oregon.
It's very windy

Friday, September 23, 2016


The first experience upon crossing the Snake River at the head of Hell's Canyon was the obligatory photo op with Blackie at the state welcoming sign of Oregon. I looked down as we rolled away from the sign. The ground was covered by the condemnable Goat Head Thorn!!!
Ground view of goat head thorn
Goat head thorn leaves with pods
Pods...Devil's Eyelash
This is the most tenacious, invasive plant I have ever encountered. It is a 1/4"-3/8" pod with 1/4" spikes radiating in all directions. It is tough as nails. The thorns do not break. Because the thorns are on all sides the pod always sits with other thorns pointing up. It spikes everything. Even car tires get punctures from this menace. This plant loves dry environments and I have been surprised not to have seen it already in the arid western states beginning with eastern Colorado. Now there are six of the damnable things stuck in my tires. If I had not purchased new tires in Missoula, Montana I would have at least three punctures. I have not rolled far so they have not worked deep into the new rubber and I am able to remove them. I remain paranoid for the next several days until crossing over the crest of the Cascade ridge. Fellow cyclists Allegra and Gabe from Seattle, out for a long Labor Day holiday bike tour, don't fare as well. The next day as I ride with them to Baker City, Oregon, Gabe has four punctures, perhaps two by the thorns and two from other causes. He's not having a good day! We all take a motel night.
Downside of road debris...and thorns
Past Oregon made its living from resource extraction...mining, timber, fishing. Much of this has vanished, but remnants of mine tailings, dredging pools near streams, pressure washed sides of mountains, second growth forests, and past conditions of depleted fisheries are still seen. The state park of Bates, near the one building town of Austin Junction, closed as a paper mill town housing 250 people in the early 1970s. The families of the mill have an association and gather once a year to honor their past and camp in the attractive state park built on the remnants of the mill site. I celebrated by waking with light frost on my panniers and riding the one mile to the metropolis of Austin Junction for the morning breakfast and hot coffee I hope to have there, shared with eight motorcyclists on tour who commented that the frosty cold was more severe at 70 mph.
Bate State Park
View from camp
  I made good time this day on the road so when a right hand turn came up that promised a store and chance to hover over a hot coffee, I rode the three miles off route to the old mine town of Sumpter. 
Sumpter, Oregon
  Much of the west was settled by Europeans in the later part of the 1800s. There is a noticeable tendency toward southern Confederacy sympathies with place names such as Sumpter, a variation of Fort Sumter, South Carolina. I also view a few Confederate flags in these parts. But this day is the beginning of the annual Labor Day weekend flea market blast. There's not much shopping I need do but I stoll through the vendors none the less. Then I spot the pulled pork sandwich sign and indulge...the lady vendor even offers me a free cup of coffee, so my search is fulfilled. The adjacent jerky vendor does a fine presentation of his product and I leave with a half pound of pork jerky and a pound of spicy, smoked, cubed beef jerky. This lasts me for nine days.
Flat valleys between mountain uplifts
The route goes through the community of John Day. There are rich finds of paleontological interest here due to the geological uplifts and erosion evident in the landscape. And at one time the second largest Chinese community of men in the United States lived in John Day, the only surviving structure being the Chinese pharmacy and stand-in cultural center operated by Chinese immigrants, Ing “Doc” Hay and Lung On. Both became locally famous: “Doc” Hay as a practitioner of herbal medicine, and Lung On as a general store proprietor and businessman. For 50-some years, the building was a social, medical and religious center for Oregon’s Chinese community. This community was almost entirely men. They did not anticipate staying in America, but hoped to gain wealth and return to their wives and children back in China. They thus did not assimilate into the hostile western culture and lived separately. Their labor was usually exploited, but they worked tirelessly building roads, cutting train routes, mining ore, and serving on ranches. As with other minorities, they eventually were forbidden to own land. The single building of Hay and On passed through a trust from the day of Hay's passing in 1952. The doors were locked for two decades before the city learned they were the owner and began its restoration that includes the best example of a Chinese community in 1800 America.
Chinese building in John Day, Oregon
Business-community side
Medical side
Neighborhood of John Day
And road through basalt rift
Basalt layers are 8,000 years apart
  There continues to be the unexpected selfless gifts along the road.
Sign post on long day between services
Old mining town of Mitchell, Oregon
Repurposed use of irrigation pipe wheels
  Unlike my last cross-country trip in 2013, I have had little occasion to visit friends along the route. The exception will be Susan and Greg Mitchell who moved to Redmond, Oregon from Asheville about two years ago. They hosted me graciously. Susan is a late night person. We sit up till early morning chatting. They take me to some of the local highlights such as Smith Rock State Park that is known world wide for its rock climbing challenge. There were many from several countries there that day enjoying a workout.
Greg Mitchell, formerly of Asheville
Smith Rock...find red climber in central lower fifth of rock face
Smith Rock, near Redmond, Oregon
  Anticipating a possible very long bike ride and some urgency to begin planning for the final approach to this journey's end Greg drives me thirty miles closer to the Cascades and the town of Sisters. It is there that I begin my last high climb to McKenzie Pass. The ridge of these mountains are volcanic creations. The eroded cones are very visible on Mount Washington and adjacent peaks. Lava flows from thousands of years ago are clearly evident. 
Mt. Washington and lava flows
Last summit
Sister mountains with glacier
Sister mountains
  Crossing the United States in the central plains encounters hot, dry landscapes from mid Missouri, through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon. For ten weeks I have carried an extra two liters of water as emergency rations just in case. For two and a half months I have smelled sage and juniper. For more than half this journey I and my gear have been covered in the dust of the Great American Desert. All that changes within two miles of summiting this last climb over McKenzie Pass. The change is outstanding. It boggles the mind how the weather patterns drop all moisture on the western slopes leaving little for the eastern lands. It has sometimes rained at night or conveniently as I arrive at a motel, but I have only worn my rain jacket to ward off light rain on two occasions from mid May to late September. Then it happens...lush ferns, thick moss, dense forests, DECIDUOUS trees, rushing streams, clear water, humidity. It's only one more day before I will step into the Pacific Ocean.  
  ...and there is no further chance for Goat Head Thorns...or as I would rather call them, Devil's Eyelash.      


STATS Idaho/Oregon 674 miles @ 10 ride days @ 67 avg miles per day @ 54 saddle hours @ 12.4 avg mph @ 28,800' elevation climb Accumulative  3,926 miles @ 63 ride days @ 62 avg miles per day @ 320 saddle hours @ 12.3 avg mph @ 165,670' accumulative climb  

Thursday, September 8, 2016


  Look who meet me in Glacier National Park! Jenny flew into Missoula, MT. We stayed one night at the new Shady Spruce Hostel...very nice accommodations...rented a car, threw Lou (the bike) into the rear, and headed to Glacier.  Many people have tried to describe the attraction of Glacier National Park. I believe it comes down to the sense of scale. Glacier does not have the highest mountains or the most dramatic, but taken as a whole the scale of the place is awesome when one is immersed in it. It's easy to understand why this was a sacred place for the Blackfeet people that still live at its edge.  
Old Montana mine town
Glacier mountains
Turquoise water
Swift current Lake with Grinnell glacier on left We are hiking to this glacier
Glacier on right
Grinnell at 4 miles
Grinnell at 2 miles
Grinnell foot soak
Reflections on a theme
Blackie on Highland Trail


Bull moose
Mom moose and young
Big horn sheep


Another critter (without Bonnie)



After nearly a week in Glacier we drove to the Bitterroot Mountains southwest of Missoula, Nez Perce traditional territory. It was in this area that Lewis and Clark passed coming and returning from the Pacific coast. They drank from a spring on the east side that eventually flows to the Mississippi River and Atlantic Ocean, traveled less than a half mile up and over Lolo Pass and drank from a spring that flows to the Columbia River and the Pacific. It was here after nearly succumbing to the rugged, impassable mountains that the expeditionary forces were saved upon finding a Nez Perce village on the western side. The eastern section of US 12 that today crosses through this remote mountain forest and up to Lolo Pass, was not built until the early 1960s, making US 12 the last US highway constructed.
Lochsa River
  The expedition left bronze medallions with the Nez Perce tribe as a token of American friendship from their great chief Thomas Jefferson. These same medallions were presented to U.S. General Howard three generations later in 1877 to remind him that the Nez Perce were friends of the great chief...before Howard began a campaign to force all Nez Perce onto a federal government sanctioned reservation. Nez Perce Chief Young Joseph lead a group of 750 non-treaty Nez Perce across the Bitterroots on a path they hoped would lead into Canada where the Nez Perce could live peaceably, retaining their freedom and culture. Falsely believing they were in safe territory in an isolated river valley known as Big Hole, Montana, the Nez Perce were instead meet by an early morning surprise attack lead by Colonel Gibbon, who directed his soldiers to take no prisoners and to aim low into the tepees where the sleeping natives rested. Gibbon was perhaps influenced by his knowledge of Custer's Battle of Big Horn only a year earlier. It was a horrible morning! Most native dead were children and women. Nez Perce Warriors regrouped and fended off Gibbon's soldiers which suffered 30 percent casualties, while Chief Joseph lead the women and children to safety. It was soon after this battle however, as the survivors were within 40 miles of the Canadian border, suffering hunger and cold, that Chief Joseph and his followers surrendered to U.S. authorities. It probably needn't be stated that these troubles began with the discovery of gold on Nez Perce lands in 1860. I stayed at a free camp just outside Wisdom, Montana on my way to Missoula, stopped the next morning at this memorial battlefield of Big Hole, and crossed over Chief Joseph Pass, named in his honor. Jenny and I stayed a night at a lodge on the Idaho side of Lolo Pass. The next morning she drive back to Missoula as I continued westward. Biking along the Lochsa River, I contemplated the rugged Bitterroot wilderness that surrounded me and the travails of these peace seeking Nez Perce.  
Wheat field with adjacent burnt field
Decent into Whitebird, ID
Tumbleweed waiting to jump on each curve of switchbacks