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  

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