Tour Day 27: Vale, OR to John Day, OR

September 13th, 2007

113.86 mi / 8:36:32 time / 13.2 mph avg. / 39.5 mph max. / 5863 ft. climbing
Staying at Dreamers Lodge Motel

Yesterday at the grocery store in Vale I talked to a little old lady (her words!) riding her Schwinn who was trying to discourage me from camping at Bully Creek, because it meant I’d have to come all the way back east to Vale to get back on US 26. Apparently she’s just too much of a wuss to handle the 8 miles of gravel road that I ended up taking north to the highway. C’mon, grandma! Ok, so “gravel” is used a bit loosely out here; there were quite a few sections piled with 6-inch round river rocks, which I somehow managed to ride over. And then some sections of sand too, which I didn’t. But hey, it’s all fun as long as no one pops a tire (and I didn’t).

So I was all satisfied with myself for surviving on my own planning skills, until I got to Brogan, which was a destination she had suggested (“you’ll have the wind blowing you that way”) and saw that they had a not-bad-looking RV park/campground with showers and laundry for $10. D’oh. But I have hard time trusting people out here, because most of the time I’ve done so much planning that I know more than they do. Case in point, there were a couple of good ol’ boys sitting outside the gas station in Brogan, and GOB #1 says “well, you got less’n 300 miles to go now!” GOB #2 corrects him, saying it’s more like 400 (and he’s closer to the truth). But then GOB #2 says “well once you’re past Dixie, it’s all downhill”. “Oh yeah? Where’s that?” “mmm, about 40 miles”. Well, it’s more like 70, but see, I already knew that.

Eastern OregonSo just after Brogan, I had to climb a 1300-foot hill, which began what a clerk in New Plymouth referred to as “The Passes”. I didn’t really know what that meant then, but now I’m pretty sure this is what she was talking about: four ~1000 foot climbs, some with descents following. Brogan Hill at 3941 ft., Eldorado at 4623, Blue Mt. at 5109, and Dixie at 5277. All that adds up to a day with nearly as much climbing as my day over the Bighorns, and a lot more distance covered. But it also makes for an interesting day with no time for boredom at all. And GOB #2 was right, once I crossed Dixie at 91 miles, the next 22 were all downhill.

After the Brogan Hill, I decided to pump up my tires, and then realized I should have done that days ago, because suddenly I was flying. But then 10 miles down the road I got a flat (from a staple), which maybe wouldn’t have gone through the tire if it was under less pressure. So does it all even out? Maybe as far as time goes, but I guess my energy expenditure is still less.

Oregon Pass #3At Austin Junction (where I had a great ice cream cone), I met my first non-Yellowstone touring cyclist, going the other way. He was originally from Wilmette, and had this weird Extenda-Bike thing that stuck his wheel way out the back so he could mount two really long rear panniers, sort of a pannier/trailer hybrid. Austin Junction is also the point where my pre-planned route shows me getting off US 26, but a couple days ago I made the decision to just take 26 the whole way. Even though it looks less direct, it’s only about 2% farther, with a lot less climbing, and I figured probably a few more people and services (as it is, US 26 is easily the least-traveled US highway I’ve been on).

Coming Down From Dixie PassThe downhill stretch continues past John Day, so I could have easily made it to the state park eight miles down the road (both in terms of daylight and energy), so it was a tough decision whether to continue on or not, especially since they have $4 hiker/biker campsites there. For some reason I decided to just go with the motel, I guess because I realized I’m the only one who cares about the “Camped The Last Two Weeks Straight Without A Motel” record.

Turns out it was a good decision, because the town of John Day loves me. First, the girl at reception told me about 18 times “If you need anything at all, just come by and let me know”. Then as I was walking to my room, I talked with a guy who has ridden all around Oregon and Washington, and he gave me some route advice. Then as I made my way to my room and was opening my first-floor door, the motorcyclist who had been checking in just before me said, “you must be better-looking than me; she told me they didn’t have any first-floor rooms left!” Finally, my favorite: just as I was closing my door, another guy who I’d just briefly spoken with at reception popped by and said “hey, I don’t know if you partake, but if you want to smoke some pot later on, you’re welcome to join us!” I thanked him, but politely declined, and instead went to dinner with the cyclist guy and his friend, who were generous enough to treat me both to a meal and some good cycling conversation. Both have broken the 100,000 lifetime-miles barrier (which is one of my long-term goals) and are still riding, so that was inspiring. Now I’ll go to sleep, and see if I wake up smothered in a pile of money and hookers.

Day 27

4 Responses to “Tour Day 27: Vale, OR to John Day, OR”

  1. Steve M Says:

    Anything… Anything at all? Hmmm…

  2. Swati Says:


  3. Dana Says:

    Holy crap, it’s day 27 and you are still riding?!? Sorry, I haven’t read in awhile. How many more days do you anticipate it will take you to get there?

    Chris and I joined our local YMCA the other night. I plan on riding the stationary bike in your honor. I’m sure I’ll be thinking, “How the hell can Neil do this for days on end?” (Although, the fact that it’s stationary is probably blasphemous to you.)

    BTW, the chicken dance comment was not based on anything official yet.
    I meant it in the “some day” kind of way.

  4. Swati Says:

    Now that “dood!” is out of the way. 😉 I’m thinking that the motel girl wouldn’t have said anything to you if you hadn’t taken that shower the day before, eh? Plus, she would’ve put you up on the roof – forget giving special you the “first floor” room. And “partake”? I always thought only Hindus and hippies used that term – and your interaction just solidifies my thinking. Plus a dinner treat with some good people! You’re right! John Day loves you. 😉 Oh wait, that came out wrong, the CITY of John Day loves you. 😉
    PS: Don’t care one way or the other about the hookers, but did you wake up in a pile of money?