We exit the historic Union Hotel at 6:30. The sky is sunny, wind minimal and temperature a comfortable 51 degrees. I have mixed emotions. The setting is beautiful, cycling conditions perfect but I feel a bit of apprehension. My quads are sore and feel bruised. Each pedal stroke causes a twinge and I know that we have a climb coming up within a couple of miles.
The Sweet Spot
This conflict between pain and the joy of cycle touring is a daily occurrence and I know that it will pass. After about forty five minutes the legs have adjusted, acquiesced really, to the task at hand and pain is no longer a part of the equation. The mind is free to focus upon the truly awesome beauty of Eastern Oregon. Distant snow capped mountains, huge ridges in the immediate distance and familiar crops of my childhood, alfalfa and prairie grass, are adjacent to the smooth paved road of Oregon highway 237. It is quiet, the light soft, the birds are active and chirping away, traffic minimal and we enter into the sweet spot of bicycle touring. All is well.
Middle Chain Ring / Large COG
The climb begins in a canyon with winding roads. Earl and I settle into a comfortable pace and spin up the grade. It’s a moderate grade but several miles long. Neither of us are bothered and simply stop for a photo break when necessary.
As we pass the windmill farm and railroad trestle at the top of the grade, Earl says, “four more miles to a pile of hash browns.” I find this to be enormously funny and have to stop the bike to recover. Earl always has a quip just at the right time. Love that about him.
Last night, Earl and I stopped into the Union Public House for a pint to discuss our route, weather forecast and, more importantly, where we could get breakfast at an early hour. The Pub owner suggested that we wait for breakfast in North Powder River just 15 miles down the highway. The North Powder Café is famous for its breakfasts. So we decided to wait for breakfast until arriving at North Power.
Big Chain Ring, Smallest COG
Highway 237 suddenly reached the top of the last ridge and we can see the valley below. We can see the village of North Powder River and trucks snaking along interstate 84 in the distance. As we descend a 9% grade, I say to Earl, “better tie yourself down for this one”, as we glide smoothly down a twisted highway to flatland below.
After breakfast, we ride under the freeway overpass and take old highway 30 toward Baker City. The Big Chain Ring, Small COG combination allowed us to efficiently pedal on the flat ribbon of a highway as it meandered away from the freeway. Twenty Two miles to go to the end of our tour in Baker City.
- This has been an extraordinarily fun experience. Love Eastern Oregon, Earl’s companionship and the ups and downs of the experience. So grateful for the opportunity,
- Earl and I learned from the Trans-Am that it takes three to four weeks of riding for the body to acclimate to the load of daily touring. I’m now aware of the difference between a mini tour and a long distance tour. The Mini has the benefit of requiring fewer resources and, obviously, a lot less time. On the other hand, on a mini tour, the body doesn’t really have time to acclimate to the load. The tour is over just as the body is beginning to strengthen. It also means that the 1400 miles of YTD advanced training is sufficient. Mostly I needed back to back rides in advance and more hill training. Lesson learned.
- I’m looking forward to a ride next year with Earl. We are contemplating a Montana loop, Olympic Peninsula, or Pacific Coast ride.