Baker City, Oregon to Prairie City, Oregon

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Along Highway 7

Day 76.  Today had the potential to be awful, not simply because we biked 68 miles, but because of the terrain.  We leave Baker City at 3,500 feet in elevation or so, and we end in Prairie City at the same elevation.

So a flat ride?  No.  We are crossing the Blue Mountains and there are three passes, each of them at 5,000 feet or above; Sumpter Pass (5,082); Tipton Pass (5,124); and Dixie Pass (5,279).  The only good news was that as we ascended them we would descend them about a thousand feet just as quickly.

Besides terrain, we concern ourselves about heat, humidity, traffic, pavement conditions and wind.  Today we lucked out.  It was not too hot, traffic was manageable and all of the other misery causes were lacking.

We just had to climb and descend.

It's getting to be like going to a theme park and taking the rollercoaster.  We bike seven or so miles to a summit, climbing about a thousand feet, and this takes a little more than an hour.  Then we reach the top, kick everything into high gear and rocket down.  Unlike a theme park ride - this one lasts so much longer even whizzing down at 40 plus miles an hour.

I wonder if theme parks could just have the waiting lines be these slowly advancing exercise bikes, so people could get their workouts while waiting.  It would go bankrupt in a year.

In between passes two and three we came upon a spring of incredibly fresh, safe-to-drink, and cold water.  Three women were there with their pickup filling jugs, and cisterns of it.

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According to one lady, there's a very specific ritual to filling your water bottle.  (1) Dump the water in it first.  (2) Fill it with spring water, then empty that.  (3) Fill it again and drink.  It was refreshing.

Austin Junction, Oregon

Ate half a hamburger and the blackberry cobbler with (of course) huckleberry ice cream.  Barry, no surprise, was limited to a grilled cheese sandwich.  He noted, "This is the last grilled cheese sandwich I shall be eating with you gents on a Friday."

Yet another reminder that departing Never Never Land fast approaches.

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As we climb up to the 4000 foot elevation, the high arid mountain clime disappears and instead we get this incredibly dense and verdant pine tree forest.  It looks like Oregon finally.  We're traveling through National Forest land so there are bird of prey nests, and gorgeous vistas that inspire you to look for the Cartwright Ranch or Bonanza or other western show.

Dixie Butte Summit

The last summit finally came and went.  It was never terribly difficult, just long.

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Many of the place names here, according to the back of our map, were named by Southern Sympathizers when this land began to get settled by Americans.  Dixie and Dixie Summit, as well as the town of Sumpter (misspelled from the Original Fort Sumter) reflect that emigration.

After reaching the top it was another enormous, terribly satisfying rocket of a ride down into the John Day River Valley.  Seeing the valley spread out before me was just awe inspiring.  Hard not have an idiot's grin on your face as the wind whips through your hair and clothes.

Yet another little side area devoted to the covered wagon, although we are now south of the Oregon Trail I think, but couldn't help getting a photo.

Prairie City, Oregon

So we coast down the Blue Mountain Range into this valley and the town of Prairie City.  It's a cute little place with a very (surprisingly) vibrant downtown.  On the western end, there is a restaurant cafe called the Hitching Post run by what appears to be two escaped school lunch ladies.  The place was packed.

We're staying at the Prairie City Depot RV Park.  It has a little brook running through it.  There's an ample pavilion, and most important lots of grass and shade.  Two trees are a little over ten feet apart so I am hammocking it tonight.

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Norm and Christine made an excellent dinner of center cut pork chops, apple compote, and a quinoa with cranberries.  Great dinner.

We have a big day tomorrow - eighty two miles but the first fifty are downhill.  Twenty five of the last thirty two are uphill, not as steep as today, but just long.  We'll ascend a thousand eight hundred to 4,357 at Keyes Creek Pass.  Then we'll coast down 1,300 feet to the town of Mitchell.

Barry and I cook tomorrow.  We think the ride will be long and difficult, but as I look at the map - I think the ascent is going to be easier than we think.