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In the morning we started off from the Ochoco Divide Campground at the Ochoco Summit and had felt glad that we had accomplished the first of a couple of daunting passes of the Ochoco Mountains. The prior evening, at the shared hiker/biker campsite, we had met some people who had bicycled there too, one of which whom had never had macaroni and cheese before. They were having macaroni and cheese that evening. I like macaroni and cheese and did not relate to the generally disparaging introduction of the food item to the newcomer. I noticed I was annoyed that our map indicated this site had potable water, but the campsite did not have water, unless you purchased plastic bottles of water from the campsite host.

The morning downhill ride through Bridge Creek Wilderness was very brisk and beautiful. The road, Route 26, was going through Crook County into Wheeler County.

One of the campers from the night before had said there wasn't much in the town of Mitchell. As I was approaching the edge of town, where there was a fork in the road, I stopped at a small roadside coffee stand the Route 26 Espresso. The coffee server was friendly and the coffee was warm on this brisk morning. When S arrived we had a coffeestand breakfast, then went into the town of Mitchell. In the town of Mitchell I reflected on how people try to be helpful but sometimes are not. As we had already had breakfast at the coffee stand we didn't stay in Mitchell to see the cute little town. Nor hang out with the bicyclists that had arrived, coming from the east.

I see from a random blogger bicyclist on the internet, from this post, that the sense of camaraderie I sometimes seek, this being the TransAm bicycle route and all, that we missed something by not being in the town longer. However, the town of Mitchell has apparently been the site of some floods, from the flash flooding of the Bridge Creek. So maybe it was good we left (though, really, there was no 'threat' of rain).

We also had the goal of reaching Dayville before nightfall and staying overnight there, as there was reportedly a Presbyterian Church that had been hosting bicyclists since the 1970s. The ride here was dry but it was interesting watching Keyes Creek as we got higher and higher. The roadside geology was interesting as well as seeing the roadside historical marker for "H. H. Wheeler" (picture from flicker.com). I did see words of encouragement for bicyclists spray-painted on the ground in the bike lane by some unknown person and some were pretty funny. Then we went downhill and the ride was amazing. We were heading towards the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. We passed a number of bicyclists, however they are all heading westward. We nodded and waved but that was about the extent of the interactions. We passed by many little spires and huge hoodoo mounds on this twisting turning road of the Ochoco Highway alongside Mountain Creek then Rock Creek. I recalled from my geography class that this area received less precipitation than the West Coast, and so the rocks here were less weathered, and thus I could see the weathering in the rocks right now rather than just seeing dust and sand. I was getting sleepy here and I recall S, at the Rock Creek Junction juncture of Ochoco Highway and the John Day Highway, wanting to know if I wanted to go north here on Oregon Route 19 to see the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Museum area, before it closed for the afternoon, but I recall, much to my chagrin that I said no let's keep going on towards Dayville, to the south through Picture Gorge. I recall feeling sad and feeling slow as we were leaving beautiful Picture Gorge with its tall shadowy basalt walls, now on the John Day Highway alongside the northward flowing John Day River.

Then again, they did not have trilobites.

We then left this area and continued heading into Grant County toward Dayville along the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. When we reached the edge of town of Dayville there was a person, trying to be helpful and welcoming, who waved me through pointing down the main road. The next person I encountered encouraged me to "write my parents and let them know I was okay". I found that kind of amazing. Meeting my need for care. The Dayville Presbyterian Church indeed has its doors wide open and they've been hosting people on the TransAmerica bike route since the 70s. Donations from the bicyclists have been well used, getting amenities like a washer and dryer and a computer for subsequent bicyclists. I used some of the available supplies there and made some pancakes for dinner. As we were there in town, a number of other bicyclists arrived, some coming actually from the West. I was happy. We slept on the floor of the community room as other people slept in the community room or in the sanctuary of the Church. We packed up the next morning, had breakfast in the town, at a restaurant with some of the bicyclists, and continued pedaling on. We were then heading towards the city of John Day where we were hoping to get more bike tires. We also had a plan to CouchSurf with a host there.

We passed through the city of Mount Vernon, I checking a supply store for fuel canisters such that we could boil and purify water, but they had no fuel canisters that fit our stove. I found that while I had stopped in the store, S had passed by but then as I caught up to her, her tire had popped. We changed the tire on the edge of the city of Mount Vernon as it started to downpour. We bicycled into the city of John Day and checked a hardware store and then a Les Schwab, but they had no tires that would fit but they did have some tires at a kids toy store. Cheaper in quality but available. We then went back westward towards the CouchSurfing host. After meeting Ryan and his son, we then all travel back into town to get groceries. After dinner we all watched a movie "Dances with Wolves". The next morning I recall being kinda tired, really tired. We packed up, left latter than desired, bicycled into town with the intent to depart, and then after visiting the visitor center and watching the video "Kam Wah Chung | Oregon Experience | OPB" I wanted to see the Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum. "When would I be here again ?" I thought. We decided to stay an additional day with our CouchSurfing host who kindly let us stay in his house another night. The Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum was exceptionally interesting to me. I had all sorts of observations and ideas that I thought would be more directly related to the experience of Chinese American people, based on watching my grandmother and family, based on experiences of scarcity, and conservation within such in a city like this than maybe some of the museum docents had.

For one small example: in the picture at this link the kitchen had a few cans of foods like sauerkraut and beets on the shelves. The docent suggested that these were some of the strange foods Lung On and herbal doctor Ing Hay liked and that is why they were on hand. My observation yielded the idea that these were the can foods that they didn't use because they didn't like it and left it on the shelf, or know what to do with sauerkraut based on the remembered observation that my grandmother did not throw a good can of food away, and she had a few cans of beets and sauerkraut, that sat there in her house for years.

Another idea was that businessman Lung On and Ing Hay had the intent to returning to China, never did, and that this was strange and sad. From what I had learned in Asian-American Studies courses, the idea of the sojourning Chinese person was a false but popular American idea based on the story of immigration and discrimination (a quick google reference). My interpretation of their behavior and choices was then that they might not have ever had the idea to return to China, intentionally created community here in Oregon, and that the pattern of behavior was not strange but consistent with Chinese American immigration.

The next day we continued bicycling east on Highway 26 into Prairie City. I did the phonecall checkin, a regular experience now. This locality is where we would have the dreaded chip sealed road experience. Bicyclists along the way he had told us of the dangers and horrors of the chipsealed road where little bits of gravel will fly out and strike bicyclists because it's not fully paved into the road but just pressed into hot tar. In theory it was a cheaper way of doing the road but for bicyclists it meant large piles of gravel and little loose bits. We stopped at a hardware store for pedal screws then left. Prairie City was dusty and the road was getting kind of tiring and hot.

There were indeed piles of construction gravel along the roadside as well as in the middle of the bicycle lane as we proceeded forward, crossing the boundary into the Malheur National Forest.

We stopped at The Austin House Cafe, the only building I saw to mark Austin Junction to make the turn on to Oregon Route 7. We were directed that drinkable water was to be found "... coming out of a pipe in the ground about a mile down the road. It's where everybody gets their water." I felt suspicious.

Here we headed northeast, soon crossing the Middle Fork John Day River then the North Fork of the Burnt River and passed into the Wallowa–Whitman National Forest. The forest was beautiful. We were in the southern part of the Blue Mountains and in the Mesic Forest Zone of the Blue Mountain ecoregion. As we exited the forest growth going down into a valley, we were now in Baker County. We crossed the Powder River and then I saw the strangeness I later determined was the Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge (click here to see the satellite image from maps.google.com). It is strange, but I do recall feeling uneasy here and now I read about the ghost Joe Bush who lives here, in the dredge. There were mosquitos here and we were bicycling into dusk, a period of time in which I was having less fun as I found myself reacting strongly to mosquito bites, as well as sleepy. We looked for off road camping, but that would have been better found in the forest than on the populated valley. We searched, but ended up camped at Phillips Lake at Union Creek Campground, a campground just at the edge where we reentered the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

In the morning after leaving the RVs and the campsite behind we ventured past the Phillips Reservoir dam, over the hill and went down Oregon 7 toward the valley alongside the Powder River and toward Baker City. I stopped on a empty but automatic weigh station to weigh myself then, as S arrived, was passed by this bicyclist who was also on a Bike Friday, though hers was an upright bike. We exchanged cards and then we went on our way east as she caught up with her group that was going west. We got to Baker City and attempted to restock on fuel for the stove to create potable water, groceries, and then bike parts after finding a small part of the drive chain had snapped. As it was Sunday, there was no bike shop open, so we camped again in an RV park that was available on the edge of Baker City. We were longing to be camping in the forest.


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