Day 103, to Baker City: Seeing the ruts of the Oregon Trail - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

August 3, 2022

Day 103, to Baker City: Seeing the ruts of the Oregon Trail

Editor's note: Dani's daily digest for this day, Aug. 3, has now been added at the bottom. — CG, 8/5/22

Highway 86 led is through wide-open landscapes like this, with thin golden grassland and what I believe is sagebrush coloring the landscape of swooping mountain ridges.
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Wednesday stats

Start: Eagle Valley RV Park, Richland, Ore.

End: Mt View RV Park, Baker City

The Daily Progress: 41.2 miles

Cumulative climb: 2565 feet

Cumulative descent: 1308 feet

Elevation at endpoint: 3441

Ice cream flavors: Vanilla ice cream sundae after dinner at Latitude 45

Beer flavors: A dry nitro stout for me, and the Red Head Rock Star for Dani, after we actually met the guy for whom the beer is named, Mitchell Stevens, at the brewery North 7

Wednesday highlights

We slept well last night — the best sleep I got in days (well, maybe tied with the night at the motel in New Meadows the other night). It was pretty much perfect — no need for a sleeping bag at the start, but then it was nice to pull it over me when it got cool in the middle of the night.

I thought Dani was leaving ahead of me, so I kind of lost her because she was actually still at camp waiting for me, and I realized this when I saw that I had missed a text from her. Anyway, I stopped and she caught up. Note to self: Do a better job of confirming who's going where and where we're meeting if we don't leave at the same time.

The ride itself was very pretty. We reached our destination a little after 11 a.m. Along the way, we wanted to stop at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, but it was closed for renovation. However, just a bit down the road, we did get to see wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail. We'd been riding so close to the trail on and off for quite a long time, but actually seeing it makes it feel that much me real. 

Still sporting our helmets and sunglasses, Dani stands to the left and I to the right, leaving space between us to see the light-brown dirt path between the shrubs. These parks are apparently ruts, still-visible evidence of the Oregon Trail. Wow.
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In Baker City, we checked into the Mt View RV Park and showered, and then we went to the Albertsons supermarket to stock up and eat lunch. Then we visited the Baker Heritage Museum, which had a temporary exhibit from the Oregon Trail Center. There was a good exhibit inviting visitors to use blocks representing various things that people would need to pack in their wagons and trying to balance the limitations of space and weight. It felt a lot like packing panniers, except with higher stakes and a longer timeframe (most people took about six months to cross the Oregon Trail).

I was exhausted, so we went to the park across the street and I napped. Then we stopped at a food co-op for a few things. Then North 7 for a beer, and then Latitude 45 for dinner.

In a very comfy yellow chair seated across from me, Dani, dressed smartly in civilian clothes, enjoys her Red Head Rock Star beer at North 7.
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While at the brewery, I realized that I had been using bad numbers to estimate how much time we'd need for the rest of the TransAm. The map lists mileage totals for each leg of the trip, but I had forgotten that the totals include a few extra spurs that are not necessary and that probably won't make sense for us. Leaving out those spurs, there's about 160 miles of cycling that I had budgeted time for but we don't actually need. Wow! We just got three days back! Granted, bad weather could easily eat up one or two of those days, or were could just slow down — or we could take a zero day near Cannon Beach or another spot along the coast. Nice!

Tomorrow we continue our westward progress. Today was full and we are exhausted. Good night.

Dani's daily digest

Today began farcically.

Remember that time when we agreed to set our alarms to 3:30 but my phone was still on mountain time so I awoke at 2:30? Well, that happened again. Luckily, we caught the mistake this time before anyone emerged from their sleeping bags, so it was just an extra long snooze for both of us. 

The second act of our comedy of errors began when it was time to set off for the day. I finished loading my bike a few minutes before Chris, so I told Chris I was going to pee one last time and to return the hose loaned to us by campground and then rode off to do those things.

When I emerged from the bathhouse with a freshly emptied bladder, Chris was nowhere to be found. I figured that he figured that I had left and thus he had left, but I waited around for 10 minutes just in case he had ensconced himself in some hidden cranny of the campground. While waiting, I sent a few texts letting him know that I was at the campground and that I couldn't find him and that I would start biking at 6 am if I didn't see him before then. I doubted he would see these texts, since cell service is sparse and we tend to ride with our phones in airplane mode anyway, but at least I tried to communicate. 

When he didn't materialize by 6, I left. This seemed like the set-up for a Shakespearian tragi-comedy -- two lovers riding their bikes, both believing their lover was a few miles ahead. I had little chance of catching Chris as long as he believed that I was in front of him; since his top speed is faster than mine. I just had to hope that if he hadn't caught me by the 15-mile mark that he'd figure I was behind and stop and wait instead.

I found Chris waiting by the side of the road way earlier than I anticipated, around mile 7. Apparently my texts came through!

Today's ride was pretty -- a matrix of arid hills, rocky canyons, and verdant irrigated pastureland.

For a while, we traversed a bedevilled stretch of canyon that was all uphill but looked as though it were all downhill. The Powder River, clearly running in the opposite direction as us, intensified the disorientation. It was in this canyon that we encountered what we had be warned of for miles: LOOSE STOCK. A young cow in the road panicked as we approached and ran from one edge of the road to the other and back before finding a good place to climb down the embankment and get off the road. 

Today's ride was rolling without any big climbs or descents, which was a relief, since Google Maps showed an elevation profile with a sheer, cliff-like dropoff and a correspondingly steep climb. The ACA map did not show this, so we wondered what we might be in for. I haven't had a chance to check this against a map, but I believe Google's error occurred in that same bedevilled canyon with the loose cow and the hills that sloped down in all directions, further proof that the canyon was, in fact, a vortex.

Just outside of Baker City we stopped at a site where you can still see the ruts of the Oregon Trail. That was cool.

We had much to do in Baker City. We found a campsite and showered before heading into town. The first stop was Albertsons, where we bought salads for lunch and provisions for the road. Next, we went to the Baker City Heritage Museum. There, we learned about the Oregon Trail and the lives of the ranchers and miners who settled here. Here are some things I learned:

-Ezra Meeks traveled the Oregon Trail in the 1860s (or 70s?) but felt that the trail was being forgotten and so travelled it four more times in the early 20th century: twice by wagon, once by car, and once by airplane. I hope Mr. Meeks has learned in the afterlife of the video game that made the Oregon Trail foundational knowledge for a generation.

-A group of emigrants on the Oregon Trail got lost and got desperate for water. While searching for water, they found shiny rocks that they realized were probably gold after gold was found in the valley several years later. None of them could remember where they had been when they had found the rocks. 

-In the late 1800s, women schoolteachers were expected to be home by 8 each night. Men schoolteachers were allowed one night a week for courting (two if they went to church). 

-Homesteading was really difficult and I can't imagine doing it, let alone in a long, stiff black wool dress.

The museum had a gallery devoted to notable local women (which I appreciated) and an extensive rock collection (which was overrun by 40 elementary-aged children doing a scavenger hunt). I also heard a good story from the woman collecting admissions for the museum. She told me about the time that she and other women in the mining industry went to Washington, DC, in 1993 to advocate against some mining legislation being considered by Congress. To hear her tell of it, the members of Congress were completely agog to meet women who worked as miners. She and her co-delegates were often assumed to be the wives of miners or women against mining. 

Shortly before leaving the museum, we learned that the museum is housed in the building that used to hold the town's indoor public pool, which was filled using water from a nearby 80-degree spring. We enjoyed our time at the museum, but we were sorry to arrive too late (by many decades) for the warm, spring-fed public pool.

After our edifying expedition to the museum, we needed a rest. We found a shady bench in the town park. Chris napped and I read. Then we headed to the local food co-op just to see what they had. I scored a ripe, sweet, chilled plumcot that was heavenly. 

Next: beer at North Seven brewery. I had the Redhead Rockstar IPA and it was delicious but I'm not sure how much I liked the beer and how much I liked the fact that it was cold.

Our final stop was Latitude 45 for dinner. We ordered pesto tortellini and chicken parmesan. A big, saucy plate of pasta really hit the spot. We shared an ice cream sundae off the kids' menu for dessert because they were out of the other three desserts we tried to order.

By this point, I was exhausted. We biked back to camp and camp chores seemed to take for-ev-er but eventually they got done and I crashed without even writing a blog post. (This was written the following afternoon.)

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 3,795 miles (6,107 km)

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