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Day 74: Thursday, 13th September. Destination: Oregon Hotel, Mitchell, Oregon
Back in Picture Gorge, the road started to ascend towards the 4th-last pass of my trip, Keyes Creek (4,357ft). The drama of the Gorge receded making way for a hot plateau, and I was faced with an unexpected problem: a half-mile stretch of road in the process of being resurfaced and so down to one lane, as the other lane was being rollered. A lead truck lead convoys of traffic first heading one way and then the other. A policewoman came up to me and said, "put your bike in the back of the pick-up and we'll carry you across". My heart sank - have I cycled all this way just to be given a lift at this late stage? I begged her to let me cycle, and she relented, cautioning me that I'd have to keep up with the lead truck so as not to hold up proceedings. I told her I'd do my best. So, the problem was resolved with a tough time-trial, the smell of hot, fresh tarmac and the clatter of giant trucks adding to the tension as the car convoy slowly left me behind… I really didn't care, though: I was cycling.
I wasn't too slow: by the time the lead truck had turned round I was heading past and away up to the top of Keyes Creek Pass, before dipping down to the town of Mitchell. Or I should say, the one-horse town of Mitchell. But what a great one-horse town! The timber-floored Hotel Oregon had a bunkroom for $15 and a bathroom with an old-fashioned bath, so there I was chin-deep in suds feeling like Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon (except without Jackie Chan in an adjacent bath and no crazy drinking games). Life doesn't get much better.