My Route

For more detailed maps, scroll down through the blog. Click on any one to enlarge it; use the backspace button to return to the blog. That goes for the photos, too.


Day 74: Thursday, 13th September. Destination: Oregon Hotel, Mitchell, Oregon

Dodging the puncture weed I cycled out of Dayville laden down with a slice of marionberry pie in my pannier for a mid-morning snack. The road had been following the rather flat John Day river plain since coming down from the passes out of Sumpter, but seven miles out of town it turned to head straight towards the valley side. For a moment, it seemed like there was nowhere for the road to go but bump into the high cliffs of Hog Ridge, but a shift in angle revealed a split in the ridge through which the river and road entered the hidden, dramatic world of Picture Gorge.

The road wound dramatically beside the river with high, basalt cliffs to either side. The truck from last night was there, dragged off the road by it's own weight, nose down in the riverbed. As far as I understood, no-one had been hurt. The twisty road lead to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, totally worthy of a detour as the visitor's centre holds a remarkable collection of fossils from the post-dinosaur era. There were fossilised acorns and leaves, plus insects and all kinds of creeping and crawling things. The Centre itself is in the middle of a pretty valley surrounded by dramatic hills built out of layers of rock from which the fossils came.

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.

Next door, at the Little Pine Cafe, I fell in with a bunch of bikers (motorbikers, that is) who - as often is the case - turned out to be about the nicest, friendliest bunch of people you could care to meet. We spent the evening chatting and drinking beer. I ate some catfish as they ate chili, and then we sat around on the Hotel porch in the dark till around 10:00, which is just about as late as I can stay up these days. Let me introduce Joy & Doug from Illinois, Rick & Paula from Utah and Truck from... uh, I don't recall. Truckville. Thanks, folks, for the kind of evening every day on the road should end like.