Ghostly towns and grand vistas
The roosters brought us back to life after the long day before, and I got up and took some morning pics of Shaniko. As we arrived in the dark, I didn’t get a good look at the surroundings until I got up. It was a pretty amazing old west town that was fairly well preserved.
The wagon yard we camped under was like a central covered picnic area in the middle of an old west museum.
We got ourselves packed and watered up, and after the usual oatmeal breakfast, we were off. The initial 15 miles went fast as we blasted out along US97 on fast slightly downhill pavement. The tires really showed their zeal – Thunder Burts are fast. We did 20 mph in an easy pace line. That all changed when we reached the first dirt road, however…
The roads were slightly less worn on this final day, so there was a lot of loose gravel. Almost zero traffic, however. The terrain was heavily rolling – something lost on the elevation profile of our route which looked flat and dropping. There were many small hills, and the route was totally exposed.
We had planned to find a drop down to the Deschutes somewhere on the route, but I started out tentative towards this plan, and didn’t get more confident as the day wore on. Our lunch stop was not really in a memorable area – merely on the side of a farm road next to a site common to this midwesterner:
As we approached the Columbia gorge, the land kept a rollin’, and the heat kept a heatin’ us. I found myself wondering how the racers felt doing this stretch after 30 hours of pedaling straight through. Seeing hill after dusty hill and knowing the finish was near must have been exhilarating and frustrating to no end.
We started getting into some views of the Deschutes River valley that we had been paralleling for tens of miles, and the flowers came out. The scenery was notching up, again.
Gordon Ridge was the last obstacle in our path to the Columbia.
It was an imposing beast that only rose 400ft above us, but with some 10% grades, it was arduous.
Once at the top we were treated to some great views north – lots of windmills, and volcanic peaks to the north and south east.
The next section was thrilling and terrifying at times. The ridge road dropped away riding along the edge of the steep valley walls that fell away 2000 feet to the river below. Several 40 mph runs had us hooting like kids. I was sandblasted by a dust devil, and caught a nasty sidewind that hit me unexpectedly at a turn at the bottom of a fast run, blowing me several feet sideways in loose gravel (luckily I was in the middle of the road). I quickly reminded myself to ride loose and not clench as the loose gravel on these descents didn’t reward a controlling demeanor.
At this point, we came to the turnoff we had planned to take down to the Deschutes. It was marked “no trespassing”, and I felt pretty bagged. We made the decision to continue on the normal route so we wouldn’t have to push our bikes up 2000 feet if the route got nasty. I think another trip is in order to explore the area on fresher legs.
By the time we hit OR 206, the final stretch of paved road to the river, I was beginning to feel elation and sadness that our trip was nearing its end. There were still some memorable views, and we fairly flew down the final thousand foot drop, albeit slowed to pedalling speed due to the relentless headwind rushing up the canyon to meet us.
Once at the river, we decided to forego the campground for a meal in nearby Biggs. As we pedaled east, John had the light come on. “They have hotels in Biggs! We can get food, a shower, and a good night’s sleep!” Genius! Our adventure had come to an end, but there will certainly be more of this!