Day39: Vale Or to Unity Oregon: 66 miles with 3000 feet of climbing
Today it took me eight hours to cover 66 miles. That wasn't because of the climbing - most of that was in two major climbs that took less than two hours total. It was because of the wind which was blowing at ten to fifteen mph from the north west or north for at least 55 of those 66 miles. I figure that I spent more energy riding into the wind today than I did climbing. Without the wind I could have done a 100-mile day in pretty close to eight hours. With it I was worn out after 66 miles.
In western Oregon, there aren't many places with services. In fact there are several stretches of around 50 miles or so without any services. Those of us that like a hot shower, a good meal, and a bed to sleep in are limited to Vale, Unity, Prairie City, John Day, and Dayville (hostel). Prairie City is 100 miles from Vale with three passes in those 100 miles, so I decided I'd do well to make Unity, at 65 miles, my first stop and Dayville, 80 miles further on, my second stop. After Dayville it is 86 miles to Prineville with one place for services, Mitchell, in that stretch.
Wind at 7:15 leaving Vale - check the flag
I got up early to beat the wind. It didn't work. I had a good breakfast at the River Inn - a good place to eat!- and left my $20 room at the Golden Corral - a very good value! - heading north about 7:15 A.M.. The wind was blowing 10 - 15 mph from the north west. US 26 heads north west. I knew I only had to do 65 miles today, so I accepted the 8 mph average speed that I could do into that wind as fast enough and cranked on down the road.
Brogan's Cafe at ten thirty A.M., check the flag
The first town, Willow Creek, which is twelve miles from Vale, has a Cafe / Store, but it was closed. It took me 1.5 hours to cover those twelve miles, so I stopped for a snack and a break a few miles beyond Willow Creek. The next town, Jamison, has no services, but a dog chased me on the north end of town and I got up to over 11 mph. Boy that feels fast after going 7 to 9 mph for a couple of hours! I stopped again in Brogan where, I was lucky enough to hit the two hour (9 AM to 11 AM) window when the Frontier Market is open on Sunday. It was 24 miles from Vale to Brogan and it took me just over three hours.
I asked the lady at the Cafe if I could order lunch, she looked at the clock which said 10:40 and agreed. I ordered the 'Belly Buster' sandwich. A good choice since it didn't need cooking and it was huge. I ended up taking half of it with me to eat after I had climbed Brogan Hill. Today's ride had two climbs: Brogan Hill with about five miles of 6% grade and Eldorado Pass with less than two miles of 6%. Hmm, hill versus pass and the pass is a lot easier climb.
This is what the country looks like at the base of Brogans Hill
This is the view about three quarters of the way up Brogan Hill
I saw a tourist couple near the bottom of Brogan Hill. I stopped on my side of the road, but they just said hello as they went by. Of course I was going uphill into a headwind and they were going downhill with a tail wind. From the accents and equipment, I think they were Brits. I didn't see any others today, but the place where I ate tonight says they get one or two a day. That makes this a major bike route. Given the wind, I bet most of them are heading east!
Coming down from Brogan Hill isn't very exciting, but it led me to the best bicycling of the day. US 24 goes into a high (4000 feet) mountain valley and the road is flat and the wind wasn't bad for the next eight miles or so. The first nice riding of the day. There was very little traffic on the stretch, and I stopped alongside the road to take a break and eat the second half of my sandwich. Climbing Brogan Hill had taken more than an hour and I was hungry!
The flat part of the valley was followed by an, equally long, series of rolling hills that lasted until the town of Ironside. I stopped in Ironside to refill my water bottles from my water tank and to take a break and have a snack. I started with six, .75 l, water bottles worth of water and two cans of coke. I finished the ride with one full bottle water bottle left. I lost one of the cans of coke, probably when I fell over after riding behind some trees to pee. I hit soft dirt, my front wheel dug in, and I couldn't get my right foot un-clipped in time. Thud. I was concerned because my camera came off of its mount and ended up in the dirt, but no real harm was done except, I think, that coke can came out from under the bungie cord that was holding it. I drank the other can with the second half of that huge sandwich.
It is a few miles east of Ironside before you get to the start of Eldorado pass and then the climbing is gradual for another few miles. When it does finally start to really climb, it is a uniform grade all the way to the top. There is three or four hundred feet of vertical in the steep part of this climb, as compared to 13 or 14 hundred feet of vertical in the steep part of the Brogan Hill climb. The wind had picked up again by Ironside and was blowing hard as I climbed this pass. For both Brogan Hill and Eldorado Pass, the wind slowed me down by ten to twenty percent - based on my measured rate of climb - but also kept me cool and comfortable, a reasonable trade off. It slowed me down by thirty to forty percent on the flats and even more on the downhills with no benefit.
View looking back from Eldorado Summit
I had been mellow about the wind all day, but when I came over Eldorado and had to pedal down a hill, I got annoyed. It was a frustrating final ten miles into Unity with a stiff head or cross wind all the way. Unity itself is tiny, but it has a place to stay - $28.95 a night, no air conditioning (and none needed) or phones - and a good place to eat supper. It also has a store next to the motel where I got some food for breakfast. The restaurant doesn't open till 9 A.M.. There is little else in town except city offices and a fire station. It is 42 miles and two good climbs, from Brogan to Unity and there are no services in those 42 miles. I'm happy Unity was here, since I was too tired from fighting that wind to ride on to Prairie City. It is 37 miles, with no services, from Unity to Prairie City.