Day 41: Dayville to Mitchell OR: 40 miles with 2200 feet of climbing
Yesterday I noticed my appetite was less than usual - I was leaving food on my plate - and then, about ten P.M., last night I had diarrhea and about two A.M. I had to take some anti diarrhea medicine. My stomach really hurt and I didn't sleep well, but I was able to eat breakfast and didn't have the runs anymore so I decided to try for Mitchell, the next town up the road. It wasn't fun riding sick, but it was a pretty ride and I really like being in Mitchell. If I feel better tomorrow, I'll ride to Sisters - 90 miles, else I can stop in Prineville at 50 miles, or Redmond which is between those two. It is nice having options.
It is good riding out from Dayville to the west. The road is more curvy and hillier than the road coming in from the east, but it is still following the John Day river down river for the first five miles. At about three miles, it enters Picture Gorge, a spectacular entry to the John Day Fossil Beds.
Picture Gorge is, well, picturesque with the river running right alongside the road in the narrow gorge.
In the middle of the gorge, the road splits with OR 19 going to the left and the John Day Fossil Beds and US 26 going to right toward Mitchell. From this point till Keys Creek Pass at 33 miles, the road is basically uphill. It climbs 2200 feet mostly at a 2 or 3% grade but with a few stretches of 5 or 6% grade and some flat and even downhill parts.
The road climbs out of the gorge in a few miles and runs through country that is reminiscent of the Utah Canyonlands, although not as dry.
Table Mountain, at almost 5000 feet, is pretty when viewed from US 26 which is still at about 3500 feet. The scenery is great and the riding is pretty good, but I did almost get hit by a jerk in a big RV. This road is often narrow with no shoulder and blind curves. This idiot came a around a corner going too fast and saw me in the lane and an SUV coming the other way. His response was to lay on the horn and speed between us as I dived off the road. I was completely off the road when he passed me, but he still came within a foot of me. If I hadn't gotten 'out of his way', he would have hit me. As it was, he almost lost control of his large RV with a boat on a trailer behind it as he swerved between me and the SUV. I must admit it would have given me some pleasure if he had crashed, although I'm glad he didn't. Folks who drive large vehicles recklessly on twisty mountain roads used by lots of bicyclists (Bike Centennial Route) are putting other peoples lives at risk by their selfish behavior. Since I had visited with several other bike tourists who were ahead of me on US 26, I was worried for their safety as well.
Before I 'met' the jerk, I had stopped for a break after only 13 miles of riding. I was not feeling good and the opportunity to sit in the shade of a tree and have a snack was to good to pass up. I was sitting there, feeling pretty mellow, when a tourist heading east asked if he could disturb my solitude. He was riding solo, but with his family driving an RV acting as sag. He had ridden from Pennsylvania to Kansas and, faced with major heat and major winds, decided to ride the rest of the route in reverse. He and his family has driven to the Oregon coast and now he was riding back to Kansas. I had to tell him riding across Kansas wasn't likely to be any better in August than it had been in July! We had a long visit discussing routing. He was getting ready to take the big step of leaving the Bike Centennial Route and heading off on his own. Been there, done that; it was a bit scary.
While we were visiting, the two slowest members of the ACA group that had been in Dayville rode up. I wondered about the younger ones riding style till I saw he had significant Cerebral Palsy. Then I was just pleased to realize that he had a lot of guts. The other rider was older, I'd guess around 70, and they were riding to a campground at the top of the pass after Mitchell - about 65 miles with more than 4000 feet of climbing for the day. I was beginning to like the ACA riders better.
I rode on for another ten miles and stopped again for a shorter break, then the road entered a high mountain valley at about 39 00 feet and riding was easier for a while. There was a final climb over the pass which took me a lot of effort, but really wasn't hard. I was simply wiped out. After the pass, at 4370 feet - I had started at about 2400 feet and gone downhill for five miles before starting the climb - there is a grade of 6% for a lot of miles downhill into Mitchell. It has about five miles of 6% followed by two mile with a lesser slope. I was just glad that I didn't have to climb it!
In Mitchell, which a tiny place, I stopped at the Sky Hook Motel because some riders I met yesterday had stayed here and liked it. I was so tired that I had to walk my bike up the step driveway and, as soon as I had got into my room, I stripped of my clothes and took a two hour nap. I never take naps. When I woke up, I cleaned up and walked into town to get some groceries (mostly fruit) and have my second meal of the day. I also visited with several members of the ACA group who were getting ready for that second 2000 foot climb. I wasn't sure about my stomach - it still hurt - but I knew I needed food, so I ordered a large chef's salad. The waitress said - "it is really large, are you sure you don't want that half size?" - and I said "lets go for it!" The salad was great. I knew it would be OK when she brought it out and I started salivating and, although it took me a while, I ate it all. Life is good in Mitchell and, hopefully, my belly will feel better tomorrow.