Day 15: Sunday, June 2, 2013
Baker to Halfway: 58 miles
The west wind had helped propel me over the three passes from Prairie City a couple of days ago, and helped me on the ride into Baker. But it had gradually shifted around to the north. And that was my undoing.
The route from Baker heads east to Richland, crossing an expanse of desert after surmounting Flagstaff Hill. If I had been able to put up a sail, I could probably have tacked along the highway.
|Acres and acres of old farm equipment|
Did you know that of the original 2700 miles of the Oregon Trail, about 300 miles of ruts remain? I was able to see, and walk in, them, near Flagstaff Hill. There's an Oregon Trail interpretive center there, but I didn't visit: as you can see from the photo, it would have been up a steep hill, and with the wind in my face. I tried a short distance of that hill, then bailed.
|Actual ruts of the Oregon Trail|
|The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.|
No way was I gonna climb that hill!
Just down the road is a reservation (I like to call it that) for off-road vehicles. It actually covers quite an area, but part of it is very visible from some distance off. I suppose the tracks from those ORVs will be just as visible 150 years from now as the Oregon Trail tracks are today.
|The ORV reservation|
At Richland, the road turned north, and climbed a seven-mile hill. The wind had picked up, and it made cycling quite miserable. In the mountains, the wind doesn't blow just one direction: it follows the gullies and the canyons, and a severe crosswind can catch one unawares. This was the case today. I'd swear that it was a good 30 mph wind, with occasional 40 mph gusts. What was weird was, all the clouds were moving east, but the wind at ground level was primarily from the north. Making my way up the hill at 3-4 mph, I was continually blown off the road by violent crosswinds. Finally, thoroughly frustrated after making only ten feet of progress in a single attempt, I just sat down and bawled.
To my recollection, I have never walked a hill. I didn't want to walk one now. But what other choice was there? Pushing a fully loaded bike up a hill at 2 mph is a lot harder than riding it. Luckily, I didn't have to walk far. It seems that I had been caught in a funnel in the landscape that was accelerating the wind at that particular point. After 100 yards, I had passed through it and the wind was back to its normal (but still obnoxious) self.
So ask me now what I think about hills.
|Some dramatic cliffs|
Halfway is a small town that seems to be halfway to nowhere. Exhausted, I decided to spend the night there. The clerk at the grocery store said I could camp in the Lions Club park, just down the street. She said it had water and bathroom facilities. She couldn't have been more wrong. There was a public restroom next to the grocery store, and I did camp at the park, regrettably. The park was equipped with industrial-strength sprinklers which, for most of the night, pelted the tent with a hail of drops about once a minute. Luckily, the tent has proved to be waterproof - at least on top! In the morning, I did find a No Camping sign prominently posted. I guess the sprinklers are their revenge on unsuspecting campers.
|The park that took revenge|