SEA TO SHINING SEA: Nothing like a tail wind

Trucking through these canyons at about 25 miles per hour, downhill and with the wind at our backs, is exhilarating for me, scarey for Becky. BY DENNIS FORNEY
May 30, 2013

DAY 16 - Flat tires across America. Writing at a red-painted picnic table at the Grant County Fairgrounds in downtown John Day, Oregon. Didn't blog yesterday because by the time we finally crawled into the tent, too tired to do anything.  Had a beautiful ride yesterday.  It started with a seven-mile climb up to Keys Creek Pass.  A real slog, but from the top we picked up a building tail wind out of the west and we ended up covering 60 miles.  When it wasn't actually downhill, the tail wind still made it seem that way.  Rode through beautiful canyons.  Every once in a while a pair of blue-winged teal would jump up from the John Day River we were following.  Route 26 across Oregon is a scenic route. In  the river valley and the flatlands, we saw more red-tail hawks and some Prairie Falcons.  Reminded me of when my brother Mike and Harry Price - Kent and Freddie's brother - drove a VW to Colorado from Chestertown to pick up a couple of prairie falcon chicks.  Mike trained them and fed them pigeons that we caught up in the rafters of barns when they were roosting at night.  Prairie falcons loved the fresh pigeon breast.

We ran into a head wind inside Picture Gorge, so-named because of Native American pictographs etched into the rocks.  We were riding against the flow of the John Day, which eventually empties into the Columbia.  In the steep-cliffed gorge, the wind reversed course and followed the river.

A mile or two beyond the gorge, when the landscape reopened and we could see lines of cottonwoods defining the banks of the John Day, we saw a rider approaching from the east. (Sounds a little like Cormac McCarthy huh? Good company.) It was Steve from Vienna, Virginia and he was celebrating his 50th birthday by riding across the country from Virginia Beach to Newport, California.  He was into his fourth week and told us he expected to be home by this Sunday.  He knew Lewes and Rehoboth and Cape Henlopen - vacationed with family and friends in Dewey.  Nice talking to someone with common ground in the John Day River valley of eastern Oregon. His route is more direct than ours.  That - and the fact that he's averaging 100 miles a day with a real light load - is why he's crossing the country more than three times faster than we are.  Steve was very pleasant.  He said he and his wife are planning to hike the Appalachian Trail in a few years.

He said he had had four flats which he thought wasn't bad.  We told him we had special tires - heavier duty - and hoped to have none. Well, that was stupid. An hour later our fannies were parked on the gravel beside Route 26 growing increasingly frustrated with a flat tube, a tube that wouldn't take patches, a tube with a broken stem, a tube that wouldn't take air . . . you get the picture.  AAA found the number for a tow company in John Day and Matt came to the rescue in the fastest 1982 GMC pick-up truck truck in Grant County.  400 HP block, seven transmissions.  And that reminds me, as were rumbling across the valley with Matt and his throaty GMC, I was thinking back to an hour earlier when I was tooling through the canyons studded with Ponderosa pines, burning up the miles, listening to Dickie Betts and Duane Allman and the rest of the band doing the awesome instrumental Jessica.  If there is any better trucking song in the world please let me know.  Unedited version. 20 minutes long.  I listened to it twice.

So, to make a long story longer, Matt droopped us off at Mike's Bike Shop in John Day.  Luck was with us.  6 p.m. and he happened to be there.  He hooked Becky up with new tires and tubes and pointed us toward the fairgrounds.  Lots more nice people.  Heading to Austin Junction today and then on to Baker City.  I want to see the 85-ounce gold nugget they have on display there in the lobby of the bank.

Sumpter's Mill is nearby.  I think we go through that and I think Dan Fogelberg wrote a sad song about that place.  Will look thast up.  Here's some pix.  Thanks for traveling along.  Will blog again this evening.

Love to all!

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