SEA TO SHINING SEA: A taste of smalltown America

This is the Strawberry Range in eastern Oregon. The tallest mountain there to the right is Strawberry Mountain.
May 31, 2013

DAY 17 – At 8 a.m. this morning, a line of cars rolled through downtown John Day, honking their horns, heading westward, announcing their departure. Wedding? Too early and no cars. Funeral? Too raucus. Fourth of July parade? Wrong date.

“Small town America,” said Mike, between bites of sour cherry cheese pie at a table in the Squeeze In Café. (Stephanie makes them, home made.)

“That's the John Day High School baseball team headed off for the state tournament.”

After the parade passed, John Day grew quiet again. Streets empty, no sirens blowing, just the sound of the wind hustling through the valley.

Mike waved to us as we headed away from our fairground camp. He was walking his dog along with a couple other men.

“Sun due to come out at 11,” he hollered.

“We're ready for that,” I said. (You'll be surprised to hear that it rained all night last night and was drumming the fly of the tent when we stirred this morning.)

Then I mentioned that I left my camera in his shop last evening.

“Where you going for breakfast?”

“Squeeze In, just like you recommended.”

“I'll grab the camera and bring it by.”

“Awesome,” I said. “See you then.”

We were just finishing an egg over easy, two thick slices of bacon and a blueberry pancake when Mike came in with the camera. He was eyeing the pie case. We bought him a slice. He passed on the coffee. Seems like pie and a cup of coffee would be a perfect breakfast. Becky takes her pancake just with maple syrup and butter. I went with the maple syrup topped with boysenberry syrup. Nothing says excess like excess.

(Freeze dried chicken pot pie over mashed potatoes, reconstituted with almost-boiled-over-Sterno water, along with a cup of English breakfast tea and some chocolate laced with hazelnuts and raisins, has me on a roll this evening at this picnic table in Bates State Park. The nice camp host lady told us this land used to be a sawmill. But with pressure from environmentalists in the 1960s and early 1970s, availability of trees for lumber dwindled. The sawmill closed down and that spelled the end of the little community known as Bates that supplied the mill's workers. Now it's a park and they give out wooden post cards – real wooden post cards that can be mailed – celebrating the history of the park. This is just its second season. Other than the camp host, we're the only ones here. With the remoteness and that Bates name, I'm getting a little feeling of Hitchcock and King. But I'm taking the flight of a pair of sand hill cranes over our site an hour ago, along with a friendly but strange call that sounded something like breaking down cardboard boxes, as a positive omen.

We rode 30 miles today, much of it uphill as we crossed Dixie Pass east of John Day. We stopped in a café in Prairie City. Very cool little town. Shared a cup of homemade vegetable beef soup and a chicken enchilada. Gave us fuel for the seven-mile ascent of the pass. Ag guy at the counter said Sumpter is definitely worth seeing. He confirmed that it is one of the places that started the gold rush in the middle 1800s.

We averaged 8.4 mph today with total ascent of 2,749 feet.

Low humidity here. Hands look normal again. Here are some pictures from today. I'm showing some cottonwoods along the John Day River and a close-up of their leaves and early blossoms. Hey John or Pat – the tallest tree on Lewes Beach stands behind a house at the corner of Cedar and Savannah. Take a look and tell me if that's a cottonwood. I think it may be. Don't know how it got there but it seems to like it.

Night all.


P.S. No phone service here at Bates so this probably won't be posted until sometime during the day on Friday. You all have a nice weekend.

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