We managed to hit the road by 7:15 this morning, despite staying up past our bed time talking to two other couples staying at the Pine Valley Lodge. It is so cute and homey, it just promotes conversation.
When we left we saw a half dozen other cyclists getting on their bikes at the other motel in town. They must have been headed East because we never saw them again.
The morning was cool and noisy with bird calls and cattle mooing. We didn't mind the 7 mile climb out of Halfway.
Roy was taking a picture of the snow gauge that goes to 8 feet and I was taking a picture of the elevation sign (3653). These hills seem steeper than the Rockies, but we are happy to be approaching them from the East. The western slopes are even steeper.
For a lot of the day, we felt like we wer in southern New Mexico. Everything was hot and dry. Sage brush was everywhere you looked, and there were not many trees.
The photos can't capture how vast the spaces are, how the mountains come right down to the road, seeming to block any possible way forward.
In Richland, 12 miles into our journey, we met two young cyclists, Kelly and Mark, breakfasting on donuts. They started in Chicago and were following the TransAm. Somehow the bike hostel in Kansas came up. There they had met Mike, who had asked them if they knew Laurie, since they were all from Chicago. They felt like they had been on Laurie's trail since then. Whenever they signed in to a place, Laurie had been a few days ahead of them. They hadn't heard the Mike and Laurie story as of Lochsa Lodge. (See Day 56 Addendum)
We leapfrogged Kelly and Mark during the morning, shared shade and lunch, and rode with them for awhile in the afternoon.
That was the only shade for miles.
The four of us experienced what TransAm riders call Trail Angels. A woman and her son on their way to Richland to look at a pickup truck offered us cold water and ice while we were at a rest area. It was heavenly to have cold water.
Last night two guests said there were two sights not to be missed between Halfway and Baker City. The first was the Hole in the Wall overlook. In 1984, a landslide cut off Highway 86, causing major inconvenience to the local communities until the Highway was rerouted and rebuilt in 1987. That's the old section of the highway below us.
The second was the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Bake City. We had to ride up a half mile road with 370 feet of elevation gain to get there. We were near heat exhaustion when we got there, but it was air-conditioned and had cold water. We spent a couple of educational hours there.
The exhibits and the movie emphasized the length and slowness of the journey, the agonies of weather and terrain, the amazement at the scenery, the choices that had to be made, and the importance of taking only the bare necessities because otherwise the wagons were too heavy for the oxen to pull. We really identified with their suffering and amazement as we escaped the wilting heat in an air-conditioned auditorium.
Refreshed by cold water and a respite from the heat, we rode the last 5 miles to our hotel. By the time we arrived, the cold water was warm.
One last picture of another puzzling sight: museum, collection, or junkyard? Does putting up a sign change the interpretation?
We rode our bikes downtown to eat at El Erradero, a restaurant recommended to us by Shelly at the Pine Valley Lodge. Afterwards we walked around. Downtown Baker City has a lot of charm and is doing a lot to preserve its turn-of-the-century history. But like many of the small towns we have been through, it is struggling.
Tomorrow is a short day, 30 miles, and the weather promises to be cooler. We are looking forward to that.