Trans Am Week 5 (LAST WEEK): Prairie City, OR to Florence, OR 2

This last week was such a blur. What felt like a long time during the ride crept up on us so fast that it is a bit humbling to process the thoughts right now. As you may have read from my previous post, I am in the second week of August and I am trying to write about the events that happened a week ago. I figure it’s better to do it now before details fade with my memories and nostalgia.

July 25, 2016 – Baker City to Prairie City

Shoe Tree

Because I had the chance to drive into Baker City, I agreed to ride out of Baker City this morning. Jared and I ate breakfast at the motel restaurant for one last time before we cleaned up our lunch station. Jared left with the van to go grocery shopping while hopped back on my bike and proceeded south on Highway 7 towards our next town of Prairie City.

As it was my day of riding, I faced a challenging day which included 3 climbs through the following passes: Sumpter, Tipton, and Dixie. The elevation at each passes are 5082′, 5124′, and 5277′ respectively in that order. That means it just got harder and harder as the day went. The first one was about 30 miles after Baker City. The plan was to have a water stop right after the first pass near the town of Whitney.

Unfortunately, I rode too fast and caught up to who I thought was the last rider. While we rested at the side of the road talking, 2 more riders rolled by us. Apparently, they were having breakfast while we left the motel in the morning so we lost track of them. Luckily they were 2 of the strongest riders so they had no problem catching up to the rest of the group.

All was good riding through the first pass and approaching our water stop with Jared. I did a quick refill of water and Gatorade. I actually didn’t drink too much in the morning as it was rather cool. This would be my first mistake.

I pretty much spent the second pass with our last rider for a few hours grinding up until we both finally saw the summit. This gave her the opportunity to interview me for her blog. It was nice to talk to her so candidly about life and personal topics so I wasn’t bored at all but the stopping and starting started to wear on me as the temperature went up. This meant that I had to drink almost all my water by the time we reached the last hill to climb.

In our map meeting, we initially thought we would have services to refuel in the town of Austin Junction. Unfortunately, the only store in that town was closed so we were out of luck and I honestly started to worry just a little bit as I sipped my water and Gatorade conservatively.

By the time we passed the last pass, at Dixie, I was completely out of water and was very thirsty. I cursed myself under my breath wishing I packed the 2 Revelate Feeder Bag. This would have allowed me to carry 4 bottles of water which would have been ideal for today. Instead of dwelling on my mistake, I carried on and enjoyed the long downhill into Prairie City.

About 5 miles before town, a familiar white van with Jared appeared. Jared exclaims, “Five more miles!” I quickly do the signal of needing water by forming a letter “C” with my hand and motioned to pouring liquid from the “C” into my mouth while tilting my head back. He swung the van around and pulled right in front of us. I savored the ice-cold water and refilled my bottles even though it was all downhill into camp. I didn’t want to take the chance again.

The ride into camp was relaxing and calm as the sun’s warm beams continued to heat our skins. We finally reached town and followed the signs into the famous campground of Depot County RV Park. This was a self-help, first come first serve, camping spot where we just checking in at a kiosk to pay and then camp wherever there is availability. Jared had secured the pavilion and a couple of sites. This would be the last night that we were going to spend camping so I made it count by stringing up my hammock.

July 26, 2016 – Prairie City to Dayville

Today was going to be a very short day where the mileage was a few miles over 40. There were several towns that our group would travel through with services so I was off the hook for a water stop. I spent the morning looking for the ingredients for a meat loaf recipe that my partner and I was going to prepare for dinner. On top of that, we were going to serve ice cream. The tricky part of serving ice cream is that it will melt real fast if you don’t have a freezer. I went to the first market in Prairie City but they didn’t have any ground beef. I continued into a larger town of John Day where I was able to locate a larger supermarket and ground beef I needed. I also found a huge selection of ice cream. The mission after that was to get the ice cream to our next stay at the town of Dayville in which we were to stay at a church.

The church, Dayville’s Presbyterian Community Church, was immediately visible when you enter Dayville on the left hand side up a small little hill. I wasn’t surprise to find a few of our riders already there so we unloaded the trailer together. I called the lady who was responsible for the church to let her know that we have arrived. She came out to go over some rules and the facilities that we were allowed to use. There was one shower, free wi-fi, a kitchen, a mess hall, and laundry room with an additional toilet.

Eventually everyone made it into town and my partner and I started on supper. What we did not foresee was that using the oven to make our meat loaves, we would have warmed up our living quarters to a point where it was extremely uncomfortable and made it impossible to sleep. It was sweltering night with all fans blowing and no air conditioning available. Needless to say, people did not have a restful night there.

July 27, 2016 – Dayville to Mitchell

Spoke'n Hostel

We were all glad to get out of the church in Dayville and ride another short day to Mitchell the next morning. This time it was my turn to sweep so I got to ride another day with a relatively easy pass at Keyes Creek Summit which peaked at 4382 feet. Before reaching there, our notes recommended that we check out the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. I actually made the 4 mile round trip to the visitors center only to be told that they did not open until 10AM which was a total bummer as I was looking forward to seeing some dinosaur bones.

I abandoned my plan and started on the uphill ride through Keyes Creek Summit. There was going to be a water stop about 10 miles before the summit so I tried to hustle in to meet with Jared. There was road construction so it made things a little bit more crowded than usual. I eventually made it to him and he had told me the last rider rode off about 15 minutes before my arrival. This allowed me to change my pace and slow down so that I don’t catch up to that person. I was almost successful until I reached our home for the night when the last rider merged back onto the main highway after taking a detour into the town’s business loop.

This was okay since the location we were to stay at was at the Spoke’n Hostel which was just outside of town. This was probably the best hostel we ever stayed at on our trip. It was a former church with indoor parking for your bicycles and coed dorms lined with multiple bunk beds along both walls. There were several nooks in the building where we can relax and play games or use their wi-fi. They have a kitchen area downstairs where you are given a breakfast the next morning. The back of the hostel was an area for folks to camp if they preferred to do so or if the bunk beds are all occupied. There was even a cool little outdoor shower system where they used solar warmed water in black garbage cans along with battery operated shower heads (Amazon). We were actually given showers at the hostel owner’s personal home as our group got shuttled back and forth between locations.

Even though the hostel was nice and spacious, we were overcome by the same problem from the night before: heat. It wasn’t as bad as the night before but it made it hard to fall asleep with everyone in one room and some ceiling fans and opened windows.

I highly recommend that you come and visit this hostel if you’re ever in town. They are trying to revitalize the town and have made positive changes to get more people to visit and spend money at local shops. A brewery and food truck have followed the hostel and have provided a great place for people to enjoy their time in Mitchell. For more information about Mitchell and Spoke’N Hostel, check out a few videos my friends at The Path Less Pedaled did on a similar trip through town a few weeks before I was there (of course I also featured them in this week’s Vlog video below).

July 28, 2016 – Mitchell to Redmond

The ride into Redmond was going to a bit challenging as Redmond is a town that is located a few miles away from the Trans Am route. I had to provide a water stop between Mitchell and Prineville which was 40 miles without any services. Prineville was bustling town much larger than any towns we have seen since Missoula, Montana. We crossed paths with another cross-country group called the Fuller Center Bike Adventure in town. This was a fully supported ride who goes across the country building houses and shelter along the way. Some of the riders blindly followed my van as I got lost in Prineville. I finally lost them as I made a left turn on a busy road. I wasn’t trying to purposely lose them but it was funny to see how they just followed the Adventure Cycling van like I knew where I was going.

Out of Prineville, we followed Highway 370 which is also called the O’Neil Highway which was a quiet 2 lane road with a good amount of truck traffic. Most vehicles would travel to Redmond using Highway 126 so we had fewer cars on this road. This was a trickier section where our riders needed to find our motel in Redmond without using their maps and just from directions we gave them verbally. Fortunately, everyone arrived without any issues at the Hub Motel. The motel’s double occupancy rooms actually have their beds separated into 2 separate rooms so it was great from the privacy perspective.

This was also the first time we saw a Walmart for a while so I visited the store to resupply our van and do a little bit of shopping.

July 29, 2016 – Redmond to Rainbow

Deschutes River ValleyOverlooking Mount Washington

Getting out of Redmond was going to be challenging as we guided our riders out and back onto the Trans Am route using verbal instructions. As it turned out, this was a non-issue as everyone got out and was in the town of Sisters a lot sooner than I anticipated. Sisters was a town I was looking forward to visiting as I had heard so much good things about it. What I saw when I got there was just lots of car traffic through town. I felt like I didn’t get to do as much exploring as I’d like to as the traffic kept me moving out-of-town. I eventually pulled over when I saw one of our rider’s bike parked outside a store. I locked my bike next to hers and walked around a few blocks before I settled on going into a coffee shop which gave me a perfect view of our bikes from the window. I worked on my laptop and watched my last rider unlock her bike and leave towards the last pass of our trip, McKenzie Pass (Travel Oregon).

I even waited around for another hour before I decided to start my ride. It got hot so I was suffering all the way up the 5325 feet summit. As a consolation the view was beautiful all the way up to the summit where the desert landscape was overtaken by dense forests as the road starting climbing higher. By the time I reached the summit, the forest was then covered by lava rocks. There was an entire observatory made out of lava rocks at the top for people to explore. I decided against it and enjoyed a well-deserved sandwich for lunch.

I was expecting an immediately downhill ride from the peak but instead, we were on a plateau for a few more miles. I actually ran out of water and decided to hail a car for help. I was given water by a family of 3. I eventually caught up with our last rider who was resting on the side of the road. When we decided to continue on our way out of the mountain, we were given the gift of an incredible downhill. The road snaked, turned and dove through denser forests where at places the sunlight barely peeked through and green moss took advantage and made their homes on the side of the trees. The downhill lasted for about an hour as I feathered my brakes all the way down so I didn’t fly by my last rider.

The odometer for the day read 70 miles when I reached the bottom of the hill. I knew I was going to get it from my riders who I told was just a 62 miles day. We still had another 6 miles until we reach our stop for the night. After we refilled our bottle at a ranger station on Highway 126, we were met by Jared shortly down the road. He was worried but we told him that we were fine and that the rest of the way was downhill into the motel. He advised that we stayed on the main highway as there was no other advantage in taking the recommended Trans Am route through McKenzie River Drive.

I was given my own room for the night as agreed between Jared and I so throughly enjoyed taking a well-deserved nap before we all headed out to eat at the restaurant across the street. During dinner, people certainly gave me grief for the additional mileage. I chalked up the extra mileage as we did not stay at the same place as previous group in Redmond and we stayed at a motel 3 miles further down the road from the recommended campground in McKenzie Bridge. Ice cream after dinner seemed to mellowed everybody out before we all retreated to our rooms for the night.

July 30, 2016 – Rainbow to Eugene

This was going to be Jared’s last day on the bike so he was pumped to get going. After we finished packing everything in the trailer, Jared and I had our second breakfast meal at the same restaurant across the street, Takoda’s. I then went and inflated a super deflated tire from the trailer before I started my journey into Eugene, Oregon. I stayed on Highway 126 which eventually turned into a freeway as you approach Eugene through Springfield.

I went directly to a Fred Meyer supermarket to drop off a photo for a cake we ordered. Then I got a quick haircut before I decided to finally end my drive to our home at the Hostel OZ. This hostel is located in the Whiteaker neighborhood which was a bit more bohemian and laid back. The vibe there was certainly different from any other places that we’ve ever stayed so our group had to adjust to it for a bit.

When Jared came in, we went over to the REI to get his bike packed up and shipped home. We then walked around to find a restaurant for an early supper / late lunch. We ended up at a Thai restaurant and enjoyed our meals before we walked back to the hostel. A few of our participants were hanging out on the porch getting ready for their dinner. We told them where we went and they ended up going to the same place.

About an hour later Jared and I decided to find a place to drink and write out our script for our presentation at our final dinner the next night. We had an award for everyone but it was basically an anti-award where we poked fun of people. Trust me, this sounded a lot more funnier than you think. After a few drinks and appetizers, we went to get ice cream before we headed back to the hostel for our map meeting.

I gave them the bad news that it was going to be a long day tomorrow as the mileage says it was 76 miles from Eugene to Florence and then another 5-6 miles to the beach where we were planning to dip our tires. Everyone griped and moaned for one last time before we headed into our respective dormitories and beds for the night.

July 31, 2016 – Eugene to Florence

Wide shoulders in MapletonRear view mirrorEnroute to the ocean

We all woke up at 5:30 and prepared for our departure. I didn’t get to go on the road until it was closer to 8:30 when the last of our riders took off. One of our stronger rider actually held back his departure to give his wife and mother-in-law (who joined for the final ride today) the opportunity to ride out further. I ended up riding with him out of Eugene until his pace picked up and he finally caught up to his wife and mother-in-law about 1/4 mile down the road.

I stayed behind this trio for the entire day. All 81 miles was behind them as we enjoyed a beautiful path on Highway 36 through Mapleton where the busy Highway 126 returned. I saw them celebrate in front of the “Welcome to Florence” sign before we were met by another rider who had already reached the beach but was coming back to meet with us so he can record his first and only century. He warned us about the severe headwinds we would face once we made the right turn and headed north on Highway 101. Boy was he right! It took us some time to ride the last 5-6 miles to the beach as we were blown every which way.

When we got there, everyone in the group came out to greet us and we all marched across the beach towards the ocean. Everyone except Jared and I had their bikes. They finally concluded their bike tour by dipping their front wheel in the Pacific Ocean. We all laughed and took plenty of photos of this momentous occasion before the cold from the blowing wind literal put the freeze on our celebration. We headed back to the van and loaded all but my bike and the guy riding the century as we both were going to ride to the hotel. I decided to do it under the excuse of sweeping our last participant but I really did it so I can enjoy some tailwind for a change.

I was flying around the 20+ mph the entire way. It was fantastic way to end the last riding day of this tour. We all cleaned ourselves off at the hotel and met for dinner where we walked over to the International C-Food Market to enjoy our final group dinner. Jared and I surprised our group with the photo cake and then presented our funny awards to each of them. Our food was delicious and everyone was in a celebratory mood for the evening for good reason. You can see the feeling of relief that they didn’t have to ride another day.

August 1, 2016 – LAST DAY

Jared and I roomed together for the night so we got up at 5:30 once again to get our breakfast food ready as the hotel didn’t offer anything substantial. We also needed the time to organize the luggage so that we unloaded according to the order that we were planning on dropping off.

The first stop was going to be at the Eugene Airport to drop off the tandem so they can pick up a rental car. The next stop was the Eugene REI where we unloaded 3 riders. Then we went to a motel and then the last bike shop to drop off 3 more folks.

Jared and I retreated back to our motel and decided that we would do the van duties the next day. The plan of the day was to take care of personal errands like sending back some our gear back home so we visited the local post office. 3 other riders made the motel their home for the night as well so we got to have dinner with them one more night before we all went our separate ways.

Final Thoughts

I can’t really say I was sad but I did feel relief as the day-to-day work was hard but at the same time rewarding. I am truly blessed to say that I have a job that challenges both physically, mentally and organizationally. In the process, I get to meet really good people in all walks of life. All pluses in my book.  If this isn’t a dream job for me, I don’t know what is.

I can’t wait to lead another one of these trips but on a more long-term basis.


About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He’s also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.

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