Today is an exciting but slightly nerve-inducing day. The plan is ambitious and requires us to use all of the energy that we saved up by having a day off in Lakeview. Getting back from dinner last night, Greg and I quickly went to bed with our alarms set for 3:00am.
Rising at 3 and out the door by 330am, we started our trek north along Highway 395, which would lead us directly through the Oregon High Desert. This early in the morning we could not see much more than what was illuminated by our front and rear lights. As we rode out of town, the lights from houses alongside the road became fewer and the rustling of unseen animals grew more frequent.
22 miles in we reached the geological marker for Abert Rim, which explained the geologic formation of the fault scarp that we would be following for the next 31 miles. As the road split towards Bend and Burns, we were warned that the next gas station was 90 miles away, and with it, easy access to food/water should we run out of either.
Biking in the forming shadows of the scarp we twisted along the shore of Abert Lake. This lake is extremely alkaline and normally takes the form of a salty lake bed. Interestingly, the high alkalinity of its water makes it unsuitable for any human recreation. It's only inhabitants, a colony of brine shrimp.
Passing the north shore of the lake, we reached our first climb of the day. Reaching the top, we were over 40 miles into our trip and could begin to feel the warmth of the sun. Our sweat and effort was repaid with a 5 mile long descent deeper into the desert. Along this elevation drop, I was surprised to spot a Bureau of Land Management rest area. Hopeful that it might have some potable water we pulled in. Much to our surprise there was a water fountain! Much to our disappointment however, no water flowed from its spout when the valve was opened. This was quite a cruel trick.
The miles continued to fly by as we averaged almost 15mph without our gear. Before we knew it, we reached mile 60, and with it, a Department of Transportation station and housing. Standing under the shade of a tree that was close to their barbedwire fence, we admired the view of Alkaline Lake. Similar to Abert Lake, although smaller and much drier. Its lake bed was a pure, bright white.
Seeing a sign for the town of Wagontire in 22 miles, we resolved to make this our next stop, hopeful that it would provide some more scare desert shade. Pedaling on, we passed Alkali Lake State Airport. Airport was an ambitious title, for this was nothing but a dirt strip, cleared of vegetation, with no buildings or support. This airfield was located along a stretch of 395 that allowed us to see about 10 miles dead ahead of us. Such definitive evidence of our impending cycling monotony did not boost our spirits.
Climbing a few more hills, we reached the "town" of Wagontire. The town consists of a now closed motel/cafe/gas station. A few years ago, when it was open, Wagontire boasted a population of 2 (the owners of the establishment). When they had a child, the population grew to 3. This fast population increase made Wagontire one of the fastest growing towns of Oregon. Disappointed that the cafe was closed, we were relieved to find that a bench and chair were still available for our use under one of the few shade trees. Checking the area of rattle snakes first, we sat down and "enjoyed" some of our very warm drinking water. Having reached 83 miles into our trip, we were happy to have some rest. On a very old sign, Wagontire advertised its very own "international" airport.
As we considered leaving, so as not to let the temperature climb any higher, our support team (Jonathan) arrived with food and water. We decided to hold off on our food until we left the desert in Riley, OR, and thought it "best" to dump the extra weight of our hydration packs into Jonathan's car. Getting ready to leave, an older couple walked across the parking lot and asked if the cafe was closed. Apparently the fact that the open sign was dangling off the side of the building, was not a clear enough indicator for them that the cafe was in fact permanently closed.
We set off with, just about 30 miles to reach Riley. Unfortunately these last desert miles were not as flat as those earlier. Instead we spent our time in the desert, climbing and descending over ever-growing rolling hills. During this time, our tolerance of the deserted waned, just like our water supply. Coming back to check on us in his air-conditioned car, Jonathan informed us that it was 98 degrees where we were. What a fun fact!
After another big climb we finally spotted irrigated land before coasting the final two miles into Riley. Riley consisted of a post office and archery store. After eating our Subway sandwiches from Lakeview, we rested before embarking on the final 27 mile push to Hines (right next to Burns, OR). Again, Jonathan went on ahead as we climbed rolling hills, slowly gaining elevation. After ten miles of climbs we descended for a few miles, before eventually arriving in Hines. Tired from the heat, and dried out from the lack of humidity, we were grateful for our air conditioned hotel room and clean shower.
Today was a big day for both riders. It was our first time biking a century (100 miles). Due to the spread out nature of the Oregon High Desert, the required 137 mile ride also greatly exceeded our previous longest ride of 87 miles from Eureka to Crescent City.
Photos by Jonathan Kobles