Miles – 101.1
Avg. Speed – 12.8
100 miles! Our first “century” could not have come on a better day. Without internet for 2 days, finding a hotel with WIFI was our priority, and Unity, only 65 miles down the path wouldn’t suffice, so Prairie City it was. 101 miles through Eastern Oregon, crossing from Mountain time to Pacific, and finally leaving the high desert behind.
The sunrise in the east saw us off across the vast plains after a filling, but unsatisfying service station breakfast. My Mexican omlette on white bread was purely perfunctory, but fuel was in high demand as our next opportunity for nourishment was 70 miles away and across two mountain passes. Northward and Westward we pedaled, making good time through the cool morning air. The wind was calm, and the sun was gentle, and we cruised steadily past corn, cows and onions.
Eventually, the farms gave way to sagebrush, and once again we felt like we were riding across the surface of some brown moon. Up and down we flew along endlessly straight roads, and with the wind finally depressed, it felt like we were skipping across the asphalt. The day’s first mountain loomed large and brown in front of us, and when we reached the summit after five miles of swtichbacks, we were disappointed to see more endless desert. We’d been riding through deserts since Western Kansas, and the smell and atmosphere of a forest was like one of those well remembered childhood hideouts, where once you’ve grown up, you’re scared you’ll never get to see again.
Miles and miles and miles through nothing desert before finally we reached Unity, our lunchtime reprise. A quick sandwich and salad before we were on the road again, this time with the assurance from local hunters that trees were indeed not far away. Five miles on, a Westerly gust proved the huntsmen correct, as the reviving scent of pines wafted across the plains and brought us all to a halt. We took an entire minute to revel in the Christmas Tree air, and when we saddled up again our legs couldn’t carry us towards the forest fast enough.
Finally, finally, we began to creep our way into the forest as we rode past our first few Ponderosa Pines. Tall, straight and brooding, these behemoth trees are unlike anything we have back East. Although they’d only be undergrowth next to a Redwood, these trees are massive indeed and there presence around us seemed almost mystical after 2,000 miles of barren land. The scent in the forest from the pine needles was overpowering, and the deep shade cast by the trees added a sense of mystery to each bend in the road. Not knowing what’s around a corner is not only more fun than riding on open land, but it makes you feel like you’re moving forward.
The day was getting later, and despite gaining an hour of ride time, crossing into Pacific time, we were going to be racing the sunset once again. Two o’clock turned into three, and three into four, and the forest was coming alive with screeches and hoots. Our pace had a lopsided rhythm as it was slowly up for an hour and quickly down for fifteen minutes. Our legs were were growing weary and our brake pads were straining.
As the sun rotated out of the sky, the forest began to take on a honey glow. As we summited our last climb of the day, tree trunks turned from dark brown to black and the perfect shape of the pines against the sky broke just enough to reveal cookie cutter mountains set against a fiery sky in the distance. We descended into a river valley and as it was now dark, we arrived in Prairie City not a second too soon. We checked into the Prairie City Motel and had a quick diner with some great new found friends at the Oxbow Coffee House and Restaurant before we hit the hay and slept like logs!
We’ll arrive in Bend, our official 3,000 mile mark, on Friday, and have a few days to rest and recuperate before we make our sweeping Southward turn towards Los Angeles. The sea feels not so far away now, and the three of us are all very excited to bring you, via your screen, some amazing multimedia experiences.