I submitted my post yesterday at 6:15 pm (Pacific Time). By eight o'clock, my night had turned in a most unlikely direction. On my way to McDonald's, I spotted a guy riding a town bike of sorts; he was wearing an OU hat. One of the many good things about Ohio University is, if you see someone wearing the school's apparel, they have a connection (alum, teacher, or kid goes there). As it turns out, the guy on the bike was Gary Minger; he graduated in the early 70s. As most OU alums are, Gary was easy going, and easy to relate to. And as most OU alums will do, he invited me to his house for a beer or few (Longboard Lager, it's great with lime).
It's always a good time sitting in on someone reminiscing about their college days. With Gary it was no different. A former Akron student, he made the right decision to transfer OU, heeding the advice of his future roommate, and now owner of the Smiling Skull. He even had a Smiling Skull coffee mug in the cabinet; it made me feel back at school. I also found it very cool that he was in attendance back in '71 when the Bobcats took down a ranked Ohio State squad in the Convo.
Riding back to the motel, I felt like I had lived my entire life in Baker City. There's something about riding through the neighborhood streets at night that makes it feel like your home. Baker City is another great town I've encountered along the way. Home to about 10,000, it has most of the modern town amenities, with the Blue Mountains as a back drop.
Another cool thing about this part of Oregon is the desert/forest hybrid terrain. There's no humidity so the heat doesn't become bothersome. Some parts are less alive, high grassy plains that look thirsty. Other parts have enough trees to make me think I'm back in Colorado.
I hear the Cascade Mountains are a game changer. Once I hit the peak at Sisters, I enter a whole new world. Apparently eastern Oregon can collect 16 inches of rain a year, while west in the Cascades, 60 inches is not uncommon. Those mountains are a real X-factor.
Energized by my stay at the Oregon Trail Motel, I crossed 90 miles off the map. I made it to Mount Vernon (not George Washington's plantation). The town of just less than a thousand is home to a bike guest house (shower/camping). I rolled in around 7 to meet Dan, Patrick, and Craig, three guys fresh on the trail. From Brooklyn, they've taken a break from their careers to bike the US. They're 6 days in from Florence, they've got me dreaming about the saltwater.
I had been thinking about taking a 50 mile detour to Crater Lake, but Patrick advised me that resources are very limited. I like taking risks but I don't want my trip to end on a sour note, 300 miles from the coast. Also, Craig has had some bad experiences with the locals in Washington. Apparently outside of Seattle, they don't take too kindly to cyclists. I may wind up venturing more inland after I reach Astoria, Oregon to avoid some of the nightmares he was talking about.
It's starting to set in how close I really am.