Day 19 – Bend to Baker City, OR

Distance: 282.2 miles / 454 kilometres
Riding time: 8:45-4:00pm
Temps: Low 14 McKenzie Pass / High 32 Paulina

I really enjoyed my stay at the Old St. Francis hotel. Great vibe and atmosphere. The food was amazing – spicy prawn linguini (chock full of prawns). I had a sampling of some of the beers and really enjoyed the double IPAs and even the berry filled ones. 

During planning for the trip I scaled back the roads and distances for the last few days of the trip. That way I’m done around check-in times at hotels. The planning has done nothing for dealing with the heat. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve narrowly missed rain and storms every day but the afternoon heat most days has been overpowering. 

When I left this morning there were still remnants of the epic rainstorm from last night even out on the highway. Today the weather has been perfect and I narrowly avoided another late day storm by a few minutes. 

Using a Googlemaps I randomly selected the first few roads for the journey today. Turns out most of my interesting picks are dirt roads which would be really fun on a dual sport bike but not so much on a street bike. 

I did get lucky on one pick- Crooked River Highway (27) that leads out to the Prineville reservoir and then connects with the Pailna Highway (380) after Prineville. It is a nice meandering road that follows a river valley for miles. It looks like a good fishing spot since the only signs of life were fishermen up and at’em early this morning. Lots of deer and an interesting contrast between the land managed by farmers (green, lush and teaming with vegetation) and the scrubby sagey brush and desert provided by nature. 

I’m amazed at the facilities for athletics in even the smallest of American towns. Beautifully groomed football fields, baseball fields, and perfectly manicured grass everywhere on the school grounds. Interestingly the schools are quite small but the grounds containing the athletics facilities are quite large. 

The highway goes for almost 100 miles of desert and brush then goes through higher elevation and alpine climes then right back down to desert. Again today the highways travel over several 5000ft passes which give a bit of relief from the heat and some much needed shade to stop under. Parts of the roads today are the old Oregon Trail. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to travel in the heat and dust for months at a time to find places to settle. The environment is rugged and relentless. They must have been equal parts of smart, foolish and tough.  It must have been difficult to find even basics like water and food – it’s completely barren in the interior of Oregon. 

I elected to take highway 242 to finish the day. The end bit looked interesting. Not a lot of excitement to report for most of the day but certainly not a boring ride. Days like today provide much needed miles to get where you want to go, while avoiding freeways and the traffic of the larger highways. Highway 242 provided a few more 5000ft passes and some fun switchbacks to ride – Blue Mountain pass, Dixie and Dooley Mountain pass. 

I slipped in before the storm and settled in for some food. Safeway is an excellent convenience store on vacations. You can quickly sneak in and get descents meals, drinks and even a brew if you like. 

Baker City looks a lot like many other truck stop towns – a place that you pass through. There’s a cute little downtown but the main drag is designed to funnel people through and back out on the interstate. No sidewalks for pedestrians or even crosswalks. I guess you’re not intended to”walk” in these towns. 

The hotel is quiet and only partly full. Odd that I’m stuck in a room with the air conditioning compressor outside of my room. It’s like having a diesel truck parked outside of my window. Needless to say that I’m not going to be getting much sleep. Also, I’ve found my million dollar idea – a quiet room air conditioner. If I could invent that I’d be a zillionaire and actually sleep in hotels. What a bothersome racket at each and every motel. Better get blueprinting my idea.