July 13, Day 11 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014
I was a bit skeptical when Debbie said she wanted to make it to Baker City before our rest day. First, we’d just camped and I’d slept poorly. When I asked Debbie how she felt, she responded favorably…she’d had a good sleep. Second, Baker City was 80 miles away—and with not one, not two, but three significant climbs totaling 4,000 feet. Third, it was Sunday. We usually make it a practice to attend church. However, we both wanted to work TheHopeLine on Sunday evening, and that would work well with a rest day on Monday. Consequently, off we went.
The first climb out of John Day included several miles of gradual ascent. However, when we hit the steeper portion of the climb, we slowed to a crawl. Traffic on its way to Sunday afternoon frolicking was whizzing by at uncomfortable speed and proximity. Halfway up, we stopped for a break. When we looked around from whence we had come, we were awestruck by the panoramic view.
Eventually, we crept to the top of Dixie Pass. The reward, of course, is a plunging descent with glee comparable in magnitude to the agony of the uphill climb. The good part, however, flashes by in what seems like an instant.
A midafternoon stop at Austin Junction brought relief from the baking sun. It had again topped 100 degrees, and we still had two more climbs to go. Food and refreshment, plus a cool-down, served us well. Inside the restaurant, we met three men who were cycling east to west, two from England and their traveling companion from Chicago whom they had picked up along the way. We traded cards, notes, and stories while eating. These gents were on the homestretch. They had become experts at their craft, but were now looking forward to the end.
Finally, we knew it was time to return to the oppressive heat, and to the two remaining climbs that lay ahead. The first, Tipton Pass, was not too difficult, just time consuming. When we crested the hill and began the downward joyride, our rearview mirrors told an ominous tale, a foreboding of what lay ahead. The sky was dark, with a blue hue. Somewhere behind us, it was pouring, and bolts of lightning periodically lit up the sky. We continued on.
When we began our ascent up Sumpter Pass, we were losing the battle with Mother Nature. The storm was overtaking us, and it was time to reassess. As the rumbles continued, now overhead, we decided to stop and wait out the storm, knowing that we still had over 30 miles to our destination with limited daylight.
After a 30-minute break, the storm had passed us by. We resumed our climb and made it to the top. The remainder was mostly downhill, but the real joy began 15 miles outside of Baker City. We met up with Powder River and enjoyed a long stretch of slight decline with a promising wind behind us. As daylight waned, we were in another race that would be difficult to win. Five miles out of town, dusk fell into darkness and we pedaled on. We arrived in town around 9:00 pm.
We soon located a motel and checked in. Our day ended with each of us taking a chat on TheHopeLine. It was a good day, with 83 miles farther down the road to our destination and a rest day up next.