Baker City to Union, OR

Today was another hot day, with three main climbs and less distance than yesterday.

We got another early start this morning to try to get as much as the ride done before it really heated up. I thought we’d be a little faster to be out the door, since we didn’t have to deal with the car, but it ended up a bit later.

While we were getting the bikes set up, a gentleman stopped to talk to us. After chatting about our route for a few minutes he asked where we were from. Evidently I had been saying La Grande wrong. It isn’t “grahn-day”, it’s just “grand”. How embarrassing.

It was cool enough when we started for Anne to wear arm warmers and a jacket. We quickly got back to farmland. The road turned gravel for a bit, but it was well packed, so wasn’t too difficult on the bikes.

We turned onto 203. Before long we could see the first small climb. The farmland dropped away as we entered the hills. We hit a relatively steep part (not really, but our legs are weaker than they have been), but it shallowed out pretty quickly.

Ruth said she couldn’t pedal to help, which we took to be some morning grumpiness. When we stopped, we figured out that she meant it literally. Her pedals wouldn’t move. Her skirt had gotten caught. We got it out, then she changed to a shorter one.

As we crested, there was a strange chittering noise in the bushes. We caught a quick glimpse of two badgers fighting.

There wasn’t much time to examine further, because we had an amazing downhill to enjoy. We dropped behind the hills, mostly straight with some curves to break it up. Good sightlines, and not a car for miles. We could really let gravity take hold. Most of these feet we had climbed yesterday, so we were due for something great.

There were scattered cattle grazing, but mostly just bushy hills. A brief climb around a hill split the drop in half, which just meant we got to enjoy it all over again.

All too soon it was time to start providing our own power again. The bulk of the day would be spent working back up over the next ridge.

The first climb was the steadiest. Not too steep, but well beyond a vampire hill. We could hold a conversation, but still feel like we were accomplishing something.

At the top, we switched trailers. I’d get Ruth’s bonus pedaling for the second climb. She’s been amused with a game where she and her chafuer “sneak” start from when we’re taking a break, leaving the other bike to catch up. I’ve been on the receiving end many times, so this time I assured Anne we would wait for get to put on gloves, then hopped on and sped off. She didn’t suspect a thing.

We got a short downhill, then we started on the second main climb. This one had two parts – first a gentle part, then a steeper kicker for the last half of the elevation gain. Ruth was a nice, if intermittent, helper. Just before it kicked up we passed through Medical Springs, which appeared to be about two buildings in size.

We got another short drop, leading to a fairly straight section with some rollers. We stopped for lunch and switched trailers again.

After lunch I was feeling a little off. I think we waited a bit too long for lunch, plus the heat wasn’t helping.

We continued to the third climb. By now the landscape had changed. Instead of bushes there were trees. The sun was high enough to deny us much shade. This climb was like a hybrid of the first two. Relatively steep, but straightforward.

We stopped a couple of times for water and to cool off a bit. Anne was babying me a little, but it was appropriate and probably necessary. As we got higher we could hear gunfire from what I assume was a range in the woods somewhere. If it was hunting and the animals were still hanging out after the first 20 shots, they got what was coming to them.

Finally we summited. There was even a sign for our troubles, the highest point of this tour. We stopped for some pictures and more water.

We enjoyed another amazing descent down the hills. Sections of road were newer, blacker asphalt. Not only could we feel the heat radiating up, but traction seemed a little worse. A little extra caution was needed, but still a nice payoff.

Even after it leveled off, we got a slight downward slope for the last ten miles. The scenery transitioned back to bushy farmland, though with large rock formations. We rode mostly along Catherine Creek, which seemed to be flowing quite freely.

We stopped for restrooms at a state park. After that, traffic picked up quite a bit. Ruth excitedly counted down the mile markers while Max played airplane with my sandals.

We made it into Union around 2 pm. We were able to get into our room early, then explored a bit. We rode through town yesterday, but got a closer look today. Anne found a walking tour brochure so could tell us about the buildings’ histories. Of particular interest to me was the Carneige library which is still a library.

The Historic Union Hotel is also quite interesting. It’s old (built in the 20s?) but restored. There’s a restaurant downstairs, which nominally was closed. Since nearly everything in town is closed for the holiday, they opened up for us. Quite excellent service.

Tomorrow wraps up the tour, and will be a fairly short and flat day. It doesn’t look like it’ll be any cooler, though we may be able to finish before the sun can catch us.