July 16, 2001

7/16/01 McKenzie Bridge Camp

49.4 / 4743 miles

I was wondering how I was going to pack up and leave this morning without waking up Emily who was planning on sleeping later. But when I returned from the bathroom, she was already up. We talked while I got ready and she reminded me I could stop by and visit her in Corvalis. I'll miss her company.

Even before I was back on the route, the winds were kicking up. Looks like I'll have some stiff headwinds as I climb this morning. At first, there were a lot of heavy trucks but when I reached the base of the mountain, I practically had the road to myself.

At one point, Dave rode alongside of me. He was just out for an out-and-back ride from Redmond to McKenzie Pass. We talked about unconventional travel and he asked questions about cross-country biking. He'd hitchhiked all over the USA when he was younger but would like to do it on a bike someday. Even though it was windy, you worked up a good sweat, plus the sun was on your back.

The climb was long but steady. Good thing traffic was light because the road was narrow without a shoulder. Near the top, I came to a place called "Windy Point". Boy, did they pick the right name. The wind was so strong, it was pulling at my jacket. I also got my first glimpse of the lava fields. Black jumble of lava rock everywhere. Kind of a spooky moonscape. Plus, the overcast sky didn't help any.

The edge of the lava fields

Even as we neared the lava fields, the road kept to the trees. But at the top, it finally had to cut across that mass of volcanic debris. Also at the pass (5325') was the Dee Wright Observatory, a structure completely hand-built of lava rock. Inside were windows made to point to all the major peaks in the area. And on top was a brass dial point out the same. The whole thing had a medieval feel to it.

Visibility was poor because of the cloud cover, which also kept the temperatures low. But as I started to descend, it also started to rain. Cold, wet and windy are such a dangerous combination. I quickly put on my raingear but I was still cold because of the sweaty clothes I had on from the climb.

But I figured (and hoped) that the weather would be warmer and dryer at a lower elevation. So, down I went. If I hadn't needed to replace my brakes before, I will now after that ride. Even after all these miles, I think this was my steepest, longest, windiest downhill yet. I needed to stop frequently because of the cramps I was getting in my hands from holding the brakes.

And with my prayers answered, it got warmer and dryer as I rode through thick forests of incredibly tall pines with the ground covered with ferns. This is the terrain and vegetation I'd expect in Oregon.

What different scenery!

As I was coming down, I met Bonnie going up. An elderly cyclist traveling alone, she was too experienced to worry much about anything. "I've cycled this route before, along with the Pacific Coast and the Southern Route twice." she proudly proclaimed. Bonnie told me she also biked all over Europe and New England. This trip she's headed for Wisconsin.

By the time I reached McKinzie Bridge, I was feeling better but tired. I'm a little discouraged by lapses in communication. Even using libraries, internet access is pretty sporadic. I guess I've come to depend on it too much. Hopefully tomorrow, I can get updated in Eugene, OR.