Sunday, October 15, 2006

John Day to Dayville to Mitchell

John Day to Dayville to Mitchell

October 14, 2006

I'm in Mitchell, OR tonight. I ate a dinner of beef and potato stew, with half a can of pineapple and three fourths a bag of peanut butter M and M's (the big 12oz. bag). Doesn't feel like it's going to get too cold tonight. The SYSCO thermometer I found on the road that is now attached to my handlebars reads 50 plus degrees. Let's see, in Celsius that converts to 10 degrees I think. More or less.

I finally looked up the formula for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius. First you subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit number. This is easy to remember because this is my age, as well as the freezing point of water. Then the tricky part of the equation is to multiply this number by 5/9ths, which is about .555.

I'll have to give this some practice as I ride these next few weeks. Then I'll be able to add a new skill to my repertoire of useless skills.

So yesterday I pooped out super early. I had spent the night at John Day, right next to the Hahn Wong state park or something, and hadn't slept that terrific due to the cold. I waited for the sun to warm the earth a little before stirring, whereupon I discovered that a mouse or other rodent like critter had climbed into my BOB bag and helped themselves to quite a bit of my loaf of French Wheat bread. I had been hoping to live on that bread for the next day or so. The last few pieces were salvageable so I made a breakfast sandwich of peanut butter, banana and honey. I draped my tent fly over the monkey bars to let my respiration dew evaporate into the morning air. After loading up I went up the block to the Methodist Thrift Store which opened a bit early, just before ten a.m. I needed to replace my left spoon from the El Dorado in Baker City. I picked out a beautifully ornate strong spoon with a medium size scoop. What do you call that part of the spoon for goodness sakes?

I decided to stop by the library before leaving town, but they didn't open until 1pm. On the way there I passed the strange landscape guy in front of the Dairy Queen who had given me directions. I said hello, and he barely knew how to respond. On the way back from the closed library I decided to hunt up an outdoor store and get a new fuel canister for my stove. The downtown hardware store also carried hunting equipment and I decided they were a likely place. Bingo, they had it. As I was leaving downtown I noticed my reflection in the shop windows and thought I must look pretty odd in my sleek all black outfit. I had my new Northface pullover on and my black rainpants. I know it's silly, but I was staring at myself in the front window reflections as I pulled down the road. I was curious how that grey back on my sweatshirt looked. It seemed to look pretty good so I smiled and headed towards the Thriftway.

I needed more bread to replace my rodent ruined loaf. I went in the store and this time got some whole wheat rolls for sandwiches with the roasted red pepper hummus I had bought the night before and the organic romaine hearts, the red pepper and the tomato. Lunch was going to be good. I needed something to crunch so I got the Garden of Eatin' nacho cheese organic yellow corn chips. Then I wanted to go ahead and plan for dinner so I picked up a box of beef chili. I reckoned I could add the rest of the tomato and red pepper to it.

By the time I hit the road it was nearly 11. But it had warmed up pretty good and that makes the riding easier these days. Mount Vernon was only ten miles down the road. By the time I got there it was nearly lunchtime and it had been awhile since I'd had that banana, peanut butter, honey sandwich. I passed the local park which had everything I wanted. I wished I had camped there, because it was only just starting to get dark when I pulled into John Day the night before.

I entered the park from the back street and set up for lunch. A black dog on the other side of the street started begging for a handout. Meanwhile there were kids playing in the playground. The oldest of the kids was a young girl, maybe 7 years old. She caught my attention because she was wearing a long black cape, the kind you might wear with a Halloween costume. She also caught my attention because she had a quite beautiful quality. Her hair was sandy blonde, and she carried herself in that unique fashion that is the mark of a young lady who will grow up to become a striking young woman.

It was a beautiful day. I charged my phone, looked to see if there was an internet connection, fed the dog some corn chips, and ended my meal with a few square's of a Hershey's Symphony bar (the one with Almonds and Toffee) dipped in Organic Peanut butter. My sweet tooth has grown larger and larger as the trip has gone on. Maybe it's because I've all but eliminated soft drinks.

After only another 25 miles, I arrived in Dayville. I stopped for another snack. It was just 2 pm but I wasn't feeling so well. Perhaps it was the cold and fitful night from the night before, but I felt flushed. I looked at the map and it was about to be a steady ascent almost to Mitchell which was forty miles away. I might have gone for it had I not picked up a Dayville brochure while in the bathroom that mentioned a church hostel. I began considering my laundry needs. When I asked a woman at city hall if there was a laundry she said, “You should stay the night at the church, they've got laundry, a kitchen, plus it's all uphill from here, and the traffic is bad this time of day, you should just wait until the morning.” This made sense to me. I was ready for a break. I'd been wanting to take a half day off and read my Michael Pollan book for awhile.

The evening was pleasant and uneventful. The church was quite comfortable. They had been hosting bicyclist's ever since the first Trans Am tour back in '76. This was one of those legendary stops, and I just about missed it. Claudine was the parishioner that welcomed bikers. She lived in the assisted living homes located behind the church. When I walked up the hill to find her she was visiting a neighbor. I saw that she was in a motorized wheelchair and she was coming down a super steep grade on a gravel driveway.

Those newfangled motorized wheelchairs are something else. It had little wheels just for such situations. As the chair tilted forward, it simply rolled onto those extra wheels. As I walked around behind her chair thinking I would help her down, it was odd to realize that she was completely in control of her descent. That chair could just about climb mountains. We chatted for just a few minutes and she said she'd come down to meet me in a little while, but I should go ahead and make myself comfortable.

The first thing I did was open all the doors and windows of the church. It was simply frigid in there, but the day had warmed up nicely, so I let all that refrigerated air disappear. The church was indeed well equipped. There was a full kitchen where I went ahead and refrigerated my left over lettuce and hummus. The bathroom had a shower, and a basket filled with little hotel soaps, shampoos and of course, entirely too much lotion. Then there was a washer and dryer in the closet. Both the sanctuary and the dining hall had pianos and I thought I might enjoy stretching the fingers a little later. In a corner of the sanctuary was also a television, VCR and DVD player. Behind these was a library of books and movies.

Claudine came by and we had a nice long talk. Claudine was diagnosed with COPD which is chronic bronchitis and emphysema, just a few years after her mother and father died of the same conditions. All of them had been lifelong smokers. Claudine had thus inherited the motorized wheelchair her father had used, called a scooter, but had recently upgraded to the power chair she was using now. A tank of oxygen lay on the small ledge at her feet. She was ecstatic that her doctor had finally approved a lung transplant. She was eagerly awaiting the call that would tell her to come to Washington to begin the two months of physical training required to strengthen the abdominal muscles which would support the new lungs. The lungs would be donor lungs from a healthy but deceased donor. Both her parents had donated their bodies to science, which can be a bit odd for the family she said. There are no graves, or ashes to sprinkle. No place to go to remember them.

I told her that I myself had quit smoking and she agreed that it was the best decision I ever made. Interestingly, the next time I went in for my Drivers License I checked DONATE ALL on the organ donation sheet. The donation of an organ may be the most important thing an individual contributes in their life. Though I hope all my organs are old and shriveled up before that day comes.

I read some of the my Michael Pollan book, took a nap, took a shower, started my laundry, cooked chili with a salad and wheat bread for dinner, watched one of the church movies, then found a copy of “I heart Huckabee's” next to the DVD. I loved that movie the first time I watched it. Upon watching it again I found it interesting, but surprisingly hollow and meaningless in the end.

I played the piano and found that my fingers were still agile. My dilemma is that I don't actually know how to play, or how to read music, so ultimately I am just assembling somewhat monotonous little rhythms that still bring me a great deal of pleasure. I slept beneath the alter that night, and read the first couple of chapters of Billy Graham's book entitled “Just as I am.”

Next day, I awoke to find I had nearly been poisoned by that chili. My stomach was in knots. Needless to say I didn't get going very fast, and walked out of the church around 10:20, feeling much relieved, but a bit dehydrated. I headed down the road to the John Day Fossil Monument. Apparently this area is one of the richest paleontology sites in the world. I've never been a big fossil hound, but I did find the man who first realized the uniqueness of the area quite fascinating. Thomas Condon was a preacher who came to Oregon during the Gold Rush days in the late 1860's to serve the rough and tumble miner's who were constantly, well killing each other, robbing, drinking, and basically not living very Godly lives. Condon was extremely successful in building congregations and then he would move on to another area of need. He was Scottish born, and his father had been a stone mason. Condon developed an early interest in geology and fossils. When he began making discoveries around what is now the John Day area, he sent many of his findings to the Smithsonian. His lectures on the state's geology, and his reassembling of the geologic past of the state was so impressive that he was asked to become Oregon's first state geologist. He ended up a professor of Geology and made a rather impressive statement about the religious interpretation of the evidence for evolution. “The Church has nothing to fear from the uncovering of truth.” He firmly believed that science and religion were not antagonists in their search for the truth, if they both remained open minded.

Before hitting the road I made another stop at the Cant Ranch, where they had kept 1500 head of sheep during World War II. The shearing for wool was quite important to the war effort and the ranch was immensely successful for many years. I went to look at the shearing and lambing pens with Lia, the cute but shy NPS interpreter. The barn was filled with the same horse drawn equipment I had seen in operation on the Amish farm several months ago.

It's been a long, wild, and wooly trip. And this is the longest most drawn out entry imaginable. Hope it didn't crust up your eyelids.


vicki Pense wrote:
Wow! Oregon! You are doing great. I love reading your postings and following your journey. Keep a goin' Justin all the way to the Pacific!

10/25/2006 1:22 PM Rebekah wrote:
Brent and I broke up, but I am still following your journey! Keep it up! Just about finished now...

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