‘How’s your bonce?’
‘Blast. That means we’d better get up and go then’
Thankfully Paul’s cracking headache had disappeared with water and a good night’s sleep so we were up and on the road before the sun broke the skyline. The climb to the oddly named Dixie Pass (there were presumably Confederate sympathisers around in the gold rush era?) was our gateway into the Columbia basin. From the pass we could see across the plateau 2000ft below to the Ochoco and Cascades Mountains our last big barriers before the Pacific ocean. Smaller barriers were Slaughterhouse Gulch and the fact that it was still 400+ miles and a week’s cycling away.
Although now, and originally, settled by farmers, this area had a brief period of gold rush frenzy in the mid C19th. At its height the adjoining towns of John Day (named after the leader of the first expedition through the area) and Canyon City held over 10,000 people … they could hardly muster a football team between them today. They looked so sleepy that we shot through silently so as not to disturb anyone and on to Mount Vernon where Dale served us up a corker of a breakfast with the by now accustomed smile (Austin Junction Cafe take note!).
I am still amazed at just how much maple syrup you can pour onto a pancake … for it all to soak in … and then you pour more on until it’s super-saturated! Normally I could never do that, but out here, going through calories like they’re going out of fashion, they’re fine. I just hope I can kick the habit when I get home. The couple on the next table were an incentive … in their forties and fat. Seeing them putting away a full stack with lashings of syrup, after loaded breakfast burgers and hash browns, was a sight to behold … if only it was an Olympic sport. They’ve obviously been practising for years.
The rest of the day’s miles into Dayville were spent gawping at the geology on either side of the plateau … millions of years of upheaval and erosion by wind, rain and river creating flat top mountains and odd pinnacles. The ‘extreme fire risk’ warning sign marked our arrival into the neat little town … well, it had been very hot and dry for over a week now … and we were soon to find out why they put those signs up. Unlike a lot of the small places we’ve been through though, Dayville was making an effort … only the size of a small English village, it boasted a humourus mock ‘old town’ facade, flower displays galore, a dinky little city hall and a ‘historical’ wooden community hall from the 1920s.
Rose welcomed us at the Presbyterian church where we planned to stay and soon went on to scare us with an example of the power of prayer … she was going through a long and messy divorce from her second husband and was so stressed out with it all that she turned to god and ‘handed it over to him to deal with’. Two days later Rose got a phone call to say that her husband had died. We were ever so very nice to Rose after that.
Shaved, showered and fully refreshed from the rigours of the ride, the boys blogged and I shopped. ‘Shop ’til you drop’ becomes reality in this heat … I can see why people drive everywhere in air-conned cars now … even the few hundred yards to the store was exhausting. It must have shown … the lady in the store gave me a free pink milkshake for the walk back! I like this place. But we can’t stay … it’s over Ochoco, our pre-penultimate mountain tomorrow (that’s the third from last to save you looking it up) and down on to Prineville, the first settlement in eastern Oregon. So, early to bed … night, night. Video: Dayville Church Part One
Today’s miles: 60
Miles since First Landing: 3970