Cross-country journey continues: First time seeing lava fields

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 17, 2013

As I write this, I am in a motel room in central Oregon, in a town called Redmond. It is about the same size as Salisbury. Redmond is surrounded by beautiful, snow capped mountains. I watched the sunset over a small creek with clouds and storms in the background. I topped that off with breadsticks from Pizza Hut and Coldstone ice cream.
I dreaded today because of a horrendous climb to the Santiam Pass at an elevation of 4,817 feet. The climb was about 3,500 feet and I found it harder than any marathon I had ever run. I peddled until I slowed to four miles an hour, then walked at 3.6 mph, then rode again — It was very slow going. The reward was spectacular views as I got closer to the top. Mt. Washington is the star at well over 7,000 feet in elevation. For most of the day, I just wanted to get the climbing done, willing to accept a lesser day in total mileage.
Just before starting the climb, I stopped at the ranger station to ask their opinion on the two possible routes. Two lady rangers helped me decide to take the Santiam Pass route. This I did, and finally made it about 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
While climbing, I saw my first ever lava fields. Lava is abundant in the area, some red and some black. The exposed lava is dated to have been laid down about the time that the Mayflower landed, making it one of the most recent lava flows in the U.S. Encircling the lava flow are several volcanic peaks.
My plan was to come down the mountain and find a room in Sisters, a trendy town of less than 1,000 which has seized on both the fitness craze and the Wild West. I called for prices at the local motels — two were booked and the other one said she had a room for $149 a night, but I would have to leave the bike out. Since the bike is my only transportation and worth more than two of my vehicles, I knew that deal wouldn’t fly. The local bike shop suggested riding on to Redmond if I had any energy left. I called two places and one had a good price, and said he would hold me a room just because I was riding across the country. I stopped at the convenience store in Sisters, got an energy drink, two Reese’s Cups and filled my water bottle. Ahead of me in the checkout line was Karen, one of the park rangers from this morning. I said “Hello, remember me?” and she replied, “You made it!” This was 50 miles from where I first saw her. Quite a coincidence!
After fueling up, I rode with a storm and tailwind chasing me to Redmond, for a total of 79 miles today. That was way more than I expected. Good thing I didn’t have to stay in Sisters, especially if any of them are an ex-wife or looking to join the list.
Redmond is the Rimrock and High Chaparall area. I got my room as promised, and it is perfect, and it comes with breakfast.
Tomorrow is again set for some lesser climbing, made better because I am at about 3,000 feet in elevation now. It will still be very challenging.
Funniest thing that happened today occurred at the bottom of the last big climb to reach the pass. Two cyclists were sitting in the shade, and the girl hollered out, “Hey mister, do you smoke pot?” When I said no, she had no more interest in me.
As of yet, I have not met nor seen any other cyclists going cross country.