July 9, 2012 - Mike and Marilyn's 2001 TranAmerican Bike Tour

Mike and Marilyn's
2001 TransAm Bike Trip
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July 9, 2012

OWSB 2012

JULY 9-13, 2012

The John Day River, Eastern Oregon

“More than once the Weather Channel has seemed a day off in its predictions.”  I had written these words in our journal August 5, 2001, as we were pedaling across eastern Oregon near the end of our east to west TransAm bike trip. We had been caught earlier in the day by unpredicted thunderstorms, and had arrived at Austin Junction late, tired, and hungry. Now, 11 years later, it was all coming back to us. My husband and I had just set out on another, much shorter, bicycle tour over eastern Oregon's “Old West Scenic Bikeway” noting optimistically that The Weather Channel had predicted "0% chance of rain" for the day. But there we were, only a few miles from our start, taking refuge from a sudden pounding thunderstorm. And it felt great!

Set in the spectacular western scenery of eastern Oregon, the recently designated "Old West Scenic Bikeway", not only shares some of the same route as the TransAm Bike Trail, but also offers a shorter 176 mile loop as a scenic sampler of what we loved best about our 2001 bike trip.

  • Old Western history still alive in the American heartland  
  • open rangeland, wild rivers - challenging climbs into the mountains, exhilarating descents to the valleys  
  • long county roads where you see more wildlife than traffic
  • the drama of weather -  the necessary early start in the cool morning, the retreat to the shade by midafternoon
  • the hospitality of small towns - grassy city parks where your tent is welcome, church hostels where you are free to camp
  • quirky country stores with their welcomed cold drinks, homemade ice cream after long, hot miles
  • the generosity, openness, and trust extended by strangers toward cycle tourists
  • the camaraderie of other cyclists sharing the same adventure

No other bicycle tour has recaptured the rhythm and spirit of our TransAm adventure for us in the same way as Oregon's "Old West Scenic Bikeway". We loved it for doing this and allowing us to revisit the best of bicycle touring across America.

Marilyn Hedges and Mike Sorensen

DAY 1, July 9, 2012: Kimberly to Dayville

Early morning start from Big Bend BLM Campground north of Kimberly

Refuge from a brief thunderstorm at the Kimberly junction

Along the John Day River - badlands and fossil beds

Blue Basin interpretive trailhead and rest stop

Historic Cant Homestead

Arriving at the Dayville Merc, a welcome sight with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees

Too hot!

Dayville Merc 2012

Dayville Merc 2001 - Mike chatting with Steve Cookinham

When we pedaled through eastern Oregon in 2001, we had also stopped at the Dayville Merc, and chatted with owner, Steve Cookinham, a bicycle tourist himself. He offered suggestions for returning and touring the John Day Fossil country, an appealing idea to us at the time. It took eleven years, but we made it back.

Many businesses along the route displayed signs, like this one at the Merc, claiming to be "Certified Bike Friendly - Two Wheels Spoken Here". We pulled up the few patches of goat head thorns in the parking lot to ensure this was more accurate.

Recovering from the heat outside the Merc, we chatted with a local old timer who found our bicycles to be very interesting and us to be willing listeners. Here he regaled us with the story of how he ran away from home at the age of 16 using a single speed bicycle, standing up to pump "over Mount Rainier" from Port Angeles WA to eastern Oregon to find a job. Bicycle touring always offers interesting interaction with people along the way.

Dayville's only cafe was closed the day we were there, so it was dinner from the mini-Mart.

The "Field and Stream Room" at the fish-themed Fish House Inn
offered AC and shelter from another pounding thunderstorm that evening.

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