After waking up in Baker City, Trish and I felt like we weren’t a bunch of bikepacking phonies anymore. We’d made it through two days; we’d had almost zero problems with our bikes and our gear; we’d even been admired by some passersby – mostly Sheila and Brad – but others as well. People driving by in their cars would wave and give us a thumbs up, or peace sign, or some other motivational symbol that kept us going with light hearts. The trip felt real and was starting to even feel possible. After our usual breakfast of oatmeal, peanut butter, and coffee, the pedal-pushing began.
Our 3rd day we rode from Baker City to Halfway, a 59 mile ride, counting the short 2 mile detour up to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center just outside of Baker City.
The ride consisted of a beautiful contrast between the greens and blue of the river on our right and the arid brown of the rolling hills to our left. We flew through the first 40 miles of this ride because most all of it was downhill. As the downhill miles continued to quickly roll past, I was reminded of Newton’s law, “what goes up must come down.” Although in context it applied to gravity, it seemed somehow appropriate, and as this farfetched connection wandered into my mind, an ominous needle-like dread began to puncture my somewhat inflated sense of calm.
We stopped for a quick breather in Richland. Looking around, one of the few shady spots consisted of a bench, a sidewalk, and a bar. We thought this was a good snack stop. Trish and I never stopped for the conventional second meal of the day; instead, we took a snack stop about every 20 miles. This was a nice way to keep up with calorie loss without feeling bloated after a heavy mid-day meal.
During this particular stop, two motorcyclists stopped for a quick bit to eat at the bar and noticed our bikes. After the obligatory joke about being glad they were on ‘bikes instead of bikes, they noted that the hill ahead would be a real challenge. One of the locals passing by concurred; we were in for a doozy of a climb. After finishing the snack stop and feeling ready for what lay ahead, we saddled up and started towards the hill.
As we started the ascent, we both noticed a biker who was stopped on the side of the road. His name was Nick and he was traveling from Astoria to Virginia on his bike. As I approached, he smiled and waved at me. I asked him if something was wrong, and unfortunately, he had broken his chain and brought the wrong quick links to fix the problem. All I could do was offer my condolences. Nick was a very amiable guy though, and was still smiling as I pedaled away.
I guess that the 7 mile pass felt about how one would expect a 7 mile pass to feel like. It was long, challenging, and at times, rather steep. It had a gradient of 6%, and there was almost no air movement as we labored up the hill, so the sweat was dripping off my elbows after the first mile. However, we both made it up to the top, and after a well-earned photo-shoot at the top, we journeyed down the other side of the pass into Halfway.
Halfway’s unfortunate name is an apt description of the town in some ways. It feels like it has been halfway developed for tourists. There are only two restaurants to choose from in the town, and two hotels as well. We initially had set up a warm showers host for Halfway, but she wasn’t home when we stopped by. We were forced to go purchase a rather expensive room at one of the hotels and hope that she would call us the next day so we didn’t have to stay in the hotel two nights, because our plan was to do a day trip the next day and come back to Halfway.
Of course, we were willing to break down our plans a bit here and fork out some extra cash, but we weren’t the happiest campers as we settled into a rather ‘old-fashioned’ hotel room. Our mood lightened a bit when we went to Wild Bill’s Restaurant and saw Nick, the guy with the broken chain. After talking with him a bit more, it turned out he had to hitch a ride back to Halfway because there wasn’t a bike mechanic in Richland. I was unclear as to whether he would have to tackle the 7 mile pass on his bike again, but as ever, he was in good spirits as he munched away on his meal and talked about his adventure into Halfway. Seeing Nick challenged my own frustrations with our host. Why was I upset? We’d made it over 100 miles on our bike trip already and met really cool people along the way. Nick’s unwavering optimism rubbed off on me, and I was reminded just how lucky we were to be on a trip like this, to be healthy and capable, and to be able to fork out the necessary cash when plans don’t work out perfectly. After making such meticulous plans, it was time to let them go. What a freeing experience.