Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Redmond Oregon is in My Sites

We split up this morning, with Mike and Rick heading west on 26 toward Redmond, and me continuing north on I-84 to get to Washington state.

I don't know what I was expecting to see in Oregon but it certainly wasn't the mountainous terrain I saw from I-84! It was beautiful! Just miles up the road from Ontario OR, the landscape changed dramatically, as the interstate gained elevation through hills covered in brown grass. This sounds ugly, but it wasn't! The hills were steep, with lots of smooth contouring to them, and they rose up on either side of the highway. About 60 miles later I began to see evergreens - firs, pine, spruce - dotting the hillsides and not to long after I was riding in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the elevation was surprisingly high.

In Baker OR, I decided to ride the 5 or so miles east to the Oregon Trails Interpretive Center. Unfortunately it was only 8:30 AM and they didn't open until 9:00 AM. I didn't want to wait, so turned around and returned to the interstate to continue up to Pendleton and my turn-off to Route 11 which would take me to Walla Walla WA.

Now this was an interesting road! Miles and miles of wheat fields on either side of the road, as far as the eye could see. The road was almost straight as an arrow, so the views were nearly limitless.

I arrived in Walla Walla and followed the GPS to U.S. 12 where I'd be turning left toward Whitman Mission National Historic Site. Just one block west on U.S. 12 and the road was closed, detouring me back a couple of blocks to a road I had just crossed a mile back. Had I only known!

Whitman Mission NHS was easy to get to once past the detour. I went into the visitor center, got my park stamp, and then watched the short video. Whitman and his wife Narcissa were Presbyterian missionaries, some of the first pioneers to arrive in the area. Whitman was both a doctor and a minister. A measles outbreak decimated nearly half of the resident native Indians in the area and, believing that Whitman was poisoning them - since none of the "white men" were dying from the disease, they rampaged and killed a dozen settlers, including Whitman and his wife. But the trail had been blazed, so to speak, and soon the indian tribe disappeared as more settlers moved into the area.

The visitor center sat on a nice shady piece of land and a park ranger was sitting out front under a tree, greeting approaching visitors and offering an introduction to the events that surrounded this location in the 1800's.

Back on the road again, U.S. 12 west took me to U.S. 730 which ran for miles along the south banks of Lake Wallula on the Columbia River. The views were spectacular! A large dam at Umatilla OR creates the Wallula lake on the river. From just south of Pasco all the way to Umatilla, the river was framed by high, brown hills on either side. The road stayed right on the banks of the river and at one of the pull-outs, I was able to climb over the guard rail and get down onto the river, touch the water, see the dark almost-black sand and take photos.

U.S. 730 took me to I-82 and then to I-84 west which also stayed close to the Columbia River, now downstream of the dam, all the way to U.S. 97 south. It was a scenic ride which turned to "spectacular" when I came up over a rise in the road and there, in front of me, was Mt. Hood! I would catch a glimpse of it every now and then, whenever the road gained some elevation allowing me to see over the hills that hug the banks of the river. Just for grins, I checked the altitude on I-84 as it ran along the river and found it to be averaging 270 feet above sea level.

Once I turned onto U.S. 97 - the final leg of my journey to Redmond and the BMW rally - the road immediately started climbing into the hills. The average grade was 7% and a slow truck lane was filled with lumbering 18-wheelers. When I thought we'd reached a final altitude, I checked again and discovered I was now 2500 feet above sea level and still climbing.

The terrain was barren and otherworldly up here on 97, with miles and miles of brown grass-covered hills, some wheat farms, and not too much else. This went on for many miles, until I reached Madras, a decent-sized town.

I knew I was getting closer when I began to see more and more BMW's. Two pulled away from the gas station in Madras just as I pulled in. I was seeing others at gas stations and restaurants all through town. I was about 30 miles north of Redmond at this point and was eager to get to the rally site to register before they closed at 5:00 PM. I needn't have worried. I got there at 4:15, in plenty of time to register and hitch a ride in a golf cart to the first aid station to meet with committee chair Pat Carol and get my name onto the schedule for a couple of shifts.

That accomplished, I got back on the bike and continued south to Bend and the Holiday Inn Express. As I was checking in, one of the two desk clerks was getting ready to call in an order to Carino's for himself and the other clerk. I asked if they'd be willing to order something for me, too, since I hadn't really eaten all day. They gladly obliged and this gave me time to unpack the bike, get into the room, and take a shower before the food arrived. Perfect!! I had Chicken Balsamic with angel hair pasta in a light balsamic sauce and fabulous garlicy bread sticks to go with it. I could settle in for the evening with my feet up the A/C turned on and relax!

Tomorrow: Up early and over to the rally grounds! I'll check out the vendors, check in with the IBA folks to see if they need help signing in the Redmond 1000 riders, get lunch, then report for work at First Aid at 12:00 noon.

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