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Tuesday 17 May 2011

Day 8 - Nolan Hill

Todays mileage: 53
Total mileage: 393
End point: Pendleton, OR

I had quite a long lie in this morning not helped by the fact beer was ridiculously cheap at the bar I had dinner in, and therefore didn't manage to leave until 10am. I find a late start really bad and demoralising so am going to try and make an early one tomorrow.

I headed towards Hermiston, going through 'Power City', named because most of the work around here supports the McNary dam which I took a photo of yesterday when I crossed the columbia river. From there I went to into Hermiston, where I did a quick stop at subway to pick up another $5 footlong, and in Oregon where there is no sales tax - they are actually $5. Now I was starting to believe the $5 footlong was a staple dietary requirement of cycle touring, but this time I chose the 'cut combo', not good at all as my stomach would later find out. Once out of the store I found a tramp admiring my bike! He was harmless enough and was just worried i'd left my lights on, which I do most of the time.

I headed over I84 and down to a small town called Echo, and its here where things started to go off track. I took a wrong turn, or to be more correct I took a wrong straight on! The map definately made it look like the route I had taken would require a left turn. Anyway I found this out 4 miles too late and was back at the interstate.

Refusing to turn around I looked for some back roads which I could cut back to my route along the Umatilla river - and found some. Some gravel 'county roads', I was only 1/2 mile along when I bumped into a truck which I flagged down to ask about my proposed route.
An old man with a moustache which wouldn't have been out of place in 17th century France (it had twirly ends) was driving the car:

"I can see what your trying to do here.. but.."

He continued with

"..then there's Nolan Hill.." at which point he angled his hand, and most of his arm at 45 degreees. I asked him whether this was up or down, at which he gave me a pyramid sign with his hands!! Up and down!

I decided foolish as always, and not trusting men with moustaches to press onwards. At its very best the road was very gravelly (is that a word?) With some compressed mud to smooth it over. At its worst it was deeply rutted, puddled and in some parts washed away. This would have been good fun on a mountain bike, but I had the cornering ability of a rhino on ice skates and a back end that needed no excuse to pop out. Going down Nolan Hill I was pretty glad for the disc brakes, and when I dropped a spot of water on them afterwards I got a good 'tssssss' of steam.

Finally after about 6 miles (it felt like treble the distance) I joined the Umatilla River Road. The river was a raging torrent and if anyone had fallen in it, I wouldn't have given them much of a chance. The road and river where in a very pretty gorge along with the railway line which had trains every half hour or so.

After following the river for an hour or so I bumped into a couple driving a Prius. Pam and I are always on the look out for Prius cars and drivers (and before anyone is mean, Pam's parents drive a Prius - so don't!) I got chatting to them and solved my animal problem, the answer aparently is Marmottes (Prairie Dogs?? What??) I also got talking to them about Emigrant Springs, where I was headed and they have just bought a house. They told me it was just snowing up there, and it sounded like another White Pass is on the way.

Bidding them farewell I decided it would be best given the weather, my now dodgy stomach and my late set off time to take my rest in Pendleton and do a big push tomorrow. I'll be crossing the Blue Mountains which have some 2000m plus summits, so nothing to be laughed at.  I've now checked into a motel, plan to grab a movie before an early night to bed.


  1. Love the Prius shout-out. I don't know what I was thinking guessing chipmunk for the animal. I'm an idiot. :) Good luck with those blue mountains. Cool picture of you doing a little pose. I loved how you described the man with the moustache. Have an awesome ride tomorrow!

  2. Buy some new shoes. Those are ridiculous!

  3. Priuseses get a bad rep, and the earlier ones were a bit lame, but the later generations are good MPG machines for sure. I cant explain the hatred they get from motoring types!