Biologist on a Bike

Day 9: Mitchell, OR to Prairie City, OR

Distance: 82.5 mi
Average speed: 11.9 mph; Max speed: 32.3 mph
Elevation gain: 4,598
Average temp: 68.2 F; Temp range: 57.2-78.8 F



I slept like a log. Rarely, even on good nights, do I wake up in the same exact position that I went to sleep in. Today I did, and it was glorious. Even my fitbit recorded a night devoid of any restlessness.

Where I woke up, Day 9

I woke up before my alarm at around 5:50 and decided to get going since today would be such a long day. I went to the basement to turn on the coffee maker (which was already set up), and took the opportunity provided by a full kitchen to make some pancakes and an egg, both provided by Spoke’n Hostel.

Three pancakes and a cup of coffee later and instead of waking up I was getting sleepier. After some deliberation, I went back upstairs and set my alarm for 7:20, which would give me about a 30 minute nap. When the alarm went off I inadvertently turned it off instead of hitting snooze, and I only woke up at 8AM, still feeling a bit tired.

I had another cup of coffee and talked with Jo as he ate his breakfast. I also took the time to tighten a few of the spokes on my front wheel, as I had heard intermittent metal pings yesterday as I rode. The wheel wasn’t off true, so a few quick turns of the looser spokes and I was ready to go. Jo was also aiming for Prairie City today, but he wanted to hang around a bit longer and say goodbye to Pat, so I set off alone.

Long empty miles ahead

Once again the road was empty—towns are few and far between in this part of Oregon—but my mind settled into a more meditative state than it did yesterday, so I rode for a good few hours before putting on any podcasts.

I made it over Keyes Pass without much difficulty and, as usual, greatly enjoyed the downhill coast that followed. There’s an odd peaceful kind of exhilaration to tucking into the drops and coasting for multiple miles at 20-30mph on an empty road. The peace likely comes from the focus necessary to ride safely around turns at the higher end of that speed range. I would ride a steep hill every day just for the joy of the downhill. Although maybe not on a day that my total ride was over 80 miles, as it was today.

Keyes Summit…somebody used this sign for target practice.

I got drizzled on a bit, and there were a few places in between mountains where the wind was rather biting, but for the most part the weather was in my favor. It wasn’t too hot, the spitting clouds never gathered themselves enough to produce anything I would call a rainstorm, and the wind was with me more often than it was against me.

There were a lot of small scurrying things on the road this morning. Some were almost certainly chipmunks others were, I think, ground squirrels. Later in the day I startled a American kestrel off a fence post. It flew away with something clutched in its talons, maybe a chipmunk. Later on in the day a cat crossed the road in front of me carrying, and partially dragging, a ground squirrel home for dinner.

I spotted a new bird, which my host for the evening (an avid birder) has helpfully identified as a common snipe.

A common snipe

And I finally got a picture of a black-billed magpie!

Black-billed magpie

My biggest concern today was time. I got out later than I wanted to, and though I was over the pass quickly enough, the second half of the day was a long, gradual climb of about 1,000 ft in elevation. I wanted to make my destination, but I didn’t want to repeat Day 1 where I got so focused on the end point that I failed to take care of myself.

Taking care of myself properly was made a bit difficult by a bit of an accident this morning. I had tucked my phone into my jersey pocket while doing my final preparation to set off from the hostel. Those pockets are usually deep enough that they’re safe, but I somehow managed to unseat the phone. Into the toilet.

I snatched it out immediately, turned it off, wiped it down, and stuck it in a bag of instant rice in the hopes that the rice would absorb any moisture that got inside. Considering the dryness of the air in this part of Oregon, that might not have been necessary, but I did it anyway. I left it off for most of the day, meaning I didn’t have my usual 90 minute alarm telling me to stop and eat something. I did my best at keeping track, but it’s a tricky balance; I don’t want to watch the clock too closely, because then it starts to feel as though time is dragging.

What is it with the shoe trees?

I managed well enough, I think. I arrived at my destination hungry, but not dehydrated or otherwise impaired from lack of food or electrolytes. I call that a win!

Tonight is another Warmshowers night, once again with a spectacular view. Jim has even helped arrange a place for me tomorrow night and suggested another Warmshowers host for two nights from now. The kindness of people I’ve met on this trip is slowly chipping away at my inborn cynicism, and it’s only been 9 days.

The view from the porch of my Warmshowers host.

Roadkill count: 6 small birds (including a duckling), 3 deer, 2 goats, a skunk, 2 unidentified mammals, and a frog.

May Day 9


5 thoughts on “Day 9: Mitchell, OR to Prairie City, OR

  1. Jerry Wyshnowsky

    I sure hope that your phone survives. Rough start to the day!

    I’m curious about your listening to podcasts. Do you wear earbuds? When I do the wind noise in my ears is amplified so much that I really need to crank up the volume. Do you have this problem?

    1. Spin Doctor Post author

      Phone is good, thanks.
      I use bone conduction headphones. They make no impact on wind noise and let me be more aware of my surroundings than with earbuds. I can’t listen to wordy things in high wind conditions without cranking them too high, but that’s true of most headphones. The biggest downside is that they require a small battery pack so it’s one more thing to charge.

  2. Leslie Diamond

    Poor duckling!! At least you got some rest! I’m sure you needed it after that sleepless night.

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