54 miles (87 km) – Total so far: 3,759 miles (6,050 km)
We were up before dawn to race against the heat. The race started with the sun coming up over the horizon and the three of us shooting out of Baker City. We’ve left the arid Hells Canyon behind as we continue to ascend into the Willoma-Whitman National Forest.
*Screeeeech!* Hit the brakes! That looks like a super nifty railroad museum over there. I hopped off the bike and snapped a few pictures of the various passenger and freight cars lying about. As I was leaving my pleasant little stop, a gentleman came along and rolled down his window. He invited me back to the depot to see the steam engine in the process of being warmed up for the afternoon rides. After a few minutes in which the child (and adult) in me was jumping with ill-restrained glee, the engineers invited me into the cab as the steam built to operating pressure.
In case this isn’t obvious, the inside of a steam engine cab is HOT as the steam pressure builds. Dials were turned, levers were pulled, whistles were whistled, and dynamos were dynamoed. With the engine finally ready, we steamed over to the waiting passenger cars. The operation of coupling the engine to the cars wash surprisingly smooth, and now the train was ready to begin giving tour rides up to the town of Sumpter. It was pretty much one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, and my nephews are going to love the pictures!.
Having spent an hour and a half at the Sumpter Valley Railroad, I’d completely lost my race against the heat. Sumpter Pass and Tipton Pass loomed ahead, each over 1,000 feet of steep climbing. Fortunately, coming off a rest day (not to mention 3,500 miles of cycling practice) the hills themselves weren’t too bad. Though, the heat was actually just as bad as the cab of the steam engine.
Finally over the two hills, I enjoyed a nice “hair dryer wind” downhill. I rolled into the Austin Junction general store and restaurant to take a load off and wait out the heat before setting up camp behind the store. To my delight, a few really tough looking Harley riders were cooling down with root beer floats.