Friday, May 31, 2013


Odometer 34875

Wednesday May 29th
Trip 236 miles

By our standards today was a long day. We traveled from Hagerman, Idaho to Baker City, Oregon.
We washed the outside of the motorhome and detailed the inside, so it follows that it rained on and off all day.  When we got into Boise and Jeff just couldn't stand the idea of a $10 coupon for Camping World going to waste, so he whined until Joan said we could stop and shop for 15 minutes!  We found CW just off the freeway and Jeff headed to the LED light bulbs.  They are rediculously expensive and a $10 off coupon puts it within the buy range.  Lunch was served in the CW parking lot.  Joan fixed Turkey Reubens and hot soup- Mmmm..
After Boise it was only 35 miles up I-84 to the Oregon border.  We continued up the freeway to Baker City where we wanted to stay for the evening.  Baker City is one of our favorite places to visit, we love the high plains setting and the western feel of the town.  We chose the Oregon Trails West RV park and almost immediately regretted it.  The recent rains had turned the park ito a muddy mess.  Once we were set-up Jeff decided to wash the car so we could go into town.  The car was almost unidentifiable with the muddy water drying on the surface.  Park rules often forbid washing of vehicles and this one was no exception- so I had to drive out of the park and wash the car in an adjacent lot.  I've gotten pretty good at this, using a rinseless wash product and a collapsible bucket, with a microfiber towel.
We cruised Downtown Baker City, but the sprinkles and the temperature ruled out a walk.
Later back at the MH,  I called a former collegue of mine who lives in this area, and we had a long chat, catching up on several months of news.  My friend was out of the area, so a meeting was not possible- we'll see him in the near future I'm sure.

Thursday May 30th
Trip 196 miles 

Not an early start this morning, but we aren't in a big hurry- we have less than 200 miles to our selected destination and we want to poke along today because we are going through some beautiful country and Jeff has a required stop at the Sumpter Valley Railroad.

Before we get to Sumpter, we wind our way up along the Powder River in some stunningly beautiful country.  If it wern't for the harsh winters, this place would capture my heart. (that and proximity to a hardware store).

We climbed a little less than 1000 feet in elevation and about 28 miles out of Baker City on Oregon Route 7 to get to Sumpter, OR and the Sumpter Valley Railroad

From this depot you can ride a vintage steam train around a 5 mile loop of rails first laid in 1897.  Unfortunately for me, the first ride of the season does not start for 2 more days. The early town of Sumter, OR (no "p" as there is in the name today) was named after Fort Sumter North Carolina.  The civil war was fresh in the minds of the citizens as the town was being named.

The Sumpter Valley Railroad was built to haul logs to the mills at Baker City, and the lines extended out as far as Prairie City.  The cars hauled logs in to Baker City, and provisions and supplies back out to Sumpter, Austin and Prairie City.

 Here is one of the passenger cars awaiting restoration.  The exterior looks pretty good, but the interior is still being worked on.
 It reminds me of a different traveling experience than one gets in today's modern cars- I think I would have enjoyed it.

There is no shortage of projects at the rail yard.

 Here is an old EMD diesel electric locomotive that awaits attention.

 This Baldwin 2-8-2 steam locomotive dates back to the 1890s and needs an estimated 1 million dollars worth of restoration to run again.

This 2-8-2 Baldwin is a sister to the first one and is getting new boiler tubes and a hydrostatic test, but should be running within a month, if all goes well.  Every 15 years the boiler has to be inspected at this level of tear-down and repaired.  They didn't tell me how much it was costing, but they did say they could not have done it without grant money.  This engine burns fuel oil and costs about $400 a day in fuel.

This sweetheart is a 1915 Heisler wood burning locomotive that will be running this weekend.  The Heisler is unique in that it has cylinders in an in-line V configuration with a central driveshaft and bevel gears to turn the driven wheels.  This was an excellent engine for logging in this steep terrain.

By the time Jeff got back to the MH, Joan had the generator running (we were alone in the parking lot) and had made BLT sandwiches and chicken sausage gumbo.

After that delicious lunch we set out again for Central Oregon.  About 20 miles further down the road we came to an interpretive site that pointed out the traces of the old raillines from Sumpter to Prairie City.  Some new sections of track have been laid to show how the old lines would have looked.  The terrain was so steep that the only way a loaded train could negotiate it, was to have the train "switchback" up the mountain.  That meant running up forward past a switch, them backing up the next section, throwing the switch and running forward up the next section, in a zig-zag pattern, to gain the elevation they needed.

In the picture below, imagine a train coming up hill on the left track, going past you, throwing the switch and backing up the section of track to your right.

It was now 2 PM and time to make some tracks of our own, if we were going to get some sleep tonight.
We climbed the mile high Dixie Pass and as we came down the west side we were treated to this awe inspiring view of the Strawberry Range with peaks rising to 9,000 feet.

We rolled right through the town of John Day and determined to come back and explore the countryside around here soon.  Just out of John Day we entered my favorite part of this road- the John Day Canyon.
We stopped and took lots of pictures before continuing on ito the delightful little towns of Dayville and Mitchell.  After Mitchell we climbed again- this time to the top of 4,720 foot Ochoco Summit, before making the long descent into Prineville.

We are very grateful that this motorhome is so well put together that it does not even seem to strain at these frequent ups and downs.  We pull most of the passes at 45 miles per hour not because of strain on the engine, but because of the sharp curves.  The engine temperature does not go up significantly, and you are not aware of the weight of the car on behind.  Going downhill with the transmission and exhaust brake working in concert, means not having to touch the foot brake much at all.  Good job Freightliner! 
Here we are all nicely tucked into our space at the Crook County RV Park at the fairgrounds here in Prineville.  We have stayed here before and have always liked this quiet and beautiful park.

Tomorrow should see us in Salem, hopefully mooch-docking at my brother Thane's house for a day or two before we head south to Medford.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff  and Joan

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