Hell on Wheels – Day 7 – The Big Finish
There are a number of options to choose from when developing a route between La Grande and Baker City. The route chosen for the last day of the week is the shortest (with the exception of riding the entire way on I-84), and with the least amount of climbing of the available routes. After traveling past the campus of Eastern Oregon University, the route leaves the city limits of La Grande and travels on a state highway to the first stop at a city park in the community of Union. The twelve miles of Highway 203 to Union will have the most traffic of the day, so everyone will need to use the relatively narrow shoulder to its fullest potential.
When leaving Union, the route follows another state highway with very gradual climbing through a small canyon (watch for wild turkeys). After coming out of the canyon, the road is bordered by agricultural fields, and a gradual descent into North Powder, with a population of nearly 500. The local school is the location of the second stop of the day, and is located just over half way to the finish line. Traveling under the interstate freeway when leaving North Powder leads to a number of county roadways that are used to finish the week’s riding. The first few miles of these lightly traveled roads are flat, but then many will feel as if the culmination of riding a bike for a week has caught up with them. Don’t let your eyes fool you when feeling like you’re struggling – for about five miles the road looks flat, but it is really a slight uphill grade that slows nearly everyone down.
Just when you thought you were tiring out, the grade changes to a slight, but noticeable, downgrade. For about nine miles, it’s a quick ride to the finish, with the last mile on a bike/pedestrian path. A finish line celebration and lunch welcomes everyone back to Baker City at the Sports Complex where the week’s adventure began.