Thursday, September 26, 2013

CycleOregon - Day 4 - Diamond

Today was billed as a rest day with an optional 80 mile ride or a shorter option of 50 miles if you chose to avoid the mile and a half climb with a grade of about 10%. I had planned to do that, but by now was tired enough that I decided take advantage of the rest possibility. The riders who really were planning the 80 mile ride would be disappointed by an eastern Oregon event. A rancher decided that he needed to get his cattle to water and would be driving them down the hill we were going to ride up. Only a couple of our idiot riders thought mixing cattle with bicycles was a good idea. So riders were left with the shorter option without the last mile to Frenchglen. Riders came close enough to see the Frenchglen Hotel and the climb, which was a huge disappointment to the folks at Frenchglen who had plans for us to spend some time there and even set up a special lunch and wine dinner for riders who were interested. I think the dinner still occurred because they were going to shuttle people for that event. Riding 25 miles home in the dark after a wine dinner makes about as much sense as trying to ride through a cattle drive.

The Diamond Hotel
The sparsely populated Diamond neighborhood created several special events for us ranging from ranch breakfasts, lunches and dinners to rope-making, whip-cracking and trail-riding. The events were wildly successful. The Diamond Hotel certainly earned a good share of their yearly income in our one day visit.

Wheatfield near Diamond

Foal born yesterday and curious about us

Typical landscape near Diamond

Remains of an early settler's cabin
I decided to take a shorter ride of about 25 miles starting out by riding to the Diamond Hotel, only 7 flat miles away from camp. About a  mile out, I came upon a rider with a Vancouver Bicycle Club shirt looking through his binoculars. So I stopped and got out my binoculars. We spent another hour and a half riding the next 5 miles to the Hotel. Along the way we saw a kestrel, several finches and sparrows, a few magpies, and a pair of kingfishers when we got to the hotel. Not many birds, but a pleasant way to spend the morning.

Some of those who had come for breakfast were still hanging out on the lawn enjoying the shade with their coffee. Diamond has a population of five with three houses and the hotel. The hotel has 8 rooms at $85 - $105 per night including breakfast. Dinner is available for $20 to $25 for three courses.  Situated as it is as the southern edge of the refuge, it provides the best access point for the refuge and Steens Mountain and even the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge on the other side of Frenchglen.

Lunch room and leather work bench in the background

Making rope

This dog chases rocks, even ones too big to carry

His mates are out on a trail ride

Not everyone has to work

Hungry and thirsty after the trail ride
I had a burger lunch at the Steens Mountain Ranch where people could learn to make rope, crack the whip or take a trail ride. I did not get the prices, but Steens Mountain Ranch is one of those dude ranches like “City Slickers” where you pay to work for the ranch for a few days. Our ride to the ranch was in one of those cattle trailers you see on the roads. On the way back, I joined a small group from Boise who got off at the corner and walked the half mile back to the Diamond Hotel. Every square inch of shade was filled with riders enjoying their draft beers, burgers or soft drinks. Another popular option was pie alamode for $5.00. I heard they sold over 1200 lunches at $9.50 apiece and they must have come close to emptying the six kegs of beer they had pouring out of a semi-trailer. I had already had my burgers for the day, so I got on the hay wagon at about 5:00 to ride back to camp for dinner and the evening’s entertainment.

Steens Mountain Ranch

Seats for dinner
About 150 riders had a great dinner at the Steens Mountain Ranch. Tri-tip steaks smoked all day along with potatoes and vegetables, followed by home-made pies. The dinner was a fund-raiser for a local family with three children needing heart transplants. The evening raised $5000 for the family. Another example of how this ride supports the local communities.

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