Today was definitely a highlight.
I started the short 40 miles ride early in the morning. I found myself climbing slowly for the first 20 miles when I heard a “hello” from behind me. It jolted me from wherever my mind had wandered off to and I looked over to see another cyclist had appeared out of nowhere. Keri was a grad student currently training to be an athletic trainer but taking the summer off to do the TransAm. She was way faster than me as she had start about 3 weeks after me and was planning on doing 100+ mile days to finish this weekend!
We rode together for a while, chatting about our trips when, a mile from the top, she decided to stop for a food break. She was heading to the same hostel as me tonight so I continued on and almost immediately ran into Stewart. We complained about the hill lasting forever before we finally crested it and sped down the next 6 miles into Mitchell.
We found the hostel that we had heard about since Virginia and let ourselves in. Lish greeted us as we walked in and showed us around. There were 12 bunks in what was an old church sanctuary, each with their own privacy curtains, outlets and lights. Lish showed us the shower, the creek, the common room, the coffee, the Gatorade and the food they had provided for us and told us (as well as Keri, who had just walked in) to grab beds. She then made name tags for each of our beds so that “we felt a little at home.”
Lish was a transplant from Washington, she explained. She had only been in Mitchell for about 3 weeks but had already found jobs at both the hostel and the town brewery (everyone in town seemed to hold multiple roles. One of the owners, Pat, was also the town pastor and barber.). She had spent much of the last few months traveling around the US and had ended up in Mitchell until it came time to move onto wherever was to be home next.
After Lish gave us the tour, Jalet walked in. Jalet was the other owner of the hostel and the one who had come up with the idea. She said she had visited Mitchell a few years ago and seen a town on the decline — it was a town built on logging, and it hadn’t faired well after most of that industry moved out. Most of the shops were closed or closing and the population was dwindling. She had the idea of building a cheap hostel to help restore tourism and commerce to the town.
As we were talking about the original business plan and the idea, I asked if she knew that her hostel was on the TransAm before she set up shop. We all cracked up when she admitted that she didn’t. Her hostel has become so synonymous with the Trans America that it seemed crazy that this was all a stroke of luck. She had no idea what bike touring even was before her first cyclist showed up. Now cyclists make up the majority of her guests – and we’re her favorites she said! (She did say that by the time the TransAm season is over, she is ready for it to be. She got over 350 cyclists in the month of June and was run ragged by it all)
It was a really neat story and, from walking the town, the revival seemed to be working. There were now multiple cafes, a brewery, a grocery store and even a Tesla charging center in town! After going through many towns which were either ghost towns or on their way, it was incredible to go through one which was fighting back.
We spent most of the afternoon chatting with Jalet about our trips, her inspiration and anything else that came to mind. I learned, for example, that Keri was doing her trip as part of Warrior Expeditions — a program which helps veterans go on life changing trips such as this one. All of her gear was donated to her for the ride and she even got to keep it all (except for the bike) afterward! It seemed like a great program and she certainly seemed to be enjoying it!
Another cyclist, Bob, soon joined the party. Bob was a retired teacher from Mobile, Alabama. He was cycling from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Coast. While he was clearly in great shape, he had been having a lot of issues with this dry heat. When he had arrived he was out of water and very dehydrated — but not to worry! Jalet got him fixed up very quickly.
We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and hanging out before Jalet offered to load us all up into her car (a convertible no less!!) and drive us to see the painted rocks at sunset.
It was beautiful to see, the rocks changed from a terra-cotta brown to a burgundy slowly as the sun lowered in the sky. We drove through for a while and then did a quick, quarter mile hike to get an even closer look. The whole while, Jalet told us the history of the rocks and the area. It was a really neat experience to be there and way better to go with someone who knew what they were talking about.
We came back to the hostel for ice cream and bedtime. What a great day. If you’re ever in Oregon at all, I recommend getting out to Mitchell just to stay at the Spoken 4 Hostel.
Elevation gained: 2,300 ft
Happy cyclists at the Spoken 4 Hostel: 4