Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 4 -What an Incredible Day!

Ok, so it didn't start that way. I left the hotel and stopped to fill up and decided that I'd look up the next gas stations on my route before starting off. There was only 1 listed on the gps at 114 miles and the rest were quite a way past that. A quick phone call to check that it even still existed...and, no, that phone numer has been disconnected. Hmmm, back into the store to buy a gas can. Fill with gas. Pack on bike. Crap, forgot water. Back into store to buy water. Pack on bike. Leave, finally happy to get on the road after so many delays.

But it was not to be.

Two minutes from the gas station with newly filled gas can, I see a sign that says 'construction - 30 minute delay possible'. It didn't take quite that long, but in my snow suit head to toe it was really hot just sitting there for the 15 minutes it did take.

20 miles from the morning's gas stop...was a gas station. Oh, man! Mad! I was mad! I'd just paid 10 bucks for a gas can and had prechecked the gps for gas stops and even called! All for naught! And now I'm stuck dragging this extra can around! Grrr. Looking at the map it seem like it was going to be more populated than the last two days, but still! I passed the gas station wondering when I needed to vent the stupid gas can and hoping it didn't turn into a turbo charger, a la Batman, in the 100 plus heat in the afternoon. Oh, so annoyed!

Lovely Nevada. I know there's stuff there that I didn't get to see. Even what I drove through was beautiful, for about an hour...but, after so much Nevada I'd really had enough. It's dry and depressing and hot. I'm fairly certain I passed through the fifth level of Hell somewhere on 395.

I saw a skink-sized lizard cross the road when I went through the first time. I had looked for whatever lives there, but gave up looking for 'eye shine' days ago. The only thing that glimmers in Nevada outside a casino are shards of glass and bits of discarded wrappers.

Not even bleached bones on the side of the road. No birds. No roadkill. Only the occasional smell of rotting flesh gave any indication at 75 mph that there was, at least at one time, life in the desert.

Eventually the odometer started to get my attention. If I can only drive 163 miles on a tank, evidenced by the first time I ran out of gas, and I'm at 150 or so and I don't see a gas station in front of me right now and the last sign for a town, with no promise of services, is more than 10 miles away...

I developed a new appreciation for my gas can and pulled over by some cows for company to empty the can into the tank *before* the bike started lurching. A man in a small blue car pulled over up ahead to check on me. I didn't think to ask him how far to the next gas until after I waved him off with a thumbs up. I followed him for many miles after catching up to him a couple minutes later. It seemed rude to pass him, though several others did. It seemed I had a friend and, who knew how I was going to flag him down from behind, but it seemed right to stay with him. Soon enough, he made a left to what I assume was home and I was off on my own again.

The road went on and on and on. Yesterday I wore my cold weather gear most of the day. It didn't get really hot until after 2pm. Yesterday and today I put on my cooling vest and can't say enough about how much it helps. I find it amusing to see 'snow zone' signs when I'm staving off heat exhaustion, but wouldn't want to get stuck here in the winter!

At my next gas stop, I put the gas can gas in the tank, filled up and refilled the container, just in case. I had a craving for a Peppermint Patty, but was compelled to get an Idaho Spud, as well. It mysteriously said absolutely nothing about what was in it - and I was intrigued. I didn't try it until I stopped for the 'Welcome to Oregon' sign miles later.

And spit it out somewhere very near that shrub. Blech, coconut.

The elevations I ride through vary every day. In the last 4 days I can remember signs for 4600 ft to almost 10,000 ft. A rollercoaster path through some amazing mountains and valleys.

I was on this road for a long time and played the 'what if' game through a good bit of it. I've done a lot of miles for my short motorcycle life, but most have been highway miles. The twisty roads of the mountain forests are fun, but bring up a different set of concerns than the desert straightaways.

What if something happens? Ride the bike, ride the bike, ride the bike.
What if a deer runs out in the road? Roll of the throttle, ride the bike, ride the bike.
What if a chipmonk/squirrel runs out in front of me? Swerve, ride the bike, ride the bike.
What if there's washout in the middle of this turn? Straighten up, slow down, ride the bike, ride the bike.
What if there are rocks, per the many warning signs, on the road? Avoid the rock, ride the bike, ride the bike.
What if a bear knocks me off the bike and attacks me? Be aggressive, B-E aggressive, hey!

I had no idea how long the road was or where I was going. I was just following the gps' directions and knew approximately what time I was supposed to get to my destination. It turned out I was in the forest for a very long time and enjoyed it immensely.

I felt a tremendous relief to be in the forest and out of the desert. If something happened to me I could survive here. Things are living here, this is familiar to me, and it felt good.

I could catch and kill and eat something with my bare hands, build shelter from limbs and branches! Yes, *this* was the place to be stranded.

I was, however, thankful that my gas can was full and emptying it into the tank staved off the stress that comes with a blinking gas light. I used a self-designated rest stop while listening intently for bear and then was off again.

Once I got to John Day proper, I checked for directions to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in John Day and was told it was another 40 miles out of town. Hmmm. Some lovely twisty lowland farms, animals and water. A very nice, if hurried, ride.

Stunning, beautiful water!

I wasn't at John Day long, but used it to soak a desperately needed cooling vest and soak down before leaving. The heat had set in after the Canyon City gas stop and I was hurtin'. And, oh, yes, I did refill that gas can.

More construction trying to get out of John Day and on to Walla Walla, Washington. It was hot. HOT!

After a very long and twisted road to who-knew-where, I followed the road and the signs to each 'town' wondering which one would be big enough to have gas. I passed several that were probably just named to make life easier to deliver mail, before following signs into Heppner.

Heppner sprung up suddenly after a turn in the road - a full fledged big little town. I stopped for gas, and, yes, refilled the gas can.

While I was checking the bike, another woman on a bike pulled in. I hesitated, but went to say 'hi' and met Connie, who was the highlight of my day. We had a lovely chat and she, on her 2 month old license, has racked up a couple thousand miles already and is on a Boulevard S40. I enjoyed our talk immensely, we exchanged information and I left giddy and renewed.

I loved the transition that happened in Oregon after that. The desert finally changed to rolling hills covered in low fields. A dramatic contrast to the dry, flat but studded with mountains, shrubby desert, the hills undulated like the earth was breathing, and it was stunning. The pictures just do not convey how amazingly beautiful it was. Even as vast as the land went on, it didn't feel as desolate as the expanses of desert.

Then, as abruptly as so many of the changes have happened this trip, as I entered Washington walls of rock rose up on my right side. On the left, a guardrail and a railroad track and beyond that was an enormous body of water. On the far side was the same: an enormous wall of rock, solid and straight up. Both sides went on for miles. I'd never seen anything like it.

I got to Walla Walla at dusk. I went to the Whitman Mission to know where I would be returning in the morning.

Turns out that it was the first day of college and it was tight getting a place to stay with all the students' families in town to deliver their young'uns. It all worked out in the end, of course, and after revisiting the Mission site the next morning, my trek turned East to start on my way home.


arborcycle said...

I see you are using the wind screen as a dry erase board. Very handy, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh....happy to see you got that gas can. Now I can stop a little of the worry for you. When I saw the Idaho spud I said "yum!" but you spit it out! Well....didn't know you didn't like coconut. But like you when I 1st saw them, had to have one. Unlike you, I love coconut so have had many more since. You didn't really think it was gonna taste like a baked tater did you? Even in Idaho... which I expected when I was 1st there, there would be road side potato stands with piping hot fries, loaded baked potatoes and all things potato...THAT was quite disappointing! Ginny

Mr. Motorcycle said...

Sounds like you are having yourself a truly spectacular adventure!