Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oregon Trail

I crossed into Oregon, my tenth and final state, yesterday. It was a great feeling.

On Thursday, I tried to wait out the Idaho heat, but when I got back on my bike at 5pm, it was still sizzling. As I climbed to 4200 feet, the land changed from dry and brown to a lush green meadow with forest in the distance. I rode until dark, using a dirt bike path for the last few miles into the Evergreen Campground, where I was the lone camper.

Ever since Kentucky, I had heard from several bikers that the upcoming stretch of Interstate 95 in Idaho was one of the worst stretches of road -- narrow, no shoulders and a stream of high-speed trucks. I opted to avoid this road by riding the Weiser River Trail. The few miles that I rode the night before should have been a good indication that this was not going to be like the Katy Trail, the other rails-to-trails path that I took across Missouri. The Weiser Trail was rough. The surface was uneven, quickly changing from loose rocks to potholed dirt to a harder-packed surface. Though I have fatter tires on my Surly than many touring riders, my bike could barely handle the bumpy ride. In the end, the thirty-five miles on the trail probably took me twice as long as they would have on the road. Nonetheless, the path was a welcome change of pace. I startled many deer and cattle as I pedaled along.

I do need to get to the coast soon though because my luck is beginning to run out. After getting only two flats between the coast of Virginia and central Idaho, on the Weiser Trail I had my second flat in two days.

After leaving the bike trail, I had thirty more miles to the Oregon border. I rode along the Brownlee Reservoir with the evening sun reflecting off its surface.

It's strange to see such a large body of water with essentially no shore. Campers and fishermen had already settled into the area for the weekend. I camped in Oxbow, OR, at a site run by Idaho Power, which operates the dams in the area.

This morning I was on the road by 6:30 am. My first order of business was getting something to eat as there were no stores or restaurants in Oxbow last night. I rolled up to a store three miles down the road happy to find that the door was wide open and the lights were on. One of the negative aspects of the trip that I haven't mentioned is that I am, at times, at the mercy of rude store or restaurant owners because they are the only option for miles around. If I want to eat I have to deal with them. Such was the case this morning.

When I walked into the store the woman barked, "We're not open." Funny way of showing it, I thought, after walking through the open entryway. "What do you want?" she asked. I told her I just wanted some food, thinking that was a reasonable request for a place that advertised "Groceries" on a billboard down the road and on a large sign in front of her store. "We don't have food," she told me tersely, "we're just a pitstop." Understanding a pitstop to be a place that would have something to eat, I played a game of "Who's on first?" with her trying to understand what that meant. Once it was established that she had absolutely nothing to eat in her store I resigned myself to just getting a drink, food would have to wait for another twenty miles, which as it was uphill meant about an hour and a half. As I walked to the cooler she reprimanded me for walking on her floors (you're kidding me right?) and not on scattered mats and holding the cooler door open too long as I retrieved a Gatorade. It was far too early in the morning for me to handle this woman. As much as I needed a few calories, food and a drink would have to wait until the next town.

Fortunately, run-ins like those are almost always quickly countered by more positive experiences. As I rolled into Halfway, OR, further down the road, I met a couple selling baked goods on the corner. We discussed my trip as I ate a delicious cinnamon roll and homemade cookies before heading to the local cafe where I had the rest of my breakfast.

In town I met an Australian couple headed East. Experienced bike tourists, they're taking a leisurely pace of about forty miles a day, which had them a little concerned about making their flight back in early November.

Today's ride was desolate and hot. It was certainly one of the hottest rides I've had thus far. The landscape is reminiscent of eastern Colorado, covered in desert-like brush. The dusty rock hills intensify the afternoon sun. A few mountains appeared on the horizon to the north with just a little snow left on their peaks. I rode alongside the famous Oregon Trail, whose wagon ruts can still be seen running across the land.

I arrived in Baker City by mid-day. This weekend is the town's Miners Jubilee, an annual celebration of its mining heritage. Vendors were set up in the park and Main Street shut down for a street dance, which seems to be a big summer event in many of the towns I have passed through.


Anonymous said...

Love the Oregon Trail photo! Now I'm inspired to play the computer game again!


Anonymous said...

Loved your picture of your "grand entrance" to the state of Oregon! Congratulations, Brian! Obviously, the rude woman at the store didn't know what a friendly and kind person you are! Glad you got some delicious homemade goodies down the road. Keep on trekking!


Anonymous said...

Great account of your trek into Oregon. Those flats are no fun to fix. Did you ever find a bike store after I left you? If not, maybe that should be a priority. Hopefully you will have better days ahead to finish out this part of your long trip.

Uncle John

Sarah P said...

Sorry - my last post was unclear. Had to delete.

We were recently talking with one of my sister's roommates, who is from Oregeon. She said that people always brought up the game Oregon Trail (or sometimes the actual historical trail) when they found out she was from Oregon. And then ask her if she died of dysentery. Hope you avoid all dysentery on your trip through Oregon.

Can't believe you're almost done!

Andy said...

I had the same problem with the same woman! I hope she goes bankrupt!!

JRoot said...

Finally, the promised land! We're going to be in Oregon starting August 5. If you're still around, I'd be glad to show you a grand time in the greatest state in the union.

The Rider said...

Andy, it's good to know that she is generally disagreeable and it wasn't just me. When I finish the ride, I want to put together a list, with other cyclists' help, of all the best restaurants, stores and motels and all those that should be avoided by future riders.

J. Root, you have one thing in common with all other Oregonians that I have met thus far -- an unfettered pride in your state.

J.Root said...

Unlike many of my Oregonian countrymen, I had the poor judgment to leave. Now I have the swollen pride of the expat Oregonian, which I'm sure is yet more insufferable.

Having lived in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Maine, Georgia, and D.C., at least my judgment is an informed one.

OREGON IS THE BEST! (and I hope you had some wine today to prove it)