WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(Click map for full size)  
Klamath Falls to Ontario
Subject: Wanderlust 19 - Ontario, Oregon
Date: Sun, 20 Jun 1999 22:03:03 -0700

"He that is a traveler must have the back of an ass to bear all, a tongue like the tail of a dog to flatter all, the mouth of a hog to eat what is set before him, the ear of a merchant to hear all and say nothing ... "

        - Thomas Nash (1567-1601), English writer

        Maybe travel used to be that difficult, but these days it is only as difficult as you wish to make it. I had an easy and most enjoyable day, although I saw many who were less pleased with their plight. But then ... I was on a motorcycle :)
        It was a beautiful day to ride. The morning was slightly crisp in the Oregon air. Although several of us chose to "motel camp" at the rally, we all still appreciate the cool start of what will be a broiler for those who head south or east. I stayed around the rally grounds for a while after my companions left, just to see the wrap-up of how a small city of 500 disappears overnight. By the time they left, you could not tell anyone was there - except for the worn path in the grass where the entrance was. As I left the grandstand parking lot I had to stop to let a family of quail cross the road. The permanent residents were returning.
        By the way, I have been remiss in neglecting to mention my special personal escort of the first two days. My 'significant other', or to use the Official U.S. Government Term: POOSSLQ, Rebecca was riding to her first out of state BMW rally and was guarding my backside along the way. In old Japan it was polite to escort a guest to the door, but it was the utmost honor to escort to the compound gate. Beyond that, she saw me to the edge of civilization - the California border (You decide whether it is the starting edge or the ending ... :).
        If I neglect to mention anyone else, just go ahead and beat me up. I have sentenced myself to 30 days of solitary confinement in a helmet, and that takes its toll on social awareness. I must say, though, that I do at least recognize friends - I got another hug from Voni. BMWs make the world smaller and larger at the same time. She and I have put on maybe 75,000 miles since we met a year ago in Branson, and now we meet by chance in Oregon on separate summer sojourns.

        Leaving Klamath Falls I noticed few bikes heading East. Later it was apparent why. You can't really get anywhere heading East. The steep ridgeback hills keep shuttling the roads and the rivers southeast, then a pass jumps north and the hills do their work again. Whereas southwestern Oregon is lush and green, so different from the brown California hills only an hour away, the further east you go, the more arid and desert it becomes. The entire southeastern quadrant of the state is a desert. Quite different from what the emigrants must have expected when they crossed the magic border on the Oregon Trail. Western Oregon, yes, was the land of their dreams, but even today the maps show less than a dozen paved roads in all of southeast Harney and Malheur Counties.
        Now I've said many times before I am not a farm boy ... but I do pay attention to the farms I pass. The Oregon farms have a local custom in fencing that I can't figure out - and one I have not seen anywhere else. Someone explain this. At frequent - but IRREGULAR intervals along a barb wire fence there will be a rock cairn - a column of rocks roughly the size of a 55 gallon barrel, wrapped with a single turn of barb wire strands. Occasionally they are at a break in the fence, like a driveway - which I can understand, but more often they are just somewhere along the fence line. Too close for the start/end of a wire spool, too tall to be a step-over for crossing the fence, and always round, like a barrel. Beats me?

        Beautiful downtown Lakeview, all 1/4 mile of it, was my breakfast stop. As soon as I rolled up in front of the bakery, a small crowd of boys on bicycles appeared. The bravest among them said "Hey, is that your motorcycle?" A great conversationalist in the making here ... but I said yes, I think so, is that your bicycle? They all, including him, found that hilarious. So we all talked bikes for a while. After they looked mine over, I insisted they show what was different between their various bikes. That was obviously a thought that never crossed their minds, but each went away with something 'special' in mind. I kept the motorcycle.
        One of the boys asked where I was going. I wrote it down and said it was a small town somewhere in the west, have you heard of it? - Hunose
        Guess I was in a slow mood, with today being the real start of the trip. I held to the 55 mph speed limit and noticed after the 100 miles to breakfast that the FuelPlus said I still had 170 miles remaining in the tank. For a bike that usually goes on reserve at 175 miles (at freeway speed), that seemed incredible, so I decided to take a chance and pass up the 'last gas', then the next last gas ... then I stretched it out until the reserve light came on at a new record for my K75 - 222 miles, with 54 remaining. The mpg calculation at refill was another record for me - 56.05. Unbelievable. Whatever BMW of Marin did during that last tune-up is golden.

        Eastern Oregon is scenic in a desolate way. Or maybe it is desolate in a scenic way. Either way, it is a long way between stops. Another record set for me was the longest distance "last gas" sign I've seen on a US route system - 68 miles on US20 between Burns and Harper. Anyone know of a longer one?
        Finally, after 300 miles of straight and flat that could rival West Texas, at last I came to a road recommendable for bikes, the 56 miles between Juntura and Vale tightly follow the Malheur River. I don't do French, but I can tell you Malheur does not mean Bad Ride! Following my usual plan to stay in a small town near but not on the Interstate, I intended to stop in Vale. There was only one motel (I kid you not): The Bates Motel. Since I needed a shower and it looked like Mama hasn't been taking care of it for a while, I decided to pass. But in passing, I also noticed a block long historical mural painted on the sides of several buildings on Main Street. This is something that was rare but has really caught on in small western towns, am I am pleased to see it. This mural was a depiction of the emigrants on the Oregon Trail crossing the Malheur River in Vale. Nicely done. Perhaps their somewhat stern facial expressions were from having seen those Oregon deserts they didn't expect.

        In the next few days I'll be heading up into Idaho toward Sandpoint, then diagonally through Montana to Wyoming east of Yellowstone. Wave if you pass me.

FuelPlus: 376 miles, 7:27 hours, 51 mph average
Klamath Falls OR140 US395 US20 Ontario

Sam Lepore, San Francisco
Wanderlust Rider

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