WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderNorth 13 - Lakeview, Oregon
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 21:37:02 -0700

    Life on the road on a motorcycle means spending a lot of time alone, but that doesn't mean it is lonely. Some people use CB radios, others listen to music. I use none of these preferring to concentrate on the rapid flow of reality on the other side of my faceshield. Being alone inside my helmet for hours on end (and losing as many of the arguments I have with myself as I win ...) means I am often willing to carry discussions that would otherwise be unexplored. For example, at the bakery in Waitsburg this morning, I commented to the proprietress it was unusual for a bakery to open every day except Saturday. Most owner-operated businesses close on Monday, or for some reason bakers seem to take Wednesday off. She said she tried that, but got hell from her morning regulars. Saturday is the day they run their errands, and it is the only day she can 'get away with'. Then came the unexplored part ... she wondered why it mattered to them because most of the regulars are retired and don't *have* to use Saturday. This follows with something I noticed in chats with other travelers - people who have only ever had their life controlled by someone else don't know what to do with free time. Vacations are supposed to teach us that, but vacations are often more controlled than 'life'.
    It gets pretty crowded inside my helmet some days.

    US395 is a fun and fast road. Well, it is fast if you ignore the absurd 55 speed limit in Oregon. Big O out-Neanderthalled even Pennsylvania on refusing to get real after we ended the 'oil embargo' of almost 30 years ago. Wake up, Oreganoes ... no one out there is doing 55. Anyway, Route 395 enjoys some of the most varied terrain you'll find in one state. The land changes frequently from fertile fields, to tree studded foothills, to tight rapid brook canyons, to pine forest passes. Further south it mixes in sagebrush scrub desert, alkali dry lakes, and even a section of free wind sand dunes. All of these environments have something to offer in sight and smell, and just when you get it dialed in ... it changes again. A really nice ride.
    Really nice, except for the section between Battle Mountain and Ukiah. What would be a righteous canyon is made a terror track by a fresh layer of oil on the pavement. WHY would the highway maintenance department spray oil on 10 miles of already solid, unbroken pavement? There was not a layer of chip seal added (or going to be added). There was not a dusty condition to dampen. I can't figure it out ... is the oil supposed to seep into the surface and 'toughen' it with the coming summer heat? I'll tell you what's toughened - my butt muscles did a lot of seat grabbing on the corners. We gotta get some of these dumptruck jockeys to ride a motorcycle so they can see what peril they produce!

    I rode half way to the equator. Watching my GPS, I saw the 45th latitude parallel approaching, and it surprised me to see a sign beside the road way out here in eastern nowheroregon: half way between the equator and the north pole.
    While I was musing on that, I came around a fast corner in a canyon and in my periphery saw a cow floating about two feet off the ground. Whoa, bessy. Let's go back and see that again. It was a cow, or at least it used to be. An entire cow hide from head to tail, including the legs, was hung on a fence gate crossbar, presumably drying. Even sitting still, my eyes couldn't quite grok that image. (Mental wisecrack: where's the beef? :)
    After seeing precious few other motorcycles on the road this last week (other than the LDR group), today I saw literally dozens of BMWs. Then it occurred to me this is the weekend of the Chief Joseph rally and by chance I would be going right past the site. Four bikes fell in behind me as I approached John Day, where the rally is this year. I tried to wave them off, but they kept following ... I was a mile out the other side of town before the last one got the message that I wasn't headed to the rally. Of all the rallies I've attended, the Chief Joseph is the only one I can not recommend. Each of my visits was less than pleasant: poor locations, poor organization, and rude rally staff. Save your replies - if this is the best event you've ever attended, good for you. In my opinion, there are better events and this one isn't worth the effort.

    Been wondering if or when this would happen. Finally was refused gas service in Burns. Oregon has this 'protect the public from themselves' law which requires the complex detailed technical process of pumping gas be performed only by highly trained personnel. Seriously, if you don't know, it is against the law to pump your own gas in Oregon. For cars it doesn't matter much, but people who don't know motorcycles have trouble getting the gas in the tank ... and not many bikers like seeing a nozzle dragged across the paint. So what (almost) always happens is the attendant turns on the pump and hands you the nozzle. You fill and give the hose back to him/her. This gets around you ever touching the pump - quasi legal. This one station in Burns had a sign "$500 fine if you pump". I waited for the nozzle, and big beefo attendant swung it around nearly splashing gas on my leg. No, he had to do it all. Uh, I don't think so. Two blocks away a nice lady spread a cloth towel across my tank then handed me the hose.
    Closest thing to weird sign of the day - a diner on the south edge of Burns has a large display: "Worst Food In Oregon! Come give it a try." Reverse psychology or desperate act? I don't know, but I could have fun continuing the advertising ... 'Guaranteed to displease - if you like it you still have to eat it.' Just what kind of person would this attract? (Me, next time, maybe. :)

    Back to US395. Maybe I am getting tired after successive days on the road, now heading home the distances sometimes seem to stretch out. I swear this part of Oregon seems bigger than the last time I came through here. Stopped for a break at a rest area in the alkali flat near Albert Lake, what do I find but proof! The geography exhibit tells this section of Oregon is a series of grabbens, a valley formed by one side rising and the other tilting down. As they tilt, they expand. Oregon is growing to the west at the rate of 1 cm per year. Let's see, it's been about 10 years since my last traversal - hey! that's four inches! No wonder it feels bigger!
    Finally, I don't often mention the names of places I eat, but tonight's dinner was the best chile colorado I've had in a long long time. If you like real Mexican, not TexMex, stop at El Aguila Real in Lakeview. Believe me, they live up to their name, it's The Real Eagle.

396 miles
Waitsburg US12 WA125/OR11 US30 OR37 US395 Lakeview
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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