Friday, August 19, 2016

An ode to Burns

Or as I call it, Mecca. Oh sure, I know what you’re all saying right now, the hoi polloi chiming in as they will. “But Miss Tasha, there’s supposed to be only ONE Mecca – that’s kind of the point – but here you are with all these Meccas: Cedarburg, Superdawg, Farm & Fleet, The Manor, and now Burns.”

To which I say, yes yes yes, I hear you, and I acknowledge that you’ve said something.

So, moving on. I set out knowing full well that I may meet the icy cold Specter of Death on today’s ride, given that there’s apparently one water tower in all of eastern Oregon, and it’s about 591 miles from Burns. So be it. These are the kinds of sacrifices I bravely make, dear friends, if only to serve as a lesson to others. The day starts off on a good note though, as I’m trying to get onto the main road (“Main St.”) so that I can head north on my route.

I’m coming off a side street, so I wait for a pickup truck to pass. The driver stops. He looks at me. I look at him. He looks at me. I look at him. Stalemate. I wave him on through. He looks at me, then waves me on through. We could be here all day at this point. Stubborn though I am, I decide to graciously let him have the win, and forge on.

Soon enough, I find my road – 395, aka “Tarpman” Highway. Yes, this is the road where that dumbass Lavoy Finicum got himself shot and killed during the criminal takeover of Malheur Refuge. If you read between the lines, you can probably tell that I don’t give a shit that he met his demise; if you’re (like him) yelling at law enforcement things like “shoot me! Go ahead and shoot me now, you’ll never bring me in!” and then reach for a gun, well, you’ve pretty much decided your own fate right there. So it’s a bit of Snacktivist history that I feel compelled to check out.

Plus there’s wind from the north, so coming back I should have a tailwind. Win-win!

As I’m biking along, I notice a chill in the air, which makes me think I should have worn long sleeves. Clearly it’s going to be a cool day! I then notice a strange sign: “Scenic Devine Canyon.” Canyon? No one told me there would be canyons. But really, how hard can it be – that’s a bit of up and down, right?

5 miles in

Okay, so, I might have erred there, as “canyon” in this context means you’re going just uphill for miles and miles. Well, it can’t last TOO long – it’s not like this is a mountain pass in the Alps, haha – and hey, at least it’s scenic. I seem to be in Malheur Forest territory, so it’s lovely. Trees, and as our erstwhile pal Mitt Romney would say, they’re the right height! Whee, I love eastern Oregon!

10 miles in

Still climbing.  How the hell did those FBI agents handle this? Oh right, they were in cars. Fucking MENSA members slackers.

20 miles in

Still. Climbing. Really? REALLY?

63 miles in

I think perhaps I was once not on a bike that kept climbing and climbing into the clouds, maybe. It’s all fuzzy now. That could be a lie, and I might have always been on this bike, always. Pulling over to regain my slight hold on sanity, as I ponder all the ways in which I’m an idiot, I notice a pickup truck slowing down and the driver looking over to see if I’m okay. I give him the jauntiest of waves, to indicate that I’m fine, just being the usual dumbass riding my bike in the desert on a blazing hot day. As I do.

249 miles in

Because yes, did I mention yet that it’s hot as hell, and I’m running low on water? Burns seems to fall into the typical Oregon bullshit, where it’s chilly enough in the morning that you pull on a hoodie, and 3 hours later when you go back outside, you look like a moron because it’s 98 degrees. How the hell did the FBI agents stand this? Oh yeah, they were here in winter. Fucking totally hot smarter-than-me-guys pansy-asses.

1,062 miles in

There’s a sign up ahead. Let’s see. Oh, of course, it’s telling me the altitude of the summit. This was a damn mountain after all. Argh, foiled again! I had wanted to go to the TroutLand camping ground, or whatever it’s called, but this calls to mind my fruitless gas station quest, and I decide to turn around while I can. It’ll be a straight shot back; I’ll zip on through, since now I’m really low on water.

Heading back

Hey, what’s this? “Mountain Forest Road #31.” This sounds incoherent and yet intriguing. And best of all, it’s a beautifully paved road! Sure, I have to try to not break an ankle as I cross a cattle panel, but still, how can I not check this out?

I’m zipping along on this gorgeous road, shaded by forest, smooth as butter, and no cars. Nada. Zilch. It’s not hilly, a few gentle up and downs, and seems to go on for miles and miles. It feels like being the only person on all the rides at Disneyworld.

I am suspicious.

It’s clear this is some kind of government conspiracy plot masterminded by….uhh….by the AGENDA 21 cabal, who are….uhh…….oh fuck it, I don’t have the sort of idiocy that one needs to come up with some half-assed ridiculous theory on why there are so many gorgeous smooth roads around here. Maybe Trevor the Hot Road Paving Cowboy takes an inordinate amount of pride in his work. Yeah, let’s go with that. I also soon realize – and not for the first time – what a dumbass I am, because I was running out of water a while ago, and the Water Fairy hasn’t suddenly shown up to put a clear mineral spring in my path. I am disappointed, but we soldier on, parched.

The road back is indeed ALL DOWNHILL THANK YOU SWEET JESUS. I have just one thought as I’m cruising back, and that is this: I will be royally pissed off if some asshat in their car plows into me, because I have earned every damn inch of this downhill. Luckily I remain unscathed, so no one has to feel my wrath.

But speaking of cars: while there haven’t been many, there have been some, mostly pickup trucks, large trucks, and campers. Without exception, every truck has given me a wide berth on the road, basically getting into the opposite lane. The three vehicles that didn’t give me any room? Two cars and some douchebag in a gold-colored SUV, who flies past me leaving around 3 inches of space. Lest we stereotype about drivers in trucks or pickups. Oh, and those pickups? I lose track as to how many of them are TOTING HUGE TUBS OF GAS. I kid you not. Talk about conspiracies.

I finally get back to town, having sucked down my last bit of water, and find myself wondering why Burns isn’t the cycling destination it deserves to be. The roads are incredible – by far better than Wisconsin or Illinois – and there’s little traffic and gorgeous scenery. Oh sure, it’s a desolate inhospitable wasteland environment, but you’re telling me that’s not the case in Wisconsin? And okay, there’s the occasional shootout, but where isn’t there?

Tomorrow, more riding of course, heading south this time. Apparently that way there’s “more of nothing,” according to my wonderful hosts. Godspeed.

On the (desolate) road again.....

Oh sure, I know I have a lot to catch up on, from the tale of Harmilda, who now resides on the Manor estate, to of course RAGBRAI, and the myriad of lessons learned there. And those tales will be forthcoming, my dear nineteens of readers, never fear. But first, this: a TALE OF DRAMATIC STUPIDITY from which I may not emerge alive!

 See, I’ve learned that’s what all the hip bloggers do these days, to keep people on the edge of their seats. Not write about things weeks after the fact, when everyone knows that things turned out hunky-dorey rather than argle-bargle, but rather IN THE MOMENT WHEN ANYTHING CAN STILL HAPPEN.

 So. That brings us to me, right now, sitting in a gorgeous loft in Burns, Oregon, in preparation for some crazy-ass bike riding this weekend. Here I must digress and state that the fact that I even made it here should be accomplishment enough for the weekend. We all know that my true love involves riding my bike in the most middle-of-nowhere places possible. And sad to say, I have yet to find anything like that around Silverton, that’s at all like my beloved Cornlandia, with nothing but corn fields and very few cars for hours and hours. That helps explain (a bit) why this afternoon I was driving off to Burns, which purportedly is the very definition of middle-of-nowhere TumbleweedLandia, or so I’ve been told.

 This started to become evident the further east I got, as Snow-White-esque forestry gave way to scrub-brushy desert as far as the eye could see. I realized suddenly why the pilgrims or pioneers or whoever the hell forged west via cover wagon made it all the way to Silverton and The Manor; it’s because they took one look at the scrub-brushy vast swathes of land and said “Oh hells no, we’re noping out of this bullshit. Hither.” That might be an exact quote, in fact.

The pilgrims clearly faced the same problem I did as well, and let this be a lesson to all of you, my gentle readers, who dare to venture off into the Here Be Dragons parts of the country. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, ALWAYS HAVE A FULL GAS TANK. I don’t care how you make this happen – perhaps toting along a few drums of gas attached to a hitch? Something, just make it so. Because otherwise, the following will unfold: you drive through Bend, note that you have just under a half tank of gas, and even though you’re always cautious about such things, you think that’ll definitely be enough to get to the next gas station. Because even places like Missouri and Nebrahoma warn you if the next one is more than, say, 50 miles away.

 Off you go, noting that the next town is a mere 20 miles due easterly: Millikan, or some such shit. 20 miles later, you see that said town once consisted of a single building, the Millikan Market, which is now a boarded up shell. No matter, the town of Brothers is only 24 miles away. You get to Brothers, and it’s a slightly wider road, with TWO buildings. And…..both are closed. Including the gas station. Now you start to panic slightly, but lo, what’s this? Yes, the good people of Brothers have, on the former gas station, placed a helpful sign! “NO GAS HERE.” But then arrows, one pointing east, the other west. “GAS 44 MILES, GAS 20 MILES.” The way I’m going is 20 miles. Huzzah! I’m saved! 

Except I’m not. Because I get to the next wide stretch in the road, and that building is closed too. There’s a gas pump that seems like it might be functional and a building behind it that says “OPEN” – but it’s not. Hmm.

 Now, I always say, my mom didn’t raise many stupid children. The next town is 44 miles away, and while I might make another 10-20, ain’t no way in hell I’ll get to 44. Rather than running out of gas on the side of a desolate (this is the only word that truly describes Eastern Oregon) windswept road, I figure I might as well just hang out in what passes for a semblance of civilization, the “town” of Hampton or whatever it is, with my snacks and water, and call AAA from here. But then I see a sign on the door of the not-open building – a phone number. Could it be? I call, and get an answering machine. I then notice the faint scratched out number with another one written in lightly, and try THAT number. SOMEONE ANSWERS IT’S A MIRACLE! The guy sounds like I just woke him up, and says he’ll have to drive “a ways” to get to the gas station, and according to the sign gas is $4.50 a gallon, but FUCK IT I’M SAVED!

 He actually shows up about 10 minutes later, and is lovely albeit a bit taciturn. He makes some mention of “the new pumps, which is why the gas is so expensive,” and I reassure him he could be charging gold ingots and that would be okay too.

Me: I’m just glad you’re out here, for the idiot tourists and travelers like me.
Gas Guy: Well….I don’t like to call people that exactly….
Me: That’s okay, I just did it for you. Let’s be honest here.
GG: Ayup.

I get my gas, and let me tell you people, it’s a NEW DAY in town! Woo hoo! I can turn on the AC in the car! I can pass slow trucks chugging along without worrying about burning too much gas by revving up! LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE EASTERN OREGON!

 Uhh, so, I finally make it to Burns – though I’ll note that the town before Burns did NOT have gas either, making it something like 438 miles between gas stations (I’m not so mathy, but that sounds right). I meet Jen, of the family from whom I’m renting this incredible loft apt. for the weekend, and we chat about bike riding around here. Because if gas stations are 631 MILES APART, what hope do I have of finding water on my crazy-ass long rides?

According to Jen, slim to none. Coincidentally, when I picked up my bike this morning after its mid-season tune-up, bike guy told me he was unable to put the extra water bottle holder on my bike since my seatpost isn’t round. To recap: almost ran out of gas, will only have 2 water bottle cages on my rides in 90+ degree weather. In the desert. In the middle of nowhere. I hope these aren’t harbingers of things to come. To which I say my usual: fuck it.

 Though somehow this doesn’t exactly sound like the greatest recipe for success……