Friday, August 19, 2016
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.
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……