Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A long day's journey into Stupid

I finally decided that yesterday was the day to do my long ride, aka the Jug-O-Water route. It was looking like it was going to be a bit headwindy, but, at some point you have to pull out your suitcase of courage and do the stupid things that others are too fearful smart to do.

I did realize in the morning that for my PB&J that I planned to make, I only had boozy jam. Rage Cow Raspberry Chipotle, to be exact, which was of course perfectly appropriate. Ech, what’s a little booze on a long, dehydrating bike ride, amirite? Onward!

The first hill to climb on this route was, well, an actual hill to climb. But at least I knew it was coming, having done part of this ride last year – so I knew it would be 10 miles of unrelenting hellish annoying climb that went on and on and on. And it was, yet again. Somehow in the last year, the Public Works Crew hasn’t figured out a way to flatten the damn thing, alas. On the bright side, getting to the top was lovely, and the ride to Silvies was enchanting: no serious hills, scenic open country, few cars. Then I got to my turnoff, 35 miles in, and it was fish or cut bait time. Did I really want to venture into uncharted territory like this, where if something happened they’d have to follow the turkey vultures hovering to figure out where I was?

Of course I did!

And yes, the first thing I encountered was a hill. Fine! What’s a hill or two between friends? But then, my dear readers, just a few miles in, on an uphill no less. I saw it. Off to the left, attached to a fence. I felt a rage I did not anticipate, especially given the weekend’s news of Nazis marching on Charlottesville and wreaking havoc and spewing their hate and killing someone and basically all the shit. Rage.

Now, there are benefits to riding on roads where there is no one else, ever.  In this case, that meant I didn’t even have to be stealthy. I put my bike down, walked over to the side of the road, went down and through the ditch and as I did so realized there was water in the ditch and my shoes were now wet but I didn’t even care because NAZIS and fuck it, and did what I could to crush the sign. It was attached to a barbed wire fence so I had to be careful so as to not bleed to death this early on in the ride, but I think I got my point across.

And I have to say, if you support trump STILL, then you’re okay with white supremacists. Maybe you don’t believe you’re superior, or maybe you do, but regardless, by still going along with him, you’re throwing your lot in with the Nazis. ACTUAL REAL Nazis carrying swastikas and saying Sieg Heil. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. You’re no better than the Germans who looked the other way when their Jewish neighbors were being taken away. NO. BETTER. Whatever lies you tell yourself about why it’s okay to still support trump – religion, tax breaks, who the fuck knows – sure. Isn’t it pretty to think so.

The next part of the ride can be summed up as (and pardon the rare salty language I use here): fuck you and fuck you some more. And here I have a question:

WHY oh WHY does my ipod play the SAME STUPID SHIT OVER AND OVER??? Why?? I mean, god FORBID it should ever play Shinedown or AWOL Nation or some other kind of actually bike-appropriate music. Oh NO, of course not! This is why I wound up yelling the following at frequent intervals:

Oh FOR FUCK’S SAKE why Pink Floyd AGAIN??
Seriously? This song AGAIN?
Fuck you ipod!
No seriously FUCK YOU.

And naturally, the classic:


My ipod hates me.

It occurred to me at one point that with all the intermittent loud swearing, I was doing a seemingly good imitation of someone who had Tourette’s.

The other issue here was – again, cue infrequent salty language – THE FUCKING HILLS. Sure, I expected some. I didn’t think I’d have to deal with 10% grades that went on for MILES. No really, MILES. Oh sure, I can hear you all now – “But Miss Tasha, then you get glorious downhills!” Sure, that’s one Pollyana take on it. To this I have two words for you:

Cattle guards.

Yes, the grates over the road that are just far apart enough that I’m pretty sure a wheel could easily get stuck in there and send a person flying. So as I’m going down one hill and hit 40.4 miles an hour, I have this thought:

If I hit a cattle guard at this speed, I’m dead.

Yes, I slow down a touch. Let’s be real – the only time one should go bombing down hills like that is when a) you know the roads well (hello IMWI loop) or b) there are other people around in case things go FUBAR (hello RAGBRAI). Neither is the case here.

In addition, when I get almost to the bottom of one hill – and have to stop and get off to walk over the cattle guard – I feel dizzy, disoriented, like there’s no fixed point on the horizon. I think to myself, self, we know you’re an idiot, but it’s probably not the BEST idea to go bombing up and down hills when you can’t see straight. This is likely due to dehydration, since even though I technically have a Jug-O-Water out there, I don’t know I have a jug of water for sure. It might not be there. What would happen if I drink all my water and I get there and…nada? Yes, I would be, in a word, royally and totally screwed. And not in the good way.

I walk up the next hill. Shrug. It’s scenic, quiet, there’s a strong scent of pine in the air, and it’s very tranquil, and it helps me get un-dizzy, since I think part of the issue was also the wind (headwind, as always) rushing into my ears as I was flying downhill.  Then I toodle along until I get to the 50-mile mark, and the moment of truth: is it there??

To which I say, I’ve never been so happy to see a jug of warm, plasticky water in my life. Lunch consists of part of my PB&J (it seemed to get baked in my back pocket) and said jug of glorious water. I could stay there forever, except that it’s now the afternoon, and I have another 50 miles to go, so I set out again to tackle the gravel part of the road. Which shouldn’t be THAT bad, right?

I slip on the fucking gravel and almost wipe out within the first 30 feet. The gravel is inches deep, and yeah, riding on it isn’t going to happen. I recalculate my times and figure that with walking the couple of miles, I’ll be getting back into Burns oh, probably around midnight or so. Hopefully the Shifty Pastimes bar will be open so I can get a hard cider; already planning that that'll be my reward after this clusterfuck of madness. I’m trudging along, when lo and behold, what’s that ahead?

(to be continued)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A long December, or, Hot Cowboy quest: FAIL

I’m bitter. So, so bitter.

So as we all know by now, the thing I hate more than ANYTHING – well, in addition to those stupidly invasive morning glories and Japanese knotweed and thorny blackberries and FINE THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS I HATE – but at least on my bike rides, wind is enemy #1. Taking top place in Miss Tasha’s Hierarchy of Cycling Suckiness, far and away the worst. The worst. Because it’s unrelenting and sneaky and shifting and diabolical. Unlike, say, a hill. Where you see it coming, you know it’ll suck and it might go on forever, but eventually it’ll end. Wind has no such decency. It just gets worse and worse until you’re being blown in to traffic or off the road or crawling along at a snail’s pace until you’re screaming FUCK YOU into the ether and no one hears it because your words are snatched away by that damn wind.

Anyway, where was I?

Before I set out on yesterday morning’s ride, I meticulously and diligently and fanatically and obsessively checked the forecast, paying attention only to the wind. Temps, ech, whatever. But WIND. Speed and direction, of paramount importance! claims (CLAIMS) that there’ll be mild wind from the east and north in the morning, which means headwind then tailwind, and then when I’m headed back, the wind will shift so that it’s from the south, and I get a tailwind on the way back.

I’m skeptical.

As it turns out, I’m skeptical for good fucking reason, because needless to say, this does not happen. Coming back I get a massive headwind from the north and west, and the westerly portion is so bad that I look slightly drunk, being blown hither and yon on the road. Cue aforementioned screaming. Cue rage. Cue bitterness. Of course when I get back I note that I wasn’t imagining the 20 mph winds, as there’s a “weather warning” for Burns, with “forest fire warnings due to dry conditions and gusty winds.” Fuck. It. All.

Oh, what’s that? You thought my bitterness would be directed at the Hot Cowboy fail? Fact is, I knew that was a long shot. I long ago accepted that things just….don’t work out for me. That if there are 2 ways things can go and one of them is the bad way, the bad way is always the one that will happen. Nope, not even garden-variety good luck for me. Then you have the other shitshows, from cancer to brain injury to stupid pointless IVF that did nothing more than suck away all my savings and of course it didn’t work because why the fuck would it? So yeah, a Hot Cowboy meetcute? Nah.

I consider myself a reasonably attractive person, with a sparkly bitter-but-charming personality, too much edukashun (ahem, Wharton), a dry wit, so many eccentric hobbies I could pass them out like cheap party favors, an amazing dog who’s king of everything (guys like dogs, amirite?), a big drafty old house, and a gift for making boozy jams. What’s not to like? In return all I’m asking for is a Hot Cowboy who’ll call me sweetheart and not talk very much. Is that so fucking hard?

Apparently so.

Last night I decided to head to a local bar, Sketchy Pastimes or something like that, which is shocking in and of itself because other than during RAGBRAI, I can’t recall the last time I went to a bar. But when in Rome and all that – and Snacktivist friend Emily had told me this place is practically an institution and that I should check it out. So, off I went.  All that stuff people say about not wanting to go places by themselves? Yeah, I don’t give a fuck.

Now, as my luck would have it, this place is empty on a Saturday night. Apparently there’s a wedding or golf convention or whatever going on and that’s where everyone in town is. #becauseofocourse  Now, the two people who ARE there do appreciate my pictures of rage cows, and the bartenders are lovely and they carry Angry Orchard which is a fine cider if I do say so myself. But still, in what world do you go to a bar on a Saturday night in a small town and there is NO ONE there?

Welcome to TashaWorld.

I apparently watched Urban Cowboy a few too many times as an impressionable youth, as in that movie there are Hot Cowboys raining down like confetti in every scene. LIES. ALL LIES. Clearly what I need are some wingwomen, to which I say, RAGBRAI Morgan, where are you??

Friday, August 11, 2017

In search of Rage Cows

I know this will be a shocking revelation to my nineteens of readers, but here it is: on rare occasion, I have a modicum of common sense. RARE…but it happens.  Hence, I looked at the forecast and decided that my 102 mile ride into parts unknown and sketchy water resources would be better undertaken on Sunday, when it’s supposed to be in the mere 80s as opposed to 95 or so. Plus, here’s the key thing: how can I meet Hot Cowboy if I’m tumbled down a ravine gasping for water in the middle of nowhere? I can’t. I figure I need to give myself a couple of decent days of riding aimlessly in homage to Plan A before going rogue.

And NO, I’m not changing my motto to “doing the less stupid things” so you don’t have to. #stillstupidafteralltheseyears

So, today I decided to head out towards the Malheur Refuge, knowing I could refuel at the cafe at the Narrows. As usual, it wasn’t long before I came across my beloved Rage Cows.

Now. I know you all think I (cough) slightly exaggerate on occasion, to which I say, nay! I am merely a scribe, relaying things exactly how they happen. Or how I remember them. Whatever.

So I’m sure all of you out in ReaderLand think I’m MSUing when I talk about the fact that the cows out here HATE ME. Hate. Rage. So much anger, it emanates from them. To the point that if there weren’t fences, I’d be jerky in a very quick moment.


To wit: I’m biking along and see a herd of these fuckers gentle bovine creatures, who start giving me The Stare as soon as I get closer. First one, then another, then all of them. Of course I stop to take some pics.

As I’m taking these pictures, the cows angrily gather, JUST like the villagers in Young Frankenstein. We go from a loose cluster of cows glaring at me, to an entire crop of them, huddled en masse, staring at me. Staring. It’s very Shining-esque, or whatever the equivalent horror movie is with Rage Cows. I’m fascinated, as we’re in a bit of a standoff here. I concede the point to them, however, as I have 60 more miles to ride; as I look back, their heads are moving to follow me as I bike on. Shudder.

Next stop: Malheur Refuge, which is gloriously open! The lovely people who work/volunteer there might, umm, well, they might think I’m a bit of a loon (no pun intended). Our conversation:

Me: So, umm, are there still lots of birds around here or did they mostly migrate on through?
Nice lady: Oh, there are still plenty!  Why, right on the lake there is a heron….
NL: And then on the birdfeeder out there, a yellow-headed blackbird…
NL: And for other scenic views, have you been to Steens Mountain?
Me: Yes, I was up there the last time I was here, it was gorgeous with all the snow!
NL: Well now it’s full of wildflowers and…
Me: Umm, so am I the most ridiculously enthusiastic person you’ve had come through here?
Nice guy: You’re pretty close, we’ve had a few others.

I then start asking the real questions.

Me: So, if I come here in the spring for the huge migration, I know the big event is the second week of April. When should I come to avoid all the people? I hate people.
NL: Oh, the first or third week work just as well. I understand completely.
Me: I mean, I like birds and I have 22 or so birdfeeders or so for the chirping tweeting bastards, but I’m not a snob about it, and I don’t care about running around to up my bird count. So yeah, the fewer people the better.
NG, nodding sagely: That’s the right attitude!

I pick out my souvenirs, then also become a Friend of theRefuge (though after I leave it occurs to me that I think I’m already a member – oh well). I then wander around the grounds, which are beautiful and glorious, and check out the museum, with all its stuffed bird denizens and tons of useful information on pollinators and the scourge of the carp that have taken over the lakes here. I knew the info about how and why our national refuges like Malheur were started (thanks Teddy Roosevelt!), but reading about it again, it reminds me of this rather poignant fact:

People have always been assholes. No, let’s call them sociopaths. More fitting.

What else would you have to be, to be able to kill thousands of snowy egrets to the point of near-extinction, and not give a shit? Or to do the same with the buffalo? Or any other species that mankind has killed for sport or fun, or destroyed their habitat because of unbridled greed, all without giving one single fuck??

And people wonder why I hate people.

I finally head back towards Burns after refueling at The Narrows café, now when it’s blazing hot. And whereas I had to force myself to drink my 2 bottles of water on my way out because it was wonderfully cool, on the way back I’m so parched I’m tempted to stop at a ranch to ask for water.

It really had better be cooler on Sunday.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Brilliant like me


I set out yesterday on the long trip to Burns, aka mecca, and got to the halfway point of Bend in about 12 hours or so, guesstimating. Whereupon an important question came to mind: WHY oh WHY does the phone GPS always send you on total bumblefuck routes instead of main roads that are a straight shot? The GPS did this when we were headed to Lansing, Iowa for RAGBRAI, to the extent that we were sure we were lost. It did it to send me around Bend, apparently, rerouting me on some convoluted loop until lo and behold, it spit me out on highway 20 going east. 20. Going. East. Where I drove maybe 50 feet and saw a sign: Millican 60 miles, Burns 1,289 (approximately).

Oh, no. No no no no no no no no nonononononononononono. Hells no. HELL no. Because I have literally been down this road before.  Where you think oh, I have a half a tank of gas, I can make it to Millican. And Millican is a lone boarded-up shop, and then you see the sign for Brothers. And you think, hmm, Brothers. Well Sisters is a pretty big town, so Brothers must be something at least. But no. Brothers is a slightly wider spot in the road with a burned-out shed, and then you see the sign for Riley. And by now you’ve lost all hope, and rightly so. And you wonder why you too are so stupid as to not be toting around a tub of gas in the back of your not-a-pickup.

Anyway. Point being, my mom didn’t raise an excess of stupid children, so I immediately turned around and drove INTO the traffic of Bend, ie exactly what the GPS was apparently trying to have me avoid. Oh well.

Properly fueled up, I set back out to tackle the rest of the 23 hour ride to Burns.  At some point I’m contemplating life and my shit luck in general and how things never work out for me, just my usual idle musing, when……I get pulled over by the po-po. Yep. I had decided at one point that there would never be any speed traps out here, because you’d have to have a cop sitting all day for the 2 cars that pass by, which would be silly. But in this case, there’s a cop coming towards me as I’m going around 78 in a 65 zone, and as I pass him wondering if they can gauge speed when coming from the opposite direction, I look in my rear-view mirror and sure enough, see him turning around. Sigh. My one thought on this is, #becauseofcourse. That’s the kind of luck I have.

So he pulls me over, and no I do NOT call him the po-po (learned that lesson on RAGBRAI), and instead stick with my usual je ne sais quoi (that means “Miss Tasha don’t give a shit” in French) style, which means that when he asks me The Question (“you were going 78 in a 65, was there a reason for that?”), I answer truthfully: (paraphrasing) “Well, this has been a long-ass drive and I’m tired and there isn’t a single radio station to be had and I really just need to be the fuck THERE already becauseI’mtired."

He does not give me a ticket.

This, in spite of me giving him an old insurance card and only being able to find my Illinois car registration and in general just full of dumbfuckery. It must have been my charm and winsome smile, no? Now I’m not sure if this is a harbinger of good things to come, aka a semblance of good luck, or if this was it, my one bit of good luck for the foreseeable future. Hmm.


I wasn’t planning on going riding today, because I figured I’d get in late the night before and would want a day to settle in first. Plus, this would give me a chance to put Plan Brilliant Me into action. You see, it’s been pointed out by smart friends of mine like Stacey that I probably shouldn’t be doing my crazy-ass rides alone. To which I say, well, none of my friends in Oregon ride bikes, so I either ride alone or I don’t ride at all, the latter not being an option.


It occurs to me while driving out here, as I’m thinking that I’ll head up north to the town of John Day on Thursday and that that’s part of my planned 102-mile route, that the turnoff to the “town” of Van is a mere 11 miles (supposedly) off the main road. I can prewater. Yes, prewater. Just like you’d preride a course before a race or pregame before going out, I can drive those extra 11 miles and put a jug of water on my route. Holy shit, how smart am I??? Rhetorical question. Besides, while I’m crazy and fearless and like to #doepicshit, I also don’t necessarily have a death wish. And if I’m going to go down, it had better be in some epic way, like being trampled by a Rage Cow, rather than an inglorious choking to death via cotton mouth.

So I set out today with my jug of water and start heading north. I finally get to the turnoff, and notice that the road starts to be not so great, though it’s still better than a lot of roads I’ve biked on. Then, hills. Lots. Of. Hills. Then I realize that I’ve gone more than 11 miles. Could I have missed the turnoff? The website claimed there was a t-intersection, and there has been nothing of the sort.

It certainly is scenic though, and as I drive along through this bucolic and serenely lovely road through the Malheur forest, I have one thought:

If I have a mechanical here, I’m fucked.

But I forge ahead, and am rewarded with…..something resembling a t-intersection, and a gravel road. Damn. This is apparently my road to the “town” of Van, though there’s no sign indicating any such thing, because of course not.

This is a shitty gravel washboard road, and I decide to take it to see how long it goes on. At least to the right I see ranch buildings! Wait, maybe not. Shacks? Outbuildings? Shacky abandoned outbuildings? Whatever, it’s some semblance of life, good enough. The shit road goes on for 2 miles, which might be doable on my road bike. Maybe. Questionable since I also put the race wheels on my bike before I left (#becausefuckit).

I figure I’ll leave the jug of water there anyway should I decide to take this route.

But then of course the questions start. What if I leave the water and assume it’ll be there and it’s not and then I’ve sucked down all my water and I’m screwed? Do Rage Cows like jugs of water? Do raccoons? Moose? What if someone comes by and decides they need the water? For the latter, given that I’ve been on this road for 15 miles and haven’t seen a single car in either direction, that’s probably a moot point.

There isn’t really a great place to put the water, since on either side at the t-stop are steep hills going down, and sparse underbrush. But I find a spot, and then as I’m looking on the opposite side of the road, I see that down at the bottom of the ravine is a huge culvert and a stream of rushing water. So, if the worst-case scenario happens and my jug of water disappears, I can tumble down the ravine and get water from the creek. Whew!

I feel this plan is sound.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Whither RAGBRAI?

I know, I know, you’re all eagerly awaiting the RAGBRAI Chronicles, a recap of a week of cute boys and beer and corn and bikes and DUMP TRUMP conversations across Iowa and Sloth Ann almost coming to blows with someone and, well, all the rest.

But we all know I survived RAGBRAI, so those tales don’t have the immediacy, the here-and-now, the je ne sais quoi (that means “What the hell is Miss Tasha up to NOW?” in French) as do the stories of my current, umm, well-thought-out and completely rational plans okay?? Geez. It’s not like I’m heading off to remote parts of eastern Oregon to go on 100+ mile bike rides in alternating landscapes of desert and dense forest where forest fires might be happening where there’s no water to be found for hundreds of miles or anything.

Oh wait, I am.

So yes, I’ve decided to head back out to my beautiful vast empty stretches of country roads in what some of you call bumblefuck and what I call mecca. Because really, is there anything better than miles and miles of smooth-as-silk roads with no people, few cars, just Rage Cows for company? No. The answer to that is no.

Now, I’m no fool. Or at least not much of one. At least not all the time. ANYWAY. I now know why everyone has a large tub of gas in the back of their pickup trucks, and I will act accordingly, aka stopping for gas at every single gas station even if it’s just a few miles away from the last one. Not catching ME out, no sirree.

I now know that even though a town may be designated as such on a map, that’s a lie and said “towns” are nothing more than an old boarded up shoppe, if that. So when I look at my painstakingly created Garmin map and see that in the middle of my ride through the Malheur forest there’s supposedly a town called “Van,” I know this to be a lie. As I like to say, my mother didn’t raise many stupid children, and so I recall my mom’s words of wisdom at times like these: “Act helpless!” Oh, wait. That was actually what she said when I was setting off on RAGBRAI, so that I could get help from some hunky guy. Never mind.

I’m also going out there to put Plan A into action. Namely, to find a Hot Cowboy. Believe it or not, all appearances to the contrary, Miss Tasha isn’t getting any younger, and Kone has needs that include leaning against and being doted on by as many people as possible. So Plan A is basically this: I plan to ride my bike along the desolate roads of eastern Oregon until I meet Hot Cowboy.
I think this plan is sound.

Again, the pearls of wisdom from my mom come to mind: “Don’t look at anyone!” Oh wait, that’s actually what she says when I’m visiting, every time I leave her house to head into Chicago. “They’re shooting everyone!” Never mind.

So, to recap. I’m heading into the desert where temps are in the 90s, they keep warning about forest fires popping up, there are no people much less water stops for many many miles, and I have very long rides planned into areas where all the roads may or may not be paved.

What could possibly go wrong?