Thursday, April 19, 2018

I did not sign up for this. Okay, maybe I did.

So I head off on my now-delightfully-paved road. And it’s glorious. Beyond. It’s rolling and beautiful and there are deer and then OMG SANDHILL CRANES. Cranes are my favorite, along with herons and owls and birds of prey and well, maybe all of them. I stop to take pics of my beloved Rage Cows, who are so startled at the sight of me on my bike that they bypass glaring at me with barely-disguised fury, and instead just kick up their heels and run away. Yes, I'm starting cattle stampedes as I toodle my way across eastern Oregon.

Then I get to a hill. FINE. It keeps going. And going. Up and up and up endlessly. I start thinking asinine thoughts, like, wow I didn’t realize Oregon was so tall! No lie. I then realize that this hill is the equivalent of the stupid hill on the other side of the forest, aka from this morning so long ago when I started out on this daredevil tour of madness. Thus, it will never end. Until it does. At the top of the hill. I’m confused – where’s my downhill? Is this highway 20 ahead of me? Well, it’s only 20 or so miles back to Burns, piece of cake.

Except somehow, the lying sign says 32 miles. Wtf? No really, wtf. I’m not mathy, but could my calculations have been THAT far off? Apparently so, but I’m hoping the sign is actually wrong. Hope springs eternal and all that. Especially when I look at this road and realize: this is a fucking highway. That’s when the conversation I had the other night with awesome local friends Erik and Isabelle pops into my head.

(cue dooototoloooo Wayne’s World music)

Erik: Sometimes I ride on 20, but it’s weird what they did to that road. They chipsealed it, but left all the gravel, especially on the shoulder. In fact it’s kind of piled up there.
Me: Uhh, that sounds crazy. So it’s not flattened down at all?
Erik: No. The shoulders are basically useless, they have so much gravel.
Me: Huh, good to know. Will definitely have to avoid that!

And of course, here I am. Staring at 20, the briskly desolate highway, where oh lookie, to the right (aka the direction in which I need to go) is a swoopy curvy steep road that’s downhill for quite a while. On a highway. With no usable shoulder.

I think to myself, well, this is it. This is where it ends, where all cyclists go to die. On a highway in eastern Oregon, splattered by a truck. Oh well. It’s been fun, except when it hasn’t.

Because this road isn’t going to ride itself, I set off. It’s as sucky as I imagined – the shoulder has too much gravel to be rideable, so I’m whistling down the highway. By some odd stroke of luck, however, no cars come up behind me and try to pass. Or perhaps they do, but are so dumbfounded by my stupidity that they decide to hang back. “Look Mabel, another one of those idiots on the road!” Yes Henry, I know.

I make it down this stretch of highway, turn a corner, and start heading down another steep hill, when like a detour into bizarroland, I see….a store? Up ahead on the left? Wha…?

Of course I have to go in, whereby I discover a gas station/convenience store/museum/Indian art gallery. No lie. I wander around the one-room museum looking at the old pics and old-timey antiques, and then wind up chatting with the lovely lady who works here.

Nice Lady: Oh, you’re on your bike! Where are you going?
Me: Well, I did this loop through the Malheur forest, and now I’m headed back to Burns.
NL: …Burns? That’s….ambitious.
Me: Stupid. I like to call it stupid.
NL: You just be careful now – the cars go so fast, and the road is terrible.
Me: I’ve noticed.

My next issue with this road is this: the shoulder has varying amounts of gravel, but between the shoulder and the road there are rumble strips. Yes, this road is so boring that it’s lined with rumble strips for its entire length, for drivers who wander over. First, this isn’t exactly comforting, knowing that drivers here are likely to drift into me. Then, I have to do this odd hopscotching thing, where I ride on the road, then bump over the rumble strips to the shoulder when I see a car or truck coming up behind me.  Ride-bumps-gravel-bumps-road-truck wooshes by-bumps-gravel and AD NAUSEUM FOR MILES.

Not for the first time during my bike rides, I look at the houses I occasionally pass by and wonder if I should stop and see if I can just get a damn ride into Burns. Because that would be the smart thing to do, I don’t do it.

On the bright side, the road is pretty flat at this point, the Rage Cows are out in full force, as are the hawks, and it’s looking like I’ll make it back to town before sunset. Whee! For all the complaining, it’s still been a day on the bike in my beloved eastern Oregon, amirite?

As I toodle back into Burns, I decide that my epic achievement of stupid deserves a drink, so I pull up at the Shady Pastimes. For anyone wanting to recreate this ride, I will have you know that this loop, start to finish and ending up at the bar, is exactly 100 miles. 100.0 on the dot.

I feel like this is a cosmic sign of something, but I’m not sure what.


keizerfire said...

You go girl! I love reading these journals of your adventures!

Unknown said...

So happy you're back to writing about all the stupid stuff you do. And you didn't get in trouble for starting stampedes.