Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 2 - Central Oregon

First days are a lot like first dates. You really don’t know what you’ve got. Second days and second dates are always more fun if you like what you saw the first time. So it went for us today. We did 350 miles of the most exquisite twisty roads we have ever encountered in our cumulative 100,000 miles. Central and Eastern Oregon was a very arid area and proved to be a fabulous surprise. It was a day in biker paradise! We are suffused with endorphins and fatigue but smiling non-stop.
We started the day with a delicious breakfast at our overnight stop, Cousins country Kitchen and Inn in The Dalles. The parking lot was full of locals just as it had been for supper the night before. After splitting biscuits and a cinnamon bun (all homemade) and two coffees we hit the road. We headed straight south into the arid hills of Central Oregon that are covered in a short brown grass since there is only about a inch of topsoil sitting on top of thousands of feet of super-hard basalt volcanic rock that flowed over thousands of square miles of this area epochs ago. We found one great road after another with interesting small Oregon towns strung along the way like beads on a necklace.

Our first surprise came in Antelope, OR, a town of 37, where we happened into the Antelope Café and met Rich Miller, the owner. He talked us into a lunch of marionberry (local berry) cobbler a la mode and regaled us with tales of the town’s days as Rajneeshpuram. In the early 1980’s the town was taken over by the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh after he purchased a large ranch in the county. The Antelope Café was renamed Zorba the Buddha Café and local government was populated by devotees. The cobbler was fabulous and the meal fueled our run through the magnificent road down to Fossil, OR.

Our trip there was interrupted by a brief stop at the John Day (namesake of a local river and original settler) Fossil Beds replete with magnificent basalt promontories.

We fueled up Fossil, Oregon, after being directed to the local service station via an anonymous two-way radio conversation with the owner’s estranged wife. She was most upset that we purchased fuel from her “jerk” husband.

It made for an interesting interlude followed immediately by a kick ass stretch of road down Oregon 19. We assiduously observed the speed limit on this fabulous road with up and down curves and emerged unscathed.

We stopped briefly in the town of John Day in order to secure electronics at the local Radio Shack (particularly well stocked). At point our diet for the day had consisted entirely of sugar and caffeine so we added Peanut M&M’s in order to maintain balance for the rigors ahead.

We then transitioned into a much greener environment as we ascended Wallowa-Whitman National forest to the remote settlement of Granite, OR. Our plan to ride through the remote Elkhorn Pass at 7400 ft. was derailed by low gas.

We stopped at the local eatery/gas station and asked two mid-afternoon beer drinking couples for help but were advised they had no gas so we retraced our route down to the curious tourist community of Sumpter, OR. Sumpter has only one thing going for it. That’s the presence of a massive river dredge that has been transported to this remote mountain town and floated in a tiny millpond. It was a totally incongruous site.

We did not linger however since the locals seemed unfriendly. Our sole conversation while there consisted of some anonymous local yelling at us over our radios for being on “his frequency. “ We ignored him and motored out of town and on to the former gold rush town of Baker City, OR. That’s where we called it a night after 350 miles of very notable riding.