As the motel didn't serve breakfast, and they usually don't, I ventured into the cold Oregon air and took a left at the Apple Peddler. It was here that I forgot to ride on the right for the first time and nearly ploughed into an oncoming vehicle. I had me another plate of bacon, eggs and pancakes, which were today served by a blond waitress with a ready smile and a Coke bottle figure. All that could be surmised from the three young men at the next table was from their bobbing baseball caps, their hunting talk and their frequent use of the word “freakin'”. To my right a middle-aged couple ate their breakfast while she talked on the phone to a female friend the whole time.
At Ray's Food Place (it says what it is) and my new favourite store, I purchased the following items :
1 turkey sandwich with lettuce and French mustard (10 layers of turkey)
2 lbs red grapes
1 lb Spice Drops
1 quart Gatorade
and all for $8.74!
When resting at the roadside I have to stop myself from looking under rocks, as I'm partial to beetles and lizards, but as Paul in Philomath warned me, there could be a rattlesnake lying there. My Mum has told me not to stay with any weirdos and now my older brother tells me not to use minor roads in the mountains in case of heavy snow. This is my support team. I did see and hear plenty of crickets though, and my chain chirruped along with them - oiling and cleaning it doesn't reduce the noise annoyingly – and worryingly, as the next bike shop is 200+ miles away. Also saw numerous stripy caterpillars playing chicken in the road, an owl and a chipmunk standing on its hind legs.
Lake Ochoco (would be a good Scrabble word for dumping bad letters) looked pretty, although it would have been prettier still had it been the other side of the road, so I could take pictures away from the sun. It's as if the light is coming from every angle here, such is the strength of colour and the clarity of every form. I know that when returning to a Scottish winter, it will seem extra dark, dank and dingy, especially today as it reached the 80s and of course it's a dry heat. Saw three lone bicycles (the first distance cyclists I've seen so far) today, all of them going the other way – into the wind – and one on a recumbent bike with three times the gear I'm carrying.
Climbed to 4,722 feet at Ochoco Pass and then sped downhill to Mitchell, where a Suzi Quatro lookalike in a junk-shop filled my water bottles and showed me old postcards of the former thriving timber and ranching town. The hardest climb yet, up to Keyes Creek Summit at 4,372' was slightly eased by witty comments painted on the hard shoulder by another cyclist :
At the start - “Piece of cake”
Halfway - “Keep peddlin'”
Three quarters - “Almost there”
At the top - “U R awesome” (with a smiley face)
It then opened out on to suede hills, followed by suede rocky outcrops, which created feelings of insignificance and it's at times like this when you see yourself and the world as if from the outside. In this remote country, where people live far apart from one another (as well as driving about in huge, high up cars and motorhomes as big as buses) it starts to make sense how intolerance, resistance to change, anti-communism and anti-anything different to 'white bread' Americana would germinate. The US has often been accused of isolationist foreign policy and this can be better understood when travelling through states like Oregon. The road, however, is a great leveler, at least for me. I love roads, especially ones like this, smoothly curving through rugged and desolate terrain. There were sections atop precipices without barriers, like something out of a James Bond film, and I could hear my Mum saying, “Ooh be careful Adrian,” as she used to when I learned to drive with her. There were also sections scouring through gorges – and it was in one of these that I swerved to avoid four cows. I couldn't work out where they'd come from, as there was no grass for many miles in either direction.
Exiting the gorge, the land flattened out with distant pink mountains, which must have been in the area of the map where Gatorade had been spilled. I'm still enjoying the signs, many of which don't relate to bikes, but I read them all the same. It's as if they've all been written by the same firm but fair hand : Daddy America. And so, after 88 miles and the hardest ride of the journey thus far, I rolled into Dayville at 7 pm. A cute 'Way Out West' settlement of 170 souls; it catered for me perfectly with its one lodging house and its one cafe/bar. Denise showed me to one of the rooms in her Fish House Inn and immeasurably better than any motel, with its homely feel, its neighbourhood cat coming in for a stroke and its olde worlde décor, such as fishing nets with wooden fish draped across the wall. After nothing more than grapes and Spice Drops since lunchtime, a big, juicy, fat burger with gherkins and fried onions was just the ticket at South Fork Saloon & Steakhouse, along with a bottle of Black Butte Porter, brewed in Bend. The townsfolk were all in there and many of them were playing Texas Hold 'em around a blue baize table. I had no desire to join them however, and came back to the cosy Fish House for milk 'n' cookies.
Didn't rise until nearly nine (and I would have slept longer had it not been for fighting cats) after a fantastic sleep in a big, plush high-up bed. Nowhere serving breakfast, so plumped for a $1.29 blueberry muffin from the store next door and filter coffee from the inn. Watched local news, where they were discussing yesterday's presidential candidate head-to-head debate. The pundit compared the two performances and criticized Obama as “a little cerebral”. Half an hour later the same news item was repeated and there was nothing else on except cartoons.