Thursday, 25 September 2008

Philomath to Sweet Home (September 23)

Day 9

It was still in the 40s as I hit the road back into Corvalis, although the sun soon warmed it up. Stopped in this cool college town for my latte and blog fix at a hippie cafe, where a woman was pretending to be interested in the poetry her friend was reading out and hideous psychedelic paintings hung on the wall. Popped into Safeway for my usual wrap, banana and Gatorade – this time the copper sulphate blue variety. In Wells Fargo Bank I had already signed the $100 traveler's cheque, when the cashier said there was a $10 fee. Having signed it in her presence I would have to cash it there and then. However, after I looked at her aghast, she phoned her boss and the fee was waived. Today was supposed to be easy (a mere 48 miles) sandwiched as it was between two monsters. However, it was harder work somehow and maybe this was because I was finally heading east and I could see the mountains looming. In Lebanon I stopped at a bike shop as one of my pedals was making unhealthy noises. Sure enough, the young man, who must have had a 60 inch chest and worked most of the time as a hairdresser (I'm not sure how he got close enough to cut people's hair) fitted a new pair of pedals. They only had this one type that fit and they were off another bike, so although they cost $100 new, he only charged me $20. A few hundred yards up the road I turned round and came back again, as they had metal ridges that stuck into my plimsolls. I decided to make to with the crunchy sound until I reached Sisters, or even Bend.

America is already in Hallowe'en's thrall by this time of year. I don't think there's really any gap between summer, Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving and xmas – they blend together. Many houses are externally decorated with all manner of suitable figures and one cafe was promoting a pumpkin pie flavour latte. Arrived in Sweet Home late in the afternoon and popped into another library to kill time before tonight's rendez vous. Scott & Diane, a cabinet maker and nurse, were waiting for me on their porch and took me inside their spacious, tidy home, where I was also introduced to their very well-behaved children Elric and Natasha, as well as their dog, cat, fish, water snails, dead butterflies and hamsters playing dodgems inside their spheres. I have never been in the company of such a charming family. We spent the entire time in each other's company – or the humans at least. First up were burritos, followed by a tour of the house and photos, followed by a four-player game of Scrabble, which I am a bit ashamed to say I easily won as I had both blanks leading to two bonuses (STEADIER & DREAMING – great bingo letters). Then we sat down on the sofas and talked. Yes! Imagine it, simply chewing the fat, all five of us. They were such a lovely and loving family, knew everything about each other and were full of banter. Elric told me about his turn on the school debate team today. They had representatives for the Democrats and Republicans (oh not that again) but also a third non-affiliated party, which he was spokesperson for. He argued that the main parties wasted a lot of money and spent all their time badmouthing each other. Not bad for a boy of 13. Meanwhile, Natasha, nine, could have talked the hind legs off a coyote, but she was immeasurably entertaining, as her speech was so theatrical and polished.

Scott helped me with the route to such an extent that he gave me a whole NEW route across the 'bad lands' of eastern Oregon. He looked into motels for me, as for most of the next few days I haven't been able to find Scrabble players or couchsurfers, due to the sparse population. I had thought there was a motel in Brothers, but his up to date computer programme found nothing, saving me a 150 mile trip in one day! Instead he plotted me a route further north. Tomorrow would be the 'big day' though, getting to Bend, as this involved a big climb to heights I'd never been before on foot, let alone on pedal. So, an early night was in order and this clean-living family were all in bed by 10, meaning that I could retire early also.

Elric had to catch the 6.50 am bus! People get up early round here. The dog, who had been friendly yesterday, now didn't recognise me and barked. Scott told me how many of his family worked with wood : one of his brothers transported it, another milled it and of course he turned it into cabinets. Had my beloved Marmite on toast (well I had brought it all this way, so I might as well use it) and I was on the road soon after 8.

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