(Three posts at once - couldn't blog until now)
I've run out of even vaguely clean clothes. I don't think they minded too much at the cafe down the street, which opens at 6 am, including today, Sunday. Every table was taken at 7.45, by young men either working or hunting, or by old timers. Had to sit at the counter between big men wearing denims and stetsons, which they never seem to take off, embarrassed about hair loss perhaps. I had the works, knowing it would soon be burnt off as today held four mountain passes in store and 103 miles of riding – there was a sign mocking me right outside the hotel. The first, the Dixie Pass, was the highest yet, at 5,279 feet, although this was only a 2-3,000 foot climb out of Prairie City. Coming down the other side I got so cold that I moved to the left-hand shoulder so as to minimize the tree shade from the southern sun. I was back in pine forest, as unlike Scotland, the higher you go, the more trees there are. I'd forgotten to apply cream to my nether regions and had to act fast, as I couldn't be bothered to leave the road. The hills really aren't so bad on legs and lungs (as I mounted another to 5,109) providing I stay at about 6 mph. They are gradual on highways to make them easy for big trucks and I didn't need to go lower than 2-2 in gears (28 gears - 1-1 being the lowest and 3-8 the highest).
Plenty of black shards littering the roadside (tyres) and black shards overhead too (crows) both of which turn my thoughts to death in this unforgiving landscape. In Unity, where I stopped to fill up my water bottle in a bar, the young woman working there told me it had been 27 degrees when she got up and it was already in the 80s by noon. I asked if she had any fruit for sale and she gave me two apples with leaves on, from a tree across the road. In the window there were notices about unpatented gold mine claims. It became more like real desert out of Unity, with very little vegetation and even pockets of sand. My milometer got sunstroke or something, as it showed an extra 10 miles on the clock and a high speed of 97.1 mph. Had to find shade for lunch and managed to find just enough by a stream, where I hunkered down on a dead tree beside a stream, where out of the heat, a vast array of colourful flora and insects had the same idea. Today's offering was a long roll that had no opening and contained meatballs and cheese. It was surprisingly tasty, or maybe I was just unsurprisingly ravenous. Crossed into Malheur County, losing an hour in the process, as this also entailed crossing into the Mountain time zone. The wind was against me for once, but this was a welcome development as it was like air con, particularly as it had been forecast to reach 90 today. In a trance in this sterile country, with nothing to stimulate the senses. All you see is barren hills, all you hear is grasshoppers, all you smell is dust and all you feel is heat. Oh for rolling farmland, a bit of thatch, a Norman spire, the sound of leather on willow, in England's green and pleasant land.
El Dorado Pass and Brogan Hill Summit, at 4,623 and 3,981 respectively and then back to earth gradually, into a valley with cows, horses, sheep and silage. Stopped in Brogan at a store cum petrol station cum area for chicken, where I asked for more water and was directed to an old-fashioned pump by a stout lady in an apron. Leaving the town an uncovered onion truck overtook me, shedding its cargo's skins as it went. Life is simple and pure here. Simple, pure and probably rather dull. Thankfully today's destination was the town of Vale and not the town of Mountain top, and the last 20 miles were on the level. Willowcreek, a tiny place, but serving a larger area, as it had a school and a pristine Astroturf tennis court. I was positively drooling as I approached Vale at 8 pm, what with the smell of onions and cooking aromas.
Going past 'Handy Clean Mosheen' car wash, I was directed to an RV (recreational vehicle) park, where a little old lady charged me a mere $30 to stay in the Golden Wheel Motel. Too hungry to go there first, to change and wash, so went straight to the Starlite Cafe at the other end of town, where they had 'Pie ala Mode'. I asked the lady if they served beer here. She didn't understand my accent even after I said it twice, so I asked if they had alcohol. They didn't, so I made do with Coke. I had a burger again. I know I should be a little adventurous, but when you're really hungry, you don't want to mess about. Burger quality has got steadily worse the further east I've traveled and I hope this trend doesn't continue into Idaho. In the bathroom both soap and paper towel dispensers were motion activated - in a place like this!
The motel room was spacious and its décor pleasantly disagreeable. I noticed for the first time that on American TV the volume of the adverts is louder than the programmes! I also noticed when I looked in the mirror, that, yes, the southern sun had given me a wonky tan. When I reached the east coast I would have to come back again to even it up. The windows were jammed shut so I had the fan on overnight, and I kept waking up thinking, “Oh no, it's very windy out there.”