Hop Along's ride to the Ride, entry 3

Today finds Frank and I in John Day, Oregon.  Yes, that is the town name.  I haven't found anybody yet to ask about the history of the name, because everything seems to shut down at 8pm.  We were lucky to get dinner.

It's been a surprising day on the road.  Most of our day from Salt Lake City to here has been on the superslab.  There was a brief stint at Twin Falls to look at the super amazing bridge there, and a ride down old Highway 30 and past an area called Thousand Springs.  Now before anyone jumps to conclusions... today was a no-spring, no-dirt road day.  I was tempted more than once to follow road signs to springs (and a thousand springs?  We'd never make it to the Ride!)  But Frank reminded me earlier today that neither of us actually had dirt bikes.  So no dirt roads today.

Ample thinking time was had while we were on the superslab.  And I came to at least one conclusion: whomever said Oklahoma was flat and windy, has obviously not spent time travelling through the Boise, Idaho area.  I-84 through here had a headwind that wreaked havoc on our gas mileage, and it was a hot wind to supplement the 90+ temps we had all day.  I could go on about how the terrain was slightly hilly, with little vegetation unless one includes the multitude of irrigated farms.  One can quickly imagine that this means there was zero shade to be had. I did see two really, really small clouds north of Boise.  I counted.  But I digress.

Gas is important to motorcycles, as it is to many combustion engines.  But unlike 'cages' (the term many motorcyclists use for enclosed vehicles, like cars... I'll let you draw your own metaphor from the term 'cage'), motorcycles have smaller gastanks.  Some bike get great gas mileage-the Honda Rebel I learned on was better than 60 miles a gallon.  Other bikes, not so much... the funky Can Am Spiders, which have two tires in the front, spread far apart, I believe get less than 30 mpg.  No matter which bike you ride, if you are riding fast (one could say we were, but then we would point out the 75mph speed limits...), and if you are riding into a headwind, your mileage *will* vary.  And ours did. 

Franks BMW is like many modern bikes, even if his bike is an 1988 model: it has a gas light that comes on when his tank gets low on gas.  He can typically expect to get about 200 miles per tank, which is about what my Magna can also do.  But my Magna, a 1996 design on a 2003 model, isn't so up to date with smart things like gas lights.  It features what many older bikes have: a petcock valve with 'ON' 'OFF' and 'RESERVE' as your options.  So as I ride, the valve is in the 'ON' position to allow gas to get to the carbeurators, and so forth.  When I am low on gas, the engine will sputter and hesitate from a lack of gas.  I then reach under the left side of the gas tank to the petcock valve and turn it to the 'RESERVE' slot, whence it now lets the remaining gas get to where it needs to go. 

Now before I point out why this is important, let me just say that the first time I ran out of gas, I was riding with a buddy outside Kansas City, and for the first time we were riding out in the country.  And I needed to switch to the RESERVE... but I couldn't remember where the petcock valve was and so I coasted to a stop in somebody's driveway while my buddy rode out of sight.  Then came roaring back a little while later, after I had found the switch.  Fun times, then. 

Back to why this switch is important.  It lets the rider know how much gas you have left.  I can expect to usually get 30 miles or so once I switch over.  But that means there had better be a nearby gas station.  At one point today both Frank and I were on our reserves, but there were no issues.  Even though we were in very rural northern Utah, we hadn't yet gotten to even more rural Oregon, where we are now.  We did see at one point a sign pointing out that there were no gas services for 42 miles.  (we checked, it really was 42 miles). I almost turned around, but figured if I ran into reserve within 15 miles we'd have to turn around; if after 15 miles, we should make it to the next station.  Sure enough, we had no problems.  But these are the kinds of things we think about when we are riding motorcycles.  Gas is important.

Once we got off the interstate, we had more of the same: hot, windy (the wind, not the road), but less traffic.  We had observed on the map that the first bit would be flat, and then get a little twisty with some elevation after an hour or so.  It was the windy (the road, not the wind) and the elevation we craved, though not necessarily in that order, for the elevation provided a decrease in temperature.  Followed by a proportional rise as we then descended again.  This cycled through a few times, each ascent accompanied by near tears of joy.  This was corraborated by the map, showing national forests, mountain summits (which after the Rockies seem paltry at 4000'), and windy (you guessed it....) roads.  And we agreed when we arrived to our hotel that this section of road, with the tall pines, elevation, and long sweeping turns made up for the rest of the day.  This was near motorcycle nirvana for me, just absolute peace and tranquility. 

I'll also supplement this with an experience that is often had on a motorcycle.  I've alluded to the fact that on a motorcycle we experience the environment more than one does in an enclosed vehicle.  When I see folks in jeeps, or convertibles with their tops down, I suspect they are seeking some of the same experiences.  Today, through the hills, with the sun going down, we had the pleasure of feeling the temperatures change by 15-20 degrees, as soon as we hit the shade.  It helps that the road was shaded for quite a while by the tall pines and mountains, allowing the road surface itself to cool off.  But when we hit those shady spots... ahhhh  refreshing.  It was the first time all day that we weren't hot in the sun.  I love those moments of temperature contrast.

The rest of ride through the mountains to John Day was highlighted by 2 things, both of which should help indicate just how far out we are at the moment from the main drags.  One was our effort to have fresh wild turkey for dinner.  No really, we almost took out half a flock that was taking its time to cross the road.  I've hit a few things in my time, most recently small chipmunks, who are notoriously unable to choose which way to get off the road in these parts, but wild turkey would be  a new one.  The second was in the National Forest.  Coming around a long sweeper we could see up ahead, on the side of the road, a large dark shape.  I was thinking Moose feeding, Frank thought bear.  It turned out to be a cow, with 3 more on the other side of the road.  This was a few miles after we saw another cow on the road side of the fence.... and the rest of the herd inside the fence.  About 5 miles after seeing the cattle, were roadsigns: 'Livestock in Roadway'.  no kidding.

I also had a few moments to reflect on travel in general.  As I mentioned we were on Highway 30.  Most of highway 30 parallels what was once known as the Lincoln Highway-the first cross country road, which even had the first paved road section in the US (it was in Indiana or Illinois, I forget which).  Granted, it mostly was a name given to connected roadways, but was the the first thought that travel by road, all over the US, should be possible.   That's really neat.  I pondered more about highway 30 as I once lived just a block from the historic route.  I could just take a U-turn here in Idaho, and be back in my old home in just a few days....   I've actually always wanted to travel US30, coast to coast.  There are a series of these types of highways that I would like to travel for their uniqueness, history, and location.  Down and up the Great River Road (along the Mississippi).  Highway 50 (have been on many parts of it).  Highway 127, which goes from the Mackinac Bridge just about to the Gulf Coast, but one has to be careful when doing that trip, as Highway 127 is the home of the 'Worlds Longest Garage Sale' for a week or so each summer.  Gulf Coast to Great Lakes... that's a long Garage Sale.  And traffic is miserable.  Don't ask me how I know, but trust me, it is worth going many miles out of your way to avoid if necessary.

Tomorrow I plan to make up for today.  There is a swimming hole I plan on cooling off at, and there are dirt roads o get there (I think... hard to tell on the map).  Then, camping overnight near Mt Rainier and Friday to visit an old friend in Seattle.  That's the thing, theatre people are often transient type people, moving to the job frequently.  And the result is many friends, in many places. 

And *that*, ladies and gentlemen (and kazoo players amongst us), is one of the reasons the LRLR ride is special experience, to support two special charities.  Many friends, many places.