Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Vision Quest: Day eight
Climbing: 2365 ft.
Cool, virtually bug free before sunrise. Chores to do. Set up the stove, heat water, start packing. We have a big day ahead--over the mountains and into the dry east side, no longer Cascadian but Great Basin, wild, less populated, big and bad. Perfect.
Five miles north of town we turn east onto Hwy 140 and begin climbing, long and steady, hard work but good hard cycling, the peleton pulling strong. Blue, cloud-streaked sky, clean forests, a stream below the road, another grand day of touring unfolds. High, close to the summit of the pass, we roll by a staging area for a large fire crew--dozens of tents, supporting trailers, trucks, the works. The fuzzy air had indeed indicated a fire, but we never find out exactly where.
From the crest, the descent is a moderate, stepped affair, big green meadows and a sky clear at last of the smoke that had been dogging us for a week. As we drop east, the mountains dry out, shifting from high altitude vegetation to the land of sage, pinyon, and juniper.
We bottom-out near a creek--"Muddy" somethingorother--and eat a second breakfast/first lunch in the shade of a stately juniper, wild roses yet to bloom along the creek. A second climb follows. From its top, we encounter the true, vast Great Basin and one of the most remarkable descents of the tour: many miles of a gentle tilted plain, powered by a snappy tailwind, effortless, wide-eyed ecstasy at 20 mph down to the cowboy outpost of Plush, Oregon, population not-too-many!
In Plush, we have lunch #2 in a rest area with shade, tables, restrooms, water. I'm sure cyclists could camp here without a problem. The afternoon temperatures have climbed into the upper 80's, HOT! in the sun. We check out the "town" after lunch and find a small market--for sale if someone wants a very quite life as a shop keeper in rural Oregon. On the way out of our quick recon of the store (good selection of general dry and canned goods, no produce), the woman behind the counter calls out: "What, you're not going to buy anything?" Uh, sorry, not this time. Outside, with a baby in his arms, a full-on cowboy--boots, hat, jeans, belt buckle for clubbing T-Rexes--sees us in our cycling gear, the bikes with trailers and asks with genuine interest, "How do you do what you do, and why do you do it?"
"Well," I say, "it's pretty much a Forest Gump thing. We keep pedaling. We want to see the country."
He mutters something about never making it the twenty miles in from his ranch let alone getting back as we roll south, Plush receding in my rear view mirror. Today will prove challenging, with, as I'd cynically joked days before, headwinds! We'd encountered them all the way north, so of course we'd encounter them on the way south, too. The sweet frustrations of cycle touring. Gotta love it. The winds were not too extreme, however, and helped take the edge off the afternoon heat. The scenery wasn't bad either.
We gun for Adel where our route crosses 140 again but continues south. We don't know what to expect there but hope for an RV campground, showers, an adult beverage or two for taking the edge off. The heat, miles, wind and climbing begin to settle into our bones and the last miles take longer than we'd like, but I repeat a mantra that Kevin introduced early in the tour: Honey badger don't care! The day ends on a down hill--hallelujah! There's even an RV park--with a store/tavern. Life is good--sort of. No showers, the RV park is a ratty, mosquito-infested gravel dump, and the cheerful woman behind the counter charges us a whopping $10/head to throw down our tents. Still, we take it. We use the restroom in the tavern for a handy-wipe "bath" and change of clothes (All praise the Master Kevin for remembering the wipes!), and we put on campsite beer goggles to deal with the marginal accommodations. The most interesting event is the group of Europeans Richard meets, folks from Holland, Germany and Switzerland who are here to work on a real cattle ranch. We pitch tents on a patch of grass next to the micro-post office and crawl in to escape the bugs. Not a bad night, but not great either. I resolve to look for a different campsite the next day as we head south. There has to be something more appealing.
I have only this shot of an entrance gate to a property adjacent to the RV "park." I like the light: