Hells Canyon to Portland (June 21st and 22nd)

We were rudely awakened by mooing.

Sometime in the early morning, somebody had come by with a truck and let loose a herd of cattle to graze in the woods. There was one cow in particular with a low, almost demonic sounding call, and we had a good laugh about it. As I cooked up some pasta, Al tried to befriend a calf that had gotten separated from the others, but the creature was having none of it. The pasta turned out gummy and depressing, because the sterno I use to cook with doesn’t ever produce a true boil. I decided to find a different stove solution once I got back.

We took our time packing up, and headed out over some nice dirt and gravel roads. I felt like I was rollerskating on marbles, so I had to stop to lower my tire pressure, which helped quite a bit. I had a blast. Al went on ahead, and I was left to my own devices, dodging the occasional lumber truck. Of course, this meant I took a bunch of photos:

At one point, I noticed a few cows grazing in the torn-up forest. This aspect of national forests always confused me.

The dirt road dipped down sharply into the more arid valley below, with some really nice views:

I hit pavement again and caught up with Al at a nearby gas station. I somehow forgot that I’d aired down my tires for the gravel, and by the time I remembered, some 20 miles down the road, Al was already so far ahead that I couldn’t exactly flag him down. I didn’t want to speed too much, fearing that more heat and low tire pressure would be bad news. I do have a small Slime air compressor, but it requires that I get to the battery in order to use it, meaning I have to take off the fairings and seat. It’s not very convenient.

I rode gingerly and hoped for the best. After blowing through a small town and seeing no sign of him, I was starting to get frustrated, but then there he was waiting in a roadside pull-out. We aired up my tires with his bicycle pump and lingered at the stop a bit longer, enjoying the landscape.

Al had become king of the mulch pile:

With newfound confidence now that my tires weren’t going to go out, I kept up with Al, rocking out to some Blind Guardian as I sped along the twisty canyon road. At one point, we realized that we hadn’t seen a grocery store in some time, and didn’t know what we were going to do for dinner. We stopped at a small market, but all they had were chips and soda. They sold us some dry macaroni from the back, and called another place called RJs in nearby Fossil which would give us some dry cheese sauce mix. We rehydrated ourselves there and contemplated the route.

There were some concerns about finding an open gas station. Most of the small towns in eastern Oregon seem to close up shop around 6 or 7, and it’s illegal to pump your own gas, so no 24 hour self-serve. Originally we were going to aim for the woods, but with the weather turning sour, the decision was made to keep to the main roads, where we knew there would be fuel. We pressed on once it grew dark, and ended up riding through the rain and lightning, at night. My bike was coughing and sputtering, and with Al a ways ahead, I was concerned about whether I was going to make it more than once. At one point we dropped down into a valley that was covered in hundreds of red lights pulsating in unison, probably an airfield, but it was surreal and beautiful in the darkness.

Eventually we arrived in The Dalles after midnight, exhausted and not wanting to ride any more. We checked several cheap motels, only to find that they were nothing even resembling cheap. Rather than trying to find a place to stealth camp in the woods, we decided to try a nearby state park which I found online instead. Eventually we figured out where we were supposed to camp, in the dark, and I paid the fee (at least it was cheap at $9!), helping out a couple of folks in a car figure out the system at the same time. They were grateful, and promised us a fantastic breakfast.

The next morning, they gave us a plate of snack foods. Little bagel pieces with cream cheese, pineapple slices, hard boiled eggs, bits of chicken for Al, etc. A real treat to not have to worry about food! We got to talking with them, and they were a mother and daughter on a little road trip. They insisted on taking a photo of us:

I asked the daughter if she wanted to sit on my motorcycle, and her eyes lit up. “Really?!” “Yes.” “I’m not going to knock it over, am I? I don’t want to break it…” “No, you’re fine. These bikes have been through way worse.” She loved it, and eventually we managed to cajole her mother into sitting on Al’s bike too. Priceless. Everybody was grinning.

I snapped a quick pic of the area near the tent. Awesome!

We showered and packed.

Heading out, we cruised along the 84, and stopped at a scenic overlook. The fog gave it a nice otherworldly atmosphere.

We also went to a rest area which had a Native American guy selling salmon he’d caught recently. Al bought a couple of fillets. My feelings on fishing are mixed, but at least these were sustainably wild-caught, not farmed, and the money went directly to a vulnerable community instead of lining a corporation’s pockets.

I told Al that as soon as we got over the mountains it’d probably start raining and Portland traffic would be terrible, and I was right on both counts. We managed to hit Portland during rush hour. While going through Portland on the I-5, I almost got creamed by an asshole in an SUV who merged into my lane without looking where he was going. I had to slam on the brakes and ride the lefthand shoulder to get behind him. Lovely.

We continued up to Battleground, WA and hung out in a coffee shop to get out of the rain. I chatted a bit with Oz online while I was there. Apparently he had been missing me, because he insisted that I come back to his place regardless of what the roommates said. Al and I parted ways, he went off to meet up with other folks he knew in Portland, and I headed down the freeway toward Oz’s place.

I was extremely uncomfortable overstaying my welcome like this. I more or less rely upon my good standing with others in order to get a lot of my goals accomplished, and burning up that good will by staying longer than I should does not sit right with me. I tend to live by these words, from The Beach:

“So never refuse an invitation. Never resist the unfamiliar. Never fail to be polite, and never outstay your welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”

However. I did need to sell things before I could really take off, my Rebel, for one, and a pile of other various odds and ends. I couldn’t sell these things easily if I wasn’t living where they were located, so I settled in for a sort of awkward standoff with the roommates. After a couple of days we made an arrangement and I was allowed to continue staying there, albeit a bit more awkwardly than before. For the next month or so I would mostly just try to stay out of the way whenever I was at “home”.

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