The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptArchives Issue 17
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John Rice
Go West, Old Men!
Part 3
wind-trippers rock Oregon, sight up DuPont Wa

 We had just a bit more traveling capacity, so before too long we were back on a “real” (i.e. marked) road toward Condon and then Fossil (a town named in honor of me, I’ve been told) through the John Day Fossil beds. These canyon roads are laid out along the erosion paths of the high desert, formed when the volcanic activity and sediment filled in the ancestral mountain, then millions of years of rain and wind tried to take it all back.  Layer upon layer of earth is exposed, along with the various fossils, etc. contained therein, like a written timeline if only one has the information to understand it.  For the motorcyclist, however, the interpretation is much simpler.  Water eroding earth makes some really interesting curves.

bikes alongside road nature's highway engineer does good work
 At Antelope we stopped for a pie break (well, actually “marionberry cobbler” to be precise) at the only commercial establishment in town.
Antelope store & cafe
On the wall were newspaper stories about a religious leader from India who had created a ranch nearby, with a fabulous mansion, then started bussing in homeless people from around the state to dominate local elections in a “takeover” attempt.  The coup failed, the leader was exiled, leaving the mansion and ranch in the hands of a single caretaker (who had answered a “help wanted” ad without knowing what he’d be caretaking) for years until another religious-based organization bought it for presumably less nefarious purposes. 

 We found another white road coming out of Maupin, OR into the Tygh Valley, that purported to be the Barlow Trail, part of the Lewis & Clark route. It wiggled its way around the base of Mount Hood which would appear suddenly around a turn, standing enormous, snow on its flanks, then disappear again like some supernatural thing popping in and out of existence at will.  At each appearance, the temperature would drop immediately as the cold air from the mountain blew through the opening like heaven’s own air-conditioning vent.

stubbornly, John decides to press on straight ahead, mountain or no mountain John presses on ahead

 We were alone up there on the Barlow Trail, with the traffic all gravitating to Route 35, the main thoroughfare into Hood River.  Eventually we had to join them, heading down (a 26-mile constantly downhill run) to the town where we would spend the night. 

 Hood River is an excellent motorcycling destination town.  It’s small enough to be manageable but big enough and “touristy” enough to have all the interesting amenities. We found a room at a decent motel about three blocks from downtown and walked down to explore the restaurant situation.  This was a Friday night and the sidewalks were full of people on their way to and from apparently interesting amusements.  One group of young folks were wearing masks and/or headgear, bobbing and weaving down the sidewalk to music only they could hear.  I suspect chemical enhancement.  We selected a place with a huge deck that afforded an excellent view of the river and the downtown frivolity. Over the next couple of hours, the beer selection was sampled, wonderful meals consumed and musings on the general state of the world (and how it would be better if everyone just agreed with us) were mused.

 Breakfast the next morning was at the place (just down the block from our motel) which specialized in the first meal of the day, and we benefited greatly from their expertise.  Never let it be said that the possibilities of the egg have been exhausted!

 We were on the downhill run now, always an awkward part of any trip.  The end is in sight but no one wants it to end, so we must milk the last bits for all they are worth.  We decided to go down the Columbia River on the Washington side to Portland, then head across the hills to the coast, crossing the river at the large bridge at Astoria.  While the road following the Columbia is not a technically challenging one, it holds one's interest because of the river's sheer enormity.  They do things big here in the West and this river is a good example. Despite its size, there’s surprisingly little commercial development for long stretches, probably because of the mountainous terrain that goes right down to the water, save for this thin band of asphalt.

 Getting through Portland is something that just has to be endured, not enjoyed.  Finally we reached Route 26, which took us away from the urban tangle and off again into the hills.   After veering off onto the smaller Route 47, we stopped in the small village of Veronia for the morning pastry replenishment, at a Greek bakery.  The Mediterranean coffee and baklava were so good that I tried two more of the flaky offerings, even though I could not identify them.  They were light, flaky and quite tasty which is all I needed to know.

 Not long after Veronia, we took yet another branch road, 202, that promised to go off into the hills away from towns.   We weren’t the only ones who had thought this road would be deserted.  There was a curious sort of runners' event going on.  For several miles we saw individual runners, wearing numbers, trudging along the left side of the road.  Some were running like the wind, some were plodding and some were not much more than walking.  One young woman was running, quite well actually, wearing what appeared to be a red cocktail dress.  There were teens and folks who looked even older than us. Every few miles there was a “station” with crowds of people checking in runners, milling about and generally looking like the end of a race....but it wasn’t.  Some runners stopped and then left those stations, some ran right on through. This continued for about twenty or more miles, with the road also clogged by minivans, each with the number of a runner, proceeding slowly along the route.  Some of the runners we saw many miles from the start didn’t seem to be the sort who would have beaten all competitors to that point, so we surmised they must have started at one of the stations in the middle. We still have no idea what was happening.

 We left the runners behind and found our way into the Astoria area to cross the mouth of the Columbia on the high, long bridge over to Washington.  I’ve still not quite recovered from my trip across the Mackinaw Bridge back in 1988, so I was quite pleased to see that this structure didn’t have a metal grate bottom and the rails on the side went all the way to the road surface, not leaving an RT-&-rider-sized gap as on the Mackinaw.

 On the Washington side we picked up 101 which would lead us along the coast.  I had expected this area to be “touristy” but the target market was not luxury cars with well-heeled sightseers, but SUVs towing boats, seriously seeking fish.  It was starting to get late, so we were looking for a potential berth for the night, but accommodation seemed to be more fish camp than motels.  Near North Cove we found a small motel, but the young clerk informed us that she had no rooms with more than one bed.  Relying on my newfound iPhone skills (thanks Dave!) [ed. note: Dave Dorwart,; see Part 1.], I looked up what might be available in the next town up.  I called the first number and was told by the woman who answered that it wasn’t a motel.  Then her voice dropped to a husky whisper and she said, “We have cabins (long, breathy pause) .....fantasy cabins.....(another drop in tone) .....for adults only.”  I explained that my brother-in-law and I weren’t exactly in the market for such an experience and tried the next number.  It was a Chinese restaurant which had a motel associated with it and that sounded great, if not actually a fantasy fulfillment.

 Chen’s motel did turn out to be quite acceptable for the evening, located on the highway, just across a field from the coastal waterfront.  Breakfast was included in the price, providing us the next morning with what the menu described as “Happy Pancakes”....and, actually, they were.

 Our morning path took us through the town where the “fantasy cabins” were located.   Despite the mental image that the overwrought clerk’s description might have engendered, they turned out to be very small wooden structures with rather amateurish paintings on the sides depicting such scenes as a knight in rather shabby armor on his way to rescue a somewhat bored looking damsel in some unspecified distress.  Not sure how they would get the horse, much less the armored knight in that small cabin, but I’ll leave that to the intended participants.

fantasy cabins

“Not my idea of a fantasy, but your results may vary”

 The highway along the coast is usually separated by residences and fields enough to hide the ocean for much of its run up the southern portion.  On the inland side, we saw several areas where it appeared that large swaths of trees had been felled, but not by saw or even bulldozer.  It looked as if something, storm or similar force, had jumbled the trunks, roots and all, like an enormous tree salad in a twenty acre bowl.  One of these had a sign sprouting incongruously from the middle that announced “18 hole golf course for sale.”  I looked to see if there was fine print at the bottom saying “some assembly required.”

 Jay had been this way earlier in the summer and wanted to show me a beach he’d found.  On the rocks of this beach were logs easily twice the size of the trees we’d passed.  The woods here have been clear-cut numerous times (as announced by signs in front of the woods along the road) but these logs demonstrated what the old trees must have been like.  Since riding motorcycles does tend to make one forget, at least for a while, how old one actually happens to be, I had to climb up on the log and walk its length. 

standing on great log 1

At the root end, there was a “saddle” in the wood which seemed like a perfect place for me to sit for a moment.  As in many aspects of politics, war and life in general, one should never lose sight of the need for an exit strategy.  I lowered myself into the saddle and immediately realized that modern nylon riding clothes and age-polished driftwood have a friction coefficient somewhat less than grease on a doorknob. 

standing on great log 2 I began to slide forward and nothing I grabbed was any better at slowing my progress.  I had a few seconds to try to pick a better (not good) place to fall off the end into the pile of smaller logs below. Fortunately Jay didn’t have the camera at the ready when I ingloriously sprawled out on the woodpile upside down and backwards.  The phrase “easy as falling off a log” now has a more personal meaning.
 We had intended to deviate off our route to go out to the furthest northwestern point in Washington, but by the time we got to the turnoff, the fog had set in such that visibility was down to zero over the ocean.  We headed east to Port Angeles with lunch on our mind.  We picked a detour off 101 that went somewhat inland, avoiding most of the fog, looping in and out of the foothills with gentle curves lined by tall trees.  We noticed signs informing us of the names of the creeks we passed over, including “Uptha Creek”, “Itsa Creek” and one of my favorites (I am not making these up), "Pshidt Creek." We did not have a paddle.

 At Port Angeles we wandered around the waterfront development for a bit before selecting a restaurant with a balcony overlooking the sea.  Our young waitress seemed puzzled by the two oddly dressed old men in the midst of the after-church lunch crowd, but she kept her professionalism and didn't ask any questions.

 Our last meal-on-the-road behind us, we set out on 101 south toward home. This route is gorgeous, following the Sound through small villages and wonderful shady curves....but this was tempered by our knowledge that the trip was ending and we had to get to DuPont before dark.  As we neared the city environs, traffic picked up in volume and slowed down in progress until within just a few miles of Jay’s apartment, we joined I-5 and were at a standstill.  Creeping on the last miles,  a last stop for gas, then suddenly the turnoff for the subdivision and it was over, just that quick. 

 We put our gear away, then went for the last meal out at my favorite place, Jake's Restaurant & Grille on the Sound, about five miles or so from the apartment. We sat out on the deck overlooking the water with the mountains on the opposite shore.  New beers were tried, an excellent dinner eaten and then there was nothing to do but watch the sun go down over the peaks and head for home....and start thinking about the next trip. ###
jptARCHIVE Issue 17
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