Sunday, July 25, 2010

High Desert Miles

After we left Irondad behind in Klamath Falls our route took us along the interminable US Highway 97 across the high mountains of Central Oregon. At the time we thought the road was a trifle dull, long and straight as though designed by some resurrected Roman highway engineer, devoted to criss crossing the planet in dead straight lines. However, as we were soon to find out Highway 97 is straight but by comparison with what was to come, it is nothing even close to boring.Like most arrogant Californians my geographic knowledge of the neighboring state of Oregon is rather minimal. So little did I know of the Beaver State (make of that nickname, the state's official choice, what you will) that I was under the impression that these pine forests and granite outcroppings are located in Eastern Oregon. Irondad set me straight. "Central Oregon," he said rather tartly. The horrors of the wasteland known as Eastern Oregon lay ahead. There were tons of motorcycles on the road too. Strike that- there were tons of BMW motorcycles on the road. Huh? I scratched my head about this for a while trying to figure out where all these people had come from. They must really like straight flat roads just like ours in Florida. Finally the penny dropped: the BMW rally in Redmond, a place somewhere in middle Oregon, I think, was the attractant, not the road.Apparently that gathering was the ostensible reason for people being in this God forsaken area in the first place. I tried to envy the people out in the cold air and bright sunshine but all I could do was turn up the radio (NPR? Out here? God does love me) and keep driving. The Fusion was doing splendidly. For reasons known only to the control freaks in the Oregon Department of Transportation the speed limit on this dead straight stretch of smooth open highway is a modest 55 miles per hour. That's right, the legal limit is 88 kilometers per hour in Canadian miles. Why? Who the hell knows, probably because no one who created this ridiculous limit actually ever drives this insanely straight boring road. While we're griping about this ghastly straight road let's take a look at the rest stop. Vast open spaces of pine forest line the highway and the rest area is little more than a pull out, and of course no fun is allowed for our furry fellow travelers.
I felt absurd, primly walking my dog on a leash in a primeval pine forest. So I broke the law. I might as well take this moment to confess I also broke the speed limit. A local in a store told me the cops "allow" up to 65mph without getting shirty, but I kept a weather eye out for likely cruisers.
It was quite pretty when you took the time to stop and take a proper look. It was so dry my hair was like straw, my finger nails were aching and my lips were covered in lip balm. I am no great fan of so called dry heat and dry cold air in the 60's doesn't improve my outlook.
One stops in a rest area to rest, which is a North American euphemism for taking a leak. Some wag had labeled the hand dryer and I got a filthy look from another occupant when I burst out laughing. I waited for him to leave before I recorded the priceless moment. This one's for buffalo bill.
The problem with me being me, is that I get endless pleasure from the most inappropriate things. For the serious minded among us here is a scenic mountain. Happily I took this picture because the Hallmark Moment is wrecked by the wires, the sign and the RV in the foreground. This is life in the raw, unretouched, never ruined by Photoshop.
Oy! What are we waiting for here? Poor Cheyenne had no idea we were just at the start of the return trip to Key West.
From time to time we passed villages, which frequently reminded me of nothing quite so much as the Siberian villages I passed in my train ride across Russia in 1981. Trailers, abandoned vehicles and pine trees instead of birch trees, wooden huts and shuffling peasants. Close but not the same because poverty resembles itself everywhere. This truck reminded me I could not live in these rugged places. Give me a sedan and a comfortable road please, and don't give me a 4 x 4 and dirt roads.An oasis! The blessings of coffee...
These espresso booths used to be a Seattle phenomenon where they think they are the coffee experts. Seattle's best coffee is black and bitter which supposedly makes it good, and I refer to the super over roasted yuppie coffee as battery acid. What made this coffee good was the sweet flavor and the cheerful server. This fall she is going to university in Redding (California) to become a nurse. She also liked dogs and Cheyenne liked her.Local dogs never get away with the things visitors get away with and somehow I caught the mournful look of resignation before this dog retired to curl up on the front seat out of sight.
More endless straight stretches, more BMW's. As you can tell here they are all wearing day glo yellow vests for extra visibility. (I'm being facetious. I think a glowing headlamp does more for visibility than bright clothing which is frequently hidden by luggage and accessories).
Okay, I take it back. The scenery was spectacular. Not like Florida at all.
That is actual live snow on the mountain tops on the 17th of July. Amazing. Keep in the freezer, if you ask me. In Bend, a charming city I saw these people wandering, probably not lost, and planning to get into that cold snow pack run off. Weird.We had planned to meet at a restaurant in bend with Bobskoot and Sonja and here they were, at last.
Bob's Suzuki is overloaded with electronic toys. None of them apparently could find their way to my wife's iPhone location. They had to call the old fashioned way for directions. Time for lunch.