After just a few days into this trip, Paul and I fantasised about swapping our bikes for Harleys … they are made for this sort of trip … endless miles on empty roads sweeping through the enormous landscapes. Effortless. Men of a certain age cruising around without a care in the world, thinking they were Dennis Hopper or Peter Fonda. They gave us their dropped hands greeting in respect as they passed too … we felt part of their club. Cool or what? Harley heaven.
Now, after cycling in three figure temperatures for the last few days in Hells Canyon, we hate them. With a vengeance. The bikes that is, not the blokes. When you’re hot and bothered and struggling up yet another mountain in the blistering heat, those huge, ugly, over-chromed lumps of iron are so goddam irritatingly noisy. Why can’t they purr past with understated power like the Gold Wings and Beemers do? And there were loads of the buggers on the road from Halfway as, unbeknownst to us, there was a Harley rally in Baker City over the weekend. Our own personal Harley hell?
The ultimate symbol of American freedom and machismo (after the gun?) … the Hog, the Fatboy, the Road King … owners customise their machines to the hilt in an expression of individuality and oneupmanship … so how come they all look the same? … just big and brash. Even down to the ‘uniform’ of denims, black leathers, bandana, beer gut and (optional) bird on the back. And the woman is always but always on the back. You get a few women riding their own bikes for sure, but we’ve yet to see one bloke behind a woman rider. Why’s that then?
Perhaps it’s because the double seat is called a ‘king and queen’ seat (the ‘queen’ rear section being higher) and no self-respecting guy would be seen dead sitting on anything with such a wide range of meanings and implications? Or perhaps its just the obvious relinquishing power and control to a girly thing. No idea really … I’ll ask some of them … their scary looks belie their overt friendliness. So far.
Anyway, back to the day … ‘Camel up’ was the expression used for drinking as much water as possible before starting off, so that’s what we did … and then I got a second puncture just as we left our breakfast diner … possibly an indication that after nearly four thousand miles the tyres are done for? Ten minutes of teamwork later we’re good to go … into the hundred degree heat and hills, with nothing between here and there except fifty miles and those aforementioned Harleys.
A day of pedalling uphill and, frustratingly, downhill through a familiar scrubby landscape ensued (has America finally run out of different types?) with the main point of interest being the Oregon Trail Interpretation Centre which turned to be a mile off route, up a hill … I don’t think so! Bumping into two Brits who were going east was a pleasant surprise … that’s only the third lot of fellow countrymen we’ve met. We only told them nice things about the days ahead (why spoil it for them?) including the heads up about the free floor space in the church in Halfway.
Baker City was absolutely chocker with Harleys … hundreds of them lining Main Street, and I must admit that they looked very shiny and impressive. And they were silent. I did still want to test the domino theory though.The street smelt of testosterone and burgers but had a real carnival atmosphere. It was a bit like a mass fancy dress party where everyone turned up in the same cliched outfit though. We stuck out but joined in and as we were having a rest day the next day, we even allowed ourselves a few craft beers. Luxury. Why wasn’t every evening like this? Paul and Mike crashed out in their tents immediately on getting back (going by the snoring) and I remember only a few tracks of the Au Pairs before the land of nod took over. The next day was a Zero day so we could lie in. Bliss.
Once you decide to have a rest day you psychologically switch off and any energy you did have simply drains from your body and the mere thought of getting on a bike for hours in the heat becomes a ludicrous notion. So that’s what we did and that’s what happened. The morning was spent blogging and drinking lattes in town … the afternoon was spent eating and blogging in a different cafe. Then I did ‘culture’ * and the boys didn’t. Having had an exhausting day, we cooked up, cleared up, cleaned teeth and were in bed by 10, already dreading our 4am alarm calls. The inevitability of onwards.
* by ‘culture’ I mean the new Transformers film!
Today’s Miles: 52
Miles since First Landing: 3856