Friday, 11 September 2009

Day 6: Weiser, ID - Grants Pass, OR

A pre-dawn start to get back onto the route, but at least it was a lot warmer than it had been in Montana.  The first half of one of the longest days of the trip saw a variety of scenery - coniferous forests at the higher altitudes; sage brush and/or meadows at the lower ones, depending on the proximity of irrigation.  And a similar variety of roads - tight and twisty or fast and open.  The run from Cambridge down to the Oregon state line was firmly in the former category, with the sign to the Brownlees Campground - where the Pirsigs camped on their second night out from Bozeman - actually easy to find .

The border between Oregon and Idaho runs along the Snake river, which must have been quite something before The Mgt came and buggered it up with a bunch of dams.  Just downstream of here is Hells Canyon which, with a depth of 8,000 feet, makes that one down in Arizona look a bit second-rate.  Most of the book's traveloguery on this section is limited to the names of towns where either the bike or its riders stopped for fuel.  I missed Unity - a couple of miles in the opposite direction - and instead stopped for "gas" in John Day.  Wisely, as it turned out.  In this area you drive through John Day on the John Day Highway, which runs along the valley of the John Day river, through Dayville and to, among other places, the John Day Fossil Beds.  I'm beginning to see a pattern here...

Dayville was another fuel stop for the Pirsigs, but unless I blinked and missed it, the last remaining filling station has gone.  Apparently at one time the  place boasted no fewer than six, which suggests that the locals had built up an economy based entirely on the sale of petroleum products to one another.  The huge cottonwood trees mentioned in the book are still alive and well, though.

Someone hid the turning to Prineville Junction, though I managed to find it at the second attempt.  A Good Thing, as the direct route from Prineville to Redmond was horribly busy.  However, there's no avoiding US-97 in the end.  Busy as anything from Redmond south past Bend and when the traffic finally cleared, one is still saddled with a wide and ruler-straight road on which the Oregoons have slapped a 55 mph speed limit chiz.  The travellers camped north of La Pine, off the main road in a bunch of scrubby little trees and soft dust.  However, all around La Pine there are uncountable numbers of scrubby little trees, so any attempt to narrow down the location was futile.

Onwards to Crater Lake.  I spent a while here last year, so didn't linger for much longer than it took to snap a couple of photos and fill the car up from Oregon's slowest pump.  On leaving the National Park, the Pirsigs erred in their navigation.  They should have turned right on OR-62, gone up to OR-230 and turned left for Medford.  They instead turned left, followed the 62 back to US-97 and went down the eastern side of Upper Klamath Lake, which is a lot further.

I did neither, having done a complete lap of said lake last year, and instead went down the western side, to rejoin the Zen route on OR-140 to Medford.  This possessed the not-inconsiderable advantage of being nicely shaded from the sun, as by now it was going from "comfortable" to "seriously hot".  By the time I reached Medford, the temperature was in the mid-nineties Fahrenheit, with a high of 97 degrees.  It's only twenty-five miles further up I-5 to Grants Pass, so I pressed on with my ears - unaccustomed to sunlight - now well and truly ablaze.  And it transpires I’m in the same Best Western, and ate in the same noshery, as Mark Richardson. Spook!

Thought for the day: why does Sinclair Oil use a green dinosaur as its logo-thing outside its filling stations?  Are they, perchance, trying to say that, unlike the inferior fuels supplied by its competitors, Sinclair petrol is made from decomposed apatosauruses?  We demand answers!

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