Harry on his Bike

Days 8-9

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Day 8. September 11
     I awoke at my regular hour of about 3 a.m., and finished the Days
4--7 report that I'd started the previous evening. I then packed up and
waited for the office to open so I could finish my chou mein. Henry was
true to this word, and at 7 he cheerfully heated it up, and supplied coffee
and bagels as well. We had a good conversation about the current state
of Hong Kong. He still has relatives there, and says that things aren't as
good as they were before the takeover. He seemed quite saddened by
the situation.
     My departure was under cloudy but not too-threatening clouds. After
a few miles it was obvious that the Weather Channel was right and there
would be no rain that day. The countryside was beautiful,  the
temperature was in the 60's and I was soon biking in just my shorts
and jersey.
     After just a few flat miles the highway climbed from elevation 2200
up to 4000, followed by a good downhill  past the 45th parallel
and into my first goal of the day: Baker City. I'd been looking
forward to some hot soup, so I cruised the downtown area until I
spotted a sandwich shop with some outdoor tables. I put a velcro
strip around a brake lever (to slow down any potential thief) and left the
bike where I could watch it as I went in to order. The sandwiches
were expensive, and so was their soup, but they had clam chowder (at
$3.75 a cup and $4.50 a bowl) so I ordered a bowl . I went outside and
after a couple of minutes the girl who had taken my order brought this
rather small container of soup. "This is a bowl?!" I asked, semi-
rhetorically. "Oh, I thought you wanted a cup", said the girl. "I'll bring
you a bowl." I suggested that she just leave the cup (I was starving) and
then replenish it. She said fine, and I started on my soup, which was
quite good.
     Then I began to wonder if she would bring me another cup, or
perhaps a half a cup, and if maybe I should insist that she bring me
examples of both containers so that I could compare them to be sure
I got my full bowl. I thought about this to the point where I was about to
tell her in no uncertain terms just what she could do with her soup, when
out she came with a big smile and a full bowl of soup. I felt sort of bad
(maybe 1 on a scale of 0 to 10), so I left her a sizable tip.
     Baker City looked like it would be the last chance for a motel for
that day, but I'd only covered 45 miles and still felt strong, so I decided
to push on and camp that night. I took the old highway rather than the
interstate, and biked along a smooth quiet road that I had almost all to
myself. Alongside were railroad tracks, and several freight trains passed
me, going relatively slowly because of the steep grade. I discovered that
I had the power to blow the train whistles. All I had to do was wait till the
engine was almost even with me, then turn in my saddle and wave
vigorously at the engine. In almost all cases the whistle would then
sound (and the engineer, who I believe had something to do with it,
would wave). Yet when I would moo at cows in the field I would get no
response whatsoever.
     After about 80 miles I saw the Snake River, and shortly thereafter
came to the small town of Huntington, which had a small store and
a motel. I entered the store, picked up a jar of strawberry jam, and
asked the owner if he had any bananas. "Well, I've got some", he
replied, "but they've got a few spots." He pointed them out, and sure
enough, by looking hard enough I could see a few spots of yellow, the
rest of the banana being black. But they didn't feel too soft, so I got
one, took it outside and ate it right there, knowing that it wouldn't survive
a half mile on the bike. Then I looked at the motel, which was grubby-
looking even by my standards, which means it was just one short step
above sleeping in a box car. The sign said that the office was at 150
2nd street, a home which I found easily. There the lady told me that
it really wasn't a motel, but "hunting-fishing" cabins, with stove, refrig-
erator, and a big sink for cleaning fish. She wanted $25 a night. I didn't
have to worry about a remote for the TV because there was no TV. So
I decided I really did want to camp.
     The banana gave me the boost that got me over the 500-foot climb
that came before a downhill into Farewell Bend State Park, so named
because that is where the Oregon Trail departed the Snake River which
makes a bend to the north. The park had a camping area, and since it
was getting close to dark I checked it out. All the signs said that the fee
was $12 without hookups. The self-registration camping form had a box
for "hiker-biker" but I couldn't see what the charge was. (On the Pacific
coast they charge $3 or $4.) Finally I found an official wandering around
and he had never heard of hiker-biker, but admitted that $12 did seem
rather steep for a bike. But he made no offer of a more reasonable fee
so off I went.
     I biked a couple more miles and came back to the interstate. I knew
that once I got on the interstate I'd never find a place. At the entrance
to the interstate there was a restaurant but I couldn't afford the time for
a meal because darkness was fast approaching. I crossed under the
highway and took a gravel road that looked promising. After a short
distance it turned and paralleled the interstate. I was now desperate,
and wishing I'd sprung for the $12 back at the park. But then I saw a
depression next to the road, checked it out on foot, and moved my bike
down to an area with dried grass and no thorns.  I finished setting
up the tent and moving in all my necessities (air mattress and air pillow,
handle-bar bag, sleeping bag, food, water, radio) just as darkness
arrived and a full moon began to rise. After blowing up my air mattress
I collapsed on it, with little energy left after 97.5 miles.
     After resting for about an hour, I decided to have supper. I enjoyed
a three-course meal, prepared by moonlight: As an appetizer I had
peanut butter on ritz crackers. For the main course I had peanut butter
and strawberry jam on ritz crackers. And for dessert I had strawberry
jam on ritz crackers.
     "And what beverage would the gentleman like to complement his
meal?" asked Henri. "Well," I said, "I believe I'll try your Oregon water."
"Ahh", purred Henri, kissing the peanut butter off his fingertips. "An
excellent choice! This has been a very good year for water."

Day 9. September 12
     My sleep was occasionally interrupted by noisy trucks on the
interstate, but all-in-all I spent a comfortable night. Not a single vehicle
travelled past me on the dirt road (and I don't believe I was visible from
the road anyway). I packed up (about an hour's work) and rode back
towards the interstate.
     I followed the interstate for a couple of miles, but saw a long climb
ahead, right after the interstate would depart the Snake. My map
showed the old highway following the river, and it seemed to be about
the same distance, so I elected that route. Very pleasant biking under
sunny skies, with no wind. I'd hoped to get breakfast at Weiser, a
small town about halfway back to the interstate, but I discovered that
it was a mile off the main road so I kept going. A more careful look at
my map revealed that my estimate of the distance compared to the
interstate was wrong---it was about 16 miles longer my way. That's
not an insignificant distance at 10 miles an hour, but I consoled myself
with the knowledge that the scenery was better 
and I didn't have to put up with the noisy trucks.
     The road climbed away from the Snake and I entered agricultural
country, the main crop being onions (I would have preferred cantaloupe).
I was passed by many trucks piled high with onions, shedding papery
skins as they passed me. The roadside was strewn with onions that
had bounced off the trucks, and, unable to resist a freebie, I finally
stopped and picked up a large one. After removing the outer road-rash
skins I was left with: (1) a beautiful onion the size of a softball, and (2)
the puzzle of what I was going to do with it.
     I was getting pretty hungry when, after 22 miles, I came across a
cafe-store-gaspump out in the middle of nowhere.  I went in and
was greeted warmly by Leona-the-owner and her daughter Matilda-the-
cook. The menu was friendly: Two eggs for 85 cents, hashbrowns for
99 cents, pancakes $1.35 for two. So that's what I ordered. In the
conversation with Leona she asked me if I ever found anything along
the road. I described some of my gutter gifts, and mentioned that just
that morning I'd found a nice one. I went out to the bike and returned
with the onion. She acted quite impressed, even though they are up
to their armpits in onions around there. I said she could have it, she
was very grateful, and suggested that I have some with my hashbrowns.
Matilda gladly cut up some and it was a welcome addition to a great
I was their only customer at that hour (their business picks
up at noon, they said) and we had a long pleasant conversation. As I
left, Leona gave me a ceramic refrigerator-magnet angel "to keep me
safe on my trip".
     After a few more miles I rejoined the interstate, hoping to make
Boise that day. Soon I came to 13 miles of construction. What was
normally the westbound lanes became both east- and westbound, and
my biking was on a four-foot shoulder, two feet of which was taken by
a rumble strip. After three miles I was actually grateful when a
construction foreman flagged me over and told me in a friendly-but-firm
way that I couldn't bike on the freeway when there was construction.
He showed me another route to the south that was only slightly longer,
and was quite a bit more pleasant, since there were few trucks and I
biked on a 12-foot-wide shoulder.
     Around mid-afternoon I stopped at a general store in a small town
and bought a pint of chocolate milk and a pint of 2% milk. I took a
swig from each, and then mixed the remainder by pouring back and
forth between the containers, thus making what I consider is the perfect
drink. I also got some slightly-spotted (black spots) bananas.
     I realized that Boise was farther than I wanted to go so Nampa
(about 18 miles west of Boise) became my goal. I wanted to reach a
city big enough to have free AOL access. I rejoined the interstate and
biked the last few miles into Nampa over the roughest interstate
shoulder I'd ever seen. Around 6 (I was now in the Mountain Time Zone)
I got some frozen orange juice, and then pulled into a motel, where the
attendant assurred me that phone calls to Boise were local numbers.
(AOL doesn't list a number in Nampa, but has four Boise numbers.)
I was skeptical, but after 75 miles I was ready to stop.
     The room is overpriced at $35 (but the call to AOL is local, so I can
download pictures without it costing a fortune). No remote for the TV,
the picture on the TV is barely recognizable as being in color, and
when I asked where I could get ice the reply was "Ice machine broken."
"Well, all I need are just a few cubes." "No ice." I was desparate:
"Surely you have a refrigerator. All I need is 5 ice cubes in a plastic
cup." She shook her head. "No ice." I'd already checked in and partly
unpacked or I would have kept biking. I had to drink my orange juice
quickly before it warmed up.
     After washing clothes, showering, and checking my e-mail I
wandered out looking for a place to eat. Apart from two pizza places,
I found nothing until I'd walked 12 blocks. There I came upon a yogurt
and sandwich shop, where I had a pleasant meal. Back to the room,
where I decided to write the report the next morning.
     My plan is to outrun winter, and I'm doing too good a job. I wish
winter would catch up just a little, since it got to 91 degrees today.
Things are going good.

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