Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

This old highway seems so lonesome when you're going where you've been...

That line is from a song called "Riding My Thumb To Mexico", and it's very much how I felt all day today.  I did some 627 miles, coming from Wells, Nevada up to Pendleton, Oregon.  I'd hoped to have gone further but I just couldn't take another mile on the bike.  And today I was going where I've been -- for at least most of it, as I retraced much of the route I took to Las Vegas 9 days ago.

The day dawned gray and wet in Wells, Nevada at the small motel across from the casino/truck stop.  The clouds were low and it felt like rain.  Oh joy, more great riding weather I sarcastically said to myself as I donned my Carhart pants, leather chaps, and rain gear, including the heated jacket liner I bought yesterday.  I gassed up and hit I-80 west towards Winnemucca.  Normally I hate the Interestate, but really I had no choice, and traffic was quiet and I could keep the throttle locked at 80.

As I was headed west, I noticed the old pre-freeway road off to my right paralleling the freeway.  The next town down the road from Wells is Elko and it dawned on me as I was riding that my parents were married in Elko, Nevada -- and that old road is what they must have driven when they eloped back in the mid 50s.  I can just picture them in the front seat of some old 50s big sedan, my Aunt Fay and her husband Harlow sitting in the back seat as my folks drove off to Elko to get married.  Then I realized that it was almost a year ago -- May 5th, that my father passed away.  It seemed like a fitting place to be.  I have to remember to ask my mother "why Elko?"  I mean even today it's a good 4 hour drive from Salt Lake and had to be more back then -- and their ain't a lot to it!  Maybe it seemed "exotic" to them, who knows.

Just past Elko the new heated gear gave out.  I don't know what it is, but I have had terrible luck with heated gear.  Here we go again.  I stopped at a rest area to fiddle with it for a bit, and to take a pee break.  I couldnt' get it working, so I headed to the restroom.  Going to the bathroom is kind of difficult -- much like doing so when skiing.  I have to struggle out of rubber rain pants, leather chaps, Carhartt painter pants, and underwear.  It's a process, both before and after.

In Winnemucca I pulled off figuring I could find a motorcycle shop or snow-mobile shop that might be able to help me figure out what was wrong and to fix it.  Well no one in town carried this type of gear, and the nearest HD dealer was in Reno.  However a local small motorcycle shop populated by folks who looked like the belong to the "bad" gang in "Wild Hogs", were able to tinker a bit with it, but couldn't get it working.  So I pulled on a sweatshirt and bundled back up.  I did the usual checking in with family and friends as to what the weather was up the road and found out that if I wanted to head west towards Crater Lake that I'd get drenched, but if I stayed on US-95 up towards Burns, Oregon, I'd be more or less dry.  After the past three days in snow and sleet I opted for dry -- even though the song running in my head was still "Riding My Thumb To Mexico" which has a line saying:

"this old highway seems so lonesome when you're going where you've been, and a lonesome song can make you cry, time and time again, if there's anyplace I haven't been at all that's where I'll go"...

And since I'd not been to Crater Lake or in that part of Oregon, I wanted to go there -- but common sense put me on the road I'd already been on.   And indeed it was lonesome since it goes through a lot of nowhere and there is no cell service.

However once I got back to Burns, Oregon, it had cleared up nicely and I was looking forward to heading back up US-395 the two hundred miles to Pendleton since the weather was so awful on our way down last week.  I was not to be proven wrong.  This road is truly a spectacular motorcycle road, with very little traffic, wonderful views, and the recent rain made everything smell so fresh and clean that it was intoxicating.

This road winds for nearly 200 miles, and I bet there's maybe 20 miles that isn't a curve.  It's great fun on the bike, leaning into the curves, and not worrying about on-coming traffic.  The weather stayed high overcast, and I did get a few showers, but nothing that was of any consequence, and nothing at all compared to the last two days.

Somewhere in the canyon of the John Day river you cross the 45th parallel which marks half-way between the Equator and the Arctic Circle, and Oregon is thoughtful enough to put up signs marking it.  It does give you a perspective of just how big this planet is -- if this point is half way between the Equator and the Arctic Circle.

And although I was enjoying the ride, my stomach was grumbling and my ass was hurting and I was anxious to get into Pendleton.  I'd hoped to make it as far as Yakima, Washington or even Pasco, Washington, but my body was in no mood to keep going.  As I descended the mountains into Pendleton off to my right was a rainbow from the distant shower, and it just caused me to stop racing towards food and rest, and just enjoy the smell of the rain on the grass and the rainbow over the farm for a few minutes.

It's indeed times like this that make you stop and appreciate just how wonderful life is, and how fortunate I am to be able to find things like this while riding.  I rolled into Pendleton about 15 minutes later, and the first hotel I spotted was a Red Lion.  I knew it would have room service and figured that this was the perfect spot to stop for the night.  I've still got some 250 miles to go to get home tomorrow, and the weather is calling for rain in Seattle.  None the less it will be good to sleep in my own bed in my own home and I'm looking forward to getting there.

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