Crater Lake To Stanley, Day 8 : Curiosity

I get up and out of the hotel room with no trouble. Before leaving I drink a prodigious amount of water, shower, and fill my water sack, but forget to fill my canteen.

Then I zig-zag out the east side of Burns towards the long 20-mile flat stretch of Highway 20. Before I get to the highway I have to pass down some long, barren streets that have probably sectioned out active farms in the past, but now just run through empty fields gone to seed. In a dirt lot between two corners of an unmarked intersection, I notice a beat-up truck with a guy sitting in the cab and another disheveled guy sitting in the back. They seem a little menacing, until one of them waves hello at me, and I raise my hand in return. The other man raises his hand in response to mine. And with the greeting ritual complete, I relax and ride on.

It sets me to wondering, though – does my own presence make people nervous? For a few days in the desert, I had to wear a scarf across my face to keep my sunburn from getting worse, and I must have looked exactly like a terrorist. … Well, a terrorist pedaling a recumbent bike.

And yet, I still got plenty of waves and smiles from passing cars. Go figure.

Soon I turn right, onto Highway 20, aka the Central Oregon Highway. I am treated to a gentle downhill grade, and zoom along at 16 miles per hour for a while. I play through Slim Westerns again, then I put the iPod in shuffle mode and come up with the ancient radio version of Har-De-Har-Har, The Ballad Of The Typical Asshole, performed by DJ Zog in another era.

That segues into one of Zog’s noise shows, and that propels me all the way across the flatlands. Just before the hills begin I pause to drink water and eat a red bell pepper, and some curious horses come moseying up to the fence for a look.

Sorry, horses, I don’t have any snacks for you.

About an hour later I’ve ridden up to Oard’s Gallery and Museum, the only real building in the “town” of Buchanan. It’s at the foot of an extremely steep hill, so I decide to take a break. I guzzle some water and buy some snacks and a soda, and spend a few minutes petting the big old snaggletoothed orange cat that walks around on the display counters, then go on a little tour of the museum.

There’s a lot of stuff crammed into a very small space here.

Some of it is for sale … but I have zero interest in purchasing. Anything I buy would have to be hauled hundreds of miles on a bicycle.

Bike touring gives you a very different perspective about souvenirs.

Outside the rest stop I chat with a guy refueling his motorcycle. He’s wearing a black leather jacket with broad shoulders, over a T-shirt with a noir-style Popeye drawn on it, striking a thoughtful pose.

“Stanley Idaho, eh?” he says. “My old hunting grounds. Beautiful place. You’ll like it there.”

He zooms off on the motorbike, which is far too quiet and agile to be an American vehicle, taking only a few seconds to ascend the hill that’s going to take me half an hour to climb.

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