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Summer Riding in Eastern Oregon

Summer Riding in Eastern Oregon

By J.Dunn 

It's tenuous to talk about, but if all signs point to something it is that we will soon have some of the "summer" riding that we all crave out here in Oregon. Let us not hold our breath, because we know how quickly all of that can change. 

Instead, we shall look back into our photo time machine to a spot in the past where the sun was shining and the winds were warm and at our backs. Well, to be honest, sometimes they were straight up hot and in our faces, but that is sort of what you get when you ride in Eastern Oregon. That and beautiful vistas and dry desert air and tales of Rolls Royce dotting the landscape. 

We flew by the Antelope schoolhouse on one of the better descents of the first day. Dave Marchi and Bo Thunell were the closest that we had to locals out there and when I commented that we should buy that school and make it into an adult basketball camp the Rajneeshpuram stories started. Rolls Royce, poison in the water and all. Bo is from John Day, so he knows these things. And apparently they know him too and his famous baseball coach dad. "Oh your pops is that baseball coach at John Day huh?" said our tour guide Phil. "Former baseball coach" Bo fires back. "He's retired." Ok, guys, let's get a move on here. 

Later that day we stopped on a bridge in the middle of nowhere. A new looking bridge. Like something that people in the 50's might spy and say "that looks like I step into modernity." Or something quaint along those lines. What was even more interesting is that while we stood looking out over the tranquil waters we noticed a farmer below us, his arms resting on a pink foam pool toy looking back up at us. The same sort of quizzical look must have come across both our faces at the same time. 

"You ok down there?"  

"Oh yeah, just hot, taking a break." 

He was standing in the water letting it break around him and when we clopped over to the other side of the bridge his truck, door hanging open, was parked down near the water. A strange sight for sure, but I can't imagine we were any different. One of us went clambering down the bank on the right, thrashing through the brush, while a handful of others went toward the opposite side and what looked to be a good spot to leap from a little outcropping that sort of hung over the side. 

"Are you wearing all your work clothes? Or do you change?" 

"Nah, I just walk in. Keep this in the truck for when it's hot like this. Plus, your clothes tend to dry quickly out here." He gestured with the pink noodle. 

He wasn't wrong. We were all parched and you could see that while none of us had a sheen about us, we were still covered in those crusty white perspiration maps that one associates with rides at these temperatures. Its the kind of temperature, so constantly hot, that not only does it not change through the night, but it blends the days together too. Like, maybe you left your gummi bears in the car with the windows rolled up that time you went to Niagara Falls with your family. Melted into just one mass of rides and hills and hotness and unfettered tarmac. 

Marchi rolled by on one of these descents and instinctively I jumped on his wheel. This is one of the rides that I've been thinking about a lot lately. This Melty Bear. There wasn't a thing in the world that could have stopped us on that descent. We plummeted and rolled and sighted through the corners like we had ridden them all our lives. Which, maybe we had? (Truth - this was my first time on this descent). 

Back at our accomodations — hunting lodge by fall, winter, and ride hangout in the summer — we marveled at the size of the game on the wall, and also the size of the game hunters. Everywhere you turn there are photos of large men with large guns holding a recently deceased animal. Don't get me wrong, I eat meat and I'm not opposed to hunting it, I guess. Just never been around that many photos of it at once. We tried our best to fit in. 

 We passed through a couple abandoned townships while we were out the first day. Or was it the second? There was a beer tap back at the ranch and I'm telling you — so parched — after a day of being out in that late summer sun, they were flowing. 

The townships were usually made up of a few buildings, maybe a windmill and all of them had the creepy air of having been abandoned in the middle of the night. We stopped in one just to poke around and look at the structures. Sip water and ask each other what happened here. Or, if you're Dave Marchi just immediately start concocting their histories out of thin air. 

Moi and I were climbing out of one no-name town when we noticed a small cadre of cows on the opposing valley wall. They seemed to notice us at the same time and, almost guiltily scurried in the opposite direction. Can cows feel guilty? It was almost as though we busted up a secret meeting of cows. Is that what this landscape does to its inhabitants? Beats them down until they are forced to meet in secret? No one knows.

 So, what do we do? We just keep plodding along as only we know how to do. There was a moment there on the second day when we thought things were going to get hairy. Jenn double flatted and the only thing we could think to do — I'm not sure why we thought this other than the desert had fried our brains — was that she should ride Landon's handlebars in. Maybe we thought the Treo Ranch was closer than it was because it was definitely not nearby. 

But, those are just a few of the things that you'll do when the sun takes hold of your brain piece. Just keep going. Emily and I discussed this the next morning as we surveyed the road out of camp. It twists up a bit, but it is by no means short. That and the basketball court. Because, why not be fascinated by a dirt court? If you can make that work (and shooters can make anything work) why not? 

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