Saturday, August 9, 2014

Day 3: Riding WITH the Wind....

August 8
Pendleton, OR to Burley, ID

Green to Brown, and Losing Spearfish!

I know, what you probably want to hear about first is "losing Spearfish!", but you'll just have to wait...or cheat and scroll down. Your choice.

Below you'll see some catch up pics from Days 1 & 2. As you travel from Portland to points east along the Columbia River, the striking change you notice is the change from green to brown. As I've already mentioned, this change happens at The Dalles. The Dalles should be renamed "The Turning Point". I've also already mentioned how depressingly BARREN the landscape is east of The Dalles. Well as it turns out, the vehicle you are using to travel tends to help color your impression of the world. Allow me to explain pictorially.

One of our first stops traveling east of Portland was the well known Multnomah Falls. The beauty and elegance of the falls is vastly different to the raw power and brute force of Niagara Falls. Comparing the two using the same exact criteria is just not fair. I'm only mentioning this because, at first I DID compare the two on the brute force scale, leaving Multnomah looking like a leaky faucet that someone forgot to turn off. On the other hand, on the elegance scale, Niagara looks like a schoolyard bully that needs to be punched in the nose. A more fitting description for both of them is that Niagara is the Big Bang, and Multnomah is the resultant elegant universe that it created.

Go a bit further east and you encounter the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks. This structure is man-made but there was a natural formation on this spot around 1100 A.D. that damned up the river and created a vast inland sea. In 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew his plane UNDER the bridge!

The view of the bridge above, and this picture was taken from the most scenic restaurant that we encountered on our trip. It is called Char Burger. Think about the name. Then think about the two views you see above. Do they match? Not for me. When I hear "Char Burger" I think, Hardies, Dairy Queen...Arby's, which typically have a view of a parking lot or a K-Mart...not THIS! I give credit to Jen for finding this place when we were on our way to Portland. She stopped here to wait for me to catch up on Jenard. I feel sad when I think of her sitting there in this beautiful place, all by herself. I'm glad we got to enjoy the view together as we headed "back East".

This is a painting of the original highway that ran through the Columbia Gorge. The painting was inside the Char Burger. One last note on the Char Burger, the food was WONDERFUL. In addition, this restaurant is owned by the Best Western right next door. So, if you stay at the Best Western in Cascade Locks, you get a FREE breakfast at a wonderful restaurant with an awesome view.

This was one of the last pics I took as we approached The Dalles.

This was one of the first pics I took after passing The Dalles. Notice anything missing?  Like TREES?????

The dams along this river seem to be ALWAYS churning up electricity. It's a pretty spectacular sight.

I was going for an artsy fartsy shot which juxtaposed both the landscape I was seeing out the window and that which I was leaving behind in the mirror.

I was trying to take artsy-fartsy shots, because sitting in an air conditioned truck, traveling east, WITH the wind is a vastly different experience than traveling on a bicycle, in 95 degree heat AGAINST the wind. On the bike, all I wanted to see was even a SLIVER of a tree, twig or ANY shade at all.
In the truck I was able to recognize the grandeur and the beauty of it all.
Magnificent moon-like hills....

... that seemed to roll on forever....
On the bike, all I saw was an endless road, with unrelenting sun and no place to pee.
 From the truck, it all seemed good. I still prefer green over brown, but brown can be awe inspiring.... when you're not overheating.

One shopping item we still needed to take care of was getting a blanket and pillow. Now that we had the back seat again (for the most part) we needed a way to make it comfy enough to sleep on, just in case we decided to drive in shifts, with the non-driver sleeping.

We stopped at a JC Penny in La Grande, OR. Like so many western towns, the entire downtown area seems to have been frozen in time somewhere around the 40's or 50's. Very well-kept, but still like visiting another era. Walking into the JC Penny only reinforced that feeling.
JC Penny in downtown La Grande. Reminded me of the Woolworths on Farmington avenue in Bristol, CT circa 1950's & 60's.

As we drove, J got a hankering for another pie from Old Chicago. Remember the glowing reviews we gave the Old Chicago in Gillette, WY? We found another one at the Boise Mall in Boise, ID. By the way, do yourself a favor. Stop pronouncing it "BOY-zee" right now. Some day, if you're ever actually IN Boise, the locals will be pleased to hear you pronouncing it "BOY-see". They're pretty nice anyway, but saying their city name correctly will make them that much happier, and nicer. It's kind of a Gerard v. Gerald thing.

We had yet another spectacular pizza at Old Chicago, then decided to walk it off by taking a stroll around the mall. Jen visited Sephora, and I found myself mystified, stupified, amazified by one of the coolest stores I had ever seen. It was actually a kiosk in the middle of the mall, but it was dedicated EXCLUSIVELY to HELICOPTERS!!!  I have always been fascinated with Chinook helicopters. A Chinook landed on our school football field one year. It was such a fantastic sight! So when I saw this bad boy. I just had to take a pic. I pride myself for having the self restraint to NOT buy it. I know myself. After playing with the thing for maybe 5 to 10 hours MAX, I would have abandoned it in the garage and gone for a bike ride. But it was still pretty cool to look at.

And then we lost the truck.

I know you think that I'm handling this pretty calmly, but we were NOT very calm at the time. And honestly, we're still a little shook up. Our bikes, ALL our stuff, and Spearfish himself....GONE. It's almost impossible to describe that sinking, trembling feeling that you are stuck over two thousand miles away from home with only your basic I.D., one credit card and your cell phone and of course your spouse, who also only has the basic I.D., one credit card and her cell phone.

Here's how it happened: We had parked fairly close to Old Chicago. We ate, and then explored our respective interests. We didn't give a single thought to safety or security. The mall clientele seemed to be basic, peace loving people. The area felt safe and friendly.

But as we exited the mall and wandered into the parking lot, that whole feeling changed. It wasn't the people or the parking lot that was the truck. Spearfish was simply NOT THERE.

We looked...and looked. We clicked the lock button...nothing. I held it up high...nothing. I pushed the panic button: the one that makes the alarm sound and drives you crazy if you push it accidentally....NOTHING.

The sight and sound of NOTHING was becoming deafening. Both our pulses started to race and our hearts were creeping slowly up into our throats. How could this be happening? I had heard of thieves staking out parking lots for choice vehicles. And I figured, a thief who knew both bikes and cars would figure they hit the mother load.

But why OUR truck?  Why OUR bikes???? This completely SUCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then we found him. Spearfish was sitting in the row almost directly in front of Old Chicago, exactly where we had left him. This discovery happily ended the longest ten minutes of our entire trip.

But how did this happen? The short answer is J and I had collectively had a brain fart. We were both so used to using parking places way AWAY from stores that we had simply assumed that we had done so this time. We usually park far away from other cars because Spearfish is so darned big. Add the fully extended bike rack and it feels to US like we're trying to park a Winnebago. So we lesson our angst by parking in the wide open spots, far away, and getting a little extra exercise by walking back to the store.

But today was different. We had lucked out and found an easy spot right next to the mall entrance. The reason our key wasn't working is that we were searching in a completlely different UNIVERSE than where Spearfish actually was.

And that ended our story for Day 2 HAPPILY.

Ps. At this writing, we are currently in Day 4 and en route to the world's largest frying pan.  You'll have to wait for THAT story till tomorrow.


  1. I want you to know that I did not skip to the end to find out what happened to Spearfish. It is to your credit that I was willing to believe Spearfish fell prey to the criminal element in Idaho rather than instantly assuming you both forgot where you parked.

  2. Thank you Mary for taking that brief distressing journey with us! Your assumption of our "with it" ness is appreciated.

  3. OK, I skipped - I needed to know! Still, scary...