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Diary 10

25 Aug.

Another redrawn route.
Having talked to a local last night I backtracked a bit & headed East.

Through the Ochoco Mountains and then into the John Day fossil bed area.
There is a 10,000 square mile area of eastern Oregon that is extremely rich in fossils.
A very small area of it has been made a national monument so the fossil collection can be controlled.
I'm not entirely sure what the difference between a 'National Park' and a 'National Monument' is, they are both run by the National Park Service. I can recommend their web site.

The morning was mostly through canyons, or along rivers. Nice twisty stuff.
I wasn't pushing too hard - having been recently busted, but a few times over the last few days I've played 'tag' with a car.
On the straight bits they come up behind me. I'm polite so I pull onto the shoulder & wave them past.
A few miles later the road gets twisty and I don't slow down, I keep running at 70 or 80 or whatever speed I'd been running before. So I catch the car & pass it and 2 corners later it's not in my mirrors.
10 miles later the road is straight for a while & the car comes up behind me again. I pull over ...
And so it goes on as the road changes.
Back and forth.
I hope they don't think I'm taking the piss.

The afternoon I have pretty much no recollection of.
This is kinda scary - but it is how my trips to work are.
The mind wanders and you drive on autopilot.
Now on a bike this isn't a good idea - but I've been riding pretty much all day every day for 70 days now and it does become automatic. I can recall incidents - like the pickup that was parked on the far shoulder and started moving just as I approached it. I was hard on the brakes and down 3 gears before I was sure he wasn't going to U-turn.
There was no conscious thought - "he might pull in front of me" - I just reacted.
And during the braking I was also fully aware of how close the car behind me was getting.
Bike riding with automatic responses?
Kinda scary - but that's usually how I drive a car and I believe that I am a good car driver.

Another thing - I have to wash the bike.
It's the wasps.
Every time I stop I attract wasps.
Usually about 3 of them - but I really don't like those beasts.
I can only assume that they can 'smell' the bug flesh that covers the front of the bike - and the ends of the cases.

26 Aug.

What did I do today ?

Rode some, stopped some, chatted some.

That's what I do.

I'm not on holiday anymore - and haven't been for weeks.
It was only yesterday that this really began to sink in.
The first few weeks felt like holiday, but the last few weeks -
I ride some, I stop some, I chat some.
And occasionally I stop with someone for a few days.
Could this be my life ? By that I mean 'is this what I want to do for the rest of my life' ?
Well actually - no.
I miss companionship - not that I have had much over the last few years (mostly by choice - to lose the serious drinking habit I had).
I miss having my own books, CDs, home PC.
I really miss my own bed, and not having to unpack.
I miss wandering over the road to gently make mock of a neighbour who is always fixing one of his vehicles.

I might be able to do this with a big mobile home with a bike on a trailer - but then I'd be limited to one continent.
Again doing a trip like this with someone else - it would really have to be the right someone.
In about three weeks Nick is flying into Vegas for a 10 day tour. We're picking up a hire car.
I am really looking forward to spending some time with someone I know. Someone who knows when I'm bullshitting and will tell me to 'piss off'. Someone who won't ask "So how many days you been on the road ?" and I know that saying "about 70" is going to spark the same old "What'ya doin? Where'ya bin? Where'ya goin?" conversation.

For the duration of Nick's trip a Harley hire shop will look after my bike (which I must admit is very generous of them - I'll give them a bottle of Malt as a thank you).

I'm also considering asking Nick to take my tent & sleeping bag back to the UK with him.
I'm not using the damned things and it would free up about of one of the boxes - which is a lot of space.
(Actually it would be about a third - but I can't find a 1/3 ascii character to insert into the text !)
I know that the tent was a present for the trip - and I did ask to be given it - but I'm not using it and it doesn't look like motels will take me over budget - and I don't really enjoy camping.

So what did I actually do today ?

Rode some, stopped some, chatted some.

OK - so there is some detail ...
I must admit not entering any detail would probably make for a better 'zen' trip, and would probably read better but a few things did strike me on route.

I knew nothing about the place before I started this trip.
It just kinda takes up the space between states I'd heard of.
Clockwise from the top.
British Columbia, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
So - just take a minute here and, in your head, list three things about Idaho.

If you're from North America then you probably have 'famous potatoes' and 'Boise'.
If you're not then you probably don't understand the first & may have heard of the second.

From the little I have seen it actually does 'fill a gap'.
The areas round it are known for either mountains or plains.
Idaho has both.
The first half of the day was through wonderful countryside, with good, fast twisty roads.
The next quarter was through a huge valley between mountain ranges (south of Stanley).
The final quarter was straight, flat and damned hot.

On the hot straight bit I stopped for a smoke & bottle of water.
Finishing the smoke I was about to stamp it out.
I could see smoke on the horizon. The grass it the road edge was yellow and brittle and there were bleached bones.
I poured last of the water on the cigarette end.

Arriving in Twin Falls I was wondering why?
There is no water here.
Was this a name game to make it sound inviting and attract settlers ?
Then you go over the bridge.
There is a river but it's way down there.
Must go and photograph it tomorrow.

27 Aug.

This is a tough one - exactly how candid am I going to be ...

Let's see how it goes.

Went back to look at the Snake river gorge north of Twin Falls - and overheard a guy telling his kids "see that hill that looks like a ramp - that's where Evil Kinevil tried to jump the canyon".
Looking at the canyon - I'm sorry - he must have been out of his mind.

Headed south into the heat of Nevada.
It was kinda strange to see hills with snow on them while riding through a desert in searing heat.

I decided to take a day off.
No riding tomorrow so, looking for somewhere with a bit of 'entertainment' I stopped in Elko NV.
Yes I know what you're thinking - gambling & brothels.
Well what exactly do you take me for.
Of course I visited both.

Settle down there & let me tell it.

I was looking for a motel with lots of things on their sign. Internet, HBO, cable, satellite, that kind of stuff - I guessed that was my best bet for somewhere with the Speed channel for tomorrow's MotoGP in Brno.
Well I got a cheap motel ($70 for 2 nights - cheaper than most KOA campsites) with Internet - but no speed channel.

Yes I know I'm dodging the story but I wanted to justify sending the tent home.

So I wander down to the local casino - it's all slot machines.
Over the road is one with tables.
$60 lasts about an hour.

Heading back to the motel I stopped in at a bar.
Quite unexpectedly (well for me) they had strippers.
This got me thinking about the other 'attractions' of Nevada.
Not something I'd tried before and I'm always open to new experiences.

Now I've been single for quite a while - and if you are uncomfortable with the idea of paying someone to pretend they care about you then you must avoid flying first class and never stay at a hotel above three stars.
I'm not justifying the profession - hell it's way older than I am.
Just don't judge it - well not here where it's legal.
If you want to judge me - well then that's your problem - if I cared then I wouldn't be writing it down here.

So I turn up at 'Inez'.
They have a very explicit menu - and I won't go into detail.

The girl was beautiful - and obviously friendly.
Damnit - this is tough to write down knowing that it's going public.
Anyway - she was skilled, very professionally accomplished.
After a bit of time, when the initial fear had worn off, I knew something was wrong. It just didn't feel right.
I had no real feelings for her and what I was doing was mechanical.
I had used half of my time - and then spend ten minutes explaining to her that "leaving early is nothing to do with you, you're lovely - it's me, I am just not emotionally involved and I'm not actually enjoying it, but thank you, you're beautiful and very good".
So I walked out early.

I understand why prostitutes exist.
I understand why blokes use them.
But the moments that felt genuinely good were the two of us hugging.
I guess what I'm looking for is companionship - someone to be close to.
Anonymous sex just doesn't do it for me.

Go on - moralise.
Call me any name you care to.
I am a bloke and I have a sex drive - and I now know more about it than I did yesterday.

Back into the casino.
My third hand I hit a 40 to 1 in three card poker with $5 on the bonus line ($200).
Walking out early is sometimes the right thing to do.
I walked - again.

I was going to stop at the 'stripper' bar for a final beer on the way back to the motel - but it wasn't there.
Don't ask me - there's only one street and I checked the entire block.
It just wasn't where I'd left it.

28 Aug.

Today is a day off.

Had a late breakfast and while I wait for the MotoGP site to post a video of today's race I'll catch up e-mail, rewrite yesterdays diary entry (and I'm still not sure about it - I have family members who are reading this), plan the next few days route and play Sudoku. The incidental stuff.

Oh - they put the 'stripper' bar back where it had been.

In the afternoon I noticed a huge plume of smoke just outside town.
Either there's a wild fire or there's a new volcano.

29 Aug.

One problem of not planning a few days travel in advance is that having got to Elko, NV I find that there is no good route out of here.

North - that's where I came from.
West - I'm trying to get to Colorado which is east.
South - through Nevada - you're kidding right ? Nothing but desert. That's where they tested the first nukes and you can't tell.
So that leaves East.
The only road east is I-80 to Salt Lake City through the centre of the Salt Lake Desert.
Well if that's the only choice ...

The fire had moved west overnight and after a few miles I started riding under the smoke.
The sun turned a strange yellow and the scenery became tinted with a beautiful yellow light.
I spotted three helicopters carrying huge buckets ferrying water to the blaze.
Where they were getting the water in the middle of the desert, I have no idea.

The weather said that it would be windy in the afternoon and getting across the desert early, before the afternoon heat, is always a good idea.
I got to the start of the Great Salt Lake Desert at 10am.
A mile later it was 11am.
I'd forgotten the time zone thing.

I've seen the salt flat in pictures and film.
If you've ever seen 'Independence Day' where the massed RVs meet Will Smith pulling the alien in his parachute?
The area they used is a tiny fraction of the desert.
I was quite taken aback at the sheer size of the area.
Equally it is quite disconcerting to just be able to see mountains in the distance through the haze and know that that's where the next corner is.

The temperature as I entered Utah was 33 (91).
By the time I was at the far side of the desert it was 42 (117).

I considered stopping to take a photograph but being stationary in that heat would have been dangerous.

As I approached the lake it's self I started passing smaller lakes of water with salt shores.
The smell of brine hit me.
You know the smell you get at the sea, especially anywhere near a fishing port.
My thoughts immediately went to a) Peterhead harbour and b) lobsters.
It is extremely odd to smell that when you are hundreds of miles from the sea.

Salt Lake City and the environs look very prosperous.
Maybe it's a Mormon, clean living thing - something I obviously know nothing about :)

Well I guess it's time to post this.
The time between posting is purely a factor of how much I have written and nothing to do with time.
When the file size gets over 15kb then it's time.
And in this case it is the only way that I will stop rewriting the brothel story above.
I still feel real weird about having that story go public.
I didn't plot it - that's just what happened - and if the story has a moral then that's obviously more than I have :)


Diary 12