Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Wrapping up the road trip

I'll be in Seattle in a couple of hours. Ahead is the big clean out of the van, and washing the sand off and lubing my bike. I've not driven so long a trip, solo, before. My trip odometer has clicked twice to 0 already. So, I'll have driven easily 2,500 miles. The van started to buck a bit near Denio, NV, so I think it'll need an oil change and a service. All those 7,000 foot mountain passes and sage brush and sandy desert basins. Nevada was a new state for me and doing it by myself was valuable. I read somewhere: "the cure for loneliness is solitude." Perhaps this will be true for me. Won't be long before these peaks are blanketed with snow, and many roads impassable until May or June. These golden aspens growing sat 10,000 feet in the Great Basin National Park shout "winter's coming!"
What a blessing to be able to visit these sorts of unexpected places.
It's been a summer full of new experiences and chances to review my past life for the things I still want to hold close. Now it's back to the classroom for a few months after this long "beauty fix."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Crater Lake

The weather is turning cloudy and it's very cool today. I rode the crater's Rim Drive several years ago. I plan only to drive on West Rim today. It would be nice to stay at the Lodge tonight, but I really need to drive further North so I can be back home in Seattle tomorrow. So I've just stopped for lunch and the view at the lodge instead.

Barn near Lakeview, OR

After a wonderful early morning descent from Nevada, including a 3-mile, 8% grade road off the high plateau that holds the Sheldon Reserve, I'm recalling fabulous routes of past Cycle Oregon rides, where the roads go forever, then pass great barns like this one.

Pioneer building in the NWR

This sandstone brick building is now used by The Refuge's staff for storage. Life in this remote place, nearly 90 miles from the nearest town, Lakeview, OR, beggars the imagination.

Shelton NWR

After another lonely stretch of desert driving from Winnemucca, NV, I turned onto Hwy 140, towards Oregon, and discovered a free night's camping at Virgin River in the Refuge, along with a warm springs pools, and bath house with shower. Several fish live in the pool, so I used my camp shower, then had pasta along with a spectacular high desert sunset. A few mosquitoes but it got cold pretty quickly after dark, so I had a warm night sleeping in my van.
What an unexpected treat to find in this remote region. This is the pool at 7:30am, where my only company poolside was a puffy quail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Thoughts on deserts

When I look at my road atlas, I see that after a day of driving west, I'm about 1/3rd of the way across Nevada's Great Basin. I've done close to 350 miles since leaving Bryce, and a photo like this, taken in the intense heat on an arrow straight road, doesn't begin to do justice to the surrounding desert. The road bisects plains of stones, tufted grasses, and occasional dry washes. It climbs up and over 7000+ foot mountain passes, and grey peaks rise in the north and the south. In some of the higher areas there are stretches of juniper trees and pinyon pines. Here and there, a dirt road heads towards a spring or a place in some distant foothill obscured by the glare of the sun. Once or twice there's a small stand of cottonwoods, marking the site of a long gone cabin.
It's hot inside the van because my a/c system is broken. Hot air blasts from the dashboard and I try to drink water frequently to keep cool. The block ice I bought in Mexican Hat 3 days ago has melted and sloshes around in the cooler. I should drain it out. I find this sort of long distance driving a bit unnerving. I can't help wondering about the prospectors and miners who ventured through these same desert basins and ranges, by horse or mule or on foot only a few generations ago. What drove them to these regions? It's hard to imagine what they expected to find, and how it felt to be alone out here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

In Eureka, NV

After a long day of driving through the desert, I'm staying in a hotel in a truly ramshackle gold rush town. Much smaller than Ely, 77 miles back. I guessed wrong, thinking this place would be the larger town. This is mining country for sure. There are collapsed mine shafts dotting the hillsides. Ely was pretty ramshackle in its own way, filled with run down motels and strange locals walking around town. Eureka has the most extraordinary collection of boom era buildings, including an opera house. Most are boarded up. I peeked in the closed bank on Main Street. It looks like a stage set from Bonnie and Clyde. Except the grilled bank counters and ornate fixtures are the real thing. What a find!