Solo Flight – Day 1

Terrebonne Oregon to Cambridge Idaho – 311 Miles

My start day began with a bang — or rather the loud wail of my security system telling me that someone had opened the inside door in the shop at 6am. Holy crap. I scrambled around, put on pants, grabbed a Glock, and started walking out when I heard an engine, I ran out front and was so very relieved to see my neighbor Scott in his UTV. He said I’d left the shop open all night and the lights were on and they were worried I’d injured myself or something so he came over to check on me. Oh hell, I’m an idiot. Yes, I’d completed the BMW maintenance, rode the bike back to the garage, parked it, locked the garage, and went in the house to bed…leaving the shop overhead door wiiiiiiide open and all the lights on.

What a stellar blonde moment! Not exactly a good sign that I’m capable of doing all this on my own, is it? Again, thankful to have fantastic friends and neighbors, I considered going back to bed, but I was up and it was an absolutely gorgeous day, perfect blue sky with that softer light we start seeing as we head into fall. Despite the crazy alarm, I was happy and still ready to get on the bike and ride.

This would be my easiest day, I had an option to take a really fun detour over Oxbow dam and a road that is super tight and technical. I do love that stuff, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be mentally sharp enough to do it on my first long day back on Sir Tao. Sir Tao? Yes, my BMW is a G650GS Sertao, so his name is Sir Tao. He is very proper, very German, and will chide me for slacking on maintenance or not paying close enough attention to the road. And, apologies for getting a bit sappy here, he is my Tao since riding brings a harmony to my life that I have yet to find anywhere else.

Sir Tao, admiring the view (and telling me to quit taking pictures and get back to riding)

I breakfasted, fueled up, fed the cats, locked everything up…double checked that I had everything actually shut and locked up…and rolled down the driveway before 10am. Right away this is a different ride than Mike and I would take. When you rode with Mike you got up at the crack of dawn and were on the road the minute the sun even thought about rising.

Yes, everything does fit in that tank bag, honest!

I do really love the fact that getting up early means you usually have the road to yourself, but the route I was taking and the fact that it was a weekday meant I wouldn’t see much traffic no matter when I started. Plus, this was my ride. Going solo means I get to make all the selfish choices like when to leave, when to stop, and when to stop again five minutes later because oooh, look at that cool old place!

The first hour felt a little strange. I’d look in my rear view mirror and for a second I’d imagine Mike back there on his Versys, but after awhile I started settling in and enjoying the ride. I took it easy, staying below 70mph and not pushing much at all in the turns. It was one of those perfect ride days when the temps are just right with vents open – not to hot and not too cool. The scents of trees and dry grass, the bright flashes of light from water flowing over rocks as it meanders along next to me. Life is good.

I pause in John Day for lunch at our favorite spot, The Outpost. I have one of their big salads and enjoy relaxing in their comfortable booths. I’m feeling good although I’ve got tension between my shoulder blades which results in some hand numbness. This is something I began experiencing shortly after Mike died, I’d be sitting at the computer and realize my shoulders were up around my ears and it felt like I had an icepick in my back. I know that if I can focus on relaxing the pain and numbness will eventually subside, but it’s definitely a sign that I’m not completely anxiety-free.

Getting back on the bike I continue down the road, feeling more in tune and confident as the miles click by.

Anytime I come this way by myself in the car, I always stop in Whitney to say hi to the old buildings and listen to the absolute silence of the place. Mike never thought it was that exciting, so this is my first chance for a Whitney stop on two wheels.

Hwy 7 takes me past Sumpter and all the gold dredge tailings, then next to Phillips Lake which is nearly dry this time of year, past the inexplicably named Social Security Point, and follows the the Powder River until Baker City where I re-enter the world of well-behaved and boring pavement on I-84 for 50 miles, after which I exit and pick up 95 and I’m traveling a quiet road between rolling farm fields full of dry corn stalks.

None of this is technical or difficult riding. The roads are well maintained, there are few areas where you’ll find gravel in corners or boulders in the middle of the road. The view is pretty, but not so beautiful it’s distracting. It’s a good road to find a new “normal” on two wheels. Pulling into Cambridge I haven’t yet decided if I want to stop here for the night, but then I realize it’s after 6pm and I only have another hour of light, so I get smart and cruise around looking for a decent place to stay. It’s a small town, and we’ve overnighted here before, but the place we stayed has been abandoned for awhile. Looking at the decay it’s astonishing to think this was a going concern not that long ago.

I end up at the Frontier Motel in a tiny room with a surprisingly comfortable bed and an equally surprising tube television in the corner.

There’s still one spot in town that’s open for dinner, the Office Bar has a Presidential Debate special of Mexican Shepherd’s Pie with salad and chips. It’s not bad, and the only beer they have on tap besides Coors is an IPA that definitely hits the spot.

I’m not exactly blending in with the locals here. I forgot my plaid shirt, so I sit in the back corner at a small table trying to remain inconspicuous.

This is easy to do when I’m in street clothes, middle-aged women are essentially invisible (I’m not complaining!). However, when I’m in riding gear or near the bike, sometimes it’s like Superman emerging from the phone booth (well, if you can imagine Superman as an overweight woman in her late 50’s), people suddenly notice me and are always ready to start up a conversation. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

Pleasantly full, and unable to stand any more of the Presidential brouhaha—er—debate, I head back to to my room, say goodnight to Sir Tao who is waiting patiently outside my hotel room door, hit the bed and fall asleep nearly instantly.

Up Next… The highs and Lolos.


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