Chemult, Oregon isn't a place many people choose to stay the night. A half mile strip of a town that looks like it's barely hanging on, its buildings look like they're slowly being stripped away by the elements, one splinter and paint layer at a time. I don't know the economics of central Oregon, but it looks like most of the money in the region passes through quicker than the semis that rumble down 97. Kelly and I stopped in Saturday night and booked a room at the Chemult Motel, a collection of wood shingled buildings that surround a parking lot of puddly gravel. The office is located across the street at the Chalet Restaurant where Ray, the owner of both establishments, also serves as the sole cook. Ray was busy Saturday night. With the Ducks opening up Pac-12 play in a night game vs. Cal (Goooooo Ducks!), hunters in town for opening weekend, and mushroom pickers camping out to scour the surrounding pine forests, the Chalet was stretched to its capabilities. Most of the attire was camo, ducks gear, or combinations thereof. While the Ducks have turned into a modern and moneyed brand that may seem at odds with Oregon's rural roots, the family in front of us, from weathered grandpa with missing teeth to the motocross sweatshirt wearing grandson knew as much about Josh Huff, Braylon Addison, and the intricacies of the spread-option as the rest of the restaurant. Huge cheers erupted whenever Thomas Tyner touched the ball.
We arrived after a long day into a demoralizing headwind. 44 miles took over 5 hours of actual pedaling time. Nevertheless, it was our farthest day on tour. With a high wind advisory, 40 degree rain and the forecast, it finally felt like we'd earned the chance to hunker down indoors for a day. So hunker we did, taking trips to the Pilot and the Double D Market, but otherwise doing nothing but laying around and watching football.
By Monday morning the rain had blown through but the winds remained, a steady southwester. Somewhere around midday I actually fell into a rhythm for the first time in the trip, not that there was anything to distract me. The road cut an unwavering path through the pine forest and what I kept imagining to be distant rises in the terrain flattened as we approached. Such was the monotony of gradient that Kelly started comparing central Oregon to the midwest and I started imagining that I could see the curvature of the earth. The day's excitement was a sheriff pulling us over to ask if we'd seen an older gentleman wandering along the side of the road. "Sorry sir, we haven't seen much of anything since Chemult. Should we keep an eye out?"
"Nah, he'd be north of here. Say, how far are you planning on going today?"
"Somewhere around Chiloquin is about as far as we can make it today."
He furrowed his brow and lowered down to his s authoritative voice, "Now, I wouldn't stay in Chiloquin if I were you, tough town there, lot's o problems.
We'd heard the same thing in La Pine, while discussing the ammenities of central Oregon's small towns with a RV driver who'd pulled into the diner parking lot where we'd stopped for breakfast. "Chiloquin?" He'd said. "Don't stay there unless you have to."
"Why not?" I'd asked.
"Well I hate to say it," he'd replied, then switched to the inside voice that bigots use when they think they're in like-minded company, "but there's a lot of drunken Indians."
After the second warning, we started to figure that whether the drunks were Indians, hillbillies, or Klamath teenagers looking to binge, it might be better to just bypass Chiloquin altogether.
Somewhere after mile 35 the road curved west and I sang a little ditty of excitement. Not long after it really did appear that the earth was dropping away and soon we were zipping along at 30 miles an hour.
It's funny how landscaped can change so suddenly, for as soon as we began descending, the forest thinned and evergreen hills dotted the skyline. Within a half mile it looked like we'd entered the high sierra landscape of Northern California. We found a campsite at Collier Memorial State Park about 5 miles from Chiloquin and found nothing to worry about but the overly friendly RVers who wanted to tell stories of the crazy things they did in their younger days.
We made it to Klamath Falls this evening, and are fully enjoying the luxury of a hotel that the incomparable Jared booked for us. Southern Oregon is beautiful and neither Kelly or I can wait to make the push into Northern California tomorrow. Neither of us has ever been here before and we're stoked to see what the road brings. Wild camping, long days riding on remote roads, and a visit from a man on a motorcycle are what we have to look forward to.