We left the fairgrounds in Salem at dawn on a chilly Saturday, heading east into the mountains. The mountains were, of course, a bit nippier than the valley, and our crossing through the conifer-covered highlands was punctuated by sometimes violent shivering. Knowing the desert lay ahead I was again too stubborn to pull over and add layers.
The temperature was still cold but tolerable as the sun rose higher giving me a view of the distant Sisters. Soil shoulders gave way to cinder, and the vegetation became more sparse. Barley, who had been curled up on his memory foam mattress, came to attention, his nose busily working a scent. A short time later I saw the golden arches ahead. McDonald’s. Barley loves their hash browns.
A quick detour through the drive-thru, the tank topped off at an adjacent gas station, and we sat on the grass to share our breakfast. I studied the map as my dog leaned against me, the two of us contemplating the continental crossing that lay ahead.
We continued easting, the vegetation getting shorter and more sparse, the temperature rising as the humidity fell. Before long we were in the middle of the desert tailing a well-travelled BMW R1200RT, Oregon Highway 20 stretching absolutely straight in both directions as far as the eye could see. We passed abandoned weathered structures, small towns with not a single human inhabitant visible, miles and miles of flatness.
By late morning the heat was oppressive; we shifted into desert warfare mode, taking regular breaks, drinking water until we were both able to urinate before setting off again. Though I carried a couple gallons of water in a pair of Rotopax containers, I kept smaller bottles in the topcase cooler filled with ice. We both enjoyed the chilled water, and as the ice melted I would use a soaked washcloth to wet Barley’s chest and belly as well as my long-sleeved LD Comfort undergarments. Once we got moving again evaporative cooling would give us both a sense of relative coolness for half an hour or so. I would not pass a river without giving my dog the benefit of a quick dip.
The presence of water in the midst of this parched land always amazes me
As the humidity plummeted and the temp hovered around 104, I was beginning to wish I’d taken a different route, a cooler route, but looking at the map I wasn’t sure exactly where that might have been. There was no shade save that under Barley’s ragtop, no option short of pressing on. I continued to be amazed at the presence of fairly large rivers in a land so parched! It seemed like every drop of water should have been sucked up by the thirsty land! We crossed into Idaho and rolled into Boise at the height of a very aggressive rush hour. We’d both had enough by that point. I used my iPhone to find a cheap hotel with air conditioning. Got the dog comfortable, checked the bike, brought our stuff inside and joined Barley next to the AC.