August 13, 2006
(wrong way, hitchhiking)
So last night I literally slept in a ditch on the side of the road.
I woke early this morning and walked the two remaining miles to Austin Junction. Good and frazzled by then, I thought I may as well have some breakfast. Pancakes. They were small, but the usual routine was perfect for bringing up my spirits. It was time to hitchhike back to Baker City, some 50 miles away.
I leaned my bike against a post, removed all the panniers, and made myself comfortable. With very sparse traffic, and the requirement to specifically score a pickup truck, I expected this to take a while. Only 5 or 10 vehicles had passed within the first 20 minutes, when a white pickup truck stopped with a man and woman inside. “I’m trying to get as far as Baker City,” I said.
“Well that’s where we’re goin’!”
I met John, who stepped out of the truck to help me load my bike. I saw his wife Mary moving to the back seat, so I could sit in the front. “We wouldn’t normally stop,” she says, “But we saw you had a bike and probably had trouble.” I explained my headaches of yesterday, and they were impressed and curious about my trip – exceedingly nice people. Oh and they said there’s no grizzly bears in these woods.
Well they drove me all the way back to town, but the bike shop was closed today – Sunday. I was afraid that this would be the case. I had the address of another bike shop, and John and Mary insisted on finding it and bringing me there, but that one was closed too. They said there was a Buy-Mart or something on the edge of town that had bicycle parts, but I was wanting to go back to the shop I was at yesterday.
Also, I was starting to like the idea of having all day in Baker City with nothing to do, so I had John and Mary drop me off at the Safeway parking lot.
I kept thanking them, and they said “We didn’t do very much, sorry we couldn’t have helped more…” after driving me over 50 miles! They were disappointed to be seeing me off with a still-flat tire, and gave me their phone number in John Day, a town I’ll be traveling through soon.
I was hanging out in front of the supermarket for maybe twenty minutes, thumb-typing away at this here journal, when I heard a voice go “Jamie?” I looked up and squinted at the young man in front of me, trying to recognize who this person could possibly be. “Eric Shubert,” he says, extending a hand, and I instantly remembered the name from my website guestbook. “I thought you would have passed here by now!” he said.
Apparently he’s in the area looking at the possibility of opening up a bicyclist’s hostel, to ease his way into this lifestyle, coming out of a professional background. Talk about a chance encounter.
I should have been farther west than this town by now. He’s starting out on his own tour pretty soon, so I filled him in on some general experiences, and elaborated on my plans for the future after I reach the coast and San Francisco – or more accurately, my lack of plans! He’s staying at a campground about 20 miles away, so he eventually headed out.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon mostly loitering in front of the supermarket. Later I got some Lipton rice and a can of chicken, and cooked it in the park. One insignificant observation about Baker City is that I’ve seen tons of young people in their twenties – with babies! There are young families everywhere! I don’t know if people think this is a great place to raise kids, or if somebody’s peddling phony birth control, or what.
So after dinner in the park I brushed my teeth and washed up, and then loitered elsewhere until after dark, reading the Isaac Asimov book. Sometime around 9:30, in pure sleuth mode after the reading (Like you feel like a spy after a good spy movie), I crept back into the park, past the “No Overnight Use” sign, and found a perfect dark corner to sleep where nobody would see me. With smug content at my present state of vagabond sneakiness, I rested my head near a splashing, soothing stream. Life is good.