August 7, 2005

Start: Bend, Oregon
End: Ontario, Oregon
Miles traveled: 262 miles
Description: Route 20 through the town of Burns exit at Ontario

        Guilt had me gripped today. After traveling so little the day before, I decided to make up for it.

I don’t know why the feeling was there, but it was. I have no set place to be, but it is still that conditioning of having to produce results that works on my mind

It is a hard habit to break. Routines are never easy to discard, good or bad, and I feel myself lapsing into habits from my old life.

Fortunately the bike forces me to get off the road to fuel up every 120 miles. In a car I could drive for miles, cross a couple states and never have to leave the air conditioned comfort.

Libertad demands a break every two hours or so and though I won’t admit this to her, I want the rest just as badly.

So whenever I see something that looks interesting I pull off to the side of the road.

The route we took today doesn’t have much scenery, though. It is more rangeland, dirty yellow grass, burnt areas, and some hills sprinkled about with the occasional tree are all my eyes will see.

The town of Bend is in the middle of the state and Route 20 is a long two-lane road with a few towns between it and the next medium-size city of Burns.

One of those is Brothers. It consists of a gas station/market and a rest stop. It was still the only sign of humanity in the last 60 miles, so I pulled in and topped off the bike.

Inside there was a local resident sitting at the counter, waiting for his lunch. He was an older man, in his 60s with a hard face and a gap between his two front teeth. He was lamenting the growth in Bend. I guess when you live in a town that has one landmark, Bend would seem like New York City.

The town has grown. I passed through it about 12 years ago and it was small. One of the people I talked to in Bend said the town was one of the fastest growing in the country.

That was said with the usual scornful look when talking about change, interpreted as progress.

“This use to be a nice city,” the middle-aged woman said. “There are too many people here now.”

I was going to debate with her where these people are expected to go, but I long since learned that is an argument that can’t be won. It is best to just nod your head and move along as quickly as possible.

When I left Bend it was 11 a.m. and the heat of the day was ready to greet me. This day was going to be long, hot and relatively boring.

Fortunately my iPod has been a lifesaver. The music helps with these long stretches of road with little scenery. It also helps provide background music for the thoughts I have while riding.

Today’s debate was whether growth was good for a city or not. I am of a moderate political leaning, though I am a registered Libertarian. Makes sense when you think about it. I believe we were given brains and it is up to us to use them. Others apparently would disagree. We have regulations on everything from where we can smoke a cigarette to wearing a seat belt to the height handlebars on a motorcycle can be.

My initial thought is that growth is necessary. The population is increasing, so why shouldn’t the space. Of course Libertad took the opposing viewpoint just to be argumentative. Being of Spanish decent she seems to be a bit of a socialist and likes the regular passionate discussion.

I humor her and pretend to be offended that she doesn’t side with me. Actually it is entertaining and the talks we have do tend to make the time pass quicker.

We were in the middle of the growth discussion when we came across an American oddity.

The shoe tree has been around for decades, but its origins unknown. There are these decorated trees all over the country, Nebraska, California, Arkansas, Michigan and Nevada all have shoe trees. Apparently area youths start the decorating and if it catches on, other people in the town continue the tradition.


This tree was about 20 miles east of a town called Juntura. I had been following Gold Creek, watching the stream run alongside the road when I saw some people parked on the side of the road.

The tree was on the left side of the turn out and hanging from it were hundreds of tennis shoes. I saw it as I went by and flipped a U-turn to go back.

The couple who were also traveling by motorcycle was taking a break from the heat. They lived on the Oregon Coast and like me, wasn’t used to the triple digit temperature.


They too were on there way to Idaho and have used this road often and keep meaning to bring a pair of shoes to add to the tree.

It is a rather odd custom, but harmless and it definitely breaks up the monotony. For a minute I even forgot how hot I was.

I pushed on toward the Oregon/Idaho border. I found a little roadside gas station in Harper and got a liter of water and drank it immediately. I wet my shirt down in the bathroom and got on the bike. In three minutes the shirt was dry.

I reached Ontario about 7 p.m. and found a little motel with a friendly cat and an even nicer desk clerk. The cat even pushed open my door that was ajar and decided to inspect the room while I was typing.

He didn’t want to be in the heat anymore than I did. The air conditioning and new leg to rub against was all he needed to be content.

A cold shower and a soft bed were my requirements. Seems me and the cat aren’t too difficult to please.