|photo credit: Paula Funatake|
Thorn flats plagued us in the first several miles, but we won out. While I fixed one, Linda stopped to rest with me. She was feverish and seeing spots and had to make the tough decision to turn back to Klamath Falls, leaving eight riders.
As expected, we encountered gates and more gates, and bumpy red stony gravel. We encountered several cows to be cooed at and coaxed ahead so we wouldn't collide. Finally sunset and a steep hillside hike to camp by the Sprague River, so named for the way it snakes across the land. Sprague is a native word meaning snake, which describes the river perfectly.
|photo credit: Paula Funatake|
It started heating up quickly and we stopped in the shade to stretch. More gates and finally that fateful left turn that I missed three years ago. I'm determined no one shall ever miss that turn again. Most of us rolled by the Thompson Reservoir, but one smart rider stopped for a swim.
The Cowboy Dinner Tree lived up to its reputation once again. We enjoyed amazing food and service, along with that special intimate feeling of indulging in a well-earned feast together. Stomachs distended, we slowly dragged ourselves to camp just a mile south. Matt took off early the next day, his sights set on reaching the Crooked River by nightfall.
We headed for the tavern again, then several dusty miles before stocking up at Silver Lake. We made it to the Thompson Reservoir again, taking advice from the rider who swam there days before. It was idyllic and empty of campers. We chose a site, set up camp, and made our dinners. It was a bit buggy, so we sprayed ourselves. The golden hour was approaching, so we headed down to the dock to photograph the lake.
There was a loud whining noise coming from somewhere, and I guessed it was a chainsaw up on the ridge. Except that we were in the middle of nowhere and there weren't any humans anywhere nearby. I was halfway out onto the dock, and my friend was at the very end. As I turned to look at him, I noticed a dark cloud between us. Mosquitoes, hundreds of them! "RUN!!!!" We ran full speed back to our site and slid into our tents like sliding into home. The rest of the evening was spent stranded in tents, but by morning the bugs, and their drone, were gone.
The next morning, our loads light, we headed south for our last day of riding. We couldn't wait to get to the Sprague River deli and its now famous reuben sandwiches. It was the best reuben I'd ever had in my life, and that's not just the miles talking. While we waited for the ruebens, we scarfed a couple of homemade apple turnovers that have forever ruined any other apple turnovers for me.
We experimented with some parallel paved roads with names like "Bliss". We fantasized about organizing an "Outback light" that could be done on road bikes with minimal kit. On the trail in between, we met a couple of genuine cowboys on horses. They urged us to close the gates behind us, as they'd be driving cattle through soon.
Arriving back in Klamath Falls, we stopped on the bike path to wait for a traffic light, and I noticed I'd lost a rack bolt. I felt lucky it didn't cause a crash and quickly replaced the bolt. We reunited with Chris and Paula, who we hadn't seen since day one, and drank our fill of beer. Much later, we stumbled to the neighboring Maverick Hotel. After showering, I realized I'd left my cap behind at the bar. There were police and ambulances swarming the place, but I managed to slink in and out unnoticed.