Out of every kind of environment, deserts set me most at peace. They seem to absorb chaos and turn down the pace of life a little, each plant and animal balanced precisely in the scheme. And it's quiet, quieter than forests and oceans. (Except for the cars rumbling by).
The Oregon outback is an especially full one: cows graze and wild antelope startle amid (relatively) dense shrubbery. It's not as open or sparse as Joshua tree or the Mojave. I prefer my deserts emptier, but still I took today slow. Watched a hawk for a long time floating up and forward on thermal currents, seemingly effortless looking, though I'm sure it was hunting.
Just past the alkaline lake, I saw Rachel stopped ahead. The side of the road had just turned to sand dunes. Turns out, a lady we had found on couchsurfing but who hadn't responded in a couple of days recognized us. She was headed out of town, but offered her home as a place to stay, the key hidden in the yard so we could get in. It was one of the first - but definitely not last - moments of serendipity and kindness on this adventure.
As I got closer and closer to the end of the desert, closer to water and to civilization, I slowed down even more. I was so reluctant to leave this place that I had been so afraid of. And three miles from the border I'm pedaling 7 miles an hour.. Half my usual speed.. And Rachel is ahead eating lunch at the one-building town at the border, and these frantic antelope bound past me on the outside of the barbed wire fence that lined the roads to keep the cows in. They looked ethereal and worried when they turned back to watch what I would do with my camera. I saw four antelope in the distance, behind the fence; no doubt these two were trying to rejoin the herd.
Eventually hunger bested me and I met Rachel at the picnic benches in Riley, right below a big sign that says "woah you missed Riley". It's a two building town - the post office is across the street - so the self-deprivation was well-received.
But then up rolls this older guy and he's got the telltale load, four bags and a sunburn, and he sees us and stops too. His name was Marc Delval and he was just a few months away from finishing a world tour. He didn't speak much English but he showed us a book with all the different tours and paths he'd taken. He reminded me of Peter Smokka, who I met and took on a bike ride and wrote a feature on at the Davis Enterprise. And now that I'm on this tour I am horrified I insisted on that bike ride. The last thing I want on my day off is to have to talk to someone for three hours *on my damn bicycle*. Oh well, live and let live.
The rest of the way was just shoulders filled from white line to dirt with rumble strips. So we had to ride in the road, and it was two-lane highway, lots of semis, hit it right and rush hour. I tried to listen to Startup but couldn't hear much.
At Kelly's house in Burns that night we tried to set up some hammocks but it rained. I got really homesick. Reminded me of summer camps wen I was little. I loved the idea of leaving home but hated being away from it. It hurts right in my primal gut. See I had three weeks at home before leaving and hadn't lived at home for years before and I'm leaving in a rush right after this for grad school and I love being home. So I cried a little and looked up flights from Boise and slept badly.
Listening to: Startup