The day dawned bright, and we were ready to find a fast way back west. While the central Oregon forests still awaited exploration, the past (nearly) month and thousand-odd miles had left us low on energy and time. Our enquiries told us that buses ran from Ontario to Bend, but bikes would need to be boxed (each large single-use cardboard box costing $15), we'd need to stay in Ontario for the next day's early morning bus, and of course tickets wouldn't be free. So with a mountain of positive interactions involving random folk behind us, we decided to use the most extensive national public transportation system that exists - hitchhiking.
A tailwind was blowing, and with the ambitious goal of Bend in mind, we decided to begin our day with a nice warm-up ride to Cambridge. About 15 miles later, after a soaring downhill with enough tailwind to balance our own forward motion and make the air still around us, the smooth ride soon became bone-jarring. Meet the Pulverizer. This giant machine rips up pavement in preparation for resurfacing, leaving behind baseball-sized gravel and the worst wash-boarded strip of terrible you may have ever seen. Bringing all of our loose surface bike-handling skills to bear, we shook the last several miles into Cambridge. Covered in dust, we stumbled into a small coffee shop, met Davy, and had cold drinks. Once recovered, we crossed the street to a restaurant to ask about the Weiser River Trail. Like so many rails-to-trails projects, it shows up on Google maps as an enticing green line, but without information on its surfacing. If paved, these trails separated from traffic are a dream to ride. While not seeming very familiar with the trail, local folk agreed that it was not paved. With that information, our recent dusting and shaking, and the heat of the day reaching a crescendo, we decided to begin seeking motorized assistance.
Stationed just outside Cambridge, we caught a ride with record speed. Vaughn James let us put our bikes in the back of his truck, then let us know we were "smart" for catching a ride in the heat (~102F) and that we smelled like "river folk". Picking his friend up a few miles later, they were on their way to build a waterwheel. With big truck, cowboy hat, and friendly yet challenging manners, it was nice to meet these two guys before we quickly left this agricultural area of Idaho.
Dropping us off just shy of the Oregon border, we quickly rode over the Snake River and into a wide bike lane. "Welcome to Oregon, here's your bike lane!" Kevin coined and we repeated happily as we enjoyed the designated bike lanes and wide shoulders of our home state.
After threading our way through Ontario, we put ourselves on the Central Oregon Highway (20) and hoped for a ride. Several minutes later, hot and bored, we decided to ride on to Vale. One enormous fruit smoothie later, we pedaled a few miles beyond Vale and stuck our thumbs out once again. Perhaps here most traffic would be long distance, and we could get a ride into Bend. No such luck. Knowing that eventually someone would be able to give us a lift, but unwilling to stay in a spot that wasn't working, we jumped back on our bikes. Utilizing a technique developed on the way to Phoenix, we rode with our thumbs out (using the right arm of course, and keeping limbs out of traffic).
Soon a truck pulling an enormous fifth wheel RV came by. Slowing as it passed us, it then stopped a ways ahead. Unsure whether the driver was stopping for us, we slowed but continued past. Again the RV passed us, then stopped ahead. This time we stopped too. Yes, he was stopping for us, but wasn't sure where our bikes could go. Removing the front wheels and minding the large, shiny face of the RV, we worked the bikes into the bed of the truck and secured them. Jack was delivering the RV from Indiana to Medford, OR, and could take us all the way to Bend! For the next several hours, Jack and his small, fluffy dog Princess kept us entertained with stories of artifacts old (cars, coins) and older (arrowheads), and where they could be found.
Admiring the central Oregon sagebrush and juniper scenery, and not quite believing we had ridden 100 miles of this road in December, we pulled into Bend soon after dark. Welcomed into the home of friends we had met at Sunbeam Hotsprings, we soon feel asleep after a long day's travels.